BREEDERS’ CUP SATURDAY


I’ll take a look at each race in terms of who I like is A-level contenders for Pick 4s and such and also mention some interesting longshots where appropriate. Click through for my At The Races analysis (and please do because it makes me look good).

Race 4: I’m loving #1 ARTEMIS ARGOTERA. Can see a longshot case for #6 CONCAVE.

Race 5: I think #1 DANK and #2 ROMANTICA have it between them.

Race 6: In the end, might try to beat #11 GROUPIE DOLL with #9 JUDY THE BEAUTY. Also have As on #5 TEDDY’S PROMISE and #8 DANCE TO BRISTOL.

Race 7: I like #14 UNBRIDLED’S NOTE, #4 RENEESGOTZIP and #13 DIMENSION.

Race 8: The favorites look super live, #13 HAVANA and #6 TAP IT RICH.

Race 9: #11 MAGICIAN might be the value. #7 THE FUGUE and #8 POINT OF ENTRY are the obvious As for me.

Race 10: Preference for #3 GENTLEMEN’S BET and #6 BAHAMIAN SQUALL. Longshot cases to be made for #11 TRINNIBERG and #12 LAUGH TRACK.

Race 11: I think #8 WISE DAN wins the race but I’ll play #5 OLYMPIC GLORY as well here.

Race 12: My As are #7 FORT LARNED and #9 GAME ON DUDE. But I’d love to be alive on some tickets covering farther reaching possibilities including  #5 DECLARATION OF WAR, even #3 PLANTEUR and #1 LAST GUNFIGHTER.

Go get ‘em!

 

 

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BREEDERS’ CUP FRIDAY


Click here to read my various thoughts on thirty of the runners in the Breeders’ Cup over on the At The Races website — special thanks to Steven “Faller” Bonnick for his contributions.

I was also happy to help out Teresa Genaro with this piece over at Forbes.com. There’s also a Saturday version.

Here are a few additional thoughts:

BC Marathon: The more I look at this race, the more I keep coming back to WORLDLY and SUNS OUT GUNS OUT. As I wrote over on At the Races, I also like OLD TIME HOCKEY.

BC Juv Turf: I love this guy. (See what I did there?)

BC Dirt Mile: I’ve been looking more at BRUJO DE OLLEROS. Concerned about draw for GOLDENCENTS. I might throw in a couple of crazy longshots but don’t want to tip my hand for the #Huddie BC contest. Though I’ll post them later on.

BC Juv Turf Filles: Lots of ways to go with preference to her over her and her.

Distaff: The Champ looks strong, but will face a challenge from her. The more I think about it, the less I like this one. None of these might be the contest play.

Back tomorrow with more. . .godspeed to all humans and equines today!

 

 

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GUEST POST ON ASCOT CHAMPIONS DAY BY STEVEN BONNICK


An excellent card, but most of the races make little appeal as betting contests.  The exceptions are below:

Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup

The question in the opening staying event is what can beat Estimate?  Sir Michael Stoute’s filly is 3/3 at the track, handles the going and comes here off the back of a career best when winning the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.  She lays over most of this field, but the weight for age scale – which accounts for immaturity of racehorses according to age and distance – tends to favour 3-year-olds over staying distances at this time of year, and Estimate may struggle to cope a 7lb weight concession to Aiden O’Brien’s progressive EYE OF THE STORM.  This well-bred colt has some very good form both as a juvenile and this year.  He has progressed following a summer break and looked a thorough stayer last time.  He shouldn’t have won there, really, given he was restrained and gave away ground on good horses off a sedentary pace, but in doing so showed he was a very talented horse.  A better pace here and slower ground should suit him and he looks well worth a bet at 7/1.

Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes

With no confirmed front-runners in the line-up, this is likely to be a messy, tactical affair.  Dalkala comes here off the back of a Group 1 win on Arc weekend, but I just don’t think she’s that good and is opposable given she looks better over 10f.  Igugu, too, looks a non-stayer.

