06/09/2016 2:40PM

A wacky Belmont longshot

As many of you have noticed, the "BLOG" tab on the home page has been removed. You can find this blog every week (usually published on Wednesday and Thursday) at drf.com/blogs or by going to the "NEWS" tab and clicking on the "Blogs" link. 
We'll wrap up the Triple Crown season with Saturday's Belmont Stakes, the "Test of the Champion" at 1 1/2 miles. Perhaps I was spoiled by American Pharoah's historic run last year over what I felt to be a talented bunch of 3-year-olds, but I'm not enamored with our current crop of sophomores. NYQUIST and EXAGGERATOR are very good horses, but I have doubts about the rest. 
And, with Nyquist sitting this out, I decided to pick an unlikely Belmont winner, more because of my distrust of the shorter-priced runners than anything else. When handicapping this Belmont, I am sure of one thing. That is, I won't make more than the most cursory of wagers and will instead enjoy the 12-furlong spectacle. There are plenty of other good races to bet on Saturday. 
SEEKING THE SOUL (7) has never raced around two turns and will stretch out a half-mile following a maiden victory at Churchill Downs a little less than two weeks ago. It's a tough task, to be certain, for a relatively inexperienced colt that is slow on the Beyers (88 is his best) and has never taken on this level on competition.
There are a few factors in his favor. 
1. Seeking the Soul's maiden win was the much-faster division of maiden special weights on May 29. He completed the mile in 1:34.15 while Colonel Dan went the same distance in 1:35.64 later on the card. Although a bit green in the stretch, Seeking the Soul showed some fight to deny favored Jimbo Fallon, a 4-year-old trained by Bob Baffert. 
2. With the exception of late-entrant GETTYSBURG, there isn't much early speed in the Belmont. Seeking the Soul isn't a burner, by any stretch of the imagination, but he remained fairly close to 22.48 and 44.99 splits. He can find good early position under Florent Geroux.
3. Seeking the Soul has enough pedigree to, hopefully, stay this trip. His sire, Perfect Soul, won on turf at 1 3/8 miles while the dam grabbed the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. More fascinating is that his third dam is the great undefeated champion Personal Ensign, who foaled Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Miner's Mark, four-time Grade 1 winner My Flag and Grade 1 winner Traditionally. All of those Phipps-bred runners wanted distance. 
4. Dallas Stewart trains kooky horses that outperform their odds in big races. Lemons Forever won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks at 47 to 1 odds. Golden Soul (also by Perfect Soul) finished second in the 2013 Kentucky Derby at 34 to 1. Commanding Curve placed second in the 2014 Derby at 37 to 1. Tale of Verve ran second in last year's Preakness at 28 to 1. 
All that and a bag of chips still makes Seeking the Soul a tough sell, but I just don't love the alternatives. I picked Exaggerator in the Derby and he ran a big race that day to finish second to Nyquist. He got the wet track he craves in Baltimore and turned the tables. I've waffled and wavered over whether I think Exaggerator is a better horse on a wet track and have come to the conclusion that he really, REALLY likes it wet. He was traveling so smoothly at Pimlico and was able to creep closer on the backstretch despite some enervating fractions. Exaggerator is the horse to beat, but he's gone through the grind this spring and he doesn't have to love 12 furlongs. 
I selected STRADIVARI in the Preakness and he acquitted himself quite well considering his inexperience and the wet track. He stayed closer to faster splits than he's ever seen and was punching on at the end. In some ways, I fear him more than Exaggerator, but I get the feeling he's going to be hit hard at the windows, perhaps down to second choice behind the Preakness winner. 
CHERRY WINE ran big in the Preakness. He received a great pace scenario over a wet track he adores, though, and it will likely be a different situation on Saturday. LANI continues to improve and can easily win the Belmont. I just hate playing horses coming from 20 lengths off the pace, especially when there isn't much speed to set them up (see BRODY'S CAUSE, CREATOR and SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS). DESTIN ticks some boxes, but he is still very green. He's hopped back to his left lead in the late stages of his last two races and will have to be more professional to see out this trip. GOVERNOR MALIBU is somewhat intriguing as he attempts to duplicate the Peter Pan-to-Belmont strategy that worked well for Christophe Clement's Tonalist. I am concerned about his ability at this distance, however.
My unconventional picks in the paper are:
Seeking the Soul
Cherry Wine
I haven't finalized my selections for some of the other races, but am very interested in seeing what CARINA MIA (Acorn), CURALINA (Ogden Phipps), SUMMATION TIME (Jaipur), CELESTINE (Just a Game) and WORLD APPROVAL (Manhattan) can do. These, and the other stakes races, on Saturday, are fantastic betting affairs with evenly-matched full fields. They are a bettor's dream. 
Best of luck!
As you can imagine, it's a very busy week here at DRF. The "Beyers of the Week" section of the blog will return next week.
Video stakes previews for many of the weekend's major stakes will be available later this week at http://www.drf.com/videos
Matt Bernier, Mike Beer and I will be on for free and fun live handicapping analysis at 4:30pm ET on Friday and 12:30pm ET on Saturday for coverage of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. You can find us at live.drf.com.
You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.
Congrats to Felton Suthon for winning last week's HandiGambling challenge.
Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post. 
The Belmont Stakes will be this week's HandiGambling exercise. 
Please note we will also accept wagers on the special $300,000 Guaranteed Belmont Gold Cup/Belmont Stakes two-day Daily Double.  
SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to update all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...
HANDIGAMBLING version 2016:
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 SPARE A SENTENCE OR TWO outlining your HANDICAPPING ANGLES and/or THOUGHT PROCESSES about WAGERING.
1. Start your post with HG or HANDIGAMBLING to find your entry in a thread.
2. You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose that is available for that HG race. Anyone going over the $100 limit will be DISQUALIFIED.
3. Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog prior to the start of the designated race. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR 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 identify who you are.
4. (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.
5. Separate your analysis from the wager and use the PROGRAM # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.
6. If any of the rules listed above aren't met, the wager is subject to review which can lead to disqualification of your entry.
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 2016
The speed in this race are #1 Alpha, #2 Beta, and #8 Ocho. I like the works for layoff horse #5 Cinco who can sit off the pace. Lots of speed in here, so this could set up for a closer like  #6 Six Flags and I like the trainer's stats in these conditions. I’ll put the closer over the speed.
HG wager:
$10 EX   6 /   1,2,5, 8  = $40
$5 TRI   6 /   1,2,5,8  /  1,2,5,8  =  $60
Total $100
Thanks Dan!
Copy of HG 6 4 16 Pennine Ridge.xls54.5 KB
Mooch ... 11 months ago
Canceled my ticket went it went down to 5-2, ended going off at 2-1, not for me
Rodney . 11 months ago
SR Vegas, 
                  Nice to see how much you are enjoying RA....is RAH watching too?
      Dismal effort by me & Frankie today, not even close.. ..
      Scott Hazelton seems to be enjoying himself alot... looks very dapper in top hat and tails.
       Five HG's huh....same amount I managed last year, messing around with straight exactas.

