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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eblouissante - Hold Your Horses!

That was pretty cool watching the winning debut of Eblouissante last Friday....along with the rest of the free world - or maybe it just seemed that way from the small sampling of the world that is my Twitter timeline.  (And I can honestly say that every person in my office at work was tuned in too!)

Of course,  leading up to the race, I wasn't exactly gushing about it as some other people were, as jaded as I tend to be.  But I was certainly interested to see how Zenyatta's little sister would run in her first start.  I was also convinced though that the right bet was one against her, and nodded in agreement when Paulick tweeted, shortly before post time:  Wouldn't the 1/2 sis debut be a great race to bet on the Betfair exchange? I'd give 3-1.   Well, perhaps I wouldn't have been quite as generous, but I thought the thinking was sound.

Well, that wouldn't have worked out, and it was definitely a 'wow' moment as it turned out.  Though not as much wow I don't think for how she won than just the fact that she won at all.  Siblings and half-siblings often turn out to be disappointments, and watching Eblouissante near the back of the pack as they went down the backstretch, I wasn't expecting much, to be honest.  So, it was something to see as she shifted off the rail and started her run; and, after a brief moment of doubt as she engaged leading Saturday Nite Ride, drew away to win by four, earning a Beyer of 85.

That's two points less than her famous half-sister earned in her debut, which also came in November of her three-year old year.  Her running style was similar (though surely not identical), as are her looks, and the way she towered physically over her opponents.  However, she's not Zenyatta; at least not yet.   Looking back at Zenyatta's own debut is a reminder of that.  (Race starts about a minute in, but the pre-race chatter is interesting too.)

Now, THAT was a true wow race, in every sense of the word!  Wow!  Horses like Zenyatta only come along once in awhile, and she certainly gave us all a hint back on that day.  Eblouissante, on the other hand, was efficient and professional; and impressive, no doubt.  However, not to the extent that, her bloodlines aside, smart people on Twitter would be writing, as I saw yesterday, that she is 2-5 to be a Grade I stakes winner, and penciling her in as the favorite for the Apple Blossom in April.  Whoa, nellie!  Eblouissante showed the potential to be a very, very nice racehorse.  Beyond that, let's wait and see.  And hope for the best.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Placeholder Post

Well?  Whaddya wanna talk about now?  I dunno.  Didn't have much to say in this space in the way of a wrap up of the Breeders Cup, which I really didn't enjoy much at all (as you might be able to tell from the prior post)....and not only because my wagering highlight was hitting the 10th at Woodbine on BC Friday.  But I'm sure you got all of the analysis you needed elsewhere anyway.

And I see that the silly Eclipse Award debates have started...and I'm not calling it that with any particular malice towards those awards; feel that way in general about award ceremonies even in other fields that I love like movies and music.  So, my first and absolute final word on Horse of the Year is Wise Dan.

Moving onto the elections, we still have a little unfinished business around here.  While I'm naturally thrilled with the triumphs of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate and the White House (and note the Democrats have now won the popular presidential vote in four out of the last five elections), my enthusiasm is a bit dulled when it comes to the possibility that the Democrats have re-taken the New York State Senate.

Sure, it would bring me tremendous joy to see the smirk wiped off the face of the smarmy Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.  From the very moment the GOP took power two years ago, their agenda was focused on nothing else but retaining and enhancing their majority.  Their very first legislative action was to vote to strip the Democratic lieutenant governor of his ability to break a tie in a leadership vote.  Later, Skelos and his members reneged on their written Ed Koch redistricting pledge and pushed through their obscene gerrymandering schemes to protect their majority.  And then there was all that sucking up to the popular Governor Cuomo.  One might have thought that some of their candidates were actually the governor's running mates.

However, as it currently stands, Skelos' efforts may have gone for naught.  Even after Simcha Felder defected to the GOP just a week after duping the voters into thinking he was a Democrat (this guy should fit right into the Republican sleaze), the Democrats hold a 32-31 edge.  That lead is pending the ultimate outcome of two contested races.  One of them looks pretty snug for the Dems at this time with Terry Gipson leading Senator Steve Saland (one of the 4 Republicans who supported gay marriage, thus earning an apparently unsuccessful endorsement from the governor) by some 1600 votes. 

The other close one is a lot closer, and, ironically - or actually quite hilariously in my biased view - it takes place in a brand new district added by the Republicans as part of their redistricting ploy.  It was supposed to be a safe win for them to pad their edge.  However, their candidate George Amedore, trails the Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk by 139 votes!  Ha ha, man, that would be sweet.  So the numerical count will come down to the absentee and affidavit ballots there.  Even if the Dems prevail though, the balance of power will come down to the four-person Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), four rebellious Democrats who broke over leadership in 2010 and have worked with Republicans since.

