- Steve Asmussen has taken the openers at Belmont the last two days, both of them with first-time, NY-bred 2 yo’s. Wednesday’s was a 1.15 to 1 shot, No Reason, a filly by Precise End; but Thursday’s was the 6.40 to 1 4th choice, which may have led some to believe that Raw Cat was a raw deal. This 2 yo gelding is by Tactical Cat, out of Raw Beauty, is just as unoriginally named as my partnership’s Highland Cat. You see a first-timer by a guy like Asmussen and you think 'dead on the board.' I do anyway. Some smarter people in this case thought "overlay." Nick Kling in the Troy Record wrote the other day about Asmussen with an eye towards the upcoming Saratoga meet, noting that one does need to find value with winners like Raw Cat in order to profit with this barn.
During [the past 4 years at Saratoga], Asmussen has started 127 thoroughbreds, according to Daily Racing Form. The South Dakota-born resident of Texas has won with 25, for a twenty percent success rate. However, if you are looking to make a profitable bet at Saratoga, you need to look closely at whether an Asmussen animal offers wager value. Every $2.00 bet on each of his Spa starters has returned an anemic $1.21. That compares with his national average of $1.60.Kling discusses several other trainers in the article as well.
Asmussen has a well-deserved reputation as a developer of juveniles. His nationwide return on investment (ROI) with 2-year-olds is close to the breakeven $2.00 figure. But while his winning percentage at Saratoga is identical with what he does elsewhere, Asmussen's Spa ROI plummets to $1.29. In short, racing fans tend to over bet horses from the Asmussen Stable. That doesn't mean they don't have a fair chance to win, just that bettors need to filter out as many suspect underlays as possible. [Troy Record]
Edgar Prado had 4 winners Wednesday and two more today, one of them another winner for red-hot Thomas Albertrani. While the field sizes have picked up a bit (at least before scratches), the quality, as usual, declines as Saratoga approaches. No less than 7 of today’s 9 races had favorites of 6-5 or less, five of those less than even money, ugh! The 4th was another 2 yo NY-bred race, and trainer Edward Allard shipped in Hold Your Patience, a first timer with good drills at Philly Park. He was hammered to 4-5, but had to fight to hold off a 13-1 shot with the rejuvenated Diane Nelson to get the win. Hold Your Patience is by Tale of the Cat, out of a Hold Your Peace mare who’s a full sister to G1 Arlington-Wash Futurity winner and current sire Meadowlake.
On Wednesday, a thunderstorm turned the track to mud and wiped out 3 of the 4 turf races. There were 25 scratches from 84 entries; two of the races had no show betting. That same storm system literally followed me down the Garden State Parkway to Monmouth. I knew there were supposed to be a couple of storms possible for the morning, but I wasn’t prepared for a giant storm heading due south instead of going out to sea as usual. It was a Saratoga -type soaker, and I sat in the car fretting over a hated sloppy track and off the turf day. It was so bad that first race post was pushed back by 20 minutes.
I think my extreme aversion to sloppy tracks is based largely on my experience in New York, where the scratches are so plentiful. I’ve always found that in many other jurisdictions, the races go on with close to full fields, even on the off-the-turfers, and this was the case at Monmouth. So it was fine; I adjusted. After all, you go with the track you have, not the one you might want. Still, it just throws off my game, which isn’t all that great to start with. I did a lot of board watching, looking for some help as to who likes the going. On a weekday in New Jersey, you have to wait for the last few minutes before there's any significant money in the win pools. The only live race I was close on was the 6th, in which I went with the late money going on the nose of the 10, Avie's d'Light, making his first start for Peter Walden, hitting at 33% first time in his care. He ran well, but couldn't quite catch the winner, finishing second by 1 1/2. However, after the live races, I hit a cold exacta in the 4th at Hollywood (don’t you just love simulcasting!?), and had the $27.60 combo enough times to give me a small profit on the day.
Over 6,000 at Monmouth on what was ultimately a very pleasant day; that’s at least 50% more than on a comparable weekday at Belmont. Very little - amazingly so - has seemed to change in the 25 years or so I’ve been visiting the place, and there’s no reason for anything to. It’s just a beautiful little track, with no offense meant by the “little.” It’s plenty big enough (except maybe on Haskell and Father’s Days) but also has the intimacy of much smaller places I’ve been to. There's a nice grassy backyard area that nobody seems to utilize, preferring the picnic areas set up near the track in upper stretch. These allow people to do the picnic table thing, but be right on top of the horses as they come down the top of the stretch, whereas at Belmont and Saratoga, many people partying in the backyard are completely disconnected from the races.
And man, Monmouth has a lot of simulcasting! I must admit to taking a brief break for dinner, and then plunging right back for some early evening races from around the country. I suppose that qualifies me for degenerate status, eh?
- I don’t usually post quotes from a Jockey Guild official in an approving way, but Albert Fiss’s reaction to the shocking news that paralyzed Charles Town jockey Shannon Campbell has just $50,000 of catastrophic insurance coverage says it all: "You would think that West Virginia of all places, with what happened last year and the money coming from slots, would do the morally right thing.” But he also conceded that the policy the Guild failed to renew would have covered Campbell if it had been in place last week. [Daily Racing Form]
- Two horses that are just possibilities for the Haskell are Surf Cat and Roman Ruler. Surf Cat’s trainer is also considering the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, which is for older horses. In the 14-year history of the Pacific Classic, Del Mar's richest race, 3-year-olds have won the race three times: Best Pal in 1991, General Challenge in 1999, and Came Home in 2002. [DRF]
Bob Baffert is deciding between the Haskell and the Jim Dandy at Saratoga.
"I'd prefer the Haskell but I'm going to keep an eye on the weather....Wet tracks aren't good for his feet."Wow, that would be pretty cool!
Baffert did say that the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27 is out of the question for Roman Ruler, but he'll likely race on the Travers undercard in the seven-furlong Grade I King's Bishop Stakes, in which he'll face the undefeated Lost in the Fog. [NY Daily News]