     Day 4 tomorrow...maybe Bernard will chip in....could do with a good bomb as Whacky mentioned.    
                  Good luck if wagering.....
Mooch ... 11 months ago
VanSavant- Thanks for the root. Going to play #4 to win and a small exacta box to #8 Swissarella.
Mac930My 11 months ago
Formful today at Royalty Ascot....couple races remain. 
O'brien has won his 50th and 51st race at RANDOM.


You better get your rest. Going to be a great finish with a few days to go.

Love the caller of these races....smooth as silk with 14-30 runners.

Queen has a fun life...yellow hat today..  

Cheers to a great racing venue..

VanSavant 11 months ago



Here is how my “strategies” are generally derived…


I typically don’t go into a card with the intent or expectation of placing any Prime Wagers. I simply begin handicapping each race, and getting a feel for what I have.  Then I look at the morning line to see if the track handicapper sees things differently, and if so, I begin to wonder why and begin to dig deeper. This always includes reviewing available charts and race replays.  After doing all of that, I go back to that particular race, and go over it once again, and I note what I believe to be viable overlays.  Then I look hard at the favorite, or favorites.  I try and tear them down.  If I can, then this race just might be a keeper.  If I really can’t,then I relegate the race to an action play if so desired, or I simply pass the race.


But if it turns into a race that I think I have found a sleeper, the next step is crucial.  How to bet this race, or how to bet this overlay. These to me are two different and distinct decisions.  The first decision (the Race) is more about exotic wagers, be it Exactas, Trifectas, Pick 3s/4s/5s, etc..  The second decision (the Entrant) is more about how to wager this entrant in the WPS pools.


As an example, Mike A. has written extensively on his approach whereby he plays a horse across the board.  And I believe that he does this in equal amounts.  Whacky posts his plays in a manner by which he plays Win/Place with the Place amount being two-times the Win amount.  That is my preferred method.  So if I love an overlay in a race, I might bet this entrant $20/ Win and $40 to Place, or even in higher increments if I just can’t help myself. 


I also may use this overlay In the Exotic pools as a Key horse to Win or Place, or I may use this entrant as a single in multi-race wagers.


