Monthly Archives: February 2008

Dead Heat? You Bet!

That’s the prognosis for my ancient forced air heating window unit, i.e., the only heat source in my apartment. This little unforeseen event ate up almost all of my handicapping time today however, I managed to do the Sam F. Davis in between discussions about which part may or may not be the problem. That being said, here’s what I think…

Sam F. Davis

On first glance, Z Humor looks like the pick, but after watching the Delta Downs Jackpot, I’m not convinced. With Honey Honey Honey in the mix I think the pace will be comparable to the DeD Jackpot but I think this also bodes well for Smooth Air, who’s had some improving endurance works in preparation for stretching out. Were his last two wins due to perfect trips and his talent in the slop? It’s hard to tell. I understand why one would choose to dismiss him, but given the pace scenario + works, I think he has a shot.

Enter Fierce Wind and Wise Answer. The former is improving in both performance and work outs + the slight cutback should work in his favor. Can he rate? Can he ship? Will he handle the pace? He looked great in his last two out, albeit tiring a bit in the last at 1 1/8th. The latter is also coming back to a scenario that has worked for him in the past. He can rate, can he ship? He seems more likely to handle the pace than Fierce Wind.

Big Truck is a bit a of wild card to me, he had a rough trip in the Remsen and then the slop in the Hucheson. I want to see what he does this time out but I’m not willing to put any money on him. I like that his 5F work time has improved and that he’s been training for distance, but I’ll wait and see.

In the interesting long shot department I’m willing to put a little money on Dynamic Wayne. He can ship and he’s closed off a slow pace, at his price I’m willing to bet that he might improve with a hotter pace. And just so I mention everyone, Wonder Mon has sat close on slow pace and closed on a moderate pace and it bears noting that his last work is the same time as the one prior to his last win.

Bottom line, I think this race a bit more open than it seems. I’ll probably box Smooth Air, Fierce Wind and Wise Answer with a little Dynamic Wayne across the board. Good luck everyone!

Picks: Wise Answer, Fierce Wind, Smooth Air

The “Prove it to Me” Factor

Curlin, “proving it to me” again, in the Jockey Gold Cup (Sarah K. Andrew)

Swifty’s comment on my bandwagon post brought up another, somewhat related topic.

Oh how quickly they forget… I can’t believe that I so conveniently blanked out all of the Derby hype around Curlin last year, albeit, not quite this early.

It was everywhere, and my natural aversion to hype was fully intact as well…


The things that I don’t like about Curlin are that he hasn’t raced against tough competition and we have no idea if he’s got the heart for a fight. Could he hold his own against Street Sense in the stretch?


So, as I suspected, Curlin wasn’t quite ready to take on the big boys, but clearly he’s a very good horse.

It dawned on me last night that Curlin was such a media darling because Americans are completely invested in the idea of the easy payoff.

But then the tide started to change…

05/19/2007 – 1:

I also think the Derby was probably good for Curlin. I’m looking for him to sit closer to the pace and have a better shot this time.

05/19/2007 – 2:

Curlin may have won by a nose but he kicked Street Sense’s ass in my opinion. He came 3 wide to Street Sense’s inside trip and the really poured it on at the end. Fucking Fantastic! He galloped out nicely too. The one thing I did get right was that the Derby was good for him! He really has the killer instinct.

And then, he had proved it to me…


I was re-reading a few of my posts because I was thinking about things I wanted to see about a few of the horses before I became a believer.

From my Derby Futures Wagers post:

“The things that I don’t like about Curlin are that he hasn’t raced against tough competition and we have no idea if he’s got the heart for a fight. Could he hold his own against Street Sense in the stretch?”

Answered: Yes!

Not only is the this story of how one woman overcame her abhorrence of hype, it illustrates something I’m sure every horseplayer does to some extent. We all have our “yeah, but how will they handle X” or “but they had the perfect trip”.

As a matter of fact, to me Street Sense never lived up to “the hype” because he never “proved it to me” about having to go around horses. How would he have faired in this year’s Risen Star as a closer?

