Friday, May 03, 2013
Happy Derby America
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 3, 2013—In horse racing, sometimes the only thing left to do is turn the page.
Serious fans and bettors were anticipating the Kentucky Oaks with almost as much fervor as Derby 139 itself.
However, the three unbeaten fillies that entered the Churchill starting gate Friday are no longer undefeated, and the longingly awaited return of Dreaming of Julia could have gone a lot better, too.
The leading member of Todd Pletcher’s four Oaks fillies, coming off the effort of this or any other year, never had a chance after getting mugged at the start.
It’s why they call it gambling.
For Pletcher, at least, there was safety in numbers. Princess of Slymar might not have been good enough to handle Close Hatches at Aqueduct last month but she was plenty good enough yesterday at the Downs.
With Mike Smith sitting outside in the clear while a pressured pace percolated up in front of him, the longshot tandem came roaring down the middle of the track with the filly making the late run that she prefers. So now Pletcher has three Oaks to his credit while Smith got his first. Now he's got a Princess of Slymar to go along with his Giacomo.
And it’s not often you collect 30-1 on a Pletcher-trained anything.
Meanwhile, early indications are that the country's most dominant trainer might start an undefeated 11-1 chance in Derby 139 on Saturday.
Indeed, how the stock on the mighty Verrazano has fallen, at least in the eyes of early Derby bettors, anyway.
What continues to amaze is the fact that for such a huge event, betting on the Kentucky Derby is often provincial. Take the early odds, for instance, and consider why, in part, the prices are what they are:
Revolutionary (Calvin Borel, the Derby jockey) is 5-1; Goldencents (Rick Pitino, the Derby coach) is 5-1; Orb (Shug McGaughey, the local boy) is 6-1. At least those were the prices we checked at 7:28 p.m. on Oaks night.
Let’s consider a few others where personalities might have affected the odds:
Oxbow with another rider would be a bigger price than 25-1, but a lot of people are rooting for Gary Stevens these days.
Rosie “60 Minutes” Napravnik is 14-1; Mylute has gotten a little longshot love buzz but, realistically, he probably should be twice the price.
The Derby, of course, is a race where every breath taken by the horses or their handlers is overanalyzed. In that way, it’s like the Super Bowl, but the choices there are only two-fold: take points; lay points.
In the spirit of Princess of Sylmar, then, I took one final look at the past performances seeking the plausibly improbable.
But, really, I will be pretty surprised if the winner did not come from among Orb, Verrazano, Revolutionary and Normandy Invasion. All but the latter are very accomplished three-year-olds.
On paper, I can’t beat this four-horse entry. Then, yesterday, I couldn’t beat Dreaming of Julia, Midnight Lucky, Unlimited Budget and Close Hatches either.
That’s why it’s gambling, remember?
I took Normandy Invasion and Revolutionary in exacta wheels in the first futures pool in February. I haven’t seen anything since that has caused me to panic.
But I’d be a fool not to be impressed by what Verrazano and Orb have accomplished.
I’m going on record with Normandy Invasion to win Derby 139, even if he’s become a little speed crazy this past week. I figure that if this were the fourth race on Thursday and not the Derby, I wouldn't have a clue about that.
The price of 8-1 on the Wood runnerup is fair but it probably will drop a notch, as will Orb. Verrazano figures to drop several notches but Revolutionary’s odds figure to climb slightly.
At 6:14 p.m. on Saturday they will play “that song” and a tear will come to in my eye. I’ll overbet the race, as is my patriotic duty, I’ll cheer, then have a cocktail before dinner whatever the result.
But for now, it’s Kentucky Derby time, and on Sunday morning the sun will shine bright on my country, if only for a little while.
Written by John Pricci
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Profiles of Kentucky Derby 139 Entrants
The following are thumbnail sketches, without final selections, of the Derby 139 field provided to Equiform data service customers
.1-BLACK ONYX (50-1):
Certainly not as fast as the leading contenders, he deserves respect as a three-surface winner. Began career with a Reversal, followed by a pair of New Pace Tops before exploding at Turfway (74½) going 9 furlongs. Kelly Breen an underrated big race conditioner but he would need to follow a sizable lifetime best with another one. Killed by the draw.
