03/20/2009 4:10PM

Stakes opinions, questions, etc.


Let's take a look at some interesting stakes horses for the weekend:

Distaff Handicap (Aqueduct - Race 9 - Saturday)

A short, but sweet group of ladies are set to tackle the inner track on Saturday.  SECRET GYPSY looms he horse to beat, but she missed a start at the Fair Grounds last month due to a swollen pastern, faces some other speed in the form of MOONSHINE ALICE, and will likely be the betting favorite.  Instead, I'll take a shot with AWESOME ASHLEY, a mare that has run well over the course this meet, and would benefit from a hot pace up front.  If you look at the short comment for Awesome Ashley's last race ("stead 5/8, traffic 1/4p), you'd expect to see a mugging once you watched the replay.  Instead, I have down in my trip notes, "tracked pace on gold rail, waited bit on turn, eased out three wide, ridden out."  While Awesome Ashley did eat dirt, and had to wait, she didn't have the amount of trouble the comment implies.  She still looked good running away from her rivals without being urged with the whip, and should at least be a decent price in this tougher spot.
Selections:  Awesome Ashley, Secret Gypsy, Royale Michele

Pan American Stakes (Gulfstream - Race 10 - Saturday)

I'm going to try and beat the horses coming out of the grueling Mac Diarmida Stakes on February 21, a race where PRESIOUS PASSION showed a great deal of heart and desire by re-rallying to turn back QUASICOBRA in the stretch.  Presious Passion ran hard every step of those 11 furlongs, and may be a candidate to regress over turf that may be a bit softer than he prefers.  I couldn't make an excuse for Quasicobra, who looked a sure winner in upper stretch only to be turned away.  SPICE ROUTE looks solid, and he had a bit of trouble in the Mac Diarmida, but he probably gets bet.  Instead, I'll play nutty longshot NERGAL.  Here's hoping that French pedigree is geared to marathon distances, and he's the type that would appreciate a little give in the ground.  He should get pace to attack with Presious Passion, SOUTH HANDYMAN, and BUDDY'S HUMOR in the lineup, and he will be a square price.
Selections:  Nergal, Sligovitz, Presious Passion

San Luis Rey (Santa Anita - Race 7 - Saturday)

Tough, tough race with several intriguing contenders.  I'm a big fan of ARTISTE ROYAL, but everyone and their grandmother saw his brutal trip two weeks ago in the Eddie Read, and he's going to get bet as he stretches back out to a more comfortable distance.  Artiste Royal has quality, but little tactical speed, and is usually at the mercy of race and pace luck.  It's a coin flip as to whether he gets a good trip here.  On the other hoof, SPRING HOUSE couldn't have asked for a better journey in the San Luis Obispo.  He saved ground every step of the way, and found a beautiful seam in the two path in midstretch from between horses.  The racing gods can't guarantee me a similar trip here, and his price may be depressed with the 100 Beyer staring folks in the face.  YOU GOT ME ROCKING goes out for top connections, and has mucho early gas, but he just stole one against weaker, and gets a distance test.  I'll go with MEDICI CODE, a gelding that hasn't won since 2007, but was pinballed at the start of the San Luis Obsipo.  While Spring House received a clear run in the stretch, Medici Code was in traffic for most of the stretch run.  He can do better with a little more luck.
Selections:  Medici Code, You Got Me Rocking, Bonjour

Lane's End Stakes (Turfway - Race 10, Saturday)

I wonder how far WEST SIDE BERNIE really wants to go, but he was one of the only horses running at the end of the Holy Bull, and he lost significant ground when conceding position at the start, and racing five wide on the turn.  There probably isn't much price in playing him, but he looks like the best on paper.
Selections:  West Side Bernie, Parade Clown, Flying Private

Orchid Stakes (Gulfstream - Race 9, Sunday)

Love DRESS REHEARSAL to turn the tables on CRITICISM.  The last time the two met, Criticism controlled the pace through dawdling fractions while Dress Rehearsal raced in and among horses for 1 1/8 miles.  Once Dress Rehearsal got clear in the stretch, she did some running, but it was too late to overcome Criticism's tactical advantage.  Criticism faces more speed in this spot, and Dress Rehearsal should be a tough cookie once she gets rolling late.
Selections:  Dress Rehearsal, Criticism, Lamentation

More importantly, who do you fancy this weekend?  I'd like to know.



