02/16/2017 3:00PM

Sharp Azteca impressive at Gulfstream

In last week's FormBlog, I discussed ST. JOE BAY, who seems destined for the Dubai Golden Shaheen after polishing off a pair of graded sprint races in Southern California.
When SHARP AZTECA drubbed a good field in last Saturday's Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, Team USA added another strong contender for the Dubai World Cup undercard. 
Sharp Azteca, a 4-year-old son of Freud trained by Jorge Navarro, burst onto the national scene last May when blitzing fellow sophomores in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile. He was then the beaten favorite in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes, but ran very well to be fourth as one of the few pace horses hanging around at the end of the race. 
Sharp Azteca battled some foot issues, failed to stay two turns in the Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs, then was freshened. It turned out to be a wise move as he has returned in razor-sharp form. In his comeback, Sharp Azteca dueled odds-on winner HOT SEAT into the ground en route to taking the seven-furlong City of Laurel Stakes with a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. Shipped to Santa Anita, he was then an excellent second in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes behind the salty late-kicker Mind Your Biscuits. 
The Gulfstream Park Handicap marked Sharp Azteca's first start against older horses and he never truly had an anxious moment. Bumped from both sides at the start, Sharp Azteca pressed defending Gulfstream Park Handicap champion BLOFELD through fractions of 23.61 and 46.21. He began to move away from Blofeld on the turn, completed six furlongs in 1:10.05 while clear on the lead and continued on under a drive to score by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:34.55. That mile clocking was good enough for a career-high 107 Beyer Speed Figure. 

