The Dwyer

We continue our post-Triple Crown tour with a trip back to Belmont Park for the Grade III Dwyer. A field of 7 3YO’s contest a 1-turn mile over Big Sandy. The purse is 300K and the top finishers likely move on to the bigger races, such as the Travers, later in the summer.

The field is led by Mendelssohn, who went off at 6-1 in the Kentucky Derby. He is trained by Aidan O’Brien. He entered that race amid a great amount of hype after his 18 1/2 length win in the UAE Derby, where he earned an estimated 106 Beyer Speed Figure. He previously had been successful stateside with his win as the 9-2 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf back in November. But his Derby was one to forget — he finished 73 1/4 lengths last, eased to the wire by jockey Ryan Moore. It was, perhaps, the sloppy track or the fast pace or the depth of competition, but, in any event, it was an extremely poor showing for a well-regarded horse. He’s 8-5 on the morning line and it will be interesting to see how he’s bet. My guess is most bettors will put a line through the Derby and bet the horse that we saw in Dubai. If he runs that race or anything close to it, he’ll win here easily. Whether he does is the question of the race.

Rugbyman, trained by Graham Motionis a later developing 3YO that debuted in April at Keeneland. He lost that debut at 7-1, but rebounded to win decisively by 14 lengths over the mud at Belmont in May. He ran in the Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard where he finished second by a neck over a fast track and earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure while going wide around the turn. He’s 2-1 on the morning line, but will likely need to improve to win today. He’s a son of Tapit, which also catches the eye. Motion adds blinkers, a move he’s had success with in the past.  The 2-1 price seems a bit ambitious given the need for improvement. Noble Indy returns to Belmont after an extremely poor showing in the Belmont Stakes. This followed another lackluster effort in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he’d need to find his form from the Fairgrounds, where he topped out at a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in the Louisiana Derby. Like Rugbyman, he also adds blinkers which is a move that has brought Pletcher success. He’s a bit of a wildcard and if he can rediscover old form — a bit of a theme in the race (Mendelssohn) — he should be competing for the top spot.

Firenze Fire was last seen finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby at odds of almost 60-1. Trained by Jason Servis, his best win to date was in the Champagne Stakes last October as a 2YO. He also won the Jerome in early January as the heavy favorite. He’s never run fast enough to win this sort of race and has been on a downward trend since that Jerome win. His best hope is that the rest since May has done him well and, perhaps, a bit of growth in the meantime. He’s 6-1 on the morning line. Seven Trumpets brings a nice Churchill Downs allowance win to the table, but he was consistently mid-pack in a number of GIII races through the spring. He has a nice worktab recently for trainer Dale Romans, but is way short of the speed needed to win this race. Seahenge is the other entrant for Aidan O’Brien. He was demolished by stablemate Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby and didn’t fare much better in his US Debut in the Pat Day Mile, where he finished 13 3/4 lengths back over a sloppy track. Fixed Income Larry stretches out for the first time for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. His only win is his maiden breaker at 12-1 at Belmont in early June. He would be a major surprise to win the winner’s circle today.

Analysis: Most horses in the field aren’t fast enough to compete with Mendelssohn, even if Mendelssohn isn’t at his best. He’s the likely favorite, but I’ll try to beat him with another horse that could rebound — Noble Indy. Away from Triple Crown winner Justify, he’ll hopefully sit near the pace under John Velaquez and regain his past form. Blinkers should help. Rugbyman is interesting but still too slow for me to put him in the top spot. He’ll only find it if both Mendelssohn and Noble Indy fail to run to potential.


Consistently Misvalued: Bayern’s 2014 Campaign

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an racing enigma at the level of Bayern, the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion. Bayern is a very good, perhaps great horse, that has been consistently misvalued by the public. Since June, he’s won 4 Graded Stakes at three different distances — but, surprisingly, in none of his wins was he the favorite. 3 of these wins were by over 5 lengths. His campaign is a tale of overreaction to recent events, along with a bit of public stubbornness. I picked him to win in the Classic and didn’t like him at all in the Travers, but, just like most, I also missed him on several occasions. I don’t know whether he’ll win the Horse of the Year award, but he might just be the pari-mutuel horse of the year.

Here’s his PP’s on the eve of the Classic, which he won at 6-1 odds with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 113.

Screenshot 2014-12-19 14.57.54

Let’s take a look back at his campaign, starting with his first official graded stakes win in the Woody Stephens. I’ve included charts and videos, along with potential reasons for the pubic mistakes.