We have had considerable discussion about Dicky D horses performance first with trainer. In today's HG exercise, I see that #8 Farleyshelonwheels is running for first after leaving Dutrow barn. Are there any stats for this condition?

Formulator has "1st after claimed from" stats, and horses making their first start after being claimed from Dutrow Jr. have won 17% (41-236) for a $1.57 ROI over the past five years.  Horses making their first start after being claimed BY Dutrow Jr. are 60-180 (33%, $2.29 ROI) over the same time period.


Dan, can you please tell me which Tracks have a One Turn mile. Thank you for your time in this matter.


The list stands as such, with thanks to C (for LRL/WO) and Greg (others):
--Arlington Park (poly only)
--Aqueduct (main/outer dirt track only)
--Belmont Park (dirt course and to an extent, Widener Turf.)
--Churchill Downs (dirt only)
--Colonial Downs (dirt only)
--Gulfstream Park (dirt only)
--Laurel Park (dirt only)
--Woodbine (turf only)


This drew my attention as well, because even though I have never heard of the trainer (Cathal Lynch) he/she was an 18% trainer in 2008. Also, the jockey was F Lynch - hmmm, is there a connection there? Details, details. lol

The jockey Fergal Lynch is the brother of trainer Cathal Lynch.


Causeways mentioned it, and so has Dan in the past, but what does it mean "to pull the Bill Daly"?

It's an old saying concerning jockey tactics.  A rider "on the Bill Daly" is going directly to the front out of the gate.


I would be very curious to know the Beyer that Dancing Rebecca received, but in any case, I think it was clear that Heart Ashley should have been expected by the readers of this blog to out-perform her number saturday.

Dancing Rebecca received a 77 Beyer on February 9, and worked five furlongs in 1:04.60 on March 13 at the Fair Grounds.


Could someone please explain the DRF notation "B" as in Clm4500(5-4.5)B.  In my 30 plus years of Form reading I rarely come across this.  I was told once it meant "beaten claimers" but aren't they all beaten claimers?  Thanks.
Ron Zuercher

A "beaten" claimer is a designation used when there are more than one conditions in a claiming event.  A typical beaten claimer will look something like this.  "For Four Year Olds and Upward Which Have Never Won Three Races OR Four Year Olds."  So, the race is a 'N3L' for older horses, and an open claiming event for four-year-old competitors.  A four-year-old can run in the race even if it's won ten times.


Dan (or anyone) the race reminded me of something which nowdays is probably even more important now that in the "olden days", and that is the purse values at a given track. I pointed out before that the winner had just run well in Pa. where the purses are a lot bigger than in troubled Maryland. Dan-is there any list of average purse values by track somewhere on the form (or anywhere else that anyone knows of)
Stephen L. Taylor

Check out this link:



Dan, if you ask Marcus Hersh about Nuclear Wayne, also please ask about Lyin Heart, another Asmussen runner on my RTTR watch list.  He ran at Oaklawn a few weeks ago but has been stabled at FairGrounds. I need to know!

Lyin' Heart will likely remain in sprint stakes races.  He worked the other day at Fair Grounds.  I'm not sure, but he may show up at Keeneland.  Haven't heard anything about Nuclear Wayne.  Asmussen is very high on him so he may be taking his time if there were any minor hiccups on the road.



Would like to congratulate Laura for her work for her detailed work at ironmaidensthoroughbreds.com, and would also like to thank everyone for their wonderful handicapping and commentary, as per usual, over the last week.

Will have to hold off on the past champion retrospective until next week.

