04/27/2016 4:52PM

What to do with Donworth?


Sun King and Giant Oak were two of my favorite horses over the past decade. The former won four graded stakes and banked $2,240,008. Giant Oak grabbed two Grade 1 races and earned $1,484,829.

Both lost more than they won, however, and often snatched defeat from the jaws of likely victory. Sun King got beat a nose in the Whitney and a head in the Met Mile after looming boldly.

Heck, Giant Oak's Clark Handicap triumph came thanks to the stewards as he finished a head behind disqualified winner Successful Dan. In the final start of his career, the Breeders' Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs, Giant Oak was on his way to a big win only to hang in the final sixteenth of a mile.

Sun King and Giant Oak often earned ultra-competitive Beyer Speed Figures and were sometimes compromised by poor trips and/or pace scenarios. They were constantly placed in spots where they could win by their shrewd trainers.

And I backed them religiously despite the nagging spider-sense that they were nothing more than underlaid underachievers, more sizzle than steak, more cold dope than true performance.

After Sun King and Giant Oak took me to the brink of insolvency, I vowed not to be fooled time and again by a similar horse. Next time, there would be no relationship counseling after a loss or two. Next time, the divorce would be swift and final.

In the case of Donworth, I feel like Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III. "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." I had high hopes for the 4-year-old after his seasonal debut in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita for the reasons given in the February 10 edition of FormBlog (http://www.drf.com/blogs/donworth-dubai). Donworth was seemingly headed to Dubai for a showdown with California Chrome, but his connections opted to keep the lightly-raced colt in the United States and instead pointed for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

I backed Donworth in the 'Big Cap and was disappointed. A hulking physical specimen, Donworth tugged hard and was checked along the inside entering the first turn of the Big 'Cap. Mario Gutierrez, perhaps tired of getting his shoulders pulled out of their sockets, attempted to scrape the paint entering the final bend. The hole shut, Donworth checked terribly, and the race was all but lost.

Donworth was the obvious trip horse in the Big 'Cap, but one wondered if he made his own trouble. He refused to settle when Gutierrez took a hold and probably sapped some of his stretch kick by being so eager. Donworth might have beaten himself.

It was a bit surprising when trainer Doug O'Neill decided to ship Donworth across the country for last Saturday's Charles Town Classic. The big horse didn't seem like a prime candidate to skip around the tight turns of the bullring, and the injury to superhorse Shared Belief in last year's Charles Town Classic still left a bad taste.

I resisted the temptation to bet Donworth at Charles Town. While Stanford received a perfect trip on the lead over a speed-friendly track, Donworth's unprofessional attitude probably cost him again,

Let's take a look at the race. There wasn't much pace signed on for the Charles Town Classic and Donworth was expected to set the pace. Unfortunately, he is usually a step slow from the gate and that cost him big-time here. Instead of being forwardly-placed, Donworth is near the back of the pack on the first turn. Then, he gets to pulling again and Gutierrez winds up with a four-wide trip. To his credit, Donworth is in with a chance on the third turn only to flatten out late behind the two pacesetters.

Donworth broke poorly, raced wide over a track that might not have suited his body type, and might have been compromised by a pace that completely held up after slow fractions (24.75, 48.86, 1:13.75). It was the kind of effort that would usually have me looking forward to his next race, as long as he found a competitive spot at solid odds.

But, this is Donworth we're talking about. He's still eligible for his 'n2x' condition, has lost at 4 to 1 or shorter in five of his seven starts and still has problems with breaking and rating.

I do believe he's a very talented horse, but I'm beginning to get tired of his act.

Bad habits are tough to break, however. It's possible the Sirens' song will get me again. It will probably all come down to price.


Hello Dan, I read an article that Exaggerator's breeding rights have been purchased by WinStar Farms. How do you view this in regards to the timing especially with the Derby less than 2 weeks away? Does this give an idea that they believe he has a great shot to win the Derby or do they believe he has a great future ahead of him?
Thanks, PNR

I'm not going to try and read too much into this. As you mention, it's possible the connections believe he's got a great shot in the Derby. If that was the case, however, wouldn't they want to wait until after the Triple Crown series to cash in even more? One would think he would be much more valuable if he wins or performs extremely well in one of the three classics.


