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Thursday, April 29, 2010


Wow, what a game and what an upset in Washington with the Caps falling in the 7th game against the Canadians! Generally, I'd be rooting for the underdog in this situation, but in this case I found myself rooting for the Caps. I mean, I'm a hockey fan...I want to watch Alexander Ovechkin, not freaking Scott Gomez. I can only imagine how NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman must feel with arguably the league's top attraction on the sidelines. Whatsmore, given the way Sidney Crosby and the Penguins struggled to get past the Senators, perhaps we're looking at an Eastern Conference final of Montreal and the Bruins, who will handily dispatch the injury-ridden Flyers, who are only here because the Devils were terrible (and because they beat the Rangers in a skills competition on the last day of the season). Cool Original Six matchup....but that wouldn't be what the league had in mind for sure.

It's like if, say, the Kentucky Derby lost its marquee attraction shortly before the race.... Oh, I guess it did when Eskendereya was scratched. Problem is that he wasn't much of a marquee attraction to start with. Had he made it to the gate, I'd venture to say that he would have been the least publicly recognizable name to be a decisive Derby favorite in our lifetimes. New favorite Lookin at Lucky actually has better credentials than Pletcher's colt; but still, I'd be rather surprised if this Derby does not turn out to have amongst the lowest TV ratings of all time.

And it's a pretty sad commentary on the quality of the field when I read Mike Welsch assert that the "brilliant" workout by Endorsement, during which the colt broke his leg, was the best one he saw all week. Ugh.

The Derby field is an odd sight with the only two single digit morning line horses bookends on the rail and in the 20 post, and everyone in between at odds of 10-1 or higher. I suspect that the tote board may look a lot different by post time; you never quite know how the money is going to go, especially with the two favorites breaking from such bad posts....and with one of them never having raced on dirt. In fact, I would not be shocked if Sidney's Candy is not bet as heavily as anticipated, and if Ice Box is second choice instead. And I'll reiterate that I'm just not getting Devil May Care; personally, I think she should be closer to the longest shot in the field than the third choice.

There's been some speculation here that perhaps this is the year that a cat-and-mouse game amongst the riders of the speed horses in the field will lead to one of them getting away with the kind of lead in the kind of fractions that could lead to a rare wire-to-wire winner of the race. But I think that the post position draw makes that unlikely. Super Saver, having drawn the four post with Lookin At Lucky, Ice Box, and Noble's Promise drawn inside, seems likely to head straight for the rail and the lead with Calvin Borel aboard. I do really like the way this horse is coming up to this race. Nice foundation with four races as a two-year old, capped by his two-turn win in the Ky Jockey Club, with continued progression in his two races this year. I also like his pedigree; by Marias Mon, sire of Derby winner Monarchos, out of an AP Indy half-sister to graded stakes winners Daydreaming, Girolamo, Accelerator; and to She's A Winner, the dam of the Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat; and also the distaff family of G1 winner Frost Giant, the successful sire Mutakddim, and the juvenile champion Rhythm. And Welsch has been raving about this horse all week along.

But though I've tried to believe that Super Saver can sit a bit back off the pace as he did in the Arkansas Derby, I think he's clearly a horse who wants the lead. He broke a step slow on the rail at Oaklawn and was outsprinted by Line of David (and it can't be a great sign that he couldn't catch that one as he tired in the stretch). With Line of David breaking just a stall outside of him this time, I'm thinking that, with a good break, Borel will be loathe to yield the rail and the lead this time. Whatsmore, with Sidney's Candy stuck on the outside, I think we can forget about Joe Talamo attempting to rate his horse, and that he will be gunning to clear as many horses and to save as much ground going into the turn as he can. Throw in Conveyance (and, perhaps, American Lion, Paddy O'Prado, and Discreetly Mine) in between, and I think that the assumption that we're going to have a pace meltdown in the race is a safe one upon which to make your wagering decisions.


steve in nc said...

"And it's a pretty sad commentary on the quality of the field when I read Mike Welsch assert that the "brilliant" workout by Endorsement, during which the colt broke his leg, was the best one he saw all week. Ugh."

