03/18/2011 3:10PM

Rivalry Renewed in Azeri, Weekend Thoughts

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The underrated rivalry between female stars BLIND LUCK and HAVRE DE GRACE is expected to continue at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. 

Add in THE FACTOR's two-turn debut in the Rebel Stakes and you have another fascinating weekend of racing action. 

For what they're worth, here are some opinions:

INSIDE INFORMATION STAKES - RACE 10 - GULFSTREAM:

If you get a chance to watch the weekend stakes videos I do with Mike Beer (I'll add the link at the bottom of this blog post), you'll enjoy Mike's reaction to my selection, MILWAUKEE APPEAL. 

I'm more bullish than he is, but it's quite possible I'm playing the mare more with my heart than with my head.  A reformed maiden claimer that's gone on to earn over a million dollars, Milwaukee Appeal hasn't won a race since June 7, 2009, but has been placed in some tough, tough spots.  She ran third against males in the Queen's Plate and second against the boys in the Prince Of Wales.  She ran second in the Alabama behind runaway Careless Jewel and third in the Grade 2 Shuvee.  Milwaukee Appeal placed third in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher and was a very game second in the Grade 1 Spinster over polytrack on October 10.  That afternoon, she raced three wide throughout and still dug in courageously to just miss by a half-length. 

Whether it's sprinting or going long, she usually gives an honest effort, but she has done her best running on synthetics and it's questionable whether she's as good on dirt.  Also, you always have to wonder if these Canadian snowbirds are merely using their South Florida excursions as prep runs for races north of the border. 

Still, I'll give her a chance in the Inside Information based on her consistency, the fact that I liked her run in the Spinster, and that she raced on a deep rail when overmatched last time out in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.  Also, while I respect the early zip of HILDA'S PASSION, I wonder if she was aided by a speed-favoring surface when she won the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie with a 100 Beyer on February 13. 

I've always been a big fan of MS VANENZZA and she may have been compromised by the speed track in the Hurricane Bertie.  She'll go third off the bench for an underrated barn and isn't out of the mix.  AMEN HALLELUJAH makes her third start following the injury-induced layoff and should offer better value than her last two races. 

Selections:  Milwaukee Appeal, Hilda's Passion, Ms Vanenzza

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SANTA ANA STAKES - RACE 7 - SANTA ANITA:

My goal here is to try and defeat ECLAIR DE LUNE, the 2010 Beverly D winner that was a beaten favorite in her most recent effort at Santa Anita on January 23.  While she is a Grade 1 winner, I've never really been a huge fan of Eclair de Lune and she hasn't done her best running over the Santa Anita turf course.  She's only run twice since the Beverly D., and I'm not sure she's worth a short price even if she gets a nice trip tracking probable pacesetter CHURCH CAMP. 

Instead, I'll go with LILLY FA POOTZ, a former $7,500 claimer that has earned almost 250K for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer since being haltered for $16,000 at Golden Gate on December 10, 2009.  Second by a nose in the Grade 2 John C. Mabee at this distance last year, Lilly Fa Pootz has been the victim of two tough trips in a row.  In the Megahertz on January 23, she made an early move to prompt solid fractions while three wide before dropping a tough decision to IT TIZ.  Last time out, in the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap on February 21, she made another premature bid, this time four wide, before understandably tiring late. 

Lilly Fa Pootz has a tendency to pull hard so it's up to Corey Nakatani to get her to relax in the early portion of this race.  If she does settle kindly, she could be tough to deal with late.

CHURCH CAMP gets a major class and distance test, but could be lone speed at a price.  MALIBU PIER may work out a good ground-saving trip under Rafael Bejarano, but she's disappointed somewhat in her last two races.  I thought she ran a corker three back against Switch in the Grade 1 La Brea, however.

Selections:  Lilly Fa Pootz, Church Camp, Malibu Pier

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AZERI STAKES - RACE 9 - OAKLAWN:

I've followed the BLIND LUCK - HAVRE DE GRACE rivalry with fascination, and my wallet has come out on the short end of the bargain.  I felt like I "discovered" Havre de Grace when I bet her in the Delaware Oaks, and was crestfallen when she was nosed out at 6-1 odds by Blind Luck.  I went right back to Havre de Grace in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga, and was downtrodden when she got necked at 7-1 by Blind Luck.  Finally, Havre de Grace won one for me, but she was 6-5 when she outfinished the Hollendorfer filly in the Cotillion at Parx. 

