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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Monday Morning Notes - July 23

- I'd have to say that the Virginia Derby was the most exciting finish I saw this weekend. Jockey Horacio Karamanos, on 37-1 Red Giant, had dead aim on Strike A Deal, but the latter would not, and did not give in, and was on even terms on the wire when he lost the head bob, wow. Circular Quay was 9-5 and no redboarding this time; as I've said many times, this is one of the best betting opportunities in racing - the popular dirt horse trying the grass. I know that those of you who had Strike A Deal suffered an agonizing beat, (I had the exacta boxed with Summer Doldrums and would have been split by Soldier's Dancer anyway). But I think you have to take something out of the fact that you took a correct stand against a false favorite, and had absolutely tremendous value at 9-2. Sometimes you can figure everything right and still get beat; but if you can consistently identify live horses at inflated odds such as in this case, you'll cash your share of tickets at fair prices to be sure.

If I was really disciplined, I'd only bet this kind of race, when you can throw out the favorite with confidence.

It looked like Karamanos had to check just a bit around the turn, and he looked to be in trouble when behind two with one outside of him turning for home. But he calmly waited, got the three path, and barely got the nod over his game opponent. And for the second week in a row, it was the "other Pletcher" getting a big stakes win.

It was a rough betting day for yours truly on Saturday, as the Head Chef and I bid farewell to Belmont. I'd made three picks here in the blog; one of them, Arm Candy, was scratched, from the grass stakes at Del Mar. Greater Fool was a disappointment in the third at Belmont; Timber Reserve got bet hard in his first off a layoff for Kimmel, and was impressive drawing off from some sharp horses in his first race since November. I mentioned him for second, but didn't turn that into any profit.

And then there was Heatseeker, sent off at odds of 8-1 in the San Diego Handicap. Here was another race in which I had correctly identified the favorite as one to bet fact, the top two favorites in this case; Arson Squad was somewhat dead on the board 7-2. Buzzards Bay looked gorgeous on the track, but not so on the tote, at odds of 3-2, ugh. Heatseeker turned for home with the lead, but the blinkers that Bobby Frankel added did not prevent him from once again losing focus and turning his head out towards the stands. However, what really beat him was the trip; wide on both turns, he covered by far the most distance in the race according to Trakus - some 53 feet more than the winning Sun Boat and 31 feet further than runner-up Awesome Gem. Those were the two I keyed in the exacta, as I came to like Sun Boat, who I didn't mention in my picks. As they were loading into the gate, I thought to myself, 'Gee, I should have boxed those two in the exacta as a saver....' Oops.

Anyway, I'm going to continue to follow Heatseeker. He's lightly raced and only four, and there seems to be a lot of talent there if Frankel can straighten him out. By Giant's Causeway, he's out of a half-sister to the Grade 1 winner, and ill-fated Spanish Fern. A lot of grassy stakes winners on this one's distaff side, including Geraldine's Store, a popular NY turf mare in the 80's for the late P.G. Johnson who won several stakes, including the Diana.

Ron Ellis said afterwards that Buzzards Bay doesn't like the synthetic track: "Some horses can handle this (Polytrack) and some aren't. He just didn't like the track." [North County Times] But really, he didn't seem to be crazy about the Cushion Track either, despite his win in the Californian.

As for Sun Boat, you have to wonder if trainer Mike Mitchell really thought he had the goods after he claimed him for 50K on April 12, since he promptly ran him back for just 40K a month afterwards! But since then, he's run second in the Californian, and now is a Grade 2 winner. Was it the change in barn? Or is he just a synthetic track lover? Sun Boat is by Machiavellian, out of the Grade 1 winner One So Wonderful.