Pace Makes the Race…Second Jewel Of The Triple Crown…

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With 5 returning foes, and 3 new shooters in the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes will Orb triumph in victory and run away with the second jewel or the Triple Crown, or will there be a horse that shatters our hopes of breaking this 35 year drought?  So many questions and uncertainties are on all of our minds, but the one thing we are certain of is Orb will clearly have target on his back on Saturday.

With only a day to go, post positions were drawn on Wednesday with a field of 9.

#1 Orb ( Kentucy Derby winner, ML 1-1 favorite in the Preakness)

#2 Goldencents (17th in the Kentucky Derby, ML 8-1 in the Preakness)

#3 Titletown Five (New shooter, 4th in the Derby Trail-G3, ML 30-1 in the Preakness)

#4 Departing (New shooter, won the Illinois Derby-G3, ML 6-1 in the Preakness)

#5 Mylute (5th in the Kentucky Derby, ML 5-1 in the Preakness)

#6 Oxbow 6th in the Kentucky Derby, ML 15-1 in the Preakness)

#7 Will Take Charge (8th in the Kentucky Derby, ML 12-1 in the Preakness)

#8 Govenor Charlie (New shooter, won the Sunland Derby-G3, ML 12-1 in the Preakness

#9 Itsmyluckyday (15th in the Kentucky Derby, ML 10-1 in the Preakness)

There is always a concern with getting the infamous “rail position” as your maneuverability is restricted since you really can’t go left.  You obviously have to run right, or look for a clearing to run straight ahead. With immediate speed sitting right next to Orb I don’t foresee post position being a factor since there will surely be a pace presence. Let’s not forget Orb has already triumphed in the #1 post position when he won the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.

So the question is, will pace make the race once again?  We all had seen what happened with the torrid pace that was set by Palace Malice in this year’s Kentucky Derby opening at 45.1: 1:09.4 — Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids! D. Wayne Lukas commented in an interview to not expect Titletown Five to be in the lead for this race. Well…we’ll try, but in my opinion this is a naturally fast horse and Julian Leparoux will have a difficult time settling him down and hindering him from what he does naturally… run!  In his last couple of races, he had an opening of 45 and 46’and change; this is a really fast colt!  So expect the pace to be aggressive, and quick decisions will have to be made by the Jockeys from the break, to the first turn.

Goldencents in the Santa Anita Derby was aggressive with an opening of 45.2: 1:10.2 and Titletown Five in the Louisiana Derby was just as aggressive with fractions of 46.1: 1:11.4. We’ll see what decisions Kevin Krigger makes for Goldencents as the horse seems to run his best when he is clearly in the lead.  Other speed presence in the race should be Govenor Charlie and Oxbow nearby.

Joel Rosario will also have to make some quick decisions on how he will maneuver Orb. Will be drop him further back than usual—to get Orb on the outside for a clear run?  Or will he let Orb just run his race?

Let’s also note that with all four of Orb wins in 2013, he has gone out wide for a clear run to the finish line so I’m anticipating this is what Rosorio will do. Let’s hope whatever is decided Orb will not be too far back since the mile and 3/16 is the shortest race in the Triple Crown trail.

Orb is an extremely versatile horse so whether Rosorio drops him back to go wide, or choose to skim the rail; I’m sure as methodical of a horse that Orb is he will handle whatever comes his way.

He’ll run his own race… he’ll be in control… and the next stop will be at the “Big Sandy” on June the 8th as we crown our next Triple Crown winner!

If you look at my previous blog “Pace Makes the Race” for the Kentucky Derby, I will stick to my previous Derby picks, but I am going to use Goldencents in my trifecta’s and superfecta’s only.

Best of Luck to Everyone!

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Peter Pan…

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“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”

J.M Barrie, Peter Pan

We all love the adventures of Disney’s Peter Pan, but what about the Grade-2 Peter Pan Stakes? We are about to embark on an adventure today at– 1 1/8 on a wet track with post time slated for 5:17pm ET.

