(Ed. note: My apologies to anyone who suffered through the previous entry.  It was only supposed to be captured in "draft" form for later revisiting and rewriting, not published.)

More than most this past Saturday, I had only a passing interest in the Florida Derby, choosing instead to concentrate exclusively on the Dubai World Cup.  Suffice to say, it was a good decision.

The one Florida Derby horse whose tapes I revisited was Big Brown, and they were even more impressive than when I saw them live.  Still, the idea that a 3YO with only two races in late March being mentally prepared five weeks later to handle the almost 90-minute pre-race madness of a Kentucky Derby, and physically capable of dealing with the chaos of a 20-horse field, struck me as all-but-impossible.  As much as any single factor, I based that assumption on last year, and Curlin.

My brother spent a great deal of time around Curlin in the days leading-up to the Derby, and kept me appraised daily of his progress.  I doubt a horse as inexperienced as Curlin coming into America's greatest race ever was better prepared, nor more capably handled, than Curlin.  And yet, his inexperience fully was on display on Derby day, and clearly was his undoing.

Whether Big Brown fares any better remains to be seen, but I believe his prospects for doing so are far better than Curlin's for one critical reason: his extraordinary natural speed, something Curlin only began learning how to harness and apply as a 4YO.  Now that he has ... now that he's matured from a one-run plodder to an all-run behemoth ... he is without peer on the racing planet, and barring injury will remain that way until the day they remove his bridle for the last time.

As much as I like Pyro and as impressed as I have been, Pyro has never stepped foot in the state of Florida.  Never.  The Big Brown Boy is my home state champion, and given how much he reminds me to date of another Florida Derby winner whose likeness I thought I never again would see in my lifetime, I'd be lying if I didn't admit he's already starting to tug at my heart strings.  Still, the Derby is five weeks away, and a lot can happen in this sport in five weeks.  In the meantime, there are a couple of myths running rampant on the site about this past Saturday that need to be addressed.

The first is this notion that Big Brown was "very green," an utterly preposterous assertion.  Mindful that I didn't bet a dime on him, nor even had a rooting interest in his welfare, here's what I saw:

I saw him break from the gate like a shot, and get immediately into the race, and into the bridle.  I saw him make-up the stagger before the first turn without seriously impeding any of the three horses to his inside.  Once clear, I saw him rate beautifully and well within himself on a long rein, totally absent the slightest hint of rankness or impatience so common in inexperienced horses.  Coming out of the straight, I saw him change leads on a dime - like a 7YO - completely on his own.  Through the lane, I saw him begin to drift, something perfectly natural for any horse who already had run as fast as he had run, never mind one with his limited experience.  Most important, when Desormeaux "cued him" with the left rein to straighten, he did so immediately and without jumping back to his left lead, something even seasoned race horses with 30 races often will do when given this prompt by a rider, then finished straight as a string and still full of run. 

Mindful of the recent standard for "very greeness" in highly regarded Derby prospects, anyone who thinks what he saw this past Saturday in Big Brown was reminiscent of Nobiz Like Shobiz either has an horrendous memory, or simply doesn't know enough about young horses to be making such claims.

The other myth surrounds Big Brown's "brittle feet."  Here's a news flash: ALL young horses have brittle feet; and at 39 months, they're all still growing and maturing.  His problems have been limited exclusively to the stratum externum - the hoof wall - as opposed to the far more serious stratums medium and internum.  By analogy, think of the stratums medium and internum as ALL THE STUFF inside your own foot - bones, tissue, blood vessels, cartilage, etc. -- and the externun as your toe nails.  Would a friggen' in-grown toe nail stop you from going to the Kentucky Derby?  Because that's about how much chance his "brittle feet" will keep Big Brown from running in the Kentucky Derby.

Finally, like Brandon I have a bigger problem with Joe Kristufek's blog than its mélange of misinformation and absence of substance.  I was furious when I read it, and still am.  Like everyone else, I have suffered the recent pangs of this sport I love, and been miffed by the continuum of misfortune that has dogged it.  In my lifetime I can't remember the sport being in more dire straights, nor more desperately in need of any piece of good news ... any shot in the arm ... anything about which to get excited and positive.  And lo and behold out of the blue comes this beast of a young horse who scoffs in the face of an 0-for-28 statistic and runs a race so electrifying and so jaw-dropping that even grizzled old veterans like me can't find another in recent memory with which to compare it, and what does Joey the K do?  He dons his Dr. Jack Kevorkian hat and uses his influential media pulpit to construe a bunch of abject garbage to demean and belittle the horse and his effort for no reason other than to be different, and get noticed.

