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Racing Corner
Saturday, 21 April 2007
Two weeks and counting.....
Mood:  quizzical

Who thinks the Lexington Stakes will have any impact on the Derby field?  I don't! 

You guys I chat with about this stuff know I won't pick make my final Derby decisions until I see the works over the next two weeks....but thanks to DC Horseplayer forwarding me the initial Brisnet PPs, I'm starting to kick around my thoughts.  I want your comments, too!!

 Of all Pletcher's horses, did you notice that the rider who gets first call on his horses (Velasquez) chose Circular Quay?  

For the moment, my heart is still with Street Sense.  I trust Nafzger and believe he has a plan for this horse, and I don't buy the wise-guy theory that this horse has had too much taken out of him in back-to-back gutwrenchers.  I noticed that Nafzger has responded by easing up on him in the mornings the week of the race...and using the race as a sharpener in and of itself.  I could argue that he even had his regressive bounce in the Blue Grass, with a 7 point Beyer drop.  I'll wait to see how he works and I also want to see photos of him working in the mornings these next weeks, because I think the first sign of those two races taking a toll would be a visual drop in weight on such a light colt....but if he looks in good form and works well, I have trouble imagining I'll end up anywhere else but with him.  

 How can anyone disregard Curlin at this point?  He might be lightly raced but all three of his starts make him look like the next superstar our sport so desperately needs.  His Beyer figs are all over 100 and he has the perfect stalking style for what we are all assuming will be a more moderately-paced Derby than in recent years.  In my mind he needs to demonstrate an affinity for the Churchill track and draw a decent post position to help offset his inexperience by helping him avoid heavy traffic.

NoBiz Like Shobiz remains on my shortlist as well.  I was impressed with his Wood Memorial win, he looked in hand at the end and even though he had a 100+ Beyer, it didn't look like it took much out of him.  Based on photo comparisons and having a chance to see him in the flesh at Gulfstream, I think physically he's the most impressive horse in the field.  He might be peaking at the right time.

Hard Spun - I can't help but notice he had a great work at Churchill this week. 





Posted by silent-thunder-va at 1:40 AM EDT
Saturday, 31 March 2007
The Florida Derby - and four weeks to go!

The Florida Derby


The first of the final round of preps!!

I’ll cut to the chase.  I’m looking for value here, a nice combination bet in a fairly wide-open field with several legitimate contenders and favorites who seem vulnerable to me.  The two horses most intriguing to me:  Adore the Gold and Chelokee.


Adore the Gold had a rough trip in his last start (the FOY) from an outside post, battled traffic and a forced pace to still stay game and bring up the back end of the blanket finish.  His works leading up to the FOY were moderate, ‘maintenance’ works – but since then, he has been tuned up like a Ferrari, most recently with a 5f work in :57 and 3/5 !?!?! early this week.  He is the only horse in the field to run a 100+ Beyer fig as a 3YO and he looks to be underrated here as everyone else looks at the California invaders.


Chelokee ran a monster allowance race on the FOY undercard and is underestimated here because of his moderate Beyer figure for the race (a 91) but he was also checked hard on the turn.  His time was only a half second behind the FOY and surely his stumble ate that and then some. 


I’ll use them both and throw Stormello into the tri – it’s too hard to overlook a horse working as well in the mornings as he is, even if he’s working over the California strip.


On a separate note:  Did everyone see that Street Sense worked a bullet :48 at Palm Meadows on Wednesday?  J

Posted by silent-thunder-va at 8:42 AM EDT
Monday, 19 March 2007
Future Book Status and Random Thoughts
Mood:  quizzical

Of my five Feb Future Book picks, three are still in the Derby hunt - Street Sense (big win this weekend, now he moves on to the Blue Grass), Law Breaker (who was scratched from the Winstar Derby on Sunday but according to my Santa Anita friend RHTenFan is fine, he just tied up during a morning work last week) and Forefathers, who is aiming for the Lanes End Stakes this upcoming weekend.  Forefathers finished up the track in the Swale but he had once again failed to switch leads...

Newer on the trail I'm really impressed with:  Curlin, this weekend's winner of the Rebel.  I'm looking forward to seeing him in the Arkansas Derby.  The Centennial Farms horse, Chelokee - his allowance win at Gulfstream looked phenomenal (and I'm bummed, I went to Gulfstream that day but just missed his race and had to catch it later on replays.)  He may also be headed for the Lanes End and he looks really impressive.  Baffert's runner-up in the San Felipe, Air Commander, was burning up the track in his morning works prior to his race and it's hard to fault him for failing to close against a talented pacesetter left alone on the lead on a seriously speed-favoring track at only a mile and 1/16.  When I went to Gulfstream and got to see the Fountain of Youth in person, I was really impressed with the physical appearance of Nobiz Like Shobiz - he really is a showstopper.  I am intrigued to see if the addition of blinkers improves his performance in his next start, although after his dismal FOY performance I'm not ready to get back on his bandwagon yet.