Now, the two gladiators battle in the Azeri.  What do I do?  I must admit I have question marks with both of the favorites.  Blind Luck, while remarkably consistent and classy, just hasn't shown the same verve in her last few races as she did when she was the dominant 3-year-old filly in the country in 2010.  Her lead changes haven't been as smooth, and her late kick hasn't been as explosive.  She's still plenty good, but it's possible that she's dropped off just a touch.

As for Havre de Grace, the major goal for her this spring is likely the Apple Blossom Handicap so it wouldn't be surprising if she's less than 100% cranked up for the Azeri.  That could set things up for a new shooter, and SPACY TRACY may be the right one.  A perfect 3-3 on the dirt, Spacy Tracy goes out for the trainer-jockey combination of Tony Dutrow and Jeremy Rose (the former connections of Havre de Grace).  Last time out, in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct, Spacy Tracy was stuck on the inside turning for home, and had to alter course twice to find the four path in midstretch.  Once clear, she came with a strong run to get up on the line.  Blessed with tactical speed, Spacy Tracy shouldn't be too far off the early leaders and may attempt to get the jump on Blind Luck and Havre de Grace turning for home. 

While the uncoupled entry of TIDAL POOL and ABSINTHE MINDED need to improve to beat the top ones, both of the Lukas-trained runners love the Oaklawn surface.  Absinthe Minded may attempt to steal off to a lonely lead, and she could get brave if allowed to control moderate splits. 

Selections:  Spacy Tracy, Havre de Grace, Blind Luck

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ORCHID STAKES - RACE 10 - GULFSTREAM (SUNDAY):

In a wide-open turf marathon, I'll lean on ZAPPARITION, a former $30,000 maiden claimer that has blossomed in recent stats for trainer Dale Romans.  She won over this course and distance two starts back before giving a good account of herself in the Grade 3 The Very One Stakes on February 20.  That day, she made an early three wide bid and was involved in a strong stretch duel with the classy Keertana before coming up a bit short.  She makes the third start of the form cycle today, and this field doesn't look as good as the one she faced last time (Keertana would probably go favored). 

Looking for a thrill on the lead?  Perhaps QUEEN MARTHA can take these wire to window.  Second to Rachel Alexandra last year on dirt, Queen Martha has disappointed in her subsequent starts, but she ran well on grass in her North American debut, and could be loose on the front end. 

Selections:  Zapparition, Queen Martha, Tarrip

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SAN LUIS REY STAKES - RACE 4 - SANTA ANITA (SUNDAY):

With leading turf marathoners Champ Pegasus and Bourbon Bay getting ready for a tilt in Dubai, the San Luis Rey gives a new face an opportunity to grab the brass ring in one of these graded events.  The logical runner is HAIMISH HY, who finished third to the big two in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo.  Haimish Hy won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last year, but is a one-run closer that is usually at the mercy of race and pace luck.  He's dangerous, but I'll search for a price wtih JUNIPER PASS, who removes blinkers while adding Bejarano.

Juniper Pass saved every inch of ground in the Obispo, but just couldn't punch it in during the final furlong.  Perhaps he'll show some improvemnt in the third start of the form cycle with a recent bullet work on display. 

DAHOUD steps up in class after winning an entry-level allowance race 17 days ago, but he failed to switch leads in the stretch, and will be going from a mile to 12 furlongs in the San Luis Rey.  He may be lone speed, but he's going to have to be really good to pull off the theft. 

BUENOS DIAS ran well when third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup to finish off his 5-year-old season, but he didn't change leads in the Obispo, and it's possible that he's better on the Hollywood and/or Del Mar grass.