Favorite: Social Inclusion (Even money) 

Also favored over Bayern:

Havana (5-1)

Public Mistakes: Overweighting the Preakness effort, which now appears to be an aberration and, perhaps, too much too soon. Very hard for public to look past a bad last race. Overrating Social Inclusion and Havana, which had strong efforts in their past. Baffert also excels at the cutback, which was the original plan with Bayern for the Haskell/King’s Bishop.

Screenshot 2014-12-22 14.36.29

His next race was in the Haskell Stakes, where he faced a very good filly and eventual Distaff winner in Untapable.

Favorite: Untapable (7/5)

Public Mistake:  Concern that Bayern was a sprinter/miler. Not fully considering track profile of Monmouth and Haskell history, which both favored Bayern. Overrating Untapable’s chances against the boys.

Screenshot 2014-12-22 14.41.20

His next race was the fast turnaround and unplanned attempt at the Travers. The original goal was another Route-to-Sprint into the King’s Bishop, but the connections seemingly got a bit of Travers’ fever after the Haskell.

Favorite: Bayern at 5-2

Winner: V-E Day at 19-1

Public Mistake: The public actually got behind Bayern at the Travers, but once again, he proved elusive. Importantly, the public explained the loss based on two reasons — the early pace challenges and the 10 furlong distance. However, it is likely that it was the fast turnaround as Bayern’s other races provide no support for this conclusion. Finally, the Haskell/Travers double is difficult, especially when it’s an audible.

Screenshot 2014-12-22 14.44.50

After the Travers’ disappointment, Bayern next went to the Pennsylvania Derby, which really should be a Grade I, and will be in the future.

Favorite: California Chrome at 4/5

Public Mistake: Overrating California Chrome off the layoff. Huge bias at Parx favoring early speed gave Bayern a huge advantage.

Screenshot 2014-12-22 14.50.57

Finally, the Classic.

Favorite: Shared Belief at 5/2

Also favored over Bayern: Tonalist & California Chrome

Public Mistake: Distance was a major concern going into the race, based off of Bayern’s Travers effort. The public also downgraded his Haskell and PA Derby wins, as bias-aided. There’s also the issue of the inquiry, but the public was nonetheless wrong on Bayern’s chances to perform very well in this race.

Screenshot 2014-12-22 14.58.01


In sum, there has been several reasons for the consistent opportunities that Bayern has generated throughout the summer and fall. The public often reacted to his last race and drew too strong of conclusions. After his Woody Stephens, the public saw him as a sprinter/miler and not a horse who can get classic distances. The public then overreacted to his Haskell victory in the Travers, but then appeared a bit hesitant when presented with an eerily similar situation to the Haskell in the PA Derby. The Travers created further opportunity by pushing two incorrect beliefs — Bayern can handle a pace battle and can’t get 10 furlongs. The public held to these explanatory beliefs stubbornly — and also likely believed that it was the bias, as opposed to talent, that aided this horse. Finally, it should be noted — and definitely not underestimated — that he often had the luck to face several favorites that were likely misvalued by bettors before the race, namely Untapable, California Chrome (in PA Derby), and Social Inclusion, which helped his prices throughout the year.

Moving forward, I’m not sure that the public has figured out Bayern. I still hear concerns about distance, and the Classic win is viewed as illegitimate by some. I fully expect him to continue to offer value throughout 2015.

Image: Scott Abelmen, Copyright 2014.



The Pennsylvania Derby (GII)

This isn’t the same old Pennsylvania Derby. In fact, it hasn’t been the same old Pennsylvania Derby for the past 5 years. In 2010, after bouncing around the calendar, it landed in its current spot on the racing calendar, the third Saturday in September, which has proven to be very successful. The race is now positioned as a key prep race for the Breeders’ Cup, which is just six weeks out. In addition, the Pennsylvania Derby is four weeks removed from the Travers Stakes and a reasonable seven weeks from the West Virginia Derby, which has helped to secure good fields.

Since this change, the race has a stellar recent record of producing future G1 stars. For example, in 2013, Will Take Charge continued his roll that began in the Travers with a strong win here. He went on to finish second to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and then went on to win the Grade I Clark against older horses, including Game on Dude, at Churchill Downs in November. In 2011, To Honor and Serve, a two-time Grade II winner as a two-year-old, returned to the winner’s circle with an decisive win in the Pennsylvania Derby. He would go on to be a two-time Grade I winner against older horses, capturing both the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and the Woodward at Saratoga. Finally, in 2010, Morning Line won the Pennsylvania Derby. A late developing 3-year-old, he would later go on to win a Grade I against older horses in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.

