By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com
I'm not all that excited by this race, hence no picture of a horse accompanying this article, so I'll keep it brief. I can't even wholeheartedly endorse betting on this race, but since I checked it out, I'll pass along what I observed. If Casino Drive is in this race, I'd bet him to win, but my guess is that he's heading for the Classic, so I've excluded him in my picks.
1. Sixties Icon- Ought to go off as the favorite (Sorry, I'm picking another one) but he's a true distance horse. His is a question of class/speed/talent, not an affinity for the distance. With no pace in this race, I'm betting that he can overcome class issues and run his race.
2. Spring House (if he enters this race)- He's no world beater but he is consistent and he's won at this distance at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 Burke Handicap last October.
3. Cedar Mountain- He likes the distance and doesn't suck, basically. But you shouldn't bet this race, anyway.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com
(pictured is the 2004 winner of this race, Sweet Catomine. She was a lotta horse, baby.)
By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com
We'll get right down to business. The race is over the main track and is 1 1/16ths of a mile. The last 6 winning Beyers for the Juvenile Fillies were 95, 90, 87, 102, 99, and 102. Pretty well varied, as you can see. This year's winning Beyer figures to be somewhere in the mid-90s.
Stardom Bound is certain to go off as the favorite, and I think she'll win. Her last race out was a Grade 1, at this distance, over this surface and she won as the favorite, by 3 1/4 lengths. After finishing second in her first two races by a combined length and a nose, she has won two Grade 1s over synthetic surfaces by a combined 7 3/4 lengths. I should also point out that she's a California horse, and California horses have a knack for winning this race.
The likely second betting-favorite will be Sky Diva. She's 2-for-2 and her last out was the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park. To her advantage will be her stalking style, and to her detriment is her trainer's 0-for-16 record this over synthetic surfaces. Does this mean you shouldn't bet her? No, but you better get about 7 or 8-1 on her if you do. Being the only undefeated horse in the race, I have a feeling she'll be overbet.
The rest of the horses have been inconsistent. At times, winning nice races, at other times, losing to horses they'll be facing on Friday. With so few races under their belt (or girth, I guess) it's tough to say what it all means. The best example of that is Emmy Darling. In her second race (of 4 lifetime) she won a 100k race at Hollywood Park while recording a 94 Beyer, by far the highest career Beyer in the field. She went on to lose her next two races by 10 and 3/4 lenths combined- being beaten twice by Stardom Bound, Palacio de Armor, and Evita Argentina, who are in this race. She could have the most upside in the race, but without consistency it's difficult to know what to make of it. Palacio de Armor has finished second twice to Stardom Bound by a combined 4.5 lengths, with her front running style I'm not sure she'll like the added distance she'll be getting. Nice horse, but not her spot.
The lone European in this race is Ireland's Pursuit of Glory. She's a sprinter who is stretching out for the first time, but being a daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus with a closing style, I think she may fare better with the new distance then several other of her rivals. She went off at 5-1 in a Grade 1 race in her last, was beaten by 1 1/4 lengths and received a Timeform rating that translates to around a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. If she can run that race on Friday, she could very well win this race. She figures to be a fair price as well. The last horse I'll mention is Persistently. She also figures to be a fair price. In her last race she was beaten easily by the impressive Sky Diva who everything go her way in terms of traffic, whereas Persistently had to swing way out wide at the end to pass tiring horses to finish second in impressive fashion. That's not to say that Persistently should have won that race, but she showed a lot more than what it says in your racing form. With a little better racing luck, and the added distance, factored in with a much, much nicer price than Sky Diva figures to be, she would be a very sensible bet.
1. Stardom Bound- In such an unproven field, it's comforting that she won her last race out over this surface, against these foes at this distance. She won't be great value, but I think she'll win, and that is the point of betting afterall.
2. Pursuit of Glory- I'll take a chance on her and hope she can run back to how she did her last out. Michael Tabor wouldn't send a horse from Ireland to California and waste anyone's time. She ought to be running late and a lot of fun to watch.
