04/17/2010 10:03AM

Weekend thoughts


We're two weeks away from the Kentucky Derby, but this sport doesn't stop to smell the Roses. 

There are some fascinating stakes races on tap this weekend.  For what it's worth, here are some horses I'll be watching with keen interest:

Lexington Stakes - Keeneland - Race 9:
UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN is the sentimental pick as his trainer, Alan Seewald, passed away on Monday.  But Uptowncharlybrown is also a rather talented three-year-old and it will be interesting to see how he handles a synthetic surface when he runs later this afternoon in the Lexington. 

Uptowncharlybrown is a hulking individual and he may not have been totally comfortable being stuck on the rail every step of the way in the Tampa Bay Derby.  Now, I know the Tampa Bay Derby has not been the most productive Kentucky Derby prep race thus far, but I thought Uptowncharlybrown ran pretty well that day. 

In his first start with blinkers, he was understandably keyed up, and was checked hard while down on the rail going into the first turn.  Jockey Daniel Centeno kept him in the pocket on the backstretch and I believe that Centeno expected to ease into the two-path to challenge pacesetting Super Saver when he saw Rajiv Maragh scrubbing vigorously on pace-pressing Odysseus with three furlongs to run.  Centeno was probably surprised when Odysseus didn't drop out of it and Uptowncharlybrown was still down inside when they swung into the stretch. 

Uptowncharlybrown finished evenly despite not having much room in which to maneuver and now receives a jockey switch to Garrett Gomez.  There is some pace for him to attack in this spot and, if he handles this surface switch, should be able to make his presence felt late.

Distaff Handicap - Aqueduct - Race 9:
The Florida invaders, MATCHLESS ORINDA and TAR HEEL MOM, will rightly receive a good amount of play, but I'm going to go with the New York-based HOUR GLASS for Todd Pletcher. 

I'm not sure if Hour Glass will be as effective at seven furlongs as she's been at six, but she looked pretty good winning a restricted stakes race over the inner on March 21.  She tracked the pace from the outside, made a three-wide bid on the far turn, and wore down the stubborn pacesetter in the final furlong. 

This will be a major class test for Hour Glass, but Tar Heel Mom, one of my favorite runners, has run three grueling races in South Florida this winter and may be primed for a regression despite catching the kind of wet surface that she adores. 

Matchless Orinda looked awesome in her first start for Marty Wolfson, and then may have found a one-turn mile, coupled with a conservative John Velazquez ride, too much to overcome in the Grade 3 Sabin.  She should be tough from close to the pace, but Hour Glass may be the filly with the most upside of any in the Distaff.

Santa Barbara - Santa Anita - Race 4:
The defection of MEDAGLIA D'AMOUR makes things easier for prohibitive favorite TUSCAN EVENING, and I'll chalk out with her despite the fact that she's unproven at 1 1/4 miles.  She's tactical in a race without much pace and should be well withing striking range when the field turns for home.  She's already outrun her mostly sprint pedigree and a soft pace up front may carry this classy gal the final furlong.

If Tuscan Evening does falter, don't forget about GENERAL CONSENSUS.  She's been in excellent form, winning an optional claimer two back at a mile with an eye-catching late burst of speed before being the only one to make up late ground in Tuscan Evening's Santa Ana win.

Sixty Sails Handicap - Hawthorne - Race 8:
JESSICA IS BACK is the speed of the race, but nine furlongs may be a bit out of her range, and she figures to face some pace pressure in the early going.  That should set things up for a late-runner and Marty Wolfson, Jessica Is Back's trainer, has that base covered with uncoupled stablemate MISS SINGHSIX. 

Miss Singhsix is comfortable at this distance, is making the third start of the form cycle with improving speed figures on display, and she raced in some traffic during the stretch drive of the Grade 3 Rampart Handicap at  Gulfstream on March 20.  I'll look for her to make a nice late run through the long Hawthorne stretch. 

Charles Town Classic - Charles Town - Race 10:
ENCAUSTIC earned FormBlog's unofficial "Performance of the Week" honors for his last two races at Laurel and it's time to find out if he's ready to take it to another level in the $1M Charles Town Classic. 

He's won his last two races in gate-to-wire fashion and looms the speed nearest the rail for this three-turn test under the lights.  There are some quick ones drawn to his outside, however, and Encaustic may end up having to rate off the lead.  While he has won in the past from stalking range, he seems best when able to control the fractions.  Also, nine furlongs has never been his strong suit, but he's in career form, and should offer a decent price at 8-1 on the morning line. 

San Juan Capistrano - Santa Anita - Race 10 (Sunday):
BOURBON BAY has been unstoppable since being stretched to "marathon" distances this winter in Southern California and looms a deserving favorite for Neil Drysdale.  Still, I'm attracted to a lightly-race runner that may have some potential for upward mobility in this spot.  I respect Bourbon Bay, but I'm picking FALCON ROCK. 

