Friday, November 01, 2013
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, November 1, 2013--
And so, the race didn't match up with the hyperbole. But, then, how could it?
Princess Of Sylmar, with her owner Ed Stanco, in an uncommom display of sportsmanship, rolled the dice, lost his money, and possibly a championship that was hers for the asking right after she won the Beldame. But yesterday, she bobbled at the break and wilted beneath the California sun. The heat got to a lot of horses yesterday. She probably was one of them.
Some voter will shortly make the point that the Princess beat up on a champion who gave signs that she might be going the other way, the wrong way. Sadly, that became all to clear at sweltering Santa Anita, the heat baking the track dry and fast. And unless the rail is heavy and deep, it's still the best way home.
Royal Delta has been a great defending champion but she probably has run her last. Thanks for the memories.
This Year of the Jockey started with Mike Smith rolling a natural double to add to his record winning Breeders' Cup resume and ended with a 55-year-old Hall of Famer underscoring a widely held opinion that he possibly is riding in the best form of his career. Certainly for the last month, anyway.
Then there's California legend Richard Mandella, who won his eighth hometown-based Breeders' Cup event, his fourth with a filly. She had been doing amazing things in the mornings leading up to Breeders' Cup Distaff 30. Mile and an eighth? No problem.
And in winning this country's most anticipated race for fillies and mares in 2013, Beholder didn't beat her competition, she crushed it, perhaps all the way to a championship of her own. But that's a story for another day..
Bill Mott has won three Distaffs in his Hall of Fame career, two with three-year-olds. He came closer than anyone not named Mandella to doing it again. Runner-up Close Hatches ran a great race. And the glib surface did her no favors.
The Breeders' Cup Distaff was a pluperfect example of why they run races which, try as all of us do, are not contested on a printed page. It's done with flying hooves and flashing leather as excited fans scream for their favorites athletes in contests run between a set of fences.
It's horse racing, and even when an event like the Distaff doesn't step up to meet the hype, it remains the greatest game played outdoors.
Post time for tomorrow's Juvenile Fillies, the first of nine Breeders' Cup events, is 3:05 p.m., EDT.
Spiritually and intellectually, I'm there.
In the most anticipated race of the day, Breeders' Cup Distaff 30, the opening odds virtually matched early line odds. The Queen opened at 8-5, the Princess is 2-1 and Beholder 5-2. Even the outsiders held their early quotes, with Authenticity at 9-1, Close Hatches at 8-1, and Street Girl, 30-1.
To be honest, those are very fair odds on whichever filly you fancy. We're rooting for the Queen. If a plausible price play is your idea of fun, Bill Mott's 3-year-old, Close Hatches, is, on performance figures, the equal of her contemporaries. But if the champion comes with her 'A' race, in will be three-peat time--and royalties for Pat Riley.
Meanwhile, the track is carrying speed but Goldencents was very, very good. Had a right to regress and didn't.
Chriselliam for Horse of the Year! Well, Horse of Formerly Filly Friday. That was a tremendous display of acceleration; price wasn't too shabby, either. The fillies and mares are nearing their approach to the ring; Beholder, thus far, has been acting like her high-strong self. We'll see..
Leaving the paddock and no surprise that a European, Vorda, remains a 3-1 favorite. The surprise, however, is that the other highly regarded Euro, Chriselliam is 8-1. We're on record stating that this is the toughest of all 14 Cup events. As such, a filly such as Street Sailing, should not be ignored at 40-1. We know she's up in class but her performance figures give her a puncher's chance in this. And Testa Rossi, 12 post notwithstanding, is fair value at 10-1...
Two races, and Mike Smith has now won 19 Breeders' Cup races. Probably getting tired reading all those props for Gary Stevens. He timed it perfectly with Outstrip, making the last run with giant strides.
The strategy with Bobby's Kitten looked like the correct one, but :22 2/5 on the turf? Stuff happens.
Ryan Moore was right, choosing Giovanni Boldini, who looked the winner off the super hot pace until Outstrip came along with a furious run. Meanwhile, our preferred first-flash longshot, Shamshon, lost too much ground; no excuses, just fact. Problem is where and when can I bet the European back?
