04/11/2011 6:40PM

What Happened to the Chalks?

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Racing is a wonderfully exhilarating, intellectually challenging, interactive process where fans "compete" equally with the kings and queens of the turf. 

While owners, trainers, and jockeys use wins and losses in higher-quality stakes races to determine success and failure, handicappers measure their ups-and-downs at the betting windows. 

There is no other sport like horse racing.  But, boy, it's a tough, tough game.

One week ago, Uncle Mo was the toast of the town, a sure-fire superhorse with Triple Crown aspirations.  Now, after his shocking defeat in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, he's being treated like a bum, an overrated media creation that was never as good as advertised. 

That's just not fair.

Maybe Uncle Mo isn't the "Chosen One." He wouldn't be the first juvenile champion that didn't go on at three.  War Pass was an impressive 2-year-old, but it didn't work out for him the following season.  But, to throw Uncle Mo under the bus after one bad showing is a bit irresponsible.  To forget about his accomplishments last year is insane.  Anyone that saw him run away from his competition at two knows he's a very good horse.  He just hasn't shown it yet in 2011.  Maybe he'll never win another race, but give him a break.

***

A few hours after Win Willy confirmed his affinity for the Oaklawn racing strip by outfinishing odds-on favorite Misremembered in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, I received this blog comment:

Perhaps you and Watchmaker were just a little too high on Misrembered.  Win Willy passed him before he knew what happened
Fred Robertson

I wonder if I was high enough on Misremembered as he ran a tremendous race in the Oaklawn Handicap.  You have to remember this was only his second start in a year and he did all the running, all the dirty work, pressing hot fractions while three wide.  He made the front turning for home only to be run down by a good one-run closer.  Misremembered loses nothing in defeat and I'd love to have him straight up against Win Willy the next time they face each other.  If, and that's a huge if, he stays good and sound, we should hear a ton more from Misremembered later this year.

***

Nick Zito has a nice dilemma on his hands with Morning Line, the winner of the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.  An excellent two-turn performer on the front end last year, Morning Line proved that he could be just as effective coming from off the pace sprinting.  He outfinished a promising runner named Apriority in the Carter and likely moves on to the Metropolitan Mile on Memorial Day weekend. 

***

The longshot parade continued with Caracortado being upset by lone speed Liberian Freighter in the Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes at Santa Anita.  For the second straight race, Caracortado was taken far back, too far back, by jockey Joe Talamo in the early portion of the race.  He had run in the stretch both times, but was left with too much to do.  Caracortado figures to be downgraded by many handicappers off his fifth-place finish in the Arcadia, but I think there's still a race or two with his name on it.

***

Bob Baffert missed the Santa Anita Derby with Jaycito, but he took home the rich pot with recent maiden winner Midnight Interlude, who stalked pacesetter Comma to the Top before overhauling the exhausted leader in late stretch.  Perhaps most baffling were the training schedules of beaten favorite Anthony's Cross and Silver Medallion, who both hadn't raced since February, and are now "on the bubble" as it pertains to graded earnings.  Jaycito, by the way, may run in the Blue Grass or Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

***

I hadn't been impressed with Cambina leading up to the Grade 2 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, but I'm a member of her fan club now.  She received an excellent trip and ride saving ground off a wicked pace, but she exploded in the stretch to defeat a game Whisper Louise.  Cambina has to be considered a major contender for races like the American Oaks.

***

After watching this weekend's races, I'm reminded of some of the "Golden Rules" listed in Harvey Pack's wonderful autobiography MAY THE HORSE BE WITH YOU (available on drf.com).

"Rule No. 1:
Every time the starting gate opens, expect to be humbled."

"Rule No. 2:
Never bet on a favorite doing something he's never done before."

"Rule No. 6:
Hardly a man is now alive who paid a mortgage at 2-to-5."

"Rule No. 11:
Some days you don't want to go to work.  Watch the warm-ups.  Maybe your selections feels the same way."

"Rule No. 12:
Good handicappers envision how a race will be run.  Unfortunately, horses are animals, not machines."

"Rule No. 13:
A day without betting is like a day without sunshine."

