12=7+5…It Adds Up…

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With the Belmont Stakes now behind us, the dust has finally settled and we can now reflect on the final leg of the Triple Crown trail.  What a journey it has been for this year’s crop of talented 3-year olds!  On picking winners, we can either give ourselves a tap on the back for some great handicapping efforts, or knock ourselves across our heads for overlooking imperative information and picking incorrect winners.

Now who would have thought the results of the Belmont Stakes (1st- Palace Malice #12, 2nd- Oxbow #7, 3rd- Orb #5) could be compared to a Mathematical equation, but the number 12 is indeed the sum of 7+5. How simple does that sound? If picking a winner was that easy; we’d all be rolling to the bank!  I never really like numbers, in fact I hated Math in high school, but when I started to understand how the relationship of numbers within a horse race could actually help me with my handicapping, I actually appreciated all the numerical information I could I could get my hands on! I realized how important it was to keep things simple, and just understand each race and how the numbers within the race could help me to narrow-down my choices.  Nothing comes easy when you are trying to pick a winner and things can get even more complicated once different variables are added to the mix. Yes in horse racing anything can happen, but having the right information gives you a calculated edge on who to keep within a race, as well as who to toss-out. This may probably be the longest distance any of these 3-year olds will ever run. A grueling mile and a half, no wonder it’s known as “The Test of the Campion”.  Palace Malice who had set the second fastest initial quarter and half mile fractions in the Kentucky Derby’s history was by-far the best horse on Belmont Stakes day. He drew clear in the last quarter mile to win by three and a quarter lengths from Oxbow, with Orb in third. With such wide sweeping turns at Belmont Park, how difficult was this race to figure out?  Well, you could have eliminated half the field by understanding just how invaluable these factors were:

1.  Tomlinson Figures – The late Art Kaufman aka Lee Tomlinson developed the Tomlinson pedigree ratings as a handicapping tool. It became a part of the DRF in 2001, and can be easily found in your DRF forms. It’s located in the far top right of each horse’s career information box under WET, TURF, DISTANCE. It is a 3 digit rating purported to gauge a sire’s ability to pass turf, wet-track, sprinting, and staying ability to its offsprings. A look at the rating might give you a clue to which horse has the pedigree to get the distance

  • A DISTANCE rating range from 0-480 with a rating of 320 to be considered average. Each horse has a rating and is revised quarterly. Ratings are keyed to the distance of the specific race. The higher the rating the better chances a horse should run particularly well over that distance
  • For an off-track, a MUD rating of 320+ merits further consideration as a horse who could run particularly well over a wet track

Within the Belmont field the following horses had the highest Tomlinson Distance Rating:

**Midnight Taboo – 309

Palace Malice – 310

Overanalyze – 311

Incognito – 316

Oxbow – 330

2.  A favorable Dosage Index figure of 3.00 or less. The Dosage Index is a number that comes from the ratio of speed to stamina in a horse’s pedigree. The higher the number the more speed in the pedigree — while a lower number indicates that a horse should have more stamina. Anything above a number of 4.00 is supposed to indicate that a horse will have trouble at longer distances. It’s a useful tool to  quantify a horse’s ability, or inability, to negotiate the various distances at which horse races are run. It is calculated based on an analysis of the horse’s pedigree.

  • In the last 10 years horses that won the Belmont had a Dosage Index of 3.00 or less (In 2003, Empire Maker had a DI of 3.16)
  • In the last 25 years there have been three horses with Dosage Index above 4.00. Sarava in 2002, Commendable in 2000, and Touch of Gold in 1997
  • A Center of Distribution of .67 and higher. The CD value indicates the “Balancing Point” of the horse’s pedigree profile, with positive values toward speed. A CD of 0.0 means that he horse has an even number of speed points as he does stamina. A CD of  -0.5 means he has slightly more stamina points, and a CD of 1.5 for example, shows a large favor in the speed side of the profile.
  • In the last 10 years, there has been only one horse that had a CD lower than +0.67. Drosselmeyer in 2010 with a CD of +0.55

Again, only half the field in this year’s Belmont had a Dosage Index of 3.00 or lower, and a Center of Distribution close to +0.67 or higher:

*Unlimited Budget – DI 3.00/CD +0.92

Incognito – DI 3.00/CD +0.64

**Midnight Taboo – DI 3.00/ CD +0.75

Overanalyze – DI 3.00/CD +0.92

Oxbow – DI 2.50/CD +0.86

Palace Malice – DI 2.64/ CD +0.65

Golden Soul – DI 1.92/CD +0.61

Vyjack – DI180/CD.71

Giant Finish -DI159/CD.41

When combining all 3 figures for Tomlinson Ratings, Dosage Index and Center of Distribution there were only 2 horses that had very close numbers, and that would be Palace Malice and Oxbow. Orb’s Tomlinson Distance is 296, DI 3.21, and CD +0.86.

3.  In this final and most demanding leg of the Triple Crown Favorites Rarely Win. In fact, the last favorite to win the Belmont was in 2005 with Afleet Alex. Beware of the betting public, they can steer you in the wrong direction!

  • ***Understanding that most Belmont Stakes winners are Presser or Off the Pace types that sit 1-4 lengths off the lead in the early stages of the race
  • ***The only “deep” closer that managed to win in the last 13 years was Jazil and he sat about 8 lengths off the lead early on
  • ***Going back 10 years, there has been only 1 “wire-to-wire” type horse to win the Belmont. Da’Tara in 2008 at odds of 38/1

So it’s been proven once again that statistics, and numbers do matter when handicapping a race like the Belmont Stakes.  Being able to understand important factors within this race can help you choose the right contenders. There are also other factors to consider like the weather, but the use of the Tomlinson Figures will assist in helping you pick out the horses whose pedigree will favor a wet track. You can incorporate your other handicapping strategies along with these important factors to solidify your final picks.

Before we close the doors on this year’s journey for the Triple Crown, I must address the only three horses that ran in all three legs of the races – Oxbow, Orb and Will Take Charge. There were memorable moments of glory; as well as the sadness of defeat, but despite the various outcomes to all three races Orb, Oxbow and Will Take Charge deserve much respect for their commendable efforts.  Orb went off to win the Kentucky Derby on a sloppy track with the second fastest quarter and half-mile fractions set in Derby history. Two weeks later we patiently waited with anticipation for a Triple Crown candidate, but our hopes were shattered when out of nowhere Oxbow was guilty of stealing the 2nd jewel of the crown. He won going wire to wire, in what was the slowest fractions set in Preakness Stake’s history. Orb was sadly defeated, but managed to come in 3rd in both the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont. Three weeks later, a fresh horse emerged as suicidal fractions were set in the Belmont Stakes. Palace Malice won by 3 1/4 lengths over Oxbow, with Orb beaten five lengths, Incognito six lengths and Revolutionary 6 1/2 lengths. What can I say about Will Take Charge?  He had a disastrous trip in the Kentucky Derby when he ran into tiring Verrazano, and he never really had a chance to regain momentum and managed to come in 8th out of 19 horses. Although it seems “bad derby luck” could have been his excuse in the Derby, Will Take Charge was never a major factor in the remaining legs of the Triple Crown.

So as the quest for the Triple Crown ends, a few of these talented three year olds will eventually find their places in racing history. Some will move on and become remarkable turf horses, others will become unbelievable sprinters and maybe one of these horses may even go off to win the Breeders Cup Classic. What the future holds for each of these amazing three year olds will be a new journey with unlimited possibilities. Soon a new Spring will arrive, and a new cast of super-stars will create new excitement and the quest for the Triple Crown will start all over again.

It takes a lot out of a horse to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown so it’s no big surprise that it’s been 35 years since our last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed nipped Alydar by a head to claim his stake in horse racing history.

The 2014 Belmont Stakes will be run on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

*Filly

**In the last 75 years, no horse who ran 3 races or less has won the Belmont Stakes

***Courtesy of Super Screener, Belmont Stakes

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Unlimited Riches; Will A Filly Run In The Belmont Stakes?