Verrazano opened at 5-2, fairly predictable. Goldencents, susceptible to a regression, is a very fair 9-2. Pants On Fire is 12-1 and Fed Biz (10-1) is way too much price at this juncture.
Bobby's Kitten severe underlay at this point--even money on the first flash. Opening odds on Shamshon way out of line; 40-1, win or lose, is just too much price. Five minutes to post the Kitten still only 7-5. Interestingly, the longer of the O'Brien pair, Wilshire Boulevard, offering good value at this point. We'll see if stable rider Ryan Moore made the right choice with 'Giovanni'...
Euro guys hated this horse so what happens? London Bridge gives Mike Smith a record 18th winning Breeders' Cup ride. Imagine that, a New York-bred starts the festivities. Get with the program!
And, in the end, all the egos and smart cash came tumbling down. Interesting re: the kickback. David Flores kept Worldly very wide throughout, moved prematurely into a three-horse battle. He did very well to finish third.
Even with the perceived inside bias, Blueskiesandrainbows was super game, pressured all the way and right there at the end of 14 furlongs.
. Not good to hear from NBCSN analysts saying that the jockeys are complaining that the dry, sandy kickback is stinging the trailers, the jockeys saying that "it hurts." Two extreme longshots won early on the card, front end all the way.
With 10 minutes to post, grass specialist Old Time Hockey was 5-1--on the dirt. He will run all day. The dilemma is that closers have a big edge in this race, but you don't know where the pace will come from. Gary Stevens, with a little help from his mount, will probably win. But we liked the way Tom Proctor's 'Hockey' looked on the track. Think Jose Lezcano a good fit.
Also liked Worldly, the fastest on performance figures, the only rub, perhaps his last was too
fast. No knocks on Indian Jones. Tread very lightly.
Started Breeders' Cup Friday with a winner. Hope the karma lasts.
Got home about an hour ago after spending three hours at my Subaru dealer. When I started the car this morning, it was buck-jumping like a two-year-old.
The feat was that I wouldn't make it one exit up the Northway but I did. Thought I might have gotten the feared watered-gas and sure enough, my car, in the language of the day, got into a good rhythm.
After three hours, "there will be no charge, Mr. Pricci," said service manager Tim, handing me the keys. He said something about a coil and a frayed wire that needed replacing. Both were warranty items. Yeah team.
The games are about to begin and I'm bleary eyed already. Past performances, pedigree work, video (races and workouts), Euro research, contacting insiders on site...am I leaving anything out?
Oh, yes. Sleep.
Breeders' Cup is always challenging, as everyone knows and accepts. But damn if this edition isn't the hardest in my bad recent memory. So many live horses in big fields. And Santa Anita is a big post-position track.
I was thinking, for instance, that Havana might be a Pick 4 Saturday night single. Then post 13. See ya'. Absolutely can win, of course, but...
Anyway, we're here throughout the day, trying to read and react to real time developments; odds, paddock, post parades, the usual. And you pray your favorite ADW has enough bandwidth to avoid a new malady known as Affordable Car Act Syndrome.
An aside: I voted for the President twice, but somebody has to pay for this. This was one of the worst roll-outs ever. And I've been involved in any number of start-ups.
I'm going to pull a Lukas now; that's Wayne Lukas, the man who made the 7-minute nap famous.
Upon regaining consciousness, I will pre-bet the day's Dime Supers.
Betting on horses is a fluid process--a little more difficult for public prognosticators that go one record in advance. I always feel guilty when I make a last minute change, although I never apologize for avoiding my top choice if it means taking a bad price.
And this coming from a guy who thinks it's possible to get, say maybe 8-5 on Royal Delta? But I won't have to make that decision until around 7:25 p.m.
Wind rustling up pretty good now, a good call by the weather handicappers. Please, no power outages today. Please?
Written by John Pricci
Thursday, October 31, 2013
BREEDERS’ CUP 30: Classic Confrontations, Human and Equine
If wishes were horses I would hope that the outside world could feel the anticipation and excitement surrounding this year’s Breeders’ Cup. It truly deserves all the attention it could get.
