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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Eliminating the Favorites

- On The Works, Gary Stevens argued with Frank Lyons and Tom Amoss about Brother Derek’s last work on April 24 at Santa Anita. Alex Solis had him in hand behind a workmate, making no attempt to pass him before the finish line. Amoss wondered aloud what the point of that was, and, indeed whether Brother Derek (Benchmark) could have passed the other horse even if he’d tried. He felt that it was “not the right kind of work.” Stevens countered that it was merely a maintenance work to teach him to rate and get dirt in the face. Amoss asked sarcastically and a little testily if they were now going to teach the horse to rate a week before the Derby? Lyons said it "wasn’t the greatest of ideas," wondering how sitting behind one horse is going to prepare him for what he’ll face in the 20 horse field.

I think Brother Derek is the least likely of the four top choices to be able to adapt the way any of them will have to in order to win. Sweetnorthernsaint has experienced some adversity and has shown ability to relax early. Barbaro overcame the outside post at Gulfstream and had to fight to beat Sharp Humor. Lawyer Ron has show versatility. Brother Derek is a horse who wants the lead - watching the Santa Catalina again on the Cal Racing site, I saw Alex Solis doing everything he could to restrain his colt just off Latent Heat - and there seems little doubt that he’s going to either be close to the fastest pace he’s ever faced, or much further behind than he’s been since his first race. (I don’t think his close in his debut means anything at this point; I’ve noticed that before, that you’ll see a horse close in a short debut sprint, and then become a confirmed early speed type. Bellamy Road is one example that comes to mind.)

Brother Derek is the consensus post-time favorite. I’d be surprised, but not shocked if he’s not. You do see unexpected developments on the tote board there sometimes. I think he’s a real nice horse, but in this Derby, as the probably favorite, he’s one I have to stand completely against. I’ll not use him anywhere on my tickets.

Mike Welsch of the Form tabbed Barbaro (Dynamormer) as the work of the day, as he zipped a half in 46 seconds. On The Works, they spoke about how hard he hits the ground, and Amoss noted that his high action was suitable for the turf. Lyons said that his action is different on the grass. His preparation – one race in 13 weeks – may be unorthodox, but everything has gone according to plan. Michael Matz said: "We've been lucky. Nothing (in his training) has wavered at all. He hasn't missed any works." [Bloodhorse]

But if you look at his running lines, there’s not a number to be found higher than 2; so he’s another horse that faces the same dilemma as Brother Derek. This doesn’t mean that he can’t be good enough to overcome, but is it worth betting him as the 2nd or 3rd choice? So while I won’t say he won’t be anywhere on my tickets, he’s definitely not going to be on top.

Lawyer Ron’s workout was the most visually impressive one to me. Talk about “visibly quickening” in the stretch, he seemed to take off like a rocket when John McKee shook him up mid-stretch. Then he eased up on him coming to wire, still completing the five furlongs in 58.90. Gary Stevens called it an “awesome workout,” and Lyons noted that “he went fast, and then he went faster.” Tom Amoss said that he galloped out another five eighths after the wire – “a big, big, nice move for a horse that’s going to be a big factor on Derby day.”

The big question to many on Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr) is, of course, the fact that his Beyer figs are significantly below the others. Hardcore Beyer guys like Dick Jerardi are not going to back this horse because of the figs. I’m usually wrong when I take a stand against the Beyers, but fortunately I have other reasons for betting against him. For one thing, again, he won’t be the right price in a race in which, in my opinion, value absolutely demands and requires that I bet a horse or horses at a big price. But seeing that he looked so uncomfortable in the Arkansas Derby when he was faced with some traffic, what’s going to happen in the Derby, especially if he gets stuck with a post towards the inside? I can see him being in the lead at some point after the speedballs fold, but I wonder if McKee will be able to save enough for the stretch run. So, like Barbaro, I’m not counting him out, but if he wins, I’ll lose.

So there you go; I’ve eliminated, from at least the top spot, the three horses expected to top the betting, zap. (Not so for Sweetnorthernsaint.) Given the pace scenario I expect, it seems easy to do so. In fact, it seems far too easy. I could certainly be wrong; maybe I’m too Giacomotized here. But I won’t have any regrets if I am; I think it’s the right approach and the right way to bet the race. Now, if I can only come up with the winner...


