Mountaineer Race Track, May 20, 7:00 ET

Race of the Day, May 20.

Mountaineer Race Track, Chester, West Virginia.

Race 1, Maiden Special Weight, Turf, 3 and up, 1 mile and 70 yds. Purse: $19,400

We’re returning to Mountaineer for our customary early week visit with a deep field of maidens routing on the turf. None of these horses have won a race before, but every one has raced before.  While this helps to reduce some of the unknowns, several horses are trying the turf for the first time.  There’s always a chance that Mountaineer won’t run on the turf because of the weather.  We’ll talk about that contingency at the end.

Prince Zurs (#9, #4-1) should be your rightful favorite.  He’s run fast enough on the turf before, and he’s yet to run a bad race in his short career.  Lotta Heat (#4, 3/1) ran well in his debut in early 2013 on turf, but hasn’t been back since, opting for polytrack.  Despite the nice debut, Lotta Heat has stuggled in every outing since. Mr. North Woods (#5, 5-1) and Dramatist (#1, 9/2) have competitive turf performances in their past.  Dramatist is lightly raced and is making his second start of a very long layoff.  It would seem he’s at least one more away.  Mr. North Woods has raced 10 times and earned 3 seconds and a third.  He has ample turf experience, racing six times previously. But he’d need to recapture his old form having not raced since the December.  Again, that seems unlikely in this situation.  Of the horses who have never tried turf, Lucky Luminaire (#8, 8-1) has the most upside, although he would need to improve substantially on the new surface.  Deshawn Parker, who was injured on Sunday and is the best turf rider on the ground, was slated to ride.

Questions:

  1. How low will the price be on Prince Jurs?  He should be the favorite, but he won’t be 4-1.
  2. Is Lotta Heat off form, or does he just want to get back to the turf?  If he thrives on the turf, he is a real threat to Prince Jurs.
  3. Can Mr. North Woods or Dramatist recapture old speed?

Analysis:

If the race is run on turf, Prince Jurs is a well-deserving favorite.  If he doesn’t like the course or otherwise doesn’t run his race, it becomes a wide-open affair, which could yield a price. If the race is moved to dirt, there will be several scratches which will change the race, and I’ll update the post (and on twitter) accordingly.  Tune in at 6:45 Eastern Time on Twitter @alldayracing.

Update:  

The race has been moved off the turf, which adds some risk to Prince Jurs.  He’s fast on turf, but never run on dirt.  Scat Daddy has shown propensity with turf runners, so there might be some risk with a move to dirt.  Scratch Lotta Heat and  Mr. North Woods  If Prince Jurs doesn’t like the dirt,  Lucky Lumiere is your likeliest winner.  After that, it becomes slim pickings. Ten Tequilas (#3, #10) is a factor returning to routing.  Taylor’s Point (#2, 8-1) probably wants a wet track,  Dramatist stays in, and while probably needs a race, may still be fast enough to claim this one if Prince Jurs and Lucky Luminaire falter.

Recent Triple Crown History at Belmont

Recent history has been unkind to winners of the first two legs of the Triple Crown.  Let’s review the past ten years:

2003:  Funny Cide The plucky NY-bred beat heavily favored Empire Maker in the Kentucky Derby and romped in the Preakness while Empire Maker rested.  Watch what happened when they met in the Belmont:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2JfzR-dTtk]

2004:  Smarty Jones “It’s been 26 years.  It’s just one furlong away.”  Heartbreak.

2008:  Big Brown The least compelling recent Triple Crown attempt, likely due to the scandals surrounding trainer Rick Dutrow.  Still, I thought he’d win.  I never expected this.

2012:  I’ll Have Another Quite possibly the most disappointing of them all.  He scratched the day before the race due to injury and was promptly retired.  We never got to see him attempt the race.  It was like Wally World was closed.

Race of the Day for Monday, May 19 @6:00 P.M.

Race of the Day, May 19, 2014

Hastings Racecourse, Vancouver, BC

Race 4, Maiden Special Weight, 6 1/2 furlongs, Fillies and Mares, Purse: $25,000

On a relatively quiet racing Monday, we take our first trip out of the United States to charming Hastings Racecourse in  Vancouver, Canada. Today is Victoria Day, a holiday up north, and what better way to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday with a a special racing card!  We’ll focus the 4th race,  a maiden special weight affair with 10 entrants. Maidens are horses that have never won a race.  There are tons of reasons for this. Perhaps they’ve never raced before, or just aren’t very fast, or have been racing at too competitive a level.  Or perhaps they’ve been growing and learning and are ready to break through today.  These maidens are a higher class of maidens — the winner should be more than fast enough to win more races in her career.

