By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com, @AndyDisco on Twitter
Update after seeing the Belmont: Whoops.
After looking at the race for the first time I thought that this would be a Belmont that we forget in five years. Ideally, you look at a Grade 1 race and think, "Wow! All of these horses are outstanding, I can't envision a scenario in which any of these 4 favorites lose. I can't believe at least 3 of them will go home a loser." but other times you think the opposite- "Wow. One of these horses gets to exit the track tomorrow as a Grade 1 winner? hmmmm. Well, tt's gotta be somebody I guess, lets see here.....". Saturday's Belmont Stakes falls under the latter heading.
When I see a race like that, I play contrarian and look for a horse that doesn't deserve to win to defeat another horse that doesn't deserve to win, but that has lower odds. Great horses rarely get beat- Curlin, Zenyatta, Rachel, Ghostzapper, Smaryt Jones, Azeri, etc. They are talented, run to form, and their best is nearly always enough to win AND they usually have their best.
Our Belmont has no such horse. It's easy to think Ice Box is THE MAN because he has run two good races. Looking only towards this race, he appears as a looming, scary figure. But a step back reveals that this monster isn't all that scary. This is a Grade 1 race, yet it took him 4 races to break his maiden. After that his handlers said, "whew. thank god he broke his maiden (at the Meadowlands, no less). He can't be that awesome, lets just put him in an Allowance race for his next one." they did and did he go off as the favorite in that modest race? Nope. He went off at 6-1 and to his credit, he won. The victory gave his handlers the confidence to enter him in a Grade 2- where he finished 5th of 10, beaten by 12 lengths.
This is the scary, bully on the block? Really? Despite my Devil's Advocacy there, I think he is the most logical win contender, but he is just the best of what's in front of us. None of these horses are historically good, and none of them have established a history of running to form.
In other words, there are few surprises when AWESOME horses run. Surprises happen in the lesser ranks, and I think this race falls under that heading. I am looking for a surprise. When a huge shocker happens on the track, usually my next thought is not, "I am shocked that unbeatable horse has been vanquished." It's, "I knew that dog horse wouldn't run to his 'form', he's just a two hit wonder."
I am expecting to say that at the end of the Belmont. Now the challenge is to find 1) the good horse(s) that disappointed, 2) the good horses that were legit favorites and finished in the money, and 3) the longshot/dog that was running well at the right time, ran the race of his life, and knocked off an overrated horse. In South America they refer to this kind of horse as "la Sopresa"- "the Suprise". That's not an easy task, but since it pays to try, I'll do just that.
This is the only race all year I handicap for breeding and distance. The first thing I do when I look at the race, my first round of cuts, if you will, is to eliminate the horses who can't get the distance, and note the horses that might love the distance. The race that inspired this modus operandi was of course Birdstone beating Smarty Jones.
First things is first for me: does AP Indy have any progeny in this race? Yes. 3 grandsons- Ice Box, First Dude and Fly Down. The three favorites. If my fat neighbor were the grandson of AP Indy, he'd go off at 25-1 in the Belmont. Point being that they lose value for being related to AP Indy. Sure, it's for good reason, but we're just looking for value here.
After looking at the first horses (numerically in Post Position order I think, respectively): Get out of the race, get out of the race, get out of the race, you're likely a last-out one-hit wonder and you lost on that one hit. That = bad value Thanks for comingout top 4."
Bring us the to 5, Fly Down. That name makes me think it means "zipper down" and I'll be honest, I dislike the mental imagery. Anyway, he seems legit enough- his grandfather is AP Indy who won this race in 1992 and sired Jazil and Rags to Riches, two recent Belmont winners. His dad was awesome, and his connections appeared to have always pointed him to route races. His recent bullet work was noted as well. All positives. We'll come back to him.
6- Ice Box. I think he's the legit favorite, but in a race like today's, that is all relative. He's 3-1, and does appear to the best horse, but he is still highly beatable. If he loses by 14 lengths tomorrow you won't think, "What??? No way! How??" You'll throw up your hands and say, "Yeah, I guess he just strung together two good races and those were his career best. We saw him fall back to Earth today.". I try not to leverage too heavily on those horses, but, conversely, if he does win I'll think. "Wow, good for him. I guess he was legit." We'll come back to him either way and decide if he's worth 3-1.
7- I'll put my cards on the table here- I can't wait to bet against him and I hope he goes off as the 3rd or 4th choice.
8- Game on Dude (I'd call him Gay Mon Dude, if I were trackside with my friends). Not by AP Indy, but as a half-brother to Ghostzapper, his pedigree gets my attention/respect. It looks like his connections have always thought of him as a router. Reading his 4 race history from his first race to his last I'm thinking, "Sucked, won a maiden, got humilated after his owners got excited and thrust him in a Gr. 1." then it takes a turn to, "sold and trained by Baffert ok. Baffert (or his veternarian) worked his magic and he improved by 30 BSF points in his second race. Interesting."He didn't beat the world in his last race, but he beat every horse he faced, won comfortably and at a distance and on dirt. This could be the beginning of a trend.". His works show 2 bullet workouts at Santa Anita over Synthetic which intrigues me before the Belmont, even if he was ridden Handily and wasn't merely Breezing. From what I gather about Poly is that it is a bit more tiring than dirt, so his bulleted works on a tiring surface may make for a verrryyy interrressssssting prep before the longest race of his life. We'll come back to him.
