Prairie Meadows, Allowance, 10:37 P.M. ET

Race of the Day, May 8, 2014

Prairie Meadows Racetrack, Altoona, Iowa, Race 8

10:37 PM EST, Allowance for non-winners of 2 lifetime. 1 Mile. Purse $30,500

Prairie Meadows Racetrack, an example of the racino vision at it finest, is our focus for their eighth race tonight.  I visited Prairie Meadows back in 2005, spending the night at a Holiday Inn near the track.  A racino is a combination of a casino and a racetrack, kind of a gambling free-for-all.  I was impressed. Beers were cheap, the weather was warm, and the casino was quite state-of-the art.  I won $20 playing Price is Right Slots.  It was a fun experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone, especially to local looking for a fun night.

Tonight’s race is the likeable “non-winners of two lifetime” allowance.  This differs from the slightly higher level “non-winners of one other than”allowances (n1x) which might include horses that have won plenty in the claiming or starter ranks.  This class of horses is likeable because it’s slightly easier than n1x, but this isn’t widely appreciated by the public.  So, often you can find a price on a subtle class drop.

The morning line favorite is Bruvver Max (#3, 9/5), a Kenny Smith trained/Terry Thompson piloted colt, who looked fantastic last time out. He cuts back in distance a small amount and drops from the N1X allowance.  He’ll likely face competition from Tap the Admiral (#1, 2/1), a Chris Richard second off the claim, who was just a bit slower than Bruvver Max last time out.

Questions:

  1. Will Tap the Admiral improve — at least enough to turn the tables on Bruvver Max — with the added time in the Richard barn?
  2. Will that large effort hurt the form of Bruvver Max and Tap the Admiral? Will someone be able to capitalize?
  3. If not the top two, who will be a contender?

Analysis:

On paper, it looks like a two horse race between Bruvver Max and Tap the Admiral. Bruvver Max ran faster last race, but Tap the Admiral could improve and also has the benefit of the rail, especially beneficial with the short run to the turn at this distance.  Both are coming off big efforts and may be a little dull.  Those looking for alternatives should take a look at Sheriff Curly closed slightly into a slow pace to win here last month and doesn’t face the toughest field here.  I’d keep an eye on his price.  Riot Act — an Awesome Again gelding — will be routing for the first time under his new trainer.  An improvement is not out of the question, but probably would need the other three to falter to factor.  

Postscript:

Bruvver Max was not hurt by the large effort and maintained his form by winning convincingly by 9 1/4 lengths.  He dominated this group — Tap the Admiral fell off form and finished last and Sheriff Curly closed, but was too far back to make a difference.  I doubt it would have mattered — Bruvver Max was too good. Riot Act finished next to last and didn’t show much.

See you tomorrow!

Belmont Park, Maiden Claiming, 2:22 P.M.

Race of the Day, May 7, 2014

Belmont Park (Elmont, NY), Race 3, Maiden Claiming $20K

2:22 P.M. EST, 6 1/2 furlongs, 3&up.  Purse:  $35K

Welcome back to beautiful Belmont Park, a racetrack which we will stop often during the summer.  Great racing at all levels.  Today, we’re focused on a group of maiden claimers running a slightly longer sprint in 6 1/2 furlongs.  Every horse in this race can be purchased for $30K — interested? Go see the racing secretary!

The even-money morning line favorite is Master Yank (#6, 1-1).  He’s making his NY-debut, after two races in South Florida.  The most recent effort was in a Maiden Claiming event ($35K) in which he finished a strong front-running second on a speed favoring Gulfstream track.  Now, about 5 weeks later, the four-year old gelding made his way to Belmont.

