09/04/2010 12:23PM

Trainer-Speak, Convocation, Big Drama


Many sociologists believe that the Khoisan, or click, languages of southern and eastern Africa are the most difficult to understand.

I whole-heartedly disagree.  There's no doubt in my mind that the most difficult language to decipher is "Trainer-Speak."

Last week, Trappe Shot's conditioner, Kiaran McLaughlin, waffled back-and-forth about whether he was going to run his best three-year-old in the King's Bishop at seven furlongs, or the more prestigious Travers at 1 1/4 miles.  He chose the Travers.  Trappe Shot stunk up the joint. 

The lesson?  If a trainer has any doubt in his mind concerning a specific race, it may be wise to downgrade that horse. 

This dummy didn't.  He picked Trappe Shot on top and paid the financial price.

Lesson #2.  If a trainer originally plans one thing for a horse and then suddenly switches gears, it may be wise to downgrade that horse. 

There are two examples of that in today's major stakes races at Saratoga. 

This dummy is picking both horses. 

You have been warned.

Forego - Race 9 - Saratoga:
After BIG DRAMA chased Majesticperfection, the top sprinter in the country, in vain throughout the Grade 1, six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on August 8, David Fawkes told DRF's Mike Welsch that the Montbrook colt was due for a rest.

From Welsch's article published on August 13:

"He came back in good order,” Fawkes said of Big Drama. “We were very pleased with his race on Sunday. He caught a monster – that winner is a very nice horse – and I thought he turned in a very gallant effort to be second.”

Fawkes said he’ll now wait six to eight weeks before looking for another race for Big Drama, who earlier this summer captured Calder’s Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap.

“It’s a long, hot summer and he’s had three hard races, so I think he deserves some time off right now,” said Fawkes. “We’re pointing him for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and he’ll have one more start before then.”

Fawkes even shipped Big Drama back to his home base of Calder and it looked like the Forego, run 27 days after the Vanderbilt, was out of the question. 

But, here he is.

From David Grening's article published on September 2:

“The horse worked very, very well in Miami and we made kind of a last-minute decision to come here,” Fawkes said. “It’s a competitive race, but I think he fits in well.”

All of my instincts are saying to toss Big Drama, but I'm a big dope so I'll play him on top.  First, I've become a Big Drama fan.  His Smile Sprint Handicap win at Calder on July 10 was a powerful display of speed and professionalism.  Second, I thought he ran well in the Vanderbilt considering Majesticperfection, a speed freak, got away with an opening quarter-mile in 22 4/5.  Big Drama looked to gallop out nicely after the race and has finished first in his last two starts at seven furlongs over dry footing.  He has very strong natural speed, but may take a back seat to VINEYARD HAVEN and CHECKLIST in the opening furlong.  I'm expecting Big Drama to move on the turn, getting the jump on the late-runners.
I'm not using WARRIOR'S REWARD, but I won't be surprised if this classy late-runner gets it done.  He moved ridiculously early in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap against Quality Road so you can draw a line through that race.  His previous efforts are good and he has been freshened up with this race in mind.
Selections:  Big Drama, Vineyard Haven, Bribon

Saratoga - Race 10 - Woodward:
On paper, QUALITY ROAD shouldn't lose this race.  Of course, on paper, Rachel Alexandra wasn't supposed to lose last week's Personal Ensign.  They don't run the races on paper, they run them on the track. 
Quality Road should be used on 95% of Pick 4 Tickets, but I'm going to use CONVOCATION on the other 5% despite the dreaded "Trainer-Speak."

From David Grening's article posted on July 14:

"Convocation, the Suburban runner-up, could be pointed to the Fourstardave on turf, according to Stephen Carr, manager of horse operations for Centennial Farms. Carr said Convocation would be nominated to the Whitney on Aug. 7, but that he didn’t want to face Quality Road."

Convocation didn't face Quality Road in the Whitney.  Instead, he was life-and-death to win an 'n2x' optional claimer here on August 4. 

