• Greatness at Gulfstream

    POSTED Feb 7, 2013
    Animal Kingdom (from businessinsider.com)
    On my podcast this week, I said I was going to write about a cool new system I devised to analyze races without immersing oneself in the past performances.

    I lied.

    I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it. When I saw the races on tap at Gulfstream Park this weekend, I just had to weigh in with my opinion.

    Rest assured, I’ll talk about that cool system next week, but until then, check out my thoughts on two of the better races on Saturday’s card at Gulfstream Park:

    02/09/13 Gulfstream Park Race 8

    Personally, I think this race could be a lot tougher than it looks on paper. The problem is the main contenders — Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom — are come-from-behind runners and there’s not a whole lot of pace in the race. Hence, speed will probably not be the deciding factor — positioning will be.

    By default, Salto looks like the horse most likely to be on the engine. Now, the Todd Pletcher trainee does have talent — he was a close fourth to Group 2 winner Zinabaa in his native France and was runner-up in the Grade III Cliff Hanger Stakes at Monmouth Park — but he’s struggled against tougher foes. Worse, his late speed rations (LSRs) are just mediocre for this group.

    Among the likely second flight are the aforementioned Point of Entry and Unbridled Command

    Let’s start with the former. 

    Unlike Salto, Point of Entry has no class questions to answer. An Eclipse finalist for Top Male Turf Horse, the son of Dynaformer was a three-time Grade I winner in 2012 and consistently earned positive LSRs. There’s an issue, though: Point of Entry has done his best running at distances of 11 furlongs or greater — distances which emphasize stamina rather than a quick turn of foot. In fact, in races under 11 furlongs, the colt is just 1-for-8 (albeit the majority of those races were at the start of his career). 

    So, the question one must ask is: “Does one take a short price on a horse that may not be — and probably isn’t — competing at its best distance?”

    The workouts say yes; the (likely) price… not so much.

    Unbridled Command, on the other hand, has the talent and running style to upset this field — and the price figures to be right. But the 76-day layoff gives me pause. Still, the Thomas Bush (who’s very good off of layoffs, by the way) trainee is certainly one I would use if his odds are in the 7-2 range or greater come post time.

    As for Animal Kingdom, I think he’s probably going to be overbet and the pace scenario is against him. Nonetheless, he’s got a ton of talent and, despite having won the Kentucky Derby, he’s probably better on the lawn than the dirt.

    02/09/13 Gulfstream Park Race 11

    This race pits some up-and-comers against more established performers. In the former group is trainer Todd Pletcher’s talented Graydar, Super Derby winner Bourbon Courage, last year’s Florida Derby champ Take Charge Indy and Csaba, winner of four straight, including the Grade III Hal’s Hope on Jan. 13.

    The latter group boasts of two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup victor Flat Out, Grade I winner (on turf) Ultimate Eagle and the eight-year-old Stephen Foster champion Pool Play.

    Below is a look at each entrant, along with my adjusted Win Factor Report odds:

    Bourbon Courage
    Fair Odds: 12-1

    I loved this guy in the Clark at Churchill Downs, but I’m less enthralled with him in this spot — for three reasons:

    1) He’s likely to be an underlay on Saturday based on his effort in the Clark.
    2) Although he’s improving, Bourbon Courage’s Brisnet speed figures are still a notch below those of the top contenders.
    3) Unlike Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park is not particularly kind to steeds with late-running styles and strong LSRs. In fact, in 2012, horses running at GP that last competed at Churchill cost their backers over 65 cents on every dollar wagered.

    Flat Out
    Fair Odds: 10-1

    Son of Flatter definitely has the talent to win this, but I question whether he has the desire. Frankly, Flat Out has been tough for me to figure of late, which could be due to his advancing years… or my advancing years. 

    I loved his effort in the Whitney and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but was less than thrilled — the supposed Santa Anita track bias notwithstanding — with his try in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race that saw him finish evenly at a short price for the second year in a row.

    Fast Falcon
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    The bottom line is that this Nick Zito trainee has won exactly one race in his life and it was against maidens. At least on paper, he’s just not good enough.

    Fair Odds: 8-1

    Like Fast Falcon, this guy hasn’t beaten much (in his latest, he defeated Tiz Yankee, who came back to annex a N2L allowance race), but he does show a lot of upside. If he can handle the class hike (a big “if”) and if the layoff hasn’t dulled him (smaller “if”), he’s got a shot.

    Ultimate Eagle
    Fair Odds: 7-2

    Even though this Michael Pender trainee was beaten in the San Pasqual and that race earned a dismal 2.4 Key Race Rating, I like his chances in this event and here’s why:

    1) He’s the speed of the speed and his jock, noted “gate rider” Martin Pedroza, should be able to exploit that fact over a track that generally favors early runners.
    2) In the San Pasqual, Ultimate Eagle recorded a very strong -5 LSR and fought back gamely after he was headed by the eventual race winner Coil, who, as a two-time Grade I winner, is not exactly a slouch.
    3) Though Pender doesn’t ship often — and he’s not very good at it when he does — Ultimate Eagle appears to be working extremely well. And, at five years of age, the son of Mizzen Mist could well be poised for a career year.

    Fair Odds: 20-1

    Son of Langfuhr is now seven years old and has a single Grade III win on his resume. Not for me.

    Fair Odds: 6-1

    I’m impressed by this colt’s form, although his speed and particularly his pace figures give me pause. In his last three starts, beginning with his most recent (the Hal’s Hope), Csaba has earned LSRs of -13, -9 and -10.

    Take Charge Indy
    Fair Odds: 10-1

    It’s put up or shut up time for trainer Patrick Byrne’s stable star… and I suspect the response will be silence. Look, Take Charge Indy is clearly talented, but the fact is he has exactly one race on his resume that makes him a contender in this event — the Florida Derby.

    Remember that event?

    Let me refresh the memories of those who don’t. Against a field that included the two-year-old champion and eventual Belmont Stakes winner, Union Rags, Take Charge Indy rated on an extremely soft pace (-2 ESR) and cruised to a one-length victory.

    He followed that performance up with a dreadful showing in the Kentucky Derby, albeit with some excuses (what Derby loser doesn’t have a story to tell?), and a pair of minor awards in the Grade II Fayette and the Grade I Clark.

    Is he a contender in the Donn? Yes. Is he one of the favorites to win? Personally, I don’t think so. I’d need a price.

    Pool Play
    Fair Odds: 10-1

    I’m embarrassed to say I liked this guy in the BC Classic and he ran like something one would flush. Still, I’d be willing to give him another chance at a price — if only because I think he relishes the dirt and he proved last time that he can close over the speed-favoring GP surface.

    Citrus Kid
    Fair Odds: 15-1

    Not sure this one is fast enough, although I’d be intrigued if his price was in the 30-1 range… which it just might be.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Kentucky Derby Future Pool #1

    This weekend, one of my favorite bets is back. The Kentucky Derby Future Wager (Pool 1), which runs from Feb. 8-10, provides insightful gamblers with the opportunity to lock in some great prices on potential Derby starters.

    The pool consists of 24 wagering interests — 23 individual entrants and the mutuel field, which is comprised of all the remaining eligible three-year-olds. Because it is a pari-mutuel bet, the Derby Future Wager odds tend to be much fairer than those offered by most sportsbooks and casinos.

    Click HERE to get a free Brisnet past performances, along with my speed rations,for every entrant in the Pool.
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