Saturday, February 28, 2015

Derby Contender Update


Updated Derby Contenders

Tier 1- These are the pedigrees I like the best, in alphabetical Order.

Bolo...still waiting to see if he tries dirt.

Dortmund...always gets the job done but some stiff competition awaits him.

Far Right...but for some bad luck he might have had a string of 3...tough guy.

International Star..totally fearless..reminds me of another little guy, Carry Back.

Khozan...stretched to a mile in 2nd start against nothing to speak of..showed he could take dirt, rate and move between horses..probably Pletcher's best of the 34 he has nominated.

The Truth or Else...been on my radar for some time but have been waiting for him to wake up...finally came alive in the Southwest...super duper pedigree. Will Borel win another one?

At the moment I feel that one of these top six has the best chance to win the Derby.

Tier 2- Very good, just a notch below the best.

Bold Conquest..deserves a chance again..looked a little short in last.

Carpe Diem...waiting for next start

Competitive Edge...waiting for him also.

Itsaknockout...showed he has the talent in only his 3rd start..needs a bit more oomph.

Upstart...don't know how he got left out...had to edit him in

War Story..trying to live up to his breeding...good try against Far Right.



Tier 3- Pedigrees are good enough if an exceptional talent.

Frosted..doesn't look like he is going to outrun his pedigree..may be a cut below

J S Bach...scratched because of fever..had impressive race..wait and see.

Out Crossed Pedigrees.

Mr Z has already show he is talented and game. Out crossed horses are usually very durable so he should be a factor in all his races.

Hillbilly Royalty's Southwest race wasn't bad considering he hooked up early with Mr Z, took back and tried to come again at the end..give another try.

There are some others with nice pedigrees that I'm watching but they have to get a move on to make the derby.

Go back and read my post, "Is Breeding a Crapshoot".

Now the horses that my pedigree says won't win the derby;

American Pharoah
Bayerd
Danzig Moon
Daredevil
El Kabeir
Firing Line
Lord Nelson
Ocean Knight
Ocho Ocho Ocho
Prospect Park
The Great War
Texas Red

There may be some others that may have a better shot or be eliminated but I don't see any that I have eliminated already winning the big one.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 Derby Pedigrees



These are my early Derby contenders rated by pedigree. Some of these may not perform up to their potential until they reach the longer distances because their pedigrees suggest that they should excel at the longer distances of the Triple Crown races. A lot of horses can get as much as 9f  but it takes special horses to go beyond that. Actually, just about any horse can go 1 1/2 miles, but how fast? What I'm talking about are horses that can go the longer distances at a high rate of speed.

I kind of grade my pedigrees and use a couple of categories to show that, even though they all have classic pedigrees, some are better than others in my opinion. With over 400 horses nominated to the Derby I have only rated the ones that have shown some talent but I'm sure there may be others that will show up.

Tier 1 has the pedigrees I like best for the classic distances. In alphabetical order;

Bolo...will probably stick to turf races.
Dortmund
Far Right
International Star
Khozan

Tier 2;
Carpe Diem
Competitive Edge
Itsaknockout
War Story

Tier 3;
Frosted
J S Bach
Upstart

I also look for out crossed horses that can turn out to be really good if the cross takes. A good example was Animal Kingdom who I liked in the Derby and turned into a world class horse.
A couple of interesting crosses this year are Mr Z and Tiznow R J and I am watching them closely.
I will update the list as the season progresses.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Is Breeding a Crapshoot?



Breeding a champion has always been considered a combination of planning and good luck. The planning is comprised of doing what is considered the logical process of mating the best to the best which is what, those in a position to do so, try to do. The luck is determined by which animals in the pedigree exert the most influence on the final result.

Since most pedigrees, especially those produced by the leading breeders, contain many champions in the ancestry, how may one determine which ones will have the most say as to what kind of offspring is produced?