Despite the low morning-line, Master Yank is only one of several contenders in this race. Pillar of Strength (#4, 4-1)showed well last time out — running faster than Master Yank’s last out.  He has a style that should be favored by his first trip over the Belmont surface.  In Speight Ofitall (#3, 8-1) has outside connections, but certainly has the speed to compete.  Tony D (#2, 5-1) has run fast enough — it’s simply a question of whether he brings his best today.  Golden Doc (#7, 6-1) gets another start in the Davidson barn.  Another improve makes him a contender, and, at any rate, a speed factor.

Questions:

  1. How much better is Master Yank than the rest of the field?
  2. Will Pillar of Strength improve on the Belmont surface?
  3. Will Golden Doc be a speed factor?

Analysis:

Master Yank is a terrible favorite as he doesn’t even own the highest last race speed figure.  Pillar of Strength seems to be the best bet to come off the pace duel of Golden Doc and Master Yank.  There’s risk all around here though — even Nicholson (#5, 10-1) has an outside shot — so make sure that you get a price on your pick.  For those in the Pick 3 or Pick 4, I’d try to beat Master Yank here and would be willing to go wide to do it.

Postscript:

Master Yank looked vulnerable and he was.  He finished an off-the-board 4th, behind an impressive performance from much-the-best winner Pillar of Strength.  Golden Doc showed pace, but finished last.  Nicholson and In Speight Ofitall rounded out the trifecta.

Races like this happen across America all day and every day.  The public —- while better than you on average — make mistakes on favorites like this often. Having the courage to go against horses like Master Yank makes the difference between winning days and losing days.  Besides, it’s much more fun!  See you tomorrow.

Mountaineer, Maiden Special Weight 8:55 PM ET

Race of the Day, May 4, 2014

Mountaineer Race Track, Chester, WV, Race 6

Maiden Special Weight, 5f, 3 and up,  8:55 EST, Purse: $19,400

After a few days with the royalty of the sport, let’s take a trip to the Mountain.  Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, W.V., races about 10 months out of the year, Sunday through Wednesday, starting at 7:00 EST. It features all levels of racing, but mainly feasts of a steady diet of $5,000 restricted claimers.  Many horses will race at the Mountain towards the end of their careers.  It can make for some very interesting backstories and give a locale for some old tough warriors to earn their keep.

We have a maiden race and an allowance at that.  Some horses are here to win, some to prep for the eventual drop to maiden claiming.  Always pay special attention to horses that shipped from Turfway or Keeneland.  These horses are typically in better condition than locally raced horses.

Questions

  • Will Zion Hill (1, 12-1) be a first-timer of importance? We can check the board for clues.  If he’s under 6-1, he might be live.
  • Who is in better form, Pampero Storm (#6, 5-2) or Phil’s Wildcat (#7, 7-5)?
  • If there’s a good pace, will Western Seeker (#4, 6-1) be able to close into it?

Analysis

It seems like a likely two horse race between Pampero Storm and Phil’s Wildcat.  I like Pampero Storm a bit better. It’s his second time in the barn of trainer, Luis Jurado, and he ran well last time.  I expect an even sharper effort today, and would be happy to take a price of 2-1 or higher.   Playing multi-race wagers, such as the Pick 4 that begins here or the Pick 5 that began the race before, I’d want to include both of the top horses.  Good luck and enjoy the Mountain.  We’ll be back Wednesday for a new week of racing.

Postscript

Wow, a dead heat between Pampero Storm and Phil’s Wildcat!  Western Storm has a bad start and Zion Hill received no support (and he didn’t finish).  The stretch drive was thrilling, and I expected Phil’s Wildcat to go by, but Pampero Storm was resilient and showed his good form. It’s often much easier to eliminate bad horses in maiden races than in higher level races, and you can often find some decent prices.  You can follow our race of the day live on twitter at @alldayracing.

The Kentucky Derby, 6:24 ET

Churchill Downs, Louisviille, KY, Race 11, Kentucky Derby

Post Time: 6:24 EST, Purse: $2.2 million

There’s great racing all day, but there’s nowhere else to go on Derby day than the race we’ve been waiting for all year.  I’ve gone into great detail on the Derby elsewhere on this site (triplecrownraces.tumblr.com), so this will mainly be my analysis of the race.