3. Persistently- She has yet to have a trip go entirely her way, and I'm willing to bet that she can finish very strongly here if she gets a nicer trip. From a speed figures standpoint, she's every bit as quick as Star Diva, but has actually handled adversity before and has handled it well, so I like her here.
Below is the Oakleaf where Stardom Bound passed a tiring but game Palacio de Amor.
This is the Frizette at Belmont Park, which is won by Sky Diva where Persistently works her tail off (figuratively) to place.
Monday, October 20, 2008
(Pictured: The winner of last year's inaugural BC Filly and Mare Sprint, Maryfield)
By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com
2008 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
As I see it, this race has 3 serious contenders and a few wild cards. We'll start with the contenders. Indian Blessing will definitely go off as the favorite. And for good reason. Since her connections committed her to sprinting, she has been 3-for-3 in two Grade 1s and a Grade 2, has won by a combined 18.5 lengths and has recorded Beyer Speed Figures of 109, 110 and 110. Oh, early this year she set the Santa Anita track record at 6.5 Furlongs- regardless of gender. As impressive a resume as that is, other horses figure to contest her.
Namely, Ventura and Zaftig. Ventura is owned by Juddmonte Farms, trained by Bobby Frankel and is a Grade 1-winning turf miler. So Friday's race will be scaling back her favorite distance by a furlong, and switching from turf to synthetic. If her talent is able to translate equally from grass miles to 7 furlongs on the dirt she ought to be in this race to the wire. That "if" however, is a rather formidable one. Zaftig is a middle distance ace, coming off impressive Grade 3 and Grade 1 wins over 7F and a mile, respectively. In her last out race at a mile, she defeated the aforementioned/highly praised Indian Blessing by 4.5 lengths in the Grade 1 Acorn. She's the last horse to have beaten Indian Blessing, and earned a Beyer of 113 while doing so, which is 3 points higher than Indian Blessing's career high. Since that race, Indian Blessing has shortened her distance to sprints, and is 3-for-3 as mentioned above. Whereas in that same timespan, Zaftig has not raced. So the question then, is whether the change in distance, and sprint-experience of Indian Blessing will be enough to reverse the results of their last encounter. However that isn't the only question, there are still a few x-factors left to uncover.
Dearest Tickski has all the trappings (what is a trapping, by the way?) of a very solid Grade 1, synthetic surface 7 Furlong sprinter. She has even won a Grade 1 over the Santa Anita surface at this distance, but I'm not sure what to do with her. From a Beyer standpoint, she's a notch or two below the top 3 in this race, and her running style is a concern. I may be taking to heart too much what I read earlier about Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface not rewarding front-runners, but that is a major concern here for this one-run style filly. She's talented, she's accomplished, etc. But I can't be sold on a one-run style of sprinter in this field. Of course, if she does win I'll immediately say "I knew she had a chance...". The X-iest (I'm just assuming that's a word) Factor is a Chilean invader named, not coincidentally, Lady Sprinter. She's 8-for-8 in Chilean dirt sprints and is a Grade 1 winner. Her recent workouts at Santa Anita have been solid, but not eye-popping, but if she gets a few breaks and runs her race she could certainly hit the board here. Lastly, is the Irish horse Psalm who won her last race in a Grade 3 race in Ireland by 8 lengths against the boys in a 7F grass sprint. That is clearly the standout race of her career, but much like Ventura, if her grass talent can translate directly into synthetic talent, she has every right to be among the leaders heading for home.
There are still other horses in this race that are receiving a fair amount of attention, that I feel are over matched. The speedester Indyanne will undoubtedly get some respect at the window, but she's ever gone past 6F, never raced in a Grade 2 or Grade 3, and has yet to prove that she'll enjoy the added distance of Friday's race. Intagaroo is also a talented filly, who has won at 7F, and has even won three Grade 1s at this distance. What I don't like about her is that she has raced 11 of her 13 races on synthetic and her two highest Beyer Speed Figures have occurred on the two races she raced on dirt. Talented horse, but tough to like given Santa Anita's surface in this company.
