Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Thanksgiving and Christmas have again passed us by in the blink of an eye. As we approach a new year, many would like this past year to be a distant memory. 2012 had its moments of joy but was overshadowed by a slew of disappointing and ill-timed injuries to the three-year-old class. We are once again left with too many "what if's", but this past year I'll Have Another, albeit briefly, provided the racing world with a glimmer of hope that one day we will again witness a Triple Crown winner.

January 1, the mark of a new year is also a special day for the current two-year-old class since it marks their third birthday. The Derby is only four months away and a new class of three-year-olds are set to chase after the points this year as 2013 ditches the bankroll in favor of the new Kentucky Derby Point System. Over/under at 50 for the minimum amount of points it will take to claim 1 of the 20 starting spots?

Undefeated Shanghai Bobby leads the way with 20 points as there are currently 34 two-year-olds that have a point to their name. More prep races with higher points at stake are right around the corner and there is still no guarantee who will be loading the starting gate come the first Saturday in May. These next four months are going to be exciting to follow, especially with the addition of the new point system put in place. Pay attention because you never know when you might miss the next Champion or better yet a Triple Crown winner.

Mystified Ticket's 2013 Hi-5 Derby Contenders

-Bern Identity 4 pts
Contended in every race he's been throw into. This experienced colt has finished in the money in all six of his starts. His pedigree doesn't carry much weight when it comes to the distance, but showed in his two-year-old campaign that he wants to run. A promising second in the 1 1/16-mile Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) after a not-so-good trip makes him a very interesting colt to watch. Look for him to be in the mix on Derby Day.  NPS: 1/26 1m Holy Bull(G3)
*My two-year-old pick at 50-1 in the Wynn Future Book 12/26/12

-Normandy Invasion 4 pts
An impressive runner-up by a nose in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2). He came flying from the back of the field to lose out in a photo. If he posts a similar result his next time out, the son of Tapit will become an instant Derby favorite.  NPS: Not Yet Determined

-Uncaptured  10 pts
Only one blemish on this son of Lion Heart's resume keeps this colt from being undefeated (7-6-0-0). Coming off back-to-back wins over the Churchill track to close out his two-year-old campaign certainly is an added bonus come May 4.  NPS: 2/2 1/16m Sam F. Davis(G3)

-Violence 10 pts
Undefeated in three starts over three different tracks at three separate distances (stretching out each time) gives no reason not to like this colt. One of many in Pletcher's barn this year that looks to make a splash in the Derby.  NPS: 2/23 1/16m Fountain of Youth/Risen Star(G2)

-Shanghai Bobby 20 pts
Undefeated in five starts. Triple digit BRIS Speed ratings in two of those five starts. Soon to be two-year-old champion. All of those accolades but the odds are against him. Street Sense in 2007 is the only horse to win both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby. It was impressive how he fought back in the stretch of the Juvenile and all eyes will be on this colt the first time he stretches out past 1 1/16 miles. The 1 1/4-mile distance is the question mark but will likely have the points to claim a spot in the Derby and try to prove the doubters wrong.  NPS: 1/26 1m Holy Bull(G3)

Other Contenders:
-Power Broker
-Dewey Square
-Frac Daddy
-Fury Kapcori
-Capo Bastone
-Officer Alex

*Picked top four fillies in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Kauai Katie finished 4th showing she didn't have the distance in her and is slated to cut back to a sprint on her birthday (1/1) in the 6f Old Hat (G3). Had Shanghai Bobby pegged in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Power Broker swung extremely wide around the first turn taking himself out of the race but managed to get up for 5th...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Breeders' Cup Weekend

The NBA tipped off their season this week, college basketball exhibitions are underway, but in the horse racing world all attention will be on Santa Anita over the next two days as the top thoroughbreds from around the world load the gates in the Breeders' Cup. With bragging rights, the end of the year eclipse awards and of course plenty of cash up for grabs in all 15 races, Friday and Saturday should provide the audience with some exciting racing.

This year's three-year-old class has been unfortunate to say the least. We are left with Alpha, Nonios and Handsome Mike as the only three-year-olds to represent this class in the Classic this year. Represent is probably all they will do as none of these three are expected to do much against the strong field. Dullahan, who we saw finish third in the Derby and upset the older horses in the Grade 1 Pacific has chosen to try his luck on the turf in the Turf instead of the Classic.

The two-year-olds have been running all summer and fall and now it's time to find out who will be named the early Derby favorite and possibly be crowned two-year-old champ in the Juvenile. Shanghai Bobby makes the trip over from the East Coast with his undefeated resume as he takes on local winner and top two-year-old on the West Coast, Power Broker.



Sprint 6f 2yo

5 Super Ninety Nine 5-2
3 Merit Man 8-5
4 South Floyd 6-1

*The second running of the Sprint provides plenty of speed this year with the top three picks. Super Ninety Nine is exiting his maiden win over this track last out while Merit Man enters 2-for-2 including a stakes win here.