Now, all of a sudden, Convocation wants a piece of Quality Road. 

From David Grening's article posted on September 2:

“It’s a big pot, Grade 1, you got a horse in shape you might as well take a shot then,” said Jimmy Jerkens, who trained Quality Road until midway through his 3-year-old season. “Quality Road, as great as he is, is coming off for him a dismal effort. Knowing him I’m sure he’ll bounce back, but if not maybe we’ll be there to pick up the pieces.”

Perhaps longshot ARCODARO, fresh of an entry-level allowance win at 44-1 odds, can push Quality Road early.  Convocation may have been racing against the grain of the track when wide on August 4, and can sit a good pace-tracking, ground-saving trip under Javier Castellano.   There's probably no beating Quality Road, but I'd give Convocation a smidge of a chance.
Selections:  Convocation, Quality Road, Indian Dance

Washington Park Handicap - Arlington - Race 8:
Thankfully, at least to my knowledge, there is no "Trainer-Speak" here.  MAD FLATTER was once cut out to be a good horse.  He won two of his first three starts, and then finished third in the Grade 3 LeComte before fracturing his right front knee.  Understandably, he never returned to his best form, but the now five-year-old has shown true grit by making 11 subsequent starts despite nagging injuries.  Offered for $40,000 last time out in a 'n2x' optinal claimer, Mad Flatter, well, looked like the Mad Flatter of old.  He went right to the top in that one-turn mile, set legitimate fractions, and charged home as much the best.  He earned a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure, and looms the controlling speed in the Washington Park Handicap.  Whether he'll get this 9 1/2 furlong distance is questionable, but Mad Flatter seems to be back in form and he'll attempt to take these as far as he can go.
Selections:  Mad Flatter, Country Flavor, Giant Oak

Del Mar Derby - Del Mar (Sunday) - Race 5:
TWIRLING CANDY looms the main speed in Sunday's Del Mar Derby.  He proved he could rate off the pace in the Oceanside on Opening Day and it wouldn't be surprising to see him back down the fractions and have plenty left for the stretch drive.  Still, Twirling Candy has had three starts with three layoff lines indicating that he's had his share of physical problems.  Plus, he's never gone nine furlongs in his life.  While he's certainly bred to get the distance, horseplayers will lose money in the long-term playing short-priced favorites doing something they've never done before (Harvey Pack Rule #1).  Can Twirling Candy win on Sunday?  Absolutely, he can.  In fact, he's the most likely winner by far.  Is he a good bet?  Not for me. 
If anyone can take him down, it may be SUMMER MOVIE, a horse that was only beaten a half-length at this distance two starts back over cushion track in the Grade 2 Swaps.  Draw a line through his most recent race, please.  In the La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar on August 14, he hopped at the start and found himself 20 lengths off the lead after a half-mile.  Add in the fact that Sidney's Candy ran an unbelievably awesome race on the lead, and Summer Movie had no shot.  He did pass some horses in the stretch, but I'd like to see him in closest attendance to Twirling Candy tomorrow.  If that one doesn't stay, perhaps Summer Movie can grind him down late.
Selections:  Summer Movie, Twirling Candy, Kid Edward

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

Congrats to Alan for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling.  He'll get to pick next week's race.  I'd also like to thank cayman01 for being the official scorekeeper for the first 99 HandiGambling excercises.  He went above and beyond the call of duty. 

If anyone would like to give me a hand with keeping score of the weekly HandiGambling excercises, please e-mail me at dillman@drf.com.  I could use all the help I can get.