The Classic is as deep a collection of handicap runners as I have ever seen.
The combination of quality and
quantity, and the notion that good horses don’t stick around log enough to race have been put to bed…at least as far as this weekend's event is concerned.
Like so many fans and players, I'm anticipating Friday's Distaff at least as much as Saturday's Classic, perhaps even more so.
But the common thread in both races, despite the presence of world class equines--and a good number of them at that--is that both are very much “rider’s races.”
That term often is used to describe races at odd distances, disparate track configurations, quirky surfaces, etc. But races of nine and 10 furlongs on a major circuit are in every rider's wheelhouse. The only other plausible reason, then, is the immense depth of talent assembled.
While it’s about top class horse racing, 2013 very much has been the Year of the Jockey.
The loss of the athlete Ramon Dominguez conjured up weighty disappointment. The cliché was and is true: A world class rider but an even better person.
Then there was the dominant run of a rider who picked up where Ramon left off; Joel Rosario.
I suppose Southern Californians have been aware of his talents for some time. But as the song goes, if you make it in New York you can make it anywhere, even Dubai.
I don’t know how this could be possible, but did Gary Stevens’ seven-year freshening make him a better Hall of Fame talent, gifts that carried him to the game’s pantheon long ago? Talk about revelations.
But every time I look at racing video, he’s pushing all the correct buttons; those needed for positioning, getting animals in a relaxed rhythm, understanding dynamics (race-riding), finishing power, courage and my personal favorite; rating on the front end—the perfect blend of stealth and timing.
And, finally, there are the continuing exploits of record-busting Johnny Velazquez and the continued maturation of Javier Castellano on racing’s biggest stages.
It seems that Rosario and Castellano have filled the void left by Dominguez with respect to business; ultimately there is no replacing Ramon's presence between the fences. With so many deep, contentious races beginning tomorrow, he is missed.
Like many, I never have been so excited to see a six-horse race in which the big three are breaking from adjoining stalls—a jockey’s race to the max, with more than a little help from three of the best horsemen on the planet.
There’s champion race mare Royal Delta in search of a three-peat, partnered by the winningest rider in Breeders’ Cup history, Mike Smith. The champ, trainer Bill Mott being well aware of a chief rival’s home court advantage and vaunted speed, has the screws tightly secured with speed honed to a fine edge.
That rival has been on amazing run. Brethren Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, no stranger to Cup success, has her peaked at the last nanosecond, making some of Beholder’s unseemly pre-race behavior nearly a thing of the past. And running out of her own stall can’t hurt.
Then, of course, there’s certain-to-be first ballot Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher with his throw-back of a 3-year-old filly who resembles the great Hall of Famer Shuvee more with each passing race, owned by a man who has shown at least as much guts as his mare, Ed Stanco and friends.
The speed-honed Royal Delta, especially with a draw inside her two main rivals, must bring the race to the surface-loving local, whose half-mile blowout the other day resembled more of a jog than even an open gallop.
When Smith peaks over his right shoulder Friday, he’ll be looking at Stevens. And where will Castellano be with protem champion Princess Of Sylmar at that point? Sitting a perfect trip behind them, third. At least that’s how it shakes out on paper.
As for the Classic itself, a field that’s double the size of the Distaff, it's extremely deep in talent, running styles, and a pair of pretty remarkable 3-year-olds.
What happens here all depends on the break. Fortunately, there’s a long enough of a run into the first turn to lend hope that a good trip might be enjoyed by all. And aboard the likely top two betting choices, Game On Dude and Mucho Macho Man, will be Smith and Stevens, again. Classic, Part II.
Add to the mix our choice for leading 3-year-old, at least until 8:35 EDT Saturday night, Palace Malice, with his new partner Johnny V. Joel Rosario, fortunately having recovered from a Travers eve accident, is aboard Flat Out, super-primed to run one of his big ones.
Then there's the young and very talented Luis Saez, aboard still improving, second-season leading, 3-year-old Will Take Charge. It’s enough to give you a headache, but in a good way.
