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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Day at Belmont - Trainer Stats and Cute Butts

- It was the final Friday twilight card of the Belmont meet, and I got the half day off and made an appearance on a sweltering day with little temperature relief from the breezes in the backyard. As has been the case all too often recently, I’d had very little chance to handicap the races in advance. With the heat as well as the rare accompaniment by the Head Chef, it was a day to plunk down on a chair under the trees and chill.

Eventually. I’d had a chance to at least check out the first few races, and so when we walked in just around 8 minutes before the second, I immediately left the Head Chef to set up and went to check out the betting action on this 2 yo maiden state-bred race. I knew Baffert’s first timer would be bet, but I was interested in another one, from James Jerkins, who has been live all meet. Indeed, he was 3-1, and getting bet on the nose in the win pool. I’ve been doing OK lately following hot trainers and watching the board, and it all just fit with recent success. Running Dog is by A.P Jet out of stakes winner and millionaire Clabber Girl, and a closer look at this unconventional pedigree reveals that he has Fappiano as his grandsire, and his granddam is Jedina, a stakes winning half-sister to Fappiano! This is also the female family of Commendable and Keeper Hill.

Anyway, I hooked him up in some Pick 3’s. He drifted up to 9-2, but right before the start got hit to 4-1. I love that last flash to a nice square price like 4-1 after a horse drifts up like that (though I guess it’s not the last flash anymore). Unfortunately, the horse broke awkwardly and took too long to settle before rallying for second; I'll put him on my watch list. The winner, Trading Pro, was a more logical form horse, and this was to be a trend for the day.

Well, I would have been out of the Pick 3’s after the third anyway, but maybe I should have paid attention to the fact that winning trainer Frank Alexander had been 0-16 at the meet prior, and the losing favorite came from the Lukas barn. Then I discovered a lone TV monitor outside that had the NHL Entry Draft Lottery on. The team winning the number one pick would pick the supposed next great phenom, a guy with a very unlikely hockey name of Sidney Crosby. I knew it was hopeless to think that the luckless Rangers would come up with the gem, even though they had more balls in the lottery than most other teams due to the fact that they’ve sucked so much. If they’d had more balls as a team over the years they might have won a couple more Cups. I just wanted to see the despised Islanders name come up so I knew they wouldn’t get him. I was the only idiot standing there in the sun in 95 degree weather in July watching this, and was actually sweating it out until the Islanders finally came up at 14. I could go back to the racing. I should have stuck with the hockey.

In the 5th, two hot trainers were vying for favoritism - Juan Rodrigeuz (Richard Dutrow), going for the training title, and Steve Asmussen. The former had Evasive, coming off a win in this same 50K claiming class. I threw out Asmussen’s shipper and used Evasive (9-5) on top in exactas with a couple others, including Fast Laner, who had finished just one length behind Evasive here last month before throwing in a rare clunker at Monmouth. And she was 6-1 shipping back here for Patricia Farro, but I never really considered using her on top. It was like I was just mindlessly following the hot trainer as if he could do no wrong, like someone at one of those religious revival meetings. Fast Laner also had Elbar Coa, and he timed his closing move perfectly, getting past the two favorites just before the wire. She’s an ultra-consistent filly, and the type you could just KICK yourself for missing at a price like that!

For the sixth, the Head Chef came to the paddock and offered these comments. The 1 horse was “like, Gee, it’s too darn hot.” The 6, Intimidator had “an elegant tush, a most superior butt.” The 7, Westmoreland, was “very well proportioned.” Besides his proportions, I noticed the board action on Westmoreland, stretching out for Pletcher. He was getting bet on the nose in the win pool just as I like and anyway I thought he had a chance to be lone speed. And it’s Pletcher. Among the horses I used in exotics was Angliana. Gee, I thought, that’s a nice price on him. He’d finished just a nose behind Victory Circle, and the latter was the favorite here!! And here’s Elbar Coa again! But Angliana’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has struggled here with 4 wins in 67 starts. So again, I went with the trainer and the tote board, and Angliana paid an unbelievable $19.80, oh man. The Head Chef had commented before the race that she liked his name, and commented afterwards that she got distracted by the cute ass (which, by the end of the race, only one other horse was able to see). I got distracted from basic handicapping principles by trainer stats and mutuel pools.

