05/06/2009 12:00PM

Unfinished Business


1:00 pm: Sloppy and off the turf at Churchill for the unfinished business remaining from Derby 135: The $781k pick-6 carryover caused by Mine That Bird, one of only five uncovered horses in the Derby field of 19.

Despite two off-the-turfers with scratched-down fields of just 6 and 4, and no field larger than 9, this sequence is very tough. It would cost $169,334 to buy the whole 8x7x6x7x4x9 mess. I'm planning to play for at least $168k less than that, despite the degree of difficulty, since just in case it's easy it's going to pay more than it should, thanks to the carryover. Only $108 of that $781,146 is mine, so the leverage isn't bad.

Here's the post-scratch lineup. Got a late start on my handicapping so I'm off to work out some tickets and will be back after the first leg, scheduled to go at 2:22 p.m. ET.

The opener on the Churchill card went to the longest shot in a six-horse field of older-filly $10k N3L claimers, 10-1 Letherdoherthing, who stalked the pace from third and ran a mile in 1:40.59 with the final quarter in over 27 seconds.

1:54 pm: First pass at tickets (I've added ABCX's to the entries above) left me looking at a $5k+ investment. Lots of whittling left to do to keep it under $1200. Only 41 horses in the sequence but I'm hard-pressed to find even five complete tosses.

2:20 pm: Here we go. I whittled and trimmed and turned some a's into b's, most b's into c's and c's into x's and ended up with a five-ticket, $1096 play:

TVG's reporting a pool of $3.2 million as they head to the gate....

2:32 pm: Feh. Survived the first leg as my three original A's ran 1-2-3 but it was A-demoted-to-B Five Star Sweetie was the winner at $9.40. The four backup tickets are dead and I'm alive only on the $648 dunderhead/caveman all-A's-and-B's ticket that goes 1,4,6/2,12/1,3,7/3,4,5/4,6 the rest of the way.

The heavy favorite in the upcoming second leg, a starter-allowance for fillies who have run for $7500 or less in the last two years, is Gatorize, and if you're not looking at Formulator lifetime pp's you may be wondering why the name rings a bell: Three years ago, when the world was young and Gatorize was 2 years old, she was awarded a berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, causing a minor controversy because she had run sixth in the alcibiades in her lone stakes appearance but was leapfrogged over fillies who had hit the board in graded stakes -- because she had supposedly had a tough trip in the Alcibiades (before most handicappers came to believe that going six-wide and clunking up late may in fact qualify as a perfect trip over Polytrack.)

In any case, Gatorize finished 12th at 58-1 in the BCJF, then lost 21 races in a row (one via dq) before running for a $25k tag for the first time last fall. She was claimed by Moss/Asmussen, dropped and won for $7500 and $5000, then was claimed back for $5,000 by original owner Carl Gessler Jr. last Dec. 29th. She hasn't run for a tag since.

She's not the only Breeders' Cup or Triple Crown starter on today's card: In the featured four-horse off-the-turf eighth, you'll see Guadalcanal, who ran as a maiden in the Belmont last year and finished 7th of 9, beaten 24 3/4 lengths. No one could figure out quite why he was 25-1 instead of 125-1. In any case, I'm not crazy about horses going a mile and a quarter off seven-month layoffs, so I tempted fate by making him my only toss in a four-horse field.

3:05 pm: Still haven't seen the 5th at Churchill 12 minutes ago as TVG just now put up a results slate, but it appears I neglected to use either of the first two finishers as an A or B, and slop specialist Formal Dannie won at $6.60 and Gatorize ran third at 3-2. I thought Formal Dannie was meeting a tougher group today than the one she couldn't hold off at 11-10 at Indiana Downs last time out; apparently not.

4:00 pm: Lots of live tickets, just not here,  after Holy Quail won leg 3 at $4.00. Hard to imagine this not being hit with three winners under $10 and a four-horse field still to come.