I swear to God I just don't get it.




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Among the many races I have saved in archive are all of Barbaro's victories.  After the Florida Derby today, I replayed Barbaro's Florida Derby (won from the 10 post), and it was scary.  See that photo in the corner?  That's Barbaro on the farm on the Saturday before his ill-fated Preakness.  I love that photo mainly for the way it captures Barbaro's extraordinary girth and flawless confirmation.  He truly was a man against boys. 

Well, guess what?  So is this Big Brown beast!  He's bigger than Curlin.  Curlin ... today!  And like Barbaro, he only figures to be bigger and stronger the next time we see him.  And the time after that.

I'm not jumping on any Big Brown bandwagons just yet.  He's still way too lightly raced and has too many nagging foot problems to start cannonizing.  What I am saying is this: if there's such a thing as "the intimidation factor" among young horses -- and I absolutely believe there is, and was with Barbaro -- this guy's gonna scare the bejesus out of all of 'em.

Holy s**t!


Postscript:  Listen, next time one of yawl gets on here and absolutely, positively guarantees that a certain horse CANNOT win, make it a 50-1 shot, willya?  FTR, Charm's Big Brown NO WAY today was the 17th straight winner!

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Phew, what a day! Yawl know the expression, "I'd rather be lucky than good any day?"  I used up 10 years worth of luck in a single day!  And ran the card after the 1st in the process.  Every P3, but only because of some ridiculous good fortune, and a giant heads-up from Silver Charm on Sun Classique.  There was no way I planned to use this filly until he brought her to my attention.  After watching her last tape, then realizing she was dropping a ludicrous 18 pounds off her last, I added her to every P3 ticket, the only change I made all day to my pre-race plan.  Still, the key to the whole day was Jay Peg.  I'm still shocked.  I honestly thought he'd be 10-1 at most.   So did everyone else, I'll bet, after the race.  What you might not know is that Jay Peg was one of the most talked about and anticipated horses of the entire Carnival.  One of the stars.  He was 3/5 first time out at the Carnival!  Plus, he never really ran a bad race, and kept getting stronger with every run, yet got completely ignored today.  And broke the track record, by the way, despite running the last 200 yards with a broken saddle!  How's that for getting lucky??? 

Anyway, it was a pretty phenomenal World Cup.  Some observations from the day ...

