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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Wrapping Up

- Completing my run down and thinking aloud about the horses I'm considering, Z Fortune was set at 30-1 in the morning line. I hope he's less, so that I can at least say that my futures bet, at 37-1, was a bargain. I bet him in the first futures pool even after Pyro blew by him in the Risen Star; it was only his 4th start, and I liked the way he'd quickly developed after dominating NY-breds in his first two starts.

The Rebel, in which he was a no-shot fifth at 3-5, was a big disappointment. I've never seen any excuse for that; in fact, Asmussen admitted that the colt had "no visible excuses."

"A very humbling sport, it can be....I've never been so sure a horse would run well in a long time. [DRF]
But he certainly ran well in the Arkansas Derby, finishing within a length of Gayego despite an extremely wide trip. He has a solid foundation of four races this year - if that means anything at all these days - and is another who seems poised to move forward off a career best effort.

However, I am concerned that the effort was too much considering the ground loss, and I'm even more concerned that Asmussen seems concerned about it too; to the point where he has trained Z Fortune rather tamely this week.
"I have a huge concern with Z Fortune. He had a very hard race in the Arkansas Derby from a wide draw. It was his lifetime best race. He will have to move forward off that race to win this Derby." [NY Post]
You don't often hear a Derby trainer speak like that before the race, and I don't really know what to make of it. I also don't really know what to make of his pedigree. He's by the Brazilian stallion Siphon, who, though he himself won the Big Cap and the Hollywood Gold Cup at a mile and a quarter, brings a lot of unfamiliar names to the mix; and his foals have an average winning distance of 6.6 furlongs. Out of a mare by Fortunate Prospect, he has a rather middling distaff family. He has a low dosage of 1.67, but has a scant profile with only four chefs-de-race.

However, the reports on his training and appearance have been extremely favorable, and I'll be using this one throughout my exotics, probably simply letting my futures bet ride as far as the top slot goes.

- I wrote about how I've come around on Visionaire in this post (scroll down to #9). Some have expressed doubt about his pedigree, and I certainly see the point. Grand Slam, though from the desirable Raise a Native line, is not known for siring distance horses - his foals have an average winning distance of 6.8 furlongs. His distaff family doesn't seem to add much stamina either.
His second dam, 10-time stakes queen Silver Tango (Silver Badge), was a hardy campaigner on the Mid-Atlantic circuit. From 47 starts, the Maryland-bred visited the winner's circle 17 times, and all but one of those victories came in sprints. She is transmitting that speed to her offspring. Of her six winners, five are pure sprinters. Silver Tango is the product of rather plebeian parentage, which does not enhance Visionaire's Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects. [Kentucky Derby site]
By the way, detailed pedigree analysis such as this one is available on all of the horses, on the Kentucky Derby website. Visionaire's workout on Tuesday did not get rave reviews: Mike Welsch wrote that he was under some pressure to complete his final furlong around the turn in 13:04. Nonetheless, he's been consistently firing in the stretch, even in his no-shot Blue Grass effort, has a trainer with Derby winning experience, and still has a spot in my exotics, though probably more towards the bottom.

- I had written that I thought that Eight Belles could vie for a spot in the second tier of favorites behind Big Brown and Colonel John, but early indications are that I was very wrong about that. She's been set at 20-1 in the morning line, and I've been reading dismissive comments regarding her chances. Hmmm. I think that this filly
has the perfect running style for the Derby. She doesn't want to mix it up early, but she has excellent tactical speed, and the kind of middle move that could have her in the clear and in striking position turning for home. She certainly has the speed figures to be competitive, and her pedigree seems fine - she's by the Juvenile/FL Derby/Wood winner Unbridled's Song, from the Raise A Native line which has accounted for 12 of the last 21 Derby winners, through Fappiano (and check out Jim Squires' take on that one's distance influence here), out of a Dixieland Band mare.

If Eight Belles didn't have that little circled F in her running lines, I think she'd have to be like 4th choice, doncha think? I think there's a little sex discrimination going on here! Her races are punctuated with comments such as "wrapped up," "much the best," and "sudden burst, handily." Then there's her last race, the Fantasy, which doesn't seem so impressive on paper, with her getting up late in a four horse field. But she took a hop at the start (which obviously would eliminate her on Saturday), allowing Alina to get loose on the lead to a half mile in 48 flat. As I related in this post:
Alina then went 24.34 and 24.19 to the sixteenth pole, and Eight Belles had to get that final half furlong in 6.23 seconds to finally get up. She looked beaten at the eighth pole, and showed a lot of guts in running down a filly who has been a different animal since switching to the Asmussen barn two races back.
Of course, there's concern about her getting knocked around in traffic early, but that pertains to everyone. Breaking from the five post, she has the plodding Court Vision inside, and the mid-pack type Z Fortune outside. So she may be OK coming out of the gate, and might have only Cool Coal Man, breaking from the rail for the 4th consecutive race, to contend with early in a second tier. I think she's a real contender, and haven't eliminated her from consideration for the top spot.

