Radio Review - 4/10/2010
Discussed six horses on the radio this past Saturday;
1. Make Music For Me ( Bluegrass , Saturday) - I felt he had never been better. Strong six furlong drill to cap series that was highlighted by a string of purposeful a.m. gallops. Unfortunately his sharpness was wasted when he could not find a comfortable stride over the Keeneland race track. I strongly believe he simply does not like that surface. The poor effort will probably keep him out of the Derby . That could be a blessing in disguise.
2. Jehan (Las Cienegas, Sunday) - This was my big push for the week. She had been training fantastic over the Hollywood Park strip. My vision of the race going in was that Jehan would get the perfect stalking trip. I thought Czechers and Unzip Me would be rolling out on the front end. That would place Jehan in the ideal position, sitting third or fourth. Instead, Bejarano took a hold of Czechers early on, which allowed Unzip Me the dream front running trip. To make matters worse, Jehan lost her footing at the break which cost her valuable position. She ended up pulling into a horrible position tightly between runners. Don't be surprised to see her get a quick turn around and run again soon. I consider the race a total toss.
3. Distorted Economy (MdSpWt, Saturday) - My opinion was that he was an improving horse but that his one speed style was a concern because of the lack of pace. He ran almost exactly like I thought he would. Tried hard every step but simply did not get enough pace up front to help out his grinder style.
4. Art Currency (Alw, Saturday) - My quote on him was that he was a clocker's nightmare. Since he first started training at Hollywood he has been a standout in the a.m. One of the top 10 best workers we have at Hollywood Park . The problem with him is that he had never been able to transfer that form. On Saturday he disappointed yet again.
5. My Summer Slew (Alw, Saturday) - Thought he had a great chance at a win. His Golden Gate effort off the bench suggested he was one work away. With that race under his belt he figured for a significant step forward. I thought he put forth a genuine effort. Set fast splits on the lead before getting run down the final sixteenth. He ran his race. He just got beat.
6. El Mirage King ( La Puente , Saturday) - My feeling was that he did not have the temperament to negotiate two turns successfully at this point of his career. I would rather have seen the connections cut-back in distance. Rating tactics were employed on this aggressive runner, in a race that had a slow pace. He fought the hold early behind the speed. He eventually settled down the backside but failed to make any sort of serious bid.
Two Year olds of note Keep an eye out for a couple of two year olds running this week. Spark City and Cabo San Lucas.
1. Spark City seems the more professional of the pair. This fast filly from the Adam Kitchingman barn should prove super dangerous in her debut. I would be very surprised if she did not run large on Wednesday.
2. Cabo San Lucas has displayed a ton of speed in his a.m. series for trainer Rafael DeLeon. He has been borderline manic when displaying his big speed. If he can hold a straight path on Thursday, look out.
Took a tough beat this past weekend. And I blame Victor Espinoza. Victor pissed Gomez off during the Santa Anita Derby. Gomez came back in a rage and literally picked Ventana up in the late stages of the Potrero Grande and nosed out Gato Go Win. Gato did not know he lost. He never actually let Ventana by. But my Pick 6 ticket suggests otherwise. Considering the Pick 6 did not pay that much, I was able to turn the page quickly.
Green Cat logged a less than exciting team drill with work-mate Elazani this past Tuesday. The duo did not bring much spirit to the drill. However, since that work Green Cat has been on the muscle in all of his gallops. Will keep a close eye on him if/when he finally returns to race again.
Make Music For Me turned in one of his better drills this past Sunday. I loved the insistence he showed in the final stages. His last furlong was his best furlong. He has been galloping with an attitude for the last couple of weeks. He is scheduled to run in the Blue Grass this weekend. Excited to see how he performs.
Afleet Ruler from the Sadler barn turned in a 'I'm ready to run" drill on Thursday. Rider had so much horse under him on the turn he ended up wheeling Afleet five wide at the top of the lane. Down the lane he was covered big ground. Official splits on my watch were 35.20, 46.60. This is clearly a horse that is feeling frisky.
Another friendly reminder. We have a radio show that airs on Saturday mornings from 9am to 10am on 1090am for those that are in the L.A. and San Diego area. Toby Turrell and Larry Zap lead the way. Check it out when you get a chance.
Zenyatta had her first work back. Galloped six furlongs in a healthy 1:14.40. It was in a galloping tempo. Strolled clear of target El Vino in the stretch. Galloped out with eager energy. Positive vibes.
Horse racing is the greatest game in the world. It also is the most humbling. I was tortured the last couple of days watching Khendum and Ziggy's Stardust run on back to back days. These are two runners I fell in love with before their actual debuts. I thought both were stakes destined. Three races into Khendums career and she is still searching for that first win. Ziggy just completed his fifth career start. He finished off the board. Why would I talk about two horses I have been so wrong on? Because, as I have said in the past, being wrong is nothing to shy from. It needs to be embraced. Lessons learned. For those that loyally follow this column and have been burned on various mistakes I have made, know this. I do not take being wrong lightly. Frankly, it is incredibly frustrating. I could instead shuffle aside bad opinions I have had and pretend they never occurred. It is a very popular plan among many. But I am attempting to make a point to all horse players. Take accountability for the actions you take at the windows. Don't ignore a bad month. Spend some time and review that wager log. I promise you I will never shy from failures.
Excited to tell everybody that yours truly will be an eager participant on the new case radio show. The grand opening of the show is Saturday at 9:00a.m. on station 1090am. Larry Zap and Toby Turrell will be hosting. It should be a lot of fun!
Gato Go Win earned the bullet clocking this morning. I had him breaking off with an overmatched Grayson trainee Boomtown. Gato edged clear of that one immediately running the first quarter in 24.80. Then he was turned loose. Final three furlongs in 34.60. Rider setting him down for best stuff in the lane. He continues his workout onslaught.