Champagne Gold (#6, 5/2) is the morning line favorite. Trained by Troy Taylor, she is ridden by Mario Gutierrez, the jockey who guided I’ll Have Another to Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories. She’s making her first start, so we really don’t know how fast she will be.  She’s well-bred as a sprinter, and, if she likes racing, has to be considered a factor. But even good horses don’t win their debuts, and if she is a very short price, there should be value elsewhere. Dig That (#1, 9/2) has performed well at this level in her previous five starts, finishing as close at 3 3/4 lengths a few back.  She should improve making her second start of the layoff.  She is piloted by apprentice Corrine Andros, who won four races the other day.  Apprentice riders are given a break in the weight that they are required to carry. This gives them a slight advantage, and it encourages trainers to give unknown riders a chance. If the young rider just happens to be really skilled and on their way to multi-national prominence, this turns into a huge advantage. It’s too early to tell if Andros is that jockey, but she’ll be fun to watch today.

Fire Beauty (#8, 6-1) is quite similar to Dig That. She ran a solid second last time, and looks to improve second off the layoff for trainer, Mel Snow, who does well in this position.  The outside post suggest a slightly harder trip. Flatter You (#9, 7/2) is another who ran well off the layoff last time, and should improve today.  She’s a bit slower, but has every right to improve today. Island Rain (#2, 15-1) makes her second start after a solid debut.  Her trainer, David Forster, usually doesn’t have his horses debut strong, so this one might show some potential today, especially with the extra half-furlong. Lady at War (#3, 15-1) ran a solid race in her return last time.  She’s a hair slower than these, and would need some real luck to pull it out today.  Far Niente (#10, 8/1) runs for trainer Craig MacPherson, who has won with 4 of the 5 horses he’s raced this year so far.  The far outside post could cause some trouble, but an improved effort puts her right in the mix.

Questions:

  1. How good (and ready) is Champagne Gal?  There are other serious contenders here, and Champagne Gal would have to be really good to beat them all in her first race.  They all have racing experience.  Could it happen?  Absolutely, but there’s always real risk with first-time starters.
  2. Which of the 2nd-time starters will improve?  Island Rain and Far Niente very well could improve enough to win.
  3. Will Fire Beauty, Flatter You, and Dig That improve or regress off the layoff?  It could have brought them better into condition, or it could have overworked them.
  4. Will Corinne Andros stay in the winning zone?  While the jockey usually isn’t the controlling factor, a jockey with positive momentum might be more confident and take good chances.

Analysis:

Champagne Girl could win by 5 lengths, but she also may need a race or two, or may not even be that good.  If you can get past her, you have a number of solid mid-odds choice.  Fire Beauty and I Dig That and Flatter You are all intriguing, as is big longshot, Island Rain. It will be fun to see how the public bets this race, and whether there is good support for Champagne Gal, which could give a good betting opportunity.  All Day Racing will be livehosting this race on twitter @alldayracing at 6:00 p.m. ET.  See you this evening!

 

 

Preakness Recap: How Champions Look

Greatness comes from everywhere.  Even from a $2,500 Stud Fee and a $8,000 mare.  California Chrome looked all the part of a champion today.  Social Inclusion ran well — right up to him on the turn — and California Chrome had more.  When Ride on Curlin made a solid run at his down the final furlong, I yelled at the TV “DIG DEEP!” as to implore the big fella to fight on for another hundred yards.  He obliged, quite willingly.

Ride on Curlin ran well out of the Derby, and Social Inclusion was solid off both the injury and the foot bruise.  Not sure that anyone else really impressed at all in this group.  There will be plenty of return shooters from the Kentucky Derby in three weeks at Belmont, plus some notable new shooters, like Tonalist and Commisioner, who both come ran in the Peter Pan Stakes.

It will be an exciting three weeks, with coverage of the sport at its likely highest level since Smarty Jones’ Belmont try in 2004.  We’ll be back with the race of the day on Monday at around 6:00 ET with the 4th race from Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver.

Quick Thoughts about Every Preakness Horse

#1. Dynamic Impact developed late but still well below these. Has some style flexibility which could be an asset from rail.

#2. General A Rod is a notch below these.  I’d like him in the Indiana or Iowa Derby later this summer.

#3. California Chrome is best on paper.  If he wins, he’ll become the biggest public horse since Smarty Jones.

#4. Ring Weekend hasn’t moved forward since the Tampa Bay Derby.  Seems a stretch.

