|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, September 02, 2006
After a five-for-nine showing last week at Del Mar, CJ and I went four-for-six today trying to tackle the Pick Six. Hit the first two, missed by a half length in the third, lost by a nose in the sixth. We missed a consolation payout, and it's small consolation that we had the runner-up when we didn't hit the winner.
I'm happy with the quality of my handicapping, but there's a big difference between being right and cashing tickets...
Friday, September 01, 2006
Del Mar Saturday, September Second
It's been awhile, eh? For now, I'm posting my picks for the last two-thirds of the Del Mar card tomorrow, where CJ and I are likely to take our Pick Six money. We'll start with what should be a pretty damned entertaining race, with a solid sprinter stretching out and two routers from the Derby trail dialing back...
RACE FOUR - El Cajon Stakes - 1 Mile, 3YO
Toss #3 Mr. Katz. Pace promises to be managed, not overly hot with Brother Derek on or at the lead, no one more than two or three back.
#1 DA STOOPS - Pace could set up a lot like his 4/30/06 state-bred stakes race with a fairly easy opening half around :47. If that happens, he'll have a good shot at making a move around the three-quarter pole to take the lead, and his sprinter's mentality could take hold. That being said, it's difficult to see him getting by others late. There's just too much talent here. Concern is that he hasn't dialed up in distance that effectively before, and if you look past his (really solid) effort in January's Sunshine Millions sprint, his assortment of state-bred stakes crowns isn't exactly the same level of competition as what he's facing today.
#2 BOB AND JOHN - Let's get one thing straight... it's obvious that this horse doesn't want any part of a race longer than one-and-one-eighth. His showings at the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont - where he was an incredibly tepid 9/2 post-time favorite - were dismal, and he hasn't been trotted out of the barn since then. All things considered though, there's a lot to like. Baffert returns 29% winners off layoff, and he and Espinoza have hit on all cylinders at Del Mar with a 38% win rate. He's a SoCal horse running at a SoCal track with a nice array of workouts over the past two months. He's had some success, in the San Felipe and the couple of races prior, at making a move from stalking position to wrestle the lead and pull away strongly. Of course, he didn't win the San Felipe, and he hasn't ever gotten by Brother Derek. Knock this horse all you want for what he might not have accomplished, just don't forget that there are solid connections behind a talented young horse who should enjoy the hell out of moving down to a mile.
#4 CINDAGO - Thank god this race isn't going to be on ESPN, otherwise you'd be hearing bag o' doughnuts Hank Goldberg incessantly referring to this horse as the "wiseguy" pick. Why? Nine months ago, Cindago broke her maiden and hasn't been behind the gate since. But look closer and you'll see Latent Heat and Point Determined finishing two and three. This is a key race against huge talent, and if this horse is any better now than in late December, he'll be a factor. Is it going to be enough? While Sadler and Nakatani are a gaudy 63% winning over the meet, the sample size is small, and Sadler's other percentages aren't anything to crow about. I like this horse a great deal to move forward off this race, but perhaps a strike here is looking a bit too heady at this point.
#5 BROTHER DEREK - Hello millionaire. Any three-year-old with an accumulated purse this big demands respect, and Brother Derek looms large over this field. He's six-for-seven lifetime in California, and his Derby and Preakness losses aren't really as bad as they look. This is a seasoned three-year-old whose connections are obviously pointing towards Breeders' Cup Day, and a victory here would be a great first step back to prominence. He'll grab the pace, he'll control it in fractions around :23 and change, and there's no one in this race who's going to want to push him faster. The only serious knock on this horse is that, aside from the Santa Anita Derby, he hasn't won by gaudy numbers and multiple lengths. But hey, a win's a win.
PICK! #5 (8/5), #2 (2/1), #4 (4/1), #1 (9/2)
RACE FIVE - MSW53K, 5.5F, 2YO
Only #6 EDWARDIAN has raced previously - and effectively, at that. Toss #2 (trainer%), #3 (trainer% for first-timers, erratic workout patterns suggest he'll be off the pace), #1 (Tomlinson deficit), #5 (erratic workout patterns, no-name trainer), #1a (trainer%, no-name trainer), #9 (should be outclassed, could be a dark horse contender), #10 (trainer%, Tomlinsons), #11 (should be outclassed, respectable workouts but a no-name trainer).