The Derby is the biggest race for this sports, both to insiders and outsiders.  Today, we’ll have 19 three-year olds attempting to run 1 1/4 miles — longer than they’ve ever gone before.  While any horse in the field can win the Derby (and often it’s a surprise), there are a few betting tips that I typically follow.

First, I like to see a horse have the ability to come off the pace and close.  With 19 horse, you often get the horses going too fast too early.  Second, I like to see a horse that is bred well and should get the extra distance. Third, I like to get a price — it doesn’t have to be huge, but it should compensate for the risk.

Questions:

  • Will California Chrome bring his California speed to Churchill Downs?  This is the question of the race.  If he runs his best race, he’s going to win.
  • Will there be a hot pace?  A hotter pace?  A suicidal pace?
  • Will any of the frontrunners — Vicar’s in Trouble, Uncle Sigh, Samraat, Uncle Sigh, California Chrome, General A Rod, Wildcat Red, or Chitu — be faster than the others?
  • Will Medal Count like the dirt surface?

Analysis

The Derby often is influenced by the trip the horse will get.  And it’s notoriously difficult (and usually not useful) to predict trips.  So, we have to demand a price to deal with this risk .

With all that in mind, let’s turn to the horses. After going through the field, I was most impressed with Wicked Strong, who ran fast enough to win here in his Wood outing.  He benefitted from a fast pace there, but he should here, too.  Danza is another that catches the eye, along with an impressive General A Rod.  I expect Samraat to be noisy on the turn and stubborn in the stretch.  Medal Count could be the winner, too.  He’ll need to like the dirt and improve, but the Dynaformer breeding is very tempting.

I usually play the Derby Trifectas and Superfectas — it’s the only time of the year that I play those bets.  But there’s a bit of a mythicism about those bets and how they often pay in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands.  It’s Wicked Strong on top for me, combined with some Saamrat, and the above horses.  Here we go!  

Postscript:

Sometimes champions come from humble beginnings.  California Chrome is a champion.  Bravo and congratulations.  Commanding Curve, Danza, andWicked Strong all ran well but the pace wasn’t too fast and California Chrome was just too good.   It is will be interesting to break down why the pace was surprisingly soft. On to Baltimore, where I wouldn’t be surprised to see California Chrome at odds-on.

Churchill Downs, The Kentucky Oaks, 5:49 P.M. ET

Race of the Day, May 2, 2014

Churchill Downs (Louisville, KY), Race 11, The Kentucky Oaks

Post Time: 5:49 EST   Purse:  $1M

For the fillies, the Oaks is the equivalent of the Derby.  It’s a bit shorter — only 1 1/8 miles — and only has 13 horses, instead of the 20 (19 with the scratch of Hoppertunity) that will go forward in the Derby.  While not as big as the Derby among the general public, for insiders, this is an extremely important race, almost equal in importance to the Derby.

Who is in this race?

These are simply the best 3-year old fillies in the United States. Racing economics tend to push fillies into tough competition fast, and fillies tend to get retired quickly.  This always puts a big of a drag on this race.  That said, it takes a very good horse to win here.

What are the questions?

  • This race starts and ends with the heavy favorite, Untapable (#13, 4/5). Everybody loves her.  That, of course, pricks my ears up to see if she can be beaten.  Sure, she’s the fastest in the race by far.  But will she duplicate her previous efforts at the Fairgrounds here at Churchill?nThat’s far from a given, especially considering the likely very short price.
  • Who will improve?  These are top notch 3-year olds.  It’s likely that some horse will have a unforeseen, much improved effort.
  • Ria Antonia (#2, 10-1) , the juvenille champion, hasn’t moved forward yet.  She’s reportedly training well under Baffert.  Are her workouts meaningful?
  • Unbridled Forever’s (#9, 12-1) mom — Lemons Forever — won this race.  Can she run to this pedigree and turn the tables on Untapable?

