05/17/2010 11:18AM

Underrated sprinter, 2 weeks of Beyers, Del. Tales


The consistent and courageous 2-year-old champion of 2009, Lookin At Lucky, earned a well-deserved victory in last Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, but it is a underrated sprinter named Chief of Affairs that receives the "Performance of the Week" trophy. 

Chief of Affairs, entered in the inaugural running of the $75,000 James Whitcomb Riley Stakes last Tuesday evening at Indiana Downs, ran quickly and won the right way for trainer Bret Calhoun.  Sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the field of five over a sloppy, sealed racetrack, Chief of Affairs played hardball under jockey Miguel Mena.  He rushed up along the inside to duel for the early lead with stakes-winner Grand Traverse through flashy fractions of 21.82 and 44.32.  Mena kept Chief of Affairs well off the inside on the turn and into the stretch and Chief of Affairs put Grand Traverse away with three-sixteenths of a mile to run.  Chief of Affairs could have been forgiven if the early duel left him leg-weary, but the four-year-old colt had plenty left in the final eighth to fend off the multiple Grade 2-placed Riley Tucker, a beneficiary of a perfect stalking trip.  Chief of Affairs stopped the teletimer for the six furlongs in 1:08.85 and received a 106 Beyer Speed Figure.

Bred in Texas, Chief of Affairs was entered in the Keeneland September Yearling auction in 2007, but was a $6,000 RNA.  He sold the following season for $25,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Texas auction for 2-year-olds in training. 

Chief of Affairs is by Yonaguska, the dead-heat winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes going seven furlongs at Saratoga as a juvenile of 2000.  Trained by Wayne Lukas, Yonaguska was a stone-cold sprinter, earning his six lifetime victories at distances ranging from 4 1/2 furlongs to 7 furlongs while failing in his three route efforts.  Not surprisingly, Yonaguska's best progeny have also excelled at races up to one mile.

Chief of Affairs' dam is the unraced Nureyev mare Jennifer's Affair.  Her dam, Aly's Affair (by Colonial Affair) is a placed half-sister to Grade 3 juvenile winner Aly's Alley (over 900K in earnings). The fourth dam, Reigning Countess (by Far North), was a swift Grade 3 sprint winner while the fifth dam was a multiple stakes-winner as well.  Other notable names in this female family include Miss Turkana (Grade 3 winner, 508K in earnings, dam of two blacktype earners), multiple Grade 2 winner Hail Hilarious, the French Group 3 turf winners Grafin and Genovefa, and Palestinian, who placed in all three Triple Crown events in 1949.

Trainer Calhoun has made quite a name for himself with sprint performers over the last few seasons.  Along with Chief of Affairs, the high-percentage conditioner has been represented by sprint stakes-winners Chamberlain Bridge, Euroears, Gold Coyote, Mr. Nightlinger, Silver City, Speedacious, Storm Mesa, and others. 

Chief of Affairs failed to race at two, but made quite the impression in his career debut, a statebred maiden special weight on May 2, 2009.  Racing six furlongs over a sloppy Lone Star Park track, Chief of Affairs was sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the bulky field of 13 and did not disappoint.  Chief of Affairs set a pressured pace from the two path before shrugging off his early challenger entering the turn.  He changed leads flawlessly turning for home and simply dominated the field with a final eighth in 11.79, winning by 12 1/2 lengths in 1:09.26, and receiving a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

After that performance, Calhoun wondered how far his speedy protege would travel.  With the Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs a long-term goal, he stretched Chief of Affairs out in distance to 1 1/16 miles for a state-bred entry-level allowance race at Lone Star on May 30.  Sent off at 1-5 in the field of 10, Chief of Affairs attempted another gate-to-wire gambit, but faltered in the final sixteenth, finishing a tiring third.  Calhoun tried Chief of Affairs in a one-mile route at Lone Star 20 days later, but the colt again failed to stay, finishing fourth as the 7-10 favorite. 