German raider Nymphea can lead and could be dangerous from the front.  She’s got some solid form but might find a couple two good for her.  Talent is well named, and ran well off a steady pace in the St Leger last time.  A lack of pace is a worry again here, though, and this could be an opportunity for WAILA to strike at the highest level.  Too free on her penultimate start, she looked an improved filly for the fitting of a hood – a pacifying and effective device designed to block out noise, currently in vogue amongst British trainers – last time out when winning by 10 lengths.  She’s been off for three months, but that’s not a concern given her trainer.  She’s in stall 1, should get a perfect stalking trip and will definitely stay the distance, while her breeding is particularly encouraging for soft ground.

 

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PUT IT IN THE BOOK! My interview with Howie Rose


howie jacket

I wanted to do a quick post to share links to an something I’m proud of — my debut piece for Don McGee’s MIXED BAG on WFUV, an interview with Mets announcer Howie Rose that includes music! I hope to be publishing a print version soon. Howie has a new book out which you can purchase here.

A word about the archive.org files. . .wordpress doesn’t seem to want to embed them but it’s really no big deal. Just click on the link, look for the player in the upper right corner, under where it says “upload,” and click play to listen.

Before I we get to my Howie Rose interview, brilliantly cut and programmed by Don Mcgee, check out this clip of Howie from back in June (plug starts at 1:43)

https://archive.org/details/Howieon50Licks

Amazing stuff. Once the Mets started the rally, I figured he’d have to drop the topic. But he kept on going. I’m forever indebted. And imagine how much my Dad would have loved that 50 Licks got mentioned in the midst of Mets game-winning rally!

OK, on to the main event. Here is part one:

https://archive.org/details/Rose101013Pt1

And here is part two:

https://archive.org/details/Rose101013Pt2

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GUEST POST BY STEVEN BONNICK: 2013 Prix de ‘Arc de Triomphe Preview


After last year’s deeply unsatisfactory renewal – where heavy, borderline untraceable ground rendered previous form worthless and a freak result occurred – it is something of a relief that the going for the 2013 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe should allow most of the field to be seen to best effect.  It is currently soft, and this should mean a good-to-soft surface come race time with no further rain forecast.

ORFEVRE looks a good place to start the analysis of this race.  You may have seen the viral video of typically enthusiastic and patriotic Japanese racing fans watching this horse run in last year’s Arc, but I’ll make sure Pete puts a link in case you haven’t.

Without wanting to spoil it too much, delight turned to despair as this hugely talented horse swept down the outside, looking a certain winner, only to be run out of it close home by the unfancied Solemia.  As above, that race was run on terrible ground, and ORFEVRE would have won that race on anything like an orthodox racing surface.  He’s been geared towards this race since and won his trial with aplomb, beating nothing of note but barely having to come out of first gear.  He is clearly very good, but has blemishes on his record and isn’t unbeatable.  His trainer knows this, and has suggested the biggest threat to the horse is himself.

He is not the only raider from the Far East, and Japanese Derby winner KIZUNA matched his compatriot when winning his trial, the Prix Niel, on the same card.  In my experience, Japanese trainers rarely have their horses fully fit for prep races and a good deal of improvement is likely to be forthcoming.  It will be required, however, as he was fortunate to beat RULER OF THE WORLD in the Niel.

RULER OF THE WORLD is the English Derby winner and bounced right back to form last time after an abject run in the Irish Derby.  The form of his win at Epsom is desperate, but the suspicion is that he was a fair bit the best there and he showed in the Niel that he has huge talent.  A tactical affair that day wouldn’t have been ideal, and there may be more to come in a strongly run affair.  He’s well drawn.

FLINTSHIRE was fourth in the Niel but is a likely improver for better going.  Whether it will be quite fast enough for him to eek out the necessary improvement is debatable – I don’t think it will be – but look out for him if he turns up at Santa Anita in the Turf.

FLINTSHIRE is one of five runners for the genius that is Andre Fabre.  PENGLAI PAVILION and PIRIKA look up against it, while OCOVANGO is held on previous form by several of today’s opponents, but INTELLO is a colt from the top drawer.  He won the French Derby and was third in the Prix Jacques Le Marois, before winning his prep race in comfortable style.  This will be his first try over the distance and my suspicion is that he may be a shade better over ten furlongs.  Strong chance if he can stretch out, though.

