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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Derby Day

Guess I gotta do Derby picks, and always find it difficult, and a bit anti-climactic after all the build up.  It's just one race.  For one thing, we all spend far too much time over the race, as I've stated many times before; and that's just not good as far as handicapping goes, at least for mine.  Find I usually do best when I find a horse that stands out right off the bat, on the first scan, and derived from basic handicapping fundamentals - form, speed, class, pace, tote - that one doesn't need more than a paper or pdf to discern.  It's after that when I confirm, compound, or amend those first impressions via further research into trainers, results charts, and replays.

But for the Derby, I'm already way beyond that; and it becomes a game of changes of mind, second and third guesses, way way too much information and far too many persuasive opinions from people far smarter than myself (though no more likely nor qualified to pick the winner of this single particular race than any of us).

Anyway, here goes.  I've already discussed and dissected the top contenders in recent days and weeks, so not going to repeat myself and therefore will keep it brief.   If you haven't been following here and need a more comprehensive horse-by-horse, check out our buddy El Angelo's excellent analysis on the Gowanus Baseball blog.  (Or about a thousand other blogs or websites if you look around.)

Revolutionary (10-1) is probably best prepared for what he is going to encounter than any of the other horses here.  When he breaks from the 3 post (now with only one horse inside of him), it shouldn't look much different to him than the Louisiana Derby, when he also broke from the inside and found himself last (just a mere six more horses in the field).  He circled way wide in that one, so has that experience should he need to do so here.  Or, more likely given that he's breaking from an inside post and being ridden by Calvin Borel, should he need to find a path home on or near the rail, inside of or betweent horses, well he's already done that in his escape act in the Withers.  And, if he finds himself confronted, or even passed, by another in the stretch, he's already shown that he can dig down and fight back, as he did when Mylute edged in front in the stretch at Fair Grounds.

Now, it might be of concern that he was head and head with a 19-1 shot who will not be amongst my selections in the Derby.  But he was edging away at the end, and this is one horse who I am reasonably convinced will handle the extra distance.  While his sire, the BC Juvenile winner War Pass, is a dead second-year stallion with limited statistical evidence available, his female breeding is, I believe, amongst the best distance pedigree in the race.  He's out of the mile and a quarter Alabama winner Runup the Colors; and she's a half to Flagbird, a 10 furlong winner in Italy, and the granddam of Little Belle, second in the CCA Oaks (at 1 1/4); and to the multiple G1 winner Prospectors Delite, the dam of champion Mineshaft, Tomisue's Delight (winner the 10f Personal Ensign and second in the Oaks. 

The main concern in my view is that, as pointed out in the abovementioned blog post on GRBG , the presence of Calvin Borel will likely mean he's overbet.  I also had my own concern that the jockey has already had a lifetime of good fortune in this race.  However, I imagine there's not a better rider for a horse who will find himself in the situation Revolutionary likely will, breaking inside as he will.  I'd like to get 10-1; and should he be bet too far below that, there's a point at which I'll rethink my strategy.  But, in addition to his other attributes and experience, Revolutionary has shown an indomitable will to win.  He's earned accolades for his workout and appearances on the track this past week, and figures to improve in just his third start of the year, the winning pattern in the last six Derbies.  He's the top pick.

Orb (7-2) is the training star of Derby week, hands down.  In his final recap, Mike Welsch called his workout "far and away the most impressive....of the week."  As I've written before, I think he's the best horse, and believe that his last-out Beyer doesn't reflect the improvement I believe he showed.  I will use him as the winner in some way, shape, or fashion no matter what I end up doing.

I liked Palace Malice (20-1) over Revolutionary going into the Louisiana Derby, and what has happened since that would change that opinion?  He was so hopelessly boxed in that race, that I don't think one can draw conclusions about their relative abilities from it.  Then the Blue Grass was an unexpected success in my view, doubting his turf/synth breeding as I do.  With four races already at age three, he doesn't fit the recent profile for Derby winners as we've seen.  But he's "trained forwardly," according to Welsch, and adds blinkers to help address the way he got distracted and changed leads in the Blue Grass stretch.  Think he could be the best value in the race; could end up betting using him on top if he is.

Itsmyluckyday (15-1) seems to be coming back into favor after his stock fell after he was decisively defeated by Orb in the Florida Derby.  No excuses that day; but he's drawn unanimous raves for his training this week; and, as mentioned, has the tactical speed to be close.  Will use underneath.

Been going back and forth and back and forth again on Verrazano (4-1).  I'm not picking him to win partly because he's the horse I'd feel the most stupid about selecting if he runs really bad.  But I still think his Wood was a step forward in his becoming a race horse, and I personally loved his appearance this week.  Think he's gonna run well and will use him on my tickets.