We all do it, and we all have our own criteria. For example in the aforementioned TBA Facebook discussion of Pyro, Teresa at Brooklyn Backstretch still has Pyro on her “Prove it to me” list because the pace was so slow (could he do it if he had had to run faster?) but to me it was more impressive because the pace was slow. To each their own “Prove it to me”… and that’s what makes discussing the races so damn fun!

New Poll, The Monkey (Natch)

Many thanks to all who voted in the Empire Maker filly poll… and especially to the lone voter for Miss Red Delicious! If I could have, I would have voted for them all. Country Star was our winner with 17 votes to Mushka’s 12 (one of which was mine… I heart Mushka).

But alas, it’s time to move on… to a topic I’m sure we’ll all miss discussing, at least for a couple of years until he has offspring! I personally think it’s a shame that he wasn’t able to just come into his own, even if that would have turned out to be “just ok in allowance company”.

As I’ve said before (STILL haven’t gotten all my old posts over here), there’s absolutely no way they could have thought they would recoup that investment… I guess theirs is bigger!

To Make it Easier to Find Later…

Now that I have the whole “bandwagon” clarification out of the way, time to get back on it for one hot second.

Since there’s plenty of, dare I say, hype about Pyro, I wanted to compile it to make it easier to find later.

Race Replay (check):

DRF Recap (check)

Papa Beyer sagely reminds us not to discount War Pass just yet (check) [DRF+]

Papa Beyer discusses Pyro’s “jaw-dropping” closing kick (check) [DRF+]

Crist explains figs and pace (check) [Cristblog]

Added 02/12:

Randy Moss discusses the final quarter mile [NTRA]

Haskin discusses how Fairgrounds plays into the mix [Bloodhorse]

Added 02/14:

Plonk gives some context [ESPN]

Downey on the Beast of the Bayou [Downey Profile]

Watchmaker on Derby Fever [DRF]

Something else interesting to me this weekend, was that Indian Blessing rated really nicely in the Silverbulletday. This was the first time she didn’t just smoke the field from almost the get go. Watch for yourself…

I Know It’s Early, but I’m Not Ashamed!

A spate of posts, comments and Facebook wall post conversations about Pyro, “bandwagons” and the time of year have brought up some interesting things (for me at least).

It started this morning with some comments I received on my Pyro = Real Deal post. The post itself was rather vague and had only 2 sentences:

I think a bandwagon just pulled up in front of my apartment… holy crap I can’t wait to watch that replay again. That was one serious win!

When online pal and frequent reader Dave shared a “it’s kind of early sentiment” I was a little surprised… had I just broadcasted that Pyro would win the Derby? Does bandwagon have more a “blind follower” connotation that I realized?

The same sort of thing happened at the TBA Facebook Group when I posted a similar vague and enthusiastic pro-Pyro thing. It sort of felt that unless I had a wait a see approach that it meant that I unequivocally thought that Pyro would the Derby. Odd.

Here’s part of my reply there:

I think Pyro dispelled the myth that he’s a bridesmaid… he clearly wants to win, which is important. And, he can get around horses and excel on queue. All I can say for certain is that I think he’s got a legit a shot and I couldn’t say that before this weekend.


At any rate, at least I feel more engaged than I did prior to the weekend, I’m still waiting to see Court Vision, War Pass and Majestic Warrior… the others that I’m expecting to be real contenders and am excited to see who else emerges. (Editors note: I forgot to list National Pride, I’m also waiting to see him, if he’s even in the States).

There are many things I love about horse racing. I love handicapping, the analytical challenge and life long learning opportunity was what drew me in. I love the races themselves, they’re thrilling and a great reminder that it’s not over till it’s over. But probably the biggest surprise to me is that I love being a fan, something I’ve never been, or at least let myself be… ever.

I deplore hype, at the faintest whiff of hype I will find as many reasons as possible to dismiss the hyped object. It’s different with the ponies, for whatever reason I let myself get jazzed about a horse or horses. It’s fun for me, almost like walking on the wild side or seeing how the other half lives. “So this how people who get excited about things are… fascinating” (and really pretty fun!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still analytical… and while I am jazzed I also know it’s early. I guess that’s the other thing, just because I’m jazzed about Pyro doesn’t mean I won’t be jazzed about others along the way (while still being jazzed about him).