Of course, the last Democratic majority did not reflect well, given the corruption, chaos, and the despicable role of then-Majority Leader John Sampson in the AEG scandal, for which he amazingly thus far remains unpunished either by his colleagues or the law; thus my slightly tempered joy.  Sampson remains Minority Leader as of now, but it's unlikely (and unimaginable) that he will become Majority Leader no matter what, as the IDC will surely make his removal a condition of their sticking to the Dems.  And many Democratic Senators will have no objection whatsoever.  And then there's the matter of the one-time Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, rumored in some quarters to be flirting with the GOP in preparation for a NYC mayoral run on their party line.  These guys just have no shame, do they?  We'll keep an eye on the developments, as Democratic control would flip the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Racing and Wagering from Senator John Bonacic to a member of the Democratic caucus.  Which may or may not mean anything, but it gives us something to write about.  Will also attempt to get my mind back on racing shortly.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


This is usually the last place you'll read about track bias...unless I'm arguing to people that one didn't exist.  I generally think such claims are exaggerated, or that the supposed bias simply didn't exist.  Seems to me that race results can, far more often than not, be explained by circumstance and pace.

So, having only seen the last two Breeders Cup races on Friday, when I started to read a drumbeat of comments on Twitter about the main track being speed favoring, I shrugged and thought 'here we go again.'  I missed the first race of Saturday's card, in which the horses basically ran 1-2-3-4-5 all the way around the track, thus producing similar Twitter comments affirming what they'd seen the day before.  But then I did see the third race, the Damascus Stakes.  And it was an eye-opener.  In a seven furlong race, Private Zone and Mile High Magic dueled for the lead; and after a 22 second opening quarter, the half-mile was posted as 43 4/5 seconds!  In a seven furlong race.  My first impression was that the fraction had to be wrong....and that feeling was affirmed in watching the stretch run.  Because, surely if that fraction was correct, the speed would be folding up and the closers enveloping the field.

But that's not what happened.  Sure, Politicallycorrect came off the pace to win the race, but the speed never really came back.  Private Zone ran on and the winner was all out to get by; and even Mile High Magic weakened only inside the 1/8th pole and lost by less than 3 1/2 lengths.  Private Zone, in three prior US races, faded in the stretch each time, so it's not like we're talking about a monster here.  I was still convinced at that point that the fraction had to be wrong, but as it became apparent that it wasn't, it became apparent that there was something wrong with the track.

That's pretty much how it went the rest of the day.  Groupie Doll was able to overcome in the F&M Sprint, but she dominated her field on paper, and she also benefited from an extraordinarily quick first half in a seven furlong race.  The Juvenile featured a brief moment when it looked as if the field would swallow up Shanghai Bobby in the stretch, but that was only because the winner loafed on the lead until engaged.  The Dirt Mile, the Sprint, and the Classic not only all produced winners that were either on the lead (Fort Larned), or the only one in close attendance (Tapizar, Trinninberg), but nobody else in any of those races, with the exception of the late bid by Mucho Macho Man, second all the way around, even made a meaningful move!

It's not that any of the results were inexplicable - the fact that Fort Larned and Trinninberg paid the prices they did indicate to me that handicappers either failed to adjust, or were understandably set in their ways after spending weeks anticipating these races.  (I adjusted to the extent that I didn't bet Capital Account in the Sprint, but I kinda just checked out of the proceedings and passed, not really putting much further thought into it.)   But the main point to me was that the races were just dreadful.  If you have what's supposed to be the best horses in the country, and none of them other than the first two down the backstretch are ever even remotely engaged in the outcome, then something has to be terribly wrong.

And again, this is all coming from a major track bias-skeptic.  There was no doubt about this one....and, if Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey claimed that the track was fair as I read they did, then they must have just been saying it in an attempt to protect the integrity of the event; I don't believe for a milli-second that those two guys actually believe that.  Because it's surely not the case.  I don't often play Santa Anita, so I don't know if the main track always plays like that.  But that wasn't your garden variety track bias in my was like Frankenbias.

