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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 31, 2021 — Weather handicappers are predicting sunny skies for opening day and Blue Grass Saturday in Lexington, and the same is promised for South Ozone Park and Arcadia, providing fast footing for both the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby.

Can I get an Amen!

We’ve done out homework for opening day at Keeneland, courtesy of a racing office that understands the value of 96-hour entries–at least for the opening weekend. We hope that trend continues and is picked up by the rest of the industry.

The industry says it values publicity and creative marketing but have a strange way of showing it. Here’s one way: Get the data out there earlier so that your customers–horseplayers and fans–can be better prepared.

Here’s a look at the Late Pick 4 races for opening day at Keeneland:

The Palisades Turf Sprint has drawn an competitive field of 10 three year olds sprinting 5-1/2 furlongs on the turf and, of course, it’s competitive. Six of the 10 are within three to four lengths of each other. Trips will be the most important factor; the second and third most critical issues are trips and, obviously, trips.

Opening day at Keeneland is a close relative to opening day at Saratoga and Del Mar. Horses will be primed and dormant winter stables are highly likely to come alive in the blue, blue grass of home.

Here’s the thing. Two of the 10 run late, the rest are speedsters and stalkers, as the conditions suggest. Problem is that the closers are a tad slower than the speedsters. The difference could prove to be the runner who makes the best transition from 2 to 3. Based on early line odds, we prefer Unitedandresolute.

If you didn’t catch Slumber Party’s (2-1) debut, her only start, it may pay to take a look. She speed-popped, came back nicely to Rosario, opened clear at the turn, shoulder-tapped into the lane, maintained separation and won with her rider looking back.

Farsighted (4-1) has more experience, is just as fast, and made the transition to 3, taking Gulfstream’s Any Limit Stakes as much the best, also in fast time. She relished slop, as her pedigree suggested, but broke maiden here on fast ground last fall.

Slumber Party is fresh, owns a win at the distance and was clearly posited here; Farsighted has scope and returns with 26 days rest. Twenty Carat (5-2) is 2-for-2 and makes dirt debut for Wesley Ward, whose barn is en fuego. She could be any kind as racetrackers say. Based on early odds, our focus is on Farsighted.

As state earlier, the Transylvania for three year old turf males traditionally draws a large field. This renewal attracted only a half dozen, including BC Juvenile Turf winner Fire At Will, who needed his season’s debut when ambitiously entered in Greatest Honour’s Fountain of Youth.

Fire At Will (9-5) has worked thrice since, including two near bullets at five-eighths of a mile, and won’t be short in his return to his favorite footing. But we were really taken with what we saw from Earls Rock (2-1).

Irish-bred was second on debut, was shipped to Phil D’Amato on the West Coast where he was 2-for-2 on Santa Anita’s firm turf course, including his recent score in the listed Baffle sprinting in February.

Earls Rock’s pedigree indicates he wants all of today’s 1-1/16 miles. He’s had six works since in preparation for this over Arcadia’s testing training track surface. He looks like a good one and will have to be. In addition to the favorite, Scarlett Sky was narrowly beaten by undefeated Annex last out and Palazzi has talent, pedigree and connections. Can’t wait to see this one.

The finale is a maiden allowances for three year old fillies and if it’s not Precipitate (3-1) or Illiogami (4-1), it could be Temper Mint Twist (4-1) for Shug, who’s a worthy 26% profitable first-time going long.

But wait, there’s more.

Earls Rock, an exciting Irish-bred who’s 2-for-2 in blinkers for Phil D’Amato and looking very much like a top prospect, will have more than a little to say about Friday’s outcome.

As a prelude to the Ashland and Blue Grass, it’s a good start. Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

And did we mention that the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial will be drawn Wednesday? March Madness, indeed.

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11 Responses

  1. I’m looking forward to the back half of that Keeneland card tomorrow; going to work a half day and get home to enjoy it. Don’t love the top of it; yeah the 2 baby races are interesting, but not much to handicap over aside from breeding, so they are more enjoyable just to see if the Ward first timers continue to be overbet. Races 2 & 4 being short field optional claimers doesn’t do much for me. But from Race 5 on, I’m there. Love those races.

    On a totally unrelated note, I know he’s the 3 time running Eclipse Award winning jockey and all, but I was shocked to hear that Irad Ortiz already has a 45 win gap on the next rider in 2021? He has 118 wins, and the next guy has 73. That seems unreal. And he will get his wins in the high profile races as always. Barring injury, it is really hard seeing anyone else having a chance at unseating him this year.