AL KAZEEM has the worst of the draw, being in stall 18 of 18.  He is unbeaten going right-handed in his career, having won all five times he’s run this way.  Some ease in the ground is ideal for him and the return back to 12f should suit this strong galloper.  He’s been below par the last twice and has had a lot of hard races this season, but both defeats came going left-handed.  If the return to running anti-clockwise means he can rediscover his best form of the summer, he would have a very solid chance.  His jockey is intelligent and talented, and will be a great asset in overcoming his tricky post.

TREVE looks an exceptional filly.  Unbeaten in four runs, she has won two Group 1 races with ridiculous ease and now takes on the colts.  She’s drawn fairly wide, but her hold up style negates concerns over her post position and she has excellent acceleration.  Fillies have a good record in recent years having won three of the last five renewals, and she may be able to improve that record.

Of the outsiders, LEADING LIGHT looks as though he may outrun his price.  A winner of the St Leger last time over further, he should be well placed from a low stall and keeps improving.

VERDICT: More of a race to watch and savour than bet on.  Orfevre is a worthy favourite and commands huge respect, but TREVE has created a huge impression this season and may be capable of becoming the third successive winner of this race.

 

 

 

 

 

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WEDNESDAY: Interview with 2013 #Huddie King Brian Nadeau


I know, I know. I said that Monday’s blog was going to be the last one for awhile. I lied. Consider Monday’s blog a false finish. You see, I can’t let an event like Brian Nadeau — such an important character on the blog — winning the #Huddie contest go unremarked upon. What is #Huddie you might ask? A terrific, semi-underground, twitter-propelled, meet-long Saratoga horse picking contest that has been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know I’m one.

They say you shouldn’t hang around the racetrack with people you don’t want to see win. That’s about as close to a racetrack truism as you’ll get. There’s a select group of us at the Paddock Bar who sometimes play as partners but always want to see each other win. Brian is part of that group. We first met many years ago when we were both working for The Saratoga Special. I was analyzing races, he was chasing down quotes. Quite sensibly, within a few years he was analyzing races and I was off writing books. Books, incidentally, which featured another kind of false finish.

Everybody knows I fancy myself the Barbara Walters of the degenerates. So here, without further ado, my interview with 2013 #Huddie King, Mr. Brian Nadeau:

So this year’s Huddie contest came right down to the wire. Tell me how it went down.

It’s kind of funny that it came down to the Hopeful and I was pretty fortunate, because I think somehow I was the only person in the entire contest who picked Strong Mandate. And it’s easy to say after he ran off the screen, but I didn’t really understand how that could be. In fact, I thought he was a real wiseguy horse, who a lot of people would have picked. I used him as a block as much as anything else.

strongmandate I picked him for several reasons, most notably I had a big note on the horse out of his maiden win: “8/17 Sharp speed, well within himself, widened on cue midstretch, straight as a string; new horse with blinks, should only get better with more ground.”

I had heard positive word about the runner-up in there, a nice Asmussen prospect, so I knew that Strong Mandate must be kind of nice if he drilled him that easily. Plus, it was vintage Lukas, in that the horse didn’t raise a hoof in his debut but added blinkers and ran off in his next start. Throw in a dream post in the Hopeful, good breeding for the wet, and a field, quite frankly, that I didn’t think was very strong, and Strong Mandate was a 5-star tout for me.

How would you describe your general approach to the Huddie contest?

Most days I don’t really think I had much of an approach to tell you the truth. Every single horse I picked was a BUZZ horse (one I picked for our Horse Player Now product) that I had a trip note on. I didn’t handicap one horse or one race. I mean, at the end of the day you have to pick fast horses who run well. There were two days I tried to use strategy.