***

Here are the top 25 winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's races (4/4/10 - 4/10/10)

1.  Win Willy - 107 - Oaklawn Handicap (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles - Oaklawn
2.  Frazil - 106 - Hcp 10000s - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Aqueduct
3.  Morning Line - 105 - Carter Handicap (G1) - 7 Furlongs - Aqueduct
4.  Giant Ryan - 104 - Hamlet Stakes - 6 Furlongs - Aqueduct
5.  Liberian Freighter - 101 - Arcadia Stakes (G2) - 1 Mile (Turf) - Santa Anita
5.  Shakenwithanolive - 101 - Princess of Palms Handicap - 6 Furlongs - Turf Paradise
7.  Homerun Berti - 98 - OC 80k/N3X -N - 6 Furlongs (Polytrack) - Keeneland
8.  Golddigger's Boy - 97 - Lyman Handicap- 7 Furlongs - Parx
8.  Separate Forest - 97 - Las Cienagas Handicap (G3) - 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - Santa Anita
8.  Sneaking Uponyou - 97 - Sprint Stakes - 6 Furlongs - Tampa Bay
11. Fabulous Strike - 96 - Alw 42560N$Y - 6 Furlongs - Penn National
12. Ben's Cat - 95 - Mister Diz Stakes - 5 Furlongs - Pimlico
12. Citrus Kid - 95 - Alw 66040C - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Keeneland
12. Midnight Interlude - 95 - Santa Anita Derby (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - Santa Anita
15. Cambina (Ire) - 94 - Providencia Stakes (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Santa Anita
15. Flightofalifetime - 94 - Md Sp Wt 57k- 6 Furlongs - Santa Anita
15. Toby's Corner - 94 - Wood Memorial (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - Aqueduct
18. Higher Court - 93 - Md Sp Wt 46k - 6 Furlongs (Polytrack) - Keeneland
18. It's Never to Late - 93 - Sunshine State Stakes - 7 Furlongs - Gulfstream
18. Joe Vann - 93 - Illinois Derby (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles - Hawthorne
18. Sebastian Flyte (GB) - 93 - Alw 61924N2X - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Santa Anita
22. Big Push - 92 - Alw 8000s - 6 Furlongs - Parx
22. D'oro Diablo - 92 - OC 62k/N2X - 5 1/2 Furlongs (Polytrack) - Woodbine
22. Hayley's Halo - 92 - Czaria Stakes - 6 Furlongs - Sunland
22. J J's Lucky Train - 92 - Bay Shore Stakes (G3) - 7 Furlongs - Aqueduct
22. Let's Do It - 92 - Alw 53948N1X - 1 Mile (Turf) - Keeneland
22. Southern Style - 92 - Alw 28884NC - 5 Furlongs - Evangeline

Past performances for Win Willy are available at the bottom of this blog post.

***

Let's get to your questions and comments:

Dan-
I'm working on a little project I have going re: KD contenders. I need to validate some of my theories and was wondering if you could please post the PP's of the winners of the KD from 1995-2008. (If you could post the PP's of the entire fields for 2000-2008, that would be even better!). I can't find this info any where online - so I really appreciate it!
I promise to share my insights re: this field according to my theories for those who might be interested! :-)
Thanks so much!
Tina

I'm interested in your theories.  Please share them when you get the chance.  The past performances for the Derby winners from 1995-1999, and the entire Derby fields from 2000-2008 are listed at the bottom of this blog posting.  I know many of our posters like to take a walk down memory lane.  Enjoy!!! 

