04/27/2016 5:52PM

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
Uncle_Zeno More than 1 year ago
Annie, No torment intended!
I figure there are enough other opinions about horses to play on here. A moment’s incongruous recalibration cleanses the handicapping palate. (that’s my story & I’m sticking to it). :-)

btw, LANI, despite being a Japanese invader - won its last race ar MeyDan & as we know:
“in the desert on a horse with no name; you can remember you name!” Slight chance of a shower predicted for late afternoon on Derby Day.
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago

          Come on.....apples and oranges...Trinniberg was a sprinter....he figured to go nowhere....speed at a distance...Bode was by far the best that year....Good Luck with Danzing Candy......I glad you got all you hoped for......I fear you'll need it.....like the other "1" Comma To The Top......Mike A
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Ky Derby musings

First , THANK YOU Annie for all you do in the MKB . It obvious that Formbloggers enjoyed the process and have had fun watching these last several months.

Wow, I love all the posts this week. Now that I have a day to study..here's some thoughts.
I still have these runners to make the Ky Derby gate (fingers crossed for the next 48 hours ) 
Wynn futures that I picked up several months ago:

50-1  Gun Runner
45-1  Mo Tom
35-1  Shagaf
25-1  Exaggerator
22-1  Brody's Cause
15-1  Nyquist
14-1  Mor Spirit 
14-1  Mohaymen
AE  60-1  Cherry Wine

All are better than the ML odds (for now)  so this should hold me. I think I've got a chance somewhere in these. I may place some small action bets on a PGH that I don't have covered ( Like that crazy horse Lani, the long layoff Destin, and Creator) I doubt if I will do any exotics....hmmm? 
Slew has me believing in Suddenbreakingnews,  YO has me rethinking that outside post for Danzing Candy...more to study.

Chalky is waiting for me to serve her Mint Juleps. Her thoughts on this crazy Derby later :)  

Dick W
My RAH has signed up for PH.  Yeah !  He is  droller02. He's a bit shy, but would you add to your inactive list for now?    I love the PH selections this weekend ! 

SR Vegas
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Check your email :)

AHA!  Just after I post about my MKB  GIFT BOX , look who shows up in the entries !
Sunday 5/8 Belmont race #7 80K allow  1 1/16M   inner turf.
My Gift Box is entered as main track only.  Sigh , he must be teasing me .

KY Oaks
I see that Bernard, our Professor and KYL have commented. Here's my .02 cents. 

#12 Cathryn Sofia - looks great on paper, bullet work says all systems go for the lead…may go wire to wire. But , she bid and hung in last. Extra distance concerns a bit. ML 7-2

#11 Rachel’s Valentina – Connections and dam appeal will make her odds plummet as she will be a fan favorite. Besides, it is feel good story :)  She is improving,  NO Songbird here and no surprise if she wins. ML 7-2 .

#3 Lewis Bay  …already proven at the distance twice in GR 2, I can see her just off the pacesetters and pushing thru in the end.  ML 8-1

#1 Terra Promessa – this filly doesn’t know she is jumping up in class, has won at CD, and is unbeaten with exception of her maiden when she hopped at the start. ML 10-1 I think too high ...but shhh,  may hold and be under the radar.

#8 Royal Obsession PGH  (that I will not obsess about) Asmusens 2nd runner in here. Ran behind Lewis Bay who I like a lot, and at 20-1 odds offers great value.

#13 Land Over Sea – as others have noted, NO Songbird here. Decisive win last out. ML 5-1 , may be 5-2 by post time.

#2 Weep No More- Showed a late kick in last. BIG  jump in Beyers. Could she bounce here, or bound on by again. Intriguing.  ML 9-2

Others look over matched in here. This will be a race to watch and enjoy. Besides, this is where my wagering strategy escapes me. I like too many to select and narrow down. For PH purposes will likely go with a price , Lewis Bay- Terra Promessa or Royal Obsession - Land over Sea.