Wash Park ran this past weekend. Instead of sticking to the grass he ran over the Pro-Ride. Gomez was on board and he was unable to get Wash to level out in the late stages. He had made good ground and then flattened out a bit in the final sixteenth. I lost some money on him because I could not pass up the healthy odds he went off at. Two things come to mind after watching that effort. He needs the grass for best. Or, he has some physical issue that prevents him from being able to level out the right way. It would be helpful to see him work a six panel move before his next race. Unfortunately that is a long shot. The vast majority of drills that Greely puts into his horses are three furlong or half mile strolls.
The most interesting work horse of this past week was Green Cat from the John Shirreffs barn. Green Cat is a five year old gelding that is more known for acting as a target for the big players in the Shirreffs barn. He has been used as bait for Zenyatta and Tiago. This past Tuesday he turned in by far his best drill. He broke three up on Elazani (I believe unraced). I had him running further clear every step of this drill - 25.00, 59.80 - final three furlongs in a razor sharp 34.80. The key difference between this drill and past drills was his gallop out. I had never seen him gallop out with any sort of interest. On this day he did. Might be finally 100% healthy. Will follow up.
Zenyatta rolls along. Had to love the little Barry Sanders shake move she pulled off inside the 3/16 pole.
Khendum (November 13 column) blew out Monday morning in 35.00 over a track I thought was a little deeper than usual. She looks great. Of course, she has always looked great.
Wash Park (March 6 column) turned in a leg stretching, maintenance move Monday morning. Rider kept him under a giant hold every step.
Gato Go Win (March 6 column) giving no signs of slow down in the a.m. Ignore the official clocking from Tuesday morning of 49.40. The final furlong was run in 11.40. Impressive burst.
Ziggy's Stardust (November 22 column) took a giant step backwards in his most recent start. He is nowhere near where I thought he would be heading into Derby season. I could not have been more wrong on him.
Ever a Friend (March 6 column) did not show up in the Kilroe. He got a beautiful trip and failed to quicken at the top of the lane. I have heard different excuses. None of which really matter at this point. In the end it all comes down to how a horse performs on race day.
Bright Prediction (March 6 column) was not properly spotted. I don't know why they don't drop him to the bottom level and go for a win.
As I have stated in the past, disappointments are not always entirely negative. In real time the poor efforts can be deflating to the bankroll as well as the ego. But, one of the best ways to get a price on a horse is too bet on them after an ugly performance. It's hard for handicappers to draw a line through an ugly running line in the form. I will not blindly bet on these runners coming back, but if their morning activity suggests the most recent effort was an aberration, then I have no problem giving that runner a mulligan.
Make Music For Me broke his maiden! His win was part of a big day for trainer Alexis Barba. Her other three year old, Alphie's Bet, ran a big race when winning the Sham. Make Music is the better athlete of the pair. Alphie has more raw size and is no doubt a horse that wants the classic 1 1/4 distance. Still not sure if Music wants to run 1 1/4. However, watching the way he galloped out in his win suggests he might have no problem with more distance.
I started my watch on Zenyatta at the five pole and caught her in 23.60, 35.60, 59.20, 1:11.40, out 1:25.40. I don't think she took a deep breath as she cruised by her bait El Vino. Awesome drill.
Khendum (November 13 column) turned in yet another eye popping move when toying with work-mate Theodora. I caught the last half mile of the drill. Khendum's high cruising speed on display every step - 23.40, 46.80, out 59.80 - rider never had to ask for a thing. Watching this kind of drill makes it hard to believe she is still a maiden.
Make Music For Me (February 26, June 24 column) returned to log a much improved drill this past Sunday when working in company with fellow three year old Alphie's Bet. Both are actually entered to run Saturday. The duo went stride for stride every step of the drill - 23.80, 35.80, 1:00.00, out 1:12.80 - Music settled beautifully on this day. Solid team drill.
Trulymet'smydaddy (February 1 column) has been unable to make the right impression in the mornings since her layoff effort. I was hoping for more spark.
I have noticed my approval rating is dropping like a brick. That darn thumbs up sign is in my head. Thus, I began racking my brain for ideas that might improve my popularity. The only thing I came up with is a list of the top 5 works from the last month at Hollywood Park. In no particular order;
1. EVER A FRIEND - Has always been a fun horse to watch train. On February 16 he turned in a stellar a.m. move. He hit the wire in 1:00.60 and did not slow down a hint. Out seven in 1:25.40 and a mile in 1:38.80. He is a Breeders Cup quality animal. If the weather cooperates he will be running in the Kilroe tomorrow. His value on the win end will be questionable but he is a must use in any Pick 4 or Pick 6.
2. MR GRUFF - Capped off his return series the right way on March 4. He catapulted down the Hollywood stretch in 22.60 while the rider was leaning back in the saddle. Clearly he is ready to roll. Sunday is the day he is entered to run.
3. WASH PARK - Turned in a telling blowout this past Tuesday for Team Greely. This is a horse that had flashed above average ability prior to his debut effort on February 20th. The problem was that Greely did not have him close to cranked. He was simply not fit. Despite that fact he outran his 66-1 odds and finished a strong third. I expect him to prove super tough in his next start.
4. GATO GO WIN - Had trained out of his mind coming up to his layoff effort on January 30th. He followed that a.m. activity up with a monster win. He recently gave signs that he wants to explode again. In his last drill he turned on the burners after an easy first quarter. 34.40 final three furlongs and a 22.80 final quarter. Gigantic.
5. BRIGHT PREDICTION - A possible bomber galore from low profile connections. Mendoza took this gelding through a leisurely series prior to his return effort. He ended up going off at over 100-1. In that race he chased a fast pace while under a choke hold. By the time he hit the turn he was empty. The beauty of a horse like this is that I know he is good enough to win at the proper level when his fitness is shapely. His minor blowout on February 26 was razor sharp. He is going to run much better next time around. I guess the thumbs up depends on how each of these horses run?
Till next time.