Analysis:

I think it’s wise to try to beat Untapable here.  There’s a significant question as to whether her speed will translate, and there’s no reason to take a short price in a field of improving, well-bred horses.  The difficulty, of course, is figuring out who else to go with.  Nothing can be more frustrating than being right about the favorite and not being able to bring home the winner!  Of the other contenders, Unbridled Forever seems to have the ability to rate what could be a fast pace.  Just like her mother!  If not her, I’d look to the Rosario-piloted Rosalind (#4, 8-1)  to pick up the pieces.

Postscript:

Wow!  Untapable was not just a Fairgrounds horse, but is a superstar.  She’s a once-a-generation talent.  Still, she only paid even-money and, although she answered the questions, they were still there.  Unbridled Forever ran a strong third.  We’ll see if she improves, or whether she’s hit her ceiling.

The Kentucky Derby, 2014

Overview:

Ah, the Derby.  By far, the most mainstream horse racing gets in the U.S. It’s also followed very closely by those on the inside of the sport.  Getting to this race is the goal of almost every trainer and owner in the sport.

As for betting the Derby, here is the single most important fact that you can hold in your head while making a decision:  You are most likely going to be wrong.  Even if you bet on the favorite, on average, you are going to wrong 67% of the time!

This isn’t a bad realization!  This is the biggest field in American horse racing.  Most races have anywhere from 5 to 14 runners.  Here, we have 20.

It should open you up to do one of several things:

  • You could take a greater chance with your wager because you realize that return isn’t all that likely here anyway.
  • You could bet multiple horses to try to increase your chance of a return (but lowering that return).
  • You could do some combination of the two steps above.

The key is finding the horse that you feel comfortable with and that gives you a chance to win. There are all sorts of way to make some money at the races.  But not taking chances isn’t one of them.

This doesn’t mean that the favorite can’t be played — often they are a great value.  But, in the Derby, where so much can happen and there are so many questions, it’s a good place to go shopping for a price.

We’ll be going through the field between now and Saturday to give you all the information you need to bet the derby wisely.

1. Vicar’s in Trouble (30-1) This horse is certainly fast enough to win here.  Getting this kind of horse for this price would be a steal.  It will probably be around 15-1.  You will hear too much about the 1 post.  Yes, it has been bad in the past, but Looking at Lucky was overrated coming into that Derby.

Why should you play him? This horse has several things going for him which make him an exciting bet.  He’s already shown that he can run fast.  He has Rosie Napravnik, who is the top female rider in the country, and could retire as the best ever. And he’ll likely be a good price.

2. Harry’s Holiday (50-1)

Maybe the easiest elimination of all the horses.  He does have a win over the track — although it was in a lower-level maiden event.   He qualified with a second-place finish in the Spiral, which isn’t that impressive of a prep race, and he’s hasn’t run close to fast enough to win this race.

Why should you play him?

You’d bet him if you think that he’ll improve returning to dirt, and your hopeful that very few of the main contenders have good races. He’s been victimized by lots of early speed in recent races, and you’d have to think that won’t be the case here (which is unlikely.)  But there’s a line between a good longshot (who has flaws but can win) and a bad longshot (who just isn’t fast enough).  Could he win?  Of course it’s possible, but I’d stay away and look elsewhere for prices.

3. Uncle Sigh (30-1) It’s not unheard of for a NY-bred to win the Derby, but this would be a major surprise.  He was Samraat’s main rival through the winter at Aqueduct, but hasn’t finished on top since his maiden win.  He’s adding blinkers for the Derby — a curious choice considering the amount of speed in the race.  Irad Ortiz — who is a very skilled route rider — is aboard. He’s a nice horse, but on paper, he doesn’t seem as good as the rest of these.  He’d need to improve and show amazing early speed.  And his breeding leaves a bit to be desired — I’d like him at a mile.  All in all, he’s probably going to float higher than the 30-1 line, and he’s probably a good horse to avoid.