Juvenile Fillies 1 1/16m

8 Kauai Katie 3-1
2 Executive Privilege 2-1
1 Beholder 5-2

5 Dreaming of Julia 5-2
3 Spring in the Air 15-1

*The girls certainly have a more enticing race than the boys do this year in the two Juvenile races as three of the eight entrants in this one come in with an undefeated record. Kauai Katie is one of the three fillies coming into this race undefeated. If she can carry over her success from NY to CA, she will be the top two-year-old filly who emerges from this star-studded field. Executive Privilege is an amazing five-for-five in her young career. She is exiting a 6 1/4-length win in the Grade 1 Chandelier over this track at 1 1/16 miles and will be the one to beat. Beholder is interesting here after posting a 110 BRIS Speed rating over this track last time out in an 11-length romp at 6f. Dreaming of Julia the last of the undefeated fillies in here shouldn't be overlooked. Spring in the Air will be try to chase the field and could pull off the upset if she takes to the dirt in her first start off Poly and Turf. 


Juvenile 1 1/16

4 Shanghai Bobby 2-1
1 Title Contender 6-1
9 Power Broker 5-2

6 Dynamic Sky 12-1

*Winner of this one will all but crown the two-year-old champ. Look for undefeated Shanghai Bobby to claim top billing of this class. Has posted triple digit BRIS Speed figures in two of his four wins and should have no problem performing at Santa Anita either. Title Contender posted a 100 BRIS Speed rating in breaking his maiden at this track last out going 1 mile and is a serious contender. Power Broker  6 1/2-length winner of the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 FrontRunner at Santa Anita last out will likely be bet heavy by the local crowd, as he should be. Dynamic Sky is an interesting colt as he makes his first start off of the Polytrack. If he likes the dirt as much as he showed he likes the Poly, don't count out an upset in this one.

*Hit the trifecta in the G1 Champagn but didn't fair so well in G1 Breeders' Futurity as Joha pulled off the upset. Dynamic Sky came in second.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Keeneland Fall Meet


It is that time of year again in the Bluegrass when the temperature starts to cool down, the leaves start to change their colors and of course, Keeneland kicks off its Fall meet tomorrow. There are 15 graded stakes races over the next four weekends and nine of those are packed into opening weekend at the historic track, including the $400,000 Breeders Futurity (G1) on Saturday. 

The always unpredictable Breeders' Futurity draws a full field plus some Saturday as the two-year-olds go 1 1/16 miles on the "Polytrack". The field is set for 14 with two also eligibles in another "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 3rd. Todd Pletcher has two of the 14 entries in Charming Kitten and the morning-line favorite Tizracer. Pataky Kidd who is entering off a win in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) is the only graded winner to load the gates in this one. The race is wide open as another colt looks to join the top of this young class heading into the Juvenile. 

Up North another field of two-year-olds load the gates Saturday at Belmont in the $400,000 Champagn (G1) to try and secure a spot in next month's Juvenile. While there are only half of the entries in this race as the Futurity, the talent makes up for lack of entrants in this one. Shanghai Bobby and Bern Identity are the two graded stakes winners in this field while Archwarrior, Goldencents and Micromanage all exit very impressive maiden wins. Only going a mile here over the maintrack but the winner of this one will certainly be one of the favorites for the Juvenile. 

The two-year-olds are taking to the track all over the country by now as they try and vie to be the next Kentucky Derby winner as the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" is officially underway. Power Broker broke his maiden in the FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita last weekend and he established himself as one of the early favorites for the Juvenile. 

Breeders' Futurity (G1)
10/6 Keeneland 4:49 EST
Two-Year-Olds, 1 1/16m

Race #8

Tizracer 4-1
Coming off a maiden win at Belmont going a mile in which he won by 10 1/2 lengths and posted a triple speed rating. 

Pataky Kid 12-1
Broke maiden and won Grade 3 races at Arlington over all-weather track last two times out. 

Balance The Books 5-1
Broke maiden in the With Anticipation (G2) on the turf at 1 1/16 miles. First start off turf. 

Dynamic Sky 12-1
Come from behind win to break maiden in stakes race at Woodbine on all-weather track. 

EX/TRI BX: 5,6,11,12

*Good luck with this full-field of unpredictable two-year-olds

Champagn (G1)
10/6 Belmont 4:34 EST
Two-Year-Olds, 1m

Race #8

Shanghai Bobby 3-1
Grade 2 winner, looks to go 4 for 4 and stay undefeated against a very talented field. Considered by many as the top two-year-old right now. 

Goldencents 3-1
Impressive maiden winner in debut posted triple speed rating and won wire-to-wire by 7 1/4 lengths. Going to be tough to catch only going a mile if he repeats last performance. 

Fortify 6-1
Long shot I'm not counting out after second place place finish to Shanghai Bobby in Hopeful (G2). Looks to improve again in third start at longer distance. 

Archwarrior 5-2
Another impressive maiden winner in his debut is trained by Pletcher. 