So what will happen here? I don't really know, but I would suggest that this race would be a great opportunity to "go shopping" and try a bunch of different combinations, because this race has a lot of uncertainty, and crazy things can happen in a BC Sprint. It's tough to be certain about a sprint race before knowing the post positions, and everyone's last works, But I'll make do with the info I have.
1. Zaftig- I think if everyone runs to their ability, she'll win. I like her late-running style, not only because of the surface, but because I think this race will have a lot of front-end traffic, and I wouldn't be surprised if Indian Blessing is part of that and is possibly weakened as a result.
2. Intagaroo- I want to have an original pick at some point and not just regurgitate the three favorites everytime. What I like about her is that she still finishes well in races were not everything goes her way, and won't be daunted by this large field. She has ran past tired horses in traffic before and ought to be running late. She's worth a shot at the price she'll be at.
3. Indian Blessing- She's too talented for me to exclude from the top 3.
For the latest on this race check this out.
(pictured is 2004 and 2006 BC F&M Turf Champion, Ouija Board)
By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com
I checked out a few of the races and have some insights to provide.
Firstly, I'm not sure that I'll provide analysis for every race, especially on Friday's card. With all the new races being added to the Breeder's Cup (especially on Friday's card), I feel that the talent pool is watered down and fewer certainties emerge as a result. That's not to say that there isn't still a lot of money to be made on those races, but I just can't get as excited for those races, so I'll handicap them if I have time leftover after handicapping the races I actually care about. That being said, let's get it on.
The Breeder's Cup Fillies and Mares Turf
This race is a 1.25 miles on the Turf (as the name implies). The last 6 winning Beyer Speed Figures for this race, starting with last year are: 105, 108, 108, 108, 109 and 109. So you can see what caliber of Filly or Mare it takes to win this race- a very, very special one. In fact, in the 10 runnings of this race, the lowest winning Beyer was 105, so keep that in mind while you handicap the race.
This race really hinges upon weather European superhorse Goldikova will enter this race or opt for the Breeders' Cup Mile against the boys. If she does enter this race, she will tower of this field and be extremely difficult to beat. I handicapped this race assuming that she would not enter this race, but if she is in the race, I would pick her to win.
What I noticed initially about this race is how few horses had won a race at this distance. The Eurotrash horses are all very talented, but have had the bulk of their success at one mile. I would certainly entertain the argument that Halfway to Heaven could be the most talented horse in this race, the distance remains a question. That's like saying. Whereas her Eurotrash rival, Folk Opera, appears to be less talented, she is 3-for-3 at this distance. Those three races were of lesser quality than Halfway to Heaven's 1-mile long races, so it's a matter of how you value them. Would you rather bet on Usain Bolt in the 400 meters, or the US Champion 400 meter runner? Bolt is more talented, but not tested at that distance.
For the Americans, Wait a While is my clear favorite. She is 3-for-3 on Santa Anita's turf course, and is 3-for-4 at this distance. Most importantly- she has won at this distance at Santa Anita twice in two attempts- both Grade 1 races, including her last race out where she held off a very game Vacare, by 3/4 of a length. Furthering my case for Wait a While, her highest Beyer figure came at Santa Anita at this distance. So you get the feeling she'll be at her favorite track and distance on Friday.
Mauralakana is also a very likable horse. She has won a Grade 1 and Grade 2 at this distance, and is as consistent as any horse in this field- of her 7 starts this year she has 5 wins and 2 seconds. Other notable horses are and Forever Together and Dynaforce. Dynaforce who beat Mauralakana last time out, appears to have the talent to win this race if she fires her best effort, but with only 1 win in 4 attempts this year, I don't find myself salivating over her chances to win. I feel similarly about Forever Together, she's unquestionably talented, but I think this distance is a bit too long for her, and this will be a tough spot to try and win a race that isn't your best fit. Every horse I mentioned, are worthy of inclusion in your exotics, but my top three are the following (again, this is assuming Goldikova is NOT in this race).
