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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Knocking a horse someone else likes is a low percentage play. You could end up looking foolish and maybe wind up losing friends.

However, sometimes in handicapping and searching for value you have to do it. There appears to be such a situation in Saturday’s LeComte Stakes at the Fair Grounds, the week’s only major Derby Trail race.

Lots of people like Mr. Monomoy. The track oddsmaker has him the 9-2 second choice on the morning line even though there are more accomplished rivals in the (for now) 14-horse field.

The reason for his lofty assessment is more his name than his achievements. As it suggests, he is kin to the sensational Monomoy Girl. Both are out of Drumette. Mr. Monomoy’s sire is Palace Malice; Monomoy Girl is by Tapizar.

Because of this, the Saturday crowd in New Orleans and at simulcast sites is likely to wildly over bet him. My guess is this is why the track oddsmaker has his price so low. A morning line is supposed to reflect how the public is expected to bet not the relative merits of the entrants.

To resurrect a line I didn’t coin but have often quoted, Henry Aaron hit 755 home runs. His brother Tommie hit 13. Bloodlines count for only so much.

Mr. Monomoy has started three times. He was fourth in his debut at six furlongs, then broke maiden in his second start at 6 ½. In his most recent start, he was second, beaten a neck in his first try around two turns.

After her first three starts, Monomoy Girl was three-for-three.

Mr. Monomoy has shown the potential to be a very nice colt, perhaps a stakes winner. He could even win the LeComte. But because of his name, he will be no value. With a different name and the same PP’s, he would probably be close to double digits.

The horse who beat him last out, Lynn’s Map, is in the LeComte field but drew the outside 14 slot. Unless there are a load of scratches, he probably will wait for the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn next weekend.

Scabbard, the early 7-2 favorite for the race that has been extended to a mile and a sixteenth this year, has credentials that tower over Mr. Monomoy. He broke maiden at first asking then ran second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 3 Iroquois. The winner of the latter was Dennis’s Moment, who would be 1-5 in the LeComte.

Scabbard closed his campaign with a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It’s not a blinking neon light on his resume but he did beat Dennis’s Moment, who had a nightmare trip, and Eight Rings, who had no excuse.

Silver State, one of three from Steve Asmussen, also offers a lot to like. He broke maiden at first asking, albeit in a deadheat, then was beaten by a neck in his first try around two turns. His fig that day was stronger than the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club later on the card.

Finnick the Fierce, who mounted a furious late rally to be second in the KJC, ahead of Tiz the Law, another who would be odds-on in the LeComte, also makes his sophomore debut. The gelding, who has the late-running style of his sire, Dialed In, could become a fan favorite for the way he has overcome the adversity of losing one of his eyes. His record is virtually identical to Mr. Monomoy, a first, second and fourth in three starts. His odds will likely be three or four times as much.

The LeComte has not produced a Derby winner but War of Will last year and Oxbow in 2013 went on to capture the Preakness.

There’s enough raw talent in the field for another eventual Classic winner to emerge. It could even be Mr. Monomoy. But this isn’t the way to bet Saturday.

Pegasus fills out

Some people like to see a great horse, others prefer a great betting race. The Pegasus World Cup a week from Saturday will offer both.

One caveat:Omaha Beach is being hyped as a great horse. We’ll never really know because he is being rushed off to the breeding shed after the Pegasus. Right now it’s a stretch to put him on the cusp of the Hall of Fame. His last two wins have been at seven furlongs and six furlongs. In between, he ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, a chance to shine on racing’s biggest stage.

He did win at a mile and an eighth and a mile and a sixteenth in Derby preps in the spring but those triumphs have lost some of their luster as his most heralded victims, Bob Baffert’s Game Winner and Improbable, have failed to live up to the reputations they built as juveniles.

Omaha Beach will be a solid favorite in the Pegasus but the race is far from a walkover. Spun To Run, who held him off at the Breeders’ Cup will take a lot of beating. The conventional thinking is the ninth furlong of the Pegasus will reverse the finish of the Dirt Mile. But Gulfstream can be very kind to quality speed horses. A year ago, BC Dirt Mile champion City of Light vanquished BC Classic winner Accelerate.

With almost half the original 17 invitees passing, it appeared Gulfstream would have less than a double digit field. This was remedied by late invitations to Midcourt, Bodexpress and Tenfold, which should bring the field up to the desired dozen.

The late additions aren’t superstars but they have races that would put them in the mix, especially if Omaha Beach isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.

Moreover, with tri’s, super’s and Hi 5’s, every additional starter enhances the chances to make a score for those who can look past the obvious.

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⚠ Before you comment

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9 Responses

  1. Mr. Jicha: Your last sentence above, coming from an astute horseplayer, reads to the newbie, casual bettor, and no doubt a majority to regular horseplayers that there is money to be made betting the ridiculous, sucker bets: trifecta, super, and Hi-5; in fairness to all readers, you should also mention that a low number of bettors win these bets. Further, just how does an increase in entrants enhance the chance to make a score?

  2. Wendell,
    Good to hear from you again.
    Since I know you are a regular reader, you know I don’t play those super exotics, although I know you also take issue with my preference for Pick 3’s.
    There are people who think the key to eternal life is to become a vegan. I think they are nuts but I don’t deny them the right to feel the way they do.
    Likewise, I don’t deny the super exotic players their right to chase a life-changing score in the Hi-5. If nothing else, it’s better than the lottery.

  3. Well, Mr. Jicha, we finally agree on something: Vegans are nuts! How can anyone turn down a ‘dog’ slobbered with all kinds of condiments?

  4. TTT

    Anybody who does not want to be my friend because I point out that there horse has no chance, was never my friend to begin with. That’s the kind of thing you expect from trip handicappers and harness louts.

  5. T,
    I understand and somewhat agree with what you are saying.
    In the case of Mr. Monomoy, as I stated, I’m not saying he can’t win Saturday, just that he is almost certainly going to be a negative-value play.
    But if he does win, the knockers will never let me hear the end of it. Not complaining. It comes with the territory.

  6. T,
    Well, that’s gratuitously cynical. Why color trip handicappers and harness fans with some ugly brush. Some of my best friends are–and I are one too; both!

    Besides, that flies in the face of what we try to do here. Disagree? Of course. Curmudgeons-T-Us. Collegial? That’s the aspiration, anyway. Let’s leave it there. Just keep working, and keep those “stinkin’ bets” coming.

    Only briefly looked at LeComte on the plane ride home. It wasn’t the altitude; it was the PPs that got me light-headed. Tough race; good money race if one can figure it out. We’ll work on that…

  7. Mr. Monomoy closed at 6-1 in betting. Finished third. Know a guy who used to win a lot but now he bets show often. Favors NY tracks and stayed away from Fairgrounds. Irad and Bricks and Mortar locks for Eclipse but 2-year old colt will be interesting. When you mentioned DM having a nightmare trip I would prefer to think it as a workout at best. Race lost at start so he packed it in early. Some dark horse is probably going to emerge on road to KY. Maybe Mr. Monomoy!

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