EX/TRI BX: 2,1,5,4

*Not going to be surprised who wins this with so many impressive maiden winners entered in here. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Super Saturday

                                                                        Santa Anita

"Super Saturday" closes out the month of September with 11 Graded races across the US. On the East Coast, Belmont is host to six graded races including the $1,000,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup(G1). While out on the West Coast, Santa Anita opens its fall meet with five graded races on the card Saturday. All of these graded races are preps and considered "Win and You're In" races for the Breeders' Cup, which is only a month away.

While it may be called "Super Saturday" this year's three-year-old class certainly cannot feel too super and it doesn't look very promising the rest of the year either. Atigun and Fast Falcon are the only two representing this three-year-old class in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday. Both of whom have not won a graded race yet in their career. After winning the Jim Dandy(G2) and Travers(G1), Alpha looked to be the next promising three-year-old to carry this class, but ran a disappointing 6th in the Pennsylvania Derby last time out. Dullahan is making his next start on turf in the Jamaica Handicap and it is uncertain if he will even take a shot at the Classic.

On a positive note the 2013 Run for the Roses officially begins. The new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" point system will be underway this Saturday as the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket and the FrontRunner(G1)(formerly known as the Norfolk) at Santa Anita kick-off things for the two-year-olds. This new system replaces cash earnings with points being awarded to the top four finishers. It starts with the Prep Schedule (September-February) awarding points of 10-4-2-1 with the points increasing to 50-20-10-5 for the "First Leg of Series" (February-March) and ending with the "Second Leg of Series" (April) awarding points of 100-40-20-10.

The $250,000 FrontRunner will be the first time these young two-year-olds will be tested at 1 1/16 miles. Know More is the only one coming into this race with a graded win, while Bob Baffert has three horses entered. It is an interesting field with a lot of unknown two-year-olds early in their careers who look to make a name for themselves. The winner of this race will find himself loading up in the same gates a month later as one of the favorites in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

9/29 Santa Anita 7:14 EST
Two-Year-Olds, 1 1/16m

Race #7

Know More 3-1
Only graded stakes winner in field. Winner of Best Pal(G2) in his debut and second in Del Mar Futurity(G1) last time out. The horse to beat will be there at the end. 

Carving 6-1
One of Baffert's three entries is undefeated in 2 career starts. Only one in race to have a win over the dirt. Might be one of the new names you add to your stable of two-year-olds. 

Dry Summer 5-1
Coming in off back-to-back wins which included a stakes win on the turf. Highest last race speed rating (tie).  Can he transform his success over the all weather and turf to the dirt is the question. 

Gabriel Charles 6-1
Impressive maiden win in debut but followed up with a disappointing sixth-placed finish in the Del Mar Futurity.  Looks to throw out last race due to bad trip and you can't count out the son of 2008 winner Street Hero. 

EX/TRI BX: 7,1,5,2

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dead Heat

                                                                         Dead Heat

With the three-year-old class diminishing after just about every race, this years Travers Stakes did not have the usual hype surrounding it. But once again, the horses that loaded the gates put on quite a show and what a show it was as we witnessed the first ever dead-heat in the 143rd running of the historical "Midsummer Derby."

Alpha, the post time favorite at 2-1 stalked the leaders the entire race and heading into the far turn it looked like he was going to pass on the outside and cruise to victory. But when they were heading for home it was Golden Ticket who shot through along the rail and was the one to catch. I guess you can say Alpha caught him just barely as they both had to share the winners circle. You couldn't have asked for or scripted a better finish than what was provided to us this past Saturday.

Out on the West Coast Dullahan stepped up to the older competition in the Pacific Classic(G1) at Del Mar and showed he is a force to be reckoned with on the poly track. By upsetting the rest of the older field he is now 3 for 3 in his career on the synthetic surface and in doing so punched his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Classic (If that is where his connections point him). While he did not capture one of the Triple Crown races, if he were able to carry over his success on the Poly to the Dirt and take down the Classic, he certainly would be tough to deny an Eclipse Award.

Now this three-year-old class has Alpha, Dullahan and Paynter sitting atop the division but unfortunately each one has a cloud hanging over them. Can Alpha, who now has a grade one win on his resume despite running against less superior competition, be able to hold his own against the older competition? What about Dullahan, who is 0 for 6 when it comes to running on dirt. Will he even run in the Classic? Paynter was supposed to challenge Alpha in the Travers, but he is currently sidelined for who knows how long. November will be here before you know it, so I guess many of these questions will be answered sooner than later.

With Labor Day right around the corner, the races for the two-year-olds will be heating up over the next couple of weeks. Starting on Monday, September 3rd is the 7f Hopeful Stakes(G2) at Saratoga. Wednesday, September 5th is the 7f Del Mar Futurity(G1) at Del Mar. Saturday, September 8th is the 1 mile Arlington-Washington Futurity(G3) at Arlington Park. Keep an eye on these races over the next couple of weeks as you never know if the 2013 Derby winner may come from one of these.