I see that Steven Crist picked Overanalyze (15-1) despite fretting over the fact that the Arkansas Derby could have been timed with a sundial.  As Crist points out, it was a pretty slow pace and he didn't start his move until nearing the turn (the same reasons why I've been saying you should take the Beyers by Orb and Verrazano with a grain of salt).  He's another coming in off the now-fashionable two starts at three and surely is eligible to improve.  Still, that race was pretty slow (on my numbers too), so will use at the bottom only.

Aw jeez, have I mentioned every Pletcher horse now?  Well, not Charming Kitten (20-1).  I presume we'll have a break from the sight of Ken Ramsey's smiling mug at least after this race.

The horses that figure to take money that I will be standing against (for reasons previously stated) are: Goldencents (5-1), Normandy Invasion (12-1), and Java's War (15-1).  With the possible exception of the latter, who I might have to throw in to the very bottom slot, if these horses finish in the money, I'll lose.

 - The surprise Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar ($79.60) looks pretty good on paper when you look back at her pp's.  Goes to show just how good the race was.  Still, her 97 Beyer was 13 points higher than her prior best.  So she either improved markedly, or her prior Beyers underrated her ability.  In either event, the Toddster's daughter of Majestic Warrior, out of a Catienus mare, may have been done a favor by hitting traffic after the start and being much further back than she'd been in the past.  It was a quick pace up front and she surely benefited from being far behind it.  Princess of Sylmar is inbred 4x3 to Dixieland Band, and 5x5 to Secretariat.


steve in nc said...

OK, so we're both up too late. As for the Oaks, you wrote:
"Still, her 97 Beyer was 13 points higher than her prior best. So she either improved markedly, or her prior Beyers underrated her ability."
OR, Beyer speed figures aren't very good.

The Oaks was more interesting to handicap than the Derby, which takes awhile just because there are so many damned horses.

I found it pretty inscrutable at first glance and my second look didn't make things any clearer.

But I used It's My Lucky Day most in multis because on Sheets, he's the fastest and he's long.

But after Animal Kingdom and Mine that Bird, I'm actually going to use the all button on one P4 ticket.

Good luck.

Figless said...

I ended up tossing Rev, stubborn dinosaur that I am I still insist on 2yo form plus he just hasn't beaten anything of note, and was easily handled by Orb in their one meeting. Calvin is more likely to get trapped down on the rail than he is to find a hole. And don't like his habit of changing leads at the wrong time.

I thought the Wood was the best prep (and good to see all the money horses actually making it to the gate for a change, as of this writing)and I thought Normandy Invasion was best that day.

Toss up between him and Orb who remains my sentimental choice but my money will follow the value to NI. Orb exacta.

Tough to knock Itsmyluckyday, has the 2yo form and the seasoning I prefer, has the best distance pedigree of the early speed types so is the most likely to last for a share.

Believe Verrazano's lack of seasoning will take its toll here in a race I suspect will have a quicker pace than most suspect.

Vyjack, had an excuse (mucous) that day but his sprint pedigree and his pp should catch up to him today, nice miler.

Its been a good idea to include the Mr. Prospector line horses on your ticket in the last decade, even when they make no sense, and surprisingly there are only three entered here.

Of those Palace Malice (Curlin) has the best prep and preferred stamina distaff family and is therefore a must use.

Lucas' Will Take Charge (Unbridled's Song) comes off long layoff since his Grade win, allegedly because he had a big growth spurt, would not shock me if he finished in the top five.

I bet Mylute in the LA Derby and thought I was home free at the eighth pole. Despite his running style feel his sprint pedigree caught up to him that day and will again today. That said I would be an idiot not to include in exotics based on his race that day and the Mr. P sire line.

So Keying NI and Orb over Itsmyluckyday and the Mr. P horses in the exotics.

Good luck, and more importantly enjoy the day, that's what this race is all about.

ballyfager said...

First of all, I think the field is shot through with mediocrity.

Revolutionary and Orb have one glaring fault. They simply haven't run fast enough.

The fastest horses in the race, Goldencents, Itsmyluckyday, Verrazano & Vyjack all seem like they might be desperately looking around for a Rest Area at the eighth pole.

For all you Calvin Borel fans, don't lose sight of the fact that the only reason Borel is on the horse is that Javier Castellano chose not to ride him.

If I had to choose one horse I'll take Normandy Invasion. But I'll hook him up with others in exactas & tri's.

If it comes up slop (and it looks like a very good chance of that) both Itsmyluckyday & Vyjack have nice slop wins (although both were in sprints).

Early betting odds show Verrazano at 11-1 and Vyjack at 43-1. If you're looking for overlays that might be a good place to start.

Jeff said...

Two horses I remember posting a final-prep Beyers that were well above the competition were Big Brown and War Emblem. I expect Goldencents to fend off his stalkers and win this race.

Alan Mann said...

Considering the odds, I ended up betting Orb and Palice Malice to win/place, so did pretty OK. Don't understand what Mike Smith was thinking of, unless the horse just ran off with the blinkers on. Guess that equipment change didn't work out.

Figless said...

Or PM was Pletcher's designated Rabbit.