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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Derby Horse-by-Horse Part 2 [Comments Enabled]

11) Bwana Bull (50-1) is a son of Holy Bull, and I couldn't really find anything else interesting to say about him.

12) Nobiz Like Shobiz (8-1). I like this horse more after reading that article in the Times about his breeder/owner, 82 year old Elizabeth Valando. She turned away a Sheikh bearing mucho cash and, although I think she's out of her freaking mind, it's a noble gesture to not insure the colt so as to not profit from any tragedy. The buzz on this colt has been a steady drone ever since he first stepped onto the track at Belmont last fall, or so it seems. With all the hand wringing, including from myself, over his immaturity and bad habits, his running lines look mighty fine in the Form. The Beyer guys don't like his high fig of 98; but it's not like we've seen any 108's this year, and I'd think he only has to improve a few points. I don't really see anyone exploding here Beyer-wise unless Curlin turns out to be a freak. By Albert the Great, he descends from the stout Ribot line, and we mentioned his breeding the other day. There are certainly a lot of things to like.

But while the blinkers and cotton may have helped him in the Wood, Cornelio Velasquez had all he could handle wrangling him back off the leaders. And this was in familiar surroundings, at the track where he turned in his best prior effort, without blinkers, in last year's Remsen. While acknowledging his talent and that of Barclay Tagg, my opinion is that it's a bit of a stretch to expect that in these chaotic conditions, he's going to all of a sudden show the maturity to run the race he'll need to - to sit patiently a few lengths off the pacesetters breaking to his inside, and run straight and true down the long stretch amidst the wall of noise. So with all due respect to his owner and those of you who like him, I'm going to pass.

13) Sam P. (20-1). OK, that was kinda long-winded, eh? I'll keep this one shorter, and save my Pletcher spiel for a bit later on. This one ran OK for second to Great Hunter in the Bob Lewis, and the 99 Beyer he earned is higher than that of the 12 horse. Pletcher takes the blinkers back off after he was closer to the pace of the SA Derby, so I expect he'll be mid-pack, and could see him finishing in the first half of the field. He's by Cat Thief (by Storm Cat), third in the 1999 Derby, whose stud fee has gone from $35,000 in 2002 to $7500 "stands and nurses" now.

14) Scat Daddy (10-1) OK, let's talk about Pletcher now. I haven't yet said I've liked anyone with the exception of Curlin, and even he not to win. So you can probably figure out which way this thing is going. I know a lot of people who don't like Pletcher's horses because of Pletcher and his record of failure in Triple Crown races. Beyer said: I'm going to be a little hesitant about playing any of the Pletchers, though, because of his mediocre record in the Derby.

As I've said, I don't consider myself a real Todd defender nor a particularly big fan, but I think there's no question that he's the most dominant trainer in the game right now. The idea that he somehow isn't capable of winning a Derby just doesn't make sense to me. And if he has made mistakes in the past, I think he's proven to be smart enough to learn from them.

It's not like he's had the best candidates here the last few years. Last year he ran the sprinter Keyed Entry, and Bluegrass Cat ran an excellent second to Barbaro. In 2005, he started Flower Alley at 41-1, Coin Silver, a ridiculous entry after a sloppy track win in the Lexington, at an underlaid 38-1, and Bandini, who was the training star coming in, and who got hurt and finished 19th. The year before saw him run Limehouse, at 41-1 and ill-suited to the distance, and 24-1 Pollard's Vision.

This year, I happen to think he has the stock to do it. I think he's trained Scat Daddy with a purpose ever since his second career race, the Sanford at Saratoga. Pletcher spoke afterwards of giving the horse an education that day, when he closed to nip Teuflesberg, and I still can't believe I lost that race! This year, he battled for the lead with Nobiz in the Holy Bull, closed from way back in the Fountain of Youth, and stalked a couple of lengths behind in the Florida Derby. He has solid foundation, with five races at two, and three preps; and he's a tough competitor who likes to win.

He's by Johannesburg (Hennessy), a Northern Dancer line stallion, and I'm kinda preferring the Mr. P's these days, seeing how they've dominated in the last 15 years or so. But he is inbred closely, 4x2, to Mr. Prospector, who is the colt's broodmare sire. In any event, this is a horse I like a lot, though I'll certainly be checking to make sure he's not wearing those bar shoes he's been training in on race day.