#4 CHIEF'S MAGIC - Baffert horse under Tyler Baze is one good reason, 386 Tomlinson for the distance is another. Liking the consistent pattern of workouts and that Baffert can win with first-timers (12 for 86). Baze is a steady hand.
#6 EDWARDIAN - Would be an upset if this improving colt doesn't wire this field. Not as well-bred as some, and the Beyers here are perhaps a bit low for such an ambitious class, but you've got to respect the seasoning this horse already has. I'd like him a great deal better with a more lively workout regimen.
#7 FORWARD COMMITMENT - Here's the deal... Espinoza's only taken one other mount out of Dan Hendricks' barn all season, and he chooses this spot for his second. Hendricks is a miracle worker with the young horses, winning at a 26% clip. I'd like him a bit better with a better Tomlinson number for the distance and a couple of bullets scattered in the workouts, but Espinoza's actions tell me this one's a contender.
#8 NEWSWORTHY - Can Mandella win with this horse? Yes, and here's why. This horse is bred to be a sprinter, and if you examine the workout patterns, you'll see Mandella challenged this horse with an added couple of furlongs to last week's workout - and he responded. He's fit, he's in fighting shape, and Arroyo and Mandella have scored together on a few big prices (2-5, $6.88 average payout) over the meet. Can't toss.
PICK! #8 (3/1), #6 (3/1), #7 (4/1), #4 (9/2)
RACE SIX - One and one sixteenth on the turf - OC25K/N1X - Cal-bred F&M
The pace is likely to be brisk, with #6 SPECIAL HEATHER and #7 STAR VOYAGER vying up front, with #2 RAN FOR THE DOUGH likely to be close or pushing as well. Since we're on the grass, horses from off the pace have a significant shot - especially if the three pacesetters decide to go after each other early. Toss #3 (Tomlinsons for dist/surf say no, bounce factor), #4 (bounce, lesser claiming class), #5 (trainer%, layoff, uninspiring workouts), #8 (gave her a writeup below),
#1 SILBER - Here are the plusses... Broke her maiden in MSW class, has three straight solid showings here on the DMR turf, posting mid/high 70s Beyers and closing successfully (but not fully) from off the pace each time. Here are your negatives... She's being turned around after three days, her trainer isn't anyone special, and neither is Clinton Potts on the saddle. Also, her career-best Beyer was hit two back at 79. She'll need at least that here. Think she gets it after racing on Wednesday? Well, she did it before in 2005 - twice. Very, very interesting.
#2 RAN FOR THE DOUGH - I really wanted to toss this horse, but the Espinoza factor tells me no. The best case scenario for this horse is a speed duel up front with #6 and #7 pushing, and the deuce sitting a few lengths off comfortably pacing the rest of the pack. Frankly, I can't eliminate that possibility. That being said, I don't like this mare's turf form much, and she's being brought back off a layoff to a race that's not her forte. If she recovers her 2004 form on the grass, she'll be tough. If she can lay the hell off the pace, that is.
#6 SPECIAL HEATHER - Solis and Gallagher turning around a gate-to-wire winner from an Allowance-class field? Consistent low-80s Beyers over last two? Consistent workout pattern? Despite the low Tomlinsons for both surface and distance, I still say this is a solid play. The only thing that holds this mare back is a speed duel with #2 and/or #7. That's not really beyond possibilities, unfortunately.
#7 STAR VOYAGER - These AOC races with lifetime win restrictions can often be treated like Maiden races. In other words, watch for the better competition to start winning their way out of N1X class, and pair that with an improving filly on the rise. That's #7 Star Voyager. Loving her consistent results in both the finish column (2/2/2/1 over her last four, all on turf), and her Beyer lines (76/81/79 over last three). She's absolutely ready to move forward, despite the egregiously ugly Tomlinson numbers for surface (184) and distance (317).