This year’s race is no exception to the current trend. It has drawn the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, who makes his much anticipated return to the races. It also brings in the Haskell winner in Bayern as well as the top two finishers from the West Virginia Derby in Tapiture and Candy Boy.  It should be a competitive race, with many storylines.  On paper, it looks like a three horse race between Chrome, Bayern, and Tapiture, and I expect that it will come down to these three. I see the race coming down to three questions:

1. How will California Chrome (1-1) run off the layoff? 

If he’s at the top of his game, he should be the class of this group. He’s worked well for Sherman, who doesn’t excel at bringing them back (that said, California Chrome is very different than his normal horse). But, it’s a long layoff after a grueling campaign, and he’ll need to bring his best to find the winner’s circle here.

2. Which Bayern (7-2) will show up?

He’s an enigma. His Travers performance wasn’t unexpected, given the history of the Haskell/Travers double, but it wasn’t his first flop as the favorite. He also took tons of money and failed in the Arkansas Derby and the Derby Trial (although he did cross the line first in the Trial). He very well could re-break at the top of the lane, but, in my view, it’s still a significant if.

3. Will Tapiture (5-1) find trouble?

Tapiture, an immensely talented colt who is already a millionaire, has had a knack for trouble finding him. It happened at Oaklawn in the Rebel Stakes –and then it re-appeared again in West Virginia. That said, his performance to get up at Mountaineer in the West Virginia Derby was superb, especially given all the trouble he had in the stretch. He’s run several terrific efforts, and on pure talent alone, could be the best of this bunch


Here’s Tapiture’s Rebel Stakes and West Virginia Derby:

After a brief diversion to second-level stakes with the Matt Winn and the WV Derby, Tapiture has earned the right to take on the best again. This is something that I love to see, and combined with what I’ve seen visually on the track, I think the best value bet will be Tapiture to win at 7-2 or better. I’ll take the chance that he’ll put forth a grown-up effort today and earn a solid win on his way to the Classic.

Listen to the podcast all about the PARX P4, which includes the PA Derby. Check back later for the final P4 tickets from Jason and I.

Image: Shinya Suzuki, Copyright 2011.

Revisiting the Travers

Earlier this week, I wrote about fair odds for the Travers. Looking at the odds, I thought that V-E Day would be the best value and a fair line at 6-1, and he was my selection at 19-1:


Screenshot 2014-08-26 16.52.28

I’ve written about this division all summer on All Day Racing, so I relied mainly on my own impressions of the horses, particularly which ones that I thought were likely to improve (based on the patterns of the data found in the PP’s.) Jerkins/Castellano rewarded the confidence.

Let’s take another look at the 5 most important questions  and how the race answered them:

Q: Does anyone challenge Bayern for the lead and how aggressively is he pressed?

A:  There were, to say the least, aggressive pace challenges from Tonalist and Wicked Strong. You always hope that connections won’t let a front-runner get easy fractions, but usually they aren’t willing to press that hard. This move absolutely changed the race.

Q: Will V.E. Day continue his hot form and keep improving?

A: He did, and he made the most of the opportunity that presented itself. Condition is tough to predict, but as seen can pay well, if it matches the right circumstances!

Q: Does Tonalist move forward off the Jim Dandy?

A:  I’ve always been nagged by the chance that he’s a Belmont horse, but I’m not willing to go that far yet. But that could present upside opportunities in a later start, perhaps JCGC. That said, regardless of the pace pressure, he wasn’t at his best, and it opened chances for others.

Q:  Which style will we see from Wicked Strong? Will it be the  “new” Wicked Strong (the one with blinkers) to press Bayern? Or might they try to take him back?

A:  In the Travers, Wicked Strong was a presser, and certainly very game to the end, losing just at the wire. He ran a great race, and a tough one to lose. He’s a versatile, good horse — I don’t think he’s a Classic winner, unless he moves forward again, though. .

Q: Will Mr. Speaker like the dirt? 

A: He actually ran relatively familiar — at least in style — to this race at Gulfstream. He’s a good horse, and didn’t seem to hate the surface. I think he’ll be a very excellent sire in time, and certainly shows continued promise for the future with a return to turf.

Chart: SAR082314USA12

Chart: Copyright 2014. Equibase.

Image: Vinning Herring, Copyright 2013.