At least I'll be getting a little bigger rebate on today's action, thanks to a new cash-back schedule for NYRA Rewards customers announced today. There's a new set of tiers to qualify for rebates and increases in the percentages paid back, especially on the exotic bets that account for most of my handle. Last month, a customer whose total monthly handle was $8,000 got a 1.50 percent rebate on his exotic action; from now on that jumps to 2.5 percent.

4:15 pm: Emma's Posse won the fourth leg at $10.60 for Mott/Leparoux as the third choice. My own rotten handicapping aside, this has the feeling of a sequence where everyone's going to say "How'd it pay that much?" when it's all over -- the results have been a little tricker than the win mutuels would suggest. Emma's Posse, for example, had the co-top fig in the race (her 80 two back at FG) but had been unplaced in two slop starts and is the kind of on-the-bubble horse who might have been a late slice from many a ticket. Good luck if you're still in it.

Hidden Glance just opened as the even-money favorite in the off-the-turf 10-furlong 8th. Hidden Glance has made 12 career starts -- all of them on the grass.

4:30 pm: A long answer to commenter keith_longey's question about how an overflow Preakness field, however unlikely, would be limited to 14 starters, from the Pimlico condition book:

"The Preakness field will be limited to fourteen (14) entries and shall be determined on the Wednesday immediately preceding the day of the race. In the event that more than fourteen (14) horses are properly nominated and pass through the entry box by the usual time of Closing, the starters will be determined at the Closing with the first (7) horses given preference by accumulating the highest earnings in Graded Stakes (lifetime), for purposes of this preference the graded status of each race shall be the graded status assigned to the race by the International Cataloguing Standards Committee in Part 1 of the International Cataloguing Standards as published by the Jockey Club Information Systems, Incorporated each year. The next four (4) starters will be determined by accumulating the highest earnings (lifetime) in all non-restricted stakes. "Non-restricted Sweepstakes" shall mean those sweepstakes whose conditions contain no restrictions other than that of age or sex. The remaining three (3) starters shall be determined by accumulating the highest earnings (lifetime) in all races. Should this preference produce any ties, the additional starter(s) shall be determined by lot. In application of the above described rule, each horse will be separately considered without regard to identity of its owner. If the rules described in this paragraph result in the exclusion of any horse, the $10,000 entry fee previously paid will be refunded to the owner of said horse. The above conditions notwithstanding , no horse which earns purse money in The Kentucky Derby shall be denied the opportunity to enter and start in The Preakness Stakes."


5:25 pm: Tap Dancing ($7.20) and Shot Gun Cliff ($16.20) finished up the CD sequence for a $33,587.60 payoff, with consos returning $252.60 for 5 out of 6. The payoff was more than triple the $9,706 parlay but as noted above, it wasn't quite as simple as it might have looked.

The pick-six drew $2.680,29 on top of the $781,146 carryover. The Super High Five, which paid $15,509.20 for $1 attracted $1,032,668 cahsing a $251,865 carryover from Derby Day. 

Everyone was covered in the Pick-6, and the willpays ranged from $11k on $70k on Craig's Tyler. 

Flash: DRF reported a few minutes ago that Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable is attempting to purchase Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, possibly with an eye to supplementing her to the Preakness. According to the initial report, if the deal goes through, she would be turned over to Jackson's trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Quick take: Rachel Alexandra's running in the Preakness against Mine That Bird would of course create huge interest in the race, but running her back in two weeks, and taking her away from the trainer (Hal Wiggins) who has developed her so magnificently, make it a less than entirely appealing move. Wiggins and the filly's current owners had planned to bring her back against fillies in the Acorn June 6.

Another alternative, if the sale goes through, might be to skip the Preakness and then run her in the Belmont Stakes the same day. Rags to Riches won the Oaks and the Belmont in consecutive starts two years ago, nosing out the Jackson-owned Curlin in the latter race.

If she runs in the Preakness, jockey Calvin Borel would face a probably unprecedented choice between a Derby and Oaks winner. If she went straight to the Belmont, and Borel won the Preakness on Mine That Bird -- would he pass up a chance to win the Triple Crown to stick with a filly he has called "most probably, bar none, the best horse I have ever been on"?