15) Tiago (15-1). So what do you do when you like a horse, but you read a report in the Daily Racing Form by a well-regarded clocker guy that says he's not doing well. Mike Welsch says that Tiago hasn't seemed comfortable over the local surface since shipping in off a fast work at Hollywood Park, where he was lugging in very badly at the end. I was going to use him at the bottom of my tickets based on what was undeniably an impressive close to win the Santa Anita Derby, accomplished in 12 4/5; as well as a distance oriented pedigree. Tiago is by Pleasant Tap, out of Set Them Free, a Stop the Music mare who, of course, also begat Giacomo. Think she has a shot at broodmare of the year if Tiago wins? I'm still inclined to use him, but I'll have to think about it and try to get some more insight.

16) Circular Quay (8-1), like his stablemate Scat Daddy, has plenty of experience, having run five times at two, including three Grade 1's. Except in the spill-marred Risen Star, he's never been worse than second, and he's overcome some troubled starts along the way. He's by Derby winner Thunder Gulch, a grandson of Mr. Prospector out of Grade 1 winner (sprint) Circle of Life (Belong to Me/Danzig).

Yes, he's been out eight weeks, but as we've seen many times, Pletcher is deadly with layoff horses, and why really should this race be any different? (Dick Powell suggests at Brisnet that we see how his workmate Rags to Riches, coming off a similar layoff, fares in the Oaks.) Over the last two years, Pletcher is 29% in Grade 1 races with horse coming off layoffs of 31-60 days. If you narrow it down to 50-60 days, his record is 12-6-2-3 [CORRECTION: 13-7-1-0]. I give Circular Quay a big shot, though he's going to need a lot of racing luck coming from near the back of the pack, and I don't know if his win price will reflect that.

17) Stormello (30-1). Another one that Welsch didn't like, and besides, what is Bill Currin doing? He thinks that this horse is all of a sudden going to become a closer? I've expressed much well-deserved admiration for this horse's grit and heart, but I don't think that's enough to carry this son of Stormy Atlantic out of a Carson City mare a mile and a quarter.

18) Any Given Saturday (12-1). When I latch myself on to a Derby horse too soon, it can be kinda like a relationship. I go through rough patches, rethinking if this is really the horse for me; and I have thoughts of being unfaithful. Indeed, I've been flirting with others; and at times, I've even lusted in my mind for others, especially when faced with obstacles like his unfavorable post draw. As a presumed mid-pack closer, an outside post couldn't be worse; Garrett Gomez may face the choice of getting hung absurdly wide, or being further back than he wants.

At these times, I need to think back to what got me hooked in the first place. His three excellent and improving races at two, culminating with a narrow loss to Tiz Wonderful in just his third career race. He's had three preps this year, and each one has gone almost exactly as I'd expected - the routine return win in the Sam Davis, his superb effort in the TB Derby, falling just short to Street Sense after conceding all the ground, and his third in the Wood, which I wouldn't even call a bounce. I thought he ran the race he was trained to, and, even given my occasional misgivings about Velazquez, I can't help but think that his being so wide in a small field was by design, for whatever reason - to keep him out of trouble, or to give him some experience. By Distorted Humor, he's by a proven Derby sire from the Mr. Prospector line, out of an AP Indy mare - a half-sister to the decent graded stakes placed Second in June - with Derby winners Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid close up in the pedigree.

I don't really like seeing Steve Crist claim that he's the wiseguy horse. I hate being the wise guy. And I think his 12-1 morning line is too low. But I think he hasn't missed a step in his preparation, and all reports indicate that he's doing and looking extremely well this week. He has the tactical speed to try and make the most out of a bad post, as Closing Argument did from the same slot in 2005. So I'm sticking with him, subject to certain conditions which I'll get into at the end.

19) Dominican (20-1). This colt, undefeated on Poly and winless on dirt, is less hampered by the outside post due to his running style - he's gonna just lay back, make a big run and hope to get lucky. With all the talk about the Blue Grass, the fact that he came widest and from furthest back of all against the dawdling pace to pass Street Sense, Great Hunter and the others seems to be getting overlooked, as evidenced by his 20-1 morning line.