When a really promising youngster appears there will be a lot of writers delving into the breeding of the horse and try to assert the prime reasons why this horse is so good. They will generally give the accomplishments of the sire, dam, dam sire and various other horses in the pedigree and state that the horse can go the distance or have a lot of speed, etc. because of the influence of particular lines or ancestors.

There are some, like myself, who try to predict beforehand, which horses have the most potential to be really good. They will normally refer to the very good ones in the pedigree and say that because of these horses this or that particular foal should be really good. The problem with that is that a case can be made for an awful lot of horses that are bred every year but damned few live up to their pedigree.

For instance, there are over four hundred foals nominated to the KY Derby this year but only twenty will make it to the gate and there will only be one winner. If one looks at the pedigrees of the 400+ that are nominated, champions will be found all through these pedigrees. It would seem to be logical to assume that all those horses can't have an equal influence on the product of the mating in question. A lot of pedigree talk has been generated by the fact of the Raise A Native sire line being very successful producing Ky Derby winners. This factor should be tempered by the fact that roughly 50% of the nominees are of that line which would mean one only has about two hundred horses to choose from. Only about 25% have one of my patterns and less than that sport my two dominate Derby patterns.

I have devoted myself to the study of pedigrees for over 50 years and found a lot of unanswered questions. For instance, why is it that so many highly regarded stallions fail to produce champions like themselves? How is it that unraced mares or those that have failed to distinguish themselves on the race track are able to foal champions? If the sire is so important, as most would have you believe, why is it that in the past 75 years there have been only 4 sires that have produced more than one Ky Derby winner? And of these 4 there were two, Sir Gallahad and Bull Lea, who did it when there were less than seven thousand foals born in the year. Sixty years ago the breeding industry was dominated by the few farms that had really good horses to breed from and the owners of the top stallions were very particular as to the mares that could be serviced. The last stallion to sire two Derby winners was Maria's Mon in 2001 and 1010 and that was after a gap of 22 years following Bold Bidder who did it in 1974 and 1979.

I decided many years ago that breeding the best to the best may have been a good starting point in the beginning but when as many as 35,000 horses have been bred in a single year, although the numbers are down to about 20,000 this year, probably because of economic considerations, trying to decide what horses are going to have the most influence in a pedigree would be a monumental task considering that there are 62 horses in a 5 generation pedigree.

When I first started to study pedigrees it came to me that the study of pedigrees, as far as I could determine, wasn't researched the way most science is. I couldn't figure out how one could point to certain horses in a pedigree and say, that because of this or that particular horse, the foal should or shouldn't have any particular abilities.

It is my belief that the mares are the conduit by which the abilities of the sires are passed on to the succeeding generations. However, with so many mares being in a pedigree, how would one begin to tell which ones would pass on who's genes. As to the dams of derby winners and a lot of other great horses, there are many, many mares that were unraced or lightly raced and had done very little on the track but were able to produce great horses.

After years of study I began to notice patterns emerging from the chaos. The way the females in a pedigree are aligned with one another seems to have a huge influence on the talent of the offspring. I believe that when the mares are in proper alignment they create a free flowing conduit of the genes of the good sires in the ancestry.

I finally settled on four basic patterns that looked to produce an awful lot of very good horses. Of these four patterns there were two that were dominate and were more noticeable in Derby winners. In the last 26 years, since 1988, 14 derby winners have had one of my 2 patterns. This cuts the odds of being on the right horse considerably. And, we must also realize that, even if every horse had exactly the same pedigree, some would be better than others.

There are also the horses with no discernible patterns to consider. These are horses with a lot of random ancestors and we can find a whole bunch of these so there are bound to be some that turn out to be good. But, I find that horses with a Heinz "57" pedigree that are really good are a very small percentage of the total bred.