For me, “feel” is critical. I can’t explain “feel”, but like porno, you know it when you see it.  And because pattern recognition is very important to me when handicapping and playing the races, I generally get a feeling when I am onto something.  So much so, that this can be one of the overriding forces that leads me to decide whether or not a particular race is a pass, an action play, or a prime play.


More later, gator


pat 11 months ago

The quirky Pimlico meet continues.

Race 1 Patrick Rocks...is due.

Race 2. A conundrum tied up in a riddle.....pick and pray.

Race 3. #7  needs to show a bit more speed and I think he will

Race 4 #2 this trainer hit a bomber last week(I gave it out) is .he hot? YES.

Race 5 #4 improvement expected

Race 6 #7  a much underused angle.....the only MD bred in the race and he races for 30% more!!!

Race 7 #10 always have liked this NJ trainer.

Race 8 #4 and #9......long time maidens who might get there today....I prefer #4 over #9....so play the #9.

Good luck

pat g.

VanSavant 11 months ago



Today’s 6th race at Santa Anita should be amusing to watch, if nothing else.  I doubt that I will play this race, but if I were to do so, I think I would place my investment with the #9, Oh Great Idea.  I like her outside draw, and that she appears to have speed-aplenty.  I looked long and hard at your crush, the #4,Discatsonthesquare.  I would never have landed on her on my own, but in looking deeper, I see her merits.  My issue with her is that she may be up against it just a bit here against open company.  Against state-breds?  For sure. Here?  Not so sure.


I will be watching, and rooting for you.  This looks to be a good race today.


Later gator


DavidM9999 11 months ago

A couple years back we were talking turf sires.  I came with my favorites for betting and then just overall. Nothing earthshaking was decided but a fun exercise as we all have our own leanings with some based on outcomes of our personal betting but I did get pushback on my inclusion of a younger then Scat Daddy. He is no longer with us and it is a shame. With sires often its first two crops or bust. It can be this simple can you produce a Classic horse or not.Sires move much too quickly to the nether regions of the globe for me but economics and lack of patience generally rule the day. 

Scat Daddy had a great run recently. He has graded/group winners in Celestine, Lady Aureila, and Dacita alone over the past week. His numbers on the Stallion Register show 68% starters, 48% winners, 7% stakes. Is he the top in the world NO but certainly a very good sire. From day one I always preferred them on grass and generally under 9F but he has done dirt work with graded winners including Nickname.


Unified will reappear in the Pegasus at MTH this weekend. I like how he is being handled by the master Jerkens. 6F, then 7F, and then 9F.All in reasonable spots. The connections made the astute move that Stradivari connections did not in choosing to stay in the small pond not diving quickly into the deep waters. I like the sound of this play better than the Stradivari. I wonder who holds up better and is better long term. Common consensus though is Stradivari is the better prospect at least going ground. I thought visually Unified got just a bit short late in his Peter Pan. He ran his last 3F in 36.91, last1F in 12.64 at 35.9 MPH. Governor Malibu was running 12.35 and 36.7MPH. The Gov did his part coming back in the Belmont Stakes. Whether jockey Rosario did is open to debate.  

Pat G,

I know you are a very busy man but if you have time a question for you below. For several years I have had very good outcomes playing horses out of Great Notion on the Maryland circuit.  This year alone I have hit a few of substance. For me at least they seem to fire and sometimes at large odds.  I do not hesitate to play them on dirt or turf but like sprints the best.  What is your opinion of the best value sires in terms of gambling based in Maryland?

Rodney . 11 months ago
Day 3....as Bernard has hinted, in non handicaps, the cream usually stays at the top at RA.
   This year, unusual soft ground, is throwing up the odd result. Aiden found one too good in the Prince of Wales.

         Of course we Brits have betting not only of two flies going up a wall.... but revised odds on them coming back down again.
     The first flutter of the day, is picking the colour the Queen is going to wear.
Yes, there's odds on that too....

    Today I am going for a Frankie Dettori ( my gave jockey) treble in the first three races.
      He once rode all six winners at a meeting at Ascot ( not Royal)...so see how that goes.
    Also throwing in Order of St George in the Gold Cup....doubles, trebles, etc...
      This is probably the most competitive racing there is, not easy, that's what makes it a great spectacle.
        Good luck ..…


AlydarandEasy 11 months ago

I've enjoyed watching the U.E.F.A. Euro Soccer tournament, but I have a question that I'm hoping you can answer. Instead of there being just one Great Britain or United Kingdom team, there's a separate team for: England, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, (where's Scotland?). Is this the norm for major international tournaments? To me, Its a little like having New York, California, Florida, and Illinois participating, instead of just one team from the United States. Thanks for any help you can provide.