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Friday, May 15, 2009

Preakness Thoughts

Before getting to the Preakness, those who are following the Aqueduct situation should check out this comment (and this) if you haven't already. It's anonymous, so I can't guarantee its veracity; but we've sure gotten some good information here of late, so it may be worth checking out.

So, just some thoughts on the Preakness for now, as my writing time is still limited these days, and, as with the Derby, I find myself without any really strong opinions...though I think this is certainly a more interesting race. I watched the video of the Derby last night, for the first time since probably the morning after the race. And even though I knew the outcome and how the race was run, I still didn't see the winner coming the first time I watched. Easy to criticize Durkin, but that horse really did come from nowhere. The striking thing about the stretch run to me is how Mine That Bird was just easily gliding along his golden path, while Pioneerof the Nile, Papa Clem, and Musket Man staged their grueling battle for the place spot. The winner's final half mile of 48.11 is nearly a full three seconds faster than anyone else in the race! You can certainly argue that he freaked in the slop while taking advantage of the best part of the track. But even so, the flip side is that it didn't take the kind of effort that you'd think would cause him to regress too much two weeks later.

Andy Beyer writes about the Derby winner today. But in attempting to explain his success, Beyer doesn't acknowledge the fact that, just maybe, it was his own defective speed figures for the Sunland Derby, which has now produced two triple digit stakes winners plus Advice with his Lexington 94, which made the result such a long odds surprise. I've changed my tune on this horse from just after his Derby win, when I derided his 4th place finish with a 40 second final three-eighths at Sunland. He ran his first half in a blistering 45.78 that day, and was hung four wide on the second turn; this in a race in which he had a right to regress a bit in his second effort after a tough seasonal debut. And, maybe there's something to his training at a high altitude after all. He has to have a tougher trip than the Derby this time - because it can't get much more golden than that - and the loss of Borel is a blow. But I think he's certainly live, particularly at anything over his 6-1 morning line.

It's hard for me to see any of the abovementioned three runner-ups moving forward two weeks after what had to be a draining effort for all, in finishing in what the Beyer guys would have us believe would have been the slowest Derby ever had MTB gotten himself taken up. I was skeptical of Pioneerof the Nile going into that race, and, though he once again showed himself to be a game competitor, he'll be the shortest price of the three, and the one I like the least. Papa Clem was an overlay at 12-1 - and that's not a second guess; you guys were all over me for liking him that day if you recall! He looked like a possible winner midstretch, and how many others could you say that about! This son of Smart Strike shows a positive trend in his figs if you throw out his sloppy track races, and if the track is fast, then his morning line of 12-1 is ridiculous again in my opinion. Having said that, he did labor home in 26.16 after being wide on the turn, and I wonder how much he'll have left in the tank off the quick turnaround.

Musket Man was even wider on the turn, yet only he and Summer Bird cracked the 26 second mark for the last quarter (other than MTB of course). He's never been worse than third. Again, I have the same concerns about his ability to bounce back off the short rest here, and I don't like his pedigree even for the slightly shorter Preakness; but I think you have to use him underneath at the least.

On the other hand, Friesan Fire couldn't have expended that much energy at all running 18th by 42 lengths, after grabbing a quarter shortly after the start. I thought he was the favorite on merit after the scratch of I Want Revenge on his form, and other than the seven week layoff, which I hated. Now, he has a race under his belt. Or, does he really? How much could he really have gotten out of that race? Still, I think he's certainly a live number here at 5-1 or higher on his back form.

10-15 years ago, I think there would have been more talk about Big Drama, but it seems as if the Pimlico-as-speed-favoring theory has been largely debunked here in the internet age. Still, he's got the rail and, with the other speeds drawn far outside, he might find himself with a healthy lead heading into the backstretch. Son of Montbrook is two-for-two around two turns, has the pedigree numbers to run on, and holds a freshness edge on the rest of the field. Take the Points, one of the other speed candidates, is a bit interesting based on the fact that his fastest race was on real dirt; but, on the other hand, he's o-for-2 around two turns.