***

Dan,
I have noted Kathmanblu's lead issues in the past as well, although she did remain on her proper lead in her previous start and today. Perhaps the combination of the wide trip and Keeneland's quirky surface did her in more than a lack of professionalism. Still, it is always worth noting graded stakes winners who figure to take a lot of money, yet still run greenly or are possibly showing signs of wear and tear. Speaking of, how did you like Morning Line's antics near the wire today?
C

C is talking about Morning Line shifting back to his wrong lead after making the front approaching the finish line of the Carter.  I never think it's a good sign, especially for a horse that's likely to get bet in his next race (presumably the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont).  When I see horses do that, or fail to switch leads at all, I'm thinking of three possible reasons why:

1.  The horse is green or inexperienced.
2.  The horse is tired.
3.  The horse is nursing some sort of injury. 

Morning Line did some really good things on Saturday, rating and finishing at a distance that might actually be a little short of his best.
I noticed in his first race of the year, the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream on January 8, that Morning Line was early to make his final lead change (late on the far turn).  I marked it down to perhaps him being a "short" and tired horse in his first start since the Breeders' Cup.  This time, I think Morning Line's late lead change came about because he was exhausted (and rightfully so, as he had to work hard to pass a sharp Apriority). 
I won't say, as of this moment, that I won't bet him in the Met Mile (who knows what that field will look like?), but I was discouraged to see him flip back to his left lead late. 

***

...Also what is a day in the life of Dan at drf like, and do they have any employment opportunities for those of us who would rather do something with horse racing than our day jobs?
Best of luck to you,
Don

Don, this sounds like fun. Here's this week's schedule, as of right now.

Late Sunday nite - Early Monday morning:
*Write 800 - 1100 word "Under the Radar" piece for National Simulcast Weekly  (after Derby, the column is "Performance of the Week."

Monday:
*Produce "Performance of the Week" videos for drf.com and the drf page on FACEBOOK. 
*Create studio schedule for the week.
*UPDATE BLOG COMMENTS
*GET UPSET WHEN BLOGGERS ARE NASTY TO EACH OTHER
*Inform HG winner how he/she can collect their prize. 
*Re-read all blog comments from previous week (answer questions, past performance requests, comments).
*Create a new blog post
*UPDATE BLOG COMMENTS

Tuesday:
*Produce Race of the Day video for Wednesday
*Create and update Kentucky Derby contender pedigree profiles (for Derby page on drf.com)
*Work on the Disabled List
*UPDATE BLOG COMMENTS

Wednesday:
*Produce Race of the Day videos for Thursday and Friday
*Create the HandiGambling blog
*UPDATE BLOG COMMENTS
*Work on the Disabled List
*Get blog comments like the one below:

you need to post what the game is before the pm. some of us have to work. your post was at three pm which was when gulfstream opened for business today. i was at my local simulcast concentrating on other races. i don't use or turn on my phone so i am not distracted from the decisions i make for the bets i think have reward for my virtual stable..
yet, this gambling 202 or whatever is a fun event, and i would like to contribute, but can't...as probably lots of other people can't that like to venture into a true reality game .
so how about a warning that the gambling episode will be....and before you make your decision, we all have a clear shot as to what game this game will be.?
david krasnoff

Bottom line, the HG past performances are usually posted two days before post time.

Thursday:
*Keeneland Babies for Friday (DRF Plus)
*Handicap ten races for Friday am filming*
*Work on the Disabled List
*UPDATE BLOG COMMENTS

Friday:
*Produce Race of the Day videos for Saturday and Sunday
*Produced eight "Weekend Stakes Preview" videos
*Keeneland Babies for Saturday?
*UPDATE BLOG COMMENTS

Saturday:
*Create weekend stakes preview blog. 
*UPDATE BLOG COMMENTS

Come Saratoga time, it's seven days a week in the office, doing "Spa Babies" for DRF Plus as well as blogging, videos, etc.  I won't mention how I attempt to avoid the usual political backstabbing and BS that goes on in most offices.  Plus, there are radio, television, and live seminar opportunities that DRF requires.  Also, one gets the usual heckling, nasty e-mails (death threats after I voted for Rachel Alexandra over Zenyatta for Horse of the Year), and "you stink" posts when my picks stink.  I must mention that I am not near a racetrack during my work week.  This is all done from an office building.  Time for recreational handicapping?  Not much.