Zenyatta is inching closer to her much anticipated return. She broke about 1 1/2 lengths behind target El Vino and went a playful six furlongs in a clocking of 1:13.20. I had her coming home the final three fulrongs in 35.80. There was not a deep breath taken. Nearing the wire her ears went straight up in the air. The official breeze notation was well deserved. She ended up galloping far clear. Scary thought . . . she could be getting better. Yikes.
Watching these horses train can be a real head scratcher at times. Make Music For Me has me scratching my head right now. After lacking any sort of spark in his first three drills of the new year he suddenly had his energy level burst into a high gear during a gallop session. He was totally full of himself when breaking off one morning prior to his six furlong drill on Feb. 14. Not surprisingly he turned in his best drill of the series by far on Feb. 14. Logging a 1:12.80 on my watch. 23.80, 35.80 for the final five furlongs. His energy became border line manic in his gallops after that work. That probably led Barba to bring him back a day early on Feb. 20. Unfortunately his manic energy backfired in the that drill. He took off early and appeared to get away from the rider. Down the backside he screamed right by talented three year old El Mirage King from the Moon Han barn. The unsettled action early led to a backwards finish. Final quarter in a poor 25.80. El Mirage King actually reeled him back in down the lane on his way to a 59.60 clocking. The lone positive for Music is that he will get a ton of fitness from the drill. The bad news is that he has ZERO chance of competing at the top level if he does not relax. His next drill will be a fingers crossed event for the connections.
El Mirage King runs in the Sham on Saturday. Off that last drill I would have to consider him a major threat. The race is truly wide open. I would argue that both El Mirage King and Alphie's Bet, which I have seen train at Hollywood, deserve attention. Alphie's Bet is screaming out for the 1 1/8 distance. El Mirage is clearly a horse on the improve. Both get tested for some quality on Saturday. Both offer intriguing value.
2/11/10 - Pick 4 follow-up:
Even when your opinion, or in this case my opinion, turns out to be a disaster, it is important to get some sort of salvage value. Winning breeds a bigger bankroll, while losing needs to be used as a breeding ground for future winners. It is never fun to summarize a poor wager but it has to be done. Talking about winning is easy and usually unproductive. Talking about losing is uncomfortable and usually very productive.
Race 1: Can't say much other than I was 100% wrong. Alice did not pick up her feet at any point. Broke slow and ran slow. There are clearly some physical issues with this big girl. It is never fun to have any wager go down on a 6/5 shot. Ugliness. The winner of the race could prove to be a nice horse. Her morning activity had not suggested she was completely cranked. Room to grow.
Race 2: My most scattered opinion in the sequence came up with the biggest price. The three horses I used ran 2nd, 3rd, 4th. They all ran like maiden claimers. Following the leader home. Did not learn much from this race.
Race 3: Gothic Samurai had zero excuses. He got a perfect stalking trip and failed to quicken in the final stages. It is clear that he wants no part of sprinting. He figures to be stretched out next time. I know he has a ton more to show. Lease of Life ran a big race but he also proved to need more ground. Watch the way he galloped out. He will be super tough next time.
Race 4: Golden Itiz ran a promising third in his debut. Tyler gave him an education when taking him from outside to inside early on in the race. The pace came up so soft that it was a tough task for this guy to reel in the front runner. He will most likely be a deserving odds on choice in his next start. Colonel Mustard ran an unhappy race. At no point in the race did he look comfortable. He spit the bit early. Have no clue what could have happened.
Zenyatta worked this morning. Broke a length and a half off El Vino. Settled nicely. Rider never asking for too much in the stretch as Big Z playfully edged even. She never got out of a gallop. 1:13.60 on my watch.
Taking a glance at the Pick 4 wager on Thursday Feb 11
I am not a shot-gun player. An example of what I consider the shot gun approach is the player who throws in $120 into a Pick 4. In my mind that is a player that is throwing a bunch of darts and hoping. I will not play unless I have a defined opinion on every race. If my thoughts are increasingly scattered then I stay away. This is not to say that the shot-gun approach can't be a money maker. All I know is that it is not a money maker for me. Below is how I approach the Pick 4:
Race 1: Alice is the best horse in the race. Massive mare has done enough to beat a field of this caliber off the layoff. Molly Peaches is her main threat. I recieved good notes from Toby about her morning activity. She figures to give a solid effort. Irish Torrent, Princess Windsharp, Ermine Slippers, and Unknown Heat all fall into the same category. Horses that have proven they are not addicted to winning. If one of them beats me it does not bother me. Medaglia d'Amour is a filly that is going to need racing.
Race 2: Believe this is a three horse race. Tale the Truth gave an honest effort off nearly a year layoff. Figures to improve. Brayden Buddy flashed good speed in a race that came up above par for the level. Speed in a weak race like this needs to be respected. Justice Reigns wheels back quickly and cuts back in distance. His form fits against this group. The two first time starters Bushranger Ned and Warren's Big Eagle have not done enough in the mornings to warrant my respect. Dont' Answer, Best Plan, and Steel Blue are not totally illogical but I sided elsewhere. The Life of Alex and The Last Boy would be major surprises.
Race 3: Only looking at two horses in this race. Gothic Samurai and Lease of Life. I have seen both train. Both are training big. If neither wins then I lose.
Conclusion: #5, #7
Race 4: Golden Itiz has done enough in the mornings to be considered a major threat first time out of the blocks. Lone concern is his overall fitness. Series not a total crank job. The comfy outside post draw is a big help. Colonel Mustard is a colt with above average talent making his debut for a barn that does not care about winning first time out. He has the talent to win but the intent might not be there. The two logical contenders are Screaming Destiny and Canthavehim. Screaming Destiny flashed big speed before fading in a loaded maiden event prior to the New Year. Canthavehim took some action in debut but lost most of his chance with a poor break. The other new faces have not done enough in the mornings to warrant serious respect.