The route experiments didn't pay off, so Calhoun turned Chief of Affairs back in distance for a 5 1/2 furlong race at Lone Star on July 5.  Facing Texas-bred allowance runners, Chief of Affairs got back on the beam, clearing to the front and the rail entering the turn, and never being threatened while finishing up under a moderate hand ride. 

After a three-month layoff, Calhoun tried Chief of Affairs in an open 'n2x' optional claimer going five furlongs on turf at Remington Park.  The Yonaguska colt didn't appear to relish the footing, finishing fourth after contesting the early fractions. 

Returning to the dirt, Chief of Affairs earned his first stakes win as he took the measure of favored Gold Coyote in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas for statebreds at Sam Houston on December 5.  Once again, Chief of Affairs found the front from the two path and he wasn't really threatened, drawing off to win by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:09.40.  He received a 101 Beyer for his final start at three while finishing ahead of two next-out winners.

Chief of Affairs tasted narrow defeat in his first two starts of 2010 over "good" going, but he earned some blacktype when a length shy of Cosmic in the $50,000 King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn on February 5.  Calhoun blamed tiring tracks for those losses and Chief of Affairs blasted off to win his next start over fast going on March 11.  That race, an optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs, was a good confidence booster for Chief of Affairs.  He went straight to the lead from his inside post and was never challenged, receiving a 106 Beyer Speed Figure. 

Calhoun gave Chief of Affairs his toughest test to date in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap and the colt responded with an excellent performance.  He once again made the front and drew off to a big lead in upper stretch only to be caught late by favored Custom for Carlos. Chief of Affairs received a 105 Beyer and showed that he could be competitive in legitimate stakes company.

Chief of Affairs boasts a record of 8-5-2-1 in sprint races, is now a multiple stakes-winner, and is proven over both fast and sloppy footing.  He's earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in half of his 10 lifetime starts and has reached the 105 plateau in his last three races.

Last week, we bemoaned the state of the sprint division while considering the future prospects of the red-hot Canadian speedster Hollywood Hit.  While Chief of Affairs has yet to match Hollywood Hit's exploits, he handles any going and must be considered when he is again tested in graded competiton.
(Performance of the Week is now featured in National Simulcast Weekly)


Had a great time at Delaware Park on Preakness Day.  Drove down I-95 on Friday afternoon with my buddy and colleague, Mike Beer, and we were excited about a couple of intriguing grass races scheduled for the Delaware card. 

A few hours later, we had to drown our sorrows in the hotel bar as a torrential downpour left us wondering what would be left of the grass course. 

We had a nice turn-out at the Saturday morning seminar, but I do wonder if that had more to do with the $7.95 "All You Can Eat" buffet than the names Dan Illman and Mike Beer as headliners.  

Here's the post-mortem on the day of wagering:

Race 1 - Delaware
I loved a horse that I gave out during the forum.  Caesar's Gold was adding blinkers for Graham Motion in this CN2, $25,000 race, and he exited a key race at Pimlico in his most recent start.  Stupefied, I watched him break last, and continue in that putrid position all the way around the track.  Flushed with embarrassment, I ran into the bathroom to splash some water on my face.  Catching my reflection in the mirror, I asked myself in my best Tom Baker impression, "What are you doing here?"  Thankfully, the racing fans didn't lynch me.

Race 2:
Had to tread lightly in this race as Mission Vow was claimed by Cody Autrey for $30,000 in his most recent start and was now entered back for $5,000.  All of Mission Vow's previous races were faster than the last race Beyer of all of his opponents and Mike pointed out that Autrey shows excellent numbers with horses dropping precipitously following the claim.  I sat on my wallet, Mission Vow won by 5 1/4 lengths at 11-10 odds and no, he was not claimed.