We believe that Royal Delta and Mucho Macho Man will be draped in purple and gold when the two classics are put in the books.
Handicapping and wagering theory is on Friday and Saturday morning dockets, and we exhaustingly will blog our way to America’s greatest gaming spectacle on an event that never fails to fire, especially for HRI's SCOREcard clients. A safe and speedy journey to all our real weekend warriors.
Written by John Pricci
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Keeneland, I’m Just Not That Into You…I Think
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, October 26, 2013—I have this love-hate relationship with Keeneland, which concluded an extremely successful fall session on Saturday. It’s kind of like some liaison: Is it really love, or is it more loving the idea of being in love?
I made a few dollars at the stand yet I gave it up the last two weeks. The simulcast hosts batted about .200 or less for the meet, no knock at all. I could not have done any better.
The results are random events, even the turf races. As for Keeneland Polytrack, the less said about it, the better. I like chaos as much as the next value shopper. But it’s not infrequent when I can’t see the forest after all the trees have been cut down.
The only result that saved the meeting was hitting a couple of Dime Supers in last weekend’s Raven Run. I took three horses in the first two slots and three others to fill out the play underneath.
Two of the three filled the first two positions at inflated odds, especially the winner, who drew into the race off the also-eligibles, an occurrence that normally produces inflated payoffs.
Two of the three “money” horses filled out the Super, getting lucky with the fourth finisher who wound up on the correct side of a very tight photo. How often does that happen? The Super returned $605 for a dime.
Like the world would have ended if it paid $595?
The score came at the end of a day when I could get close. I learned that I am not alone in this. I personally do not know anyone who beat the meet, although I’m sure some bettors scored out, just not my friends or acquaintances.
But they sure love their racing in Lexington. There were 32,000 in attendance on Raven Run Saturday and despite unseasonably cool weather, 19,000 bid adieu to the Thoroughbreds until next spring.
“Polycapping” Keeneland is damn hard, and I'm certain that 2014 will be painful, But next April can't come fast enough. Go figure.
Having trouble beating the races? Do the Breeders’ Cup pre-entries have you down? Have no fear; we’re here to help, hopefully. But it will cost you.
We’re calling it HRI’s Breeders’ Cup SCORECard
and we’re selling it at BRISnet.com beginning Wednesday. It will cost $15 for Saturday’s nine races or $25 for both days.
For those who might have been familiar with the Equiform Betting Guide, a joint venture between me and my good friend, the late Cary Fotias, the format is the same.
For those who don’t, it is a listing of bettable horses in all races broken down into three categories: value plays, bettable favorites, and exotic tote-busters. It's pretty cut and dry. No long, justification for the horses. Breeders' Cup is all about the betting. Horseplayers know these animals inside and out, Europeans notwithstanding, of course.
Included with each horse is a betting price line where win wagers are recommended when the odds are two price levels above the early odds.
To make a straight play on a 5-1 quote, you would need 7-1. If the odds are even money, you would require 7-5 before betting to win.
Absent those parameters, there will be enough live horses to attack the exotic and super-exotic pools. With rare exceptions, there are never more than two value horses, or two favorites, listed for any one race,
There can be as many as three or four exotic tote-busters to fill out the play, however. There will be brief betting summary below each race providing an overview as to the race's bet-ability
In the last two years, I can recall Cary and me hitting two four-figure multiples, and one returning five figures--although we did not recommend playing it for a full $2. You’ll have to trust me on this--or not.
Anyway, the aim is to help you manage your money while optimizing your chances to make a score; not everyone can afford to throw money at the Breeders’ Cup races.
Besides, there’s not enough money on the planet to cover all these rich opportunities. We have been laying a foundation for the past two days. Sunday will be day three.
On Monday, the races will be drawn and we’ll have nearly two full days to work the data with post positions, recent workouts, backstretch chatter, Euro updates etc., etc.
We’ll be blogging live during the day with possible adjustments as events unfold and as odds-fluctuation patterns emerge; which horses are hot, which contenders are not bet correctly.
Written by John Pricci