A rather nondescript handicapper overseas, Falcon Rock received Lasix for the first time in his stateside debut, and he ran over the top of that entry-level allowance field in the stretch.  This is a big class hike for Falcon Rock, but his last race was a step in the right direction, and that long-winded European pedigree can help him see out this demanding 1 3/4 miles. 


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

bobc More than 1 year ago
Steve T Your "Love" story about your dog was deeply touching. Although you have shared great horse knowledge, winning selections and personal poignant stories with us throughout the years, I truly belive this was your "shining" moment among many memorable blogs. You have a wonderful ability to bring your stories to life. You made me smile, laugh and shed a tear all at the same time. Thank you. If I ever come back as a dog, I'm gonna search the world for you. bobc
C More than 1 year ago
vicstu, "That is just me, although I usually just go back 1 or 2 more to find a foundation line (i.e. Northern Dancer and Secretariat are the sire line and damsire of Storm Cat). So, that (to me) is a foundation replete with speed and stamina." So doesn't Storm Cat's son, Forest Wildcat, trace back to the same line? Additionally, Forest Wildcat's female side goes back to Sir Gallahad and Native Diver. This is the problem with going too far back. If you look at a sprinter's pedigree and go back 5 or 6 generations, you'll no doubt find a ton of stamina influences. So, obviously, at some point within the last few generations, there was a shift from stamina (Secretariat, Northern Dancer) to sprint (Storm Cat, Forest Wildcat). So the close-up influences are often sprint influences, making the earlier generations completely irrelevant, unless the particular offspring in question isn't what you'd expect from the immediate influences (Holy Bull comes to mind). Alan, The mandatory payout is great, but what do you expect it to pay, considering the 25c minimum? The point is, you'll have to sweat out 6 races and hope the sequence isn't too chalky. But on Derby Day, you could hit a single trifecta at Churchill and probably win more. VQ, Only if you let me give you a lesson on choosing the best value pools to place your money... Alan said: "That's equivalent to a $2272 $2 P6 payout" $2200 is a small P6 payout. I've seen Derby-card $1 trifectas at Churchill pay more than that. My point was that there are easier ways to make that kind of money than hitting a P6. Why handicap 6 more races, sweat them out, and pray for a longshot or 2 when your expectation is to invest a little to win a little more? One can focus on the Derby card (or whatever), wait for a nice opportunity and hit a few exotics for a larger payout. I'd be surprised if the Beulah P6 pays a huge number, even with the giveaway... is it really worth the added work? I guess you guys say 'yes', but I'd rather hit a single race at Churchill that day. blackstone, "In an eight horse field, let's say, the longest price horse might be 20-1, or 25-1. In point of fact, if the race was run 1,000 times the longshot might win once, or twice, or whatever. It would not win forty or fifty times (20 or 25-1)." How do you know that? Maybe they'd win even more. PS: I'm not a DRF-plus member, so I didn't read the article you mentioned.
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
virgin queen ..LOL! You do have a way with words :) SR Vegas
chicago gerry More than 1 year ago
katiewithalollipopbytherail, Am waiting for Hawthorne's for Saturday's PP's. Will try to throw in my 2 cents when I get them. Thanks,
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Tinky, "basically, there are many,many cases in which the most important genetic influences are completely ignored,rendering it dangerously misleading in many instances." NAME the many, many cases please? YOU won't because YOU can't because there aren't that many.
chicago gerry More than 1 year ago
Dan, This is to let you know that I was able to locate the Mike Welsh (sp) e-mail workout information. Some computer illiteracy on my part. Thanks,
Alan More than 1 year ago
Formbloggers, Thank you all once again! Let's now concentrate on getting some of you to also join me! It is nerve-racking, but it is an enormous amount of fun! billg, I joined the NHC Tour at the $100 level. There are two groups of contest players. I've met guys who travel around the country to different track tournaments - they are the ones competing for the total tour points championship and pay the higher tour entry fee. I just play tournaments online and only will pay the entry fee online qualifiers until I hopefully make the NHC. At the $100 level, as blackstone mentioned, you get 5 tournaments. There were 806 entrants in the first online contest (only top three made it) - so the odds aren't great but at least the entry fee is cheap. Online, the rule is usually $100 entry gets you about a 1% NHC chance. Some examples: NHCQualifier - one round ($400): 6/150 or 8/200 = 4% NHCQualifier - two rounds ($100): 10% Round one -> 10% Round Two = 1% XpressBet Showvivor ($300): 9/300 = 3% Uncle Steve, I am so sorry for your loss. Your story is a reminder that we sometimes make spontaneous decisions in which the left brain is arguing "look away", "wife will be mad" while the right brain is arguing "he's rubbing my leg", "he's gonna get put down"...let the right brain win some of these arguments...they'll become some of the best decisions you'll make in your life! PGM, Thank you very much for your wonderful explanation!! It all now makes sense to me - it is just another way of defining the turf rail position. Thanks again!! blackstone, I admire Steve Davidowitz, love reading his books and always look forward to his articles. At many race tracks, works lie...trainers