Take it easy,


azguido52 More than 1 year ago
This is my first post ever after having read the blog for over six months. I've found the comments and stories inciteful and entertaining. I just hope I'm posting correctly. For the contest I am playing $50 win on #5 Euphony. The layoff is a concern but I believe she stll has some upside and the 3 for 3 record at the track makes me think she will be ready. I will hedge with #8 Distinctive Dixie who looks like the clear favorite. I will play a $30 ex 5-8 and a $20 ex 8-5
joecem More than 1 year ago
just a quick remark for joe private: while war emblem may have had the best last race beyer before the derby that year it should be noted that in the derby the previous year they went 45 for the half. The night before the derby that year i remember telling all my non gambling drunken freinds that they would go 47 to the half because the previous year was still fresh in the jockeys' minds. So when they went 47 it was pretty much a done deal. the point being that i wouldnt give that much credit to war emblem winning that year.
M. Scott McMannis More than 1 year ago
Dan: I want to clarify for your readers the handicapping tournaments offered by Arlington Park. First, we have taken the two DRF/NTRA qualifiers that we ran before and after the live meet and moved them into the live meet. Each will offer three berths into the DRF/NTRA tournament in early 2010. Second, those two qualifiers have been changed to the live-money format that we introduced last summer and which proved so popular. Third, the aforementioned, original, $100 live money contests will be back this summer. They will offer berths into the Coast Casinos World Series to be held in early 2010. Fourth, a $50 version of the live money contests is currently being offered, one each Saturday, at Arlington OTB parlors on a rotating basis. Every Saturday the top finisher wins a berth into the World Series. Fifth, the same $50 "Tour" tournaments will be offered at our parlors again this fall. Fans can go to arlingtonpark.com for handicapping tournament schedules and rules. Visit my blog there for the latest results and to ask questions. Thank you. M. Scott McMannis
Joe Private More than 1 year ago
Criteria for picking a derby winner. A couple of questions. I know from my research the horse has to have had a 100 beyer. I think Giacomo was the only recent winner who didn't meet this. The horse needs to be a horse...yep Funny Cide won as a gelding but like Giacomo it doesn't make a trend. What about highest beyer? Has anyone ever done any research on this stat. I know War Emblem had the highest beyer the year he won. I'm just trying to narrow my list. Any geldings in the list of contenders?? p.s. Beware Mr. Fantasy in the Wood.
Craig More than 1 year ago
Tom and Slew, Thanks guys. Slew, I don't know what to think about Trevor and his missed call, other than, I haven't seen it often ( by any callers around the country, let alone Trevor ). The call, for whatever reason, did give me a feeling of confidence about me hitting the pik 4. Can't explain it, just one of those things you feel. That in itself is rare for me as I am looking for my horses to trip with a 6 length lead and do not ever feel like I have won until I have actually won. Way too many follies in my past w/horse races to ever feel confident in winning before the race/bet is complete. My big concern was trying to beat Visit in the 8th. I felt good about beating the Frankel, but, knew I had too to make the pik 4 pay at all. If Visit wins (fav, I think right at even money ) it probably pays 2 or 3 hundred tops. The 7 was the longest shot I had in the 8th race and was my first choice, so I got real lucky on the payoff. Of course, that was the whole intent of the ticket. I felt Visit would take the bulk of the money and was beatable and I could sneak in one of the others ( hopefully the 7 ). Lucky? Yes, but I love it when a plan comes together. Thanks again guys and good luck to you.
PGM More than 1 year ago
S. Taylor, One reason I like the $50 AP contest is that's accessible for smaller players like me. A $100 contest pushes the limits of my wallet. They also did away with a W/P format contest, which they had last year on Ladies Day/Pucker Up Day. Dolts.
C More than 1 year ago
Jeff, Chances are, any exacta involving Dunkirk (especially with Quality Road) is not going to be very generous. Matt, Yes, you are right, Jones is quite competent. It should also be noted that Eight Belles didn't have a 1 1/8 prep race either. I'm probably more inclined to stand against Friesan Fire because I don't know that he's really that great. He's beaten Papa Clem in the slop and the FG locals. I can't knock him too much, as he's had a better season so far than most of the other 3YOs. At the same time, if I'm going to accept anyone at a short price in the Derby, it probably won't be him, as there are enough questionmarks about the quality of the FG 3YOs. He could certainly win, and that's why it's called gambling. cayman, I still think there's some confusion about the accuracy of the printed information versus the correlation it may have with performance. Steve's original quest was to see if workout times could be used in handicapping; however, I don't necessarily agree that IF there is a correlation, THEN the times must therefore be