This appears to be an open field of runners and if all goes well with Orb and the Racing Gods on May 11th in the Preakeness Stakes—I’m sure we will see one of these runners face him in the Belmont Stakes on June 8th.

Will one of these foes shake up our chances for the next Triple Crown winner? Lets hope not!

About half the field at one time or another have ran in graded stakes company, but no real stand outs to write home about. Although, I do feel there are a couple of horse’s with class that I need to mention.

The colt on paper that appears to have the best speed is Nick’s Zito’s DECLAN’S WARRIOR. A graded stakes winner, he won the Bayshore-G3 on April 6th. He’s is 1/1 at Belmont track and is a colt that has been improving. This is a colt that is owned and bred by Lucky Shamrock Stables. Trainer is at 20% for 1st time at route, and had a sharp bullet workout on May 4th.

FEAR THE KITTEN, ran a 2nd in the Southwest-G3 on a wet track; which he had to go 5 wide and rallied for 2nd and was second best of this group, but no match for SUPER NINETY NIE. He also placed 3rd in the Lecomte-G3 but again, had no rally for OXBOW and the 2nd placed Kentucky Derby contender GOLDEN SOUL.

There are also a handful in this group that are making their stakes debut for the first time. A stand out for me is INCOGNITO, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He’s morning line is 5-1. He has “excellent breeding” out of A.P. INDY and out of multiple stakes winner OCTAVE. Stamina as well as handling a wet track should not be a problem. He is owned and bred by Darley Stables and has some excellent workouts at Belmont. He’s jockey Michael Luzzi has been hot in the last 7 days and also had a sharp workout on May 4th. He is moving up in class, but in my opinion, he has the pedigree and class to do well. He is my key horse.

Last but not least, Todd Pletcher has 2 colts in this race that are difficult to not mention. Morning line favorite is ABRAHAM who has been improving with each race. Has already come in the money in stakes competition twice, and has won and placed at today’s distance. He has won on a sloppy track (20% mud rating out of 1443 mud starts) and you can’t go wrong with JR Velazquez on the mount. Again, sharp workout on May 4th.

BATTIER, the “other” Pletcher has a morning line of 8-1, and with Joel Rosorio on the mount he looks like the better of the two to me. Rosorio is on top of the world right now! 30% 1st start with trainer, he has won on a muddy track and with each race his speed figures are getting better. I would definitely put him in my exactas and trifecta’s. In 6 starts he has won 4 and came in second twice.

The longest shot on the board at 20-1 GO GET BASIL is also 1/1 at the “Big Sandy”.

With 9 out of 11 nominated for the Triple Crown in this group. I’m sure we’ll see a few entered in the Belmont Stakes taking on ORB, winner of the Kentucky Derby!

Emotional Conformation…

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I love handicapping a horse race…

I love reading about the horses past performances…

I love numbers and statistics (but only when it has to do with horse racing)…

When it comes to providing me the information I need to handicap a race I’m a fan of both Brisnet and the DRF as they each provide me the necessary information I need for handicapping a race. Important factors such as:  Statistics, workouts, speed fractions, Beyers speed figures, Tomlinson numbers, etc. are useful information when trying to weed out pretenders from the real contenders.

As a handicapper, all this information is invaluable in picking the right horses.

Last year I read about a method as equally important, and since then I have been a huge follower!

I first read about Thomas Herding Technique (also known as THT) about a year ago during the Derby. It was on the Kentucky Confidential website. As a Psychology major, I found this information fascinating and if you love the sport of thoroughbred horse racing you will also find his information intriguing. Take a look at what was written about last year’s winner, I’ll Have Another.

So what is this all about?  It’s about the emotional conformation of a horse. This information defines the mental and emotional psychology of a horse that makes up who they are.

The author Kerry Thomas has been recognized around the world as a researcher and service provider in the field of Equine Athletic Psychology.  His method, the Thomas Herding Technique provides valuable information to owners, trainers, and fans like myself.  You may wonder how does behavior such as individual dynamics, group dynamics, and patterns of motion have to do with winning a race.  I asked myself the same question, but after I found out about his method I was a believer that this information is equally, if not as important as numbers and statistics.