#8 SILK KERCHIEF - Here's why you don't trust no-name trainers with unraced horses... In twelve lifetime starts, this filly has run four dirt sprints (broke maiden in one), four dirt routes (won one that was moved to the dirt from the turf), and three turf routes. Despite less-than-inspiring breeding for the surface, they continue to try the grass. Guess it makes sense, three of her five career-best Beyers were on the grass. But take those numbers with a grain of salt, her splits were actually faster on the dirt.
#1a VATCHESVENDETTA - I'll bet you a dollar right now they scratch the #1 and let the #1a run in her place. It'd be a smart move, despite the 1-17 lifetime record. This horse is a bastion of consistency, hanging mid 70s Beyers on grass routes all over the great state of California. She took awhile to break her maiden, and she may take awhile to break N1X class, but I'm betting the former was due to the MSW level of competition, and the latter scenario won't loom as a problem. She's got good turf route breeding, and she can run with these.
#9 LADY TRUFFLES - 1-5-0 over eight, but improving. I like her less on the grass than dirt, however.
PICK! #1a (5/2), #7 (5/2), #6 (7/2), #1 (4/1), #2 (9/2)
RACE SEVEN - MSW53K, 6F, 2YO Fillies
Three of eleven have raced, only #4 CASH INCLUDED has shown signs of life on the track. Pass on #6 (over her head)
#3 QUICK LITTLE MISS - Playing the Key Race angle, at least two in her last race (May 25th) came out to win their next. I'm not enamored of her effort in that one, but she's bred well as a sprinter. Wish her workouts were a little more inspiring.
#4 CASH INCLUDED - Can't toss a horse that's raced, although fourth by thirteen and change isn't anything to get worked up about. Her workouts are gawdawful, and I can't trust Howard L. Zucker to turn out a winner here.
#1 HILOGOLD - Jeanine Sahadi brought a small barn down to Del Mar, but she's 3-1-1 over eight races, and that ain't bad. Anything she throws a number on here gets attention from me at this point. Looks fit enough to succeed.
#5 GOUT DE TERROIR - Maybe has turned a corner over her last four workouts, but I can't support with the rest of these.
#7 SMOKIN ANNE - Hate the connections here, but Hess gets 21% of two year olds across first. She's also lugging a 386 Tomlinson to the line, which is fairly competitive in this class. Love her Smoke Glacken pedigree.
#8 REALANDSPECTACULAR - Workouts suggest a good start and smart ride might allow her to wire this field. Tyler Baze could see to that.
#2 BUILT FOR SPEED - I want to toss, but can't. Canani and Flores are hitting 24% winners together this year, and despite the ho-hum workouts, she's been steadily out on the track. Still, liking others more.
#1a GOTTA HAVE HER - See comments above about Sahadi, Jeanine. This one will be a turfer someday, liking Espinoza onboard today.
#2b MARVELOUS MARCIA - Canani and Pedroza hitting 23%, 19% at meet. Like workouts here better than her entry mate's.
#9 SEKIRA - Competitive Tomlinsons combined with Dan Hendricks' magic touch (26%) on 2YO, and this one's worth watching. Liking the Solis hookup too, he's 21% alone, 27% with Hendricks at the meet.
PICK! #9 (2/1), #1 & #1a (5/2), #7 (3/1), #8 (3/1)
RACE EIGHT - The Palomar GII - One and one sixteenth on the turf, F&M 3YO+
Let's play "Three Reasons Why and Why Not..."
#2 THREE DEGREES - Why? Try: (a) Irish horse bred for the grass handled by an Irish trainer, (b) Ran his final nine-sixteenths in (roughly) :52 and 1 in his last, closing from as far back as sixth against some also in this field, (c) Second-off angle leaves room for an improvement into a high-nineties Beyer. Why not? Try: (a) Might have peaked last summer with her G2 Honeymoon BC Handicap win, (b) Gallagher not doing well (2-30) in graded stakes, (c) Hasn't cracked 100 on the Beyer meter.