Conclusion: #7, #8
Final ticket: 5 with 6,7,8 with 5,7 with 7,8 (Cost $12)
The overall value of this pick 4 is limited because I do not have a true price in the mix. The first two races I have gone captain obvious which contains the overall value. Therefore, this pick four will not be a bankroll play (discussed in my 9/11/09 column). I always want to define what percentage of my bankroll I am willing to play. This would be closer to 2.5%. The bigger the payout possibility, the bigger my percentage played will be. Only willing to risk more if my reward is significant.
The above outline is not a suggestion that I have found the "right" way to play. It is simply an approach that I have found useful.
Shantika's Dream (February 1 column) - I did not particularly like her last drill. She ended up breaking off in a team of three. Her action in the lane was a bit uncomfortable and I was hoping for much more energy. I concede that this poor drill could have been caused by the suddenly deep Hollywood Park surface. After the rain the HP surface became easily five lengths slower. Even so, I can't ever make a serious wager on a horse that I have mixed signals on.
Ziggy's Stardust (November 22 column) - Ran a good second in his first start at two turns. Though he is still a maiden I will not take him off my possible Santa Anita Derby list. He has not taken a step back yet. Until he does I will be holding the same opinion that I started with.
Make Music For Me (June 24 column) - Has not perked up yet in this series. Steady paced and boring. Would expect his energy to pick up soon.
Sgt. Hitchens (November 22 column) - Disappointed in his most recent drill. He was outworked by new face Spring Forth (runs Thursday). Sgt. broke behind Spring Forth and was unable to push by in the stretch despite aggressive handling. For now he is off the radar.
I was overdue for an update. I do have a valid excuse. The Chargers lost yet another home playoff game. Very depressing.
Shantika's Dream (Jan 11 column) ended up sneaking to the north and running at Golden Gate in a five horse field. It seemed like a dream spot for the owner. From a gambling perspective there is usually not going to be intriguing value in five horse fields. The owners dream turned into a nightmare when Shantika ended up dueling between horses and steadying while getting squeezed between horses before the turn. In a 5.5 furlong race that is all she wrote. Since that effort she has returned to work. This is a runner worth following up on. In the form, the running line will be ugly. She had a valid excuse and only figures to improve with a reasonable spot and a better trip.
Khendum (November 13 column) displayed quite a bit of improvement in her second career start when finishing a decent second running down the hill. She had no excuses. I think two turns is right around the corner.
Ziggy's Stardust (November 22 column) has been churning out drills over at Santa Anita.
Make Music For Me (June 24 column) has returned to record a couple of very easy morning drills.
Sgt. Hitchens (November 22) has returned since the mysterious scratch to record a couple of drills. Nothing serious to note.
One of my favorite angles could emerge over the next couple of weeks. The horse of note is Trulymet'smydaddy from the Jack Van Berg barn. He had not run since October 2008. The majority of his series was very forgettable. In his last prep he suddenly perked up with a much improved workout. There was no way on earth he was 100% cranked for his race this past Saturday. On top of that he was entered in way over his head. He ended up contesting the lead with another long-shot till inside the 3/16 pole. At that point, his lack of recency took over and he began to tire. He ended up finishing dead last. I love this angle for a couple of reasons. 1) He was headed the right direction in his morning pattern going into the race; 2) I know he was not close to 100% cranked; 3) The combination of his long odds, low percentage connections, and ugly running line will lead to this guy being a total toss by anybody reading the racing form in his next start. His next drill or morning gallop will be the telling factor on whether or not he came out of the race right. I will follow up on this story soon.
I'm hoping, within the next couple of weeks to break down a race that I feel is an intriguing gambling opportunity. I have spent most of my time in this column giving general thoughts on my macro approach and have not yet given an example of my micro strategy on how I tackle a wager. I look forward to sharing those thoughts soon.
New Year's resolutions are a fun thing to joke about because 99.9% of them are ill conceived dribble. The majority of us have fallen victim to this silly yearly ritual. A popular resolution like, 'I'm going to lose weight', is about as detailed a goal as 'I'm going to make more money playing the ponies'. The problem with these destined failures is that there is no structure that follows. We write down a macro based goal like 'I'm going to lose weight', and fail to do the most important thing which is to determine how the heck I became so chunky in the first place. Understanding the micro steps it will take to successfully manage a weight change would make any honest individual realize that the only way to do it successfully without falling back into old routines is a dramatic life style change. What is my point and how does this relate to racing? I'm sure there are a number of players out there that have decided they are going to make more money playing the ponies, or they are going to play smarter (whatever that means). Think of this decision as a lifestyle change. Take everything you think you have learned and throw it in the garbage. Erase the blackboard. Quit worrying about adding more handicapping angles to your arsenal. Do NOT buy that book that teases the idea of how to beat the races. And if you must, read it with a bag of salt in your lap. Instead of gambling on every race, begin to watch every race. You can transform yourself from a biased observer into an objective observer. Start to think contrarian. I use to follow every single radio show out in Southern California religiously. My favorite thing to do was to write down every single horse that was given out by the panel of experts. When one of them was over bet, that is when I would play a race. My idea was that even the best handicapper on the planet over the long haul was going to hit around 30%. That meant that 70% of the time they were wrong. I liked those odds. So when a radio play was bet from 4-1 to 8-5 I knew I had a possible race of value. Take some of my opinions from the past. Khendum, the John Shirreffs filly that I raved about prior to her debut was bet down to 3-2. She ran off the board. Clearly the opinion I had on Khendum was shared by a bunch of other people. Don't get comfortable when the crowd is on your side. There is no value in that. Standing alone is more profitable. How many times have you had a strong opinion on a horse and then watched the odds go from 5-1 . . to 10-1 . . to 15-1, and then decide the horse was dead on the board and you chose not to play, only to watch the horse air by five lengths. I say start betting more the higher the price goes. Start betting less the lower the price goes. These are simple ideas that can begin changing the way you approach this game from the gambling side.
