Recap: From the Swale to the Big Cap, a Great Day of Racing

I kept a live diary of the big races today, including the Big Cap and the Kentucky Derby points races. I’ve added in the videos as well — scroll down for a list and embedded videos.

1:10 P.M. MT: Ready for Rye upsets odds-on Daredevil in the Swale. Ready for Rye ran within a head of Carpe Diem in his debut and a solid second to Barbados last out. Had more than Daredevil in the end; perhaps too short for him, although pedigree would seem to suggest otherwise. You never know how a horse is going to come back between 2YO and 3YO.

Speaking of the layoff, Carpe Diem from Tampa in a couple of hours.

1:50 PM: Here’s the workspace. Kentucky Derby whiteboard is coming this week.


Here’s what’s on tap:

  • Gotham, 2:50 MT
  • Gulfstream Park Handicap, 3:00 MT
  • Tampa Bay Derby, 3:23 MT
  • San Felipe, 3:57 MT
  • Santa Anita Handicap, 6:17 MT

In order of most anticipated:

  1. Santa Anita Handicap — anytime Shared Belief runs, it’s a must watch.
  2. Tampa Bay Derby — Excited for Carpe Diem, huge performance today, puts him possibly ahead of Dortmund.
  3. San Felipe — does Dortmund do something spectacular again?
  4. Gulfstream Park Handicap: Only a field of 6, but quite a top 4. Many familiar names, including Wicked Strong.
  5. Gotham — Should tell us more about the Withers. Competitive field.

2:50 P.M.: El Kabeir just changed my opinion of the Withers. I really liked him in the fall, but thought he was plateauing. But he ran great right there — looked great moving up the track, never seemed to be in doubt. May not have beaten anyone, and Secretariat is the only horse to pull the Gotham/Derby double. Muddy track wasn’t an issue, which bodes well for the possibility of a rainy day in Louisville. Very good looking horse and he deserves his place at Churchill Downs in May.

3:15 PM: Honor Code! That was thrilling — maybe the best thing in racing when a horse comes barreling down the stretch. That’s one serious animal and certainly deserves place at or near top in the handicap division.

3:30 PM: Tampa Bay post times are always late. Approaching the post for the Tampa Bay Derby. Danzig Moon is big potential. Ocean Knight could be the best of these now. Carpe Diem was just awesome last year. If he’s improved, watch out.

3:35 PM:  Carpe Diem! Sensational. He is a push-button horse — jockey just told him when he go. Loved what I saw. Depending on what Dortmund does, he possibly could be the new number #1 on the Top 5 next week.

4:15 PM: Dortmund was very solid and just won’t lose. He’s a stamina machine. Bolo really took to the dirt — I was impressed and think he will continue on to the Santa Anita Derby. Prospect Park really closed in nicely and continues to improve. He’s likely to be the new #5 with Bolo close behind.

6:30 PM: Shared Belief is an amazing animal. I actually think he’s getting better. He was best on paper; wow on track.

Nothing like a great day of racing! Have a great week.








An Amazing Saturday in February

Even though Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, I consider winter unofficially over after yesterday’s terrific day of racing.

Here are my top 5 moments of the day:

5. Far from Over rallies after blowing the break in the Withers.

Far from Over at the break was so bad that you may have been tempted to walk away if you had bet him. But sometimes being way off the pace is the place to be. Ran a 96 Beyer, good for this time of year. One to watch.

4. Constitution re-conquers Gulfstream; runs huge!

Constitution takes the mantle of best horse in training in the East…at least yesterday and over the Gulfstream surface. Ran a 113 Beyer in putting away the speedy Lea.

3. Irad Ortiz wins his 5th race at Aqueduct.

It’s been a challenging winter for New York Racing, but Irad Ortiz had one of the moment’s of the meet with 5 winners on yesterday’s card. He’s an aggressive rider to say the least, and he’s got a bright future.

Here’s his stakes win on Salutos Amigos earlier in the day (he won the first 3 races):

2. Dortmund isn’t finished.

I watch tons of racing. It’s why I named this site “All Day Racing.” But I don’t remember the last time I saw a horse rally like Dortmund did yesterday. He was finished, passed by Firing Line by almost a full length, when he just decided to stop tiring. Very impressive, and I’m starting to get behind the big guy. Super Beyer of 103.

1. Shared Belief hand ride to victory over California Chrome

Shared Belief is the best horse in the US and I have always thought him better than California Chrome (and was vocal on Twitter about him earlier in the day.) It was great to see him prove it on the track. I’ll continue to drop everything whenever Shared Belief is running — sensational athlete.