Maybe it's a sad commentary on the worth of most public workout analysis?

My two cents on the Derby pace (and it really might be worth less than a penny since I'm a Sheet player) is the Borel does get the lead and the rail with Super Saver by the time they leave the chute (although if Gomez feels compelled to gun from the gate to get position, he might temporarily be on the lead).

Regardless, I foresee Borel taking then relinquishing the lead well before the turn. I see Line of David setting a contested pace with Conveyance and Sidney's Candy (but not American Lion) outside.

So I agree that the likeliest scenario is a fast but not wicked pace (none of these horses are capable of being wicked). But if one of those three gets off slow or is bumped, one of the remaining two could set a sensible pace.

Super Saver rated just fine last out. He can lead the second tier of horses in this one, probably pass the leaders turning for home (along the rail of course as they drift out), and then we'll see who can pass him in the stretch.

The pace, like the rest of this race, is just too unpredictable this year for me to get serious about. Other than giving Super Saver and Line of David credit for the ground I expect them to save, and demoting Sidney for a hobson's choice of ground loss or too-fast early pace, I'm not going to take the pace scenario into account.

Every horse in every Derby comes with a question mark anyway given the new distance and the huge field. And this edition looks almost like a dart-thrower's race.

I think the best strategy is to try to remember one's dreams on Friday night, add in some longshots that could hit the board, and swing for the fences with a very small exotic wager and a very large mint julep. Anyone who can get really passionate or confident about one horse here is already dreaming.

alan said...

>>I think the best strategy is to try to remember one's dreams on Friday night, add in some longshots that could hit the board, and swing for the fences with a very small exotic wager and a very large mint julep.

Best advice you're likely to read all week. Remember, there's no law that say that you have to go beyond your usual wagering limits just because it's the Derby. And first race post at Penn Nat at 7 PM.

Anonymous said...

Very nice analysis, Alan. I agree with you on most counts. I'd even take your Ice Box comment one step further. I wouldn't be totally shocked to see this horse end up the post time favorite. No, I still suspect Lookin At Lucky goes off favored. I think the rail isn't as bad as people think. Horses have won from the rail before. The key for Lucky will be to hold his position and not shy from horses to his outside like he did in the SA Derby. (oops!). -JP from SD.

onecalicocat said...

I think Setsuko (sp?) really belonged in this race.
It's a shame that the "good old boys" connected to Backtalk just want a Derby horse, though he is really a Grade 2 at best who is not suited to this distance.

Anonymous said...

I liked your analysis also Alan. I like Super Saver for three reasons. One is Borel, who knows this track like no other. The second is the horse's affinity for the Churchill track and the distance. The third is that, with the chance of a wet racetrack, Super Saver will relish the "off going."

jk said...

Alan and all hockey fans will be thrilled to know Hollywood is working on a Steve Avery film. As bad as this sounds, it will probably be more interesting than the upcoming NHL Eastern Conference semi finals.

A new writer will swing his stick at the Sean Avery movie

DiscreetPicks said...

For a second i thought you meant the former Braves pitcher.

Anonymous said...

I had the derby dream early. Lookin at Lucky has a terrible trip and manages to find a way to get through traffic and rallies to get up a head to the filly (I in no way endorse her). All the story is about his bad luck and how he finally got lucky. I wish I looked for the tri and super in the dream too....


Anonymous said...

Derby Pool 2 Runners:

I'm getting 3-1 on Awesome Act, Backtalk, Deans Kitten, Devil May Care, Homeboykris, icebox, Line of David, Make Music for Me, Mission Impazible, Paddy O Prado, and Stately Victor.

Also got 50$ futures on American Lion, and Discreetly Mine at 38-1 and 37-1.

Probably bet some supers for fun and just enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Alan: Bruins fans always hope for a playoff match up with their historic and most bitter rival Montreal. If the Bruins were to prevail in the SC finals, it always makes it that much sweeter when you beat Montreal en route. Like the Sox dispatching the Bronx Bombers 4 straight on the way to a World Series title. It is these ancient rivalries that make these playoffs exciting to this longtime fan, not the individual stars a la whoever that Russian is who plays for the Caps./S/greenmtnpunter

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis Alan, excellent comments Steve.