I also don't find it odd that of the nominees trained by Baffert and Pletcher there are an abnormal number that have pedigrees containing my two best patterns. Perhaps this is the result of very good planning on the part of those who have bred these horses

I will soon be blogging the horses that I think have the best chance to get the Derby distance and longer. I plan to resume my newsletter where I will give my pedigree picks every week for the races leading up to the Triple Crown. If interested in subscribing to the newsletter send me an e mail.
Backstretch

backstretch33@gmail.com















Saturday, November 22, 2014

Delta Jackpot 2014

Delta Jackpot

Sat.  11/22/14  R7  Delta Downs

I haven't bothered keeping up with the 2 yr old races this year because I am only interested in the Triple Crown and the races leading up to it.

Personally, I don't think these early races for 2 yr old horses have too much bearing on the TC races, mainly because of the distances that are run. It doesn't take much of a pedigree to get sprints or distances of just over a mile. It does take classical breeding to get a mile and a quarter or more however. Even though 1 1/16 miles can be handled by many horses, the ones with the really good pedigrees do seem to have an advantage. This is assuming the horse is in good form but a lot of youngsters that can get the longer distances sometimes take a little longer to develop.

There are some very sharp colts in this race but I only find a couple who may be sticking around as the distances get longer and the competition tougher. I am handicapping this race mostly by pedigree because I've found that it is the best way to nail those long shots that pop up every year.

Golden Actor is nicely bred and has patterns that indicate he should be able to get the classic distances. At this stage of the game we also have to assess the performances they put forth because they need both pedigree and talent.

Far Right has a combination of my favorite pedigree patterns and I think, although at this point it's hard to say how much class he will show, he should get better as he stretches out to the longer distances.

Mr. Z is very inbred to the Bold Ruler line and I don't think any line has produced as many Derby winners as this one. He looks to be very speedy and has run second to Carpe Diem who was the chalk in the BC Juvy. The BC was won by Texas Red who came from left field to get home first with Carpe Diem second. Mr Z was in a 3 way race for the lead on very fast fractions. They claim that the track was very quick that day so the pace wasn't all that fast, at least that's what people say, but the horses say differently. This looks to be the one to beat but will be short odds so I'll buck him.

Conquest Tsunami looks like a need to lead type and can win races that he can steal but I don't think he can get much distance.

Prime Engine has won both his races including a stretch out but his breeding tells me he will have trouble at the longer distances.

Ocho Ocho Ocho has a pedigree that is a little hard to read and could go either way. Has won both his starts and looks to be a stalker so may handle the longer routes.

1- #6  Golden Actor
2- #3  Mr. Z
3- #9  Far Right
4- #10  Ocho Ocho Ocho

Good Luck,
Backstretch

Friday, June 6, 2014

Belmont Stakes 2014

Belmont Stakes

BEL Sat. 6/7/14

Before getting to the race I'd like to say something about pedigrees and pedigree handicapping.

I read most of the articles written by turf writers and a lot of them get into pedigrees, usually after the fact. I also like to read the comments posted by the readers of the articles. I don't like to disparage the opinion of others, especially when there is no exact science to refer to as in horse racing. However, I have been into pedigrees for over fifty years and there are, believe it or not, some who swear by my method of reading pedigrees enough to pay me to check pedigrees before certain horses are purchased. I'm not here to toot my own horn but rather to say that the biggest majority of turf writers and those who make comments don't have a clue when it comes to breeding. There are pedigree consultants that know what they are doing and I can usually spot a well thought out pedigree and figure out what the breeders aim was.

In the case of California Chrome, who is attempting to win the TC, the "Experts" are crawling out of the woodwork. The first thing they do is to knock the sire because he never won anything to speak of. Next, they jump all over the dam because she was a cheap winner of one race. This crap doesn't mean a thing! They don't realize that some of the greatest horses that ever lived came out of mares that never raced or if they did, amounted to zilch on the race track. Tesio, probably the greatest breeder in history, among other greats, often bred from unraced or unproven mares. Sometimes horses were bred, not to race, but to breed.

I'd like to cite a couple of examples for you. Take the case of Swaps and Nashau who ran that famous match race. Incidentally, I was there to watch Nashua race several times and was really impressed by this beautiful horse. Oh, Nashua won the match, but there were many who said Swaps was a little off his feed at the time.

