• Pedigree Profiles of Top Kentucky Derby Candidates

    POSTED Feb 28, 2014

    I’ll admit it: I’ve never been one to put much stock in pedigree when it comes to determining the outcome of a horse race. After all, did anybody see Johnny Manziel’s dad strut his stuff at the NFL Combine this past week? Does anybody actually care what the old man’s 40-yard dash time was... or is?

    I think not.

    Yet, clearly, horse racing is different than football. For one thing, human athletes aren’t “bred,” much to the dismay of some of my more athletic — and immature — friends.

    And there’s big money in those planned matings. In 2013, over half a billion dollars was spent at the various Keeneland sales alone. In 2006, a record $16 million was spent on a single horse — The Green Monkey, a son of Forestry who never won a race and has flopped as a sire as well.

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    Still, there’s something to be said for pedigree. Just like the phrase “now, there’s a level-headed chap” is rarely applied to any of the Baldwin brothers, Kentucky Derby Champion is a title generally reserved for three-year-old colts and fillies with some stamina in their bloodlines.

    So, with the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 kicking off on Wednesday, I thought it would be a good time to do a little research on past Derby winners and present Derby contenders. I want to find out which animals have the pedigrees to win and which do not.

    First, let’s look at the Kentucky Derby winners over the past 15 years:

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    What does the fox... uh, I mean numbers... say:

    1) Every Derby winner since 1999 was sired by a stallion with an average winning distance (AWD) of 6.6 furlongs or greater.

    2) Just two (War Emblem and Smarty Jones) of the past 15 Derby champs had a sire whose progeny competed in routes (races of a mile or greater) in less than a third of their starts.

    3) 14 of the last 15 Derby winners had sires whose progeny improved their average Brisnet speed figure by at least two points when routing as opposed to a sprinting.

    Now let’s take a gander at the individual KDFW Pool 3 contenders:

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    What the numbers say:

    A) Based solely on bloodlines, Bayern, California Chrome, General A Rod, Uncle Sigh, Vicar’s In Trouble and Wildcat Red are all Derby tosses.

    B) Intense Holiday, Samraat and Tamarando are question marks in the pedigree area.

    While I certainly don’t think a horse’s breeding necessarily dictates its performance on the track — remember, Secretariat was believed to have distance limitations — these stats do make the case that good parenting matters.

    If you need further proof, just look at Justin Bieber.
  • In Like A Lion …

    POSTED Feb 26, 2014
    The weekend ends the short month of February and starts the long month of March. It could feel far longer than its 31 days if the brutal winter continues. Still, March bridges winter with spring and that brings us closer to awaited stakes action and the launching of top-class divisional play.

    As well, many other tracks are poised to begin their seasons, some starting before the end of predicted winter weather through March. Our Harness Update blog that appears Monday mornings will keep you up to date on which track schedules could be added to your menu of TwinSpires harness-action possibilities. Don’t forget to read the News And Notes column in that blog, as we offer the exclusive players’ version of the industry news.

    But we are crossing that bridge as we come to it, continuing this week with specific overnight events and our highly successful horses-to-watch (H2W) list. Wins, places, shows and exactas abound. We have added harness racing’s newest track, Miami Valley, in Ohio. Please note that horses from our featured overnight events the week before appear on the H2W list as second-time members if they did not win when we highlighted their previous race.

    This week’s overnight offerings:

    Feb. 28, Race 3

    A horse has to be an extraordinary performer for the morning-line (ML) maker at this track to give it a good shot when leaving from post 8, which carries a stigma anyway. That just makes other viable contenders from the outside worth better win money and enables us to disregard the post (which by the way gets far more disregard than necessary). In the case of this race we totally endorse Bergerac, a contender that may suffer more in support than performance. His recent trio of attempts were all on “off” tracks and in each, from different posts, he excelled. There is little reason he will not be in this mix, where the favorite may be a horse stepping up. You may swing for a giant exacta using Mccedes, who will go untouched by the crowd from post 3 and could pick up a place spot based on his back class, which includes racing with better and winning at Philadelphia last December.

    Feb. 28, Race 5

    Pop Cop’s Feb. 21 raced should simply be excused, which leaves us with a gelding that was on the improve all of January. His Feb. 14 race included a brave trip with a sharp gain that cost him late. His last January race from post 8 was terrific at this level, stepping up from a lower level without winning. Before that he earned a rise by winning two levels down. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him go off less than his 10-1 ML but not so much as to under lay him. Plus, fan-favorite Dave Palone on Artist Night will suck in a lot of money that could be spread more evenly in this field if common players were less impressed by drivers. Using Goggles Paisano (what a great name) in the place spot would make for a monster exacta.

    March 1, Race 2

    What looks like strong competition may just be a few strugglers if Justabitevil returns to how she performed two back. She stepped up far too high after that and was beaten by the obvious choice, Abs To Envy. She was second to that one by a mere length three back and deserves a far better chance than the ML maker has her at 6-1.

