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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Derby Picks

- I was going to try and make this short and sweet given how many words I, and everyone else, have already written about this race that will all be over in a little over two minutes. I failed miserably in that regard. I did try though.

- The winning connections of the Kentucky Derby, and perhaps the horse too if he’s feeling up to it, will party afterwards at the Kentucky Derby Museum, and a former PR person of the museum told “We like it when Baffert wins.”

I think they’ll be very happy this year. I like both of Baffert’s horses – the ones, that is, that won’t be committing pace suicide on the front end. I’ve been going back and forth between the two, but have settled on Bob and John as my selection to win the roses in 2006. I give him the edge based on the traditional Derby handicapping factor of his having a solid two-year old campaign. Point Determined did debut on December 26, when he ran third. But the idea of the two-year old “rule” is that a horse has built up experience and foundation as a juvenile, and Point Determined qualifies, really, only technically.

Bob and John (Seeking the Gold) raced five times last year, and improved his Beyer figure each and every time up through his third to Brother Derek (and Your Tent or Mine, remember him?) in the Hollywood Futurity. The colt has raced four times in 2006 since then, and though he peaked Beyer-wise three races back with his 102 in the Sham, I think that the numbers since then don’t fully tell the story.

Nick came through with some interesting stats on the Beyers.

Horses with back to back 100 plus Beyers have won 8 of the last 14 Derbys. …..That stat is from 60 starters (in 14 Derbys) that meet the criteria. 184 Starters didnt meet the standard, that produced 6 winners. So 25% of the starters that meet the criteria have produced 57% of the winners in the last 14 years. It took 184 starters that dont meet the standard to produce 43% of the winners. Interesting stat.
Indeed. Bob and John earned only a 97 in the San Felipe and a 99 in the Wood, but I would argue that he had excuses in both and, more importantly, gained valuable experience and fitness from those races. In the San Felipe, he had a very bad break, and was solidly second to last. He angled towards the rail and took dirt in the face. He had been racing close to the pace in his prior starts, but still settled in, picked up horses nicely around the turn, and swung five wide around eventual winner AP Warrior. He hung a bit in the stretch, but still was game to hang onto third, as Point Determined, benefiting from a more ground-saving trip, rallied for place.

The Wood is the race that is causing many to throw him out, but it’s a big reason why I like him. My experience with sloppy tracks at Aqueduct is that though they may be glib at first, as the day wears on it can be very tiring. The Wood was the only two-turn race of the day, and there’s no doubt that Bob and John and Keyed Entry labored home. (By the way, Ray Kerrison was right and I was wrong…it did take Bob and John a tick over 40 seconds for the last three furlongs). But remember, for Bob and John, it was his first race outside of California and his first on a track anything but fast. I loved Keyed Entry that day, and was extremely impressed that Bob and John was able, under those conditions, to track him on the lead, and then finally put him away after a tough stretch battle. Yeah, he tired, and switched to the wrong lead, but he was entitled to tire, and if his near flawless workouts and gallops since then are any indication, he benefited greatly fitness-wise from the experience.

No Derby horse is getting better reviews for his appearance and demeanor at Churchill, after his impressive six furlong work at Santa Anita. The Form's Mike Welsch, in his final impressions of all the horses today, said of Bob and John:
Have really liked what we've seen of him in his two gallops since arriving from the west coast on Tuesday and a tape of his final work in California over the weekend. Should be sitting on another big effort.
The common wisdom is that we’ll see another closer from the clouds, and the fact that so many are anticipating that is all the more reason to be a bit contrarian. Bob and John is not a dead closer; in fact, if anything, a look at his PP lines would indicate that he could get mixed up with all the pressers behind the fast pace. However, the colt has been able to sit off paces that are very slow for California, and I'm hoping that he’ll be able to sit in the 3rd tier or so, and grind away until the finish. His breeding is totally classic – as I’ve posted several times before:
Bob and John is a blue-blooded Stonerside homebred, by Seeking the Gold out of graded stakes winner Minister’s Melody (Deputy Minister), and a half-brother to 2005 NY stakes winner Connie Belle. Bob and John’s third dam is Too Bald, the dam of Exceller, Capote, and Baldski.
Plus, he should be a good price. Those last two figs don’t look great on paper, and there’s been a lot of ridicule about the way he finished up in the Wood. I think he may be higher than Point Determined and perhaps AP Warrior too.

I was going to rate Point Determined (Point Given) just below my top selection, but the comments about him by Welsch and others are making me nervous. Welsch kept a particular eye on him today and reported that he failed to switch leads through the stretch, and that he’s been on the sluggish side during his first two gallops since flying in from the west coast on Tuesday. I’ll keep an eye on that; perhaps he's just distracted by the Yum! signs. But you gotta love the way he’s come around this year, and he had little shot against Brother Derek in the SA Derby given the pace. He’s another one who actually stays closer to the pace than you’d think from what’s been written, but with the requisite racing luck, could also be the type to persist until the end.