Feel free to add Shantika's Dream to your stable list. This four year old filly from the Troeger barn has turned in a progressive series thus far for her return. She has been sidelined since April of last year. The consistency of her pattern, along with the clear improvement from one drill to the next is why I feel she is worth taking an extra look at when she returns. Her last two drills have been confidence builders. Troeger has put her in company with younger and she has responded each time by finishing much best on both occasions.
One more note before I go. A reader brought it to my attention that Make Music For Me is being offered at 100-1 in the future Derby pools. I have never thought betting on Derby futures was a wise investment decision. The only reason to do it is for pure entertainment and for that ego we lug around. I have heard stories of players that have allegedly made a killing on this kind of wager. I simply don't see the value. Especially this far off from the race. However, for a small amount of money it can be a lot of fun to follow. I did it with Georgie Boy a few years back and was getting really excited after he won a Derby prep. My ego was soaring off the charts. One week later he came down with an injury. Ego deflated. Tough game.
In response to a gentleman asking about a possible Horses to Watch service. We currently provide key trip notes in our So-Cal Works product. We have no current plans of branching out and developing another product. The reason I provide the free content of this column is to give people a glimpse of my overall approach. I enjoy general discussions regarding this game and I encourage more readers to pose any question as long as the question is constructive.
The video notebook runner Warren's Casino Guy (discussed on the December 7th column) returned before the New Year and gave anybody who made a play on him a run for their money. He ended up going off at 28-1 odds. After breaking slowly, he quickly put himself back in the race. He was positioned about four wide every step of the turn and eventually found himself in the lead mid-stretch before getting run down by the post time favorite. These are the kinds of gambling opportunities that can make a meet, or even a year, if things fall the right way. In this instance the runner came up a bit short but it still serves as a useful reminder that if a horse player is patient, value races will spring up from time to time. He ended up paying $27.60 to place. This did not help me because I have never been a fan of betting to place. The $1 exacta with the favorite came back $87.20. This proved as my useful hedge.
The two year old turned three, Ziggy's Stardust, had his second career start on opening day at Santa Anita. I really liked what I saw from him. Not overly quick out of the blocks, he gradually made up ground, and then got into a race with two other runners for third money in the final furlong. He gamely beat those two home to pick up third. It's always nice to see a horse display a competitive grit. The race overall came up really strong. A Bob Baffert first time starter by the name of Concord Point ran off the charts to get the victory. I would suspect Ziggy will race at either 7 furlongs or two turns in his next start.
Khendum just turned in a work this past Saturday. A very purposeful drill. Shirreffs broke her off behind two other runners. Khendum immediately threw her head around when the rider wanted her to sit behind. After about a sixteenth Khendum relaxed a tad, though still had a strong hold of the bit. On the turn the rider wheeled her to the outside and she cruised clear in the stretch while never getting on the correct lead. My watch had her in 24.60, 1:00.20, out 1:12.80, 1:27.00. The rider never asked her to quicken. Right now she is a mystery to me. Clearly a filly with tremendous upside. Though I have no clue what she wants to do. There is still a lot she has to learn. I am very interested to see what spot Shirreffs chooses for her. I would suspect a minimum distance of seven furlongs. Two turns probably his ideal choice.
Make Music For Me ran a game third in the Cash Call behind early Derby favorite Lookin at Lucky. I believe Barba will give him a brief freshening before bringing him back into training. Though he is still a maiden, he has earned over $150,000.
Sgt. Hitchens is suddenly a mystery. Drysdale had him entered to run two turns on the grass on December 27. He was scratched and I have not seen him in the mornings since.
I will follow up with an addition to the video notebook as well as adding a key morning breeze at the end of this week.
First, let me answer a couple of questions that were tossed my way. In regards to Lava Man, I was not overwhelmed with the way he had been training up to the race that he was eventually scratched from last week. Even in his prime years, Lava Man had never been a 'wow' type in the mornings. He had a blue collar style. In his recent series there had been no fireworks. A few of the works were actually rather dull. I was pleasantly surprised when he turned in such a strong work this past Thursday. It was his best drill of the series by far. My watch had him in 37.80 to the top, hit the wire in 1:02.00, down to the bottom in 1:14.20. The most impressive part of the work was the insistence he showed on the gallop out. Determined to cover ground and was able to get seven furlongs in 1:26.80 and one mile in 1:39.80. Can he regain his post as the top handicap horse in California? That is a lot to ask. Frankly, it's a big long-shot. But at least he has turned the corner in his a.m. routine. From a gambling perspective he is a bet against because he will more than likely be overplayed on his return. From a pure fan point of view. I want to see him win.
For the reader that asked where else he can read my dubious opinion. Casetherace is the only web-site brave enough to publish my dribble. I team up with Toby Turrell on our So-Cal Works product, but that is not a free read.
Khendum came back with another work. The work was an eye opener because it showed why her debut was such a mess. Watching a horse work solo gives a scout the chance to see the complete physical package. Khendum demanded attention in those solo drills. An important aspect that can't be fully measured in those solo moves is whether or not the horse has a clue what his/her job is. When she worked in company with three year old colt El Vino it was the first time I realized how green she was. The duo worked quickly - 23.20, 59.00 - but there was a lack of spark at the end of the drill. It was as if Khendum did not understand she was supposed to run clear of her work-mate. She seemed bored. The fact she re-broke on the gallop out confirmed her stakes quality talent but stakes quality talent has to have a direct relationship with racing I.Q. Right now Khendum is still in first grade when it comes to racing I.Q. Shirreffs has a training job on his hands. I love these kind of situations because a horse can have the light go on at any moment. We'll see if Shirreffs can find the right switch for his talented filly.
Ziggy's Stardust had his first work back since his debut. He worked an eager half mile in 24.20, 47.80. Galloped out five in 1:00.40. Ziggy is not the most diligent of movers. His personality is borderline manic. As he matures I'm sure this high strung mentality will work in his favor. For now, he is simply an evolving youngster.
