02/06/2013 4:01PM

Talking 3-year-olds


It was a wild and wooly weekend for the 3-year-old crop. 

In staccato fashion, one promising runner after another put his stamp on the Kentucky Derby trail. 

We've now had a few days to digest the results. The immediate excitement, and natural hyperbole that particular excitement generated, has slightly worn off. It seems a good time as any to rationally discuss the performances with the realization that the Derby is still a long ways off.   

VERRAZANO (105 Beyer, 1 Mile, Gulfstream 'n1x' optional claimer):

Perhaps no horse generated as much buzz on Saturday than Verrazano, the undefeated half-brother to El Padrino that obliterated a decent bunch of allowance runners by 16 1/4 lengths. 

Favored at 1-5 off a dominant debut on New Year's Day for Todd Pletcher, the $250,000 yearling puchase received a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.  The final time for his one-turn mile - 1:34.80 - was over two seconds faster than the other division for 3-year-old males at that distance at Gulfstream on Saturday (won by stablemate DOHERTY). 

Not only was the race very fast, but it was visually pleasing as well.  Verrazano pressed a swift pace, overwhelmed his early rival on the bend and finished his last two furlongs in a solid 24.82 while under minimal urging. 

Obviously, he is a very talented colt and figures to be hammered in future wagers over the next few days.  But he is inexperienced, has yet to race around two turns, and each additional furlong from now until Louisville will be extremely demanding for all of the hopefuls. 

I have no idea if Verrazano is the Derby winner or not, but one thing is for sure.  He is going to be fun to watch over the next few months. 

And he was very good on Saturday.

HONORABLE DILLON (94 Beyer, 7 Furlongs, Gulfstream, Hutcheson Stakes, Grade 2):

A lightly-raced son of Tapit, Honorable Dillon hasn't done much wrong throughout his four-race career.  He made a nice impression in his debut at Saratoga last summer for trainer Eddie Kenneally, finishing ahead of three next-out winners despite breaking poorly and being shuffled back along the rail on the turn. 

He then overcame a closer-friendly track to defeat two next-out winners (including the highly-regarded DELHOMME) in his second start. 

After missing the remainder of the juvenile season due to some minor problems, Honorable Dillon received a good prep for the Hutcheson when a rallying second behind loose-on-the-lead SINGANOTHERSONG in an entry-level optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs on January 4. 

In the Hutcheson, Honorable Dillon rated nicely in the early stages and attacked the front-runners while three wide on the turn.  He gutted out the win, but I didn't like that he failed to switch leads in the stretch.  That's a bad habit that he'll likely need to cure if he is to factor in longer-distance races. 

The horse to take out of the Hutcheson could be runner-up FORTY TALES, who seemed uncomfortable racing down inside after breaking from the difficult rail post.  Once switched out, Forty Tales came with a good late run to just miss. His dam was multiple stakes-placed on turf.

Honorable Dillon, a $100,000 yearling buyback that was purchased for the same amount at two, is a half-brother to Liquidity Trap, a stakes-placed miler on grass.  Their dam won going seven furlongs on dirt in Argentina and was stakes-placed at one mile.  Distance could be an issue going forward as he has yet to run in a route event. 

TIZ THE TRUTH (94 Beyer, 1 Mile, Santa Anita, Maiden Special Weight):

"Gary Stevens might have a Derby horse," tweeted winning trainer Bob Baffert after TIZ THE TRUTH graduated in gate-to-wire fashion around two turns at Santa Anita. 

Tiz the Truth certainly has pedigree appeal as he's a half-brother to Grade 2 winner Notional by two-time Breeders' Cup Classic hero Tiznow. 

Tiz the Truth may not have handled the cushion track in his career debut at Betfair Hollywood on December 15, but he improved to run a game second behind the promising DEMONIC at seven furlongs on January 13. 

On Saturday, Tiz the Truth got a chance to stretch his legs around two turns and he appreciated the extra distance.  While he looked good striding out to win by almost eight lengths under a mere hand ride, I'm not sure we really learned anything about the colt. 

He received a candy trip walking on the lead against overmatched competition and seemed to lose some focus when the race was no longer in doubt, hopping back to his left lead in the waning strides.  We'll know more after his next effort, a start which will no doubt be against much tougher opposition.

FLASHBACK (92 Beyer, 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita, Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Grade 3):

FLASHBACK has lived up to the hype thus far.  A full brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Zazu, Flashback graduated at even-money in his debut over the cushion track on December 8 and didn't have many problems in winning a lackluster edition of the Robert B. Lewis. 