I too believe Super Saver will rate in the second flight, but once the gates open anything can happen.

I too wish Setsuko got in, but Pleasant Prince was next in line who deserved a spot too. Humans are sacrificing horseflesh to satisfy their ego. That has always been the case, but I do not believe I have ever seen as many as this year. No need to single out Backtalks, connections there are about six that have no right being in here.

I looked long and hard at Mine That Bird last year, believe it or not, because I focus mainly on pedigree and two year old form in this race.

It took my one minute to throw out eight horses in this edition, and no matter how long their odds become none will be anywhere on even my deepsest tickets. I think there may be four horses at over 100-1.

Not that any of you cant figure it out for yourself but for the record those 8 throw outs are Stately Victor,Deans Kitchen, Make Music 4 Me, Paddy, Discreetly Mine (presumed rabbit), Backtalk, Homeboy and the one controversial throw out, Nobles Promise.

I am against the filly but it would not shock me if she hit the top four in an underwhelming group.

Anonymous said...

Another year, another boring Derby. This race jumped the shark when it became little more than a mile and a quarter cavalry charge of 20 mostly mediocre entries. I'll take the Belmont and Travers anyday. /S/greenmtnpunter

Anonymous said...


Your tosses looks more like my live longshots...

-Jim the longshots bettor.

steve in nc said...


"jumped the shark"

Sounds like a cool idiom but I've never heard it. What's it mean?

Those Belmonts with the 3-Crown on the line were pretty amazing, especially the one won by that horse with the hoof issue.

Anonymous said...

Steve in NC: "Jumping the shark" refers to an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie jumped a shark on water skis. It is a media expression which has become popularized to mean that a TV show, or some other event, or celebrity, has gone past it's prime. See further below from Wikipedia:

"Jumping the shark is an idiom used to describe the moment of downturn for a previously successful enterprise. The phrase was originally used to denote the point in a television program's history where the plot spins off into absurd story lines or unlikely characterizations. These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose viewership has begun to decline, usually through the employment of different actors, writers or producers."

The 20 horse fields in the Derby creeped in for many reasons chief of which, of course, is greed. 20 horses makes the mutuel machines zing, many unqualified owners are happy, the KY breeders get exposure, etc.

This race just isn't a serious Grade I race anymore. It will always hold allure because it is the Derby, and it is the first leg of the Triple Crown, the ne plus ultra of American racing. If you are looking to breed to proven stakes winners, I believe you will find that Belmont winners have sired more stakes winners than have Derby winners. /S/greenmtnpunter

steve in nc said...


Thank you. Never could get myself to watch more than 5 minutes of that show. I will watch the Derby, but I agree at least to a certain extent with your take on it.

I just finished handicapping it and what's bumming me out is that, although it's a crapshoot, my top pick is Borel. And if he wins again... he'll cry, the media will go nuts and say all kinds of silly things... and Woolley won't be there to keep things real by dissing the network stooge.

Anonymous said...

Jump The Shark, great name for a horse.

El Angelo said...

For all the carping that the Derby's a diceroll/joke/jumped the shark, etc., it's worth noting that the best horse has won the race about half the time over the last 10 years. Consider:

-2000: Fusaichi Pegasus clearly the best that day and of the horses in that race.
-2001: Point Given was the best horse from that class but I'm not sure anyone was beating Monarchos that day.
-2004: Smarty Jones was probably the best horse of that group.
-2006: Ditto for Barbaro; at any rate, he was definitely the best that day.
-2007: Street Sense was by far the best horse that day and turned out to be the 2nd best horse of that class after Curlin.
-2008: Big Brown was the best of a crappy crop by a mile.

So the objections basically come down to 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2009. Two had wild upsets, one had the best horse run a good second when injured (Empire Maker) and 2002, I agree, was a joke. So really, what's so bad about this?