03/13/2012 4:49PM

A Successful FormBlog Convention!

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NOBLE'S PROMISE, the winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in 2009, has now finished off-the-board in three of the most prestigious races in the world.  The son of Cuvee placed fifth in the 2010 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, finished fifth again in the 2010 St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and ran sixth in the "Dan Illman Formbloggers Race" at Gulfstream Park last Sunday. 

Instead, it was SOARING STOCKS that prevailed in the high-end optional claimer, named in honor of the second FormBlog Convention at Gulfstream Park last weekend.  Trained by Todd Pletcher (who else?), Soaring Stocks held off a hard-charging APRIORITY to prevail by a head at even-money, delighting the official FormBlog Mascot, Chalky the Weasel, who was resplendent in a festive hat, head-to-toe bling and, of course, her ever-present blue thong.

I think John Velazquez blushed when he saw her.

If you've never been to Gulfstream Park, I implore you to make the pilgrimage.  As a crusty horseplayer, I was resistant to the idea of a new "Gulfstream."  I cut my teeth at the South Florida tracks during my college years and the "old" Gulfstream was near and dear to my heart.  But, upon my first visit to the facility last year, I quickly realized that sometimes change is good.  Fans and physical handicappers can get up close to the paddock and racetrack to study their selections and there really isn't a bad seat in the house.  If you're looking for a more casual atmosphere, the Tiki Bar area is extremely pleasant and it was open early on Saturday for morning workouts and other activities.  Inside, besides the casino, there are plenty of places to watch the simulcasts.  After the races, if you're not in a rush to begin handicapping the next day's card, there are restaurants, bars and shops to enjoy. 

As always, I had a blast with my fellow FormBloggers.  They have an amazing passion for our sport and it was great to hear Laura's pedigree insights coupled with Turnbackthealarm's paddock analysis intertwined with NellyGCM, Dennis from Moline and BobC's handicapping viewpoints.  We were joined at the races by several members of Thorofan's South Florida chapter and there were squeals of glee from our suite when Susana hit the Pick 5 on Sunday.  Jeff and Annette cashed tickets and Dennis' lovely wife, Rose, also picked winners. 

The Formbloggers generously arranged a gift bag for me.  Included was a pair of blue thong underwear, which I wisely placed at the bottom of my luggage before I headed back to New York.  If I left them in my carry-on, there probably would have been this scene at the airport:

"Hey Lou, check this out," muttered the TSA agent to his buddy.  "Do you believe that?" 

"Get outta town," Lou replied.  "Sir, you're going to have to explain this."

"I don't know what you mean," I answered.  "What's the problem?"

"Are these yours, sir?" Lou held up a frilly blue thong. 

"It's not what it looks like."

Thankfully, that didn't happen. 

Anyway, Chalky the Weasel had a banner Friday.  INCLUDE TRACI ($4.20, first race), MORROW COVE ($3.60, second), DOILOOKFATNTHESE ($4.20, third), NECHEZ DAWN ($6.00, sixth), SCARAMAGNA ($4.60, eighth), SILVER MAX ($3.20, ninth) and MISTIE ROYALE ($7.40, tenth) were among the winning favorites. 

And, Chalky only plays them to show!

I was actually the other winning favorite on the card as I took down the "Worst ROI" award. 

Saturday was better for me and worse for Chalky as I got alive into a daily double after PRAETEREO took the fifth at 7-2.  I had played most of my action into HEADINGTOTHECITY in the next leg and knew he would be a price.  Why? His jockey, the 10-pound apprentice, Yomar Orlando Ortiz, had never won a race. 

It seems that whenever I do a handicapping seminar, I am asked how much emphasis I place on the jockey.  My answer surprises people.  If I really like a horse, all I'm looking for from the rider is competency.  If the rider is 1 for 200, I'll start to doubt.  Other than that, I'm not overly concerned with the two-legged part of the equation.  If an eight-percent rider with average mounts had first call for Pletcher, he or she would probably do much better. 

Headingtothecity ran a couple of competitive speed figures on turf in New York last year and looked like the main speed in a race full of closers.  After Ortiz took Headingtothecity back to tenth on the backstretch, I was beginning to question my theory on jockeys, but the apprentice stayed cool, saved ground and came barreling up the rail to win by 1 1/2 lengths.  The double paid $183.60 for each two dollars wagered and Headingintothecity returned $36.40 to Win and $17.80 to Place.  Ortiz got christened with the usual water and shaving cream bath from his fellow riders and I regained some of my dignity from Friday's debacle. 