A $260,000 weanling purchase, Flashback has been carefully handled by Baffert.  The silver-haired trainer aborted a scheduled workout in late December after the colt didn't have a fluid motion in his hind end, but Flashback trained swiftly leading up to the Lewis and looked the main speed on paper. 

Indeed, Flashback went right to the front and took mild pressure from Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up He's Had Enough through slow fractions.  Flashback had He's Had Enough off the bridle approaching the quarter pole and was never threatened in the stretch. 

Although he's been aided by good setups in both starts (rallied off fast pace in debut, set slow pace in Lewis), I've been impressed with Flashback.  He's versatile, well-bred and professional.  At this early juncture, he seems like a major player. 

FALLING SKY (92 Beyer, 1 1/16 Miles, Tampa, Sam F. Davis Stakes, Grade 3):

A $16,000 weanling that was purchased for a sale-topping $425,000 at OBS last month, Falling Sky successfully answered the two-turn question in his 3-year-old debut. 

Now 3 of 4 lifetime, Falling Sky defeated a pair of next-out winners in a live optional claimer at Gulfstream on December 15.  In the Davis, Falling Sky bobbled very slightly at the start, but had enough speed to clear the field on the first turn.  Rated beautifully by Jose Espinoza, Falling Sky was bumped onto his right lead midway on the far turn when making contact with the rail-rallying SPEAK LOGISTICS, but had enough left to deny a green DYNAMIC SKY in the final strides.

Falling Sky did some good things in the Davis, but I'm a bit more interested in the horses he beat.  Dynamic Sky has a bad habit of leaning onto other horses and that may have cost him the win.  Speak Logistics may have lost all chance when contacted by the winner turning for home.  MY NAME IS MICHAEL rallied belatedly in his first start on dirt. 

Falling Sky is by Lion Heart out of a Sea Hero mare that was multiple stakes-placed sprinting.  That dam is a half-sister to All Giving, a seven-time stakes-winning sprinter.  The argument could be made that Falling Sky has already outrun his pedigree and the waters could get much deeper as the distances increase.

REVOLUTIONARY (86 Beyer, 1 1/16 Miles, Aqueduct inner dirt, Withers Stakes, Grade 3):

Although Revolutionary didn't get a big number in the Withers, he overcame a world's worth of trouble.  Sent away favored for Pletcher following a "big fig" maiden victory over a wet track, Revolutionary broke a half-step slow and was forced to rate behind horses while bogged down inside.  Revolutionary was moving sweetly on the far turn, but then had to wait behind the eventual runner-up, ESCAPEFROMREALITY.  The chalk was still stuck behind horses at the eighth pole, but jockey Javier Castellano eventually spied a seam and he sent Revolutionary between horses to just get up at the wire. 

It was an eye-catching late turn of foot from a horse that still seems as green as the Grinch.  Revolutionary switched leads several times in the stretch, but still overcame everything thrown at him. 

By juvenile champion War Pass out of Alabama Stakes winner Runup the Colors, Revolutionary certainly has the pedigree and athleticism to be a top horse.  I'm not worried about distance, but the lead change issue bothers me a bit. 

I didn't think ESCAPEFROMREALITY received a great ride, being wrangled back after making the early lead, but he ran on well and could be a useful sort down the road.

*Pletcher started 13 horses on Saturday with six wins, four seconds and a third ($2.45 ROI).

On the other hoof, Baffert went 7-3-1-2 on Saturday.  On Sunday, Baffert's GAME ON DUDE gave a wonderful performance over an overmatched group in the San Antonio Stakes.


This week's "Under the Radar" column features Fair Grounds-based PROUD STRIKE



Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures (1/28/13 - 2/3/13):