Navarro has never lacked in self-confidence, and he was effusive in his praise of Sharp Azteca. "He’s a runner," the trainer told track publicity after the race. "The way this horse is, he wants to bury you down. If you look him in the eye, he’s going to bury you down. Every jockey that gets on top of him, they tell me the same thing.”
Navarro took a tough beat last year in Dubai when his sprinter, X Y Jet, was necked by Muarrab in the Golden Shaheen. X Y Jet hasn't returned from his overseas excursion as the same horse, but Navarro is confident that Sharp Azteca will not only run very well in the Godolphin Mile, but that he'll have enough in the tank to be pointed at the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard. 
Sharp Azteca's early speed should play very well in the Godolphin Mile, and he would obviously be a major player in that race.
*EPICHARIS made his debut on this blog on September 15, 2016 and was profiled here on October 20, October 27, November 17, December 1, and on January 26 of this year.
The undefeated Japanese 3-year-old will get his chance to truly throw his hat into the Kentucky Derby ring as he starts Saturday night/Sunday morning as one of the favorites in the Hyacinth Stakes going one mile at Tokyo Racecourse. 
Other leading contenders include:
Winless from three starts on turf, Adirato switched to dirt and showed explosive early speed in winning two seven-furlong races. He'll have to stretch that ability to the mile, but should be a strong forward factor, at the very least.
This colt ticks many boxes. By Tapit out of Grade 1 Test Stakes and Grade 1 Acorn Stakes winner Champagne d'Oro, herself a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, Foggy Night is conditioned by Noriyuki Hori, who led all Japanese trainers by winning percentage and earnings in 2016. Foggy Night won his lone start, a maiden race full of first-time starters over this course and distance on November 12. The great Ryan Moore will ride. 
By Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another, Hypernova rallied for second in his debut at Kyoto on October 15, then scored twice against weaker competition to close out his juvenile campaign. All of his races have come at nine furlongs, but it appears he'll get some pace to attack late.
Undefeated from two starts over course and distance, Liverdy jumps up in class for the Hyacinth. 
The two horses that completed the exacta in the first Japanese Kentucky Derby qualifying points race, MONT SAINT LEGAME and CAUCUS, are back at it again. This seems like a stronger field than the one Mont Saint Legame handled in the Cattleya Sho, however, and Caucus returned from that heat to finish off the board in two lesser affairs. 
For free video analysis of some of the weekend's major stakes races, take a look at http://video.drf.com/
Also, Mike Beer and I will be on for free and fun handicapping analysis at 4pm ET on Saturday for DRF Live!. This week, we'll discuss Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Laurel, Oaklawn and Golden Gate. You can find us at live.drf.com.
You can check me out on Twitter @DRF_Dan Illman.
For up-to-date video releases from DRF, follow DRFTV on Twitter @DRFvideo.
Once again, Laura has been kind enough to plan our annual FormBlogger's convention! Here are the details. 
The 6th (or is it 7th) annual Formblogger’s Convention is slated for March 10 – 12 at Gulfstream Park.  
Special room rates at the Hampton Inn will be available & I offer shuttle service to/from Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, which is roughly a 20 min. drive. Sometimes 15 min. if I run the red lights.  I haven’t lost anyone or had an accident…yet.
As usual, our generous benefactor Mike Nyman will comp us a private suite overlooking the track. As usual, there will be laughter, serious discussions, catching up with old friends, not so old friends, and newcomers.  
Bets will be made, won and lost. Indecision, high fives, tears,whining and red boarding may be a part of the process. As usual, the betting machine will malfunction at least once.
As usual, our Fearless Leader Dan Who will join us and quietly cash in on a huge bet. He will also receive risqué blue undergarments suitable for either male or female. 
As usual, a race will be named in our honor & we’ll visit the paddock before the race and have a photo taken in the winner’s circle afterward. 
If you’d like to be a part of the mayhem, please contact Laura at lross@imtbreds.com 
Updates will be posted as the date draws near.
Hampton Inn will give us a group discount IF we can book a minimum of 8 rooms.  The rate would be $179/night, plus taxes, etc.  Minimum regular stay (with AAAA rate) is $197/night. Please contact Laura at lross@ironmaidensthoroughbreds.com  no later than Tuesday (Feb. 14) to make your reservation.
Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 2/8/17 to 2/14/17:
1. SHARP AZTECA - 107 - Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) - 1 Mile - 11Feb17-11GP 
2. ALMANAAR (GB) - 102 - Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 11Feb17-10GP 
2. INSPECTOR LYNLEY - 102 - Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 11Feb17-9TAM
4. BOLO - 100 - Arcadia Stakes (G2) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 11Feb17-5SA
5. AVENTADOR (FR) - 99 - Turf Paradise Handicap - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 11Feb17-7TUP
5. REDNECK HUMOR - 99 - Budweiser Handicap - 6 Furlongs - 12Feb17-8SUN
7. CLASS AND CASH - 98 - OC25k/SAL25k - 1 Mile (Turf) - 8Feb17-3GP 
7. DICKINSON - 98 - Suwannee River Stakes (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 11Feb17-9GP 
7. SEND IT IN - 98 - Haynesfield Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Dirt) - 11Feb17-3AQU
10. ISABELLA SINGS - 97 - Endeavour Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 11Feb17-11TAM
11. ILIAD - 96 - San Vicente Stakes (G2) - 7 Furlongs - 12Feb17-4SA 
11. MALAGACY - 96 - OC 75k/N1X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 12Feb17-4GP 
11. TOP OF THE GAME - 96 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - 10Feb17-7SA
14. MCCRAKEN - 95 - Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - 11Feb17-10TAM
14. UNION JACKSON - 95 - Sam Houston Sprint Cup - 6 Furlongs - 11Feb17-9HOU
16. CANDID DESIRE - 93 - Hollie Hughes Stakes - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 11Feb17-8AQU
17. DREAMING OF NENO - 92 - OC 12k/N1X - 6 Furlongs - 8Feb17-9GP 
17. MOBILE BAY - 92 - Louisiana Bred Premier Night Championship - 1 1/16 Miles - 11Feb17-10DED
19. FEAR THE COWBOY - 91 - OC 35k/C -N - 7 Furlongs - 10Feb17-8DED
19. VALE DORI (ARG) - 91 - Santa Maria Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - 11Feb17-4SA 
21. GO GO ROCKET - 90 - Clm 25000(25-20) - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 9Feb17-9FG 
21. HARD STUDY - 90 - Alw 50000s - 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Dirt) - 11Feb17-2AQU
21. HEY JABBER JAW - 90 - OC 62k/N2X - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 11Feb17-7AQU
21. LIAM THE CHARMER - 90 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) - 9Feb17-7SA 
21. POSHSKY - 91 - OC c-40k/N1X - 1 Mile - 11Feb17-1SA 
*Sharp Azteca's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.
*Poshky was claimed for $40,000 by trainer Eddie Truman from Ryan Hanson
Congrats to Jim Peregoy for winning the most recent HandiGambling challenge.
Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post. 
Jim selected Saturday's General George from Laurel as this week's exercise.
SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to update all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...
HANDIGAMBLING version 2016:
Let's remember WHY we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.
The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses and why we're betting them the way we are. We are not asking for a novel but SPARE A SENTENCE OR TWO outlining your HANDICAPPING ANGLES and/or THOUGHT PROCESSES about WAGERING.
1. Start your post with HG or HANDIGAMBLING to find your entry in a thread.
2. You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose that is available for that HG race. Anyone going over the $100 limit will be DISQUALIFIED.
3. Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog prior to the start of the designated race. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR POST. Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST SIGN YOURSELF AT THE END (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to identify who you are.
4. (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes. Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.
5. Separate your analysis from the wager and use the PROGRAM # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.
6. If any of the rules listed above aren't met, the wager is subject to review which can lead to disqualification of your entry.
In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.
The winner will receive a "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"
As an example :
HG 2016
The speed in this race are #1 Alpha, #2 Beta, and #8 Ocho. I like the works for layoff horse #5 Cinco who can sit off the pace. Lots of speed in here, so this could set up for a closer like  #6 Six Flags and I like the trainer's stats in these conditions. I’ll put the closer over the speed.
HG wager:
$10 EX   6 /   1,2,5, 8  = $40
$5 TRI   6 /   1,2,5,8  /  1,2,5,8  =  $60
Total $100
Thanks Dan!
sharpazteca.pdf687.56 KB
Copy of HG 2 11 17 GP Handicap.xls50 KB
HG 2 11 17 GP HDCP notes.doc21 KB
Anonymous 8 months ago