The analysis that Kerry Thomas has put together through observation and years of experience is invaluable. Getting in the mind of a horse and understanding its body language and patterns of movement is beyond amazing. As soon as I found out that Kerry Thomas book, Horse Profiling  (also written with Calvin L. Carter) hit the selves last April I ran out and bought a copy. I highly suggest this book for everyone who loves this sport!

So of course, when I found out Brisnet  was offering the “Thomas Herding Technique: Patterns of Motion Analysis” for this year’s Kentucky Derby I was beyond psyched!  This report was a huge factor in helping me handicap the race and pick this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Orb.  The analysis discussed the emotional conformation of each derby contender, and more than numbers and statistics; this analysis had a huge impact in what colts to leave in my picks, and which colts to toss.

(Excerpt from his analysis on Orb):

“Orb is extremely versatile. He shows no sticking points or mental weaknesses. He operates strongly in traffic or in open space. He never shows a tendency to mimic the rhythm of any other horse (weaker horses sometimes do this for comfort).  Orb is above them.”

It’s important to understand that it is more than the numerical results that pick winners. Being aware of the horse’s patterns of movement, body language and spirit from within makes each colt’s emotional conformation unique and special. Understanding the horse’s mental and emotional set up is priceless, and truly separates the winner from other horses within the group dynamic.

Ready…Set…Go…

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The post positions have been drawn and the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is set. Mike Battaglia’s celebrating his 40th anniversary kept his morning lines unchanged and has set Orb as the morning line favorite at 7-2, followed by Verrazano at 4-1 and third, Goldencents at 5-1.

During the live coverage I’m sure every trainer and owner was hoping for an ideal post. Not the 1, or the 20 please! Let the “Racing Gods” be on our side.  Back in 1986, Ferdinand was the last colt to win from post position 1, a race remembered as the “miracle run”. Unfortunately, Black Onyx drew this dreaded post and although, it is the shortest distance around the track, horses tend to get pinched and trapped in the first turn as every horse is trying to settle in. Post 20 has produced 1 winner in the entire history of the Kentucky Derby, and his name was Big Brown. Can Vyjack be the second in what seems to be an impossible feat? He’ll need to use a lot of energy to make up ground from the 20. 

Here’s a great article that provides advantages and disadvantages of  specific post positions.

Now with post positions set, trainers and owners can come up with a game plan for Derby day, and we can each take the next few days to pick our Derby horse! Remember when choosing your horse, don’t only consider your post position, but it’s also important to be aware of your colt’s running style. Try to anticipate how the race will unfold. Start to separate the pretenders from the true contenders by understanding whether your horse’s pedigree can handle the distance, and the track. This is the first time that your colt will run a mile and a quarter, and this will be difficult task if there is no stamina in their pedigree.  How about your jockey? Do you have a seasoned jockey that can handle the pressure? This is a race with 20 horses that will be flying at the same time trying to set their positions early in the race. There will be a lot of shuffling going on, and you will need both a fearless horse, and a fearless jockey. Timing will be everything, and you will need a jockey who can make the right decisions; at the right time. Also, don’t forget about the weather. If it rains (which rain is in the forecast) it will throw a wrench in the works! Lots to think about in a field that has legitimate contenders.

Good luck to the connections involved, and here’s hoping you have a Happy Derby!          