Here is a list of Nashua wins;
Futurity Stakes (1954)
Hopeful Stakes (1954)
Grand Union Hotel Stakes (1954)
Flamingo Stakes (1955)
Florida Derby (1955)
Arlington Classic (1955)
Wood Memorial Stakes (1955)
Dwyer Stakes (1955)
Jockey Club Gold Cup (1955, 1956)
Grey Lag Handicap (1956)
Monmouth Handicap (1956)
Suburban Handicap (1956)
Widener Handicap (1956)

American Classic Race wins:
Kentucky Derby 2nd (1955)
Preakness Stakes (1955)
Belmont Stakes (1955)
He ran second to Swaps in the KY Derby but took the other 2 legs of the TC.

Swaps was a CA bred horse and one of the reasons I chose these two to talk about is because at the time there was a lot written about the east coast/west coast rivalry.

Swaps also had a great racing record:

San Vicente Stakes (1955)
Santa Anita Derby (1955)
Californian Stakes (1955)
American Derby (1955)
Broward Handicap (1956)
Sunset Handicap (1956)
American Handicap (1956)
Argonaut Handicap (1956)
Hollywood Gold Cup (1956)
Washington Park Handicap (1956)

Triple Crown classic race wins:
Kentucky Derby (1955)
So, what about their record in the breeding end of it?

Swaps dam, Iron Reward, had 8 starts and never hit the board. Swaps was a pretty good sire and sired Chateaugay who won a KY derby and he also sired a great filly named Affectionally who was Champion 2 yr old and went on to win 15 graded stakes.

Nashua, although 12% of his off spring were stakes winners, really made his mark as a broodmare sire. His daughters threw many great ones including Mr Prospector. Mr Prospector, though himself a sprinter, was the start of a great line of distance champions.

Just as an aside, the mighty Secretariat was out of a mare who had 1 race and was out of the money.

So what has this to do with California Chrome? Many "Experts" say he has 2 strikes against him. One is that his sire wasn't much of a race horse and the other is that his dam was a cheap claimer that won but one race.

I have discovered over many years that there are often, what I call, fallow generations. A great horse sires a son who does nothing on the track to speak of, but then goes on to sire some really good ones. CC was sired by Lucky Pulpit who never won a major race but is the son of Pulpit who was not only a good runner, but an outstanding sire. It is my opinion that a lot of great runners become great sires because of the mares that are sent to them. But, and here is where I disagree with most pedigree experts, it is not so much the quality of the mares, which most judge by their performance on the track or if they have thrown prior high class runners, but how the mare matches up with the stallion in terms of bloodlines.

I pay attention to the sires line but not so much to the immediate sire. I give a lot of weight to the mares in the pedigree and their sire lines. There are usually a few horses in the same race with several of the same sires or sire lines represented but I look for more than one mare of the same sire line or what one might call a double dose.

The very first really great horse that I had the pleasure of seeing run was Tom Fool. He was the 2yr old champ in 1951 but was out sick for a few months as a 3 yr old but still won most of his races in 1952. As a 4 yr old he won 10 straight races. He won New Yorks Triple Crown; The Met, Suburban and Brooklyn handicaps. He was out of the money once in 30 races.

As a sire he produced Buckpasser, Tim Tam and Tompion among his 30 stakes winners. Buckpasser won 15 straight races including the 2 mile JGC. He was the leading broodmare sire for 3 years when he retired. Like his sire, he missed the TC races because of a 1/4 crack.

Tim Tam is one of my all time favorites, probably because the first $200. win bet I ever made was on him in the 1958 KY Derby which he won. He won the Preakness and finished second on 3 legs in the Belmont after which he was retired but was still the champion 3 yr old.

There are a few horses in this Belmont that have the Tom Fool line but CC is the only one with a double dose through his dam. The 4th generation dam, Numbered Account, is found twice in that generation. She set a stakes record for 5 1/2f and equaled Round Table's record for 1 1/8. As a broodmare she threw Dance Number and Private Account, the sire of Personal Ensign.

