Saratoga Opening Day: Christmas Morning Sucks Compared to This

When the weather is like this, Opening Day Saratoga is not like Christmas morning – Christmas morning sucks compared to this. . .

Things are going to look a little different around here this summer. As many of you know, I am now a full-time employee of Daily Racing Form, covering the contest beat for the paper of record. I shudder to shutter this blog, however, so it will remain extant: I still may post a few pieces on here this Saratoga, and I am open to some guest bloggers coming in and showing their stuff. Contact me however you wish if you are interested.

But mainly, I’ll be writing over at DRF – please check me out there every Monday through Friday.

As for the content you used to find here, the current plan calls for me to ramp up my tweeting about the races – The Unbearable Lightness of Betting as nano blog. I will likely even still do bankroll plays via Twitter. I am very proud of the fact that in the seven seasons I’ve blogged about Saratoga (here, and via Horseplayer mag before that), I’ve produced six winning ROIs. Granted, two of those years, I got out on the last day (including last year) but hey, a winning year is a winning year. My tweets are visible on the side of this page but it’d be better still if just follow me @loomsboldly over on the Twitter.

And come say hi at the Paddock Bar (I’m NEVER calling it The Post).


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Derby Day 2014 (and an excerpt from the forthcoming book Brooklyn Spirits)

You know the blog isn’t what it used it to be when I go from Breeders’ Cup to Derby Day without posting. . .but I have a good excuse I swear. And, no, I’m not blaming baby Perrin:

Perrin's first birthday party, back in December, photographed by Ron Epstein

Perrin’s first birthday party, back in December, photographed by Ron Epstein

As many of you know, I have been writing regularly for The Daily Racing Form. And I was recently hired to be a full-time employee.

I hope you’ll join me over there regularly. Here’s what I had to say on my blog over there about the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby.

And here’s a bonus feature, an excerpt from my forthcoming book (written with Chris Wertz and photographed by Max Kelly) Brooklyn Spirits, the world’s first distillery-to-glass cocktail book:



One Mint Julep from Brooklyn Spirits, photographed by Max Kelly, styled by Louise Leonard

One Mint Julep from Brooklyn Spirits, photographed by Max Kelly, styled by Louise Leonard

Kentuckian Henry Watterson famously wrote the following recipe for the mint julep.“Pluck the mint gently from its bed, just as the dew of the evening is about to form upon it. Select the choicer sprigs only, but do not rinse them. Prepare the simple syrup and measure out a half-tumbler of whiskey. Pour the whiskey into a well-frosted silver cup, throw the other ingredients away and drink the whiskey.”

This is Colin Spoelman’s kind of cocktail recipe. But even Spoelman, who has acknowledged a certain “cognitive dissonance” when it comes to making cocktails with his Kings’ County whiskies, understands the importance of having a mint julep on the first day of May. As a native Kentuckian, the Kentucky Derby is one of those annual events by which Colin measures the passage of time. Who needs New Year’s Eve when you have the most exciting two minutes in sports? Pete feels the same way and offers refers to the year he met his wife, Susan, not as 1997 but as “the year Silver Charm won the Derby.” Here is a julep recipe from Colin that gives his bourbon its due – front and center in this Kentucky classic.

silver cup

4 sprigs mint

2.5 ounces (74 mil) Kings’ CountyBourbon

crushed ice


Frost a silver cup in your freezer. Remove the stems from 3 mint sprigs and place the leaves in the bottom of the silver cup. Add a splash of bourbon and muddle the mint. Add the rest of the bourbon, pack the cup with crushed ice, and then fill with seltzer. Garnish with the remaining mint sprig.


The book will be out this fall. As for the future of this blog, or the possibility of my blogging elsewhere about stuff other than racing (like local booze maybe?), it all remains to be seen. As a wise man once said, the future’s uncertain but the end is always near.

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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 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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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 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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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 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)

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:

And here is part two:

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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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