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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hope for a Dry Pick Four

- I’ve always found that Accuweather’s website is generally more optimistic than that of the Weather Channel. When there’s nothing but gloom and doom on, often offers a more optimistic view of the possibilities.’s outlook for Friday is simply a raincloud with the notation:

Not much hope there. But calls for a “couple of showers,” and then merely “a shower” for Friday night. That’s just three itsy-bitsy showers.

The good news is that both services call for not only a basically dry Saturday, but a windy one as well. Well, actually that could be good and bad news. While a nice breeze will certainly help dry out the track, with the temperature not expected to get past 70, by the time the Belmont goes off, it may start to feel more like Breeders’ Cup day.

Anyway, I’m going to go with the somewhat sunnier drier view and figure that the track will be a harrowed ‘good’ at the beginning of the care, and fast in time for the late $1 million guaranteed Pick Four.

You have to go against the grain somewhere in these bets in order to score, and I think you have to do so in the Acorn, and possibly the Woody Stephens. In my opinion, the last two legs are not nearly as wide open as they’re being portrayed. You know I love Sunriver in the Belmont, and I’ll be back with more on the race later.

I also like Pletcher in the Manhattan. His English Channel (Smart Strike) made steady progress as a three-year old last year, culminating in his head loss to Shakespeare in the Turf Classic Invitational. He was short against older horses in the Turf, but I just love the way he’s come back this year. He hasn’t missed a beat in his two races, both wins, and achieved a lifetime best Beyer of 108 in the Turf Classic (the non-invitational version). He’s won on soft turf, and could improve further in his third start of the year - and he may have to in order to hold off the expected late charge of Cacique.

Dreadnaught sprung back to life in the thrilling Dixie on Preakness day, and could grab a share. Good Reward hasn’t won since taking this race last year at 14-1. Relaxed Gesture was very disappointing in Dubai. He could take this on his best, but it’s hard to believe he can match strides here with the sharp top choice. I’m surprised that Grey Swallow is the 3-1 second choice in the morning line. He couldn’t have had an easier trip in his mile and a half win in the Jim Murray against an uninspiring field of four.

It looks like an obvious Too Much Bling/Songster play in the opening leg, the Woody Stephens. But still, I get a bit nervous at the thought of the two of them hooking up. And not only is Keyed Entry still in the race to perhaps contest the pace as well, he’s tied with Too Much Bling for the top selection in the Form’s consensus box! However, as discussed here in the comments section, neither Walter nor I like his chances at all.

Too Much Bling (Rubiano) should be favored on Saturday, but for one thing, his Bay Shore, in which he beat Songster by nine and earned a 113 Beyer, came on a sealed, sloppy track, and remember; I’m expecting a fast track, and his fastest dry track number is 102. Also, Walter opined that seven furlongs is not his best distance, and a closer look at his three efforts at that distance shows that he’s run very fast early and not nearly as such in the latter stages. In the San Vincente, after going 21.6 and 22.2, he then came home in 25 and 13.60.

Songster (Songandaprayer) won’t have the pace his way as he did in his breakthrough romp in the Hirsch Jacobs on Preakness day (107 Beyer). He was able to lope to a half of nearly 46 seconds, which no doubt helped him come home in 11.80 and 12.04 in the six furlong race. That's just not going to happen on Saturday. Still, except for the Bay Shore, when he may have disliked the slop, he always comes home pretty strong; under 13 seconds in the last furlong each of his two fast track efforts at the distance. I think he’ll be a formidable foe for Baffert’s speedster.

Still, I'm a little queasy about this race. I wish I felt more secure about this, but I don't. I'd love to keep it to those two because I want to go deep in the Acorn. But I could definitely see using horses like Noonmark, who ran a terrific second to Sharp Humor in the Swale at this same distance; and Likely, whose Keeneland race may or may not have been a fluke, but who may be able to pick up the pieces if he bounces back from his subsequent loss at Churchil.

The Acorn, I think, is the race to spread and try to catch a price in the wacky, wide open three-year old filly division. Pletcher, who will play a key role in these last three legs, sends out morning line favorite Adieu. I think she’s vulnerable, not because I don’t think she’ll run well, but because I think there are some sharp, improving young fillies, any of whom can strike at a good price.

In fact, I’ll go almost ‘all’ in here, eliminating just Last Romance and She’s Excellent. Two of these are particularly interesting. Miraculous Miss (Mr. Greeley) is unbeaten in five tries on dry tracks. This half-sister to Tiger Heart has been running slower figs, but she looks like she could benefit from what could be a lively pace. And Hello Liberty (Forest Camp) tries a mile for the first time, but she’s never run a bad race and earned a lifetime best 97 Beyer in winning the G2 Nassau BC Handicap in her last.

So here it is. I close my eyes, say a prayer and go with Too Much Bling and Songster in the opener; then hope for a nice price in the Acorn; and coast home with English Channel and Sunriver in the Manhattan and Belmont.


Anonymous said...

My gambling goal Saturday is to make money beating Bling. Everything that happened on Wood day is a throwout. Not that he can not win on a "moist/fast" track, but he will be an underlay and there will be plenty of value playing against him in the Pick 4 and 6.

Taking Songster to reverse the Bay Shore as a single on my non-spread ticket, and playing a spread ticket with Noonmark, Keyed, Likely and Bling as saver.

Think Miraculous Miss may be special despite low figs, take her with logical Adieu in Acorn.

