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Friday, June 06, 2008

Last Leg

1) Big Brown - I find myself wavering back and forth between thinking he's going to win by 20 lengths, or not at all. Any interruption of a routine, especially one that's been so successful to this point, is nothing but a negative in my mind; and slight or not, the horse's quarter crack caused Dutrow to alter his schedule. And how much did it have to do with a workout that has received some mixed reviews? We've read about how he slowed down in the last quarter, and Joe Drape noted in his Q#A on The Rail that he was pulled up quickly, which I don’t like to see.

I'm not worried about his ability to get the distance, and I'm not the least bit concerned about Casino Drive. But I'm uneasy. I don't have nearly the same secure feeling that I did before the Preakness. And we've been through this scenario before, only to be disappointed.

2) Guadalcanal - Well, at least this maiden has been a mile and a half, albeit on the grass. There's some recent precedent here, as Nolan's Cat ran third as a maiden in 2005, but he at least had run against winners before. Guadalcanal lost by 26 in his only two turn dirt effort, and may do well to lose by that little in here.

3) Macho Again outran his breeding to be second best in the Preakness, and appears to be in raging form for trainer Dallas Stewart.

“We’re very happy with our horse. He’s trained well, he had a good work the other day, he seems energetic and his weight looks good — all the things we look for to stay on the right path. He’s an improving colt, and his last race was very nice. He’s showing he’s got a lot of fight and tenacity, and it looks like he really wants to win a race. [Schenectady Gazette]
I wouldn't wanna get beat by him again as I did in the Preakness, but pedigree questions persist.

4) Denis of Cork has had five weeks off since his rail-skimming third in the Derby, though his best races have come second off the layoff. He was one of the training stars prior to Churchill, and trainer David Carroll called his Belmont works pre-Derby like.
The final work, on Friday, was especially strong -- four furlongs in 48 1/5 seconds under jockey Robby Albarado, with the final eighth of a mile in a swift 11.1 seconds. [Washington Post]
Albarado replaced Calvin Borel, so perhaps we'll see this one rallying down the center of the track this time for a share.

5) Casino Drive - Two races, no proper workouts since the Peter Pan, and way too short at 7-2, or less, as I think he'll be. Three Belmont starters in a row for dam Better Than Honour is an amazing thing. But I don't like him one bit. [That was written before the news that he has a small stone bruise in his left hind foot. Three Belmont starters in a row for Better Than Honour? Could be that the odds are catching up.]

6) Da' Tara - This son of Tiznow is eligible for entry level allowance races, and actually is a maiden when it comes to fast tracks. Another unqualified entry for the team of Nick Zito and Robert LaPenta, nice going guys.

7) Tale of Ekati - Barclay Tagg runs this one on steroids, but I wonder how much outcry we'll hear about that if he wins. I'd come around on him since the Derby, but the more I look, he just hasn't shown any progress at age three, and I cannot get excited about him here.

8) Anak Nakal - It's been said that Zito's other entry shows similarities to Birdstone. That may be true in that they both, as two-year olds, had a maiden and stakes win sandwiched around a losing stakes effort. But any comparison ends there. Birdstone showed flashes of his ample ability with a 99 Beyer in his debut that Anak Nakal has never approached; and he won the Grade 1 Champagne over this track. He also won his 2008 debut, and had excuses in his disappointing Lane's End and Derby tries. Anak Nakal has never Beyer'd over 87, and his races have been nothing short of dismal this year. It's also said that he has the pedigree for this, based on the fact that 1998 Belmont winner Victory Gallop is his sire. That may be true, but, if you buy pedigree numbers, his dosage (4.0) and Tomlinson (287) are borderline at best. In any event, the only time he's closed in the stretch this year was in the Wood, when they walked home in 41 seconds for the last 3/8ths. I'm throwing him out completely.

9) Ready's Echo - Pletcher has been virtually invisible this week, except to decline to comment on whether this horse is running on steroids (as did Zito). So I think we can presume that he is. Ridgling son of More Than Ready has shown Beyer progression in each of his four starts, starting with one of the more spectacular seconds one could ever see in his debut. He trailed Casino Drive in the Peter Pan; but his only two turn effort, in a Keeneland allowance two races back, was an excellent one, as he closed very strongly into a negative pace scenario. If you like him to win and want a little company, Dick Powell makes a case for him over at Bris. I'd be more inclined to use him to rally for minor awards; how can you not like him to do so over Anak Nakal?