Anonymous said...

One thing you always want to keep in mind when betting younger horses that are still developing is try to find a horse that is still on the upswing, still learning, still developing physically and mentally. The expression on the racetrack amongst bettors is horses "on the come". Some of the horses that will take a lot of money Derby day have already peaked, run their best races. I think thats the case with Brother Derek and possibly even with Lawyer Ron and some of the other more prominent names. It's a difficult thing to determine, but one that has not reached his peak most definitely in my opinion is Bob and John, even in winning the Wood his stretch run revealed that he wasnt exactly killing himself. He still races a little on the green side. He wants to pull himself up when he makes the lead, he didnt switch leads in the stretch till about the 16th pole and his ears were telling me he wasnt straining at all in that effort. He has stalking speed, not a back of the pack closer, he relaxes well and if the race comes a last quarter on the slow side like last year due to a fast pace, he very likely could be the stongest horse down the stretch. I remember Baffert being very excited about this horse back in January. He was saying how he was a gangly colt who still had a lot growing to do and physically and mentally. I am of the opinion that he is still on the upswing and will put in a good effort on Derby day. He will be in all my exotics. Nick

Anonymous said...

...hey Alan, did you put that disclaimer about Brother Deerek's debut in there for MY benefit?'m sure you knew i was gonna bring it're apparently able to access replays on the Cal Racing site, so i would definitely recommend watching that on if you haven't really was an awesome performance...unfortuantely i don't get TVG, so i can't watch The Works, but it sounds like Amoss and Lyons are nit-picking in regard to Brother Derek...i'll wager that i've seen more of him than either of those two guys, and i'm convinced he'll run well...doesn't make me right, doesn't make them wrong, but i'll stand by my opinion...obviously things could get pretty hairy near the front, and that might be to his detriment, though i'm projecting him for a nice stalking trip...i wouldn't be surprised at all to see him coasting along 4-5 lengths off the early lead (which may STILL be going too fast, we'll have to see)...of course, as you mentioned, he's the likely favorite, and even if he doesn't go favored there still won't be any value on him...not in a 20-horse field, and not in a 10-furlong race where he might be forced to expend too much early energy...i think he's very likely the best horse in the race, but i won't be betting him and i do hope he loses...the horse i think will offer the most value on Saturday is Cause to's hard to back him over Sweetnorthernsaint, when that one just blew him off the track @ Hawthorne, butsometimes horses just don't fire, for whatever reason...the pace certainly appears to set up well for him, and i'd be rather surprised if he isn't rolling late...Hollendorfer got a good run out of his only previous Derby starter, Eye of the Tiger, and i read today that he considers Cause to Believe superior to taht one...i also read that his sub-par workout on Saturday really wasn't sub-par at all, it was right on par with what he normally does...Hollender even said "it was good, for him"...of course trainers never say anything bad about their horse right before the Derby, but on the other hand Jerry knows his horse a lot better than Mike Welsch or Steve Haskin or whoever else might be reporting on the drill...i'll give him the benefit of the doubt...obviously it'll be a major upset if he wins the race, but again i think it sets up well for him and his post-time odds could be 30/1 or higher...and i think he has a better chance than that...perhaps 1-in-15...he's also a horse i would definitely use in exotic wagers, the kind who could sneak into 2nd or 3rd at a big price... saw Derby commercial on NBC today where they mentioned "unbeaten favorite Barbaro"...those guys really do their homework... 8^P

...pps...i got an e-mail this morning from my Man in Japan, who wanted to know where he could bet Deep Impact to win the Arc, "at any kind of price"...i'm guessing he saw the race, and he must've been WAY impressed...

Alan Mann said...

Yeah, Walter, I guess that was a pre-emptive strike on my part. :) Sounds like NBC is grasping for something. Even with all these contenders undefeated for 2006 if not for their careers, there doesn't seem to be any particular horse that is creating any particular attention like Bellamy Road, Smarty Jones, or Empire Maker did coming into the last three editions.