I gave out some pretty bad opinions yesterday, a few of which may have been hindered by the track bias, but I can’t deny that most of the horses I liked just completely failed to show up. I will not, however, handicap any of today’s races under the assumption that the bias will still be in place. I think it’s faulty logic to presume that a track will be leaning in any direction before a single race has been run. You can merely assess the presence of a bias after the fact and use it in your future handicapping, which is exactly what I’ll do with yesterday’s races. I hope any observations gleaned from rewatching them prove to be lucrative down the road.
Today I’ve come up with a good mix of logical horses and long shots:
Race 3: Claiming $30,000-$25,000 at six furlongs
I believe this race will present one of the best wagering opportunities on the card. I can point out serious flaws in the form of both favorites, Tightend Touchdown and Talented Whiz, and won’t be using either of them. Tightend Touchdown at one time was a decent dirt sprinter, but ever since trying the turf a few races back, he seems to have declared that the grass is his preferred surface. I know he has a good record at the track and distance, but those numbers were compiled when he was facing softer competition versus restricted three year-olds early in the season and I think he’s a horse with different preferences now. Talented Whiz is just a horse who I am always against because he looks better on paper than he actually is. His two highest Beyer speed figures, the 83 and 79 two and four races back were aided by a very slow pace and speed bias, respectively. I think he was exposed for what he really is last time when the pace was fast and he was outsprinted. Perhaps the claim by Rudy Rodriguez will improve him, but that’s not my kind of bet.
I’m interested in Point Taken (#5), who has never gone this distance, but is probably the best dirt horse in the race. Rick Dutrow, Jr. made a smart move by dipping in to claim him for $15,000 last time when his previous barn was dropping a lot of its horses in for claiming tags that were below their true value. I know it may appear that he disappointed a bit at 5-2 odds that day, but it was a total merry-go-round race as the leader and eventual winner got to set a dawdling pace and no horses really passed each other at any point in the running. Now Dutrow enters him for double the claiming price and cuts him back to a sprint distance, which is one of his best moves. The presence of Ramon Dominguez surely doesn’t hurt and he should get a fair setup with speed coming from the two favorites.
I will also throw a few dollars at Dan’s Gold (#6), who looks a bit slower on paper, but may be set for the best effort of his life now that he’s had a comeback race. That day, the pace was slow and he never really had a chance to make an impact late. He ran some promising races over the winter last year and if you assume that he has matured over the summer, perhaps he can run jump up and run a number in the low 80s today.
$15 Win 5
$5 Win 6
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at one mile and 70 yards for New York-bred two year-old fillies
I’m going back on my word a little with this pick. When I added Frosty Bay (#5) to the “Horses to Watch” list I made it pretty clear that I was waiting for the turf season to return to bet her back. However, as I kept looking at this race last night, I just couldn’t find anywhere else to go and figured that the unknown factor of the dirt surface would make her a bettable price. If she’s the favorite, I’m not really that interested in her, but I don’t think that will be the case. The thing I like about her is that her overall form is actually a lot better than it looks on paper and she has had major excuses in both poor efforts sandwiching that good second start. Especially last time, Junior Alvarado apparently had plenty of horse left at the top of the stretch when it was time for Frosty Bay to make her move, but he was completely stymied in traffic for a good three-sixteenths of a mile. It’s rare that you can honestly say a horse probably could have won when they lose by nine lengths, but that was the case here. Her dam, Baymont, was a horse who clearly preferred turf, but her sire, Frost Giant has shown the ability to get runners on either surface. I’m hoping that she handles the dirt well enough because she’s the best horse in this race.
$10 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $48.50)
Race 5: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at six furlongs for New York-bred fillies and mares
I know this one is a bit of a stretch, but let’s once again discuss my “Horse to Watch” La Bella Valeria (#8). I said the same thing last time, but Mischief Maker completely blew the doors off that field and La Bella Valeria didn’t seem to handle the distance. You need to go back to her race on November 25th to see why I really am interested in this filly. She literally fell to her face at the start and probably spotted the field over 10 lengths right out of the gate. This is a filly who had shown tactical speed in previous races, but on this day she made a monstrous rally from an impossible early position to get up and win. That 58 Beyer is not a true indication of her ability and I think she could have run in the 70s without that trouble. Now I know that she probably isn’t good enough to handle a horse like Jitney or even Saltamontes, but she’s going to be a very big price and her chances of winning are not as slight as they may seem. (I’m also loath to bet on a jockey as inexperienced as Pierre Tomas, but if I’m making concessions, I guess I’ll forgive that as well.) I’ll make a small win bet on her and use her under the very logical Jitney (#2) in the exacta.
$5 Win 8 // $5 Exacta 2-8 (UPDATE: La Bella Valeria was scratched)
Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at one mile and 70 yards for New York-breds
Pinball looms as the odds on choice here and he probably will win. I really have no argument with him other than the knowledge that horses such as him can often be overbet. Then you throw in solid second choice Cousin Michael and it becomes apparent that everyone else is going to go off at double-digit odds. Yet I think that at least one of those has a better chance than that and he happens to be the horse with the best dirt in the field. That is Sea the Sky (#7). That race came for his previous trainer Dan Hendricks when he was based out in California. After a decent debut at Santa Anita, he ran that 76 Beyer on January 29th when leading in midstretch before being passed late by Zackn’mat and Stirred Up, both of whom were subsequently stakes placed. Next time out he ran into Bodemeister and the time after that he got involved in a speed duel before fading. Then ever since May of this year he’s been on the turf. He did finish third a couple of times, but has not really be able make much of an impact lately while never really running that poorly. But I don’t think he’s a turf horse. Let’s go to the pedigree:
Sea to Sky is by Forestry, who can get an occasional turf runner, but is much more effective as a sire of dirt horses. His dam, Blue Sky High, is a very well-bred, but unraced, daughter of Unbridled. She is out of Mesabi Maiden, a home-bred for Stuart Janney, who won the 1996 Black Eyed Susan Stakes (G2). That makes Blue Sky High a full sister to Lady Liberty, the dam of Shug McGaughey’s promising two year-old Orb, who I’ve discussed extensively on this blog. This is a strong dirt-oriented family and I think it’s worth giving Sea to Sky one more chance on what could be his preferred surface.
$10 Win 7 (WINNER; Payout: $91.00)
Race 8: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at one mile and 70 yards for fillies and mares
Hard Life’s last three dirt races have all been quite good and she would be no surprise whatsoever as the winner of this race. But before conceding this to her, let’s discuss what happened to Score Boyera (#5) last time. The comment line only indicates that she was declared a non-starter, but it’s worth looking at why she was declared a non-starter. The horse inside of her, Celtic Chant, reared up just as the gates were opening and the assistant starters in the gate with her and Score Boyera held their fillies for a few moments apparently not realizing the race had started. They both spotted the field about five or six lengths and were at a distinct disadvantage from the start. Meanwhile, favored Promise Me a Cat got to waltz along through fractions of 24 1/5 and 48 4/5 seconds–ridiculously slow for a sprint race. Under a hustling ride from Wilmer Garcia, Score Boyera was actually able to get back into a contending position by the top of the stretch. When she swung out, it briefly appeared that she might have a chance before flattening out late. Still, all things considered, it was an excellent effort and she undoubtedly could have won with a fair trip. This filly obviously improved a great deal with the switch to David Jacobson and today stretches out to her preferred two-turn trip. Hard Life is in good form, but I think Score Boyera may be just as good if not better right now and can overtake her at longer odds.
$10 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $108.00)