  • As successful as he has been throughout his career, Frankie Dettori has to be considered among the biggest chokers in the annals of sport. It's way beyond coincidence and bad luck how horrendously his horses perform year after year on big days, and today was no exception. I absolutely believe horses can sense a rider's nervousness, and as well their lack thereof. Their calm, relaxed confidence. Year after year, Dettori's horses bear no resemblance to their form during the Carnival, and there has to be a reason when the supposed Godolphin "second stringers" routinely outperform his first calls.
  • Speaking of gagging riders, the next time one of you SoCal guys brag about how great your jockey colony is, your tongues should fall out of your heads. Garrett Gomez rode the day like a deer in the headlights. No question his cowboy bulls**t on Barcola cost Elusive Warning the Mile, and handed it to Diamond Stripes. After that, he seemed to make every wrong move, including taking Spring House to the lead! What was that about when he could have walked out the gate, sat 3rd or 4th like the winner did, and had a ton of horse left for the stretch run. Bizarre. Gryder and Flores were worse. Benny the Bullet was HUGE for me, keying P3s in the 5th and 6th, but Idiot Proof no doubt was the better horse, and I didn't have him on a single ticket. (More uncanny dumb luck!) If you watch the replay, Idiot Proof had to run an extra 50-60 yards from the outside rail completely across the track to the inside rail, hanging on another horse the whole way. If he simply runs straight, he not only wins, he probably destroys the track record. Seriously, what was Flores thinking about? Suppose he thought he had to cross the finish line next to the mirror and the timer for it to count, cuz that's sure what it looked like to me.
  • And how about Benny? Was he a tad confused during the running, or wot? He started off on his left lead, jumped to his right at the mid point in the race, then jumped back to his left lead in deep stretch, at which point I thought I was dead. Instead, he just kept coming, stopping the clock in 1:08.70, just a few ticks off Big Jag's track record. Amazingly lucky for me!
  • All week long Sheikh MoMo has been saying that win or lose, after the World Cup Jalil would be heading to the U.S., and would remain on dirt, presumably with the Breeders' Cup Classic as his ultimate goal. It'll be interesting to see if those plans change after his dismal performance today. Like all Dettori's mounts, Jalil never lifted a hoof, and never was in the race.
  • On that note, what the heck is Curlin going to do between now and the BC Classic? I mean, there isn't a single horse in the entire handicap division who can carry his feed tub. Spring at Last? Corinthian? After Market? Chelokee? You know what would be really neat? If he just shot for the moon. For racing immortality, like I believe Barbaro would have done had he not been injured: the Arc de Triomphe! Why not? He has nothing left to prove on dirt. Besides, Smart Strike's have been awesome on the grass, and he's by a Deputy Minister mare. How's this sound. Perhaps a well deserved 90-day rest, back on track for light jogging early July, with the target a no condition allowance race at one mile on the weeds -- opening weekend of Saratoga in late July. (Can you say appearance money!!) If he flops, so what? If he loves it, there's the Arlington Million on the last weekend in August; the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on the last weekend in September; and finally back home for the BC Classic on the last weekend in October. Perfect. At that point, his bankroll will be close to $12M, and his stud fee probably $350 - $500K per live foal to start!
  • Did anyone catch the interview with Sheikh MoMo? When asked whether the World Cup purse would increase to $10M when Meydan opens in 2010, as rumored, MoMo told the stunned reporter, "probably twice that much!" Can you imagine? A $20,000,000 horse race, with $12,000,000 to the winner! I guess we can assume all the under card Gr. 1s will be $10M each! What shot does the Breeders' Cup have against that kind of competition? Those boys had better figure-out something, and figure it out quick, before the Breeders' Cup becomes an after-thought on the racing calendar.

Is this a great game, or what?  C'mon Crunch!



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Good Saturday morning, racing fans.  Does it get any better than this with the DWC for breakfast, and the Florida Derby card for dessert?

Some final thoughts and heads-up before 9:40 am first post:

  • Equibase/DRF is all screwed-up on these "Blinkers On" listings, which typically indicates an equipment change. In fact, many of these horses had "blinkers on" in their last, and run with them routinely. Pretty fundamental piece of handicapping information to f**k-up on one of the biggest days of the year, doncha think? Just pathetic ...
  • For all you dyed-in-the-wool "weight" buffs like my dear pal Jerome Pulonski, get a load of this: in the Sheema Classic, the filly Sun Classique is dropping 18 POUNDS off her last, and 17 POUNDS off her one before that! In my life, I can't recall a horse losing 1/6th of a jockey between starts!
  • After watching several hours of replays, the horse I had not seen before that blew me away most was the California BOMB Spring House. He's 2-for-2 at a mile-and-a-half with Garrett Gomez, both by open daylight, both with ease, and both coming from off the pace in races that were not particularly fast early by SoCal standards. Could be 2008's version of Spring at Last.
  • Finally, you might want to take a flyer on the 1-horse in the Arabian dirt race that precedes the main card. Rumor has it that at day break this morning in Dubai, one Butch Lear was seen driving a tractor on the Nad al Sheeba sand course, followed closely in tow by a Black Escalade driven by a bearded guy in a flowing robe with a megaphone!

Break a leg, kids!


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This is just way too good not to share. 

Earlier today, Lenny (Aparagon4U) dropped a comment in my previous piece about a 32-page publication put-out by The Racing Post (Britain's version of the DRF) back in late January previewing the 2008 Dubai Racing Carnival.  I read it back in January when it first came out, and almost didn't revisit it.  In fact, it's a far better and more informative read today now that the Carnival is over, and the big day is at hand.  A must visit for anyone looking to do serious damage tomorrow.  Here's the site: http://www.dubairacingclub.com

Click on "Carnival Supplement" on the home page.

If nothing else, when you see the astonishing difference between the way The Racing Post covers the sport for its constituents across the pond vs. the way the DRF covers it here in America, you'll begin to appreciate what a complete joke the DRF has become.