1. Wait a While- She's the only horse who will be at her favorite track AND distance today, and she is certainly has enough talent to win here.
2. Halfway to Heaven (Ire)- This horse is dripping with talent and class and has shown an abundance of grit in all of her wins. While this is her first race in North America, and only her second race at this distance, I think she has the experience and talent to make up for any discomfort she may have.
3. Folk Opera (Ire)- I had a difficult time choosing between her or Mauralakana for this spot, but ended up on her due to her being 3-for-3 at this distance, and having a very sharp race last time out in her North American debut. She'll have to be sharp to hit the board on Friday, but the Godolphin Stable doesn't waste their time shipping horses that are not sharp.
4. Mauralakana- She has the talent to win, but I'm not crazy about her last race where she got a poor trip in a field of only 5 as the heavy favorite, and was beaten by 4 lengths to Dynaforce, and barely held on for third against fellow entrant in this race (who recently scratched from this race), the considerably less-talented Communique. She has the look of a top-tier Grade 2 horse, and a second tier Grade 1 horse.
For the latest information on this race click here.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com
With the 2008 Breeders' Cup starting up this Friday at Santa Anita, I began my research last night and will continue it until the final race on Saturday. If you aren't a horse racing fan, you can stop reading now because everything I write will most likely be long-winded (as usual) and I don't feel like taking the time to explain all the jargon I'm using. Sorry.
The biggest question looming over the entire Breeders' Cup this year is how to handicap the "dirt" races, since this is being held over a synthetic track. Specifically the brand of synthetic used at Santa Anita is called Pro-Ride. The Daily Racing Form Official Breeders' Cup 2008 edition has a great article by Brad Free that provides a lot of insight about this new surface, how it compares to the old Santa Anita Dirt, and track biases observed so far. The tidbits I found the most useful were:
- "Favorites still win 28% of the time"
- "The most significant (speed trend) is that contested speed is in trouble, and lone speed is not as advantageous as it is on dirt."
- "Only 4 of the first 38 races at six furlongs were won gate-to-wire. And when two speed horses hook up, the outcome is predictible. Contested speed on Pro-Ride leads to certain defeat"
- Jockey Joe Talamo said "If you get out on the lead, walk the dog, you've got a real good shot, but if you go :21, :44, you're done."
- "Only 5 of the 38 races this meet at six furlongs were won from more than six lengths off the pace"
- "...most sprint winners were positioned just off the pace..."
- "Post position is always a factor. Posts 1 and 2 accounted for just 3 wins from 76 starters at six furlongs. It does not improve at 6.5 furlongs, or seven. Combined, the three distances have produced only 7 wins from 126 starters (5.5%) out of posts 1 and 2. To win from the inside, a sprinter must be good, or lucky"
- "Only 4 of the first 37 routes were won by the pacesetter."
So what to make of all of that is really anyone's guess. While Santa Anita offers outstanding horse racing, each of the fields for the Breeder's Cup will be bursting with world-class talent, no one should be shocked if that data is not compromised on Saturday. With all of the talent racing next weekend, they are surely capable of overcoming any track biases.
The good news is that the turf races are still the same old turf races they have always been. While Breeders' Cup grass races have undoubtedly been dominated by European horses, American horses have had success as well. What I have found is that ANY European horse can win on the grass here, but only the top one or two Americans in each grass are capable of winning. In other words, when American horses have won on the grass, it's been the likes of Kip Deville, or English Channel- the cream of the American Turf crop. While the occasional Singletary or Better Talk Now have also squeeked out BC Wins, American grass upsets are very rare, compared to European grass upsets.
After the prelinary thumbing through of the Form, it looks the only two cinches I can find are Zenyatta in the Ladies Classic (formerly known as The Distaff), and Indian Blessing in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Curlin is one step below "cinch" status in the Classic, and if Goldikova does run in the Filly and Mare Turf (her first preference is the BC Mile against the boys) she would also be a lock to win that race.
Other recommended links are the DRF's BC page here, The Bloodhorse.com and the two-part series on the bloodhorse.com featured here and here, respectively.