The following day, the newly-crowned "King of the Unknown Jockeys" struck again.  TOWN OF TOWNS had the best last Beyer and he earned that 86 despite the short comment of "stumbled start, 4 wide."  His jockey, Jalon Samuel, had no stats to speak of in the paper

(I later found out that the teenager was the champion rider in Barbados in 2010)

http://www.nationnews.com/index.php/articles/view/samuel-to-ride-in-us/

Town of Towns was cold in the early betting, but was made the 3-1 third choice in the field of seven at post time.  He looked to be outpaced going into the turn, but Samuel gathered the gelding, maneuvered him to the inside and re-rallied up the rail to win by a half-length. 

There were some fascinating stakes races over the weekend.  The red-hot MUCHO MACHO MAN made it three straight by getting the jump on gritty Grade 1 winner JACKSON BEND in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.  Pacesetting TACKLEBERRY, the Gulfstream Park 'Cap defending champ, held gamely for second. 

TRINNIBERG is a wickedly-fast sprinter and he took his fellow 3-year-olds on a merry chase in the Grade 3 Swale Stakes.  I'm not sure he'll go a route of ground, but I'm guessing his connections will take a shot in an upcoming prep.  Beaten favorite EVER SO LUCKY is taken to improve next time as it's possible he was a bit short in his first start of the year.

HOWE GREAT has a lovely way of going over the turf and he pressed 37-1 shot SCORCHER before taking over for good in the Grade 3 Palm Beach.  Owned by Team Valor and trained by Graham Motion, Howe Great may now try the Animal Kingdom synthetic to dirt route to the Kentucky Derby.  DULLAHAN, making his first start since the Breeders' Cup, rallied nicely for second after racing wide and can move forward with this race under his girth. 

DAYATTHESPA successfully stretched her ability to nine furlongs with a popular victory in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.  NORTHER PASSION disappointed.

I'd like to thank Mike Nyman and all of the folks at Gulfstream Park for their astounding generosity in providing the group with access to a suite overlooking the racetrack, gift bags, programs and a table at Christine Lee's restaurant.

Laura planned the entire seminar and everything went off smoothly.  You can visit her site at ironmaidensthoroughbreds.com. 

It was great to meet all of the friendly people from Thorofan.  Check out their site at thorofan.com. 

We'll definitely have another gathering and I hope to see you there next time.

***

Here are the top 25 winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's races (3/5/11 - 3/11/11):

1.  ROMAN THREAT - 106 - Md Sp Wt 56k - 6 Furlongs - Santa Anita
2.  SELF CONTROL - 103 - Alw 49000N1X - 1 1/8 Miles - Gulfstream
3.  CREATIVE CAUSE - 103 - San Felipe Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - Santa Anita
3.  MUCHO MACHO MAN - 102 - Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) - 1 Mile - Gulfstream
5.  ALTERNATION - 100 - Razorback Handicap (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
5.  IZZY RULES - 100 - Las Flores Stakes (G3) - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Santa Anita
5.  SAGINAW - 100 - Clm c-(30-20) - 1 Mile 70 Yards (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
8.  BOLD AFFAIR - 99 - Conniver Stakes - 7 Furlongs - Laurel
8.  CIGAR STREET - 99 - Md Sp Wt 46k - 1 1/16 Miles - Fair Grounds
8.  ON FIRE BABY - 99 - Honeybee Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
8.  SENIORS PRIDE - 99 - Bryan G. Stakes - 1 Mile (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
8.  TRINNIBERG - 99 - Swale Stakes (G3) - 7 Furlongs - Gulfstream
13. CATFEINATED - 98 - Alw 46240N1X - 6 Furlongs - Hawthorne
13. HARDENED WILDCAT - 98 - Fred Cappy Capossela Stakes - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
15. ZAGORA (Fr) - 95 - Hillsborough Stakes (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Tampa Bay
16. ACTION ANDY - 94 - Hcp 35000 - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Tampa Bay
16. KIND REGARDS - 94 - OC 35k/N2X - 6 Furlongs - Hawthorne
16. MORE THAN CANDY - 94 - Clm 10000(10-9)N4L - 6 Furlongs - Penn National
19. TOWN OF TOWNS - 92 - Clm c-(25-20) - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Gulfstream
19. WEE FREUDIAN - 92 - OC 25k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
21. DUBIOUS MISS - 91 - OC 62k/C -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - Fair Grounds
21. NONIOS - 91 - OC 32k/N1X -N - 1 Mile (Tapeta) - Golden Gate
21. RESTLESS YOUTH - 91 - OC 62k/N2X - 6 Furlongs (Tapeta) - Golden Gate
21. WELCOME GUEST - 91 - Md Sp Wt 46k - 7 1/2 Furlongs - Gulfstream
25. AGAVE KISS - 90 - Cicada Stakes (G3) - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
25. BET THE POWER - 90 - Clm c-20000N2Y - 6 Furlongs - Oaklawn
25. GUTSHOT STRAIGHT - 90 - Alw 33560N1X - 6 Furlongs (Tapeta) - Golden Gate
25. LADY OF SHAMROCK - 90 - China Doll Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - Santa Anita
25. LE BERNARDIN - 90 - Md Sp Wt 60k - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
25. PLASMA BEAM - 90 - Alw 4000s - 5 1/2 Furlongs - Beulah