*Had Alpha pegged to win the Travers as we thought he was in a class above the others. While he did win, Golden Ticket surprised many by having a share of the winners circle in another historic Travers Stakes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Travers Stakes/Midsummer Classic/Midsummer Derby

                                                                  Midsummer Classic

Summer at Saratoga is highlighted this weekend by the third oldest thoroughbred race in racing history. Dating all the way back to 1864, the Travers Stakes or "Midsummer Classic" as it is known, is a historic race for the three-year-olds going 1 1/4 mile. For many, this will be their last test before they step up to face the older competition. The only question this year is, are there any three-year-olds left to run?

I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, Union Rags, Paynter and Hansen all at one point in their short careers were considered at the top of this class. Now, all have either been retired or are currently injured. At the start of 2012, this class looked locked and loaded across the board with talent. Unfortunately, that talent has vanished as this year's Travers Stakes is reduced to Alpha, the 12th place finisher in the Derby, being the highlight of the field this coming Saturday. 

Life is unpredictable and you never know what it has in store. Yes, this year's race is lacking the luster it normally has but you never know when one of these young three-year-olds will take off. Remember, many of these guys are still maturing and have not yet finished growing. For all we know, this race might be featuring a future Breeders' Cup Classic winner. They don't call this race the "Midsummer Derby" for nothing which is why you should still be interested in the 143rd running of this historic race. 

On another note, Dullahan has decided to head out West and try his luck against the older competition. He will be running in the Pacific Classic (A "Win and You're In" race for the BC Classic) at Del Mar this Sunday, where he returns to the synthetic surface for the first time since upsetting Hansen at Keeneland in the Blue Grass Stakes. This horse is 2 for 2 on the poly and hopes to continue that trend after two disappointing finishes in a row on the dirt in the Belmont and Haskell. 

Travers Stakes(G1)
8/25 Saratoga 5:46 EST
Race #12

Alpha 5-2
Coming off a Grade 2 win in the Jim Dandy here at Saratoga last month. 2 for 2 at the Spa is impressive regardless of the competition. Could and should be in a class above the rest of these three-year-olds running this Saturday. 

Street Life 5-1
Son of the 2007 winner, Street Sense certainly doesn't hurt his chances here. Win at this track last month in the Curlin Stakes. Closer who will be coming on at the end should like the 1 1/4 mile distance especially if there is some pace to run at. 

Nonios 4-1
Coming off a second place finish to Paynter last month in the Haskell. Has hit the board in all six of his lifetime starts. Never run further than a 1 1/8 mile, so we will see if he can handle the extra furlong.

Liaison 8-1
Closer who could flirt with hitting the board going 1 1/4 mile. Has experience running against the best of this three-year-old class. 

Ex/Tri BX: 6,5,10,9

Monday, July 30, 2012

3-Yr.-Old Picture Coming Into Focus

Paynter                                                                                                      Alpha

After the running of the Curlin Stakes, Jim Dandy(G2) and Haskell(G1) this weekend, the three-year-old picture is starting to clear up. With this division lacking a true front runner, these races provided an opportunity for someone to step up to the challenge.

Alpha, returning to the track for the first time since the Derby, took the Jim Dandy impressively, going wire to wire in the slop and winning by 2 lengths. With no other big name three-year-olds in this one it was Alpha's race to lose as the others in this field were just not in the same class.

It was Paynter who showed his second place finish at the Belmont was no fluke as he pulled away from the field in the Haskell to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Gemologist and Dullahan both were in position to challenge, but looked like they hit a brick wall and were no where to be found at the end, finishing 5th and 6th.

Street Life, the son of Street Sense also keeps his name in the mix after taking the Curlin Stakes Friday at Saratoga. He will be running up against more superior competition though, next time out.

Now the focus shifts to the Travers at the end of August to determine who is the best of this class before they graduate on to facing the older competition. Look for the Paynter and Alpha duel to play out in the media leading up to the race as these two will be the favorites heading into the "Midsummer Classic".

*Pegged Street Life in the Curlin and Alpha in the Jim Dandy. Didn't fare so well in the Haskell as Paynter got the win, while Gemologist and Dullahan didn't show up. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Welcome Back 3-Yr.-Olds


After a seven week layoff we welcome the three-year-old's return to to the track. With injuries and illnesses to the top contenders of this talented group, the three-year-old division is once again wide open. What better way to determine the best of this class than the three stakes races this weekend on the cards at Saratoga and Monmouth.

The first of these three stakes races is the $100,000, 1 1/8 mile, Curlin Stakes at Saratoga tonight. Usually, this race wouldn't carry much significance towards determining the top three-year-olds, but with no current clear cut favorite, this class is looking for someone to step up. The m/l favorite at 5/2 is Street Life, who last finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes. The winner of this race will certainly keep his name in the mix.

Saturday brings the $600,000, 1 1/8 mile, Jim Dandy Stakes(G2) at Saratoga. The m/l favorite at 5/2 is Alpha, who will be making his first start since finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. Look for him to  perform more like he did in the Wood Memorial, where he was beaten only by a neck. There are two other Kentucky Derby runners in this race as well. Prospective is coming off a first place finish in the Ohio Derby(G3), while Liaison is coming off a third place finish in the Swaps(G3). In this field of eight, you also have the third place finisher in the Belmont, Atigun, the winner of the Dwyer(G2), Teeth of the dog and the winner of the Matt Winn(G3), Neck n' Neck.