Warren's Casino Guy turned in a professional five panels on Wednesday. 37.80, 1:01.60 - Maintained an honest, steady tempo all the way. Pure positive.
Sgt. Hitchens worked a one paced six panels on Thursday. 37.80, 1:02.40, 1:14.80 - There is no question in my mind he is screaming out for two turns. Nothing flashy about his style. Grinder mentality.
Make Music For Me runs in the Cash Call later today.
Ziggy's Stardust made his debut today. This is a gray horse that I have on my radar for big races down the road. I had mixed feelings about his performance. He was a bit more green than I had expected. During the early stages he seemed a little confused and it showed in an exaggerated up and down action. I say exaggerated because Ziggy has a natural climbing action. In the first quarter mile he was simply not using it with efficiency. Rosario positioned him wide on the turn. I'm sure this was a purposeful type ride. Down the stretch he maintained an even tempo without ever being a threat for the win. There are two sides to this coin. From a gambling perspective the only angle we care about is the result. I normally don't play 3-1, but my opinion on Ziggy is such that I was forced to tinker around in the exotics with him as my key. So on that measuring stick it was a failure. Taking a broader outlook, not only from a gambling side, but also from perspective of the owners, this debut has to be greeted with positive vibes.
A video note from this past Saturday that deserves attention is from Race 6. Warrens Casino Guy turned in a professional series of drills prior to his debut for trainer Jorge Gutierrez. I was forced to make a little wager on him because of his 87-1 odds. He had a nightmare trip when caught in tight quarters between runners early and then ran into more traffic issues in the stretch. A drop in class would make this guy super live in his next start. If Gutierrez brings him back at the same level, he will offer enormous value in the exotics. He has shown enough ability already to compete at the maiden allowance level.
Khendum worked back for Team Shirreffs. She looked fantastic. 23.80, 47.40 - Striding out with really nice cover down the lane without being asked. I was surprised to see her return so quickly. Shirreffs does not have a very aggressive style. She must have come out of her debut in great shape.
Two runners ran this past weekend that I had discussed in a recent column.
Khendum - Disappointed in her debut, after getting an avalanche of action at the windows. It turned into a typical John Shirreffs debut effort. Broke a little slow. Put herself in position heading into the turn. Smith had her positioned about five wide mid turn. In the stretch she simply did not quicken. The lone positive in the race was her good gallop out. By no means does this off the board finish in debut close the book on this girl. Sometimes a forgettable performance like this can lead to a gambling opportunity down the line.
Cherryblossommiss - Team Sadler decided to stretch her out. Bejarano tucked her in right behind the speed on the rail. She was into the bit, though not necessarily rank. When room presented itself she dug in gamely to win a tough stretch drive. She did not offer much value on the win end.
Derby list update:
1. Make Music For Me - Turned in a maintenance move this morning. Nothing serious done.
2. Sgt. Hitchens - No update. Did not see his bogus three panels this Saturday.
3. Ziggy's Stardust - Talented gray from the Hollendorfer barn is running through the bridle in his morning gallops. Rider is having a tough time keeping him on the ground.
Providing a list of runners to follow is a habit I have found very helpful. It forces me to confront my opinion on horses I have liked and make necessary changes as time goes on. I am basically forcing myself to take accountability and learn from errors. I am less concerned about the times I am correct. Mistakes will always provide a better learning platform than success. And in this game, being wrong is par for the course. Learning how to accept the fact that being wrong is part of the game, while also refusing to get comfortable with the idea is a tricky skill.
More to follow.
Never too early to start making a list of promising Derby prospects. The list must be made in pencil because there will be numerous changes in the next six months.
The three runners I have on my radar from Hollywood drills are the following:
1. Make Music For Me - Flopped as the 2/5 favorite on Sunday. There is a definite worry that the aggressive tactics of sending this guy to Keeneland could have really set him back. One thing I have learned is that horses coming back from a cross country trip will not always give true signs of set-back in the a.m. The big tip off is always that first race back. Well, Music did not appear like a horse too interested in setting himself down and racing. To say I was disappointed in his effort would be a drastic understatement. The talent he has shown in the mornings suggests there is a high ceiling for this guy. We'll see if Barba can get his mind back in the right place. I refuse to give up on him.
2. Sgt. Hitchens - Made his debut on the grass for Team Drysdale this past Saturday. It served as a useful prep. He basically ran around in one speed. Drysdale had never asked him to get serious on the clock in any of his a.m. drills. His series was based in galloping tempo drills in company. During his easy a.m. series he showed off a significant stride. A stride that is screaming out for two turns. One to follow as the distances increase.
3. Ziggy's Stardust - Stormed onto my radar with his last couple of drills over the cushion. The first drill I saw from him was a steady paced six panel move where he exhibited the kind of stride that will thrive at a distance. On Sunday he displayed an entirely new dimension when logging an explosive gate drill. The rider turned this leggy gray loose on the turn and he went from second to fifth gear in a blink. An eye gouging 11.40 final furlong. Keep an eye out for this guy. He could be a serious runner.
Zenyatta has hit the main track a few times in the last week to gallop. She is a freaking freight train out there right now. Unbelievable. I hope everybody can appreciate the true outlier she is.
Let the debate rage. Zenyatta VS Rachel. A brilliant two year career, seasoned with a magical conclusion VS a freakish three year old campaign that went unblemished. The West Coast champion VS East Coast champion. Synthetic VS Dirt. I refuse to take a side. This is the kind of argument that should be decided on the track. Unfortunately it's a debate that will never have a real answer. No matter how confident a person might be that their opinion is the right one regarding this issue, it will remain just that, an opinion. They are both rock stars.
I had the opportunity to catch the Breeders Cup Classic live and in person. I have never been more nervous before a race. I did not have a single dime invested. Horseracing at its core is not about the bet. This is a fact our new favorite media man Jim Rome has come to understand. The core of this game is when quality races quality. And every now and then we get to see a quality runner evolve into a superstar. On this day, we got to see a superstar cement her legacy with an unforgettable performance. Trevor Denman took the words right out of my mouth. Un-be-lievable!