Some of the MKB owners are touting their horses. Perhaps you should come on here and talk about your McCRAKEN so they don't forget about him. :) He's due to run in the March 11th Tampa Bay Derby. Good luck!!

Professor Molesap 8 months ago
Mastery vs. Practical Joke (Seriously)
I know I have been giving SR Vegas a hard time over Mastery vs. Practical Joke and since neither have run at this point, it is hard to knock or get too excited about either one. That being said, I think Mastery has ultimately the better chance to reach the top of the heap. Baffert is the best trainer on the business for getting a horse ready for the Triple Crown. Candy Ride does not scream distance and while the dam side has Old Trieste, who I never thought of a distance influence, A.P. Indy is sire and his average winning distance is fairly high. The Beyer numbers are good, but do not appear like he has done too much too soon. I am not sure how well his front running style will play on the first Saturday in May, but with since they instituted the points system, there seems to have been reasonable pace scenarios, but you never know what you will get until that day. He is working up a storm and is the 4th ranked horse on the DRF’s Derby Top 20.  He is also 3rd or 4th in a variety of other polls. Perhaps the most telling point is that offshore Kentucky Derby future betting has him at 5/1. 

Practical Joke on the other hand is trained by Chad Brown. An outstanding trainer, but so far, has not done much of anything in the Triple Crown series. I know many people predict at some point he will break out, but until he does, that remains a question mark at the very least. His only two turn start was in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile where he finished a distant third. He had excuses that day and the race was best 2YO race we had last year overall, but there are some nagging questions. Some of the horses he ran against last year have not moved forward and you could even argue, have regressed or not started yet this year. Those include Classic Empire and Newman. It is too early to make any conclusions, but is a concern. He does have a stalking style, but some question if he is a late runner sprinter and not a true distance horse. He does not make the top 10 in most polls, but is often mentioned. Perhaps the most telling is that his price has been drifting up this offshore as he is 30/1 right now. One of the things about the offshore market is generally there is an out of sight, out of mind regarding betting patterns. That what makes Mastery at 5/1 so compelling is that he has not raced this year. Current favorite is Irish War Cry, who was 6/1 prior to the Sam F. Davis and has been as low as 2/1 after that race. Classic Empire is still holding at 5/2 – all prices are ridiculously low, but I suspect the book is trying to reduce their exposure. Will be interesting to see if he moves forward for Chad.