To close out the weekend, Monmouth Park is host to the $1,000,000, 1 1/8 mile, Haskell Invitational Stakes. With a rather small field of six, on paper this is really a three horse race. Paynter the m/l favorite at 3/2 is coming off a close second place finish in the Belmont, to the now retired Union Rags. Dullahan returns and looks to redeem himself after that disappointing seventh place finish in the Belmont. The horse who many are anticipating to return is Gemologist as we get to see him back in action for the first time since injuring himself in the Kentucky Derby. Handsome Mike, Nonios and Steelcase round out the field.

All three of these races are preps for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga at the end of August, but the winner of the Haskell will be heading into the Midsummer Classic as the favorite. Hopefully we will have a clearer picture of this three-year-old division after this nice weekend of racing. Enjoy and good luck!

Curlin Stakes
7/27 Saratoga 6:22 EST
Race #8
Ex/Tri Bx: 3,5,2

Jim Dandy Stakes(G2)
7/28 Saratoga 5:45 EST
Race #10
Alpha 5/2
Has a grade three win on his resume, finished second by a neck in the Wood. Wasn't a factor in the Derby but looks to get back on track here. Not any big name three-year-olds in this one, Alpha should add a grade two win to his resume Saturday. 

Teeth of the Dog 5/1
Coming off wins in the Easy Goer and Dwyer(G2) at Belmont last month. Has finished in the money in 6 out of 7 lifetime starts. Should find the money again in this one. 

Atigun 8/1
His third place finish in the Belmont has to make you believe. Past performances are not that impressive  but shown he has the speed and distance. 

Fast Falcon 10/1
Zito trained horse coming off two second place finishes behind Teeth of the Dog. Closer who is still untested at the distance. 

Ex/Tri Bx: 1,6,3,2

Haskell Invitational Stakes(G1)
7/29 Monmouth 6:17 EST
Race #13
Gemologist 3-1
First start since getting injured in the Derby and was undefeated heading into the race. Looks to start his comeback and show why he was one of the favorites heading into the Derby. 

Paynter 3/2
Got run down just barely in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont. He will be the one to catch in this shorter race. Definitely has the speed, but is he in the same class as Gemologist or Dullahan? Will be there at the end just not sure where in the money he will fall. 

Dullahan 3-1
The Belmont is really the only blemish on this colt's resume. Has finished in the money in 7 out of 10 lifetime starts. This should be a good distance for him and could easily be posing in the winners circle come Sunday night.

Ex/Tri Bx: 4,3,2 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Races

                                   Saratoga                                                                                  Del Mar

With record breaking temperatures already being felt across the nation, summer certainly is here. Which means it's time for some summer racing. This past weekend kicked off both Saratoga's and Del Mar's racing seasons, where we got to see some early action by the two-year-olds. The big race of the weekend for the youngsters was the 6f Sanford Stakes(G2) at Saratoga. Bern Identity came away with the graded stakes victory but the horse to watch from this one might be Onetwentyeight who was coming on at the end to get the show.

Now we all know it is way too early to be making any type of realistic Derby predictions but these are the races where many Derby hopefuls get their start. The likes of Secretariat, Affirmed, Afleet Alex and Scat Daddy all have a Sanford Stakes win on their resume. These two-year-olds will be fun to watch this summer as they grow and prepare for the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" point system instead of the traditional graded stakes earnings system. This new system doesn't actually go into effect until the fall so some of these young guys can get a race or two under them this summer before the competition really begins. The next race to keep an eye out for is the 6 1/2 f Saratoga Special(G2) in a few weeks, where another group of two-year-olds look to show what they have. 

It was disappointing to say the least hearing the news about I'll Have Another, the day before his Triple Crown bid. The latest victim, Union Rags who was reported to have a tendon issue a couple of weeks ago, was officially retired this past weekend. On top of all this, Bodemeister came down with a fever and has been put on DL for the time being. With the top three-year-olds out, this coming weekend should be wide open for the 1 1/8 mile Jim Dandy(G2) at Saratoga and the Haskel Invitational(G1) at Monmouth Park. It will be interesting to see the draw as the fields will not be set until later in the week. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Post Triple Crown Races

                                          Union Rags runs down Paynter in Belmont

We will never know what would have happened if I'll Have Another was able to load the gate yesterday in the Belmont Stakes. What we did witness was that Union Rags was finally able to run and boy did he ever. Stalking the pace setter, Paynter the entire race, he was able to get by on the inside and run him down by a neck at the finish line to show why he was widely considered the top three-year-old at the beginning of the year. With the Triple Crown hopeful out of the picture, Union Rags and Paynter did all they could to put on a show for the 85,811 in attendance plus the millions of viewers watching.

