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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Preakness By The Post

1) Macho Again (20-1 morning line) comes off a win in the Derby Trial at Churchill at 7 1/2 furlongs. He beat a bunch of sprinters who set him up with a fast pace. Trainer Dallas Stewart says the horse is doing fantastic, and I'm sure he is. But his two races around two turns have been disappointing ones, and they're sandwiched between four excellent tries around one. Very nice horse, look for him in shorter races later in the year.

2) Tres Borrachos (30-1) is a $7,000 sale yearling who has earned around $160,000, mostly by picking up minor shares. In fact, he's only won once. He's one California synthetic runner who seems to have moved up a bit on the dirt. He set the pace in the Arkansas Derby, in which he was eventually overtaken by Gayego, who should be second choice here. Excellently placed in the two hole, he could very well find himself in the lead should Desormeaux on Big Brown be content to track as he did in the Derby. If that's the case, jockey Tyler Baze might want to wear a target on his back. I don't see this one resisting the favorite, and he may be hard pressed to last for a minor share this time.

3) Icabad Crane (30-1) is a pretty nice looking colt with three wins in four starts, two of those against NY-breds, for trainer Graham Motion. He last won over the Pimlico track in the Frederico Tesio, where he held off a stubborn Mint Lane by a head; that one went on to run a no-threat second to the already God-like Casino Drive in the Peter Pan. Other than that (and perhaps even including him), it was a weak field, and this would be a significant step up even without Big Brown. His good late foot though and his familiarity with the track could perhaps land him a minor share at large odds.

4) Yankee Bravo (15-1) is a dead closer who won his first three starts, then stepped up in class for an OK third to Pyro (which doesn't sound so impressive now) in the Louisiana Derby. He last ran in the Santa Anita Derby, where he hung late despite saving all the ground both turns before swinging out towards the outside, said to be the better part of the Cushion Track that day. Seems a stretch to ship him cross country for this, but he seems like the type who could pick up a minor share when the first tier crumbles from the might of Big Brown.

5) Behindatthebar (10-1) was eligible for the Derby after he came from far back under a great ride by David Flores to win the Lexington on the Polytrack at Keeneland. Flores was able to save ground on the final turn and smoothly find a clear path in the stretch. He then had to straighten out the son of Forest Wildcat when he ducked in mid-stretch; but once doing so, they motored home to win by a going away length. Trainer Todd Pletcher elected to pass Churchill and get his preferred four weeks rest. Question here as to track surface, as his only out-of-the-money finish came on natural dirt; and his Lexington win was helped by a fast early pace. Still, he seems on the upswing for a dangerous barn, and certainly merits a spot on my tickets.

6) Racecar Rhapsody (30-1) has a nice pedigree (Tale of the Cat, out of a stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare), always tries, has run well on dirt, and comes off a career high speed figure, running 4th to the above horse in the Lexington, for trainer Ken McPeek. He’s also still eligible for entry-level allowances races. His past performance lines have a little bit of Giacomo to them, in that he always puts in a run; one of these days, a race will fall apart enough for him to win. Not here. But perhaps a spot in the exotics at a big price.

7) Big Brown (1-2) - I'm not a Sheets guy, but I respect their opinions, and when both Ragozin and Thoro-graph proclaim that Big Brown's Derby was one of the fastest of all time, I think it's worth noting. His Beyer was 109, good but not exceptional; but remember that it doesn't take his substantial ground loss, nor the headwind in the stretch, into account. They're all subjective numbers to be sure, and you can quibble to a certain extent. But I think it's clear that Big Brown ran a Derby of historic proportions, an incredible feat for a horse making his fourth start. Rick Dutrow's early concern over running him back in two weeks has given way to the familiar bravado, and I think that means something. I don't think he's the kind of guy who hides his emotions. This field is weaker than that in the Derby. That may not be saying much, but I think it says Big Brown in a breeze.

8) Kentucky Bear (15-1) has been a buzz horse ever since he won his debut at Gulfstream by six lengths. In fact, there was so much buzz that he was nearly favored in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, which was his next start. He ran up the track, but people still liked him in the Blue Grass, where he ran a close third. Trainer Reade Baker is brashly confident, saying "I’m positive I can win this race," and the drone remains incessant. Personally, I don't get it. I could be wrong of course, but he's a horse from the second betting tier that I'll leave out to try and create some value.