I have to laugh thinking back to the people who were so horrified when the Breeders Cup was run on the synthetic surfaces at Santa Anita.  I'd love to hear them try and tell me that those races were any more "meaningless" to the notion of determining the Eclipse winners than these races were.  One thing for sure is that they couldn't possibly say that those races weren't ten times more exciting than these.  Here's a couple from 2009 run on the dreaded "plastic," in case you forgot what competitive championship racing should be like.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Saturday BC Picks

As Sandy approached and arrived, and even into early Tuesday, handicapping the Breeders' Cup races seemed like a productive use of my time.  But as the week wore on and the implications of the storm became chillingly clear, the din of the local news reporting became too overwhelming and too bleak for me to care all that much.   To me, the Breeders' Cup takes a back seat every four years to the presidential election that occurs just a few days later anyway.  Now, the election itself seems trite compared to what we've seen (as it was already becoming from the base level of the political discourse and the bold-faced dishonesty of the Republican candidate).  Now, the Breeders' Cup is hanging on for the show spot.  I'd be surprised if this doesn't show up as at least a noticeable blip in the handle figures.  Gotta be that some people who usually bet the races just don't have the wherewithal to wager electronically even if they're not otherwise distracted and could actually get a Racing Form. 

I hope that all of you able to read this are safe and that any property damage is minimal, as here in this particular section of Queens, about ten miles north as the crow files from the neighborhood in Breezy Point that burned down in its entirety.  But mostly that you're safe.

Life goes on is one of life's truest truisms, and the Breeders' Cup will feature some great racing in some great weather.  For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to play, it should prove to be a good distraction from the images we've seen.  But that's really about all it is as far as I'm concerned.  Eclipse Awards?  Horse of the Year?  Who cares.  (Though this is coming from someone who says that every year.)   So the following is presented without the usual enthusiasm (though maintaining the usual hope), and in humble deference to the forces of Mother Nature which unleashed the events we've witnessed this week.

 - The Dirt Mile is one of my favorite BC races, easily the best of the expansion races in my view.  Maybe that's because I've fared well personally, most recently with Caleb's Posse last year.  That was one of my most confident picks and bets ever.  But there are no Caleb's Posses in this year's edition.  My opinions on it lean more strongly towards who I don't like.

I don't like Shackleford (2-1), at all.  I just don't like him.  His last two races sucked and I hate the stretch out to two turns.  I'm all in against him, will not use him anywhere on my tickets.  I don't like Jersey Town (4-1).  I had him in the Kelso, but that was a certain circumstance in a flawed race that completely fell apart, allowing Jersey Town to widen as he walked home in 25 4/5.  The figs I'm looking at and the Sheets don't score that race particularly high as Beyer does; I'm discounting that number and standing firmly against.  Emcee (5-2) is a nice looking horse and I'd like him at 9-2 in his first try beyond seven furlongs and around two turns.  I might like Tapizar (12-1) off the stretch out from a one turn mile to two turns, repeating a winning pattern from last fall; but can't envision the strategics of him winning with all the other speed in this field.  I don't like Rail Trip (10-1), 0 for 5 on dirt.

Who does that leave?  I mentioned Fed Biz (6-1) in my first impressions post.  But he just doesn't measure up on my figs or the Sheets, so I'm changing my mind and throwing him out.  Forget Second City (30-1).  Delegation (12-1) is interesting; I could see taking a shot at a price in the hope he can translate his turf/synth form to dirt in his first try on that surface; not to mention handle a big jump in class.  That's just a guess though.

That leaves John Scott (12-1).  I can't help but chuckle when I see this horse's name, picturing the hulking hockey enforcer who I'd become familiar with before he briefly joined the Rangers last season through his exploits on  The equine John Scott is tough as well; three wins a second and third in his six starts after a 930 day layoff (hopefully substantially more than the layoff that the hockey John Scott is facing).  Problem is that his two dirt efforts stick out like thumbs sore from dropping the gloves too often.  Taking a closer look though, his first dirt race was the first one off the long layoff.  The second was his last race, in which he was the favorite in the state-bred Cal Cup.  He got off a step and a half slow in that race, and never really recovered, forced to go three wide both turns in pursuit of a relentless pace set by Got Even, 40-1 despite a stellar record over the Santa Anita strip.  Looking at his figs, one might think that he bounced.  But he actually moved forward to a 2 on the Sheets, and I guess the question is whether, 21 days later, he'll bounce in this race.  I think 12-1 is a fair price to say that he can stalk the pace and be in good position should all the horses I don't like do what I think they're gonna do.  Or what they're not gonna do.  Just a fun play in a pretty inscrutable race.