Ness vs. Englehart
There are lots of things unfair in the world and we see it in horse racing all of the time. Ness is essentially handed a “staycation” they call a suspension. Ness has had numerous violations over the years and at the very least seems to be pushing the limits of fair play. An article from a few years ago stated that he had a drug violation for every 213 starts. Seems all too frequent. I agree with DavidM9999 that as handed down, the suspension really serves no purpose as all his horses continue to be trained by his wife or assistant. On the other hand, Jeffrey Englehart had his application to renew his trainer’s license in New York denied because he tested positive for marijuana. In California and seven other states, that is legal now. If you get arrested for possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana is New York it is a $100 fine. This is his second violation as he refused to submit to a drug test a few years ago, but that punishment seems overly harsh. I apparently am one of the few left in California that did not believe that legalization was the way to go, but denying someone their training license seems way too strict for that violation. I know they are different jurisdictions, but when you compare the Ness suspension with the Englehart’s, they seem totally incongruous. Last year, New York suspended Brian Lynch an indefinite suspension for testing positive for marijuana, but that only lasted 23 days. Most see marijuana in a similar vein to alcohol at this point in time. I guess the question is that which trainer is putting the public at greater risk and how should that be handled? I think it was far too lenient for Ness and far too harsh for Englehart.

DavidM9999 8 months ago

Ness Mess

I asked the question a couple days back is Jamie Ness suspended. Got the answer. Yes, 100 days. In paragraph one the DRF notes the terms of the suspension are a result of the Clen positives.In paragraph two they list that all his horses are being transferred to wife Mandy and assistant Corey. For me that right there is the basic flaw in current horse racing rule enforcement. As long as trainers can retain the horses in training is it really punishment at all. Mandy continues to do what she always does with Jamie micromanaging things remotely. Cash flow remains intact to the Ness operation.  I don’t expect to see Jamie or Mandy driving Yugo’s next week.

I have no idea about the details of the Clen positives. I quit doing that due diligence a while back. Hard to find and more frustrating to read, Were these nanogram overages or were the horses as radioactive as Chernobyl? We all know how the drug is being utilized strategically by trainers. In the end, does this matter to gamblers day in day out. Maybe but likely in nanogram increments. 

We bet Jamie, he wins, we bet Jamie he loses too. He is generally a negative ROI due mass superfeed trainer adoration so it’s not sensible to bet him always. When you don’t include him you certainly have a queazy feeling for about 71 seconds. I think many horse racing gamblers see him just as baseball fans saw/see Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Sure, Sammy and Mark were good but were they THAT GOOD? Same for Jamie to me. Likely a competent trainer but like Sammy he may be swinging a corked bat with some juice occasionally in play too.

Go Butler Bulldogs!!

Anonymous 8 months ago
OK, things are heating up between a couple of MKB owners. :) Whose horse is best? They won't be meeting each other for awhile yet, but the PROFESSOR'S Practical Joke will run in the March 4th Fountain of Youth and SR VEGAS' Mastery will run in the March 11th San Felipe. East Coast? West Coast? Who will prevail? Well, probably both. They ARE both MKBs. :)

And if all goes well, they may meet up in Kentucky. Won't that be fun. Good luck to both of you!!