Still liking this filly's closing burst. You can toss the GII on the dirt in January and see a consistent high-nineties form from off the pace.
#3 POLYFIRST - Why? Try: (a) Took out Three Degrees and Mea Domina in the Osunitas last out, (b) Hit 100 on the radar gun after a solid 91 in an OC race in July where she beat Lock and Key for the place, (c) Mandella is 22% to win in graded stakes, 20% returning winners. Why not? Try: (a) Was 13-1 in the Osunitas, and had never won a stakes before over fifteen prior, (b) Beyer last out was +9 over career best, explainable by second-off angle - is return to form far behind?, (c) She's seemingly in way over her head.
Polyfirst actually has been coming home faster than Three Degrees, hence the better Beyers and results. My head tells me she's severely outclassed here, but my gut thinks she's improved enough to contend.
#4 STAR PARADE - Why? Try: (a) Losing to Healthy Addiction and Happy Ticket in a GII by only three and a quarter is nothing to be upset about, (b) This will be her 22nd graded stakes race in a row, with an overall record of 6-4-5, (c) Average Beyer over her last three is a gaudy 101. Why not? Try: (a) 226 Tomlinson for the turf, (b) is seven years old, (c) has never won or placed in a turf race in her career (0-0-1 over 5).
#5 AMORAMA - Why? Try: (a) Ran as the 5/2 favorite in the Mabee over this course in late July, (b) Placed in this race last year to a very good horse in Intercontinental, (c) Frankel/Nakatani are hooking up for 33% winners at the meet. Why not? Try: (a) Hasn't won a stakes race since the Mabee... in 2005, (b) 0-3 hitting the board in her last three, including an ungraded stakes, (c) Nothing suggests she's in peak form.
#6 ISLAND FASHION - Why? Try: (a) Last 26 races have been graded stakes, 21 of those GI, (b) Record across those is 5-4-3, with a handful of these races against the boys, (c) Canani and Court get to play the second-off angle in this race. Why not? Try: (a) In five lifetime stakes races on the turf, her record is 0-1-1, with a show effort in what looks to be a fairly pedestrian Mabee in late July, (b) She hasn't been one of the best horses on the track since 2004, (c) Her recent form is littered with horses like Star Parade and Amorama - in other words, horses she'll face today.
#7 SHARP LISA - NOPE
#8 SINGALONG - Why? Try: (a) Her maiden races were highly competitive, seasoning her well for stakes class, (b) Chartable and obvious pattern of improvement leads me to believe last out's career-best Beyer isn't a bounce scenario fluke, (c) Tomlinsons for surface and distance are very solid. Why not? Try: (a)Hasn't raced in graded company before, has some talent around her for the first time, (b) Wildly unseasoned compared to most of these, (c) Workout pattern is uninspiring.
I can't shake loose the thought that she might surprise. I don't know if I want to leave her behind...
#9 SHINING ENERGY - Why? Try: (a) Recent stakes efforts are solid and consistent, (b) Canani and Espinoza are hitting for 40% winners this year, while Canani giving a horse a break is good for 24%, (c) Workouts have been very solid lately. Why not? Try: (a) Field in last two graded stakes haven't been tough, only hit the board in one (win, GI Gamely), (b) Her wins haven't been against amazing fields, (c) There is no "c."
Put me solidly in the corner of this horse. She's got a good history on the turf, seems to want every bit of one and a sixteenth, and Espinoza has been absolutely lethal at Del Mar. I don't think we've seen her best yet, and if she doesn't need one to warm up, we might get it. Remember, this horse has been given 30-60 days plus prior, and dropped into GI races on the turf with solid success. Liking her a lot.
#10 BERBATIM - There's not enough to support this horse coming off a layoff...
