06/04/2015 10:45AM

Test of a champion

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In a world dominated by folks with short attention spans seeking instant gratification, some of us still don't mind a long walk on the beach as a vacation from the ordinary.

No cell phones. No internet. Just time and space.

A lot of space to cover. A lot of time to contemplate the good old days of mom-and-pop stores, vinyl records, letter-writing, porch swings and Triple Crown winners.

In a thoroughbred world now dominated by one-furlong breeze-up times, 2-year-old-in-training sales and an overall emphasis on speed, speed, and even more speed, the lovable 1 1/2-mile dinosaur known as the Belmont Stakes is still referred to as "The Test of the Champion."

This isn't your average one-oh-eight fare. The two-and-a-half odd minutes or so of the Belmont is a lot of time to contemplate the merits of a very good horse. It's a lot of space to cover, even if it's only one trip around Big Sandy.

With each step American Pharoah takes this Saturday, he'll be one closer to immortality or also-ran.

An all-time great like Gallant Fox or a very good horse like Smarty Jones?

The Belmont, even in this day and age, with the Triple Crown on the line, is the measuring stick for such rankings.

There's no denying American Pharoah's immense ability. In the Rebel, he showed there were no lingering issues from a foot problem that curtailed his championship juvenile campaign while scooting over a wet track. In the Arkansas Derby, he proved that he was just as effective sitting off a horse as he is when allowed the lead. In the Kentucky Derby, he was impervious to a boisterous crowd and relished a stretch battle. In Baltimore, he was unfazed by a Old Testament-inspired downpour that turned Pimlico into a sea of slop.

Woody Stephens trained five consecutive Belmont Stakes winners in the 1980's. He liked to say that "when you cross the Hudson, the buildings get taller." This wasn't merely East Coast bravado. It's a nod to the Belmont Stakes distance. When you cross the Hudson, the distance gets longer and longer and longer, especially at the end of a demanding Triple Crown season.

American Pharoah will attempt to scale the biggest tower of them all on Saturday. Certainly, he can do it. But as much as I'd like him to win the Triple Crown, he doesn't seem like a safe bet at odds-on. When you're backing a short-priced favorite, whether to win or as a single in a multiple-race wager, you'd best be sure.

The only certainty regarding any Belmont Stakes is its uncertainty.

I backed Materiality in the Kentucky Derby. If you watch the video replay closely, you can see the shadow of Apollo looming over the lightly-raced colt. Perhaps that's why he broke so poorly for the first time in his life. You can argue the race was lost after two strides. After that, it took six furlongs for his rider to extricate him from the inside and all of that hallowed Churchill Downs dirt battering him in the face.

Materiality seemed a truly beaten horse as Frosted zoomed by him like he was standing still at the five-sixteenths pole. For a moment, it appeared he would be eased. To his credit, he re-rallied past tired horses, bobbing and weaving and running at the end of the race.

He performed in spots as could be expected from such an inexperienced performer. He's had five weeks to grow up. We know he's talented. Perhaps the Belmont is where he lives up to his potential at a playable price to boot.

It won't be easy. He'll likely track American Pharoah from the get-go. If he does collar and submit the Derby and Preakness winner, he'll then have to deal with some quality closers. It's a daunting task to be sure.

Frosted ran a huge race in the Derby as the only horse rallying from off the pace to make an impact on the finish. He was extremely wide on the backstretch and sustained a half-mile run with gusto. He might sit a great trip tracking Materiality and American Pharoah. The race shape of the Belmont could be a 180-degree shift from the Belmont. That aids Frosted.

On paper, and it's difficult to simply trust the cold dope considering the odd distance, this is a three-horse race. It's either American Pharoah, Frosted or Materiality.  Although, would you really be surprised if Nick Zito smashes another Triple Crown bid, or another Peter Pan winner takes down a Triple Crown aspirant, or a Dallas Stewart closer finally gets there first, or Mubtaahij’s pedigree wins out at the end?

I’ll take the price of the “big three.” Materiality to Win at 6 to 1 or greater.

If I don't get my odds, I'll sit and contemplate the merits of a very good horse.


***

I sent Dan a list of track dimensions I've collected or calculated, which includes radii of turns (mostly on main tracks). I don't have the info for Gulfstream because I've never found the distance from the finish line to the first turn, which is what I would need. If I had the width of the turf courses, in most cases the radii could also be figured out, at least as accurately as the stated circumference of the course...Palace Malice is a non-runner, not at all surprisingly. I sent Dan a file with 2 photos, one from last year and one from this year so people can see the difference in his fitness that I was talking about a couple weeks ago.
Al

The files are available at the bottom of this blog post.

***

On Twitter, Luke Clowes (@lukegclowes) requested the lifetime past performances for Dixie Brass and Fappiano

They're available at the bottom of the blog post.

***

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.

Remember to check out DRF LIVE's handicapping coverage. Matt Bernier and I will be handicapping the last three races at Belmont on Friday. Marty McGee and I will handle the Belmont Stakes day card beginning Saturday morning at 11am at live.drf.com.

***

Congrats to RkCasselberry for finishing first in the most recent HandiGambling tournament.

Rick M's official scoresheet is available at the bottom of this blog post.

Let's go with Saturday's Belmont Stakes for this week's exercise. As part of the 2-day wagering menu for special events, we can add the Belmont Gold Cup - Belmont Stakes daily double.

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST.

SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to streamline all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

 

With so many new people attending Dan's Formblog we thought it would be a good time to update the Handigambling Guidelines and Rules as we go forward in 2014.

 

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 if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

 

HANDIGAMBLING:

 

Please start your post with  HG or HANDIGAMBLING to better recognize and find your entry.

 

-  You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose and that is available for that HG race.

Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

 

- Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF THE 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 recognize you .

 

- (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.

 

- Separate your analysis from the wager and use the horses # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

 

-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 2014

The speed in this race goes to  horses # 1, 4 ,6 ..Ennie , Meenie, and Mo

Since it's a sprint I don't see any closers catching them.. like # 9 Miney.

I think trainer Groucho with the #6 Mo has the best stats in this condition, route to sprint.. just a gut feeling at large odds ML 20-1

 

HG wager

50$ Ex box 1-6

total $100

 

Thanks Dan!

 

Harpo

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A MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS IS ALWAYS APPRECIATED !

 

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

 

ALSO, IF THE WINNER WOULD LIKE TO SELECT THE FOLLOWING WEEK'S RACE, PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM NO LATER THAN THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY MORNING (A FRIDAY OR SATURDAYRACE IS MOST IDEAL)

AttachmentSize
Palace Malice 2014-2015 Photos.pdf1.62 MB
US Track Dimensions List - May 2015.pdf53.79 KB
DixieBrass,Fappiano.pdf602.43 KB
Copy of Formblog Californian 5-30-15.xls76 KB
HGBELMONT.pdf183.22 KB