SR Vegas 8 months ago
Professor Molesap

..may I call you Pro Mo for short ? It's kinda' catchy.  You crack me up ...lol!
I can't help what my trainer does,  he's called Bullet Bob for a reason , snort. HA!

ok , now back to your regularly scheduled programming :)
SR Vegas
Professor Molesap 8 months ago
STOP THE PRESSES! Forget the immigration issues or who took Tom Brady’s jersey. Disregard things of lesser importance such as what relationship did Trump have with Russia or that the Sacramento Kings may have just made the worst trade in NBA history. Heck, even ignore that Oscar night handicapping you have been doing. Mastery has just run another bullet for Baffert!

SR Vegas – please. I would be dropping bullets all over the place if Baffert trained me, even with a 150 pound exercise rider on my back – come back when you have some REAL news. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

SR Vegas 8 months ago
Professor Molesap

I'll take your Practical Joke  'bullet' ..and raise you one. As my MASTERY posted another bullet work ....  2/21/17   SA Dirt fast  6F 1:12.00  h  1/10

That's a good boy :)
SR Vegas
Anonymous 8 months ago
I see there are some older MKBs running in the Mineshaft Handicap at FG on Saturday.

BIGGAR W'S Eagle 5-2 Favorite
MIKE O'S International Star 4-1
JEANNE'S Rise Up 10-1

Remember these guys? They've done pretty well for themselves. INTERNATIONAL STAR and RISE UP have made over a million dollars each, and EAGLE and MO TOM have each banked
over 600K. Much more than the non-MKBs in the field. :)

Good luck guys, and JEANNE, of course!!!!

God Bless Longshots 8 months ago
Biggar W
"He did have a slump early this year caused by something unknown to me"

Well, what can i say? 

I have mentioned it couple of times already that he isn't the same rider he used to be before his fall last year at GP?

Please get a hold of the message I tried to carry. Much Thanks

DavidM9999 8 months ago

The Art of the Deal

A lot has been written and said about the art of deal making over the past couple of years. I definitely do not like the deal the Kentucky Racing Commission made with a trainer named Otabek Umarov. 

Back story  - Umarov seemingly came from nowhere to have a successful turnaround project with a horse named Looks to Spare (LtS). LtS was a $5,000 claimer that got "realgoodrealquick" with Umarov. Maybe Umarov is the second coming of Charlie Whittingham but authorities were not convinced. When an out of competition test was ordered, Umarov put the horse in the Witness Protection Program leaving the grounds. Just maybe Umarov likes to give his star horses van rides in the middle of the night. I don't know but trainers are known to have unique programs right? Based on Umarov’s actions he was given 10 years.

Let’s fast forward. Umarov lawyers up with some of the winnings from Looks to Spare. The KY Commission weighs cost vs. reward then makes a deal. Plea bargaining is not new and has been going on since Biblical times. Racing commissions have perfected the art.  Umarov’s defense claimed he did not understand his rights when he took the horse off the grounds plus he has trouble with the language also. I do too, speaking fluent western Kentuckian as my primary language but still understand right from wrong. My questions are this:

Why cut a deal now on a serious offense including syringes?

What facts changed to now to warrant a 50% reduction?

For once can’t we have ten years actually equal ten years?

Can they reduce this further in a couple years when memories fade?

Does American racing need guys like Umarov in its sport. No, when you have a chance to fairly get a questionable guy out of racing PLEASE take it. Put the hammer of justice down with proper authority then never look back. Trust me Umarov will not be missed by bettors or the horses. If he is really as good as he was with LtS then he can go overseas becoming an overnight sensation. But he now gets 5 years and a $10k fine. I would add the following stipulation to his sentence …taking courses in English 101, 201, 301, and 401.  Five year sentence so that is one course per year and allowing a one year cushion in case you flunk a course. (DAVIDM always plans for the worst) I do get tired of people using the language defense. For example, assume I go to  a foreign country, let's say Russia, to be a horse trainer and flagrantly break their rules. Do you think I can use the defense I was ignorant of Russian law and their language.  It is 2/5 I  get years in Siberia. I also suspect it is 1/5 there is no deal making potential even with Alan Dershowitz at my side.

Dan  - can you post the lifetime pp's for Looks to Spare plus Umarov's trainer record over past several years.  Thanks in advance for considering this request.