The question as to whether he can transfer his form to the Churchill dirt is a legitimate one, but it's also possible he's just improving at the right time. He hasn't run that fast, but the Blue Grass was of course an anomaly time-wise, and he has improved his figs since last year. By El Corredor (Mr. Greeley), out of a Dixieland Band mare, he's inbred to Secretariat, but his dosage comes in a bit high at 4.33. My gut feeling is that he'll put in a run, but I'll use him only at the bottom.

20) Great Hunter (15-1). I've probably soured more on him than anyone else in the field; at least amongst those who haven't had an exhausting workout too close to the race. I'd already been growing less and less enamored of his two-prep schedule - with six weeks between those preps - and his Blue Grass, in which he was close to that pace but was still beaten when taken up late, was the final straw. And the number 20 post was the final straw that broke the final straw. He has some interesting aspects of pedigree, being by the distance loving Aptitude (AP Indy) out of a mare by Roy (Fappiano/Mr. Prospector), a top sire in Chile and Argentina; and he has lots of Buckpasser blood, being inbred 5x4x5. He's reported to be training well, like most everyone else in the field, but the Doug O'Neill bandwagon broke down a while ago for me, and he's off my tickets.

Picks:

Any Given Saturday - I'm actually in a great position here, because even if I decide to abandon him at the last minute due to the his being overbet, or a poor appearance in the paddock (which I'll be watching, since Mike Welsch noted that he looked washy there on Wednesday) this is like a hedge. If he wins, the bragging rights from having championed him here all along would last a lifetime, and be far more valuable than any pittance I might win at the betting windows!
Scat Daddy
Circular Quay

That's right. I like three horses from the best trainer in the game. What can be so wrong about that? Why, it's like hitching your wagon to, say, Alex Rodriguez, the best hitter in baseball, in the post-season...... Oh. That might be a bad example. Or maybe it will turn out to be the appropriate one, we'll see. Also, for the bottom of my trifecta tickets, I'll use Curlin, Zanjero, Teuflesberg, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Tiago, and Dominican.

5 Comments:

Anonymous said...

I suppose the intervention failed?

Of the Todds, I like Circular Q the best, and he was flattered by his workmate rags today.

Street Sense ran horribly his only wet track start, so may need to go back to the drawing board. Certainly a valid reason to leave him off the ticket in a race not lacking for such.

26-1 right now on Great Hunter, very interested at odds anywhere near that this time tomorrow.

Those are my three, with a few closing types underneath in some exotics.

Note the 300K carryover.

And the track seemed to be playing fair today, but a late day lightning storm delayed the finale.

It was raining Storm Cats and dogs.

May one of us get lucky.
Mr. Ed,

Case said...

Nobiz, HARD Spun, Zanjero.....that is the pick from the 1800 block of N Lincoln St Wilm De, Best of Luck to all (Bohemia Stable winner of Peter Pan)......See you at the IRS window

ghostzapper2007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ghostzapper2007 said...

"Street Sense ran horribly his only wet track start, so may need to go back to the drawing board. Certainly a valid reason to leave him off the ticket in a race not lacking for such."

Huh??????? Exactly how did you determine this total BS claim about SS running terribly in his only wet track start????

His ONLY wet track start was only the 3rd race of his career and the 1st time he tried routing and graded company and winners!!! Prior to this race he had never Beyered above 83 in two dirt sprints on fast tracks (one an 81 Beyer and the other an 83 Beyer).

In his 3rd race, his only wet track race, he was routing for the 1st time, taking on winners for the 1st time, and moving from maiden company to G3 competition. In this 1st wet track route he earned an 84 beyer while finishing 3rd in a field of 10 (this was was his career best speed figure effort to this point). In that wet track race he pressed very solid fractions while racing wide before slightly weakening late. Remember, this was his 1st route, his 1st time taking on winners, and a move from straight maidens to open G3 company.

How in the world do you deem that effort running "terribly"????????

By the way, in his next start which was on Polytrack he ran an 87 Beyer at Keeneland. His wet track race sure looks on par with the races which surrounded that effort on dirt from both a pure speed and quality standpoint.

Erin said...

Made these bets after your horse-by-horse pt.1 but before your pt. 2. Total $16, last minute crowded-OTB final decision (as evidenced by placing my four win bets).

$2 SS ex w/HS, CQ, and AGS
$2 win to win on Zanjero, CQ, AGS, and Stormello