Victimized by tough trips and overaggressive handling, earned a mulligan for his no-show performance in the Arkansas Derby when Gary Stevens put him to sleep from the outset before finding trouble the length of the stretch. Stevens dismounted apologizing. As if to underscore the non-effort, Wayne Lukas came back with a strong 5 furlongs nine days after the race. Fast enough (75¼) and loves a good fight. Tough draw.
A fast juvenile (76), his season got underway with a hungry-paced, horrendous trip score in the Withers, altering course several times before diving into the breach to win going away. In the Louisiana Derby, he was placed in the 5-path throughout the 9 furlongs, continued very wide entering the stretch, took the lead, was briefly headed, came back again to score and galloped out nicely after the finish. Loses Castellano to Normandy Invasion but picks up Calvin who is already saving ground. Laudably versatile.
4-GOLDEN SOUL (50-1):
The good news is that he is developing nicely at 3, showing improvement on the Equiform scale from last season. While he is marching in the right direction, his 72½ and 72 in his two most recent starts are much too slow to contend in this spot. A nice horse, a good effort here could punch his ticket to Baltimore; not today.
5-NORMANDY INVASION (12-1):
Textbook development of a fast, talented colt that earned his best figures going nine furlongs on two occasions, including his gut-check placing to Verrazano when pace-compromised in the Wood. His breakthrough 76 was only marginally better than the 75¼ earned in the Remsen at 2. He continues to train lights out and will be making his third start off a layup for Chad Brown, a worthy 31 percent scenario. Peaking and retains Castellano.
Broke through for a life best 74--a reasonable jump from prior 73—after Tom Amoss removed blinkers when narrowly defeated by Revolutionary. Mylute finished three lengths ahead of Departing, who returned to win the Illinois Derby with authority. Working every seven days since the La. Derby, he is reunited with winning rider Rosie Napravnik and will be twice the price of Revolutionary, the horse that beat him by a neck.
7-GIANT FINISH (50-1):
won his two-turn debut on Aqueduct’s winter track, was a good second in the Battaglia Memorial on Turfway Polytrack then chased the pace and finished a one-paced third in Black Onyx’s G3 Spiral Stakes. Here’s hoping he doesn’t cause any traffic jams when he begins backing up through the field. An underlay at early line odds.
One of many serious contenders. Has won at three different venues, earning figures in the 72-73 range with laudable consistency, until putting it all together in the Santa Anita Derby (76¼) after Doug O’Neill boosted his energy level by backing off in his training. O’Neill and jockey Kevin Krigger believe 10 furlongs will not be an issue but that remains to be seen. Peaking.
): Won a slowly run Arkansas Derby (72¼) after a disappointing run in the Gotham (72½), but the pair-up could result in very sharp improvement, especially in light of the 75¾ earned winning the Remsen, which makes him 2-for-2 going 9 furlongs. Handy enough to be a pace presence but can finish. Rafael Bejarano got along well with him in Hot Springs and retains the mount.
10-PALACE MALICE (20-1):
Earned good figures at 2 (73¼) and 3 (74½), appeared on his way to victory in the Louisiana Derby when rider failed to stay aggressive approaching headstretch and was blocked the length of America’s longest stretch. Returned with a first rate Blue Grass placing (74¾) after being forced to move prematurely chasing a loose leader. Loses Garrett Gomez to Vyjack but picks up Mike Smith and adds blinkers.
11-LINES OF BATTLE (30-1):
Dubai shipper is coming up to the Derby better than many of his predecessors, given his UAE Derby score on Tapeta going 1 3/16 miles, benefitting from a comfortable stalking trip. Has yet to run on dirt but is 2-for-2 on All-Weather surfaces. Still waiting for that first desert-to-Derby winner.
Ran a two-turn division’s best while winning the Gulfstream Derby (76½) and Holy Bull (77¾) before a 62-day gap leading up to the Florida Derby (72¾), for which trainer Eddie Plesa had him “95 percent fit.” That assessment rang true when he offered no resistance as Orb ranged up to challenge. “He’ll have no excuses Saturday,” Plesa said. To date, female family has proven distance challenged.