Posted by silent-thunder-va at 11:07 PM EDT
Friday, 16 March 2007
Mood:  lucky

The Tampa Bay Derby


HE’S BACK!!!!  Street Sense makes his first appearance since his smashing BC Juvenile victory and although he might not be a ‘wise’ bet in his return, I love Carl Nafzger too much to trash-talk his chances. Forgive me fellow handicappers, I’m taking a sentimental pass on this one.


The San Felipe


As one his sire Point Given’s greatest fans, I am keen on the Baffert trainee Air Commander in this spot.  I can ignore his mediocre Beyer figures when his last two workouts were 4f in :46+ and a scalding fast 5f in :57 and 4/5 respectively – we all know how much I love those good morning clockings!  A lot of people will like Cobalt Blue in this spot, but he hasn’t run beyond 6f and his regular jockey (Gomez) has taken the option on Air Commander instead.  Hmm….

Grapelli is an interesting horse to use in the exotics here, he was a closing 3rd in the San Felipe at a mile, he had a nice work (5f in 1:00) this week and adds an extra 16th of a mile tomorrow for a little more closing room.


The Rebel


This will be a fascinating race, with extremely lightly-raced two horses who have shown absolute brilliance in their maiden wins – Flying First Class and Curlin.  Southwest winner Tueflesburg is also likely to be in the mix as one of the shorter-odds horses at post time.  I like Curlin here – my logic on that is that FFC ran such a huge Beyer (107) only three weeks ago, and I feel like it’s worth betting on the side of a bounce here.  I have a few friends (Bob, are you out there?) who love the Flyer and will think I’m passing up our next Superhorse.  I’ll take my chances off one race and go with Curlin, and Officer Rocket, who will likely benefit from the speed duel up front between the two greenies.  In fact, just in case the speed completely falls apart, I might box those two as insurance.



The Winstar Derby

I’m not going to handicap this one, I’m just going to point out that one of my future book picks (Law Breaker) is entered…..will his odds plummet after Sunday?

Posted by silent-thunder-va at 2:49 PM EDT
Friday, 9 March 2007
Now Playing: This weekend's Preps







I like the value I get on the horses I like in here.  At 8/1 on the morning line, I really like Ketchikan.  The lightly raced colt ran a Beyer of 99 his last race out on Feb 16th and had an amazing blowout in preparation for this race on March 4th.  He looks sharp and ready to run big and he is proven on this track.  He is a steadily improving, developing horse.  I also like Liquidity – I am intrigued that Nakatani came out from CA to ride him, I like his last Beyer of 102 and I like his frontrunning style here.  The CA horses seem to be the most talented of the 3YO crop this year and when this horse was able to hold his own and finish on the board in graded stakes, this might be his soft spot.  In the Amy world of lower-risk, lower-reward betting I’d box the two, and in a wuss bet even throw in a tri box with the Pletcher combined entry for insurance. J





On the inner track at Aqueduct, cheap speed rules.  I made some serious money last year on a 30-1 shot (Like Now) because he was going to go to the front uncontested and that’s all I wanted to know. 


Cowtown Cat fits the profile of a Gotham winner here.  His last work this week was a bullet 5f in :59 and change, and he had a similar work the prior week.  His up-and-down Beyer pattern indicates he’s due for a good race.  I’m a little apprehensive about the likely favorite here (Summer Doldrums) because I don’t like his one very moderate work.  His trainer even admitted that he took it easy on him for fear of a bounce.


For some real value in this field I’d use Wafi City, the lightly-raced McLaughlin-trained colt breaking from the outside  post who likes to go to the front.  He has demonstrated in the mornings and in two wins that he has tactical speed and he likes the inner Aqueduct track.  In his one clunker of a race he stumbled at the start on a track only rated ‘good’. 

Posted by silent-thunder-va at 11:06 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007 11:09 AM EST
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
2007 Future Book Values
Mood:  vegas lucky





Exhale  -  40-1 (Odds are theVegas Line available at the Hilton)

Experienced trainer John Sadler has been quoted in the press saying this is the best horse he has ever had.  Exhale was an $800K purchase as a 2YO and training and when he broke his maiden in the fall last year he earned a Beyer speed figure of 104.  Critics are wondering if this speed brilliance reveals an eventual sprint destiny, but his pedigree (sire Millenium Wind) suggests he should be able to extend that speed.  This horse is TEARING up the track with his works in the mornings, most recently 6f in 1:13.  Prior to that he kept rolling out 5f in the morning in 1:00...with such repetition it’s as if it’s his cruising pace.  Get on him now before he makes his stakes debut the first weekend in March and his odds slice in half.