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Ed. Note:  As everyone knows, "1st blinkers" typically is a huge angle.  Rarely will a horse not improve when outfitted with the shades for the first time.  That said, there's a cardinal rule of race wagering that goes, "Be wary of equipment changes in major stakes races."  The conventional wisdom here is that major stakes are NOT the place to make radical equipment changes, and that such changes typically signal an act of desperation.  Both theories will be severely tested on Saturday in Dubai.  In my life I can't recall so many horses getting fitted with blinkers for the first time in a major international competition - 10 announced so far - and likely more to come.  Definitely an angle worth paying attention to early to see how the newly-visored horses faire.


  Race 2:  The Godolphin Mile  -  1 Mile  -  Gr. 2  -   $1M  -  16 Drawn  -  Post 9:40 am

Blackat Blackitten - Part of Godolphin 1-2 punch that appears to lay over the field.  2nd last out behind stable mate, though much more seasoned and accustomed to the chaos of a World Cup day.  Figures to be the betting favourite, and rightfully so.

Elusive Warning - Huge overlay last out at 15-1 against the 1/5 Asiatic Boy, and dusted him.  Although Post 13 appears no bargain, worth noting he broke from the 11 hole last time out with both Blackat and A-Boy to his inside, and beat them both. 

Suroor on his entry:  "Blackat has had a very fruitful Carnival and Frankie is happy to keep the ride on him. There is not much between him and Elusive Warning, but Blackat Blackitten has been going well and is tough and honest."

Golden Arrow - ¾'s of a length behind the favourite two back now gets the blinkers for Erwan Charpy and a major jock switch to Mick Kinane.

Barcola - Appears to be the clear lead in a race that except for Elusive Warning is totally void of early lick.  For those leaning his way but fearing the outside post, you might recall American Spring at Last walked to the lead in this race last year from the 12-hole, and never looked back.

Race 3:  UAE Derby  -   1 1/8 Mile  -   Gr. 2  -   $2M  -  12 Drawn  -  Post 10:15 am

Royal Vintage - Deserving favourite has done nothing wrong in two Nad tries, and is Michael du Kock's best DWC hopeBred top and bottom to relish the distance and should move way-up off last.  Drawn perfect in 8-hole in virtually paceless race, has ideal stalking style for the trip, or may even inherit lead early if no one inside goes.

Honour Devil - Other half of formidable du Kock duo was strange 2nd choice in betting last out to stable mate - something like 8/5 vs. 5/2 - despite being undefeated, and holding a victory over Royal Vintage!  Clearly the "smarts" knew which was the better horse, and RV proved it.

My Indy - Huge jockey change as McEvoy switches to Numaany & Frankie to My Indy for Godolphin.  Last out under Mac the Cowboy My Indy failed to change leads and hung like a rat with dead aim.  Sure to be bet down from 15-1 ML via Godolphin/Dettori connections, but a live play nonetheless at likely 10-1.

Cocoa Beach - Godolphin's wonder filly, and no where else to run her as there are no F&M races on the DWC card.  If you want to see just how horrendous a rider Ted Durcan is, watch her prep race on February 28th.  Durcan will be the one standing straight-up in the saddle at the quarter pole, almost like a Gaucho in one of those cheap spaghetti westerns.  Unbelievable ...

Race 4:  Golden Shaheen Sprint  -  6F  -  Gr. 1  -   $2M  -  15 Drawn  -  Post 10:55 am

Diabolical  -  His last was amazing, and amazingly easy against the best sprinters at Nad.  7 for 8 first or second at this distance, and his one "out" was a stumble at the start that almost unseated Dettori.  Won with plenty in reserve last out; comes into the race with a decided conditioning edge; is ideally drawn in 5 with the three fastest horses in the race in the 2, 3, and 4; and barring gate/traffic problems, should be perfectly positioned to sit and pounce.

Suroor on Diabolical: "His win at Nad Al Sheba and the top-class form he showed previously in America give him the right credentials for the Golden Shaheen. We were very happy with his run last time and he has done well since."