#5. Bayern is intriguing.  Talented, but will he relax?  Pedigree questions as well.

#6. Ria Antonia doesn’t belong in this race.  Not terribly sure why she is.  I guess anything can happen.

#7. Kid Cruz has the right style, but may not be fast enough to win here.  He’s going to be coming in the final furlong!

#8. Social Inclusion is as fast as California Chrome.  Can he survive the fast pace, and if so, can he match California Chrome’s heart and will to win?

#9. Pablo Del Monte is another pace factor among many.  Could appreciate the added distance in the stretch.

#10. Ride on Curlin is a closing threat.  An improvement is needed, but not impossible.

Four Questions for the Preakness

This is the easiest rooting race all year.  We’d all like to see the Derby winner, California Chrome (#3, 3-5), heading off to Belmont with a chance at the Triple Crown.  You should root for him.  But whether you should bet him or not — especially at the dangerously low price of 3/5 — is another story all together. At times like these, I’m a huge proponent of rooting with your heart, but backing horses with your head. This doesn’t imply that California Chrome isn’t the best on paper — just like in Louisville two weeks ago, he is.  No one has run faster than him.  He ran a slow Derby, but it was still faster than anybody else. That is a huge point, and speed is never to be ignored. The key to analyzing this race is to figure out what the important data is and to ignore all the noise — like the feelings in your heart — that get in the way.

The race boils down to four key questions:

Will California Chrome continue to run at a high level or will the constant exertion tarnish his form?  

If he runs his best race, he is likely very hard to beat.  But it’s hard to know whether that will happen.  All the time, horses don’t run well who were supposed to be contenders. They are not machines.  If he falters, it opens up the race.

Will there be greater pace in this race than the Derby? 

The general thought is that there will be, but this is always a dangerous question. Jockeys can see the presence of pace on paper before the race, and this young horse may be able to adopt a new style.  So, it’s an imperfect and risky base for your handicapping.

How much will Kid Cruz (#7, 20-1) be able to close at Pimlico?

The Preakness has a reputation as a front-running race, but horses can close at route consistently in Baltimore.  If Kid Cruz is good enough, and he’d have to improve to do so, then he could.  Certainly have to like him to hit the board.

Is Social Inclusion (#8, 5-1) better than California Chrome?

He ran with a blistering pace in the Wood Memorial after a sensational effort at Gulfstream where we soundly beat the highly-regarded Honor Code. He missed the Derby by finishing third in that race — otherwise, he would likely would have been a factor there.  He’s plenty fast, and if the pace is lighter, he very well may have more in the tank than California Chrome.

How you answer these questions should help you find your horse for Saturday’s Preakness!

Pimlico Special, G3, Purse: $300,000 5:52 ET

I watched the 2006 Pimlico special from an unfurnished living room in South Burlington, VT.  We saw the U.S. debut of Invasor, who would later go on to win the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic, 2007 Dubai World Cup, and be named Horse of the Year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCydlbYkGM0

I’m not sure there’s a horse of Invasor’s stature in here, but there are some nice looking classic division colts.  The race begins with Revolutionary (#6, 5-2) who was 3rd last year in the Derby behind Orb.  Since then, he looked dull in the Donn but raced well in the Oaklawn Handicap, finishing behind Will Take Charge.  Revolutionary is fast enough to win here and he should like this distance.  But he has a knack for inconsistency and, while he’s the best on paper, he doesn’t dominate the field.

Moreno (#3, 7-2) wants the lead, but there will be competition for it — I’d be surprised if he didn’t fold off the board in the final 100 yards.  Golden Lad (#4, 6-1)  and Valid (#1, 10-1) also have designs on it.  Valid is taking a step up in class, but ran the best race of his life routing in the mud at Gulfstream.  I expect his price to drop.  Cat Burglar (#2, 4-1) has earned this shot.  He’s raced well in Southern California, but he’d need to improve to find the winner’s circle here. Carve (#5, 5-1) is trained by Brad Cox, who has been on fire lately.  The horse is making his third start of the layoff and has a versatile off-the-pace style. Prayer for Relief (#8, 12-1) is getting a bit long in the tooth.  He’d need to find past speed for it to happen.  It’s not unheard of for that to happen with the recent switch to Dale Romans.  He could be a factor if others don’t move forward.

Questions:

  1. Will Revolutionary bring his A-game today?  If so, he’s hard to beat.
  2. Will Valid be crazy good on the mud again?
  3. Is Carve good enough to win a graded stakes?  He tried earlier in the Asmussen barn, but he seems like an improved horse under Cox.