Four horses on the ticket for Manhattan, Good Reward will win one for me someday, Cacique had nice prep, Relaxed Gesture may rebound and English Channel. Not buying into Grey Swallow. I admit this race concerns me most and if I had more money would consider an "all" over the soft going.

Jazil will win the Belmont running them all down in the last eighth a la Victory Gallop.

Step left his race on the training track, and Bluegrass Cat is unlikely to get the trip.

Sorry Alan, but in this man's opinion Sunny is a toss. Can not see a horse winning the Belmont while picking up 10 pounds after struggling to get by Lewis Michael. Despite all the 9 furlong preps he is still a bigger question mark at the 12 furlongs than some of the others.If Todd really thought so much of him he would have scratched Keyed Entry and run Sunny in the Derby.

Think Todd will dominate the undercard as usual but fail to win another Classic race despite saddling two of the favorites.

$1 P4 - 1,2,3,5,9/2,6/1,2,4,8/8.

Anonymous said...

That comment make a lot of sense. I have been staring at the form and trying to figure out if Sunriver can get the distance and having doubts. Not so sure bluegrass cat is unlikley to get the trip!! I like Jazil and I am afraid to throw out Oh So Awesome. Can't get a read on Bob and John and Steppenwolfer. Afraid the later is a little too slow and prob will get 3rd. Byanose

Anonymous said...

Regarding Bluegrass Cat, the AP Indy bottom may keep him around until the 1/16 pole, just think the Storm Cat will get him in the end. Will be under on my tickets, have to respect the second in the Derby albeit with a perfect trip.
The obvious play is to box the 2-3-4 Derby finishers, may pay better than you think with the new shooters getting the press.

Alan Mann said...

Fair points all, thanks for commenting. To be honest, I didn't pay attention to Sunriver picking up the ten pounds. And you have a fair point to denigrate Lewis Michael, but he's showing a pattern of improvement since switching from the turf that could be legit. I honestly don't think that anyone can really figure who will or won't get the distance just by staring at the form..

And I'm starting to lean more against Bling myself.

Anonymous said...

Don't write two eloquent paragraphs about why Too Much Bling and Songster shouldn't be played, then lead off your otherwise outstanding Pick 4 play by taking those two!

For guys like you and me, this pick 4 has essentially become a Pick 3, with Sunny being singled in the fourth spot. If you are going to close your eyes and take a shot in the first leg, at least take a shot with someone at a price:
Todd Beattie is Pennsylvania's savviest trainer and seemingly every year he has a fast 3yo. Could this be the one that can make an impact on the national level? He's improved with every start and owns a win over this track. I don't know about Bling, but he's at least a better alternative than Songster, right?

I'm rooting for you to hit that P4, Alan. Show some stones and toss the suspect chalk in the first leg!

Anonymous said...

Whoops...left out a key piece of info: Beattie trains Fabulous Strike, last out winner of the Romano Gucci S.

Anonymous said... hit the nail on the head Alan, Too Much Bling simply doesn't finish as well going 7 furlongs...that being said however, 7 furlongs is still well within his scope, and i have little doubt he's the best horse in the for his big sealed-track Beyer, yeah, he ran great last time out over that surface...but i'm here to tell you (regardless of the Beyers), he was running BETTER over the dry California surfaces, at least @ 6 furlongs...particularly his win in the San Miguel, one of the top sprint efforts i've seen in recent bottom line, i think it's a huge mistake to downgrade him using a "big win came on sealed track" for tactics, i think he's more effective from slightly off the pace, but with the rail draw that may not happen...he's got a ton of speed though, and should be able to secure a good spot...i've gotta admit, i'm FAR more interested in this race than i am the Belmont...this is the one i'm looking forward to...btw, it's not surprising (to me, anyway) that Keuyed Entry is being picked to win by many in the media...after all, he's the "name brand"...i'm sure he'll pull more than his share of money in the tote pools as well...

...another race that eclipses the Belmont (and there's no question about it) is the grassy Manhattan...what a field we have assembled here, looks like a damn Breeders Cup for Grey Swallow, yeah, he certainly had things all his own way in his most recent start...very slow race too, and the course appeared to be playing normal (not slow)...the Beyer should be very low, but of course it won't be, because he's Grey Swallow...hard to hold that against him however, as he was simply out there to get a race under his belt, and probbaly a confidence booster as well...he's still the horse that beat North Light in the Irish Derby, and he was well-fancied in the Arc that year despite running terribly on raceday...he's the class of the field until proven for English Channel, sure he's been running extremely well of late, but be mindful he was destroyed by a pack of Europeans in the not-too-distant past...and that came over this same course after a week of rain, very similar to what we'll see for Cacique, well, i was expecting a little more from him last time...not that he didn't run well, but he didn't show the same turn of foot at the longer distance...and while his European record is very solid, he wasn't thought to be in Grey Swallow's league over there...incidentally, i don't have the Form in front of me...i'm assuming the Manhattan is 1 1/4 miles?...that's probably a little short for Grey Swallow, who would definitely prefer 1 1/2 miles...English Channel, Cacique, and the others will probably have a better shot at beating him at the shorter trip...but i think it's Grey Swallow's race to lose...

Alan Mann said...

>>Don't write two eloquent paragraphs about why Too Much Bling and Songster shouldn't be played, then lead off your otherwise outstanding Pick 4 play by taking those two!

I know. I'm being a wuss. There would be great rewards for a successful stand against those two. Since i hit the 7th race triple today, I can be more adventurous as you suggest.