Selections:  Juniper Pass, Buenos Dias, Dahoud

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Quick and Dirty Saturday Selections:

CICADA - RACE 9 - AQUEDUCT - Roman Treasure, Coax Liberty, In Step
REBEL - RACE 10 - OAKLAWN - The Factor, Sway Away, Archarcharch

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For a more-detailed analysis, check out the weekend stakes video previews at the link below (should be updated Friday evening/Saturday morning):

http://www.drf.com/news/weekend-stakes-preview-videos

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

gil More than 1 year ago
Dan, could you pp of one of my faviorte story horses that came east from good old soCal. The mention of Silky Sullivan still brings a smile to my face. Sorry for not remembering exact year but maybe some oldtimer can help with that. thank you.
Jonah More than 1 year ago
Dear Dan, “Performance of the Week” just gets better and better. Usually when people write “LOL” I assume they're really “LOLOITH” (laughing out loud only in their heads), but your videos with Beer really bring it out of me. Since I started following your blog and videos I wanted to see as many post- as pre-race analyses, and it's so gratifying to get it, and to be so entertained by it. Plus, I'm flattered at how you both gushed about The Factor, but you know, you didn't have to do that just for me. I knew when you doubted way back when whether he could get the distance that you were just covering your back. Seriously, you guys are really the best. Jonah --------------- Happy Spring, Formblog! Blackstone, After months of anticipation, you didn't disappoint. You're as personable, agreeable, and gracious a man as I'll meet. As I told you, I have you, along with Annie, Laura, and SR Vegas to thank for welcoming me several months ago after I posted a letter of appreciation to Dan, and then a lengthy post, even though I offered nothing of substance to the discerning handicapper. Now I'm comfortable enough here that I take up reams of space (well, maybe one ream) every week, including a lot of way-to-gos and back-slaps, and without apology. You aptly summed up our day at the track: good time with a friend. Sure we had a string of seconds and thirds, but it didn't hurt much, and boy was it fun to come back like Rebels and then for me to run around screaming, “DID YOU SEE MY HORSE!? I SAID, MY HORSE! TWO TURNS, BABY! FURLONG-SHMERLONG!” And then there was that security guy: “Sir, please calm down. And please don't ever use the word 'shmerlong' again. What're you, from Shmerlong Island?” Finally, you had to intervene, “Please forgive my friend. It's just that nobody knew, and now they know. Factor don't bounce.” The Factor, I want you to know how proud I am of you. Please remember that while most people will be happy for your success, including both those like me who loved you from the start, and others who were pleasantly impressed, many others will detract from you at any price, even at better than even money against a field that, to hear them tell it after the fact, should have put you at 2-5 or lower, saying that you only did what you were “supposed” to do, running away from a bunch of wusses. Some of them will be the same folks that proclaimed publicly not long ago that you were a dedicated sprinter and couldn't even make it seven furlongs, then who got on your case right after you did, saying you were exhausted at the finish. Some might have even bet against you, thinking you would “bounce to the moon,” and that you were “the most overrated,” and even that Sway on the Way would waltz on by. Don't you mind them. Some people just can't help but look for things to devalue. Luckily for us, it has the opposite effect. Even money to place! Three-to-five to show! Keep your poise, and keep 'em guessing. P.S.–Any chance you wouldn't mind relaxing behind a horse any time soon? Blue Horseshoe, your Caleb's Posse showed his mettle, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of him. Brutus and Calvin Carter, I was sorry that Elite Alex and Alternation scratched out of the race, and wonder how they would have run and where they would have ended up. I hope we see they're tough as nails and saved my horse the trouble. Annie, welcome back! I took so long before posting after the Rebel just so you could get a taste of how it felt for all of us while you were gone. Of course the march of the MKB went on, with SR Vegas doing double march while you were on easy march. Now we're almost into April, so For-ward, MARCH! Oh, and thanks for cheering with me and enjoying my greenness and excitement. SR Vegas, I hope your trip to Zion was as heavenly as the canyons themselves, and that you got to enjoy our Queen's namesake, the Virgin River. Thank you, too, for the good cheer. Sherpa, Dick W, Laura, and others, thank you for the hurrays. Hurray! Uncle Steve, your answer to my questions would have been unexpectedly thorough and forthcoming, except that you've