So that's it for my contenders. One more note about Big Brown - I noticed just recently to my surprise that the Times edited out a sentence from the first paragraph of my post; it was something to the effect that the horse is either the monster Dutrow says he isn't or he's not. The point being that if he is, then I don't think the 20 post amounts to a hill of beans anymore than the 12 at Gulfstream did. If he's not, then of course the post can get him beat. (And what these front wraps mean in this case, I have no clue. Favoritism for Colonel John perhaps?)

So it looks like I'm down to Pyro, Colonel John, Z Fortune, Eight Belles, and maybe Monba for the top spot; and Gayego, Visionaire, and Big Brown for minor shares only. But later on, either before or after what will very likely be the Rangers' final home game of the year, I'll take a second look at a couple of horses that I'd eliminated before.


Anonymous said...

I'm expecting a good run out of Eight Belles. In fact, she's the one horse i have the most interest in as far as head-to-head matchups are concerned. Thanks to her morning-line (and the dismissive comments that Alan mentioned), i'm hoping to get her matched against horses in the same price range that i think have very little chance (such as Court Vision, Cool Coal Man, Tale of Ekati, Recapturetheglory, etc).

El Angelo said...

I mentioned this on my own analysis, but I think Eight Belles is this year's version of Three Ring, hopefully without the same tragedy in her next scheduled start. I agree that Visionaire's breeding doesn't jump out for the distance, but somehow it reminds me of Funny Cide's in that you knew that Grand Slam (like Distorted Humor) was talented and fast enough that it wouldn't be a shock to see the offspring run further than they should.

Anonymous said...

ESPN's Triple Crown special this afternoon had the DRF's Jay Privman and he was as blunt and adamant as possible on this point: Eight Belles has no chance.

Just odd he'd be so down on her.

Yes, she hasn't raced against the boys before (unlike Genuine Risk, Regret and Winning Colors all did before the Ky Derby) although so many scenarios can occur for her to be right there just (alomost) any other in this field.

To his credit Privman's picks were Colonel John and Z Fortune.

Alan Mann said...

too many people liking Z Fortune for my taste

Anonymous said...

And Court Vision is getting way too much attention due to the blinkers and fast breeze.

Sticking with Monba, whose Hollywood Futurity was as good a race as any of the other touted CAL invaders, and of course PYRO.

The one stat that bothers me is no winner of the Derby in recent times has run worse than fourth in their immediate prep, but in Pyro's case it seemed like they werent even trying.

Anonymous said...

I love Eight Belles as you know Alan. How anyone can say she has no chance is beyond me. Rags to Riches beat a decent horse in a decent race last year in New York - here first time against males. I love all off these throw out rules - New York Bred can't win, Gelding can't win, 5 week layoff can't win. Whatever. She is the boss on Saturday.

ballyfager said...

Alan, I'm completely opposite to you on this.I didn't think Eight Belles looked impressive in the Fantasy at all. However, the race doesn't look so bad on paper (compare it to the Rebel).

Also, she has a very good work at CD which I think is important. She belongs in the Oaks and if Rick Porter had a colt for the Derby she'd be in the Oaks. One more thing, in the Oaks she'd have Dominguez, as good or maybe better than any rider in the country. Isn't the fact that he's not on her in the Derby a significant tell?

Anonymous said...

What a sorry group of three year olds.
At this time, there is not one I would breed a mare to even if the stud fee were free.
Hopefully, some horse, other than the snail venem nerve blocked, Brown, will emerge as a thoroughbred with true quality.
And how is Dutrow allowed to bet $150,000.00 on his horse when Maties and his family were denied stalls for betting on theirs.

Anonymous said...

I've got Eight Belles in the mix.

My top seven (with odds I'd need to make a win bet):

Big Brown 4-1
Gayego 8-1
Recapturetheglory 12-1
Colonel John 12-1
Denis of Cork 13-1
Eight Belles 14-1
Bob Black Jack 14-1

Harl said...

I've been tucked away in the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas the past several days, so I've missed a lot of the Derby hype.

I like the Asmussen duo on Saturday. I drew a line threw PYRO's latest and I think Z FORTUNE is sitting on a big effort. I'm not worried about the outside post for BIG BROWN and part of me hopes he overcomes that and his lack of foundation to win going away, but I can't play him at 7-2, 3-1 let alone a more realistic 2-1. On paper, he's head and shoulders above anyone else in the field. He may be my lone 'A' horse in my inevitable dive into the pick four pools.

Also, since I've been cut off from the rest of civilization for awhile, I almost missed out on the return of my main man, NISTLE'S CRUNCH! He returns in the Crown Royal American Turf prior to the Oaks and may prove tough to beat. I'll take his 4-1 ML price.

Jen R said...

f Eight Belles didn't have that little circled F in her running lines, I think she'd have to be like 4th choice, doncha think?

A hypothetical Eight Beaux might well be 4th choice on the strength of his numbers and nice G2/G3 wins, but I'd consider him an underlay if he were. I'd be skeptical of a colt who hadn't run further than a mile and a sixteenth and hadn't been running in the major Derby preps.

However, I agree with you on all of Eight Belles' positives, especially her running style, and wouldn't be shocked to see her win.