lie...clockers lie...but IMO the Derby is different. I have enjoyed watching "The Works" on TV and look forward to watching the Derby work videos on DRF. Tinky, Regarding pedigree handicapping, I couldn't have said it better. I'm getting more confident in the "book part" (although we obviously all have our opinions or theories), but it is in the "visual part" that I remain a novice. Not that I'm not still trying to learn... One thing that I've learned in pedigree handicapping is that the exception shouldn't break the rule. The one or two horses that "overcome" their pedigree limitations doesn't make up for your 40 to 50 that don't. Also, regarding blackstone's question about the Davidowitz article. Without making it too much work for you, could you please point out some relevant Derby works this year that should sway one's opinion, both positively and negatively? Thanks! Van Savant, What I find fascinating this year is that no one is arguing that SoCal synthetic 3yos are too slow (or not competitive for the Derby) because their Beyers are too low. Remember all the arguments about Colonel John and then Pioneerofthe Nile? It's as if an epiphany has occurred in the handicapping universe - that many SoCal synthetic-only "lower Beyer" horses can do just fine on dirt! Gee...where have we heard that point drummed into us for several years? Now we can finally handicap the Derby based on which horse we really think is better, which will have the better Derby trip, which has the better Derby pedigree...and can eliminate that other stuff from the discussion.
Steve T. More than 1 year ago
Curt, You must have more influence over your wife than I have. I worked at the Humane Society for one day as a volunteer. I didn't want them to put any of the dogs down, but knew I couldn't take them all home, so now, like you, I send checks... Back about 20 years ago I raced greyhounds and I ended up keeping the ones who raced. When she came home and there were four greyhounds and an Irish Setter she blew a gasket. Wasn't real wild about the 1/2 greyhound, 1/2 Irish Setter puppies either - hey how was I supposed to know they learned more at the track than just racing (but they were seriously cool puppies).
chicago gerry More than 1 year ago
Two Buck, Interesting that you and a others actually understand the Wharton study. You would not want to be stranded on an island with me, because most of this stuff is way over my head. In my view, the study made, by it's own admission, a mild case for its hypothesis, and the results might be applicable in other areas. IMO, it demonstrates that, at a certain level, gambling on horses can be, and probably is, an irrational activity. I mean, why else would a person wager in a manner which goes against his own best interest, unless he is uninformed, unbalanced, or doesn't care. Also, I kind of resent what I thought was kind of an 'elitist' attitude and toward horse players in general. I'm not sure that the authors of the study were actual horse players. I do realize that an elitist attitude, does not in itself invalidate the study. Before I go to much further, I hope you were not part of producing this study. If so, I don't mean to offend. IMO. when someone has done what blackseabass has done by developing a mechanical system which is profitable, he is taking an activity which is inherently irrational, and making it rational. Thanks,
Laura More than 1 year ago
Bo Shizzle, Thanks for the compliments. I appreciate your comments regarding Tinky’s remairks. However, over the last year, I’ve learned to go beyond how Tinky says something to see the meat of his message. Yes, he can be bellicose while getting his point across, but I will admit that I’ve learned some valuable lessons from him and I’m honored that he holds me in high regard. It means I’m doing something right. I just look at him as a Professor Snape type teacher and know that when he gets antagonistic, I should re-examine or rephrase my original statement. I’ve been studying pedigrees for at least ten years, probably more, but I am mostly self taught. I’ve learned that reading pedigrees isn’t an exact science and that everyone has an opinion. I’ve read many books and articles, and you wouldn’t believe how you can read one theory and the next day find several articles either in favor of that theory or debunking it entirely. Tinky has guided me – well, alright, drove me with a sharp stick - away from certain theories I felt were solid, yet were shown to be false, not only by him, but by other experts. I’ve been fortunate that Lauren Stitch, Rommy Faversham and occasionally Anne Peters correspond with me and answer my questions as well, albeit in a more kindly manner. V. Queen, Like Tinky, I’m also a firm believer that pedigree and conformation go hand in hand and that you have to take your eyes off the paper and get up close to physically see what that pedigree looks like in the flesh. Fortunately as a former exercise rider, and having been around horses most of my life, I have a working knowledge of conformation and can see the positives and negatives produced by certain sire lines. It’s just a matter of learning which sire lines produce which physical traits. I’ve also been fortunate to be surrounded by accomplished horsemen who show me for example, how a “typical” Storm Cat or Distorted Humor horse looks and acts. Not only is that essential when I’m planning a breeding report for a client, but it comes in handy when handicapping as well. SR Vegas, Today I met a track pony named Vegas. He's a blue roan (dark gray). Wendy the clocker at Payson heads to Saratoga for the summer, so hopefully she'll have him with her and you and Vegas can meet! Ron Z, Don't forget to check the break lights so you'll know when that speed horse on the front end is going to start backing up.