Annie More than 1 year ago
HG: Del Mar Futurity Well, it appears that it would be folly to pick against #4 JP'S GUSTO as he has become the top California two year old thus far. I'm going to key him over some of the improving horses and see how it goes. #2 RIVETING REASON - He actually worked a tick faster than JP in his bullet work on 9/4. Interesting that the trainer is putting Alex Solis on him. He apparently is back in California. Potential to improve. #5 JUST IMAGINE - A PGH by Unbridlled's Song has good breeding and was well bet as the favorite against the above horse in last. Interesting that trainer, O'Neill gave him his prep work on the Turf. #7 WESTERN MOOD - Has to be included as he has run well against JP and has been well-bet in all of his starts. #8 INDIAN WINTER - Well-bred colt trained by Hollendorfer earned a nice Beyer in his first start. Bejarano sticks and could improve. #10 ROAD READY - Another very well-bred PGH that broke his maiden first out in a Stakes. Not many do that. Been working steadily at DMR in preparation for his second start. Looking for improvement, and could be a longer price. Haven't seen any odds yet. OK, I'll do a Super keying JP: $1 Super 4/2,5,7,8,10 = $60 $20 Exacta 4/2,8 = $40 Good luck everyone! Annie
knm More than 1 year ago
Annie, I think our stable is turning out very well! I don't know why, but I keep missing Sky's appearances, and he was my very first MKB horse. The worst thing about getting old, I find, is I am now incapable of multitasking! One track, or at the most, two, is all I ever look at and I still miss things. And when is darling Charly going to make it to the grass? I feel just as strongly about the lawn being the place for him, as I did PWIA. SR Vegas, Thanks for reminding me about the jockey race at Del Mar. I hadn't noticed that Rosario and Bejarano were so close. I only play the track when Steve T. gives me something to work with :) but I will surely look at it on Wednesday. homewood, bounizip???
CM More than 1 year ago
Haven't posted in a while, but all this BC Classic talk has my interest. I echo the thoughts of many who believe that right now Blame is the horse to beat in the Classic. He's not brilliant, but he wins. I believe he is 3 for 4 at Churchill, and neither Z nor QR have run there. IMO that's a big advantage. If Z wins the Classic this year she will by HOY. I hate to reopen old wounds, but there was a better alternative last year. This year, if she wins the Classic, there is no other logical choice.
Laura More than 1 year ago
Just an odd observation - has anyone seen the photo of P.Val on the front page? Looks like he's clutching his chest and about to topple off of his horse. Hopefully for his sake it isn't J P's Gusto. Laura CAPTCHA: auoutl fund. - looks like "Out of fund" to me.
Annie More than 1 year ago
Good morning everyone. I see you've been stumbling along just fine without me. :) KNM, I see our stable has been doing great while I've been gone. Twirling Candy and Thiskyhasnolimit both won Stakes, and even Prince Will I Am won an allowance on the Turf. Although I see Candy was a naughty boy. Sorry about that. BSB, I'm afraid I'm NOT Rachel Alexandra and did not forgive you. Sounds like something I would do, but it wasn't me this time. :) STEVE T, I remember reading that MISREMEMBERED was being given a freshening until Fall. He is one of my horses in that Derby Dreaming monthly contest, so I made note of when I could expect to activate him again. OK, I see there is an HG for tomorrow, so I'd better take a look at it. Talk to you later. HA! They're welcoming me back with no Captcha. Annie
wilson More than 1 year ago
I was at the Breeders' Cup last year sitting next to this guy from Arizona who was obviously a good handicapper and good player. He was alive on the pick 4 to the Classic to about 7 or 8 horses, but he was totally against Zenyatta, and did not include her or bet her to win in a hedging attempt. After seeing what we saw in person right in front of us I can guarantee you he wouldn't leave her off again this year. He wasn't upset about losing his bets, but instead was blown away by the performance and was cheering and applauding with everyone else there. I applaud his sportsmanship and love of the game but I guess its just a pride thing about betting favorites or trying to beat an undefeated horse for the first time. I doubt there are too many people who saw last year's Classic right in front of them who could find a way to leave Zenyatta off their tickets this year. Maybe I'm wrong, and I hope I am, but this isn't a Curlin or Bernardini we are talking about. We are talking about a horse that shows up every time and whose connections wouldn't run her if she weren't ready. If Zenyatta is in the race then my advice would be to try and figure out which horse is going to run second, and go from there.