Maybe if I had known that Angel Dancer was running for Castle Village in the 7th, I would have worn a collared shirt and long pants in this weather to go to the paddock. Or maybe not! What do you have to wear at Saratoga, a fucking tux with tails? I saw Jeff Mullins in the winner’s circle at Del Mar in shorts and a goofy Hawaiin shirt; I mean, what’s wrong with that?? Anyway, I would have actually gotten in the winner’s circle myself in this case, even though I’m not in on this particular horse, as he made it 3 wins in the last week for the partnership, wow. The Head Chef asked why I didn’t bet him, and I said, well, partly because his trainer was 1 for 42....DOH! There I go again!

I sat out the feature, a NY-bred turf stakes for 3 yo fillies. So I didn’t bet on leading trainer Bill Mott’s filly Cayuga’s Waters, defeated by His Beauty, only the second winner of the meet for trainer Howie Tesher. She’s by Adcat, another Storm Cat son, this one standing for a private fee in Florida. Adcat won just 5 of 28 races, with one grade 3 win.

When I looked at the ninth race, the usual state-bred maiden turf affair, I noticed that with the exception of one horse, this could have been a race with a condition of “For Trainers Who Have Not Won Two Races At This Meeting.” I’m not going to name all of them here to avoid unnecessary embarrassment, except to note that the 2-1 favorite was trained by Del Carroll (0-37). The one exception was Jacks Express, trained by Richard Schosberg, who I’d just mentioned the other day. He’s had 3 winners from limited starters in the last couple of weeks, and is 50% in the money for the meet. Jacks Express (7-2) showed good speed in his turf debut and held for third at 29-1, and was now getting that man again, Elbar Coa. I assured myself that he fit on the merits and I wasn’t just betting him because of the trainer angle. One of the horses I used in the exotics was Whereforartthou, for Leah Gyarmati (1-30, though with an OK in-the-money %). He had actually finished just a couple of lengths behind Jacks Express in his turf debut and was 11-1 here.....

After he won, the Head Chef wanted to know why I didn’t bet him, pointing out that the owners have the same last name as me.

- Overheard at the track Friday: “I feel like the guy in Let It Ride.” I can honestly say that I've never had the occasion to utter those words.

- Christophe Clement had another winner, and depending where I look, he’s either one or two wins behind Mott as he continues his rally. (How’s that for accurate reporting? If it was something really important I’d spend the time to get the answer.) It seems like Clement is taking it seriously - maybe. In the first at Belmont today, is he dropping Commission in claiming price off a win because he's going for the title or because there's something amiss with the horse?


Anonymous said...

Alan- I, too, was preoccupied with the Crosby sweepstakes: if the rangers somehow had landed the top spot, it actually would have taken all decision-making out of the hands of sather, renney, maloney, et al. -- a major triumph by itself! alas, we somehow wind up with the 16th pick, and can watch another one of this group's draft-day debacles; after reading about your day at belmont, it occurred to me that perhaps they drafted montoya last year because he had the nicest butt!

Anonymous said...

Alan - "It's All Angel Dancer!" Tom Durkin called- nice to win decisively and to be able to relax and enjoy watching the stretch run. She went off at 5/2 probably because of fears about the pace scenario and maybe also thinking like yours - but you didn't have to back her to come to the winners circle! Of course, it was so hot that standing in a huddle maybe didn't seem so appealing.

It's hard not be influenced by barn and jockey statistics. We want to associate ourselves with success, I guess, but going against that grain can have good payoffs.

My railbird friend that I see every time I come to Belmont asked me if we put Samyn on our horses to get a price. I said no, it's because he wins races for us. The one time an apprentice was put on Angel Dancer for a weight advantage, she ran dismally, though that might have been because she had dropped some weight (her own) as well. The other good thing about Samyn is that he takes the time to shake hands with every, and I do mean every, outstretched partner hand and has a sense of humor - vital for dealing with us. and if he does get us a good price, there's no harm in that for the partners!

Jimmy F. was as thrilled as us to get the win. He had gotten nothing but thirds at Belmont, and had to watch someone else win the day before with a horse just claimed from him. His best horse, Board Elligible, has retired and his barn is just in one of those cycles. But he is a good horseman, as are many of the trainers who work the lower end of the economic heirarchy at the NY tracks - he just needs good horses!