I wouldn't dissuade anyone from attempting to work in this industry, but please note that it must be a labor of love.  Contrary to popular belief, they don't back the Brinks truck to my house for doing this.  Long ago, I was told that I had to supplement my income by gambling. 
As much as I hate to say it, the game has been in decline for, at least, 20 years.  This is a breeding and racino game.  It's not about horses running in a circle anymore.  Racing columns are being deleted from daily papers throughout this country due to lack of interest.  My advice would be to purchase a book called "The Source," published by The Blood-Horse.  This gives you the names, addresses, and telephone numbers for just about anyone in the business.  Keep your mind open.  You may be interested in horse insurance or bloodstock agency work.  Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of opportunities in publishing.  I wish you the best of luck.

***

Dan,
Thanks so much for the info on Moscow Burning. Do you have the pp's for Deep Impact and Heart's Cry? Thankstff
Greg Michaels

The past performances for the two Japanese stars are available at the bottom of the blog post.

***

Dan, can I get pp's for dance floor, media plan,
What a diplomat & green again. Thanks
Marc

They are available at the bottom of this blog post.

***

Dan - do you whatever became of the filly Elusive Heat? Any chance you can provide her career pp's?
keyfig

Elusive Heat retired in 2009 after spiking a 103-degree temperature and undergoing surgery to correct an entrapped epiglottis.  She was bred to Medaglia d'Oro the following spring.  Her past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.

***

Dan -
You seem to be the one of very, very few who hasn't written off Decisive Moment as a horse who "doesn't belong" in the KD. You picked him for the Risen Star, where he ran pretty well 5th and came out of it with a minor soft-tissue injury. You picked him 2nd in the Spiral, even though he'd never run on poly, and he looked good (all things considered) as 2nd against AK who'd had 3 races on poly. Nice pick! In 8 races, with a 2-2-3 record, he doesn't look too bad next to some of the favorites - $527k+ earnings and $301k graded. Yes, the good graded earnings come from 2nds. No excuses. Does that make him undeserving of a spot in the KD gate versus Stay Thirsty, THAS, Soldat, etc? He's my MKB and he gets NO respect! Now he's getting 6 wks to train at CD. Could you, for one & only, say something nice about DM? please? :-)
sherpa

I got on his bandwagon after he won the $250,000 Jean Lafitte at Delta on January 14, and was very disappointed that he tired so badly in the Louisiana Derby.  At first, I was concerned that his connections would run him back so quickly after the soft tissue injury noted after the Louisiana Derby, but he ran a heck of a race in the Spiral, battling every step of the way before folding late.  After what happened last week with the injuries and upsets, anything can happen as it pertains to the Kentucky Derby, and he deserves his shot.  I'm just not sure if Decisive Moment is fast enough, has the right running style, or has enough stamina in his pedigree to win the race.  Than again, I have never been good at handicapping the Derby, and doubt if I'll play the race this year.

***

Dan
HG for Gulfstream 4/8 race #9
Dropper # 6 Alisal appears to be the best here with his splits of 24.2-23.2-23.3 and a close of 30.2 in his last race are far ahead of all but 1 here.
#9 Top Surprize may surprise as his splits were 24.4-23.2-23.3 and a close of 30.1 and needs this class drop. He may appear better than his last race looked but I think he still would need to improve quite to beat Alisal.
All the others are in my opinion not in the race after 6f
My wager is $100 EX 6/9
Ron B

Congrats to Ron B. for finishing first in our HandiGambling exercise.  This week's race is Wednesday's eighth from Keeneland. 

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POSTING

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan." Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified. Please post your plays and analysis to the blog. In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please. I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but 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. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all!

AttachmentSize
Derby winners 1995-1999.pdf87.45 KB
2000 Derby.pdf518.62 KB
2001 Derby.pdf473.44 KB
2002 Derby.pdf505.38 KB
2003 Derby.pdf427.96 KB
2004 Derby.pdf114.25 KB
2005 Derby.pdf544.44 KB
2006 Derby.pdf538.89 KB
2007 Derby.pdf116.47 KB
2008 Derby.pdf533.86 KB
Deep Cry.pdf59.18 KB
DancePlan.pdf97.07 KB
Elusive Heat.pdf573.12 KB
HG229.pdf180.15 KB
Win Willy.pdf59.7 KB