10) Icabad Crane started his career competing against NY-breds at the Big A last fall and winter, and has stepped up big time since then, with his Tesio win and Preakness third. Trainer Graham Motion thinks there's more improvement where that came from.
“You kind of think the Preakness would have been an exhausting race, and maybe after the Belmont [Stakes (G1)] I’ll feel differently, but right now I didn’t notice that it knocked him out in the slightest....He looks like he’s put weight on and filled out.

“It sounds odd to say this in three weeks, but it seems like he’s really changed since the Preakness,” Motion said. “He’s just really matured. Maybe it’s just the time of the year, but he’s really grown up.” [Thoroughbred Times]
Son of the AP Indy sire Jump Start, out of a Rahy half-sister to graded winner Adcat has never failed to fire with a record of 5-3-0-2, and rates as my top choice to upset the favorite.

So, I'm not going to make a definitive pick here, as I'm not planning to bet the race. I don't feel secure enough about Big Brown to invest on exotics with him on top, especially with the strong possibility that Casino Drive, who I was counting on to create value by leaving him out, won't run. And I'm not going to make anything more than a token wager against him because I simply don't want to root against a Triple Crown. I want Big Brown to win. I've read some people who say that the sport does not "need" a Triple Crown winner, and that it will do nothing for the sport. I don't at all agree with that, and here's one reason why. It would create more interest, and how can that not be good, even if just for the remainder of this year? But as far as wagering goes, I think I'll just sit this one out, other than perhaps fool around with Icabad Crane.

That's going to be a wrap for me as far as the Belmont goes; thanks as always for checking in. Any free time I manage to have between now and my early departure tomorrow will be devoted to handicapping the rest of the card, especially the non-stakes races; perhaps I'll have time to post some quick picks. To those of you who have written to ask, no, I will not be in the pressbox and will not be live blogging; though thanks much for the interest. It will be a historic day in one way or another, and I intend to hang out with the masses, nab some real estate in the back (to go with my seat in section 3S), violate my no-drinking and betting rule, and have a fantastic time on what promises to be a great, if somewhat warm, day. So, here's, hopefully, to a Triple Crown and, definitely, to a momentous day of our favorite sport. Best of luck to you all!


forego is my witness said...

Casino Drive is now out!

Anonymous said...

If Guadalcanal were the Guadalcanal who was a 3-year-old in 1961, his chances would be a lot better. In fact, he ran third in that year's Belmont.

forego is my witness said...

Jeeeeeze. Fat Mike and the Mad Hog were declaring Casino Drive was officially out; NOW they're saying he's still in.


Brooklyn Backstretch said...

Mike and the Mad Dog wrong about something? Shocking. Whom did they blame for their misinformation? They'd never actually admit they were wrong...

El Angelo said...

Aren't Mad Hog and Mike the same thing?

forego is my witness said...

I should have known not to trust them! I thought because they're broadcasting from the track today that maybe this once they actually got a scoop. Shame on me!!

Anonymous said...

Prado said it was no big deal and he will run.

How did the patchwork on Browns foot go?

What are the odds of both of them scratching?

Alan Mann said...

>>What are the odds of both of them scratching?

As the Mad Hog would say, "I wouldn't be shocked!"

Anonymous said...

Tale Of Ekati had some sort of "throat procedure" for what its worth.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone listen to those two jackasses on WFAN? They don't know anything about the major sports. They sure as hell don't know the first thing about horseracing.

Now, Alan, how can you not be impressed by Casino Drive's Peter Pan? The stone bruise issue and the possible consequences of same are troubling but, if this colt runs his race, he's light years better than anything Big Brown has seen so far.


Brett said...

Well, he didn't fire. Not much more to say then that.

Anonymous said...

another Alan sarcasm special that ended up with your foot in your mouth. Zito never runs just to run. He prepares better then any trainer can when it comes to bringing a horse to the belmont. You should be ashamed of your moronic comments and this is not the first time you have put your foot in your mouth. Once ans a while you should ZIP it with your sarcastic coments.

6) Da' Tara - This son of Tiznow is eligible for entry level allowance races, and actually is a maiden when it comes to fast tracks. Another unqualified entry for the team Nick Zito and Robert LaPenta,nice going guys.