The Breeders’ Cup and “Stealing Money”

I wrote “Stealing Money from the Crowd” in anticipation of this year’s Breeders’ Cup. It was not a preview of particular races, but a description of two contrarian approaches that are quite useful at the races. I did, however, discuss one horse in the guide: Bayern, who won the Classic with a 113 Beyer speed figure. Regardless of the controversy regarding the start and his (possible) interference with Shared Belief, he ran far better than expected by the public. The public’s concerns about him, as usual, were unwarranted.

Here are the relevant sections from Stealing Money from the Crowd about Bayern:

Screenshot 2014-11-03 08.20.48Screenshot 2014-11-03 08.23.14

The approach which I used for Bayern involves an analysis of public opinion before and after races. It is explained in detail in the book. In addition, the guide also discusses the favorite-longshot bias, which year after year, provides value and can be especially useful in finding legitimate singles. Both of these approaches work on any major raceday (i.e. stakes on Saturday) and can be a useful to addition to your game.

In honor of Bayern winning at 6-1 and the anniversary of publication, I’m making the guide available for free download. Enjoy!

Recapping Friday at the Breeders’ Cup

It was a mostly chalky start to the 2014 Breeders’ Cup. In the Juvenile Turf, Hootenanny paid the biggest price of the short day at 6-1, showing his mid-summer form was no fluke. Perhaps his price was buoyed by Ward’s struggles in top-class affairs, but this horse looked all the part of a champion.

In the Dirt Mile, Goldencents — who was an automatic favorite play at 3-5 — set wicked fractions, but still had enough to hold off Tapiture at the end. In the Juvenile Turf Fillies, Lady Eli displayed a mesmerizing turn of foot in showing that she’s the best 2YO filly — bar none — in America.

Finally, in the Distaff, Untapable took the mantle as the best filly or mare in the United States. Close Hatches, as expected, put up another clunker. When these great fillies quit, they quit. Don’t Tell Sophia closed well to finish 2nd.

Writing up tomorrow’s selections soon.  Good luck with your handicapping!

Image: Zeetz Jones, Copyright 2006.

Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Races

Here’s a quick rundown of today’s races:

Juvenile Turf: With scratch of Aktabantay, I’ll move my Euro money over to War Envoy, who has raced well in top competition for world-class connections. I’ll also include the well-regarded Startup Nation, tossing the last flop at odds-on, and hoping for a rebound.

Mile: If Goldencents is in fact 4-5 or lower, I will bet him alone to win. But, if he stays at even money or above, I’ll mix in exactas under Tapiture, and perhaps put Goldencents under other low-priced contenders as well (5-1 or lower).

Juvenile Turf Fillies:  Don’t have greatest read of Breeders’ Cup JT Fillies, and likely won’t play it very heavy. At most, I’ll put a small win ticket on Sivoliere, who makes her debut in the Chad Brown barn. He’s good with the all, and especially the ones he brings from Europe.

Distaff: This race feels chaotic. Untapable might be the best, but she’s facing older and I’m worried she regressed. I’m tempted by Euro L’Amour De La Vie. The dirt try is curious, but she’s run very well in past. I’ll play her if the odds are in the middle range, but will avoid her over 30-1. In that case, I’ll use her underneath. I’ll also watch the board for opportunities in the Distaff. I’m against Close Hatches, who may have lost her desire.

Image: Rennett Stowe, Copyright 2009.

The Breeders’ Cup Saturday Turf Races

I’ll focus on the Saturday Breeders’ Cup turf races as a group. This comprises the Turf Sprint, the Filly and Mare Turf, the Turf, and the Mile. Except for the Turf Sprint, these races are complicated by the presence of many international runners, primarily those who have raced in Europe. While we can gather a good sense of horse’s talent, these “Euros” usually are facing far different conditions than before in their previous races. First, the Santa Anita turf is notoriously firm, especially when compared with the giving surfaces of Europe. Second, many of them are adding Lasix for the first time, which can dramatically improve performance. Both of these factors create tremendous uncertainty for these horses, and generally for these races.

Not all uncertainty is bad, of course, but many of these Euros are bet heavily on the assumption (usually correct) that they are better than their American turf counterparts. Uncertainty works better with higher prices, which can occasionally be found on the European Imports.

The one exception is the Turf Sprint, run on the 6 1/2 furlong Downhill Turf course. This course caters to specialists, so I’m also looking for horses that have run well on it.