Unfortunately, another year has come and gone with no Triple Crown winner. This goes to show you that this feat is one of, if not, the toughest feat in sports to accomplish. The end of the Triple Crown races also mark the conclusion of the the first half of racing for this talented group of three-year-olds. Many of these horses will get a much needed break before the summer stakes races start to heat up. Union Rags has already been pointed toward the Jim Dandy(G2) or the Haskell Stakes(G1) at the end of July. He will look to build off his win at the Belmont and try to vie for three-year-old horse of the year. As of now it is going to take a strong second half performance to overtake I'll Have Another who captured the horse racing world after running down a talented Bodemeister in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

*Picked Union Rags to take the Belmont as he finally got a good trip and showed everyone the talent he displayed during his two-year-old campaign. Dullahan just didn't have the same kick everyone saw in the Bluegrass and Derby as he was no where to be found at the end. It will be interesting to see if this horse stays on the dirt or goes back to the turf. The newcomer Paynter almost stole the show but had to settle for second. Atigun was third and cost us the trifecta. 

-Check back at the end of July and I will have picks for the summer stakes races. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

144th Belmont Stakes

The last three weeks were filled with hype, anticipation and speculation. In the blink of an eye all that changed the morning before the Belmont Stakes after Doug O'Neil announced that I'll Have Another will be scratched from the race after an apparent tendon issue. The news spread across media outlets all over as the horse racing world sits in shock and disappointment after the breaking news. The drought continues as another year goes by where we will not witness a Triple Crown winner.

As depressing as this news is, that's horse racing for you and there is still a race to be run tomorrow at Belmont. There are some quality horses that will load the gates and it should set up for an interesting race. Union Rags was once considered the top-three-year old, until he had those awful trips in the Florida and Kentucky Derby and looks to redeem himself.  Dullahan, coming off a third place finish in the Derby, looks to continue his consistency as the 1 1/2 mile shouldn't pose a problem for him. There are also newcomers, Street Life and Paynter, who look to crash the party as 4 out of the last 5 Belmont winners were newcomers. Don't cancel your Belmont plans just yet as you are going to witness why they call this race the "Test of Champions" and see just why I'll Have Another may not have been a shoe-in to take the Triple Crown after all.

Belmont Stakes(G1)
6/9 Belmont 6:40 EST

Union Rags 3-1*
We have yet to see what this horse can really do if given the opportunity to run and watch out if he gets a good trip. Was boxed in at the FL Derby and still managed to finish third. Had no shot in the Derby after a slow start and coming from last to finish seventh. Has a win over this track as he won convincingly in the Fountain of Youth(G2) in his three-year-old debut back in February. Only concern is that his pedigree doesn't jump off the page when it comes to this distance. 

Dullahan 9-5*
Coming off a third place finish in the Derby, only 1 3/4 lengths behind winner I'll Have Another and was closing strong. Should be well rested coming off a 5 week layoff after skipping the Preakness. Has hit the board in each of his last seven races and should make it eight after tomorrow. 

Street Life 8-1*
One of the newcomers that has a legitimate shot to pull off the upset. Deep closer who has improved in each of his lifetime starts. Coming off a third place finish in the 1 1/8 mile Peter Pan Stakes over this track. 

Paynter 9-2*
Another Baffert horse with tactical speed. Finished fourth to I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby, only 3 3/4 lengths back. Another newcomer that could steal the show. 

*Odds after I'll Have Another was scratched. 

Ex/Tri Box: 3,5,1,9

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2 Down 1 To Go


Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004) and Big Brown (2008). Eleven horses have won the first two legs of that elusive Triple Crown since Affirmed pulled off the feat back in 1978. I'll Have Another has to wait three weeks before he tries to tackle the 1 1/2 mile Belmont monster and tries to keep himself off the growing list of horses that couldn't seal the deal. 

I'll Have Another breathed life back into the struggling sport yesterday at least for another three weeks after proving the doubters wrong again and running down Bodemeister in a photo finish at the 137th Preakness Stakes. They said this horse couldn't win the Derby because he was breaking from the 19th post. They said he couldn't catch Bodemeister at a shorter distance after the fractions that were posted in the Derby. They won't be disrespecting him leading up to the Belmont as he will be the morning line favorite for the first time in his career. The bandwagon is starting to fill up and horse racing fans everywhere are yearning for a Triple Crown winner as the sport is approaching 34 long years since the last horse to pull it off. 

Will I'll Have Another be able to live up to the hype and pull off that once forgotten feat? After watching the Derby and Preakness, none of these horses can compete with this horse. The same thing was said about those eleven others that were in this same situation. The Belmont is a different animal and has been known to spoil hopes and dreams in the past. There are also a couple horses named Dullahan and Union Rags that will look to get back on the track and play spoiler after sitting out the Preakness as they will be well rested heading into the Belmont. These next three weeks can not go by fast enough as they will be filled with plenty of hype, anticipation and speculation. Let the countdown to the Belmont and Triple Crown begin....

*Picked Creative Cause to win, but this talented horse just doesn't have the distance in him as he couldn't keep pace with Bodemeister and I'll Have Another down the stretch. Did hit the trifecta, as Creative Cause was able to hold on to third. Another example of why you box any and all exotics. (Thoughts and prayers go out to Joel Rosario who lost his brother yesterday in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I'll Have Another & The 137th Preakness Stakes

I'll Have Another took down the field and history at the 138th Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. Chalk up post number nineteen to finally get a Derby winner, as it was one of the last two post positions left to not have one. Bodemeister almost did the unthinkable by taking the Derby wire to wire, but I'll Have Another defied the odds from the far outside post and had enough in the tank to pass him at the finish.