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Lets all go back 6 years, to 2007 when a filly named Rags to Riches dominated the boys in the final quest to the last jewel of the Triple Crown.  It was a monstrous feat to outlast the almighty Curlin but Rags to Riches prevailed, and become the first filly since 1905 to win the Belmont Stakes.

I can faintly hear the echoes of Tom Durkins’ thrilling race-call as the horses are running toward the top of the stretch, “A filly is in the front of the Belmont, but Curlin is right there with her.  These two in the “Battle of the Sexes” in the Belmont Stakes. It is Curlin on the inside, and Rags to Riches on the outside in a desperate finish. Rags to Riches and Curlin they’re coming down to the wire. It’s going to be close… and it’s going to be a filly in the Belmont! Rags to Riches has beaten Curlin and a 100 years of Belmont history. The first filly to win it in a century!”

What an exciting feat for Todd Pletcher’s first “Classic”,  win with a filly in the Belmont!

June 8th will be the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes, and with no Triple Crown on the line there is still much suspense brewing in the air with Todd Pletcher’s filly possibly running in the most challenging leg of the Triple Crown.  Decision to run her is still not 100%, but after turning in a sharp half-mile in:  47 2/5 this morning and galloping out five furlongs in 1:00 in company with Capo Bastone, Todd Pletcher estimates her chances of running in the Belmont as 80-90%. In a recent article from Bloodhorse website, Pletcher was very happy with how she worked as she seemed enthusiastic, and did not have to be asked or encouraged at any point. He plans to confirm with Owner Mike Repole at the end of the day whether the filly will run in the race.  Her connections have been debating on whether to run her in the Belmont Stakes against the boys, or go against top filly Dreaming of Julia in the Grade I- Mother Goose on June 22nd.

Now if she does run in the Belmont, will she be able to emulate Todd Pletcher’s “only” Belmont win with Rags to Riches?  Inquiring minds want to know:  Can the only filly in the race beat a tough field of male contenders? Does she have the tenacity that Rags to Riches had? Does she have the pedigree to go a mile and a half? Will this finally be the year that Todd Pletcher adds another Belmont win to his resume? Who is this filly, and what do we need to know about her?

Her name is Unlimited Budget.  She is a stunning 3 -year old filly, out of the 2010 Kentucky Derby and Preakness 2nd place winner, Street Sense- Unlimited Appeal, by Valid Appeal. She was bred in Florida, out of Ocala Stud. Her name refers to what Owner, Mike Repole regretfully told his wife about her spending limit for their new home after selling his company Glaceau, maker of Vitaminwater and Smart water, to Coca-Cola for $4.1. “You’ve got an unlimited budget with this house.” What a perfect name!

She’s a big Street Sense filly, and although there is some concern from her female family, which is more predominately speed-oriented, her sire’s line is bred for stamina.

In another article in Blood Horse website, when comparing Unlimited Budget to his 2007 Belmont Stakes winner, Rags to Riches this is what Todd Pletcher had to say, “The bottom side of her pedigree isn’t as deep in stamina as Rags to Riches. The biggest thing about Rags to Riches pedigree is that she is so stoutly bred. She was sired out of a Belmont winner , A.P. Indy and being a half sister to a Belmont winner, Jazil”.   So there is little concern, but on the positive side Unlimited Budget has already won at a mile and a sixteenth twice this year, and has also won going at a mile and an eighth as a 2-year old so going longer in distance, should not be a major problem.  Her speed figures also match up to the colts she would be going up against; so she seems to fit into the mix.

Add the top female jockey to the equation, and you could possibly have a winning combination. Rosie Napravnik is likely to ride Unlimited Budget, and will attempt to become the only female rider to win the Belmont since Julie Krone in 1993, aboard Colonial Affair.  Having a female duo in a male dominated race is always exciting, as it gets the female bettors more involved in the sports betting.

Lets hope Unlimited Budget runs with the boys, and shows the sport what she is all about.  In Mike Repole’s words, “She’s not only Unlimited Budget; I think she has unlimited potential too”.

My Favorite Belmont Moments…

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In a matter of 5 short weeks, the top 3 year olds in the country take part in the covenant Triple Crown Trail in hopes of stealing the jewels and capturing the long awaited Triple Crown by victoriously winning all three races.