  2. Irad Ortiz Jr. has become a phenomenon unto himself. I was unaware that he leads the pack by 45 winners up until your post. Good lookin’ out for the HRI Faithful! If he stayed on his belly instead of looking around going long on the turf last Saturday, he very likely would have had one more. Then again, comes back for the same trainer a race later and wins the Florida Derby. He is a great talent but Jay Rushing is just a super agent!

    I’m with you tomorrow, Doc. Looked at the card and was immediately attracted to the backend. As you say, too much guesswork involved with the babies. Interesting to see when the offspring of first-crop sires come out, often value opportunities in those cases…

  3. Sometimes I’ ve wondered what makes a good to super agent in horse racing. Good handicapper? Great salesmanship? Or it all depends on the jockey’s ability,luck and desire ? Hmmm !🤔 Would another top ten jockey agent get the same results? Hmmm🤔

    1. Obviously JG, you can’t be an elite rider if you don’t have the talent, but I will say a top agent is very important. With the best horses shipping all over the country, the agent needs to know the competition before a trainer calls to secure the ride. And he has to be a diplomat. The Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers are in high demand and there will be conflicts. The agent has to cool out the scorned trainer.

  4. Saw Lenny Goodman watching a race at Saratoga when he represented Jeffrey Fell. He was known as a top agent back then. Angel Cordero losing Johnny V must’ve hurt last year (Authentic). Do you know why Velasquez left Cordero? I know it has been explained before but I forgot. As for the Blue Grass Stakes Steve Haskin said that nobody is beating Essential Quality. Sounds like 3/5 on this lock. Still better than Seattle Slew’s Wood win ($2.20).

    1. C, With Angel and Johnny, it was time to make a change. Johnny wanted to ride fewer horses and concentrate on the higher levels. Angel loves the action, wants to be in and win every race… still so competitive!

      On paper, it’s hard to beat Essential Quality. I couldn’t pick against him but in the right situation, and can bet against him and just use him defensively. The Blue Grass is maybe more interesting than people think…

      1. I would agree with JV since after so many rides and big wins that body is not what it used to be when you’re well past 40 plus yrs old .Mike Smith has been in very selective races for yrs and today there seem to be a lot more days between his big rides. I’m certain that great ones like Pat Day, W. Shoemaker and other great ones took that same fork on the road. It’s not fun watching a jock well past his middle age ride in cheap claimers and we still see that today in all types of track.Yrs ago saw Hinojosa (sp ?) riding a rare race at Delaware and he looked old,tired,shriveled and barely able to walk back to the jock room. There must be so many who cannot afford to skip any available mounts. Not many have JVs, a Hall of Famer, Earned Win$, reputation or luxury. Right,M. Luzzi ? Prado?

        1. Ps Can anyone tell me whatever happened to jocks like Bejarano who was hot and on top for a few yrs in a row and then he just became one of many good but anonymous riders? When was the last time he rode a competitive mount in a big race? Could mention others like Talamo,Gaffalione,but he,R.Bejarano, Was the king of Santa Anita for a while, wasn’t he ?

          1. Sorry, JG, but you don’t seem to be paying close enough attention, Talamo and Bejarano moved to Kentucky–Van Dyke there now too. Gaffalione??

            C’mon man!

  5. Mister Pricci, today is Easter and cannot and won’t adequately respond to your input especially about my main question about what happened to multi winner like Rafael Bejarano,still in his early thirties,but I Will also try to explain ,prove why ” public handicappers” are futile,not just today but maybe always even if I respected some like the late Russ Harris. Take Newsday’ s picker,his name is not important but
    after going under x around $ 200 on the last Aquaduct meet he ‘ s now some 1/ 26,was 0/ 24 but thanks to a miserable $ 2.80 that streak ended. You,yourself,have stated that you have never had such a negative ( ROI) in your many yrs of picking winners. I still stick to the fact that someone,anyone,cannot pick a horse, stock or nose Four,Five days ahead of post time. It shows me lazyess and superficial attention while I pity anyone who takes those picks seriously besides the fact that the newspapers are losing salaries ( how much do they earn to do that?),print and space . No wonder that there are only a couple of New York tabloids that still waste time,money and space on this 2021 farce. I remember your best bets ,most in the same races,that is the 7th and 8 th races where the allowance form was more than likely to score and hit the board,even with an exacta here and there. Today everything is different. Forget about the ML numbers,this is not 1980- 2000. As proof of that there have been so many chalks winning that,like I mentioned before,these prices remind me of most Monticello results,and as a former harness aficionado, you must ‘ know what I’m trying to say. I plan to frame this input along with your response. Happy Easter !

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