This coming Saturday at Pimlico lures 10 contenders to try and spoil I'll Have Another's Triple Crown Bid. The most notable horses running are, Bodemeister, Went The Day Well and Creative Cause, all who try and come back in two weeks after running in the Derby. With almost half the entries compared to the Derby, the Preakness should give these horses more room to run. But, just like in Louisville, anything can happen in Baltimore as we saw last year, after Animal Kingdom stumbled at the start, lost ground and spent all his energy trying to catch back up. While Bodemeister is the morning line favorite, most racing fans will have their eyes on the second betting favorite, I'll Have Another, as he tries to take down the second leg of this daunting Triple Crown run. Tune in this Saturday at 6:05 EST to see if I'll Have Another can prove the handicappers wrong again and win the 2012 Preakness Stakes.

Preakness Stakes(G1)
5/19 Pimlico @ 6:05 EST

Creative Cause 6-1
Had a good, but wide trip in the Derby and was in perfect position to take down the field. Just didn't have anything left in the tank down the stretch to finish it off. If he can stay closer to Bodemeister this time and at a 1/16th mile shorter distance, has a shot to pull off the upset. 

Bodemeister 8-5
Going to be tough to catch, but should have more pressure from the contenders than he did in the Derby. I see him blowing the field away or just getting beat at the finish line. 

I'll Have Another 5-2
We all know what this horse has done. I wrote him off due to his post position in the Derby and it cost me at the window. Find out Saturday how he does coming off a two week layoff. As long as he gets a clean break from the gate, he will be there at the finish. 

Went The Day Well 6-1
Fastest closing horse in the Derby field to grab fourth. Did not have the best trip, so will be an interesting horse to keep an eye on. Needs to stay closer to the leaders this time to pull off the upset

Ex/Tri Bx: 6,7,9,5

*Top three finishers in the Derby were in our Top 10. Hopefully you had the right combination with this year's deep and talented field of three-year-olds.

Friday, May 4, 2012

138th Kentucky Derby Final Rankings

See Full Preview: 138th Kentucky Derby Preview

Mystified Ticket's Derby Hi-5(Final Rankings)

1) #4
 Union Rags 9-2

-I have considered him the best horse even after his loss in the BC Juvenile. Florida Derby loss gave me more confidence in this horse. No need to jump off the bandwagon on Derby Eve. 

2) #8 Creative Cause 12-1

-If I could pick co-favorites, believe me I would. Finished in the money 8 out of 8 lifetime starts. Don't expect that to change come tomorrow when they "Run for the Roses".  

3) #15 Gemologist 6-1

-Would have liked to seen this guy run against better competition. Just can't overlook his undefeated resume along with his two wins at Churchill. Expect him to be there at the end. 

4) #5 Dullahan 8-1

-Top closer in this field will be picking off horses down the stretch. I just hope the Blue Grass didn't take too much out of him.

5) #16 El Padrino 20-1

-Sleeper in the race that could make some noise. Has the class and speed figures to be a legitimate threat. 

Don't Count Out...
 #6 Bodemeister 4-1

-Driving myself crazy trying to figure out if this horse is the real deal or not. I just think too much speed too early will do him in going 1 1/4 mile. We find out tomorrow if he truly is a super horse. 

#14 Hansen 10-1

-Drawing the fourteenth post instead of that dreaded one, definitely did Hansen some favors. He will be sitting outside the two speed horses, Bodemeister and Trinniberg which will be good if they can get out in front of him. Don't write off the two-year-old champ. 

#3 Take Charge Indy 15-1

-Very intriguing horse who is a threat, especially with Borel on the mount. I know he is bred for the distance, but I just have a have a hard time believing he will be there at the end if he takes off towards the lead at the start. 

#7 Rousing Sermon 50-1

- Deep Closer who could find himself filling out some exotics if the race plays out in his favor. 

#19 I'll Have Another 12-1

-The 19th post might be too much to overcome for I'll Have Another. 

*Good Luck figuring out this deep field of unpredictable three-year-olds! Enjoy Derby Day and hopefully you will be cashing in some tickets...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

138th Kentucky Derby Preview


Here we are, one week away from that first Saturday in May and the 2012 Derby field is still wide open. This year just has a different feel to it than in the past. For one thing, it doesn't seem as many of the Triple Crown Nominee's have dropped off the Derby Trail due to injury, especially compared to last year. Another thing, this year's Derby brings a record nine horses back to the gates that ran in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Classic on the Churchill dirt this past fall. That is just unheard of in the history of the Derby. Normally, on the week of the Derby the handicappers are just hoping that their top 3-4 horses don't get screwed on the draw come Wednesday afternoon. This year, not so much, as I and many others can give you more than a handful of horses that have just as good a shot as any to put on the bed of roses. With a field this deep in talent and/or uncertainty, however you look at it, the Derby should not disappoint this year as it will produce some nice odds at the window. If you are lucky enough to cash in on one of the exotics you might find yourself filling out one of those wonderful W2's.