Starting on the “first Saturday in May”, the adventure a waits in Louisville with the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Two weeks later, the horses head to Pimlico Race Track in Maryland for the Preakness Stakes where they compete in the shortest distance of the three races. Another three weeks later, they finally meet once again in Elmont, NY for the Belmont Stakes. The longest distance of the three races; there is a reason they call this race the, Test of Champions”. The sweeping turns at Belmont will challenge both the jockey and the horse, and anything can happen when a 3 year old goes a mile and a half for the first time.

Sounds easy?  Think again… It’s been 35 years since we’ve crowned a Triple Crown winner. Affirmed in 1978 sealed the deal as he triumphed over his nemesis, Alydar.

Although this year, we have no Triple Crown winner on the line the excitement still continues to brew for the Belmont Stakes on June 8th. A large field is anticipated with the possibility of a filly in the race! New surprises continually add sheer thrill to the sport of Thoroughbred Horse Racing .

As I re-watch old races on YouTube, I’m so amazed on how I am able to go back in time as if I am experiencing the moment all over again. I’ve revisited a few of my favorite Belmont races that I’d like to share with you that still triggers the same emotions each time I watch the videos:

1978 Belmont Stakes, Affirmed edges Alydar by a neck in a stirring stretched duel! I’m at the edge of my seat each time I watch this race. I could not even fathom how it must have felt to be there in person.

 

1998  Belmont Stakes, Victory Gallop guilty of a crime as he steals the Race from Real Quiet. I am not exaggerating when I say, every single time I watch this race my exact thoughts are, “Did that seriously just happened?”

 

And one of my all time favorite race calls from Tom Durkin, the 2007 Belmont Stakes, Rags To Riches. The infamous race-call of, “The Battle of the Sexes”, with the gutsy filly winning the race. I consider this race-call, “priceless”.

 

Thanks to modern technology, and YouTube we are able to go back in time and experience great races in history.

What are some of your favorite Belmont moments?

**All Videos courtesy of YouTube

Orb’s Kryptonite

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There are two kinds of weakness, that which breaks and that which bends

James Russell Lowell

We all have our weakness; even super heroes in comic books. Superman would get weak in the presence of Kryptonite, Manhunter’s weakness was fire, and Wonder Woman rendered helpless by tying her bracelets together, but only if her bracelets were tied together by a man.

Like super heroes, horses have weaknesses of their own. Some are challenged by the conditions of a track – was it too fast, too deep, or too sloppy? A soft or fast pace can either result in a victorious win, or the agony of a defeat. In the Preakness Stakes Orb’s abilities were hindered by what appeared to be his greatest weakness.

Breaking from post-position 1 may be the kiss of death for any horse. Most trainer or owners cringe after finding out their horse drew post-position 1. The value of statistics and information gathered while handicapping can leave you questioning your choice of winners. In the back of your mind, you are wondering how powerful is this information in picking a winner? In my previous blog, ITS BEEN 19 YEARS my research found that the last winner out of post position 1 for the Preakness Stakes was Tabasco Cat in 1994. That’s a lot of years since that post produced a winner; prior to 1994 go back to Aching Bally in 1960. Not to mention that post-position 6 has produced the most winners; adding this year’s Preakness winner Oxbow to the list.

Orb had a couple of things obviously against him even before the start of the race:

1.   Post Postion #1 – The kiss of death

2.   As the day wore on at Pimlico, the track started to work well with closers “down the middle” and the inside was probably the worse part of the track

But the biggest and I’m going to say biggest factor against Orb and any closer in the race was the PACE. The pace was too slow for any horse to catch a fast horse in the lead. Closers had really no chance at all. Oxbow had run one “full second” slower than the slowest Preakness in the 19 years preceding with fractions of:

¼ mile                        ½ mile                         ¾ mile                        1 mile

23 4/5                            48 3/5                           1:13 1/5                         1:38

(Courtesy of Super Screener)

I love the theory of, “Pace Makes the Race” as this race was clearly not set up for a closer. As quoted by Super Screener, “Gary Stevens, aboard Oxbow, had stolen the race, or it had been given to him when other speed horses did not push him. If a fast horse in the front is not going fast enough to be tired, then they are not going to stop.”