Benny the Bull - His last was the most amazing sprint race I've seen since Artax equaled Mr. Prospector's 27-year-old track record at Gulfstream in the '99 BC Sprint.  That a confirmed "deep closer" was 1.5 lengths off a :44.28 half mile was bizarre enough.  What happened after that was nothing short of eye-popping.  The question is whether that race was an anomaly or the unveiling of the new Benny the Bullet.  Assuming the field cuts-over to the inside rail as they normally do from the outside rail starting gate, typically anything outside Post 8 in the sprint has to be tons the best to win.  If he reverts to form and lags early, the best he can hope for is a late run for 3rd money.  That's the nature of the course and the extent to which closers are severely compromised in the sprint, especially those drawn wide.  If he breaks alertly and is put in the game early, it could be one of the most exciting Shaheen's in recent years, and perhaps even a new track record.

Esperamos - Strictly on PP draw, Garrett Gomez, and tactical speed.  A winner of five straight, his last two were really fast, although he beat nothing.  Best hope is to break alertly, let the speed inside go, hang right on Diabolical's saddle cloth, and move when he moves, assuming he's good enough.

Race 5:  Dubai Duty Free  -  1 1/8 M (Turf)  - Gr. 1  - $5M - 16 Drawn - Post 11:55 am

Literato - Shakiest favourite on the card without a prep at Nad, and the one horse about whom bin Suroor has been mum all week!  Still, has yet to run a bad one, easily handled Doctor Dino in last, wins on any type of ground, and at any distance from 1,200 to 2,200 meters. 

Linngari - At 121 currently the second highest rated horse on the World Cup card behind Curlin (129), was beaten a half-length in this race last year by the Japanese wonder horse Admire Moon, and was four clear of the 3rd place finisher.  (English Channel ran 12th.)  Just as last year, used the Gr. 2 Al Fahidi as a tune-up.  Unfavourable draw means he'll likely get somewhat overlooked at windows, and could be a dangerous overlay.

Jay Peg - SAF wonder horse at 3 going 6 for 8 fell on hard times last year, took some time off, and seems to be rounding back into form at just the right time.  You can forget that 30-1 ML; it's a joke.  Likely 4th or 5th choice, so do not leave-out of P3s if you're going horizontal, since that's where his value will lie.

Race 6:  Sheema Classic  -   1 ½ M (Turf) -  Gr. 1  -  $5M - 16 Drawn - Post 12:40 pm

Quijano - Had three grueling (idiotic!?!) 1.5 mile prep races at Nad in a span of five weeks last year coming into this race, all victories, and appeared to peak early, despite beaten only four lengths in this race after getting hung wide the entire race from his 12 post position draw.  Comes in this year a much fresher and more dangerous horse, draws inside to Post 2 where he can run covered-up, drops seven pounds off last, catches a weaker field than last year, clearly loves the course and distance, and figures to run huge, only that 12-1 ML - once again - is a joke.  Likely 2nd or 3rd betting choice by post, and very well could be the off-race betting favourite, so do not fail to use if going sideways.

Youzmain - Comes in off a 3rd place finish in the ARC at odds of 80-1.  Third in this race last year off a similar layoff despite major traffic problems from his 13 post, this time draws much better at five, and clearly handles the course and distance.

Oracle West - Talk about a horse for the course.  2nd in this race last year at balloons (30-1) taking advantage of an inside draw (Post 2) to get the perfect trip and just miss.  Draws 10 on Saturday, but clearly loves the course with a win, two 2nds and two 3rds in five starts, never beaten worse than 1.25 lengths.  Extremely dangerous at a nice price if he can overcome the draw and get the trip.

Viva Pataca - Raced in America under the name Comic Strip before being sold privately and moving to Japan, this guy clearly is the class of the field and a deserving favourite.  2 for 2 at the 1.5 mile distance and hard to leave-off P3 tix despite what likely will be a slightly higher price at post time than his 3-1 ML.

Race 7:  The World Cup  -   1 ¼ M  -   Gr. 1  -   $6M  -  13 Drawn  -  Post 1:30 pm

Curlin - World's highest rated horse (129) has his work cut-out from the parking lot, and a certified monster to his inside in Jalil (118+).

Jalil - $9,700,000 son of Storm Cat by the stakes winning mare Tranquility Lake has been the 2008 Carnival star with three easy wins.  Athletically long-striding colt with push button acceleration just keeps getting better and better, and may be the only 4 YO in the world right now capable of handling Curlin.

Suroor on Jalil:  "I have a lot of respect for Curlin but Jalil is an improving horse - when I saw him last year I knew that he would be better with age. He worked really brilliantly on Tuesday over five furlongs. I hope on Saturday that he improves again. His work shows that he is in excellent form."