Anonymous said...

I had a small bet on the exacta. It's the same situation as 2002(which I had a much bigger bet on. I wasn't as much of a coward then).

DaTara ran on the Preakness undercard same as Sarava did in 2002. In both cases these horses races weren't that far off the Preakness winner. Sarava was 70-1. DaTara 38-1. Neither horse had any business being that long. People bet horses too much on reputation instead of trying to determine what might happen next.

Okay, that's enough gloating.


Anonymous said...

Alan, no offense but you lost alot of credibility in my eyes. When I read what you said about Da'Tara 3 hours ago I even laughed out loud. What makes your "expertise" any better than mine? A Tiznow Sire can always get the distance, even Brett Musburger knew that. These horses now are bred for speed and not the grueling Triple Crown trail. BTW I had the exacta. Maybe I should start my own blog.

Anonymous said...

The race is over. Now we can concentrate on a classy horse that has slightly less sleazy connections....CURLIN.

Anonymous said...

Dutrow should have brought an extra shirt.
Zaftig was easy money. I don't think much of Indian Blessing.

Anonymous said...

"Another unqualified entry for the team of Nick Zito and Robert LaPenta, nice going guys."


Nick Zito seems like a class act (or at least classy in comparison to others.) If there is a TC winner in the near future, hopefully the colt will be trained by someone like him or Larry Jones.

Anonymous said...

To you anonymous posters with the after-the-fact wisdom, could you please point to where you took a stand on Alan's comments BEFORE the race -- sorry, but I must have missed those brilliant posts.

Anonymous said...

You were dead on about Big Brown, you will have to swallow the Da' Tara #6 though.

Anonymous said...

So much for an "unqualified entry", eh?

Doesn't matter if I am anonymous or not, doesn't matter if I had "brilliant posts" about his commentary or not---which, for the record, I hadn't read the blog since Monday and have no ax to grind.

But, much like Dutrow is learning now, when you make a broad, blanket statement like this, whether you're boasting a laq Dutrow or excoriating instead of handicapping, karma does have a way of humbling anybody. Da' Tara may not have looked like much on paper, but I figured some insight other than a sarcastic toss-out would have been warranted.

Live and learn, though---I ain't mad at'cha, as the cool kids say. Next time, more insight, and leave the snark to a Ricks Natural Star-type that deserved it more: Guadacanal much?

Anonymous said...

Who Dey, Who Dey, Who Dey think they can beat that Curlin?

Big Brown screwed up the purse at Suffolks Downs for a match in September, now only 3 million.

Brooklyn Backstretch said...

Curlin's connections slightly less sleazy? I guess the emphasis there is on "slightly," given that two of his former owners are in jail and his trainer has had more than twenty med violations and accrued a year's worth of suspensions.

Anonymous said...


With your know It all comments on Da'Tara,
you are now qualified for a job with the N.Y.Times.

Anonymous said...

Dutrow should have given Brown a shot of the juice.

Anonymous said...

Belmont is a dump!!!

At least half the bathrooms were closed before halfway through the day. No cold water or some crap.

Anonymous said...

The problem is not the anonymity; that, of course, is your right. It's that your critical comments after the race would have a lot more legitimacy if before the race you engaged Alan in a conversation on why you felt Da' Tara had enough ability to better Alan's rating. Certainly, many of us didn't think much of the horse's chances -- I had Denis of Cork on top and was fully expecting him to reel in the front-runner -- and we all could have benefited from your insight before-hand. But when no such insights were forthcoming, the critical comments afterward lack any kind of foundation and are meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Karma is a bitch,babe

Brett said...

"The race is over. Now we can concentrate on a classy horse that has slightly less sleazy connections....CURLIN."

Slightly is a key word their anon. Asmussen can be a bit annoying, actually really annoying A LOT! And sleazy might be an understatement for him. Wasn't he suspended for a full year 2-3 years ago.

Jeff you are so completely right.

Pat Forde with the quote of the day, "And somewhere -- wherever the racing gods live -- there was unabated laughter at this comeuppance. Karma's a female dog, babe, and so is the Triple Crown."

At least Lava Man ran his heart out today!

Anonymous said...