9- Stately Victor. I get that he's a wiseguy's longshot, but I'm betting against him. I think he's a BSF two-hit wonder and won't be in the mix tomorrow. He's had plenty of chances to show us he's a dominant horse, and he only showed that a half of a time, sauntering past horses that were running backward in a questionably-stocked race. If he wins I won't have a seizure, but I can't bet on everyone. next.
10- Stay Put. Steve Haskin is high on this guy, and he does appear to offer good value at the very least. Getting the distance shouldn't be as much of a problem for him as it is for others- his grandfather is Unbridled, and it looks like he's always been a router. He is one of three horses whose last 3 races have all produced an 89 Beyer or higher (Uptowncharlybrown and Drosslemeyer are the other two. That could be an interesting angle for a huge Trifecta box). So I appreciate his consistency in this race of horses who are either two hit wonders, or just starting a really nice stretch of races. While he doesn't win a whole hell of a lot, I do like how he always improves his position from his last call to his finish. My guess is that he won't win or vie for the Exacta, but he's type of horse you leave out in your tri and after getting the exacta you look up and think, "Ohhh, who got third? Was it my horse??? What? it was Stay Put?? How'd he clunk up? *checks Racing Form* Oh. Well, yeah I guess that isn't shocking. I just missed him." But since we're looking for value here, we'll come back to him.
11- is he Da' Tara nouveau? Can he steal this race on the lead? Gotta remember he is by AP Indy, afterall. Those are positives. What else is there to like about him? Oh right, very little. What can you really COUNT on him for? If we average his last 4 Beyers to try to estimate how he might run on Saturday- we see the average is 91.25, great. So we'll pencil him in to run a 91.25 Beyer which should put him.......out of the money. So this horse is 7-2 and has reason to run a 91.25 Beyer is a Grade 1. Where I come from that is called bad value. This is the kind of horse you bet on and think, "Well I can't leave him out, he's the second favorite!" and not, "Sweet, this horse has it locked up.". We aren't betting those kind of horses for this edition of the Belmont. But...he is the only horse we are POSITIVE will have the lead at some point, so we will reluctantly take another look at him.
12- I'm looking for him on VH1's new show, "So your career best BSF is a 94 (and 2nd best is 89) and you think you can win a Triple Crown Race, even though your last 6 races haven't been on dirt?". What was your favorite of his wins in 2010? Well, with all of the zero wins to choose from, that question becomes rather difficult. Not my guy.
So who is left? Fly Down, Ice Box, Gay Mon Dude, Stay Put and First Dude (defensively). We could be wussies and box them all for an exacta or trifecta, but we won't just yet. We'll see how the race should shape up.
Upon further review- Stay Put is sorta hard to like in this spot. What I like most about him is that he is consistent and wins at nearly a 50% clip (he is for 2010). But, his two finishes off the board were 5th place finishes in Grade 2 races whose field had un-awesome horses. He's the weak link of our final 4, but worth including in exotics due to his consistency and his value.
What we do know is that First Dude will get sent to the lead, and then something will happen. He is talented enough to wire the field if he gets loose on the lead, so who will catch him? The three remaining horses we have all seem to know where the wire is and pass horses as they near it- that's a good sign for them, but will anyone duel with First Dude on the lead and loosen him up any for our closers? I kinda think the 2 and 3 horse might. My guess is that their owners/trainers are telling the jockey, "look, we probably can't win. we lack talent and we drew inside. IF we have any chance of winning, it will have to be a ground-saving trip near the lead. Give our horse a chance." And I think that will be enough to make sure that First Dude doesn't get away with his hair combed. He may take the lead down the homestretch for a bit, but eventually this will happen. You'll think: "Holy crap, he's still on the lead! Is he stealing this race? He's had the lead forever down the stretch. I think he did just steal the race!! Holy cow! Wait, where is the wire? Oh right this is Belmont and there is a long ways to g.....HOLY CRAP WHO ARE THESE TWO HORSES SPRINTING DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRACK??!!!! They're going to pass him? Holy crap, I forgot how long the Belmont is!!"
And that's the scenario I think will unfold. It could be 3 horses chasing him and only one passes him, or maybe all three will pass him and a few others. I just don't think he'll wire the field.
Looking at Formulator to determine which horse of the remaining three has the best closing kick was a little inconclusive, but it does look like Game On Dude is the weakest of the three. I'd say that Ice Box has the best, with Fly Down in the middle.
I will use all five of my "we'll come back to" horses in some exotics.
Our 5 horses were:
5 Fly Down
6 Ice Box
8 Game on Dude
10 Stay Put
11 First Dude
I'd do a trifecta that looks like this: 5,6/5,6,8,11/5,6,8,10,11. Since I think that will be how it shapes up.
If the 11 were better value, I'd include him on top. BUT he is the only horse that we are positive will be in the lead. Whenever that is the case I try to key on him in an exacta, so we'll hope to get some value on the back end of our:
Then I'd swing for the fences with a 8,10/5,6,8,10,11 exacta.
That's how I roll.
Friday, June 4, 2010
By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com, @AndyDisco on Twitter