Analysis

Revolutionary will be the likely favorite, but he is unreliable.  He certainly is a strong contender, but the price should lead you elsewhere.  Carve has always had potential and has been realizing it lately.  With a decent price around 5-1, he could be a very nice pick.   Valid deserves some consideration, especially if he floats over 10-1.

Pimlico, May 15, Claiming 7.5K, 1:38 PM ET

Race of the Day, May 15, 2014

Pimlico Racecourse, Baltimore, Maryland

Race #2, Claiming $7.5K, Non-winners of 2 races lifetime, Purse $16K

1:38 P.M. ET

We’ll kick off the next three days from Pimlico as we try to get a bead on the track condition for the Preakness.  Track Bias — whether the track’s surface favors early speed — is a huge factor, and one that is often incorrectly applied by the public.  We’ll be looking for any that could affect our play for the Preakness Stakes of Saturday.

A lower level affair, a compact field of six horses will go two turns.  With only six horses, we won’t expect too much of a price, but hopefully can still find good value. The favorite is Sachicomula (#2, 7/5), a speed horse who is trying routing for the first time and always returns to a class level he did well at previously. He has a bevy of second place finishes, and is 1 for 16 in his career, and has been off form lately.  Be careful here — horses are 1 for 16 for a reason, although the drop in price is welcoming.  Those are still many questions for a 7/5 favorite.

Paycheck (#4, 2-1)  has been putting close but losing efforts at this level at the distance and at this track. Those are all good signals.  He’s consistent and  improving in the Kathleen Dibben barn.  Moravitz (#5, 3-1) moves to the Javier Gonzalez barn, where he ran slightly worse than Paycheck last time out.  Moravitz has a higher ceiling than Paycheck—both of them required the lead to win their maiden race.  It is most likely a question of which horse is in better shape.  Flattering (#6, 6-1) will come late with a mild kick.  He’s 1 for 21 and has been doing most of his running already at this level.  Lord Earl Grey  (#3, 15-1) is bit slower and does his best work on turf.  Blinkers off is always intriguing — its unsure how a horse will react. Stockton Bad Ben (#1, 30-1)  has been simply terrible lately and would need a monumental reversal of form.  Unlikely.

Questions:

  1. How low a price would you take a Sachicomula?  He’s dropping and consistently faster than many of these.  But he’s had trouble finding the winner’s circle — will that be a habit today?
  2. How will Moravitz react to the new barn?  The talent is there and with some improve, it’s his race.
  3. Will no one else improve and give the race to Paycheck?  Will there by a decent price for this?

Analysis

Several risk factors and probably not great prices with the smallish field.   Paycheck catches my eye the most for his consistency.  He’s making his fourth start and has shown good early speed and final times.  Both Moravitz and Sachicomula have not raced particularly sharp lately.  Both  horses can improve, but this is a risky business, especially if you are not getting a good price.  Good luck and see you on twitter @alldayracing. 

Belmont, Maiden Special Weight, May 14 @ 5:28 ET

Race of the DayMay 14, 2014

Belmont ParkElmont, New York, Race 9

5:28 ET, Maiden Special Weight, Turf, Fillies & Mares, New York-Bred, Older, 1 Mile, Purse: $60K

The bad weather has passed, and the turf is firm at Belmont Park. Today’s race of the day is for maidens (horses that have yet to win a race) and on the Belmont Outer Turf course.  Belmont has two turf courses, which enables the running of many turf races. I think it’s the best top-to-bottom turf racing in North America (although a good argument can often be made for Southern California racing or the Keeneland meet as well.)  The races often have deep story lines and often present good betting opportunities.

The morning line favorite here is Lady Kressa (#9, 3-1), a David Donk trainee ridden by the quite turf-capable, Irad Ortiz Jr.  Lady Kressa, a three-year old filly out of value turf sire, Stonesider, looks the part on paper with some great works, with one bit exception — neither Stonesider nor Donk has ever had a first time turf runner win.  Now, that doesn’t mean she can’t win, (see The Black Swan) but it does raise some questions.  Is there anywhere else to go?