demonstrated those attributes consistently with every post. It's very helpful and I do appreciate it very much. Just to clarify: when you say “live” work, do you mean the penultimate before a race, or the faster one sandwiched between common times? Congratulations spotting MacLean's Music (good for Dougie MacLean, too). Mike A, thanks again for your in-depth posts. I really love hearing how you think and put it all together. It was fun to know that you were with Mickey at Aqueduct while Blackstone and I were at the Fields. I hope you had an easy good time, like we did. I, like you, think Uncle Mo looks good, though I was disappointed they didn't at least try to attract stronger rivals by running in a graded-stake. Still, I understand the reasoning, and in some ways, it made things even more interesting, especially given all the analysis of the pace and time of the race. But when you say you like him and don't care what the experts say, whom do you mean? The ones I've read, Dan and Mike, Watchmaker, and Steven Crist, are right there with you. Watch out for false opposition—your adversaries may be your friends! Jeff, I have the same question and request about marking up a race using formulator. Right now the only way I know is to download the PDF, save or convert it into a non-read mode, and use a PDF editor (Adobe). Van Savant, good luck helping your son get the knuckle out of his head, and in not getting too worried and aggravated in the meantime. We children of loving, devoted parents are the luckiest people alive. Also, careful what you add to my life's checklist. Now, where's that Van Savant Cafe? Are you free May 9? Don't worry, I'm a great sous chef. Kyl, congratulations on a nice win. I hope you had that pick-4 1000 times so that “this life [won't] be a failure” as you so dimly put it on your blog. The objective is to LIVE. You might like to use Blackstone's method—the Sleep Test: don't bet so much that you'll lose sleep if you lose, and don't bet so little that you'll lose sleep if you win. Virgin Queen, you're something special. My offer to have an immaculate prince with you still stands (you can stay a virgin, and the prince won't get FAS). But now that King Seabass has the gold, I guess I don't stand a chance. What, didn't you like Frownland? Best wishes to you all, Jonah ---- For those of you coming out of a deep winter, here is poems I, from "Spring and All," by William Carlos Williams (1923): By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast–a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines– Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches– They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind– Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined– It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf But now the stark dignity of entrance–Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken
Dale More than 1 year ago
Maybe he was just talking out of the side of his mouth, but Baffert's initial reluctance to take The Factor on the Kentucky Derby route does bother me and makes me question whether he will be able to stay 1.25 miles. It seems, in this case, the horse had to convince Bob to go that route and (IMO) Baffert usually does not need to be convinced. He frequently salivates at any potential young horse with talent and pushes them down that road. Still lots of races yet to be run and I will (at least try to) keep an open mind, but as of right now, I cannot see betting him on 5/7, although I am not extremely confident in my futures at this point either (Elite Alex, Jaycito,and To Honor and Serve). Dale
meathead01 More than 1 year ago
LA Derby Fair Grounds am taking an in depth look at the race and I noticed a couple of price horses that stand out over most in here I think MMM will probably win this one but if you look at Majestic Harbor and see that he completely reversed his style in his stretch out race from laying way back and making one run to popping the lid(a little dog racing term) and going all out on the engine puzzles me to some extent. now I realize he had been sprinting previously and stood to break more alertly so that does explain some what the effort. once in front he rated to the lane and then excelerated to a 6 length win seeting himself up for a closing effort in this race. at 12-1 he might be one to put on your exactas or tris. another one I found interesting is the shipper from cali #8 Le Mans why is Assmussen entering this one here of all places with no works on track to date and two 4th place finishes with neither one closing ground. something smells with this perplexing entry. does any one out there know something about this horse? Steve T. or VS maybe. and what about #2 Nehro exploding to a 4 and change victory going a mile in 39 and one after a deplorable race prior to that sandwitched between a fairly good effort sprinting at FGs.he looks like he might be ready for a huge effort also Elite Alex draws the 11 hole after scratching out of last because of outside post whats up with that?this one looks to get right back into the run. after scratches the complexity of the race will change some what I suppose if there are any it looks like a good betting race after all is said good luck all MH01 PS am also looking at Wilkinson with our buddy GG up for the trip.