*ROMAN THREAT's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.  It took Bob Baffert a bit of time to get Roman Threat to the races, but the 4-year-old gelding was really cranked up for his debut on Sunday at Santa Anita.  The half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Indian Blessing and stakes-placed sprinter Spaniard pressed odds-on favorite SOUTHERN SUNRISE through fractions of 21.14 and 43.77 before putting that rival away to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:08.02 for six furlongs. He's stakes-bound.

***

AT THE CLAIM BOX:

*SAGINAW was claimed for $30,000 by trainer David Jacobson from Richard Dutrow Jr.

*TOWN OF TOWNS was taken for $25,000 by trainer Christos Gatis from Saffie Joseph Jr.

*BET THE POWER went for $20,000 to Kenny Smith from the barn of Steve Asmussen.

***

3-YEAR-OLD WATCH:

*LE BERNARDIN graduated from the maiden ranks in his second lifetime outing for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on Saturday at Aqueduct.  A $325,000 yearling purchase, Le Bernardin is by Bernardini out of Grade 2 route winner La Rosa.  The 3-year-old colt is a half-brother to Taittinger Rose, a Grade 3 winner at nine furlongs.  Le Bernardin finished fourth in his career debut over the inner track on January 14, but improved with the addition of Lasix and is bred to appreciate more distance for Darley Stable.

*NONIOS, a 3-year-old son of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, romped by six lengths in an entry-level optional claimer at one mile over the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.  A $21,000 yearling that resold for $73,000 last April, Nonios is perfect from two starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.  He's a half-brother to stakes-winning sprinter City Cool and stakes-placed Super Robusto, but seems to have more stamina than those two performers. 

*WELCOME GUEST, a filly by Unbridled's Song out of a placed half-sister to Grade 1 route winner Political Force, graduated second-out at Gulfstream on March 7.  Trained by Chad Brown, Welcome Guest sold for $250,000 as a yearling and is from the female family of Grade 1 winners Unbridled Elaine and Glitter Woman.  She scored by 5 1/2 lengths at 7 1/2 furlongs after falling a half-length shy at six furlongs in her debut at Gulfstream on February 8. 

*MORROW COVE received an 88 Beyer for his 5 1/4-length maiden victory going a flat mile at Gulfstream on Friday.  Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Yes It's True filly sold for $72,000 as a yearling before being purchased for $100,000 last June.  Morrow Cove is out of Once Around, a daughter of You and I that won a pair of stakes races at one mile on grass.  In her career debut on January 22, Morrow Cove finished second behind the highly-regarded ZO IMPRESSIVE.

*Here's the most recent "Under the Radar" Column.  It profiles impressive maiden winner CIGAR STREET.

http://www.drf.com/news/kentucky-derby-2012-under-radar-cigar-street

***

Hi Dan..is there any possible way you could find out how many claims went in for Olympist and what owners/trainers went after him? thanks in advance...
Keeneland Capper

There were two claims entered for OLYMPIST on February 29, but I don't know who was on the losing end of the shake.  He went to trainer Joseph Catanese III for $15,000.

***

CONGRATS TO VIRGIN QUEEN FOR FINISHING FIRST IN LAST WEEK'S HANDIGAMBLING CONTEST.  Let's go with Friday's seventh at Santa Anita for the next race.

REMEMBER, IF YOU ARE DECLARED THE WINNER OF THE HANDIGAMBLING EXERCISE, PLEASE CONTACT CSERVICE2@DRF.COM WITH YOUR DRF LOGIN AND PASSWORD IN ORDER TO ACCESS YOUR PRIZE PACKAGE.

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST.
 
Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."
 
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.
 
Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.  PLEASE GIVE YOUR NAME OR BLOG MONIKER AT THE END OF THE HG PLAY AND/OR ANALYSIS.
 
Please separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers (instead of the horse's name) for easier scoring.

In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please.
 
I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.
 
I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but 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. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all!

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