I think AP Warrior (AP Indy) will be bet lower than his 15-1 morning line odds. He’s been attracting a lot of attention, and has that John Sherriffs thang going on (though do you really think he can win two Derbys in a row?). He’s also two-for-two against Bob and John. AP Warrior was tough and game in the San Felipe, and I think his SA Derby was more of a training exercise than anything else. Has the speed to stay within striking distance and could make his $1.3 million price tag pay off with a big finish.

I think that if there’s a bombshell, rather than an out-of-the-clouds closer, it could be Keyed Entry (Honour and Glory). Yeah, he didn't really have a two-year old campaign either, but he still owns the highest Beyer fig in the field other than Sinister Minister, and I liked his Gotham more than most. If you can excuse his tiring in the mud in the Wood, he rates an upset chance. Breaking from the three post with two plodders inside, he could enjoy a cozy trip behind the speed if he can relax as he did in the Gotham.

I had Sweetnorthernsaint (Sweetsouthernsaint) rated higher, but all these negative reports are making me uneasy. Welsch on his appearance today:
Sweetnorthernsaint appeared to go a little better Thursday although was still not striding out with the same extension observed prior to Saturday's work….Thinking he might be a bit over the top coming off that fast Illinois Derby win but still a major if he can duplicate his previous performance.
I think he’s the one out of the apparent speed/pressers that could be best able to sit far enough away from the pace to get burned, he finishes well, and his Illinois Derby Beyer is second only to Sinister Minister around two turns.

Barbaro (Dynaformer) has been right on top of fast paces on dirt and grass, and his ability to come from further behind than that is in question. But undefeated is undefeated.

Sharp Humor (Distorted Humor) is as tough as they come. Only Barbaro was able to look him in the eye and pass him, and that was in Sharp Humor’s first two turn race. Watch out if Sinister Minister gets left and he opens up a lead.

What can you say about Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr); he’s dominated six times in a row since switching to dirt, and has been making an awesome appearance on the track. His outside post may help him avoid the kind of scenario that caused him to rush to the lead early in the Arkansas Derby. But it may not. Remember, it took him 40 2/5 seconds to get home in that race, and he’ll have to do a better job of conserving his energy until the end.

Cause to Believe (Maria's Mon) was taken out of his game in the Illinois Derby; with a faster pace to shoot at, he could get a piece. But his workout on Saturday was not visually impressive, and Welsch notes that he tired so badly at the end he did not even receive a gallop out time. That doesn't sound good. Consider also that he hasn't faced the best horses, and I give him a borderline shot to hit the board.

I don’t know if Brother Derek (Benchmark) will even end up being the favorite, so many are taking a stand against him. He could end up being one of those pre-race favorites that actually becomes a wise-guy bet at a decent price. But he just doesn’t seem to fit here, given his running style. He’s a speed horse who’s not fast enough to keep up with the speed he’ll see here.

I’ve been following Jazil (Seeking the Gold) for awhile, and man, he has classic breeding for this. I think he’ll be the one to pick up some pieces if the common wisdom is correct.

Steppenwolfer (Aptitude) is consistent but seems too slow. Sinister Minister is going to tire from his early efforts. If he doesn’t, I’m going to tire from ripping up my tickets. Showing Up (Strategic Mission) is a great looking young horse, but has only three lifetime races, all this year.

I’ll play Bob and John on top with Point Determined, AP Warrior, Keyed Entry, and Sweetnorthernsaint (depending on further developments), and use Barbaro, Sharp Humor, and Jazil in the third spot. (As of now, anyway.)

If anyone would like to email their selections, I'll put up a post with your opinions.


Anonymous said...

...i too am concerned by negative visual perception of Cause to Believe's last work...i have no idea how he normally trains though, and Holendorfer says he's a bad workhorse, so i'll let the bad workout slide...i have to disagree with the notion that he hasn't faced any good horses...i got my first look @ Cause to Believe when he ran a very nice second (sprinting) to Too Much Bling...that one may be the best sprinter in the country, and he's almost certainly the best 3yo his next start, he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and beat A.P. Warrior to death, though that one has obviously improved since then...continuing onward, he went 1 1/16 again and ran past a loose-on-the-lead Sinister, i know Sinister Minister hit the rail in the stretch (twice, i think), but Cause to Believe was gonna beat him anyway, no question about his next start, he threw in a bad one going 1 1/8 @ Hawthorne, getting blown off the track by Sweetnorthernsaint...not only that, but he was unable to catch Mister Triester for second...however, he did beat Rackateer on the day, and many "experts" were picking that one to win (off a good showing vs. A.P. Warrior, Point Determined, and Bob & John in the San Felipe) i have to disagree that this horse hasn't faced anyone...the race does set up for him, or so it would appear...and i read again today where Hollendorfer said "he's a better horse than Eye of the Tiger", who ran 5th for Hollendorfer (beaten 4 lengths) in Funny Cide's Derby...i'm not sure Jerry would say that if he were worried about CTB running poorly, so again, i think you can dismiss the bad workout...i just can't help but think Cause to Believe is the forgotten horse here...50/1 on the morning line?...this horse was favored (or close to it) vs. SNS in the Illinois Derby...was that so long ago? seems that nobody in the media is talking about this horse, and when they do, it's all bad...i think he's got a chance at all the marbles on Saturday, and if nothing else, i think he's definitely a candidate to sneak into the tri or super at a BIG price...i wouldn't necessarily call him "my selection", but as of now, this is the horse i have the most money tied up in (thru matchups and such)...i think he's gonna run well...

ballyfager said...