Buffalo Man  50-1

I love this colt.  He’s physically broad (on the video replays, he looks like a tank) and gritty and experienced for his age (7 races under his belt) and versatile (he won at 1 mile, 70 yards and then dropped back to win a stakes at 6f) and he’s patient and level-headed - he had a very well-timed, closing run against the track bias to win the Spectacular Bid Stakes.  When he couldn’t get a decent post position in the Risen Star stakes at the Fair Grounds, his connections took him home to Ocala and entered him in the OBS Championship there, where he ran 1 and 1/16 in 1:44 and change and just missed the track record.  He already has the earnings to get into the Derby gate. 

He is owned by Rick Pitino and trained by Cam Gambolati…who is Gambolati?  The trainer who has made one Derby appearance in his life – in 1985 with Kentucky Derby upset winner Spend a Buck.


Street Sense  -  10-1

Yes, I am aware that his odds are “short” for the Future Book – 10-1 in both Vegas and the Churchill Downs Future Book line – but for the first time in ages I can’t disregard the Breeders Cup Juvenile winner and by the end of March, 10-1 might look like a bargain on him.  Why don’t I think he’ll follow the fate of Arazi – smashing the BC Juvy field and finishing up the track on Derby day?  Carl Nafzger is the reason – I hold the gifted trainer (who, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, trained such greats as Unbridled, Vicar, and Banshee Breeze) in high esteem and while critics complain about the absence of Street Sense in recent preps, Nafzger is giving his horse ample rest to be best prepared for his 3YO debut…and his colt responded to the rest by demonstrating how sharp he is through his workout this weekend, 5f in a shade over 1:00.  I have had this horse on my stable watch and have enjoyed getting those very patterned emails about his momentum-building works and seeing Nafzger very slowly crank the screws back up on him.  This may be the year that the BC Juvenile / Derby course is broken.



Law Breaker  125-1

This horse is an absolute steal at 125-1 after his San Vicente Stakes performance on 2/11, when he finished a strongly closing second to Noble Court.  When I watched the replay of the Vicente I had to double-check the date that Vegas posted their odds update….but sure enough, their odds are updated – you people out there are asleep on this horse!

I see his detractors are questioning whether a Silver Deputy colt wants the Derby distance but his maternal sire, Kingmambo, provides a solid distance influence to his pedigree and in recent years I have seen this trend with speed on top and stamina on the bottom (Funny Cide, Smarty Jones) and I have eliminated horses before without looking at this new trend and won’t be caught doing it again.

Baffert isn’t a trainer who wants to be at home in California on Derby Day.  To be part of the show we have seen him enter horses considered to be ‘on the margin’ by the oddsmakers, and he has had some shocking success with those horses – I would put both Real Quiet and War Emblem in this category, who paid $18.80 and $43.00 respectively.  At this stage in the year it appears that several of other Baffert’s hopefuls are struggling and this horse is, in my opinion, his strongest Derby contender – I expect Baffert to nurse him into the Derby gate one way or another, even if he throws in a clunker between now and then….and aren’t odds of 125-1 a nice price for a horse you believe is likely to be in the gate on Derby Day as long as he’s healthy?



Forefathers  80-1

Much like the case of Law Breaker, Nick Zito is another trainer who will do everything he can to get his best 3YO in the gate on Derby Day and here he is – Zito’s top prospect.  His last start was his 2nd place finish in the Swale stakes and I took note of one important factor in his inability to close the distance between himself and Adore the Gold – he never switched leads at the top of the stretch – and yet he still managed to close on a tired left lead, falling just short against very quick fractions and a very high class winner on that day.  Put some distance and maturity into this horse and the outcome may very well be worth his price.


Posted by silent-thunder-va at 11:57 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007 12:28 AM EST
Welcome to the Racing Corner
Mood:  vegas lucky
Greetings everyone - some of us have been discussing over email our evolving 2007 Derby prospects, and rather than these email chains I thought I'd experiment with this blog format.  If it takes off, it will be much easier to post picks and discuss amongst ourselves.  Please feel free not only to respond to the topics I throw up, but open up a new topic if you want!

Posted by silent-thunder-va at 11:52 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007 11:57 PM EST

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