In California Chrome's pedigree, Numbered Account was bred to Northern Dancer and produced Dance Number who equaled a couple of major stakes records and set a new Beldame record for 1 1/4m. NA was also bred to Danzig, a son of Northern Dancer, and produced Polish Numbers who was much sought after as a sire having sired 35 stakes winners.

California Chrome also has a couple of mares, that are well placed in his pedigree, of the Northern Dancer/Nasrullah lines. So, in my opinion, I see no reason to feel that he has a cheap pedigree that says he has no distance ability. Not only does he have distance ability but has a running style that gives him a lot of advantage. Unless something funky happens, I think we will see a Triple Crown winner.

There are a few others in here with nice pedigrees but none of them has matched CC's racing performances.

Wicked Strong is nicely inbred to Northern Dancer and his dam sire is a Derby winner. He's another with a little Tom Fool blood through Buckpasser and Tri Jet but it's kind of far back in the pedigree. I think he can get the distance if going slow enough early but I think he will have too much ground to make up in this.

I really like the pedigree of Medal Count and think he can handle any distance. The problem here is that we don't know how he will handle the track. He didn't run all that bad in the FOY @ GP but I think he was a little closer to the pace of some speed balls than he wanted to be. The #1 post has been very good in previous Belmonts and he may have a shot in this one.

Although a NY bred, Samraat has a fairly nice pedigree and a bit of speed and could contend. He made a nice bid in the Derby but flattened out. Some improvement off that could put him in the thick of things.

I'm undecided about the pedigree of Tonalist and also concerned about his lack of foundation, having had only 4 races. I think he wired a suspect field in the Peter Pan in the slop and I also think that CC may be the real speed in this one.

Commissioner has a pedigree that could go either way but he actually lost ground to Tonalist in his last and he did nothing in the FOY where Medal Count was much more involved.

Commanding Curve Has a nice mix of Bold Ruler and Northern Dancer with a cross of Ribot on the bottom and I feel his breeding has potential. He was closing fast in the Derby from an outside post and lost a ton of ground. I also think his jock, Bridgmohan, is an excellent judge of pace and very under rated. If he can get a little closer early he may have a good chance .

I'm not too keen on Ride On Curlin's pedigree and I think he's shown his best in the Preakness which was a weaker field than this.\

I'm not impressed with General a Rod's breeding but he does have some speed and for some reason I think he is going to show big improvement off his last.

1- #2 California Chrome...he may just be sooo much better than this field.
2- #1 Medal Count...I just feel he will be around at the finish.
3- #4 Commanding Curve...some say this is a jock's race and that could help here.
4- #9 Wicked Strong...needs a good trip but I don't think he will have enough oomph.
Rounding out the super, Samraat and General a Rod.

If I go with CC on top I will have to make my bets very tight in order to get enough value to make it worthwhile so I'll put CC on top of these 5 and hope for a couple of long ones to get close.









Friday, May 2, 2014

KY Derby - 2014

Kentucky Derby- 2014

There have been 34 Derby prep races offering points which has resulted in 30 different winners. What does this tell us? It tells me that this years 3yr old crop must be very evenly matched and the winners are determined by the dynamics of each race, the condition of the horses in each race or just plain racing luck. In other words, there just doesn't seem to be any horses that are so much better than the rest that we would see a lot of multiple winners.

There are 4 horses that have won 2 of the preps and they are California Chrome, Vicar's In Trouble,Tapiture and Samraat and CC is the only one of these that I give a shot.

California Chrome looks good at first glance but I will try to beat him for a couple of reasons, not the least of which, is that he's the chalk. I don't think he's beaten any decent horses that were in top shape, he's been running on a super highway where, in his last race, every race on the day was won by a horse setting or pressing the pace, and finally, I think he may have peaked and might regress. I will use him in some saver bets but I think if he can't win he will be off the board.