Re Sweetnorthernsaint - there was a rumor in '73 during Derby Week that Secretariat was lame. I hope that SNS proves to be just as lame on Saturday.

Re Bob & John & Jazil = I had this exacta in the Wood but I don't like either of the horses on Sat. Nothing about the Wood was impressive IMO

I also agree with the previous poster - the real value horse in this race may be Cause To Believe.

Anonymous said...

Well I won't make my bet till they are actually on the track. Then I can find out who blew up in the paddock, who is lathered up in the post parade and who looks like they are handling the hoopla in stride. But all things being equal, for me its a tri box, Barbaro, Bob and John, Lawyer Ron, AP Warrior and Point Determined on top and for second with a whole lotta horses for third. I have absolutely fallen in love with Barbaro, I was always a fan, but the way he is approaching this race, if I was Mike Matz, I would be very excited about my chances of introducing a new way to bring a horse to the Derby, fresh, a five week layoff. Todays American Thoroughbred has been bred so much for speed that unlike horses of years ago, they can't hold up to frequency of racing that they used too. I had serious doubts about Matz's plan to race him once in 13 weeks prior to the big day, but seeing him work and seeing him schooling in the paddock the other day, changed my mind completely. If he gets beat it wont be because he wasnt conditioned or ready. This horse is sitting on a big race in my opinion. With the 8 hole and two of the major speed merchants inside of him, he should be sitting pretty. Derbys are won at the eighth pole, you have to be on the lead or a length or so off at that spot to win it. He has been a very successful horse at a mile and an eighth, having won 3 graded stakes at that distance on three totally different surfaces, turf, slop and fast. No other horse in the race has been a mile and eigth three times let alone winning three times. Its been a while since I have been this in love with a Derby hopeful, the last one was Hansel, we all know how that turned out, before that, Unbridled. Good luck to everybody and dont let anyone talk you off your horse. Nick

Alan Mann said...

I had Hansel too..

Barbaro sure did look fantastic galloping yesterday, and they showed his workout again on The Works. That wasn't a gallop-out, he was still being ridden. Stevens said he worked a mile, probably in around 1:39. The only question I have is that he's been second at virtually every pole in every race up until he gets the lead in the stretch. It doesn't look like he'll be able to do that here, so we'll see if he can adapt. And again, undefeated is undefeated. But I don't think he'll be any value in the win pool; in fact, I think he could be the favorite. I'm using him, but probably not on top.

Anonymous said...

I have to ammend one statement, there are a couple of others that have raced at a mile and an eighth three times, Jazil (3) and Flashy Bull (4) have, but again they didnt have the success that Barbaro has. Frankly I see it as a two horse race. Barbaro and Lawyer Ron. Both of them look and act magnificent. They both have an air about them, like they are spoiling for a fight. I think Barbaro will prevail. Nick

Anonymous said...

...i went matchup-hunting tonight, and found more than a few...i even found two matchups on the Oaks...btw, a few of these appear twice (with different prices), because they came from different hotels...

Wait a While -105
Wonder Lady Anne L -125

Last Romance EV
Diplomat Lady -130

Lawyer Ron -125
Brother Derek -105

SNS -110
Barbaro -120

Steppenwolfer +110
AP Warrior -140

Point Determined -105
Bob and John -125

Showing Up +135
Sinister Minister -165

Sharp Humor -120
Bluegrass Cat -110

Cause to Believe +110
Private Vow -140

Storm Treasure -140
Deputy Glitter +110

Keyed Entry -130
Jazil EV

Brother Derek -115
Lawyer Ron -115

Barbaro -120
SNS -110

Point Determined -120
Bob and John -110

Sinister Minister +120
AP Warrior -150

Showing Up -115
Sharp Humor -115

Jazil -110
Steppenwolfer -120

Keyed Entry -110
Bluegrass Cat -120

Private Vow EV
Cause to Believe -130

Deputy Glitters -115
Flashy Bull -115

Seaside Retreat +130
Storm Treasure -160

Bob and John -160
Private Vow +140

Brother Derek -110
SNS -110

Lawyer Ron -110
Barbaro -110

Lawyer Ron +120
SNS -140

Lawyer Ron -105
Point Determined -115

SNS -120
Point Determined EV

Point Determined -105
Bob and John -115

Point Determined -140
AP Warrior +120

Barbaro -130
Bob and John +110

AP Warrior -210
Showing Up +180

Sinister Minister -140
Keyed Entry +120

Sinister Minister +115
Jazil -135

Sharp Humor +130
Steppenwolfer -150

Sharp Humor -135
Keyed Entry +115

Flashy Bull +135
Private Vow -155

Flashy Bull +125
Storm Treasure -145

Sharp Humor -105
Cause to Believe -115

Storm Treasure -130
Deputy Glitters +110