#11 MEA DOMINA - Why? Try: (a) Has proven she can wire a graded stakes field on the turf, (b) First off layoff was a good tuneup with positive results, now this is the second-off angle in play, (c) Can hit low 100s on the Beyer radar if she improves. Why not? Try: (a) Even without pace pressure, closers are a safer bet on turf, (b) McAnally is 0-23 on the second-off angle, 5-60 all year teaming up with Tyler Baze, (c) Two wins, two totally off the board in four graded stakes tries.
Despite the pessimistic tone, I think this is your second choice behind Shining Energy. She's a solid turf performer who should step forward off a competitive last race, and should give McAnally a chance to break the "ofer" on his second-off angle percentages. Good play here.
PICK! #9 (9/5), #11 (5/2), #2 & #3 (7/2), #8 (9/2)
RACE NINE - $16K Claiming, one and one sixteenth miles, 4YO+
Pace should be made by #3 MADE CENTS, and pressed by #1 GOLD BRIDLE and #6 FLYER MINE. #7 CHESTER'S CHOICE and #2 NORWAY HOUSE have shown aptitude in closing from off the pace. Toss #6 (Trainer%, inconsistent Beyers), #8 (Trainer%, inconsistent trainer intent, Tomlinsons).
#1 GOLD BRIDLE has great recent Beyers and is taking a significant drop in class to face these. I have to assume Doug O'Neill knows what he's doing, which is likely trying to hit a nice score for his owners before unloading the horse. Like him pushing this pace.
#2 NORWAY HOUSE is interesting for his closing ability and recent efforts at higher levels. If April/May's form returns, he'll have enough of a kick to be a factor deep in the stretch. I think that's a longshot with these connections though.
#3 MADE CENTS looks like he wants the pace, and should get it. He surprised at 7/1 last out in 10K claiming, this is definitely a step up. I still think that despite the easygoing workout patterns, he might be primed for an improve. Prefer others, though.
#4 KING MOBAY gets the Espinoza/Mullins connection, and has to be in the mix due almost solely to the upgraded connections. He was good enough to go out in #10K class as a 2/1 post-time favorite, maybe we'll get 9/2 here?
#5 FINAL FINALE comes out of a non-winning barn (Ed Moger), but is in a logical spot to score. I like his Beyer pattern, he appears fit and ready to run. I would like to see a healthier closing kick, like we saw in May at Golden Gate.
#7 CHESTER'S CHOICE out of Mike Mitchell's barn gets the advantage of Mitchell's second-off (23%), won last (28%), and Pedroza (35%) percentage connections. Oh, and he's the only horse in the field consistently hitting 90 on the Juggs gun. Yes, please.
PICK! #7 (9/5), #4 (5/2), #5 (7/2), #3 & #1 (9/2), #2 (5/1)
RACE TEN - MSW56K, One and one eighth on the turf, 3YO+
First, toss career losers (#6, TH PRAISE) and horses that couldn't get it together with a drop into MCL class (#7 PARTY CRASHER, #8 KINGS FANTASY). Next, toss the ones who haven't found their legs yet (#3 TRANSDUCTION GOLD, #5 PYRRHIC VICTORY, #10 TWICE UNBRIDLED). After that, you're left with four:
#1 TUMBAGA was pulled from Bobby Frankel's barn and turned an improvement at this class, distance and surface last out. I worry the Tomlinsons aren't there for a turf victory (297), but these aren't Breeders' Cup-caliber horses we're dealing with here.
#2 AWESOME GEM has the closing kick I think could really play here, but he's only shown it at 6.5F, despite Tomlinsons indicating he wants more. His ability on turf is in question, but he has experience on the surface, and Dollase is 21% going from the main track to the grass.
#4 CITY SWAGGER also has a little history on the turf, and probably made his move too early in his last effort on the grass for it to have made a difference. I think he stays a little closer to the pace this time, and maybe Canani's 25% second-off angle works its magic.
#9 FIREBIRD SWEET comes out of the same dirt sprint as #2 AWESOME GEM, but he was only able to move up for fourth. I like him to bounce somewhat, but that could still allow him to factor.
PICK! #1 (2/1), #2 & #4 (3/1), #9 (9/2)
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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