Eddy’s Time (#3, 7/2) looked good off the layoff and could improve the second time back. She struggled in a paceless affair back in November, but should be a factor today.  Baby B (#4, 6/1) should be a pace factor, but would need to improve to find the winner’s circle today.  Tenacious Indeed (#6, 20-1) garners a deeper look.  Throw out that last start, as he tries turf and routing for the first time.  He’s unlikely, but threatens a possibility in an open race.  Piccolo Flats (#7, 12-1) moves from the Chad Brown barn and tries turf.  I think if he had turf prowess Brown would have tried it.  Sleek (#8, 6-1) is intriguing.  She routes for the first time on turf off a layoff for a trainer, Michael Hushion, that excels at both angles.  Jose Ortiz get the mount.   Nile Empress(#9, 4-1) tries grass for the first time for the Chad Brown barn.  He’d need to improve quite a bit to win and probably will be overbet.  The final contender is Laurenmychannelgirl (#10, 8-1) with the very capable apprentice, Taylor Rice.  A daughter of Afleet Alex, she’s bred to route and tries it for the first time for her aunt, Linda Rice.  Linda Rice’s horse typically need a race to get into shape, but this one still demands a second look.

Questions:

  1. How will Lady Kressa handle racing?  It’s a risk with every first-time starter.  She’s never raced before!
  2. Will Sleek improve at the route distance?
  3. Will Laurenmychanelgirl need a race or will she be sharp?

Analysis:

Lady Kressa looks good on paper, but she’s still a first time starter in a competitive field.  It’s tough to win first time out — even tougher when there are other strong contenders as there are here.  Sleek would need to improve, but that seems quite possible.  Eddy’s Time is, perhaps, the safest bet — a good performance is likely and she’s fast enough to win.

We’ll be on at 5:10 p.m. ET on twitter @alldayracing with a detailed look at prices

Mountaineer, Claiming 8:32 ET

Race of the Day, May 11, 2014

Mountaineer Race TrackChester, WV, Race 5, 8:32 ET

5 1/2f, Claiming $5K, Restricted to Fillies and Mares, non-winners of 2 races in six months, Purse $9.7K

We return to Mountaineer racetrack for one of their specialties — a conditioned claiming race.  Most horses at Mountaineer always run for a $5,000 tag (there are exceptions primary with allowance horses and younger maidens).  To maintain parity, they run a number of conditioned levels, typically based on either lifetime wins or wins in a preceding time period (usually either six months or a year.)  The horses in today’s race are better than most — they have each won a race — at any level — in the past 6 months.  Some of them, however, aren’t fast enough to win at this level and will race here until they can drop into a lower level (winners of no races in six months, winners of 1 race in a year), and we typically can find a few eliminations.  Distance is always an important factor at Mountaineer, with horses quite sensitive to the difference between 5 and 6 furlongs.

Waltzing Time (#1, 4-1) won on the lead at this level on April 22.  Last year, she raced in 5K claiming races, but they were unrestricted (any number of wins in any period) and she managed to win one last fall.  She’s had a long career at the Mountain (57 of her 76 lifetime starts) and has one 1/4 of all her starts at this distance.  Acacian Spice (#2, 3-1) won last time out, but at a lower level (horses that hadn’t won even one race in 6 months).  She is 0 for 6 at this distance.  This Cats On Fire (#3, 6-1) won at the harder non-winners of three level after the layoff, but seemed to fall off form against these last time.   A turnaround labels him a strong contender.  Sweet Moonbeam (#5, 12-1) is a notch below the others, but won at this level two back.  French Dawn (#6, 8-1) won at this level before, but seems to need another race or two to get back in racing form. Angel of Fire (#7, 5-1) has been solid since arriving at Mountaineer.  She changes barns, but is certainly fast enough to win here.  Shock Me (#9, 9-2) seems to have lost her best days. Sunday Choir (#10, 8-1) is a contender as well.  She switches to a lower percentage barn,  but gets some class relief, moving from open $5K claimers.  She starts on the way outside, though.

Questions:

  1. WIll Angel of Fire maintain his form for the new barn?  The barn wins less, but does well with them the first time.  If he does maintain his form, and there’s pace, he should win easy.
  2. Will This Cats on Fire rebound, or did she go off form?
  3. How will the outside post affect Sunday Choir?

Analysis:

This race seems to begin and end with Angel of Fire. The trainer switch from Brent Angelle raises some questions that demand that you get some bit of a price. Past Angel of Fire, the race is very deep, and certainly could be a place to find a price.  Sunday Choir shoes some promise and may offer the price that we’re looking for.

Tune in @allldayracing on twitter for live coverage!

Postscript:

Good pace, and Angel of Fire was the answer, paying $6.00 for a $2.00 win bet.  Sunday Choir looked sharp, but wilted in the stretch.  This Cats on Fire ran a solid race, but was never in real contention.  Waltzing Time was sharp, but Angel of Fire has a better set-up and was just a bit better.