Mike A., Dan, or anyone else... I would like to know what Trainer Ward's percentages are at Keeneland over the years with these two year-olds, so if anyone knows... I'll be searching as well. I did reach my limit on posts yesterday. Hilarious. Hard to believe that since you have to be logged-in to post, the system is trying to protect itself from a bot. It would not be hard to believe, however, that the system just wants me to get back to work and stop posting my mostly meaningless drivel... lol... Later gators vs

Going into Wednesday, Ward had compiled a record of 19-7-7-1 (37% wins) with a $1.37 ROI over the past five years in Keeneland 2-year-old races at 4 1/2 furlongs. Lifetime, he boasts a 92-31-21-10 (33% wins) with a $1.81 ROI in these races.


Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 4/19/16 - 4/25/16:

1. STANFORD - 104 - Charles Town Classic (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles - 23Apr16-12CT
2. DA BIG HOSS - 99 - Elkhorn Stakes (G2) - 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) - 23Apr16-9KEE
3. FINEST CITY - 97 - Great Lady M. Stakes (G2) - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 23Apr16-8LRC
3. SHAFT OF LIGHT - 97 - OC 16k/N1X -N - 1 Mile - 21Apr16-7GP
5. ROSE BRIER - Henry Clark Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 23Apr16-10LRL
5. TALE OF LIFE (JPN) - 96 - Alw 55700N1X - 1 1/16 Miles - 20Apr16-2KEE
7. DIG DEEP - 95 - Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes - 7 Furlongs - 23Apr16-10CT
8. R U WATCHINGBUD - 94 - New Providence Stakes - 6 Furlongs (Tapeta) - 23Apr16-8WO
9. KAABRAAJ - 93 - Alw 21800C - 6 Furlongs - 23Apr16-8EMD
9. OUTSIDE NASHVILLE - 93 - Alw 36024NC - 6 Furlongs (Tapeta) - 23Apr16-8GG
9. TRUE IMAGE - 93 - Alw 40000s - 6 Furlongs (Tapeta) - 24Apr16-7GG
9. VYJACK - 93 - Alw 65936C - 1 Mile (Turf) - 21Apr16-7KEE
13. DOM THE BOMB - 92 - OC 75k/C - 6 Furlongs - 21Apr16-3HAW
13. GOLDEN RINGS - 92 - Clm c-(11-10) - 1 Mile - 23Apr16-6LRL
13. WAR DANCER - 92 - OC 62k/C -N - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 23Apr16-10GP
16. TROPHEE (FR) - 91 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) - 20Apr16-3AQU
17. BROOKLYNSWAY - 90 - Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - 22Apr16-9KEE
17. CENTRAL HEAT - 90 - Alw 44992NC - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 24Apr16-3GG
17. COLONEL SHARP - 90 - Md Sp Wt 29k - 6 Furlongs - 22Apr16-2PEN
17. I'M IN A HURRY - 90 - Clm c-(5-4) - 5 Furlongs - 22Apr16-7LS
17. RED ZEUS - 90 - Dwight Patterson Handicap - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 23Apr16-3TUP
22. SHADOW ROCK - 89 - Alw 62920N2X - 5 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 23Apr16-7KEE
22. SINGANOTHERSONG - 89 - OC 25k/N1X - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - 20Apr16-8GP
22. TRY YOUR LUCK - 89 - Md Sp Wt 59k - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 23Apr16-5KEE
25. ARTISTIC LICENSE - 88 - OC20k/SAL15k - 1 Mile (Turf) - 24Apr16-5LS
25. BENWILL - 88 - John Henry Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 23Apr16-9EVD
25. CHERUBIM - 88 - OC 62k/N$Y -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 22Apr16-7LRC
25. JUSTIN SQUARED - 88 - OC 40k/N$Y -N - 6 Furlongs - 21Apr16-7LRC
25 NO FAULT OF MINE - 88 - Alw 65593N3X - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 20Apr16-7KEE
25.SARATOGA GIRO - 88 - Alw 16900N2L - 4 1/2 Furlongs - 25Apr16-9FL

*The lifetime past performances for STANFORD are available at the bottom of this blog post.

*GOLDEN RINGS was claimed for $10,000 by trainer Dove Houghton from Kieron Magee.

*I'M IN A HURRY was claimed for $4,000 by trainer C D Ledgess from Karl Broberg.


Video stakes analyses for many of the weekend's major stakes will be available later this week at http://www.drf.com/videos

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.

Matt Bernier, Mike Beer and I will be on for free and fun live handicapping analysis for Belmont, Gulfstream and more beginning at 3pm ET Saturday aftenroon on live.drf.com.


Congrats to Professor Molesap for winning last week's HandiGambling challenge. Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post. Let's go with the San Francisco Mile from Golden Gate Fields for this week's exercise.


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! Harpo


stanford.pdf687.94 KB
Copy of HG 4 23 16 Henry Clark.xls53 KB
HGSFMILE.pdf222.23 KB