9) Stevil (30-1). True, he's improved since stretching out, and in graded stakes company too. And he didn't run too badly finishing 4th in the Blue Grass. But he's never even cracked the 90 mark with his Beyers, and seems unlikely to do so here.

10) Riley Tucker (30-1) - The owner/trainer team of Zayat Stables and Bill Mott have been a bit weird this Triple Crown season, pressing on to the Derby with the obviously unqualified Z Humor and the obviously unfast Court Vision. But actually, this colt's third place finish, just 1 1/2 lengths behind Behindatthebar, was not bad at all. He had to run fast early to stay within shouting distance of Baffert's speedy and game Samba Rooster, and still was able to hang in late to fall just short of that one for the place. However, Riley Tucker has not won in the six races since his debut victory. And since he likes to be close early, he's likely to encounter the favorite, which would not be to his advantage.

11) Giant Moon (30-1) is a NY-bred son of Giant's Causeway who won his first four races against mediocre company in New York. However, after a distant 9th in the sloppy track Gotham, he rebounded with a fairly close 4th in the Wood. This colt has some nice speed according to Randy Moss' pace figures in the Form; he ran particularly fast early in the Wood to keep within striking distance of War Pass. However, as I've said before, I won't on principle bet any of the horses coming out of that race as slow as they finished, even though Tale of Ekati ran decently in the Derby. I do expect him to challenge Tres Barrachos for the lead early, but I don't look for him to be around late.

12) Gayego (8-1) is the only horse from the Derby to come back to challenge Big Brown. This colt was coming off an excellent prep, using his fine tactical speed to win the Arkansas Derby with a 103 Beyer that put him in the very upper echelon in this middling-other-than-Big-Brown crop. But he got off to a sluggish start at Churchill, was caught in traffic early and did a steady fade after six furlongs. The excuses offered by the connections don't quite explain just how poor the effort was in my mind. This horse has done a lot of traveling, having gone back to California after the Derby and now back east. Good for his frequent flier miles, not so good for his chances. Neither is his outside post.

13) Hey Byrn (20-1) started his three-year old year off with a bang, with two lengthy allowance wins before being left in a Big Brown wake in the Florida Derby. He bounced back to win the Holy Bull, but that was a particularly weak stakes field - the second and third place horses were coming straight out of maiden wins. This horse likes to establish position a few lengths off the lead, so the 13 post will require that he be used early, and he's another who could find himself in the vicinity of the favorite early and, therefore, up the track late.

I'm going to use Big Brown over Racecar Rhapsody, Icabad Crane, Yankee Bravo; and perhaps sprinkle in a couple of others I'm scared of - Hey Byrn because Jerry Brown likes him, Giant Moon because Mister Ed does. But I'll leave out Gayego and Kentucky Bear, and try to get lucky with a decent price. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Why do I, like many cynics, get the feeling that Big Brown only has 6 or 7 races in him?
And the connections wanted to be sure that 3 of those races are Triple Crown races, the Derby being career start # 4, and either the Travers or BC Classic career start # 7. Just enough chances to win the big name stakes so as to raise the price to the Dubai Sheihks. So all of these folks will be holding their collective breaths hoping that Big Brown's luck doesn't run out and he pulls a Barbaro today. This triple crown/sale- to- the- sheihks strategy is exactly what is wrong with breeding and racing today, Curlin's connections,i.e., Jess Jackson, being a notable exception. Ya gotta be willing to run your horse- a lot- if you want any respect from this lifelong racing fan. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Superfecta said...

Frankly, I think we'd be lucky to get to 6 - 7 seems like a stretch.

Anonymous said...

Lets not induct BB into the HOF already, still has never faced adversity.

Lets seem him break a little slow, get bumped around and have to eat dirt before annointing him a super horse. Remember how those exact events changed the perception of War Pass?

I will go out on a limb and say he loses today after bouncing to 100 Beyer and whatever on the sheets.

The fact that all the sheet guys call his Derby one of the fastest in history only adds fire to the bounce theory.

All it takes is one of the lightly raced colts to take a 10 point jump forward into the 100's for him to lose today.

I am predicting it is KY Bear, but there are 4 others that have run 93 or better going two turns on dirt who can easily put up a 100+ Beyer today.

All it takes is one to do so and the Triple Crown may be bust.

What the heh, someone has to be contrarian.