Danza is the big question mark to me. His pedigree could go either way but since he has won at 9f I would have to lean toward him having distance breeding. What he did last time, coming off a 7 month layoff, going from a few sprints to a distance race and blowing them away was a dominating race. I'm concerned with his running such a big race in his first distance race and wonder if he has anything left in the tank. I had been looking all year for a horse that stood out from the rest and, even though a lot of handicappers think that CC is the one, I have my doubts about him. I think if Danza can improve off his last that he will be the class of the field. He reminds me a lot of I'll Have Another in that he has the speed to always get involved and has a nice closing kick. There's a lot of speed in this race and I feel like Bravo will get a nice rail trip and wins this going away, unless he bounces, but I'll take my chances with him.

Candy Boy has the pedigree I like best and think he was really short in his first race in 2 months. Also, he was too close to the pace in his last and that's not where he wants to be especially trying to catch a speed ball on a track totally biased toward speed. He has a little more speed than most of the closers but Stevens will have to judge his move just right. He has been working super good over the track and looks like he may take a big jump forward.

Chitu has a super nice pedigree with a good out cross. Has never run a bad race, has plenty of speed and doesn't look like he needs the lead. He also has been working nicely.

Wicked Strong looks to be really coming into his own and is bred well enough to get the distance. Reports say he hasn't looked bad in his works but the post may take him too far off the pace and he will have a lot of ground to make up.

Wildcat Red is another with a nice classic pedigree, has plenty of speed and always brings his A game to the show. May be really stubborn down the lane.

Medal Count is coming to his 3rd race in a month but he may be the type that thrives on a lot of racing. His pedigree, featuring those mares of the Ribot line, tells me that if the Pony Express had him the riders wouldn't have had to change horses very often. Has a little speed to get into the flow but the question is, how will he like the track?

1- #4  Danza
2- #18  Candy Boy
3- #13  Chitu
4-  #20  Wicked Strong
Long Shots- Wildcat Red, Medal Count, Ride On Curlin and Dance With Fate
As I said, I will user a saver on top of these with Cal. Chrome



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Arkansas Derby Sat. 4/12/14

Arkansas Derby

Sat. 4/12/14  OP  R11

There have been 31 races so far that offer Derby points and there have been 27 different winners. I'm not sure what this means as to the quality of this years crop but it looks like California Chrome is the best of them based on his performance so far.

Some trainers have taken a chance and put all their eggs in one basket and it hasn't worked so well and they have missed a chance to get to the big show. There are only three races left in which points may be picked up and two are this weekend leaving the Lexington which only offers 10 points to the winner. So, it looks like the two races today, the Blue Grass and the ARK Derby, will probably be the last chance for most. One would think this race would have a full field but there are only 9 entries which probably means a lot of trainers are no longer looking at the Derby and pointing for the Preakness.

The big question in this race is Bayern, at least in my opinion. His pedigree looks nice but I don't know if he can get the Derby distance. Baffert does so well bringing horses to Oaklawn that we can be almost sure this one will be ready for a big race and Stevens has made the trip, probably because he doesn't think Candy Boy will have enough points to make the Derby.

The contenders here are also the ones with the best pedigrees so I'm not looking for a big upset.

Strong Mandate is one I had been high on but he just hasn't put it together yet. I think that early on he was regarded as a speed horse but that hasn't worked out for him. In the Southwest he got off to a bad start and closed very nicely but had too much to do. I believe he would be much better with a stalking trip and that's what I'm looking for today.

Tapiture has been good in all his races and is very game. He is bred for distance and is the one to beat here plus Joel switches to him from Strong Mandate. I do feel that Joel wasn't the right fit for SM because I thought he was too aggressive.

Bayern looks to be a fast one but he did put up slow fractions at SA and I have doubts about his distance abilities.

Ride On Curlin is a nice horse but I think he is just a cut below these and would have to run really big to take this.

Conquest Titan has shown signs of getting better and if they fold up front he may have a chance.

1- #9  Strong Mandate
2- #3  Tapiture
3- # 8 Bayern
4- #4  Ride On Curlin
Long Shot-  Conquest Titan