First-time starter Aspire ($8.90) won the second on Wednesday as favorite Grand Strategy (3-2) was seven lengths back making his debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. His is a solid first-out barn, especially with two-year olds - nine for 37 (24%) over the last year; 18 for 72 (an even 25%) over the last two.
But not lately. I'm a big believer in recency when it comes to trainer patterns, and I always set my Formulator stats in date order starting with the latest races. Stats over three or four years are useful in determining a trainer's overall tendencies; but there are always ups and downs along the way. For McLaughlin with first-time starters, it's definitely down at this particular time, at least on the NYRA circuit. From his last eight first-timers at Belmont and Saratoga, here are the results...and these are all two year-olds.
Genuine Charm - 7th by 11 at 4-1Looks like my betting ledger at Saratoga last weekend.
Sweet Elgius - 5th by 15 at 8-1
Trappe Shot - 5th by 7 at 5-2
Salaam Alaykum - 10th by 17 at 10-1
Krypton - 11th by 30 at 10-1
Chimayo - 8th by 14 at 9-5
Middle of the Night - 10th by 15 at 5-1
Grand Strategy - 4th by 7 at 3-2
Does that mean that I'll bet against any of McLaughlin's first-time juveniles? No, but it does mean that I might be more aggressive opposing the next one that's 7-5 for West Point on a crowded Saturday afternoon at Saratoga. By the way, three of these starters got off to poor starts; so is it possible that the barn is not doing a good job preparing its babies for the gate? I dunno...but I imagine that there are sometimes rational explanations other than the laws of probability behind trainers going hot and cold.
Speaking of crowds, over 21,000 on Wednesday. Pretty impressive, and that bodes well for the coming weekend, which doesn't have a marquee race.
Back to Wednesday's 2nd, Aspire was the first winner, in 11 tries, for trainer Eddie Kenneally. This barn had been knocking at the door with three solid seconds, with horses that went off at 8-1 (Keep the Peace in the Honorable Miss), 10-1, and 38-1. If you look at his Formulator stats, you'll see that this barn is only 9% at Saratoga over the last three years. But a closer, more recent look reveals that all four of his winners (from 47 starters) came here last year (from 18 starters). This is a 17% barn overall, and his horses seem to be live here again this year.
On Thursday, Kenneally starts Newport Harbour (8-1) in the 8th. Interesting story here for this four-year old daughter of the AP Indy stallion Full Mandate - she was claimed by trainer Timothy Ritvo for owner Frank Bodell for 70K in February, 2008, one race after she changed hands for 50. Must have lost a shake the first time. She won her next two starts, but then disappeared for 13 months; and when she returned, in June at Churchill, she did so for a new trainer in Kenneally. In her return, she moved up in class while being exposed for the optional 80K price even though she was eligible on conditions; mixed signals there. But she won at 16-1 in what has turned out to be a pretty good race; third place Step Out Smartly won her next at the same level with a 91 Beyer; 4th place Valentine Fever was a troubled third with an 83; and 5th place Whirlie Bertie was second in a grass stakes at Ellis.
I think that Newport Harbour will certainly have to improve further to handle favored Turn Away, 2-1 in the morning line though her fair value and likely post time odds are likely to be less coming off her solid second in a short but talented First Flight field. Newport Harbour comes off a solid work on the training track last week, and could create some value in the exacta at least, as this barn has already done three times this meet as mentioned above.
The 4th shows why there shouldn't be everyday non-stakes races carded for over a mile and a quarter....no less two miles?!? The margins were as ugly as you can get - 7 1/2, 1 3/4, 20 1/2, 22 1/2, DNF, DNF. I rest my case.
In the 5th, first-time starter Opus A, 8-1 morning line, was bet down to 3-1 for Violette. Daughter of Read the Footnotes dropped way back after being checked, came ridiculously wide around the turn, seemed to be floundering midstretch, but launched a late surge to win by a comfortable half length. Great game, ain't it? She's out of a Sea Hero half-sister to Z Fortune, who I think I had in my top three for the 2008 Derby at some point.
Weaver on the board with dropdown/returnee Belle's Home ($10.20) in the 6th; second win in 18 starts for this barn. In the 7th on Thursday, he starts first-timer Neennie's House (12-1). This barn is one for 54 with first-timers on the grass over the last four years.....not much way to spin that one with different time frames.....or is there? He's had three very close seconds - all within a length - with his last six such starters, at odds of 6-1, 7-1, and 9-1. Neenie's House is by the rookie sire Limehouse, 7th on the first-year sire list (six winners), out of an Eastern Echo dam; and she's a half to a turf stakes winner in Strait From Texas. Worth a ducat since I've been following the barn (though apparently not enough to have taken time out from a busy day to bet on Belle's Home).