With the Hollywood meet opening tonight, I figured it was a good time to offer a horse or two to follow. I have made it clear that I am a big fan of Make Music For Me. A two year old that is still a maiden. He has trained like a horse that came out of the Poly play with no scars. The other day he just worked 1:11.0 without being asked. It will be interesting to see if Barba goes with a maiden race or sticks with the stakes ranks.
Cherryblossommiss is a gray runner that should go on the radar. Four year old filly vanned down to Hollywood for one work before running on the first day of Breeders Cup weekend. The work she turned in was big. She drew the rail in a 6.5 furlong allowance race. The race was won in a fast time by a gate to wire winner from the Mitchell barn. Cherry had a ton of run in the stretch but had a lot of trouble finding a clear path. If she came out of that race healthy she will prove a really tough beat next time.
Khendum, a three year old filly from the John Shirreffs barn, has made an impression in her series of drills. There appears to be an abundance of run in this girl. I suspect her debut race will be coming up shortly. Always exciting to see whether these new faces can transfer the a.m. talent to the afternoon. Keep an eye out for her.
For those that have not enjoyed the Classic call more than once. I urge you to enjoy the race again on the calracing web site. I guarantee it will put you in a good mood.
FINAL PREPS FOR THE BIG DAY - HOLLYWOOD PARK DRILLS from Friday October 30
Monzante: Just what the doctor ordered for this Mitchell gray. Went off in a very relaxed tempo from the six pole. Basically galloping through the first three furlongs in 40.40. Then began to unfold his stride. Rider gave him a couple of taps on the shoulder in the stretch and he responded like a pro should - 52.20, 1:16.80 (wire time), running out to the bottom in the official clocking of 1:28.80. Then, like the good Mitchell runners do, he re-broke on the gallop out - 1:41.00, 1:53.60. Everything went right today. Settled beautifully. Accelerated on cue. The internal fractions could be read, 1:01.20, 1:13.40, 1:26.00.
Proviso: 24.80, 49.00, out 1:01.40 - Much more comfortable today than last week. Progressive half mile. Traveling well in hand. Could have gone much faster.
Ventura: The champ looked fantastic. Rider took her out very slow - 13.00, 25.40 - for the opening quarter. Then, when given an inch of rein to work with, she came the last three furlongs in 34.80 to stop my watch in 1:00.20. This rally was done without a hint of ask. Galloped out in 1:12.60. As flashy as you will see in the a.m.
Visit: Only caught the final furlong of this drill. On the wrong lead per usual. Rider had her under a managed rein.
Life is Sweet: Broke about three off maiden allowance type Poet Laureate. Opening three furlongs for her in 34.60. She was less than a length off work-mate by the quarter pole. Cruised by in the lane to finish best by a couple of lengths. Final five furlongs in 58.80. There is nothing she did today that I have not seen before. Status quo. The most interesting part of this drill was the energetic gallop out of the maiden Poet Laureate. Laureate actually ran by Sweet on the gallop out. Seven panels in 1:26.00.
Awesome Gem: Took him five furlongs in 36.20, 1:00.00. True grinder never wows in the a.m. Had company join him when maiden Ginello broke off at the half pole. Ginello was traveling with more energy than Gem crossing the wire.
After Zenyatta lived up to expectations yet again with another victory, I began to get nostalgic about my how much fun I have had in the six years I have been toting a stop watch. I remember when I came out for the first time in the mornings to Santa Anita. Love at first sight for me. A gorgeous setting combined with a complicated maze of thoroughbreds jogging, walking, and working. I know had this silly looking grin on my face when I met Toby that morning. It could not be helped. The scene was awesome. I felt I was a guest in a secret morning society to which only the true insiders were invited to. Then came my first experience of a true Santa Anita morning rush. In the blink of an eye, a mob of horses were shooting through the lane, and Toby was recording his thoughts into a tape recorder. How the bleep did he know which horse was which? He called that one a Baffert? How did he know that? What does shallow mean? I had been introduced to a new language. My mind was made-up. This is what I wanted to do. Well, six years later I'm still plugging away. The progress still left to be made is infinite. That's the beauty of this game. There is always something new to learn.
With that quick look back, I started thinking about the best work horses I have seen thus far.
Following, are my Top 5 in no particular order.
1. LION HEART - Talk about a horse that was permanently on the engine. At the time, I did not quite understand what made him special. After a few years under my belt, I now have an appreciation for the kind of animal this guy was. He would come out like he was ready to go 12 rounds. A "look at me" attitude. Clocker's always have those key words that center around the kind of energy a horse is bringing to his works. Nuclear fission is the best way to describe the kind of energy LION HEART was bringing.
2. BROTHER DEREK - At the peak of his three year old year, this guy was as fun to watch train as anybody. As fluid a mover as I have seen. Leading up to his Santa Anita Derby cake-walk, he turned in a six panel drill that I had to triple check. The rider had his feet in the dashboard as DEREK dragged him forward down the lane. It was the kind of visual you see in short three furlong blowouts. This finish was at the end of a six panels recorded in 1:12 and change. I'm sure somebody has video of this drill in the archives. It should be used as a visual definition of what breezing really is. Phenomenal move.
3. MIDNIGHT LUTE - I think it's fair to describe this guy as a freak. He actually reminds me of Zenyatta in the respect that his stride covers a cartoonish amount of ground. At Del Mar, he turned in a seven furlong move in 1:21.80. I think officially he was given 1:22.0. Don't you just have to laugh at a clocking like that. And that might not have been his best move. I'll just borrow words that Toby Turrell used when describing the work before his Breeders Cup Sprint win in 2008.
10/13: After 'LUTE hit the wire in an amazing :56-3/5 for five furlongs, (trainer Bob) Baffert yelled down the way, "Was that one good enough for you!!!???' In my 25 years of clocking, this work from the son of Real Quiet was perhaps in my top five of all time. I can't make a stronger statement than this, as I have witnessed some great works from great horses all over the country in recent years.