I couldn’t have said that any better.

Other things I’d like to mention after watching Orb’s last 7 races which I’m sure as a race fan you already know:

1.  Although Orb was already victorious out of post-position 1 in the Fountain of Youth he was also ridden by another jockey at this time, JR Velazquez who also rode Orb to Victory in his 2 previous wins prior to the Kentucky Derby. Joel Rosorio picked up the mount of Orb when JR Velazquez chose to stay aboard Kentucky Derby contender Verrazano.  A Different race, with a different driver.

2. Like a Fashion Model that develops a signature walk, Orb developed his own signature running-style. In all of Orb’s races (except for the Preakness Stakes) he had the exact tendency as a cruiser-closer style to run out wide on the track. In the Kentucky Derby, Orb was out of post-position 16 so he already at an outside post. When he made his move in the race–  he went out 6 wide into full-throttle to the finish line with tag line strapped to his saddle: Catch me if you can. In the Florida Derby, he was 4 wide as he flew past Itsmyluckyday to the finish line, and in the Fountain of Youth he was also 4 wide as he triumphed past Violence for the win. Prior to these big races back in January, Orb had the exact running style going wide. If you went back even further and watched Orb’s races as a 2 year old (I went back 3 more races to November of 2012) you would see that even at two, he still had the same tendencies to go wide. The one thing that stood out to me in watching his past races was that when Orb would make his move for a clear run to the finish line, he NEVER had horses to the right of him. He is not the type of horse that you would find weaving himself through traffic. Instead, Orb’s signature run is to go wide, claim his presence – with those to his left, and switch to full throttle gear.

At the break it looked like the path alongside the rail opened up, but instead of full steam ahead Joel Rosorio decided to hold back. The choice to take him back, but keeping him on the inside and not being able to get out, sealed his fate and with the slow pace, there was no real chance. If there was any chance whatsoever, Orb needed to go wide.  At the ¾ pole to the 1/8 pole, Orb and Joel Rosorio started putting pieces together as he made up 9 lengths and was finally able to split horses to catch, and pass Departing and Goldencents, by then — it was too late, and Orb was able to rally for 4th.

Bloodhorse has a great visual sequence of where each horse was positioned throughout the race

With Titletown Five and Goldencents in the race, I was not the only one who anticipated a faster pace, but with the slowest Preakness fractions Orb’s chances were compromised. Then add all the other factors that I shared; end result was exactly how the race unfolded. Orb was never in a position to shift gears. His energy was off; ears pinned back, and at one point looked like he had no gas in his tank. Orb clearly exposed his weakness like Superman with Kyptonite and there was no running off with the second jewel to the Triple Crown. Kudos to Gary Stevens and Oxbow!

So our hopes once again are shattered; as there will be no Triple Crown winner on the line. With 16 days to go until the Belmont Stakes (June 8th); this will be the toughest race in the Triple Crown trail.  This is the race that will unveil the horse that possesses not only speed, but also stamina. It’s been called the, “Test of the Champion”, and the first time many of these horses will run a 1 ½ . There is no rest for the weary as new shooters will come into the race. They will be fresh with a full tank of gas and ready to face some of the toughest 3 year olds around. The horses that started this journey with the Kentucky Derby, then to run two weeks later in the Preakness will have to dig deep as they will be tested. Will there be a horse that will persevere and handle the back to back races, or will a new shooter declare victory?

Wide, wide turns at the “Big Sandy” and that last turn for home will be killer!  It’s the longest stretch to the finish line that many horses will ever encounter, and TIMING will be the key.

Lets  hope Shug McGaughey will decide to run Orb in the Belmont Stakes. It will be a full field, and he’ll be back at his home track.  Orb will have an opportunity to show us that he is still the best 3-year old out there, and the last time a Kentucky Derby winner won the Belmont Stakes was Thunder Gulch in 1995. 18 years and counting, LETS GIT ER DONE!

Best of luck to everyone!