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


Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Spiral 3/22/14

Spiral G3

Turfway PK  R11  3/22/14

The Cash Call Fut. run at HOL back in Dec. didn't carry any Derby points but it was a G1 race with a full field of nice colts. Shared Belief, by virtue of his victory, jumped to the top of most handicappers list of derby contenders. But Shared Belief is among several leading contenders to become sidelined along the way due to set backs of one kind or another.

The reason I mention this race is that Candy Boy, who ran second, came back to win the Lewis and Tamarando, who finished third bounced back to take the El Camino which makes the CC a probable key race. Since the field for the Derby looks kind of wide open at this point I am going to assume that any that were close to Shared Belief are pretty nice horses.

Tamarando has a super nice pedigree and looks like he can get any distance. His worse race is a 4th in his first start which was a short sprint but he hasn't been off the board since. He has a terrific closing kick and is really fun to watch. He comes into this race off a win in the El Camino where he was ridden for the first time by R. Baze with a furious charge down the stretch. Personally, I would love to see Baze in the Derby on a contender.

There is some speed in here and I think Almost Famous has most of it. he had a bad start in his last so I'm throwing that race out. He has a lovely pedigree but the question is how he will take to the poly track. If he likes the track he may carry his speed a long way.

Solitary Ranger has sort of an unusual pedigree with a few older past champions close up in his breeding. He has speed and has wired the field in his last two. He likes the synthetic track and may be the one to beat.

We Miss Artie from the Pletcher barn likes the synth. track and is a useful sort and, although his breeding is nice, I think he will have a problem with the longer distances but this type can sometimes get 1 1/8.

1- #4 Tamarando
2- #9 Almost Famous
3- #8  Solitary Ranger
4- #11 We Miss Artie
Long Shot- #6 Smart Cover

Backstretch

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Rebel Stakes G2 Sat. 3/15/14

The Rebel-G2

OP  R10 Sat. 3/15/14

This looks to be a decent field of well bred youngsters. It seems like every week there is a newcomer popping up with a terrific race while a lot of the early top contenders are ending up on the disabled list. Who knows, we might have another top performance by one of these.

I have liked the pedigree of Strong Mandate since day one but he's a lousy trips in his last two. In the BC he had a far outside post and was hard used early but hung in very well. In the Southwest he got a bad break and then encountered a lot of traffic while trying to make his move. He couldn't catch the leader who had a perfect trip but being that he does have a lot of speed he may get the perfect stalking trip today.

Tapiture is a nicely bred colt and always seems to fire. If he goes for the front it may boil down to a duel with Strong Mandate and I don't think either wants the other to get loose in front.

Street Strategy is a really nice colt with great bloodlines who just broke his maiden in fine style. Bred to go a distance, he may upset this field being that he looks to be in a position to improve some more.

Kobe's Back just blew away the field in a G2 sprint but I'm not too sure he's going to be that good around 2 turns.

Hoppertunity is another in the Baffert stable to try and win the Rebel. Baffert has had huge success in these Oaklawn stakes and can never be underestimated although I don't like where this one is at in his form cycle. Nice breeding and Mike Smith is in for the ride.

1- #4 Strong Mandate
2- #3 Tapiture
3- #7 Street Strategy
4- #8 Kobe's Back

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Gotham- G3 3/1/14


The Gotham  G3

AQU  R9  3/1/14

This is a 50 point race but I doubt very much if the KY Derby winner will be found in this field. At Gulfstream Park today there are 3 or 4 races for 3 yr olds and I feel like there are probably a few of them that would take the measure of this field yet most of them are running in allowance races. In addition, most of the first string jocks have elected to stay in FL.

This race is featuring an undefeated horse who has won all four of his starts. He may be as good as his connections think but I have serious doubts about him. He's a NY bred that has beat up on state breds in his first 3 races. In his last he did win the Withers which is a G3 race but I thought it was nothing more than a low grade alw. race. It was all Samraat could do to beat Uncle Sigh, another state bred. This is not to say a NY bred can't be good but I want to see him defeat open company before I jump on his band wagon.

Samraat has a nice pedigree but of the type that my experience tells me he can't get the longer distances. This is only a shade over a mile so is well within his scope but I'm going to buck him, especially at the short odds he will go off at. I will probably use him on top of some exotics as a saver in case I'm totally wrong about him.

Uncle Sigh is inbred to Northern Dancer so I can't fault him much and he did give a good battle to Samraat in his last but I think he is also suspect because of the quality of the Withers.

In Trouble has a lot of different crosses in his pedigree but they all speak of distance ability. He's won both of his sprint starts and his last was very speedy in a G2 race at BEL. Has a good post and inside speed is dangerous at this track. I don't think he will go for the lead but should be in striking distance of the leaders.

Harpoon has a pedigree I really like and should be able to get a classic distance. He went for a half mil at the sales so I assume he is quite handsome. He lost the Sam Davis by a nose in his last and I would have him on top here except for his outside post.

Extrasexyhippzster is another with very nice breeding that should like a distance. Has enough speed to get into the hunt early but will rate. Should have good position just off the pace and may have a nice closing kick.

Financial Mogul is a strong late runner that was in pretty deep last time and looked to be a little short. He will be looking to pick up the pieces if his stablemate falters in the lane.

1- #2  In Trouble
2- #10 Harpoon
3- #8  Extrasexyhippzster
4- #3  Financial Mogul