Why should you play him? He’s almost certain to show speed and he will be on the inside.  Even with 20 horses, it still is the shortest way around the track if he gets the rail.  Ortiz is a really skilled pilot. He probably will get mentioned early, so that’s always a bit exciting.  But he’s a longshot for a reason, and there are better ones out there.

4. Danza (8-1)  

Along with Intense Holiday, this is a horse that really popular with insiders.  And, of course, the son of Street Boss has a very clever name.  But does he deserve to be single digits odds in a twenty-horse field? The stretch-out — running a mile or more for the first time — really suited him well as he put up a speed figure that would be fast enough to win here. Plus, he’ll be close enough, but not on the pace, to get “first run” at the tiring front-runners, and if the pace isn’t super-electric, that might get it done.

Why should you play him?

I’m never going to recommend a horse simply because of a name, even with a name as cool as this.  I’m a child of the ’80s, and “Who’s the Boss” was regular viewing.  Outside of the name, there are far worse horses to bet here.  Joe Bravo is not a national rider but he is still sharp — he owns NJ racing and gets a chance to shine nationally.  He certainly has the speed to win, and improving again would put him right into the winner’s circle.  He’s not a lockdown, but I’d put Danza in a group of serious contenders to win, and especially strong coming off a mild pace. If you bet him, watch the time they announce for running a 1/2 mile.  If it’s around 47.5/48 seconds, it could If he floats to around 12-1, he could be a very sharp play to give Pletcher another Derby.

5. California Chrome (5-2) Here’s your likely short-priced favorite. He’s run faster than any other horse here.  The basics:  He’s very cheap — his owners bred their mare to Lucky Pulpit, a no-name California sire for $2,500, and somehow find themselves with the Derby favorite.  While some owners drop millions on horses trying to reach the Derby, California Chrome’s connection got here for the price of a very large TV.   Despite the speed, there are still too many questions for a low price.   California-bred horses don’t do terribly well in the Derby, and his style — up near the lead — doesn’t fit the race.  He certainly can win, but I’d be surprised.

Why should you play him?

On paper, he’s the best.  Horses outrun their breeding all the time (and often don’t run to it.)  Looking at what he’s done so far, he should win this race by a few lengths.  And if you think he’s going to win, it’s far better to make a little money than throw it after a longshot that you don’t really believe in.  I’d take a good look at him when he steps on the track.  Trust your gut — if he looks happy, he might be simply be the best play.

6. Samraat (15-1)

A NY-bred horse who finished second in a key prep leading to the Derby.  That’s exactly the same profile as Funny Cide, winner of the 2003 Derby.  He won his first five starts — beating Uncle Sigh twice — including two graded stakes.  He’ll need to improve to win here and also likely alter his running style to relax off the pace a little bit.  While possible, both don’t really seem all the likely. He’s out of Noble Causeway, who is far from a top-notch sire. He’s a good horse — and a fantastic NY-bred, who typically are a notch below the horses from Kentucky.  Jose Ortiz — a very talented young rider — gets the mount.

Why should you play him?

You very well may have a soft spot in your heart for NY-breds, and he’s the better of the two here.  He certainly will be heard from early, so you’ll have the joy of being near the lead early on. He’s certainly in shape — Richard Violette, his trainer, likes to build stamina in training. But you’d have to get a good price — around 25-1 — before you ever started considering him.

7. We Miss Artie (50-1) I’m hesitant to waste time here.  So I’ll go right to the quote from his trainer, Todd Pletcher, after his last workout:  ”I’m not sure We Miss Artie should be running in the Derby.” The only reason he’s here is because of his ownership. He’s a turf/polytrack horse and he’s a good notch or two below these.