13-FALLING SKY (50-1):
is the likely Derby 139 pacesetter and therein lies the problem. Was able to hang on using that tack in the G3 Sam F. Davis but benefitted from a rival’s tough trip. Has been unable to match strides with the division’s best and, given a lifetime best 73 ½, would need to do a lot of developing to earn even a minor share.
Many observers think they have seen it all before when assessing this colt’s perfect record and they don’t like what they see. What Equiform readers see is a big-figure score going 6½ furlongs (75), followed by a tight-line 76½ going a mile off a negative-spread debut, a 76¼ Reversal making his two-turn debut over a Tampa surface he might not have liked, then getting back to his 76½ top going 9 furlongs with a 13½ point spread, the result of a slow pace at windy Aqueduct April 6. Todd Pletcher says that hasn’t seen the bottom of him yet. Given his Wood figure, that assessment rings true.
15-CHARMING KITTEN (20-1):
There are easier spots to make a first lifetime start on dirt. His last effort, a strong late-running third in the Blue Grass, was a lifetime best. Pletcher said that he’s always trained well on dirt and his workout over the track is the best indication of whether he can handle something like this. Double-top 74½ not a huge concern, but the ground is.
Has made monumental strides in his transition from 2 to 3, winning all three Derby preps, which coincides with his introduction to two turn racing at added distances (two at 9 furlongs) and the addition of Lasix. Owns an excellent turn of foot, loses Velazquez to Verrazano but reunites with Joel Rosario, 2-for-2 on the Shug runner. Never has taken a backward step on the Equiform scale going long, marching straight forward and continuing to train well. But has yet to run a competitive top figure and looms likely favorite, making him an underlay.
17-WILL TAKE CHARGE (20-1):
Won the Rebel Stakes with a long, strong, sustained run, jumping to a huge career best figure (75¼) that must have given Lukas pause and made him decide to train him for a roses run rather than race him back in the Arkansas Derby. Barbaro, the division’s best that year, won this race off a six-week freshening. Can this colt repeat duplicate that after spending seven weeks on the sidelines? Seeing is believing.
18-FRAC DADDY (50-1):
Finally came to life in his third start at 3, a willing but non-threatening second to Overanalyze in slowly run Arkansas Derby, beaten nearly five lengths. Despite that improved effort, he has shown no development on the Equiform scale this year, although it’s worth noting his 74½ going two turns at Churchill as a juvenile, and he’s been galloping strongly and is actually helped by the wide draw.
19-JAVA’S WAR (15-1):
Finished strongly to earn career best 75½ when second in Verrazano’s Tampa Bay Derby with a huge pace-to-final spread of 15½. No fluke, he came from last to win the Blue Grass with more authority than margin indicates, again demonstrating big kick (spread of 14¾). Essentially pairing up, colt is theoretically explosive returning to dirt. There’s less pressure this year on Leparoux, presently riding in top form.
Formerly undefeated and very consistent with fast figures of 75, 74¼ and 74¾ from his second to fourth start, he actually moved forward to a 76 going 9 furlongs for the first time after making sustained run at Verrazano. All this after acting skittishly in the paddock and bleeding a ‘2’ on a scale of ‘5’, the result of mucous in his passageway. Loses Rosario but picks up Garrett Gomez, whose strength is a good match for this gelding’s style. Hurt by the draw.
AE-FEAR THE KITTEN:
Has already finished behind Java’s War, Palace Malice, Charming Kitten, Black Onyx, Giant Finish, Oxbow, Golden Soul and Frac Daddy; none of which would be better than sixth choice in Derby 139.
For information on purchasing analysis of 13-race Churchill Downs program, proceed to http://www.equiform.com
Written by John Pricci
Saturday, April 27, 2013
ELMONT, NY, April 27, 2013—Now what’s all this furor over, and clamoring for, having a filly in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. There is
a filly in the Derby. The thing is this one has two legs, not four.
So, when 20 male runners enter the Louisville starting gate, it’s likely the casual sports fan will have heard of Rosie Napravnik, and for all they know Verrazano is still only the bridge in New York that connects Brooklyn to Staten Island.