 - I had Amazombie (4-1) in the Sprint last year, in large part due to his highly impressive prep, in which he most effortlessly swept by five wide on the turn to go on for the win; an effort he basically repeated in the Sprint.  This year, the six-year old son of Northern Afleet has raced pretty well, but disappointed with his 4th place finish at 4-5 in his last, the SA Sprint Championship, trailing three others running back here.  I dunno, perhaps he was a bit too close to a quick pace, thus dulling his closing kick.  But he seemed really to have a perfect trip in the pocket a few lengths behind a couple of longer shots; and one can't expect him to be in much better position in this bigger and deeper field.  So I'm having a hard time looking past that and getting enthusiastic about his chances; especially should he be favored as indicated by the morning line.  He's certainly fast enough to win if he fires his best shot, but I'll take a shot against.

Capital Account (8-1) has been a model of consistency, firing his late best shot every time as he's graduated into graded stakes company this year.  He was ahead of Amazombie, and a fading head behind Coil in the aforementioned SA Sprint despite taking much the worst of it on the turn.  He was carried wide by Coil out into the 7 or 8 path, and lost momentum and at least a couple of lengths in the process.  Almost like he had to resume from a cold start at that point, and it didn't look promising mid-stretch; but he came with a furious late burst to just miss.   In this spot, the pace figures to be honest if not blazing, and he may surely find himself wide turning for home again.  But hopefully he'll at least have a smoother transition into the stretch, and he's shown an affinity for this track.  He's consistently run Sheet 2's on this surface, and that could be good enough to take this at a fair price.

The Lumber Guy (6-1) jumped up to run a huge race in the Vosburgh, hung out wide on the sweeping Belmont turn, and also earning a 2 on the Sheets.  Wasn't exactly flattered by Caixa Electronica's disappointing Bold Ruler, but surely can be close if he doesn't bounce here.  Coil (5-1) has shown consistency, versatility, and improvement.  Think he was really second best to the top pick in his last as mentioned, but certainly warrants use underneath.

 - In the Mile, Moonlight Cloud (6-1) is a four-year old filly who has raced almost exclusively against the boys overseas, and now ships over for trainer Freddie Head, who took this race thrice with his superstar Goldikova.  She's won three Group 1's, and missed by a head to Black Caviar at Ascot.  Two races back at Deauville in France, she endured a nightmare trip before extricating herself late and rallying to miss by a length and a half behind Excelebration, who may be favored here.  Last was a measured head win over Farhh (2nd in four consecutive Group 1's) at Longchamp; a useful prep after an awkward start and being caught in a "spot of bother," boxed in approaching the stretch.  She's consistently earned 3's and 2's on the Sheets, most recently the latter, which should put her close here....

....though maybe not close enough to Excelebration, who earned 1's in his last two, freed from the pursuit of Frankel as he was.  In his last 13 races, he's either won (eight time) or unsuccessfully chased the now-retired superstar.  His last effort, his win in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, is really something to see; the ease with which he breezed to the front after some minor traffic issues is nothing short of breathtaking.  So, it's with the utmost respect and only in search of some value that I look to beat him here.  The only thing I'd say - and perhaps this is a stretch - is that it appears as if his most dominant performances came on turf courses with some give, which won't be the case at Santa Anita in his North American debut.

Wise Dan (9-5) is an impressive horse himself, but against competition presumably significantly weaker than that of his European counterparts.  Interesting though that while he's overwhelmed his competition, he doesn't overwhelm this field strictly by the numbers.  He'd have to better at least his Sheets numbers (4s in his last two) in order to beat the top two.  Still, would be foolish to ignore if you're trying some Pick Whatevers.  Obviously (6-1) shows a nice pattern of improvement and could be tough if he gets loose on the lead here.  Why is Animal Kingdom (8-1) running here?

And that's about it.  Don't really have much of an opinion on the Classic, and I'll be out at the movies or something during the race anyway.  Spent far too much time sitting indoors this week to spend a Saturday night at home for a race as ordinary as this one - would make a nice edition of the Discovery Handicap - and we have enough gas to get us anywhere we want to go (within reason, not to Florida).  I was a little enthusiastic about Fort Larned (5-1) earlier in the week, willing to give him a pass on his disappointing third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as I am.   But repeated looks at that race are just not that flattering, especially considering it was his first try at the distance.   I'd surely bet him if he drifts up from his morning line, as I think he will....but I'll be out so I won't be monitoring the prices.  I'll mention Ron the Greek (6-1), who won at this distance in the Santa Anita Handicap, and is one horse who figures to be still running at the end I think, despite his non-performance at Belmont in the Gold Cup.  But having said that, Game on Dude (9-5) seems strictly the horse to beat.  Best of luck and have a great Breeders' Cup.