Why should you play him? You want to have the longest shot on the board. You think Todd Pletcher is gaming you and trying to drive up the price. But that’s not really Pletcher’s style. You could really miss Artie, too. The name refers to Breeders’ Cup Champion Artie Schiller, a fan favorite for many years.

8. General A Rod (15-1)

He’s not named for Alex Rodriguez, but instead his previous owner, J. Armando Rodriquez.  But, I still love the vision of a General Alex Rodriguez.  He seems very MacArthur-like in his defiance.

As for the horse, he’s fast, his sire is a bit underrated, his jockey is very good, and he’s won off the pace before.  All bode well for the Derby.

Why should you play him?

He’s really done very little wrong in his career.  He’s hit the board in all his starts, showed good stamina, and won a stakes.  He’ll probably be a very good price as he hasn’t seen the winner’s circle in a bit.  He’s also making his third start of a layoff (time away from the races) which normally is the time in which a horse will surge forward.  And, unlike baseball’s A-rod, I like him more and more each day.

9. Vinceremos (30-1) His past is just ok, but his potential is awesome. He won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa.  Tampa Bay Downs has nice racing, but I’d rather see that win in the Tampa Bay Derby.  He’d really need to improve on those speed figures, and the Bluegrass was a disaster.  That said, he was expensive, owned by the sharp WinStar Farm, and trained by Todd Pletcher.  Out of Pioneer of the Nile, he certainly should like the distance of the Derby. Plus, the result in the Bluegrass is irrelevant — it’s a different surface.

Why should you play him? You see value in unrealized potential.  He should jump forward sometime this year — whether it’s on Derby day remains to be seen. If you’re a bit of an aristocrat or, perhaps, you just like smart business, than Vinceremos should be appealing.  Demand a price, but once he sails over 20-1, take a good look.

10. Wildcat Red (15-1) 

I really like Luis Saez as a rider.  He’s patient and skilled.  I really like the underrated trainer Jose Garoffalo.  And Wildcat Red has really done nothing wrong so far. 4 wins (5 without a DQ) and 2 close seconds.  He’s proven himself against top company.   But, perhaps, it’s his modest breeding or his subpar recent work. He just feels a notch below these others.

Why should you play him?

He’s solid and will likely put forth a solid effort.  If others don’t run well, he certainly could be there at the finish line.  He’s got a great starting position.  Still the distance seems unlikely and his style isn’t a great fit.  I’d be hard pressed to go strong with this guy, despite the excellent connections.

11. Hopportunity (SCRATCHED)

12. Dance with Fate (20-1)

A nice horse, but his trainer, the talented Peter Eurton, didn’t want to bring him here. But he was overruled by the owners, who couldn’t pass up a shot at the Derby.  I tend to trust a horsemen when it comes to his horses.

Why should you play him?

He’ll be closing in a race favorable to closers, and he looked great in the Bluegrass.  He’d need to improve, but only by a little.  But his trainer — who works with this horse everyday — thinks that dirt isn’t Dance with Fate’s surface. I think we’d have to be foolish to think otherwise.

13. Chitu (20-1)

A relatively off-the-rader horse, Chitu is trained by the great Bob Baffert, who certainly knows how to win a Derby.  He’s fast — a regression by California Chrome and he can win the race.  There are questions whether he can get the distance, and he has been off six weeks (which isn’t a big deal anymore.)

Why should you play him?

You like the idea of supporting a Baffert horse, but also want to get a bit of a price. You think he’s the fastest of the early speed horses, and you really like Martin Garcia (which you should.)  He probably won’t win and will fade in the final furlong, but you’ll get an exciting horse around the first two turns.

14. Medal Count (20-1)

This royally-bred son of Dynaformer (also the sire of the legendary Barbaro)ran a sharp second in the Bluegrass.  But, unlike the winner in that race, he may have a penchant for dirt. Dale Romans is a very good trainer and has won at every class and level. I don’t think distance will be a problem, but he’ll need to improve to win here.