SpartanTom More than 1 year ago
C, I agree with your advice, but I think you are discounting Blame; he certainly belongs in any discussion of the BC Classic.
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
C, Loved your thoughts on the Classic. I would have to put Blame in the mix to make it the top 3 horses and no reason to handicap. Regarding Classics past, I'm not sure any amount of handicapping could have garnered Arcangues or Volploni. My mom and I had them only because we have a long standing tradition of splitting a WPS on one of the longest shots in the field in every BC race. As an aside, of all the races, I believe the Distaff (aka Ladies Classic) has been historically the most formful. "Ramularia occurre"- sounds like a reason to get inoculated before traveling to a third world country.....
tencentcielo More than 1 year ago
Mike A, I have serious doubts about Twirling Candy. Among the divisions in southern California, only the 3yo male turf division has NOT had a horse hit the board in a stakes outside of California. Every other division that has had at least one runner who fit the criteria has snagged a W, P or S in a stake. (No representatives exist for the 3yo turf division nor the 2yo male division). That fact really makes me question exactly what he beat, and whether he can beat older in SoCal, let alone older outside of SoCal. C, I won't neglect to handicap the race, but I will probably be singling in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but not QR or Z, nor will I be betting either one of them in the top spot in any form of exotic. Blame has been my choice since the beginning of the year (as Kelley_Belles correctly recollected). You summarily dissed a horse who beat Quality Road in a HANDRIDE. I fully expect Blame to be the 2nd choice in the Classic betting. He has beaten QR, he will have run more recently than QR and he will have DEMOLISHED a presumed good horse (except by me) in Rail Trip in the JCGC. All those factors will have him as the solid 7/2 2nd choice. The ONLY horse who can (and dare i say, will) beat Z is Blame. He will have first jump, a near-perfect pace scenario and ALL of my money riding on him. I have no problem if Z beats me. I'll cheer, whoop, hoot, holler, celebrate the win (probably with more energy than I would if Blame won). But i have SERIOUS doubts that that will happen come November 6th. Remember: (19-0) * (11/6) = (19-1) :-) tencentcielo P.S. my captcha was "Handwriting Liftics". Is Liftics a form of Phonics? LOL
Mathieu More than 1 year ago
Boys at Toscanova was impressive taking the Hopeful though it looked as if the other three aren't top flight competitors yet. He better enjoy his top dog status for now as there is a new shooter in town who's ready to throwdown. http://www.youtube.com/user/partymanners#p/u/13/0zS2VihuZS8 * Only a couple of you know what I look like but most know where I stand concerning the best horse in the land. This clarifies both issues. http://www.youtube.com/user/partymanners#p/u/26/z-A1ps_m7Jk Mother always said sharp dressing combined with eloquence would get me noticed. * Someone asked about how the Hollywood Oaktree running lines would be coded in the form. That remains to be seen but it was announced that Vic Stauffer will be calling the races. Three consecutive Fall months on the getting it "straight and strong" isn't something I look forward to. * The Fairplex primer on whether to eat it or not: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th_aBzrV37M
Dennis of Moline More than 1 year ago
Life is good. Beautiful day, smoking ribs in the back yard, drinking some beers. Now a chance to handicap tomorrows AP card. Don’t post picks very often, this will prove why. Picked tomorrow because it’s mostly on the turf, hoping to pick up some poly tips at the convention. Staying at the Sheraton Suites @ Elk Grove, 5 miles from AP. R1 #7 Crown Ruler 5,10,20 WPS R2 #5 Terminal One 5,10,20 WPS R3 #6 Delightful Daisey Should pass, but 1$ ex bx 1,6,7, R4 # 6 Atticus Kristy Pass R5 #1 Tontofontenot 10$ win R6 #6 Sparse 5,10,20 WPS R7 #9 Thatswhatshesaid 5,10,20 WPS R8 #4DudalkDust DD POD 5,10,20 WPS 3$ ex box4,6,7 R9 #1 entry pass