Here are some thoughts about each race:

Filly and Mare Turf: American Filly and Mare turf races were especially weak all summer, so I have very little interest in them, outside of Dayatthespa (#2, 8-1), who is the best of the bunch. But, more than her, I like Dank (#3, 5-2), who is the likely favorite and the defending champion. We already know she likes the firm turf and Lasix, which reduces the uncertainty. However, it will probably be tough to get a fair price on her — and something makes me nervous — so I’m going to roll the dice here and go with Fiesolana (#6, 8-1), who has several nice wins on her resume. I’m willing to toss the classy 7f try last out, and I like the stretchout to the longer distance. But not the largest of bets, and perhaps only half of a normal unit (I’ll be writing up bets tomorrow and posting live during the Breeders’ Cup)

Turf: Flintshire (#7, 7-2) exits a second place finish in the Arc and has quite the resume for Andre Fabre. Telescope (#1, 4-1) is another tremendously classy runner for Sir Michael Stoute. Both are the horses to  beat here, but only Telescope runs with Lasix. With that and the rest, I’ll lean towards Telescope, who sat out the Arc to aim for this race. The other Euro, former Irish Oaks champion Chicquita (#11, 8-1) seems overmatched, but her best bet is improving with Lasix. That’s not enough on its own, so I’ll stick with Telescope alone, but again not the largest of bets.

Mile: I’m pretty sure there will be “wiseguy” buzz for both Seek Again (#12, 6-1) and Obviously (#2, 8-1), but don’t be lured. Toronado (#5, 5-2) is a world-class miler, and is better than every horse in this field. He’s a double-sized win bet for me.

Turf Sprint: Local runner Ambitious Brew (#5, 12-1) loves this course and is fast enough to win here. The last was a prep for today, so I expect an improved effort against Home Run Kitten. No Nay Never (#14, 9-2) is a classy horse and might just be better than these anywhere. I’ll play these two — likely in a split win bet, weighted more heavily towards Ambitious Brew.

The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

On paper, the Dirt Mile may be the easiest Breeders’ Cup race in recent memory, and I only have about 100 words to say on it. It is defending champion and two-time G1 winner Goldencents against a bunch of G2 or lower horses. This includes 3YO’s Vicar’s in Trouble and Tapiture, who were always a notch below the best this year.

I expect Goldencents will be 4/5 or lower, which makes him an automatic play for me in this situation. This is a consequence of the favorite-longshot bias, a topic I discuss here in an article by Ziemba/Thaler. I trust the public when it comes to these sorts of plays.

My $100 play in this race is simple:

$100 win on Goldencents (at 4/5 or lower)

If he’s even money or higher, I’ll go heavier in exactas under Tapiture, and put Goldencents under other low-priced contenders as well (5-1 or lower).

Update: Goldencents is 3/5 on the board right now. He may rise to 4/5, but seems a lock to be a win bet here.

For much more on the favorite/longshot bias, check out Stealing Money from the Crowd, available here.

Image: John Athayde, Copyright 2005.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic

I’ve been prepping for this race all year. It started with the Derby preps, continued through the Kentucky Derby, and an in-person trip to the Belmont Stakes. I’ve covered the 3YO stakes throughout the summer, including many race previews here on All Day Racing. I also kept an eye on the older handicap division to get a good sense of those  contenders.  I rely upon this research in analyzing the marquee North American horse race, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

I’ve already discussed Shared Belief in two separate articles — one and two — and I see him as every bit of the legitimate favorite. That said, I only feel comfortable with an automatic 4/5 play, and I don’t see him being that low. The other horse who I have discussed is the enigmatic Bayern, who is an example of a public bias/mistake — as opposed to track bias — play that I cover in depth in the contrarian guide. Suffice to say here, he has several advantages and should be a square price (for more information on Bayern and more, check out the guide). Needless to say, I like Bayern a great deal. This race will likely come down to a very close finish between these two.

On paper, it appears that there are a number of other candidates. But their flaws are open to see. California Chrome was best when he was better than everyone. But, at the time, he still wasn’t that good, in absolute terms; his speed figures were always below average historically. Now that others have caught up, he isn’t as dominant. He could win, but don’t bet on it. Tonalist, a horse that I love and have supported on multiple occasions, seems to have a penchant for Belmont. In the recent past, he reminds me of Flat Out, who loved the Belmont track. That’s enough reason for me to pitch him out of the exacta; I much prefer that a horse be on his best for this race. V-E Day intrigues. He’s the horse that single-handedly made Saratoga at All Day Racing with nice paying wins in the Curlin (9-1) and the Travers (19-1). He originally wasn’t slated for this race, but that only sends me positive signals. Jimmy Jerkins isn’t coming here unless he thinks there’s a real good chance for a payday. Note, however, that V-E Day doesn’t need to find  the win spot with this $5 million purse. There’s $900K for second and $500K for 3rd. This is more than the winner receives for many G1 races.