Why should you play him?

You’re the type of person who likes horses with upside potential.  You love his royal breeding, and you think he’s going to come charging down the stretch.  I think that’s quite possible and, if you can get a good price, he might make your day profitable.

He’s got a great pedigree and a successful trainer.  He should an ability to deal with trouble in the Rebel and not give up.  He’s a fighter.  He might not be fast enough, but with a nice, off-the-pace trip, he could be in the right place at the right time.  I’d want at least 15-1, maybe a bit more, for me to bite here.

15. Tapiture (15-1)

He was the horse to like in the Arkansas Derby.  But then Danza improved and blew by him in the stretch.  He looked very good in the Rebel at Oaklawn, despite a really troubled trip.  He’s out of a very hot sire in Tapit and a barn that won the Oaks with Asmussen.  He’d need to improve, but that’s not impossible.  He may be a bit off-form; I’d rather see a horse peaking.

Why should you play him?

He’s got a great pedigree and a successful trainer.  He should an ability to deal with trouble in the Rebel and not give up.  He’s a fighter.  He might not be fast enough, but with a nice, off-the-pace trip, he could be in the right place at the right time.  I’d want at least 15-1, maybe a bit more, for me to bite here.

16. Intense Holiday (12-1)

An improving horse, he has the breeding to win here.  His workouts have been sharp and he’s got great connections with Pletcher and Velasquez.  A bit more speed is needed, but he should do well with the added distance.  He hasn’t really beaten anybody of note — Vicar’s in Trouble — is probably the best.  He’s also a bit of a “Wise Guy” horse — so the price might be unnecessarily low.

Why should you play him?

He should get a really good trip, if Velasquez can get him over to save some ground in that first turn.  He’ll come off the pace and he’s in great shape.  Form, or the condition of a horse, can sometimes be the deciding factor.  Based on all the reports out of Louisville, this guy has that.

17. Commanding Curve (50-1)

It’s hard for me to see this horse as 50-1.  He’s a better than that and he has the right style. He’s making his third start of a layoff (break).  His trainer is well-regarded.  But he’s still never be in contention in easier races this these.  He’d have to improve and the race would have to fall apart, which isn’t unheard of here.

Why should you play him?

It’s a “chaos” play.  You think the race will fall apart and that this guy will be there to pick up the pieces.  If everybody goes way too fast too early (say 45 seconds to the half-mile), this guy might make your year.

18. Candy Boy (20-1)

I follow a bunch of Southern California racing, and John Sadler is as good as they get.  Candy Boy looked great in the Robert B. Lewis, but then got thrashed by California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.  His sire is Candy Ride, who produces some great distance horses, such as the great Invasor.   He’s a solid horse, but he need to run better than he ever has to win.  He’s another who would benefit from a crazy fast pace.

Why should you play him?

You trust the connections, especially Sadler and the ageless Gary Stevens in the saddle. You think he’ll improve and the race will come back to him. Still this seems a bit out of his reach for now, so I’d want to see a very nice price, at least 25-1, to feel like it’s worth the risk.

19. Ride on Curlin (15-1)

A bit of a fan favorite horse meets up with a fan favorite jockey in Calvin Borel, who will be seeking his 4th Derby.  Ride on Curlin is a solid horse, but he was soundly beaten by Danza in Arkansas.  He ran an amazing maiden race at Ellis park last summer, but hasn’t gotten quite back there yet.  He’s another that will sit of the pace.  He’s a nice colt, but this is a bit too much for him now.

Why should you play him?

Borel knows how to win this race and you trust him to do it again. That said,  Calvin might have trouble breaking from such an outside post.  This horse only sold for $25,000 and he does have a bit of an underdog quality.  He’ll be a decent price, but having Borel as the pilot will drive the price down, probably too low for a good play.