One was when I had only one pick left on a Sunday on the second to last weekend. I had a horrible first two days with seven picks. That’s when I used Ready Signal, who was the longest of four BUZZ horses I had that day. The other day was the final day, when I had three picks and was close to the lead going in. I wanted to pick up some cash early, so I used Inaflash at 8/5 in the opener and she ran 2nd. Then I wanted to come up with someone I knew no one had, so I used Mama Zee, who didn’t run much in the 5th at about 15-1. Strong Mandate was a 100% no-brainer play for me when he popped into my Stablemail Friday afternoon, and I thought I could use him as a block at the least if I was already in the lead.

Honestly, I’m not even sure I played it right the last week, I’m kind of new to all this “game theory” stuff. In hindsight, I might have tried to pick up a few more dollars with logical winners, since it was pretty obvious the contest was going to be decided by a few dollars. We kind of scoff at 9/5 winners, but those are $10-$12 contest horses and as you know those dollars come in handy at the end.

Yeah, don’t rub it in. I was advising a friend on a ticket and I thought we were sitting great, eight picks going into the last day. Only problem is that while several fired, none won. We picked well, but they didn’t run quite well enough.

I thought the way you guys played it was awesome. You needed to get lucky in the sense of not having anyone else score out the first three days of the weekend, which happened, and then you were sitting in the garden spot entering Monday. I woke up Monday morning expecting you to win and I think, if I’m in the same position next year, I’d do what you guys did. I thought it was an expert approach. All you can do is put yourself in the best possible spot in this game, which I thought you did this weekend. It doesn’t always work out, but you can’t win if you don’t put yourself in that spot to begin with.

Other than the obvious — winning — what did you like about playing in Huddie and about contests in general?

I take a lot of pride in winning this contest. There are a ton of SHARP guys in this, industry guys, guys who devote a large amount of time to this game and guys I have a ton of respect for, so for me to outlast them all was pretty cool. Don’t get me wrong, the money is awesome, but the thrill of winning itself is a damn close second. Over the past two years I think I’ve stumbled upon 10-12 people I didn’t know who were in this contest, so it’s kind of taken on a life of its own. So to win it is pretty sweet.

Did you have a specific monetary goal every week and / or overall? Or were you more playing day to day?

I can’t say I ever had a dollar amount in mind. I just wanted to pick fast horses. You and I talked a lot early in the meet about the contest and I always said you can win this by banging out 4-1s all day. And while that’s right in theory (a 2-1 average would have likely won this year) it’s just impractical because you need a bomb or two to make up the difference because of the inevitable losers and it’s still not easy to pick 2-1′s consistently, especially at Saratoga. So I just used whoever popped up in my Stablemail, while leaning to the longer prices if I had multiples horses on one day or over eight on the weekend.

What was your toughest beat of the meet?

Toughest beat? You’re seriously going to ask me that when you stood 7-feet away from me and watched it? A car crash in slow motion. Clearly it was Moreno, for a million reasons. For weeks before I told anyone who’d listen he was going to win and I gave that horse out to our clients, so it would have been a huge coup for me if he won. I didn’t just like Moreno because speed was good Travers Day. It’s a sick game, this sport we love, because I was 1000% right in why I loved him yet I was still essentially wrong, because he didn’t win.

morenoAs for the actual case for the horse, I had a huge note on him after the Jim Dandy, I thought he ran huge: “7/27 Rail speed, forced to quicken by eventual winner through VERY snappy 2nd quarter, overhauled early stretch, ran on gamely, tired late; sneaky good two-turn debut (since blinkers were added).”

He’s bred to run long, that was never going to be an issue. And then, the more I thought about it, the more I figured he’d get loose over a speed-favoring track because they just expected he’d come back to them. I knew Verrazano wanted no part of 10, so he wasn’t going to press and Palace Malice had just beat Moreno handily, so why would he press him? I got a kick from Shug’s quote after the race where he said something like “I never thought they would go that slow early.” Really? Did he think they would go faster than the 47 and change Moreno went in the shorter Jim Dandy? That quote really cracked me up. That one still stings and will for some time.


As a trip/notes handicapper, how do you balance the horses you find with the fundamentals? I found when I was doing a lot of notes that it greatly reduced the amount of actual objective handicapping I was doing, sometimes to my overall detriment. How do you find a balance? Or, do you find you come up with enough good notes horses that fundamentals take a backseat and you end up with an edge on notes horses regardless?