Suroor on Happy Boy: "We haven't had any luck with Happy Boy since he joined Godolphin. He had an infection in his leg and then he has needed time and work. He was one month away from his normal routine and missed races. He worked on Monday over six furlongs - working well in 1m 12secs for six furlongs but I would be happier having another two weeks to get him ready. I hope he can run well."

Lucky Find - In my opinion, by far the more impressive to date of the two du Kock entries here, the other being Asiatic Boy, who figures to get pounded at the windows, while this horse likely will go off 12 to 15-1.  Not out of the question to hit the winner's circle should the top two hook-up and falter late.

Whadda they say about this, a quarter, and a cup of coffee?  Spectacularly brutal card.  If you're a horse player and don't love this action, you got no soul!

Octave the Rave

PostscriptIf you ran the Breeders' Cup and 86 of the world's best horses and their owners and trainers all were gathered under one roof on the same day, where would you be on Saturday?  I don't know this with any certainty, but I'd bet a dollar to a donut that not a single member of the Breeders' Cup Committee is in Dubai right now.  If you think about that clearly, you'll begin to understand why ours is a sport run by nitwits, and why the Breeders' Cup has sunk to the depths it has.



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This Saturday marks the 13th renewal of what arguably has become the greatest day of racing in our sport: the Dubai World Cup.  On talent, the DWC makes last year's Breeders' Cup field look like a Tuesday card at Tampa Bay.  On mutual payouts, the DWC typically makes the BC look like a Saturday afternoon at Bay Meadows.

If you have not been following the Dubai Racing Festival and want to begin the catch-up process, all Carnival races are available for review in the video library @ Twinspires.com.  The PPs came out last night on Brisnet.  I suggest you start now.  With 87 horses pre-entered in just six races for an average field size of 14.5 horses, it simply doesn't get any better than this as a gambling vehicle in our sport.

There's another reason why you might want to take some extra time studying-up for the Cup: the typical bone-headed American racing fan!  That description perfectly mirrors my racing buddies each year who routinely ignore the Dubai Racing Festival in favor of FG, Gulfstream, and Aqueduct, then suddenly get psyched out of their gourds in the days and hours leading-up to the event.  Sound familiar?  Despite the fact they are utterly clueless v. the local Nad horses, trainers, track proclivities, etc., they still load-up at the windows as if it was the Breeders' Cup.

Can you imagine what an advantage it will be on Saturday for anyone who has followed the Carnival to be playing against a largely clueless American audience?  The only other day in the sport of horse racing where that occurs is Derby Day.

Following is some of what I gleaned v. this year's Racing Festival.  Hopefully, it will help get you jump-started sorting-out an extraordinarily competitive and potentially monstrous betting card:

  • Between the two, Saeed bin Suroor (Sheikh MoMo) and Michael du Kock (SAF) won nearly a fourth of all Carnival races, and more than 60 percent of all the major stakes races. Despite the fact that both will be grossly overbet at the windows on Saturday, they figure to win four of the six races, and very well could sweep all six.
  • Despite dirt and turf courses with stretch runs that make the FG look like Gulfstream Park, and that would seem the perfect venue for deep closers, that simply was not the case on either course throughout the Carnival, especially on the sand. If anything, the sand course has an overwhelming bias for close-up tracker-types, horses with enough speed to get into position early and lay just off the leader(s), much the way Curlin did in winning his prep race.
  • In years past, the European betting line (the one shown during the broadcast) and the American betting line has been different, a result of different betting pools. That also was the case throughout the Carnival, so I am assuming it will be again on Saturday. Quite often during the Carnival there were horses bet down to 8-1 locally who were 15-to-18 in our pools. Mindful of the "dumb American" syndrome on World Cup day, these are among the purest overlays in the game, and should not be overlooked.
  • It is impossible to exaggerate how bad are many of the European riders, nor how much better are the local Nad horses than our American challengers. This is a dichotomy with which you will have to deal come Saturday. For starters, only Curlin of the American contingent will have had a prep race over this course in 2008, while many of the Nad horses had prep races every week. That includes horses running one-and-a-quarter mile prep races every week! On conditioning alone, the local horses tower over ours, never mind that most of the American horses will be running without Lasix and under the lights for the first time. That said, a Garrett Gomez or an Edgar Prado IMO is worth 1-3 lengths over a Tag O'Shea or Ted Duncan-type, with all their flopping around and butt-bouncing through the lane. The most solid, most American-like foreign riders are Frankie Dettori, Mick Kinane, and Take of Japan. After that, they fall-off the world.
  • Since 2000, all but one DWC Golden Shaheen Sprint has been won by an American horse, despite the fact that the race is run on a straight-away, something we never do here in America. Older American horses, at that -- grizzled, hard knocking types like Big Jag (7), Caller One (5), Our New Recruit (5), and Kelly's Landing (6). Moreover, American horses thoroughly have dominated this race over the years, more often than not finishing 1, 2, 3. There's a perfectly reasonable explanation for America's dominance in this race: despite the straight-away, these grizzled old veterans have learned to changed leads when they get tired, whereas the Euros typically run the entire race on their left lead. The result is that while the Euros are staggering during the final furlong, our boys all are accelerating thru the lane. To see this dichotomy in real time, you need only peruse Diabolical's March 6th prep race. Despite being in the 1-hole, the race was run on the outside fence (!!), meaning Diabolical, in fact, was 16-wide in the race. Nevertheless, with a furlong to go, Diabolical breezed over to his right lead without being asked and cruised to a 5-length win, while his inside early Euro leaders all were staggering late. This might be the best betting race on the card now that Benny the Bullet and Idiot Proof got severely compromised on the draw.
    Heck they're all great betting races ...


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The only thing horse racing shares in common these days with other major sports is parity, and for the same reason: dilution.   There are more venues, more racing dates to fill, and consequently more mediocre horses today than ever - horses that 20 years ago never would have seen the inside of a starting gate.  As a result, the game has become more competitive and difficult to figure-out than at any time in recent memory, and only figures to continue on that path. 

More than ever, knowledge is power, which brings me to our resident young Masters Brandon, Robert, and Michael. 

Seems a couple of our boyz got lockjaw over the weekend v. my query.  Brandon wrote to say he was on vacation and couldn't respond!  Robert posted a full page blog, yet ignored my request.  Only Lenny (Aparagon4U) and Michael (Wickedstyle) had the nads to step-up to the plate.   When you see how rooted in mundanity was their analysis, doubtless it will reinforce in spades a truism on which I have harped incessantly on here, namely:  there is NO substitute for experience.

To refresh, here was the premise:

1)  Subject horse is making his 3rd lifetime start.  His first two starts were at the bottom of the claiming ladder ... say $12,500 at Fair Grounds.  In February - his debut - he got some play at the windows, going off 12-1 in a field of 12, ran 8th by 11 lengths, w/ a BSF of 42.  In early March, he ran 2nd beaten 3 lengths at the same level at 42-1, with a BSF of 55.  Today, he moves up to the $20,000 maiden claiming level.  His trainer has started a total of 54 horses for the year, and has a winning percentage of nine percent.

2)  Same horse, same running lines, only this time the horse debuted in January, came back two weeks later in early February, and moves-up today off a 6-week break for a trainer who has started 694 horses YTD, with a winning percentage of 19 percent.

Michael's analysis was all over the board, but in the end he made little distinction between the two horses, which is to say "3rd or 4th in his tris and supers!"

Here was 27-year-old Lenny's conclusion:

"I would never back the second horse. The first horse could be played, but only if it offered good value."

(For entire, unedited comments: http://horseplayerdaily.21publish.com/OCTAVE-the-RAVE/archive/2008/03/21/cowboy-up--boyz.htm#comments)

Re Lenny's conclusion, in fact the exact, polar opposite is true: the first horse can never be played, while the second horse can never be passed.  For the MIA JNs who had no clue, and for Lenny and Michael who at least had the nads, here's why.


If at work tomorrow your boss informed you he was cutting your paycheck by 10 percent, you'd be pretty upset, would you not?  Based on the number of starts (54) in Hypothesis #1, you reasonably can deduce that the trainer in Hypothesis #1 has between 8 and 12 horses in his public stable.  Using the mean of 10, whether said trainer is making $40-a-day ($1,200/month) or $75-a-day ($2,250/month) for training this horse, he represents 10 percent of said trainer's FIXED INCOME! 