Last year I liked Hard Spun & No Biz going into the Derby and was definitely a fan of both throughout the year. But I also came around to Curlin without feeling any less of a fan of the other two. I guess I’m the multiple bandwagon type, or maybe I’m just willing to at least try to be a fan and horseplayer… not necessarily the most natural fit.

Pyro = Real Deal

I think a bandwagon just pulled up in front of my apartment… holy crap I can’t wait to watch that replay again. That was one serious win!

Fairground Picks

Daytona & Mike Smith winning the San Gabriel, can they do it again this weekend? (Charles Pravata)

Given the insanity of the west coast, I decided to only focus on Fairgrounds this weekend.

A little while ago I was eating my lunch in front of the OTB channel. It was just before the 5th race at Aqueduct. I thought the #1 horse, Boggy Creek Dancer, looked really good in the parade, very calm and self assured. The rest of them looked a little too antsy. I wasn’t surprised at BCD’s long odds as I’ve seen him race before, but he did look really good.

In the stretch it looked like the #9, Majestic Melody, really had it, sitting off the pace and coming on with a nice run. Out of nowhere Boggy Creek Dancer flew by the rest of the field to win by a couple of lengths and pay $40.20. I took this as a hopeful sign for the rest of my day!


I’m betting against Grasshopper here. I never bought the hype about him as the Street Sense he placed to in the Travers was not the same Street Sense that won the Derby (as evidenced by his miserable BC performance).

I like Silver Lord and Magna Graduate in that order, I may box them but since they’re both current at 3-1 with 15 minutes to post, I may take a pass. (I just boxed them, wish me luck… Note: Grasshopper just crushed the field by 3 lengths and took me out of the P4, but at least Silver Lord beat Magna Graduate!).

Picks: Silver Lord, Magna Graduate
Fairground Handicap

This was the toughest one for me and I went deep on my Pick 4 here, but could have actually gone deeper. Better Talk Now is clearly is a stand out, however he doesn’t do well off a lay off (with the exception of winning the Dixie after bombing in Japan). I’m including him in my P4, but won’t bet him in the race.

I like Daytona but have no idea how he’ll ship or if he’ll like the turf at Fairgrounds. I think he’ll control the pace, which should be good for him. Silverfoot is interesting to me, the 8yo missed last year and in his return race looked game but got caught in traffic, I think he could improve. Another interesting one is Baby First, he ran a nice race last out as his first in North America and will probably improve as well. From what I can tell Inca King is due for a regression after 3 wins and I’m pretty sure since I left him off my P4 that he’ll go wire to wire. (Note: that really doesn’t matter now, does it?) I also think Sterwins is worth a look, I think he’ll like the distance more than French Beret and can probably do the best on what I’m guessing will be a slowish pace.

Picks: Daytona, Sterwins, Silverfoot

It’s hard to go against Indian Blessing, but at those odds I’m going to try…although I did I have her singled on one of my loosing P4 tickets. I can’t tell if she wasn’t fond of the Santa Anita surface last out or if it really was a distance issue. The more I think about it the more I lean towards the surface because she handled the distance so beautifully in the BC. It looks to me like High Surf and possibly even Miss Missile could give her some pressure. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it was a distance issue last out, in that case both Proud Spell and Highest Class interest me.

Proud Spell is pretty obvious but you might wonder why I would say Highest Class over Jolie the Cat, particularly when Jolie the Cat beat Highest Class last out. Distance & pace. Highest Class had 2 wins at the distance before cutting back in the Tiffany Lass, also Jolie the Cat had the slow pace all to herself, that won’t the be case today. Even throwing out the unnaturally fast fractions she set at Santa Anita, most of these horses haven’t seen anything like a pace that Indian Blessing can set. That being said, Proud Spell has shown she can do it from off a fast pace and I’m interested to see what Highest Class will do here.

Picks: Proud Spell, Highest Class
Risen Star

A.K.A, the paceless wonder. It looks like it’s gonna be up to The Darp to set the pace again although he might get some help from Signature Move. This does not bode well for Blackberry Road, Visionaire and even Pyro, but looks great for Z Fortune and possibly Unbridled Vicar.