I love this question because you’re right, it’s the give and take of the trip ‘capping versus the overall paper ‘capping. I’m going to be honest, unless I’m sussing out a Pk4 for clients on a Saturday or playing one myself, or Pk6′ing, I don’t handicap that much anymore. I simply rely on my eyes. Like I said, every pick in the Huddie pool was a trip horse.

A lot of people will say “Well, if you combined your trip horses with handicapping it could be even more lethal.” And, on the face of it, that’s a very sane argument. But how often do you get good looking horses on paper at 27-1 like Ready Signal? In-form, clean horses on paper are 4-1, not 27-1. And if you handicap too much, you probably say something like “Why the hell do I like Ready Signal, she was just beaten a furlong and a half last time?” And then you don’t play Ready Signal. And then you get sick when she wins for fun at 27-1.

The one thing I will do, to a certain extent, is handicap a race if I have more than one horse pop up. Other than that, I trust my eyes, no matter what the circumstances. You mentioned “objective handicapping” but I would counter by saying ‘What’s more objective than what your eyes told you after actually watching a horse run?’ So, to me, that’s the most objective thing I can come up with. Me looking at a bunch of names on paper that I haven’t seen run isn’t as objective as knowing I’ve watched them all and if they had something worth noting, I noted it.

Any plans on what you’re going to do with the money?

No real plans with the money, I’ll pay some bills and get ahead (for once). I’ve been hearing a lot about these Derby Wars tournies, so I think I’ll devote a portion of the money to that. Maybe take a swing at a nice Pk6 carryover, I’m a sucker for those now and again. Or maybe I’ll put it under the mattress and try and sleep for a week after another great Saratoga season!

Great idea, Brian!

BANKROLL PLAYS:

OK, this Pete back in the roman text again. So this was my seventh year of doing bankroll plays for Saratoga in blog format. The first three were via the Horseplayer mag website, the last four right here. I’m proud to say that after an off year last year we got back in profit this year, making that five of seven SAR seasons to the good (though in two of them it took my last play to get me out). On one hand, a winning year should be expected. But hey, try doing it yourself some time, it ain’t easy.

As for yesterday, we were at -$780 after putting $300 in. Fortunately, when STRONG MANDATE ran away and hid in the Hopeful we got back $1003.75 for a total win of $223.75 on the meeting. Can I get an Amen?

 

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MONDAY: REAL LIFE


I’m just amazed at how much time I got to spend up here this summer, betting horses, writing, meeting new friends, connecting with old ones, and, of course. . .having a few drinks.

It just makes me realize that — despite many photo finish results that might suggest otherwise — I really am the luckiest guy in the world. This is due almost entirely to the kindness of my wonderful wife, Susan, and our wonderful daughter, Perrin. I can not express how much I love them in words, nor can I fully communicate how grateful I am for their patience and understanding, particularly during the month of August. You guys are the absolute best!

The blog will be going on its usual hiatus for a bit, likely to return for the Breeders’ Cup and perhaps with some handicapping for the big BC Prep days. But if you’re stopping by, I encourage you to read what I’ve written this summer. I’m not saying it’s all that great, but it’s surely the best Saratoga blog I am capable of writing, so I hope you’ll enjoy it.

I predict some good, big news coming up for me as far as writing about racing goes. So keep your ear to the ground on that one while I keep reaching for the stars — or something.

Tomorrow is annually the worst day of the year, of course, in that it signals a return to real life. But I have to say, given the state of my real life these days, thanks to Susan and Perrin, maybe this is the first year it won’t be so bad.

PLAY OF THE DAY:

Two shots to get out, $300 to play with.

In Race 7, #7 BIRD NOW should improve as this trainer’s charges often do. $75 win and place.

And in Race 9, I’ll throw $75 WP on #9 STRONG MANDATE, who looks to be improving and is bred for wet.

 

Thanks for joining me on the Unbearable Lightness of Betting!

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