Calvin Borel, on Rachel Alexandra, should be able to size up the situation given the speed of his filly, who has won wire-to-wire and with a stalking trip....but I'd certainly expect the latter strategy this time given his post and the speed of the rail horse. The improvement of her speed figures are striking since she stretched out to two turns. Given how easily she's won this year, perhaps she has plenty left in the tank. But she was trained to peak in the Oaks, and this is a last-minute change of pace by new connections. And how will she react running in a big field after three easy trips in short ones, and against some colts who are battle-tested and tough even if you don't think they're as fast? She's 0 for 2 on two weeks rest, and I don't expect that this will be any different. An obvious bet-against at ridiculously low odds.

So, seems as if I'm leaning towards Mine That Bird, with Friesan Fire and Papa Clem defensively on top, and underneath along with Musket Man, Big Drama, and perhaps Take the Points at the bottom. All depending on the odds as post time approaches of course. I think the filly staggers home to the wire, but I'll probably throw her in somewhere. Can't let emotions completely cloud one's judgment, y'know?


steve in nc said...

Rachael Alexander's short price drew me back in for this one to take a shot against her.

It is a big relief that Andy Beyer thinks my choice, Big Drama, won't be fit enough. I was scared he was about to pick him. BD is being brought to this exactly the opposite of the filly, with the same sprint-to-route, 6 or 7 week off pattern that he used to romp at Calder. He's fast, has the rail as opposed to post 13, and a good pattern of 6f wkts. If I could lock in the ML odds, I'd be very happy.

I too do not think Bird's race was necessarily a fluke, although I'm not expecting a repetition tomorrow. But if you are right about the speed fig for the Sunland Derby, Beyer wasn't alone in making the error. I don't think anyone gave that race a good #.

El Angelo said...

Do NOT overlook Terrain here. If the pace is as quick as I expect, he may be flying late, and may get first run on Mine That Bird.

Ann said...

I don't buy the "trained to peak in the Oaks" argument. It seems to me that the colts were trained to peak in the Derby. So if you discount her for that reason, you ought to discount the colts that ran in the Derby too. Also the timing of her races is certainly comparable to Papa Clem's and Musket Man's, both of whom you like. I expect her to hold her own.

Anonymous said...

Happened to see Don Peebles on CNBC this morning. What a goof ball this guy is as he fumbled over the Aqueduct facts and figures, making at least two key factual errors. Here's a guy that has never done a project in NYCity, nor a Gaming project, and he gets a segment on CNBC to promote his bid? Governor Paterson should see right through this fellows antics as they are shallow and without merit.

DiscreetPicks said...

Just got back from Lucky's race and sportsbook in Las Vegas, and they were offering the following props:

Will Rachel Alexandra win the Preakness?

Yes +190
No -225


Mine That Bird +220
Rachel Alexandra -300

Pioneerof the Nile +150
Rachel Alexandra -180

Friesan Fire -110
Pioneerof the Nile -120

Mine That Bird +150
Pioneerof the Nile -180

Papa Clem -115
Mine That Bird -115

Musket Man -115
Papa Clem -115

Papa Clem +140
Pioneerof the Nile -170

Friesan Fire -130
Papa Clem +100

Anonymous said...

Here is the link for the CNBC interview with Peebles


Anonymous said...

Off topic, copied this from Crists blog;

"Interesting thoughts about synthetic racetracks from trainer Gary Stute (Papa Clem), who has trained and raced on them in California the last two years, during a TVG interview today:

"I've kind of been against synthetics the whole time and I think a few more people are starting to agree with me now. I run a lot fewer horses than I used to. Seems like I used to have three times as many horses in the barn as on the ranch and now it's three times as much on the ranch as at the barn. It seems like if they start to go sore behind it doesn't matter what you do, you just can't get them right. Honestly, I've given away about 15 horses in the last year with bowed tendons."

Anonymous said...

Alan, I feel it is my duty to warn you of the possible ramifications of leaving Luv Gov off your ticket. Named after your deposed Ex Govenor Elliot Spitzer. Just think of the irony if he wins. At least put a 2 dollar exacta box with the filly. I think Marylou whitney has another horse running named, Ninth Client after Spitzer's famous pecadillo. what's in the water up there in Albany?

Anonymous said...

While I'm at it. what chances do you give my Penguino's against the Canes? Cam Ward is a Monster. If we get past him I think Fleury extracts his revenge against Osgood and the very old Red Wings.