You can’t go wrong with Curlin as your morning training partner so I’m still convinced Pyro has a shot even if the pace isn’t so hot. Unbridled Vicar is my wise guy play here, I think the slow pace won’t be as negative for him as it will be for some of the others plus I wonder if he could have won his last out at the distance, and that was also a slow pace.

Picks: Pyro, Z Fortune, Unbridled Vicar

Daytona just won the Fairground Handicap and Sterwins showed in a photo to Jazz Quest, although I boxed Silver Foot and Sterwins. I just can’t deal with 2-1 odds… always the value player! Best of luck to all!

All Noise, No Signal

Was it just me, or was Saturday really weird? Hysterical Lady, Tiago and Daaher all throwing total clunkers, the continuing parade of California claimers stepping up their games, turf horses running on dirt and a horse who won his last on turf taking a dirt (well, synthetic) race. Add this from the NYC OTB site:

Wagering on Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields is unavailable today because the California Horsemen have withdrawn their consent to interstate simulcasting and wagering with the New York State Off-Track Betting Corporations.

We apologize for this interruption and are working to resolve the problem.

Swifty and I had both just lost on the Swale and were starting to think about the Robert B. Lewis, but we couldn’t find Santa Anita on our TV at “The Office”. The loud and annoying investment bankers sitting next to us started to grumble as well. Swifty asked one of the clerks at the window where the signal was and the answer was that the California jocks were on strike but the answer seemed vague enough to make to make it seem like there was no racing at Santa Anita.

I took a quick look around on my dedicated txting and horse racing news reading device and wasn’t able to find any information about what was going on. As a matter of fact, as of right now (4:20pm on Sunday), the paragraph quoted above is the ONLY thing I can find on the matter!

We eventually figured out that it was just that the signal was blocked as I could log-in in my Twinspires account on my phone and see that the races were indeed on. After the Donn we both busted out of there quickly so we could get to our respective apartments and play Santa Anita via Twinspires (i.e, continue my losing streak).

Fellow TBAers John and Valerie reported that their Twinspires accounts were useless for both the Donn and Robert B. Lewis due to heavy traffic but I didn’t have any trouble in the Strub and frankly was happy to have the account in this odd twist of signal war fate. However, you won’t hear an argument from me on the addressing some of the usability issues of Twinspires, but that’s another post entirely!

For the most part I feel good about Donn assessment as Daaher couldn’t stand up to pressure on the lead, but I also have to wonder with such a horrifying clunker if something isn’t wrong with him. Also, I have to wonder if Luzzi could have used some slightly better judgment given the distance. I thought my pick AP Arrow ran well and it looked like with a touch more distance he could have gotten there as he was closing hard.

But Spring at Last, way to go! On my first pass of the race I was planning on using him but eventually talked myself out of it thinking he had distance limitations, although he ran well in the Strub last year at the distance. Needless to say, I’m happy to see him step up and am hoping to see more good things from him and AP Arrow.

Speaking of the Strub, Tiago barely held on for place… Valerie, and I’m sure others, are starting to wonder to about him. My sentimental pick Slew’s Tizzy bombed horribly! I’m starting to wonder if he just can’t rate + perhaps it’s time to drop him in for a confidence builder (and/or permanently drop him in class). However, I think they should also try him on the turf again as he showed some signs of life there. I seriously expected him to do so much better on that surface. I don’t think it was a distance issue as it looked like it was over for him before he even go to the stretch. In watching the replay it also looks like he might have been a little rank in the stretch as well. It was nice to see Great Hunter improve on his 3 outting since last year’s Derby. Hopefully he’ll get back in the swing of things as well.

But Monterey Jazz, who I liked in the San Fernando before he scratched, is interesting in that there’s been a whole parade of former claimers stepping up in California and I believe they’ve all been early speed types as well. Zayat Stables has also had some speedy front runners making mild upsets on the early part of the Derby Trail with Z Fortune and Eaton’s Gift.

For the holidays I bought myself a bunch of DRF handicapping books that they smartly packaged as group. Given what’s been going on lately, I think I’ll start with Steve Klein’s The Power of Early Speed.