Mystified Ticket's Derby Hi-5

1) Union Rags 9-2

- The early Derby favorite when the two-year-olds first took to the track last year. Had a wide trip and drifted out down the stretch in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here last fall. He still managed to finish second, just running out of track to catch the winner and eventual two-year-old champion, Hansen. Has taken a step back according to some after his third place finish in the Florida Derby. Boxed in and stuck in traffic for most of the race, he still managed to finish third while coming on strong at the end. The Derby is a race of confusion and anyone will tell you that you have to have some luck on your side and be able to overcome adversity, because odds are that you will not get the perfect trip. Union Rags has had things thrown at him that will give this horse the experience on Derby Day to be the one posing in the winners circle.

2) Creative Cause 12-1

- Been one of if not the top horse out on the West Coast on this Derby Trail. Has a resume that sports a G1 win, a triple digit speed rating in the San Felipe with a win over Bodemeister and has finished in the money in all eight of his lifetime starts. While his running style has been erratic at times coming down the stretch, this grey colt definitely has shown he has the talent to come out on top of this deep field of three-year-olds.  Is this kid going to step out and be the leader of its class or is he just going to be content hanging with the cool crowd and filling out some exotics? I have been on Creative Cause ever since watching him close in the 7 furlong Del Mar Futurity(G1) back in September when I was in Vegas. He finished third through disqualification that day but I knew this horse was going to be one of my early Derby favorites and I'm tempted to move him into the top spot the week of the Derby.

3) Bodemeister 4-1

- All eyes are on the potential M/L favorite for the Derby. Can he erase 130 years from horse racing history and be the first Derby winner since Apollo to not have a race under him as a two-year-old? Posted triple speed ratings in his last three starts. Being compared to Curlin (who finished third in the 2010 KY Derby) after his blazing win in the Arkansas Derby. I just can't pick against 130 years of history but records are made to be broken, so we will just have to wait and see. That being said, Bodemeister will certainly be in some of my exotics.

4) Gemologist 6-1

- Undefeated in five career starts. Improved speed figure in each of his five races. Held off Alpha down the stretch, pulling away toward the end to take the Wood Memorial. What's not to like about this horse? That is how deep of a field we are looking at this year, with an undefeated horse heading into the Derby, fourth on my list and will probably be third or fourth betting favorite come Derby day.

5) Dullahan 8-1

- Closer who comes off a big win over Hansen in the Blue Grass over the poly. Only speed figure in the 90's(98) coming from last race. Did finish 4th to Hansen, Union Rags and Creative Cause in the BC Juvenile over the dirt here at Churchill. There are some minor concerns with this horse but he has been improving with each race and could be peaking at the right time.

Don't Count Out...

El Padrino 20-1

- The horse no one is talking about. After his fourth place finish in the Florida Derby, many have written him off. Throw out the FL Derby and his resume looks like that of a legit Derby contender. Posted a triple speed figure at Gulfstream Park in an allowance race over a wet track and over the FL Derby winner, Take Charge Indy. Followed up that performance with a win in the G2 Risen Star. If it rains next Saturday in Louisville, watch out, as he is 2 for 2 over wet tracks in his career. Wet or dry, don't overlook El Padrino. For some reason I really like this horse and he could move into my top five as the week goes along.

Hansen 10-1

- I can't believe how far this horse has fallen after his defeat in the Blue Grass. It was disappointing to see him go straight to the lead and try to take his first race at the 1 1/8 distance wire to wire. If he tries that in the Derby, he is sure to fail. Would like to see him come from off the pace like he did in the Gotham and save something for the stretch. Looking like this horse just doesn't have the 10 furlong distance in him. Hansen, the winner of the BC Juvenile Classic and two-year-old champion you just don't write off, it's the Derby and anything can happen.

Rousing Sermon 50-1

- Closed out his two-year-old campaign with two second place finishes behind Liaison, at Hollywood Park in the Real Quiet and Cash Ball Futurity. Neither horse showed that same promise as three-year-old's as both horses rode their graded stakes earnings from the CB Futurity into the Derby. Rousing Sermon did manage to finish third in the Louisiana Derby which probably is why he gets a gate this coming Saturday. A closer who has posted not so good speed ratings has an outside shot as he did show some of that promise in his last race. He snuck into the derby and could sneak into some exotics if the race plays out in his favor.

I'll Have Another 12-1

- Winner of the Robert B. Lewis and Santa Anita Derby has vaulted up to the top of many lists. Proven he belongs as he beat Creative Cause by a nose last race out. Wouldn't be shocked if I'll Have Another comes in the money, but there are just that many others I like ahead of him.

Take Charge Indy 15-1

- Winner of the Florida Derby and I have him barely coming in my top 10. Has been game in all six of his lifetime starts. I just have a hard time seeing him get the distance if he takes off like he has in each of his two races as a three-year-old.