4. EVER A FRIEND - Probably the least known of my group. Before the Frank Kilroe Mile in 2008 he blew me away on February 9th. The splits I had were, 1:00.60, 1:12.40, 1:24.40, 1:36.60. Tyler was on board for the drill. This guy looked like a loaded keg of dynamite running by the wire. Tyler had him on a managed rein, and he never let out a notch. Somehow he blows around the turn on the Mitchell-esque gallop out to record that ridiculous mile time. I remember thinking to myself, "what the f**k was that I just saw". The drill is still so vivid in my mind. The cherry on top was when he exploded on race day and demolished the Kilroe field on way to a 1:33.37 final time and a win payoff of $20.60. Wish there were more drills like this. Of course then they would not be as special.
5. ZENSATIONAL - Looney tune gray did some things over at Del Mar that were from fantasy land. Finishing off six furlong drills in :22 and change for a final quarter is just unheard of. He'll go :45.00 without taking a deep breath. Surreal type speed. A lot of fun to watch.
I get really juiced up when talking about these brilliant a.m. moves. They don't happen very often, but when they do, it is a truly special moment.
Make Music For Me ran a troubled fourth at Keeneland. He probably swallowed half the Poly surface when stalking in the middle of that throng. My opinion on him has not changed. He is my favorite two year old. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll get to see him run in the Juvenile.
Laura's Pleasure disappointed out of her strong workout pattern. Not the easiest of trips, but I still thought she should have found a way to win. We'll see how she comes out of that race.
Breeders Cup around the corner. I only have one wish. Zenyatta in the Classic.
Zenyatta continues rolling along in her a.m. routine. Her most recent drill was a work that involved the barn punching bag Green Cat and older male Tiago. Zenyatta broke one back of Green Cat, with Tiago breaking another eight lengths back of those two. Zenyatta never seemed to get out of her long striding gallop. She stayed one back till the top. Moved even with ease and finished with ears pricked. Tiago had practically made up all the ground by the eighth pole, but seemed to get intimidated by his inside position and failed to sustain the run late. He ended up falling back again. Zenyatta galloped out with good interest. I sometimes think she gets bored. Things come so easy for her. She covers so much more ground than her competition. It's interesting to note that Shirreffs has added blinkers for her morning gallops. The blinkers were not added for the workout.
California champion Lava Man is back on the scene. He is old enough to vote now. His appearances during his a.m. gallop routine have been outstanding. One morning he actually tricked me. I started my watch on him at the half because of how much energy he was moving with. I thought he was about to work. It will be fun to see if this guy can once again compete at the top level. What a story that would be.
Time to bring up a horse I first started talking about in my June 24 column. Make Music For Me is a talented two year old that I believe could be a Breeders Cup champ. It is important to note that 'Make Music is still a maiden. I love the way this guy has steadily progressed. Each time I see him in the mornings he leaves a larger imprint in my mind. His last drill on September 27 was fantastic. He should have no problem when an extra turn gets thrown into the mix. Kudos to Alexis Barba for doing such a fantastic job with this colt. I look forward to seeing what he can do in the next month or so.
One more runner to add to the stable list is Laura's Pleasure. Troeger trained filly did not make much of an impression prior to her first race. Ever since getting that first race under her belt she seems to be a different animal. Her most recent drill was the most stylish drill I have seen her turn in. She toyed with a work-mate. Total breeze.
Till next time.
To further the discussion that Tim Maas initiated on his two thoughtful articles on Betting Value, I felt compelled to throw in my one cent.
For those players that are truly motivated to churn out a positive rate of return at the races, the single most important discipline an investor must have is money management. Bankroll control, monetary policy, capital allocation. . . whatever name you'd like to give it. This basic discipline is of paramount importance in any investment arena. If you do not know how to manage risk, then you will consistently put yourself in a position of failure. There are far too many players spending 99% of their time perfecting the method of finding a winner and 1% of the time thinking about how to construct wagers that will result in the least risk, biggest reward scenario. I've always felt that in any speculative environment the single most important goal is to make as much money as possible while risking as little as possible. Clearly these thoughts are far from original, but it is amazing how many people do not consider these fundamental principles when playing the races.
I have a suggestion for any player out there who has yet to find a strict gambling strategy to follow. The next meet you plan on tackling, the first decision you should make is what your overall risk is going to be. Define your bankroll. What part of your discretionary income are you comfortable putting at risk? The word comfortable is key. When a player begins getting uncomfortable at the windows, he needs to walk away. Whether he is putting too much money at risk or his opinion is just too scattered on a given race, the uneasiness is a helpful reminder that you should walk away. If you are somebody who plays for that natural "gambling high" then this discussion is not for you.
After defining your bankroll you need to decide how to best allocate your resources. For example, I am a player that will never risk more than 15% on any one play. 15% is my case play. It only happens on the rare occasion when I feel I have a major edge on the public and my risk/reward ratio is skewed heavily in my favor. Most of the time I hang around the 2.5%-5% level. This is my recognition that there are a million ways to lose a horse race. I'm putting my ego aside and allowing for major slumps to enter into the equation. This will ensure that when a great opportunity comes around I will actually have the fire power to take advantage. How many times have you had a strong opinion on a race but your bankroll was non-existent so you had to watch a 15-1 cruise gate to wire while you fumed by sitting on your hands. These are not the kind of stories you want to pile up.
I know this discussion is rather elementary. But I think simplicity is an often overlooked concept. There is no reason to complicate things unnecessarily. Before going and buying your next handicapping book that explains the art of picking winners. Remind yourself that you have 15 years of hardcore racing experience. You have developed your own theories whether you have recognized them or not. Now is not the time to add more angles. Now is the time to formulate a wagering strategy that puts you in a position to CRUSH when the right race comes around.