The move UP the maiden claiming ladder simply is this trainer's way of limiting the possibility that he will lose said horse via the claim box, and lose the income he is deriving from having him in the barn.  The further up the claiming ladder such a trainer moves such a horse, the less likely becomes that scenario.  In this case, it's a double move up - from $12.5K to $20K - clearly a spot where said horse will never get claimed.  And what does your racing acumen tell you about horses running in conditions where they don't belong?  That they not only rarely win, more often than not they get completely embarrassed. 

As a general rule, any horse moving UP the maiden claiming ladder should be your first toss, especially ... especially ... the type shown in this example.  You could never bet this rat, under any circumstances, not even with Monopoly money, and the reason is much as Michael correctly noted: if the horse couldn't win for $12.5K, what the heck could've happened in three short weeks to make him suddenly capable of beating horses two levels higher?

More to the point, fundamentally sound, successful trainers DO NOT make this precautionary, protective move.  Instead, they put a maiden where they think he best belongs to start his career, then continue to move the horse either LATERALLY or DOWN the claiming ladder until he wins, or they lose him first.  That, folks, is Rule #1 in the claiming game, and if you don't know at least that much, you really need to get cracking on your knowledge base, or quickly find another avocation before you go broke.

Are there exceptions to this rule?  You bet, and Hypothesis #2 is a classic example, and one you would be well advised to heed. 

By mid-March of any year, there are only a handful of trainers with 694 starts and 20% win percentages.  Their names are Asmussen, Lake, Amoss, and Autry, guys who routinely dominate the claiming game year after year.  For such men, optimizing stall space is their driving, thriving, all-consuming mandate.  For example, if you own a $25K claimer and want one of these guys to takeover his training - and you aren't already a client - they first will have an Assistant peruse the horse's PPs.  If the Assistant gives the thumbs-up, said trainer typically will insist upon a private screening.  A workout, typically at a time and place of his instruction.  Only after watching the horse work will he inform you whether he'll take your horse, and more often than not, the answer will be "No."  The reason is because to take your horse, he must call one of his current owners and tell him to come remove one of his horses, something no trainer likes to do, even if it means replacing a $12.5 maiden rat with a hard-knocking $25K claimer.

The mere fact that this horse is still in the barn of such a trainer is reason enough to pay attention, never mind after a 6-week break.  And no, Lenny, "injured" horses do not return to the races in six weeks!  Instead, what this break signals is something minor.  Perhaps a lung infection, treatable with antibiotics; or a breathing obstruction, remedied arthroscopically; or any number of subtle nuances.  (My buddy once claimed a horse who was found to have dried mud caked in his penis.  Try running to the corner grocery with that little handicap!)

Given this premium on stall space, and the fact that such a trainer would take the time with this cheap a horse, never mind convince his owner to spend the extra money, means he has some promise, and is a "must use" upon his return.  When one of these trainers moves such a horse UP the claiming ladder off a break, especially an appreciable move up as is the case in Hypothesis #2, church bells should go off in your head.

To see this rare dichotomy at its most outrageous, you need only go back to February 23, 2008, Gulfstream Park, Race #1, and a horse named Call Tiger.  When Manny Azpurua got out of the training business, Call Tiger wound-up with Scott Lake.  He hadn't run since September, 2007, his initial outing for Azpurua, who chose to begin his career at the $16K claiming level at Calder, where he ran 6th in a field of 11 at 26-1.  Five months later in his first start for Scott Lake, and the second of his career, Lake moved him up to the $57.5K claiming level!  Got that?  From $16K to $57.5K!  At Gulfstream, no less!  On the surface, does this not appear to be the nitwit move of all time?  Only, is there anyone of sound mind who thinks Scott Lake is a nitwit?

Church bells!

Despite two scratches that reduced the field to six and no doubt Lake and his crew betting their lungs, Call Tiger still paid $40 to win and $16 to place.

Again, this is not rocket science.  This is Handicapping 101 basic stuff about which both Lenny and Michael were unaware, and the other boyz apparently were clueless to the point of collective silence. 

And, as well, stuff I'm absolutely certain my colleagues like JP, Ghost, Charm, Edmund, Lady H., The Judge, et al ... those who have put-in the decades of time and study ... knew like the back of their hands ... because, as I have said so often: there's no substitute for experience!


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