1. GAME ON DUDE - 116 - San Antonio Stakes (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles - Santa Anita
2. VARSITY - 105 - Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - Gulfstream
2. VERRAZANO - 105 - OC 75k/N1X -N - 1 Mile - Gulfstream
4. ITALIAN RULES - 101 - OC c-40k/N1X - 6 Furlongs - Santa Anita
5. BIND - 100 - OC 40k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs - Fair Grounds
5. SUPER NINETY NINE - 100 - OC 80k/N1X -N - 1 Mile - Santa Anita
7. CLUSTER OF STARS - 99 - Correction Stakes - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
7. HIT THE ROAD LEE - 99 - Louisiana Bred Premier Night Gentlemen Starter Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles - Delta
9. GUILT TRIP - 98 - Strub Stakes (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles - Santa Anita
10. BELIEVE YOU CAN - 97 - Tiffany Lass Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles - Fair Grounds
10. DONOHARM - 97 - Essex Handicap - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
12. HEAD HEART HOOF - 96 - Toboggan Stakes (G3) - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
12. SATURDAY'S CHARM - 96 - OC 35k/N3L -N - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
14. COOL STREET - 94 - OC 62k/C -N - 1 1/16 Miles - Fair Grounds
14. GOMBEY DANCER - 94 - Md Sp Wt 44k - 6 Furlongs - Gulfstream
14. HONORABLE DILLON - 94 - Hutcheson Stakes (G2) - 7 Furlongs - Gulfstream
14. MORDI'S MIRACLE - 94 - OC 25k/N1X -N - 1 Mile 70 Yards (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
14. SUGGESTIVE BOY - 94 - Arcadia Stakes (G2) - 1 Mile (Turf) - Santa Anita
14. TIZ THE TRUTH - 94 - Md Sp Wt 56k - 1 Mile - Santa Anita
20. THUNDEROUS G - 93 - OC 25k/N2X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - Laurel
21. FALLING SKY - 92 - Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - Tampa
21. FLASHBACK - 92 - Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - Santa Anita
21. HOBBS - 92 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - Gulfstream
24. BEAU CHOIX - 91 - OC 100k/C -N - 1 Mile (Turf) - Gulfstream
24. CAUSEITHERTZ - 91 - Alw 64210N2X - 1 Mile (TUrf) - Santa Anita
24. RULER ON ICE - 91 - OC 75k/N3X -N - 1 Mile (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
24. SONGS AND SONNETS - 91 - Alw 55000C - 1 Mile - Oaklawn
24. SU CASA G CASA - 91 - Louisiana Bred Premier Night Sprint Stakes - 5 Furlongs - Delta

*GAME ON DUDE's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.

*ITALIAN RULES was claimed for $40,000 by trainer Bill Spawr from trainer John Sadler.


Dan, Could you pull the PPs on Shecky Greene? Was the pacesetter in Secretariat's Derby. Thanks!
Sandra Swan

I'm sorry, but SHECKY GREENE is a bit too old for my system.  We can get the past performances for older runners that were champions, but I don't have anything for Shecky Greene.


Dan Illman,
There you go Dan. Even horses who want to be Slewsters win. #3 Indirectly A. P. is not a Slewster. Not actually anyway. His name would leave you to believe he is. Oh! Those wanabee Slewsters.....H­e's out of My Charmer. Who is My Charmer ? My Charmer is none other than the Mother of SEATTLE SLEW........Hen­ce the name:
Indirectly A. P.>>>>>>>>>
Curtis V Slewster.......­...

Indirectly A.P. has a clever name and boasts a fascinating pedigree.  His second dam, Triple Charm, is by Great Charmer, a younger half-brother to Seattle Slew by The Minstrel.


I am sorry to raise yet again this question of time. It really doesn't mean much in Euro races. And it is laughable to try to compare times around your flat tracks and regular turns, with our dips and gradients, around very irregular turns.
It is essential this point is understood if we are ever to reach agreement in assessing horses. I am sure Dan will tell us when he has heard the argument often enough, or perhaps he has a view?.
Bernard Downes

I would have to agree that time is very difficult to assess when analyzing European races for the reasons that Bernard mentioned as well as factoring in the different types of ground (heavy, yielding, good to firm, etc.).  I don't put much stock in a European shipper's final times.  For me, it's about class and quality of opposition.


Dan........For my grandfather who turns 90 this month, if you could find and post the lifetime past performances of a couple of the horses he owned?
-Gibby's Choice (77). -Van Horn (82). -P J's Pretty(?) .....good luck. And yes everyone, my grandpa has had to listen to my crazy handicapping theories for 30 years. God bless him!
Jay Van Horn

The past performances that you requested are available at the bottom of this blog post.


Although the 49ers didn't win the Super Bowl, the Bay Area can take some solace in the fact that Mike Beer and I will be at Golden Gate the morning of February 16 for a discussion of the El Camino Real Derby card. More details to come...

If you'd like, you can follow me on Twitter at DRF_DanIllman.


Congrats to Michel de Botton for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling exercise. 


Let's go with Friday's ninth race at Gulfstream for this week's contest.


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 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.


The weekend handicapping videos should begin appearing on the homepage around Thursday evening. 

GAME ON DUDE.pdf69.38 KB
Gibby'sChoice.pdf84.03 KB
Copy of Formblog Contest Gulfstream 2-1-13.xls43.5 KB
HG GP TURF 020813.pdf193.97 KB