accurate. Maybe the correlation would be even stronger if the true times and surrounding info were known, but I doubt it would matter much either way. No offense to Steve, but I don't know that the results are all that compelling. What about 3, 4, and 5 furlong works? What is the win percentage for the horse deemed to have the fastest recent workout in the race, at any distance, using some equalizing criteria, say for example, 12 seconds per furlong? Try it at Aqueduct... do the numbers end up similar? How keen and detailed can the SoCal clockers really be, considering they label virtually every workout Handily? By concentrating only on 6 and 7 furlong works, is Steve actually skewing the results towards more fit racehorses (who often show longer, faster works) and/or focusing on a certain group of trainers who drill their horses long and fast-- who themselves may have win percentages in the 20-30% range? These are the kind of questions that must be answered before any cause-and-effect relationship is assumed. So much of the data handicappers use every day (dosage, Tomlinsons, Beyers, track variant, trainer and jockey stats, etc) is seldom questioned outside of forums like this. Steve has done a ton of work and questioning these things is always worthwhile. I'm just not sure that his approach specifically isolates workout times as an indepedent factor. In any event, this is an entirely different concept from what I was originally saying about the validity of the information in the DRF. Here are 2 open questions: If the starting gate was removed in favor of a running start a la trotters AND all races were hand-timed by any 1 of 5 clockers, chosen at random before each race, would you trust speed and pace figures (a) more (b) less (c) the same Under those conditions, would you bother calculating and comparing individual horse times/fractions with the standard 5 lengths per second rule of thumb?
Kyri More than 1 year ago
Joe Private, FWIW, here's my Derby winner criteria: Can be a gelding (being a gelding can actually make a better racehorse; certainly doesn't make a worse one. I think many more colts should be gelded than are) Must not be a need-the-lead type (despite War Emblem) Must not be an obligate deep closer (despite Giacomo) Must have won at least one major prep race (despite Giacomo) Must have won at 1 1/8th (Can't remember if this one has been broken) Must not suffer any significant setbacks during the year and no setbacks at all, however minor (think of Empire Maker) in the couple of weeks before the race I don't care about racing at 2, length of freshening before the race, etc., but I pay a lot of attention to how competent I think the connections are. I look at pedigree, but once they have gone 1 1/8th, unless something was unusual about the race (odd pace scenario, off track, etc.) or they looked desperate to hold on, I'm not too worried. I look a lot at the various works shows and how the horse seems to be liking the Churchill surface and coming up to the race.
Van Savant More than 1 year ago
Dan; For HandiGambling 126, I would like to select the 8th race at Oaklawn, an Allowance Optional Claiming (OC22k/N1X) race for four year-olds and up at 1 1/16th miles on the dirt. There are many interesting angles to this race, especially the past conditions of past races contested by these entrants. As of now, the weather is expected to clear and dry, although much rain could hit Hot Springs, Arkansas on Tuesday. One other point of note, folks: No Superfecta wagering appears to be available for this race (sorry), but $.50 Trifecta wagering does exist. Good luck to everyone playing this race, and let’s see what we all can do. Thanks
Stephen Taylor More than 1 year ago
Joe Private- According to ESPN (I think-saw it on the Derby blog) Mr. Fantasy is going to the Illinois Derby. (Can't believe another trainer hasn't picked up on what looks like it's going to be a weak field) C- I've got a BIG interest in seeing Friesan Fire run well in the Derby. (Bought a $20 ex future box with he and Pioneer of the Nile which would be worth about $1400, as well as small boxes with Jojo and the field) and here's what, in my amateur mind, would be the best scenario: The Blue Grass and then the Derby. I've read where many trainers say that horses get alot out of races or works over poly-He has plenty of earnings so how he did in the race would pretty much be immaterial (In fact I didn't bet him to win in the futures, so I wouldn't mind seeing him finish 3rd and driving the Derby price up!) Also, he was a bit rank in his first race back off a layoff so the 7 week layoff concerns me. His running on a regular basis doesn't-he seems to get better every start and how quickly we forget that in years past these horses could run every few weeks without a drop off in performance. (And from the Jones/Porter perspective thinking long term, a poly win could do nothing but increase his value at stud) I know you and many others are a bit skeptical, but maybe he's just a rarity-a sound, talented horse who is learning every time he runs and keeps getting better. (The horse Jones might want to consider "backing off" on and training up to the Derby is Old Fashioned but he's nowhere to be found on my tickets (nor will he be on Derby Day) so I don't have much of an interest in what he does between now and then.