Bob Hope Stakes

It’s time to get over that Breeders’ Cup hangover. As always, it was a great weekend for all horses and especially the 2YOs, with a win by Good Magic in the Juvenile. Chad Brown is taking over all surfaces, classes, and levels. But racing keeps going year-round — that’s one thing that makes it great. Today, we’ve got a 2YO sprint — of the challenging 7-furlong variety from Del Mar at around 2:34 Pacific Time. It’s the Bob Hope Stakes, named for the classic comedian hailing from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. A field of 6 will race for $100K. With the smallish field, let’s take a look at the whole field and see if we can find some value down the line. Importantly, it’s the 5th race on the card at Del Mar, completing what is always a nice P5 pool.

Here’s the rundown:

  1. Greyvitos (20-1): Still a maiden, he improved in his return to the races after a 4-month layoff. He’s still a bit slow and would have to enjoy the stretchout from 5.5f to 7f, something that’s not out of the question for this son of Malibu Moon.  “Blinkers on” may add some early speed, although his trainer is 0 for 9 with this addition. A deserving longshot, he could end up in the place or show spot, but most likely to be up the track.
  2. Mourinho (9/5): Baffert has been giving Drayden Van Dyke some serious mounts and this is one of them. A $625K purchase this past March, he won on debut with an impressive speed figure. He tired in the stretch of the Speakeasy and failed at 1/5 odds. “Blinkers off” for, perhaps, the best trainer in the North America, who excels with young horses. He’s obviously a serious contender and he may be overlooked a bit because of the presence of Run Away in the gate next door.
  3. Run Away (8/5): The knock on him is that he’s a bit slower than Mourinho — perhaps dominating (he’s 4 for 5) the division when it was weaker. He obviously likes to win and that includes the G2 Best Pal. He was the favorite in the Del Mar Futurity and finished third to a strong Bolt D’Oro. But my gut says no today — he looks like a horse who has peaked.
  4. Here is Happy (8/1): Debuted in a maiden claimer, which he won at 32-1. And then two stakes tries, including a good third in the Speakeasy. He’d benefit from some good pace in front of him — which I’m not sure is going to be there. If you do, he may be worth including on some deeper tickets.
  5. Beautiful Shot (5/2): The winnner of the Speakeasy, who beat Mourinho. A solid contender — he’ll need pace that I’m not sure he’ll get. But, predicting pace is dangerous terrain — so you could include him for safety.
  6. Italiano: An inexperienced maiden winner, he did beat Greyvitos last time out. Likely too slow to be able to run with this group — at least at this stage is his career.


Give me Baffert. I’m singling Mourinho. The race sets up for him and he’s faster than Run Away.



The Blue Grass (GI)

The Blue Grass Stakes (G1) caps a terrific card on Saturday on opening weekend from Keeneland. It’s one of three destinations this week — Santa Anita and Aqueduct are the others — for Kentucky Derby contenders.

It starts what should be a banner year for the Lexington, Kentucky racetrack, which hosts the Breeders’ Cup at season’s end. Last fall, Keeneland installed a new dirt track, replacing the artificial dirt surface. As a result, the Blue Grass once again serves as a destination for horses that expect to compete for top honors in Louisville in four weeks.

Carpe Diem, #3 in my Derby rankings (prior to final preps, which started last week), leads the way. He’s even money on the morning line. I expect that he’ll be 3/5 or even lower by post time. Here’s why:

  • He’s run faster than any other horse in the field.
  • He’s won over this track in a very impressive performance last Fall.
  • He’s cost $1.7 million and he’s bred for distance.
  • His comeback in Tampa was sharp and confident.

I fully expect a top notch performance from Carpe Diem, likely earning his first triple digit Beyer and romping by open lengths against the rest of the field.

Of the other contenders, someone will have to improve to even come within a few lengths of Carpe Diem. Ocho Ocho Ocho, who at one time was #5 in my Derby rankings, had a disappointing comeback in the San Felipe last month. He’d need to fully turn it around; the ship out of the west coast — presumably to get away from Dortmund — doesn’t inspire a tremendous amount of confidence. Gorgeous Bird, inspired a great amount of hype when he won a 1st-level allowance at Gulfstream. But that speed figure from that race came back low, and he was rather dull in the Fountain of Youth.  Classy Class has been a bit of a puzzle throughout the winter. I’m excited to see him away from the inner dirt at Aqueduct. Danzig Moon was an impressive maiden winner in February at Gulfstream, but failed to back that up last time he met Carpe Diem in Tampa.

Image: Missing8519, Copyright 2007.


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!

The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

I kicked off Breeders’ Cup coverage yesterday with the release of “Stealing Money from the Crowd,” a short e-book focused on contrarian strategies for Breeders’ Cup weekend. I also talked a bit about the Filly and Mare Sprint on Twitter:

Let’s use that last tweet as a jumping off point. Midnight Lucky certainly may be the most-talented filly in here. The first question is whether Baffert will have her ready. Can never know for sure, but he’s really quite sharp off the long layoffs over the last five years. Into Grade I off the layoff’s, he’s made money for bettors ($4.57 for $2), but only 2 of 9 have won: Shakin It Up at 17-1 in the 2013 Malibu Stakes and Midnight Lucky, who won off the long layoff in the Humana Distaff. None have ever been favored.