Scott Blasi, Carmen Rosas and Poncho are the ones who are behind Curlin! Think about it, they are the three who are always with him day in and out in the USA or abroad. Curlin is sound and running as a four year old and he is owned by a United States citizen not a United Emerites person, for Christ sake that must mean something to horse racing fans of the USA.

El Angelo said...

The negativity towards Alan for making an incorrect pick baffles me. It's horse racing, it's the game where everyone's entitled to an opinion and can back it up with $$ on the track if they think they're right. Did anyone post anywhere online that they actually liked Da'Tara? The horse looked like a rabbit for Anak Nakal.

Anonymous said...

Alan has a bit of Dutroitis, which is incurable.

Anonymous said...

El Angelo -

I've read a bunch of columns by Jay Cronley on why horseplayers react so negatively to other people's wins and seem to relish in their defeats. A lot of words but I can summarize from my own experience: They're miserable motherf'ers.

Sprinkle in the ones who don't like Alan because of his politics and voilĂ !!

I think Alan's point is correct in that Zito is just throwing darts at the wall with G1's - what he(Alan), and many others, didn't figure is that occasionally the situation will fall into place - with the pace, a key scratch and a horse who isn't as invincible as people think - and the unthinkable happens. Every time I go to the track I try to remember the mantra "It's horseracing, and anything can happen"

Anonymous said...

I agree with the commenter's Sarava - Da Tara comparison.

His raw time AND Beyer what right with The Preakness runners up.

The difference between the two situation is simple, Sarava was a dead closer who figured to handle the increased distance, and I therefore had him on my ticket.

Da Tara was a speed horse that was tiring in the Sir Barton (I do not recognize the unfortanate name change) and, despite having the pedigree, figured to fold when challenged by BB and Casino, so I tossed him completely.

Speaking for myself, the mistake was not going back over the race without Casino Drive.

I played mostly against Brown in reasonable hope for a big score, based on the premise that his foot, the heat, the distance, and the steroid withdrawl would catch up to him.

Base on that premise, and Casino Drives scratch, I should have realized he would be loose on the lead, which is always dangerous.

Instead, my TriBox finished 2-3-4.

Anonymous said...

Casino Drive would have won by 10.

So would Proud Spell.

Anonymous said...

When things settle down, it will become apparent to all the Desormeaux simply choked again.

That was a horrible ride, no matter what eventually transpired with the horse, but if in fact it surfaces that he was injured during the race, it will have likely happened during the first quarter mile when he was insanely rated into submission.

OK, now we are all ready for the sour grapes quotes that will be forthcoming from Dutrow today, about his horse being herded by the others, and the decision by the owners to ride Kent instead of his boy Prado.

Lets see if he is as a good a loser as a winner. I think not.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, ESPN had a shot of Big Brown losing his cool in the Detention Barn, rolling over, jumping around like a mad horse.

Reporter said they connections were concerned and their cameraman was booted from the area (As he should have been), but dont be surprised if that becomes part of the story.

ballyfager said...

Anonymous 9:35

You are correct that Sarava was a closer BEFORE the Belmont. But in the Belmont, much to my surprise, he attended the pace. Believe me, since it was the biggest hit of my life, I remember it well. From the quarter pole home it was apparent that either it was going to be Sarava or the Bobby Frankel horse who had failed in both the Derby and the Preakness and so was 16-1 (I can't remember his name at the moment).

What a nice feeling to know your either going to have a real good hit or a fantastically good hit.

As I said above in this thread, go back and look at DaTara's race on the Preakness undercard. The NY Post said in their before race critique that he did not belong in the race. Uh Huh.

Never take a public handicapper's word for anything and that goes all the way up to and including Andy Beyer.

Anonymous said...

"When things settle down, it will become apparent to all the Desormeaux simply choked again. That was a horrible ride, no matter what eventually transpired with the horse, but if in fact it surfaces that he was injured during the race, it will have likely happened during the first quarter mile when he was insanely rated into submission."

I would disagree. What was the jockey supposed to do? He was completely boxed. You think he WANTED to yank on BB like that? The circumstances were forced, and he swung out the horse as soon as was possible to a dream position on the outside.

El Angelo said...

I agree with the last commenter, you just have to know your horse. By comparison, Garrett Gomez had a hammerlock on Ventura 4 races earlier, who was rank and wanted to run, but his restraining worked---she won easily.