PP #1: Black Onyx (50-1)

PP #2: Oxbow (30-1)

PP #3: Revolutionary (10-1)

PP #4: Golden Soul (50-1)

PP #5: Normandy Invasion (12-1)

PP #6: Mylute (15-1)

PP #7: Giant Finish (50-1)

PP #8: Goldencents (5-1)

PP #9: Overanalyze (15-1)

PP #10: Palace Malice (20-1)

PP #11: Lines of Battle (30-1)

PP #12: Itsmyluckyday (15-1)

PP #13: Falling Sky (50-1)

PP #14: Verrazano (4-1)

PP #15: Charming Kitten (20-1)

PP #16: Orb (7-2)

PP #17: Will Take Charge (20-1)

PP #18: Frac Daddy (50-1)

PP #19: Java’s War (15-1)

PP #20: Vyjack (15-1)

100 Oak Points…

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There has been a lot of buzz about the new Derby Point System. A point system I am not crazy about. I feel there needs to be some tweaking in the adjustment of how this point system chooses who is qualified for the top 20 spots in the Kentucky Derby. In the past, the field was based on earnings rather than points earned in specific races. Fillies that had enough earnings had an opportunity to run for the roses if their connections felt they were fit and ready.

However, with the new points system, the only opportunity for a filly to earn points toward the Kentucky Derby is to run against the colts in major prep races. Plans most trainers and owners do not consider early on in the season. As Bloodstock Agent John Moynihan states:  “With the timing of (the Derby), you don’t really consider it until the last minute. You want to see how the cards fall; there are so many different scenarios that come into play. You’ve got to look at the quality of the colts out there and how well they’re doing and also the quality of the Oaks. (Courtesy of Bloodhorse article: Oaks Owners Weigh In on Derby Points System).

In the past great fillies have faced the boys, and triumphed with success. Out of 38 fillies that ran in the Kentucky Derby, 3 have gone off to win:  Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988).

Of course it’s interesting to ponder on what could have been, as this year’s Kentucky Oaks has a group of strong contenders. Bob Baffert in an interview with Bloodhorse said that this is the most competitive Oaks he has ever been in. The field has a lot of fast fillies, and this year’s competition is fierce. So why not have the new Derby Point System allow any filly with 100 Oak points or more; become eligible to “consider” the Derby. If this were the case, this would have given the following fillies the option of running in the Kentucky Derby:

1 Beholder 164 Richard   Mandella Spendthrift Farm
2 Rose   to Gold 164 Sal Santoro Kathleen Amaya and   Raffaele Centrofanti
3 Unlimited   Budget 160 Todd Pletcher Repole Stable
4 Dreaming   of Julia 132 Todd Pletcher Repole Stable
5 Close   Hatches 100 Bill Mott Juddmonte Farms

Courtesy of: Kentuckyderby.com/oaks/leaderboard)

There are a lot of pros and cons to consider for every horse entered into the Derby, but having a filly in the race does add excitement for racing fans. The handle gets a piece, the filly and its connections get exposure, female race fans will get some action on the filly. It’s a win/win situation for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every filly is just as good as this year’s crop of 3-year old colts. The message I’d like to convey is there “could be” an exceptional filly out there that will not have the opportunity to “measure her brilliance” by running against the boys.  I understand with a new process there is always room for adjustments as the process itself unveils what works, and what could be improved. The final goal is providing the opportunity for the best 20 horses to make it to the gates the first Saturday in May. Who wouldn’t want a talented filly in the most prestigious race in America?  In my opinion this current process is passing up on some truly talented fillies.

This year’s Kentucky Oaks is full of “Girl Power”, and lots of it.  Dreaming of Julia, I’d call her a freak definitely would give these boys a run for their money. Her final time for the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr.II) on March 30th was 1:48.97. She ran nearly two seconds faster than the boys who ran in the Florida Derby later that same day. The winner- Orb’s final winning time was 1:50.87. I’m a huge fan of Orb, and I think he is a very talented colt.

Churchill Down’s should really consider adjusting its’ point system to allow filly’s the opportunity to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. How awful would it be if the great Zenyatta was unable to participate in the Breeder’s Cup Classic?  We would have missed that memorable opportunity to have the first female horse to win this competitive race. Rachel Alexandra not only beat the boys in the 2009 Preakness, but that same year she went off to also beat “older boys” in the Haskell and the Woodward.

With the right horse, the right connections, and the right timing many talented female horses will be missing out on the chance to become a part of racing history.