When there isn’t a strong favorite, I find myself looking for horses that haven’t already peaked. That includes the aformentioned Midnight Lucky who is coming off the long layoff. I also like Sweet Reason is a honest hard-trying racehorse, but I wonder whether she’s this good. That said, I don’t this the deepest field, especially if Midnight Lucky doesn’t fire off the layoff. When she stretched-out in distance for the Cotillion, my hope was that she would ultimately be pointed to this race. Artemis Agrotera ran a stellar race two back in the Grade I Ballerina, but it’s tough to figure out what to make of her last one. My best guess — from a review of previous news — is that this horse loves Saratoga (she’s 3 for 3 there with wins by a combined 28 lengths), so I’ll be against her on Breeders’ Cup day. 

Leigh Court showed a new dimension in rating off the pace in the GII TCA last out and seems sharp coming into today’s race. That race may have been her peak, though.  Southern Honey catches the eye a bit. I liked her in the Test, and she’s certainly fast enough on her best. Her performance against older in the Winning Colors was sensational. The question is whether she’s still rounding into form or whether the last was her peak. Decent chance to run above odds here, and another that I’ll listen closely for news. Stonetastic freaked at Saratoga, but came back down to earth. I think she’ll need one or two more to get back, if ever, to that level. 

My strongest opinion right now is against Artemis Agrotera. I’ll make a decision whether to go just with Midnight Lucky, or whether to add Southern Honey and Sweet Reason.

Update: Midnight Lucky is out of the race, having been retired on October 24. That sends this race into a bit more of chaos, but I’ll be revisiting it again as we get closer.

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: Salina Canizales, Copyright 2014.    

Stealing Money from the Crowd

A contrarian guide to betting on horse racing. Please click on the images below for preview:


Table of Contents:

Introduction 2

The Favorite/Longshot Bias 6

Deconstructing the Past Performances 12

Conclusion 17

19 pp.

Expanded and updated version coming soon!

Wise Dan: Let it Ride

I’ve tried to constantly beat Wise Dan on the turf, but instead, he always beats me. Not only have I lost money, but also the opportunity to wager on one of the most reliable horses in all of racing. So, out of curiosity, I decided I wanted to figure what he would have paid if I had fully embraced him from the beginning.

Let’s say a bettor put a minimum $2 on him back in August 2012 when he made the (now) permanent move to the turf. This bettor would have won only $5.00 that day, but let’s say he saw a turf monster in the making. So, wanting to make more, he decides to “Let it Ride” and re-invests his entire winnings each time Wise Dan runs on the turf, or he retires. For argument’s sake, he doesn’t bet Wise Dan when the Shadwell is moved to the polytrack last year knowing that there’s more risk with the surface change (a fair assumption, I think).

Sounds silly, and a bet that surely would have to catch up to you eventually. And, besides, what could it possibly pay? I mean, he’s been odds-on in every start since the Breeders’ Cup, so you can’t possibly make any money doing this. But, I was curious, so I opened up excel, typed in some odds, and let it do its magic.

If our hypothetical bettor had put $2 on Wise Dan and just let it ride through the streak, he would have made over $1,100 going into tomorrow. 

The result, of course, is very dependent on “letting it ride.” Pocketing just 20% of your winnings demolishes the return and leaves you with $75 pocketed and only a very Douglas-Adams-like $42.42 headed to tomorrow.

It would, of course, be much tougher to make these bets with $100 units (and rationally, I can’t imagine not taking profits) but, just for fun, here’s how it would have turned out:

Here’s the 20% pocketed at $100 units.

Can he do it again on Saturday? Well, he’s certainly done it before, and I’m officially done trying to beat him.  I’m not recommending this type of bet (one wipe out is catastrophic), but at least with Wise Dan, it would have paid very handsomely.

A Day at Keeneland

I was thrilled to hear that Keeneland will be hosting the 2015 Breeders’ Cup. It is classic venue  for horse racing, similar to the how the great baseball parks reflect that sport’s golden era.  I was fortunate enough to visit the track in 2005, while moving cross-country. I arrived from Louisville in the early afternoon and spent the next few hours wandering around the grounds, visiting the barns, and leaning on the rail at the training track like a 40’s railbird for a good half-hour. I eventually made it to  the grandstand, where I literally was the only one there.  It was wonderful.

At the time, I had been serious about my handicapping for about a year and had already read all the classics:  Beyer, Brohamer, Cramer, Quinn, Ainsle, Meadow. But, I hadn’t spent much time around the actual racetrack, instead watching most of my racing on ADW streams on my laptop. That day at Keeneland was the first time I felt a connection to the majesty of horse racing. I ended up spending the remainder of the day sitting in that grandstand thinking about racing and life. I finally left after dark, and I’ve wanted to go back every day since.

Belmont Diary, 1:40 PM. June 5.

Two days till the race. Decent vibe around the track. Still feels like the hour before a big party — lots of setting up.

Much talk about the big day on Saturday. The question: is this a bigger day than the Breeders’ Cup? Close — perhaps the only thing missing is the great juveniles. The Easy Goer — with some late developing 3 year olds — should fill that gap. The biggest question has to be the Phipps. Is Beholder better, or do you absolutely need to include Princess of Slymar and Close Hatches.

Full Belmont Stakes Preview will be available early tomorrow afternoon.