20. Wicked Strong (6-1)

I was impressed with his performance in the Wood Memorial.  The Wood set up for a closer, which is what we might see here in Louisville.  He’s well-bred and was quite expensive ($375K).  His sire, Hard Spun, was a beast.  And, of course, he has the whole Boston angle going for him.  It’s hard to root against that story.

Why should you play him?

He’s plenty fast and probably the best closer in the race.  The 20 post isn’t great, but Big Brown did win from there. I’d be worried that the price would be driven down by his great name, however.  i wouldn’t want to pay for that.  You certainly couldn’t go wrong betting him anyway, and the way Boston sports have been the last decade or so, it might be his year.

 Image: John Athayde, “Detail.” Copyright 2005.

Belmont Park, Maidens, May 1, 2014

Belmont Park (Elmont, NY), Race 1, Maiden Special Weight

Post Time: 1:20 EST   Purse:  $75,000

We’ll kick the week off back at our favorite track, Belmont Park.  It’s been a long winter, and we know were free when Big Sandy opens once again.  Great horses, deep fields, fair tracks, and when the weather permits, the best turf racing in the U.S.

We’ll look at race 1 at tight, compact field of 7 betting interests (one coupled entry — you get two horses for the price of one) going the one-turn mile.  It’s exceptionally deep and suggests that some trainers have been aiming for the opening of Belmont.  It kicks off the 50 cent Belmont Pick-5, perhaps my favorite wager in the country.

Who is running in this race?  

Maidens — horses that have never won a race.  Someone is going to get that win today!

There are multiple levels for maidens.  This is the highest.  Usually, there is a notable break between contenders and non-contenders in these races — more so than in other levels, and you can eliminate contenders.  Here we can only eliminate one horse — Royal Roxie (#3, 20-1).  The Right Bird (#6, 12-1) is still quite the outsider, and would needs serious regressions to end up on top.  Outside of these two, we go five deep, a precarious start to the Pick 5.  Go deep, or you may go home early.

Questions:

  • How will Make it Anywhere (#2, 3-1) return from the layoff?  She has the fastest dirt speed — at this distance and at this track — of any horse in the field.  But her last effort — on turf — was lackluster.
  • Will Mei Ling (#4, 4-1) improve again — returning to a route — to begin to justify her $500K purchase price?
  • How much will Kate Greenaway (#5, 6-1) improve going a longer distance and making her second start of her career?

Analysis:

No reason to chase a favorite here — whether Guilty Verdict/GasparillaInn (if both go) or Make it Anywhere.  Make it Anywhere has a question that doesn’t justify a low price.  Questions aren’t a problem; the low return is!  I like to look for horses with questions — these are the only ones that you can get a good return on.  When I expect those questions are likely to be answered with good performance, I bet.

Either Mei Ling or Kate Greenaway or are better choices.  Both are likely to improve going a longer distance. Cape Song looms a big force in this race, but the price will likely be reflective of the speed and Clement brings them back ready.

I’d have a tough time going not going 5-deep to feel really safe here on a pick-5 here, if there was a substantial investment at risk. And that could really blow up the ticket, depending upon your views ahead. That said, sharp players may be able to gain real value by keying on one horse in this race, and using your money to go deeper in the other legs (which will be uncovered because other players have gone deep here.)  Pressed, I’d go with Kate Greenaway, especially floating around 6-1.

Good luck today!  I’lll be back later to recap what ACTUALLY happened in the race.

POSTSCRIPT:  Mei Ling justified that purchase price and showed that she may be ready for a move up to stakes company in the near future.  She improved again, took control early, and was so much the best today at 7/2.  Not bad, but there was still a good amount of risk for that price. Kate Greenaway looked ok, but the price wasn’t really anything (3-1) given the inherent risk in betting a not fast enough horse.  Cape Song needed this race. Hope you’re alive in the Pick 5, and see you tomorrow!