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 Super Derby (Grade II)

The most interesting thing about the Super Derby is its history. Started in 1980, it’s burst on to the scene, quickly becoming a Grade I and a very important race in the 3-YO season.  But now, 34 years later,it no longer holds this position, which is now occupied by the $1M Pennsylvania Derby in 2 weeks. It’s still an important 9 furlong race for second-level 3-YO’s and offers a very decent purse of $400,000.  Instead of a prep for the Breeders’ Cup (think Tiznow in 2000, pictured above), it’s now a race in line with other mid-level track derbies, such as the Iowa Derby, Ohio Derby, West Virginia Derby, Indiana Derby, and Oklahoma Derby. It’s unsurprising then that the top contenders for today’s race come out of the Ohio Derby and West Virginia Derby.

Despite a large field (largest in a decade for the Super Derby), on paper, it appears to be a formful race with 3 strong contenders standing above the rest, and a new shooter who might develop into something. To begin, Vicar’s in Trouble makes his third start since the Derby, after slightly disappointing efforts in Iowa and West Virginia. He’s a state-bred, so there’s more than a little big of pride involved in capturing the home state race. His main competition from the West Virginia — Candy Boy and Tapiture — isn’t here, and he very well might outclass this field.  The other two main contenders — East Hall and Jessica’s Star — finished first and second in the Ohio Derby and this is a very logical next step. East Hall is a bit of a mystery — interested to see how he runs today. I’ll stay away from local horses in a race like this, and the only other horse worth mentioning is Sagamore Farm’s Victory Not Defeat, who is stepping up in class from sharp performances at Gulfstream. Haven’t seen enough, especially with stretch-out to support a bet, but I’m certainly quite interested in watching him today.

What I’m thinking of playing:

This is probably just a “watch” race to get a better read on the improvement of these horses. Should be useful moving forward in the division.  I’ll play Vicar’s in Trouble up top if I get 3-1 or better, but I don’t expect it. 


Good luck!

Read Iowa Derby Preview

Read West Virginia Derby Preview

Image: Banamine, “Tiznow.” Copyright 2007.

The West Virginia Derby (GII): Now and Then

I enjoy Mountaineer racetrack, which races during the evening from March to December. Anyone wanting to gain expertise in the nuances of conditioned $5K claimers would be wise to play. But, on Saturday, the track takes a break from its workman-like cards to host several stakes races, highlighted by the GII West Virginia Derby for three-year olds going with a purse of $750K.

This is the sixth installment of the race at its current GII grading and is a particularly deep renewal of this nine-furlong race. This year’s race is especially notable for the presence of three 2014 Kentucky Derby starters: Candy Boy (13th) Vicar’s in Trouble (19th), and Tapiture (15th). In fact, the past five years, it’s been quite uncommon to see Derby runners here, with only Overanalyze, Hansen, and 2009 Derby Winner Mine that Bird having run in both. None of them found the winner’s circle — a streak that likely could end this year.

It’s always great to see horses return from the grueling Triple Crown trail during the three-year old season. These three are all making their second starts since the Derby, but only Tapiture can claim a win in his last out — doing it nicely in the Matt Winn Stakes (although Candy Boy may deserve a pass given the beast who is Shared Belief). Vicar’s in Trouble certainly has some past excuses. He drew the dreaded “1” post position for the Derby and raced in the mud in the Iowa Derby. But, that said, this is a horse that has run his best when he gets the lead. That’s no given today.  The public will likely bet these three heavily — although they make back off Vicar’s in Trouble a bit — and the winner will likely be be one of them.

Of the other horses in this year’s field, For Goodness Sake brings the best speed. Claimed from Chad Brown in February, this horse was scintillating in two performances at Churchill during the spring meet. He also has won at the 9f distance – something that only Vicar’s in Trouble has done among the rest of the field. He’d need to improve yet again, and might need to rate off what could be a hot pace. But, of the later developing horses, he probably has the best shot. Divine View ships from the mid-atlantic circuit for Larry Jones. He’d need major improvement, or regression from the others to find the winner’s circle. The rest are longshots.

To get even more excited for Saturday’s race, enjoy a look back at the past five years of the West Virginia Derby:


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Image: “West Virginia”, Noe Alfaro, Copyright 2013.