Chalky likes Rachel’s Valentina, of course,  the likely chalk come post time :)  

SR Vegas

slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
I made a mistake last year with a FL Oaks filly (birdonthewire) in the Kentucky Oaks - there's something about horses shipping from GP where the form does not hold up (for a raise in class).  But here I am liking another Fl Oaks winner in Go Maggie Go. 

I know she has to take another step forward. She did something I really liked in the FL Oaks which may portend better on Friday. She withstood being in-between fillies for an extended period and rallied out of there to win confidently. GMG threw the pressure off and won well, anyway. If she can catch a trip without that pressure, a more favorable trip, I could see her making the requisite improvement to be a thorn in Rachel's side. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Oh, I forgot about Quinonez. Of course, he used to ride at Canterbury. :) Yes, a DANZING CANDY/SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS exacta would pay very nicely.

Still trying to figure out what HORSE WITH NO NAME and Koko Taylor have to do with anything.

But hey, I'm supposed to be figuring out the Derby, not deciphering cryptic clues, not to mention who the heck are you. :) Probably Steve T, he always liked to torment me. :)


Uncle_Zeno More than 1 year ago
Pat, I don’t think I will compare relative merits of musicians. 
They all play without relying too much on pecking orders.

I do think we could have a great duet in Prince & Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard!

Meanwhile I take a page from Ollie Nightengale: I Got A Sure Thing.”
Though be advised never to wager on a horse named “Zeno.”
They never seem to cross the finish line!
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
Yochestrockwell, thanks. I remember that Bode-Trini derby well. I agree with everything you said about that effort. I still can't believe he got beat. And Trinni became one of my favorite sprinters ever. Dead dead game. Great prices. I loved that horse. 
. Anderson More than 1 year ago

Uncle_Zeno thanks for the great playlist. Canadian artist Danny Michel makes mention of the Derby in his tune "White Lightning"

Cathy More than 1 year ago
Uncle Zeno,

Your list of songs is brilliant.  I would have added, The Weight by The Band in honor of all Annie's hard work on the MKBs, but when I checked the lyrics, the refrain line shocked the heck out of me as I've been singing it wrong for decades.  I always thought it was "Take a load off Annie," and google lyrics has it as "Take a load off Fannie"!

My bitchy rant of the day:  As long time posters here know, my favorite thing to do is watch all the works and gallops of the Derby horses in HD on  my big screen TV.  I have been watching diligently for the shows and for snippets on TVG.  I hate watching them on the laptop.  It just can't capture dapples and subtle musculature.  Although no one should be surprised, since the idiots that run horse racing will always shoot themselves in the foot, if possible.  It seems that CDI/Twinspires which controls these videos will not allow TVG to broadcast them or any races at Churchill because they are in a snit over betting platforms!  So, before the biggest race (for most people) of the year, there is a blackout on information and video.  These guys just suck.

For anyone who cares :Last night and this morning,  I watched every single replay I could get on my big screen.  Although none of these were of the horses in the last few weeks, or on Churchill's dirt, here are the horses, in no particular order, whose strides I like the best: Suddenbreakingnews, Creator, Mohaymen, Outwork and up to a mile and a sixteenth, Nyquist.  Exxagerator on the wet track was wonderful and Brody's Cause seemed much smoother over Keeneland than anywhere else.  Nyquist is a beautiful mover, but I hate the way he swaps leads in deep stretch.  Interestingly, Lani was a thing of beauty in his UAE Derby.  Although he took a huge stumble out of the gate, he was relaxed as he caught the field, relaxed as he began passing horses and leveled off nicely while holding off Polar River (I think it was her).His stride in every part of the race was lovely.  His antics at Churchill are perplexing to say the least.  If "mind on racing Lani" shows up on Saturday, he could be a force.

Thank you for your thoughts.

For doggie lovers:  Think some good thoughts for my Sugar.  She popped a lump two days ago and I took her in immediately to see the vet.  It is cancerous.  She had surgery yesterday.  We are resting comfortably on the couch watching TVG and reading on line articles.  She likes an exacta box of Mohaymen and Outwork going with a Tapit and Uncle Mo sire shot.