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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Derby Morning Notes

- "It's just a game," the Head Chef reminds me with a slight tone of annoyance, as the gloom of last night's Rangers loss lingers into Derby Morning. "Ah, soon you'll laugh about it," she said, but I told her that likely wouldn't be until around halfway through the 2009-10 season. (If it's not on Tuesday night.)

ESPN, I guess as part of the way they've embraced the sport with the acquisition of the Breeders Cup, only ran Breakfast at Churchill Downs once this year, as opposed to past years when it would repeat ad nauseum. It was hosted by Joe Tessitore, who actually wrote me earlier this year to assure me that he indeed knew which Sheikh Hamdan he was interviewing on Breeders Cup day. He said that Tiago's connections said that the horse handled Churchill just fine, which conflicts with the reports we heard from Mike Welsch of the Form. So I don't know what to tell you there. I suppose you always have to be a bit skeptical of what the connections say leading up to the race. But I'm still using him on my tickets, because I think he could be running on at the end just on his pedigree.

It didn't seem to be raining there, and I'm actually optimistic, after handicapping the local radar, about a fast track come post time.

It's a gorgeous day here in New York, and the first and last races at Belmont were the ones on the card I found most interesting from a betting standpoint. In the first, a state-bred maiden turf race, Haze My Man returns from a long layoff for Jason Servis. I touted this horse last June when he made his debut for David Donk. Servis had trained him prior, and the horse had good turf form. But for Donk, that day and in two subsequent tries, he was dead on the board, and just awful and way up the track each time. Then he went back to Servis, and had two excellent efforts last fall, earning career best Beyers. I dunno, maybe he just had a personality conflict with Donk, but something wasn't working there. This is his first race since Halloween at the Meadowlands, but I have this new enlightened view of layoff horses, and I no longer care that much (all of the time).

Better value will be Al Basha, the only three-year old in the field, for Angel Penna Jr. He was very well bet in his turf debut when he graduated at Saratoga against what was not at all the worst state-bred maiden race in the world; second place finisher Solvent was 4th in the Laurel Futurity. Al Basha rallied very impressively from dead last nearing the far turn. Just throw out his last against an open allowance field at Keeneland that was way over his head; the return to state-bred company should suit him very well. This son of the Storm Cat sire Aljabr seems worth a play at his 8-1 morning line, and I'll box him with Haze My Man.

The 9th is another maiden affair on the turf, this one for open company, and this is a really nice field. Two horses return after running in the same race at Saratoga last summer; it was the race in which the imposing Giant Chieftain swept to the lead only to bolt to the outer rail midstretch. Rocket Legs debuted that day for Pletcher, and ran an OK 4th saving ground both turns after a sluggish start. Better than he was Inquisitive, a Phipps-bred three quarters brother to their multiple Grade 1 winner Finders Fee, making his first start for Shug McGaughey. He continued on gamely when passed by Giant Chieftain, and seemed to re-break when presented with a second chance, only to get nosed on the head bob.

We all know how good Pletcher, who I don't think will be at Belmont today, is with layoffs; but Shug has been quite effective as well. He was two-for-two with 180+ day layoffs at Keeneland with Consecration and Carriage Trail; and going back to last year, and these stats are correct this time (as long as Formulator's are), he is 19-5-5-5 in that category, pretty nice.

Bill Mott starts Riz Sauvage, who failed to hang on in his last, but he succumbed to two pretty nice horses in Darley's Sahara Heat, who has won his next two, and Brooklyn's Smart, who ran a competitive 4th in the Grade 3 Palm Beach against subsequent stakes winner Duveen, mentioned in the prior post.

And Angelouie has two excruciating losses in his two grass races this year for Phil Serpe; I had him in his last when he was nosed by Lattice, and had Lattice when he ran second in his next race at Keeneland. Angelouie earned the field high Beyer in that race, but he's been second thrice in a row now. So I'll use he and Riz Sauvage underneath in the exacta with Shug's horse on top.


Jim L said...


I'll have to say the Rangers are giving Buffalo all they can handle. I've been a Sabres fan ever since they came into the league around these parts, and the playoff atmosphere is the most intense it has ever been, even counting the two trips to the Cup finals.

Good luck on your Derby Day picks. Still think Circular Quay is going to fire big today.

Alan Mann said...

Jim - We had you guys, and let you off the hook in my view. That said, Lundqvist kept us in the game, and Drury is an amazing clutch player. Agreed re: Circular Quay! Good luck!!