Toast of New York deserves a strong mention, although he is trying conventional dirt for the first time. I still think he’s just a slight notch below the two best in here, but he’s probably the biggest risk to upset the party. He has shown excellent stamina already at 10 furlongs, which can be can this race’s biggest challenge. But, as for Toast of New York, he’ll be on tickets, as a real outsider threat for the win spot, if something goes a little bit wrong for the top two. The rest of the pack are just a notch below in my estimation. Cigar Street is getting some buzz, but he’ll have to be better than he’s ever been. That’s a tall task for this race.

Here’s how I would play $100 on the Breeders’ Cup Classic (as of Tuesday — will update with any changes):

$54 to Win: Bayern

$12 Exacta Box ($24): Shared Belief/Bayern

$1 4-horse Trifecta Box ($24):  Shared Belief, Bayern, Toast of New York, and V-E Day.

Even though I am hesitant about V-E Day’s win chances, I am going to put him in all positions. Too much precision, at least for my wagering, leads to a less return. Ultimately, Bayern is the key to the ticket. If he wins, we win. If he runs well with Shared Belief, we win. If he runs well with Toast of New York and V-E Day, we win even bigger. If he doesn’t run well, the other three must run well, but there still is this possibility. Of course, there is much more risk with exotic wagers, which is why over 50% of the total wager is in a win. Good luck!

Check out “Stealing Money from the Crowd,” a contrarian guide to the Breeders’ Cup. Available here and on Google Play. Coming soon to iBooks.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

After researching this year’s race, I have found what I expect to be a solid mid-price horse with a good chance to win. Read on for more. At the Breeders’ Cup, 2YO’s are asked to run 8.5 furlongs, which at Santa Anita is around two turns.

This race starts with two time G1 winner American Pharoah (that’s how it’s spelled — perhaps in honor of SNL’s Jay Pharoah?). He has plenty of speed and ran lights out over the track and at today’s distance in the G1 Frontrunner. To be fair, he hasn’t beaten much of anything and hasn’t rated successfully. When the highly-regarded Om got the lead on him in a maiden race, he didn’t run particularly well. However, American Pharoah’s behavior that day was especially unsettled, and it’s tough to draw too many negative conclusions from a horse’s first start.

Carpe Diem was scintillating in winning the Breeders’ Futurity, which was now on the new Keeneland dirt. His Beyer didn’t match the visual impressiveness of the performance. Yet, I’m a bit cautious of putting too much stock in the Keeneland Beyer, especially after only 3 weeks of racing on the track. Daredevil certainly must like the mud — he’s raced twice over wet tracks and been scintillating both times. He has every reason to be a good horse over a dry track, although it is a unknown, so you need to price accordingly.

Moving past the big three, Upstart is another who ran second last out in the slop at Belmont in the Champagne. He has been training well for Violette, who can train them when he gets a good one. Importantly, we still haven’t seen him go two turns, which creates both risk and profit possibility. Calculator is worth a serious longshot look. I like horses that sold at auction for many times their stud fees. Calculator’s sire, In Summation, only stands for $4k, but sold in April for $132,000. He ran a lifetime best in his first route, and may improve his second time out.

The two Aidan O’Brien international entrants are worth deeper looks. The Great War and War Envoy have not raced on dirt, although may very well handle it with War Front as their sire. Neither is terribly accomplished — with only a minor stakes for The Great War and some nice placings for War Envoy. One Lucky Dane had a tremendous maiden win in early October and goes straight to the Breeders’ Cup. Last year’s winner, New Year’s Day won this race straight out of a maiden for Baffert, although it took place one month earlier than One Lucky Dane’s win.

Without a dominant favorite here, I am looking for a potentially underrated horse, and I may have found that in Upstart, who still hasn’t raced around two turns. I trust Violette to have his horse in peak condition, and the work pattern suggest that he will be. I expect him to be about 8-1, although he could get forgotten a bit with the top three contenders (American Pharoah, Carpe Diem, Daredevil) getting more action. He’ll be a bet to win, and possibly in some exotics as well.

Check out “Stealing Money from the Crowd,” a contrarian guide to the Breeders’ Cup. Available here and on Google Play. Coming soon to iBooks.

Image: Lisa Andres, Copyright 2009.