Race 3:
As feared, the turf races were canceled and that left the third, a $20,000 starter allowance for fillies and mares, with a field of two.  One would think that jockey tactics wouldn't be so important in a match race, but Jose Valdivia Jr. (who has been riding very well at Delaware since relocating from Southern California) absolutely schooled Israel Ocampo.  Valdivia's mount, Zubani, hadn't shown a lick of form on dirt while Ocampo's Monterey Street was coming off a stakes-placing on dirt at Prairie Meadows (albeit almost one year ago).  Surprisingly, Valdivia outbroke Ocampo and then floated him wide going into the first turn of the 1 1/16 mile test.  Ocampo tried to send Monterey Street through the opening on the rail late on the backstretch, but Valdivia came over and tightened up the hole just enough to discourage Monterey Street.  Valdivia then set sail for home and Zubani drew off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. 

Race 4:
An unplayable $5,000 N2L claimer as I liked Hawaiian Hula but wasn't going to take 3-5 to find out.  She made the front under Rosie Napravnik and gave it up badly to finish fourth in the stretch.  I could feel the crowd getting closer like the villagers when they chased Frankenstein's Monster into the castle.

Race 5:
I had a good feeling about the fifth race, a maiden special weight for three-year-old fillies.  Ask Me When, a Speightstown firster, showed some fascinating works for trainer Tony Dutrow, and I was intrigued when she was sent off at 5-2.  She entered the paddock with front wraps, however, and Mike noted that Dutrow was 0-12 with debut runners in 2010.  I still took the plunge and things looked good for a half-mile.  Ask Me When turned for home with the lead, but was no match for Bret Calhoun's second-time starter, St. Vickie's Charm, a filly that hadn't run in ten months.  Ask Me When ran well, finishing clear of the third horse by 9 1/2 lengths but once again, I didn't get the money.

Race 6:
Another unplayable off-the-turfer.  I gave out Amazing Anna, who scored as the 9-10 favorite.  Big deal.

Meanwhile, I couldn't believe how wrong my opinions were throughout the rest of the racing world?  Understatement finished last?  Grassy didn't pick up his feet?  Snapshot couldn't hit the board?  Super Saver was that bad?  Where was Scintillo at Hollywood?  I was right in trying to beat Seattle Smooth and Hollinger at Belmont and Woodbine respectively, but didn't have the ones that knocked off those favorites

Race 7:
Sometimes it just takes one big one to get out of a funk.  Exciting Times, a Scott Lake-trained eight-year-old PGH, hadn't won a race since December 4, 2008 and if you watched his most recent start, you could certainly be concerned about his overall health.  That race, a similar $5,000 'N1Y' claimer on May 1, featured Exciting Times going six furlongs, and he showed his usual high early speed.  He was getting tired at the eight pole, but looked downright exhausted at the sixteenth marker and he ended up sixth, beaten 11 1/2 lengths. 
He was turning back to five furlongs for his second start of the form cycle and his early speed figured to have him in the mix from the get-go.  He had some back class, went out for a high-percentage outfit, and I really didn't like anyone else in the race.  I gave him out to the fans in the morning.  He won and paid $37.80.  The exacta with the favorite finishing second came back $152.20.  Did I get big bills or small ones?  Neither.  Discouraged by my earlier losses, I was on I-95 North when Exciting Times crossed the finish line.  Hopefully, someone else prospered from my pick.  I, on the other hand, almost locked my car keys in the trunk at a rest stop.



Here are the top 25 Winning Beyers from two weeks ago:

Here are Hollywood Hit's lifetime past performances:

Download Hollywood Hit


Here are the top 25 Winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's racing action:




Here are the lifetime past perfomances for the two top Beyer earners:

Download Chief of Affairs

Download Askbut I Won'ttell


Congrats to Molesap for finishing first in the Preakness HandiGambling.  He picks Wednesday's fifth race at Woodbine for this week's HandiGambling exercise. 

Here are the past performances:

Download HG

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.   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.