And perhaps the only reason the fan has heard of Napravnik is because they will have seen her on “60 Minutes” this Sunday night. Check your local listings.
A check of the NTRA listings and profiles shows that Napravnik, having reached the 1,500-win plateau earlier this year, also owns a Breeders’ Cup victory, historic wins in the Kentucky Oaks and Louisiana Derby, and the single-season earnings mark by a female rider of over $12 million.
The earnings record, erasing the standard set by the great Julie Krone 20 years ago, came as the result of 193 victories in 2012, many of those enabling her to win a third consecutive riding title at the Fair Grounds.
Rosie currently ranks fifth nationally in money won, her mounts having earned $4.3 million, and if Joel Rosario hadn’t gone absolutely wild at the recently concluded Keeneland race meet, her 113 victories this year would lead the nation.
When a rider dominates any one meeting, the way Napravnik has at the Fair Grounds since 2011, they usually in get the best mounts but still, her win percentage of 26 trails only Rafael Bejarano, who at 28 percent had 100 fewi rides.
Twenty six percent is better than Rosario’s strike rate, or that of Johnny Velazquez or Javier Castellano, the remaining members of the top five. Her win rate was even better than the dominant, albeit currently sidelined, Ramon Dominguez.
Through Friday, Rosie’s had 434 rides and three of every five have hit the board. She’s having the kind of year that makes you almost forget the unforgettable Ms. Krone.
At the moment, Rosie counting the days to Derby 139. Here's Napravnik on the classic: “Win it? It would mean the same thing to me as it would everyone else in this game. It’s the ultimate goal that really doesn’t seem realistic until you’re there and in it.”
Those iterations came with respect to her Derby ride aboard 2012 juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby, now currently sidelined. Instead, Napravnik will partner Mylute for trainer Tom Amoss, an outfit that has done very well together in the winters down on the Bayou.
Mylute will be one of the longer shots in the field but still has a little better than a puncher’s chance. In his last start, the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, he was beaten in a photo by Revolutionary, a colt many have picked to win the roses on Saturday.
Last month, through the auspices of Thoroughbred publicist Equisponse, Napravnik entered a strategic partnership with Octagon, a leading global sports and entertainment marketer. The company represents Michael Phelps, Apolo Anton Ohno and Kelly Clark, among others.
“Every now and then, an athlete emerges in a sport and exhibits the potential to do things that have never been done before,” said Peter Carlisle, Octagon’s managing director of Olympics and Action Sports.
“This amounts to a great opportunity not only for Rosie but potentially for the sport of horse racing as well.”
“You can almost classify her as just ‘jockey’ now,” said trainer Larry Jones after saddling Joyful Victory to win Santa Anita’s Santa Margarita Stakes. “You don’t have to put ‘woman’ on there anymore.
“She’s talented and horses love to run for her. I’ve had some horses that are somewhat lazy. I didn’t think Rosie would fit them but I put her on and the horses weren’t lazy anymore. She just can communicate with them.”
And then Jones offered this: “Rosie is one of those special riders. I tell you it’s a gift from God what she’s got. She doesn’t realize it yet but she’s been anointed with this talent. She is one of the brightest young stars in this game, I can assure you.”
So there indeed is a filly in this Derby. How about “roses for rosie?” The headline just writes itself.
He Can Still Flat Out Run
As it turns out, concerns that the 7-year-old Flat Out might be passed his prime were ill founded. It must be something about the water in Elmont, the elixir apparently helping the old pro to extend his unbeaten streak at Belmont Park to four.
To do so, he had to run down a very fast and formidable Gulfstream Park shipper, Cross Traffic, and that's exactly what he did by a head in the shadow of the wire, getting a mile in a very snappy 1:32.99--even if the track played on the fast side all day.
It played on the speed-favoring side, too, and it was that much cooler seeing the old boy dig down deep, making his terrible effort in the New Orleans Handicap a bad butdistant memory.
"Junior Alvarado did a great job," said Bill Mott assistant Leana Williford of the winning rider. "He was aware the other horse was the lone speed, and didn't let him get too far away."
Written by John Pricci