Alan More than 1 year ago
TBTA, Although I am a hater of long comments, that was a wonderful post. Please offer Paul my best wishes and prayers to both him and his Japanese friends. Dan, As one who occasionally (that's up for debate) complains about DRF, I want to thank them today. My Formulator subscription is running out next month with still 25-30 cards available (courtesy of a HandiGambling win). DRF is letting me carry-over those remaining cards onto my new Formulator package. Please thank subscription services for their generosity toward me!
Dick W More than 1 year ago
Annie Welcome back...we missed you ! Blackstone Thanks. Glad you got that bet on H H canceled in time. I also hate it when they get taken off the turf, however, in this case I would not have bet the race had it stayed on the turf, but only liked Juniper Pass due to it being taken off the turf. Dick W
blackstone More than 1 year ago
Curt V I know we talked about this a couple of months back, and you certainly don't need advice from me. My own thought-to myself-is that no matter how hot I am, or will be, the worst possible thing I could do would be to open an account again. I was sorely tempted when DRF started their Plan, but resisted. At this point, I'm not going to change my compusions, so best to not be tempted. I was pretty good with Jonah last weekend-only playing ten races when I'm there all day was a terrific show of strength for me. I even surprised myself. Enough self-analysis by me.
Calvin L. Carter More than 1 year ago
Dan, Nice story about Elite Alex. I'll be rooting for him.
Laura More than 1 year ago
Here's one from my Kiddie List: Striking Wonder (Gone West - Wonder Again, by Silver Hawk). She's been working very well at Palm Meadows since January. Her last three works, all 5F over the turf: 58.30, 101:00, 1:02.00. Keep an eye on this filly, she should be ready to go soon. Many of you recall the great rivalry between Wonder Again and Riskaverse. The 2005 Flower Bowl was their last meeting and a very thrilling race, with Riskaverse holding off Wonder Again by a desperate head with Film Maker just a length back in third. The race included some other well known fillies, Sand Springs and Melhor Aidna. Riskaverse (one of my fave mares) paid $73.50 to win (!!), Wonder Again was second and Film Maker 3rd. I caught the WPS on Riskaverse, the exacta ($370) and Tri ($3,000). That was one of my highest payouts. Not red boarding, just remembering old times and exciting moments. See, that's why I became interested in pedigrees. Wonder Again was a great race mare and it's exciting to see her daughter getting ready to make her debut. Our old favorites live on through their offspring. Now, if only Riskaverse hadn't been sold to England, we may have seen the rivalry continued....part duex. Laura
blackstone More than 1 year ago
Dick W Good for you-I am very happy about your Sunday plays! I hope you keep it up. Van Savant actually saved me $120 (the ATB bet I originally placed on Haimish Hy). I had placed the bet early Sunday morning giving no thought to track conditions (I was hurrying around as usual). Got home at 1:00 pm-saw Van's post about the race coming off the turf (I hate that-absolutely hate that)-then scurried back to the OTB and cancelled my bet on Hamish. Turned out to be a a good thing. A belated "thank you" Van Savant. Tencentcielo I'll be there with you, my man. I may play races 6-10 at FG on Saturday. Sounds like you have the PP's too. Annie Sorry-I couldn't remember last night if I answered your question about what I did to Jonah that has caused him to stay away from the Blog (I kept waiting for the blog update). The answer is I did nothing to cause it-but the instant fame and perhaps fortune did. I had to leave right after the race, and Jonah was really busy signing autographs for his adoring crowd-by then everyone around us knew he was the majority owner of the horse. The local TV crew was setting up to interview him as well. Since I was just the bagman at that point, I thought it best to leave. When he does post on the Blog, I hope he will share his conversation with Obama with us.
Mike A More than 1 year ago
Calvin Thank you much....I was wondering where Animal Kingdom would appear. I was also interested to see Beachcoming entered......he scratched from a rather competitive turf race @ Gulf on Sunday where he would have been bet heavy......I wondered that day what C. Brown might be up to and now I see. Also.......Positive Response, that horse can run some, love to see him try the dirt someday. The Spiral is turning out to be a nice race. Thanks again......Mike A