    March 1, Race

    Dewer Kash is our type of contender, hiding many of his assets, while checking in with an important angle that is to his favor in this simple claimer. Claimed for $5Gs in his first race here after a London campaign, Dewer Kash strolled from post 9 at 24-1, a tour no one will be happy about as a precursor to this race. But he was scratched at London while entered to return there next and he stays here to step up off the claim for the new connections. At London he was competitive and steered by four different drivers, each holding back for one big brush, which was only successful with a second in December. But the trainer/owner has a great post here to use the trotter and get the claiming money back, especially with the obvious two choices, First Notable Chip and Saulsbrook Fidget on his outside. That could be a great trifecta if you key Dewer Kash and try to take down this number (but don’t forget the win bet). Also looming to upset is Northern Triumph. If he is in the trifecta it becomes an even larger bag o’cash.

    H2W Legend

    Review our choices and follow the wagering at the prescribed track. These are possible contenders we have judged from reviewing races. The horses’ names are listed beneath the name of the track after the date they will be racing. The race in which they are entered (R and race number) follows. If a + is in front of a horse’s name it means it is appearing on the list for the second (and last time) because it failed to win the first time it appeared. An “AE” signals the horse is entered but on the also-eligible list. Types of wagering on any of the H2W listed horses are based on your judgment. If you have any questions, email us at TwinSpires.


    2/26/14, +Infrontigo Hanover R7
    2/27/14, Bagel Man R5; +Gilla Dream R12; +Bluebird Corvette R12
    2/28/14, RA Shakenbake R2; +Eagle Yankee R5
    3/1/14, +Sand Savage R6

    Cal Expo
    2/28/14, Pips Jenny G R1; Northern Fling R1; +Poorlittlerichgirl R9; +Girls Lie Too R14
    3/1/14, Gold Device R1; +Only In Lodi R1; Fox Valley Dylan R10; +Indescribable R12

    3/2/14, +Suits R8; +Occasionally Bad R12; RD Elegant Yankee—AE—R14; +The Quite Village R14

    3/1/14, Lightning Charger R3; Mibestkeptsecret R4; Charmbo Willie R6; Massmanian Devil R7

    2/28/14, +Rollin Deep R2; +Nazko Tribute R3; +Real Vintage R5 
    3/2/14, Red Star Tyson R11

    2/27/14, +Look Siera R1

    2/28/14, Dojea Nodoze R4; Perfect Change R6; +Hickory Big Red R8; Four Starz Elder R9; Honeyinthepine R12; Yosemite Camn R13

    Miami Valley
    2/27/14, +Juntique R2; +Luna Hanover R2; +Pink E Bank R6; +Late For Work R11
    2/28/14, +B Good Lexi R2; Action-broadway R10; TM Valley Storm R11
    3/1/14, +Bad Angel R3

    3/3/14, Garbarino R6
    3/1/14; +PC Moonshine R7; +Market Force R9

    2/28/14; Likeabatouttahell R7; +Cash Poor—AE—R11

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.      
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Feb 23, 2014

    First there was too much snow and then there was too much water, which was the snow before it melted. Mother Nature is certainly more consistent than a lot of racehorses. So it was this week as higher temperatures dissolved mountains of snow and ice in many U.S. states, provoking bad conditions on the tracks that were, a week before, frozen.

    Cancellations before and during race programs nixed a few schedules. Buffalo Raceway’s TwinSpires bonus Pick 4 was cancelled on Feb. 19 when the surface became unsafe. Every Wednesday night, weather permitting of course, TwinSpires’ 10-percent-bonus Buffalo Raceway 50-cent Pick 4 wagers continue. We assist with suggestions for your ticket via Twitter -- @FrankCotolo, @TwinSpires and @BuffaloRaceway.

    Other schedules affected included the Meadows and Yonkers. All horses we are watching that were to participate in the various programs cancelled, will appear in next week’s watch (H2W) list. Check below for the wins, places and shows that did materialize last week.

    Our overnight features’ choices included two winners but not on top, as the huge favorite (our second betting choice) Keep The Dream ($3.10, $2.20, $2.10) won the Miss Valentine Final at Fraser over our upset choice, Yanotherhos. Our other Fraser choice, Red Star Tyson raced horribly, finishing ninth of nine at 11-1.

    Feb. 23 at Dover on Race 3 our second choice, Steady Pulse, won ($4, $2.40, $2.10), and our first choice, JR’s Midnight Cry, scratched, leaving us with the favorite. Our first choice in Race 2, Occasionally Bad, was never a threat, finishing eighth at 13-1. The second contender for us in that race finished second—RD Elegant Yankee ($3.60, $2.60).


    The H2W results list across-the-board prices. Also, exactas are included when a H2W horse finishing first or second completes the result with a race favorite or another H2W horse listed in the same race (an asterisk appears when both horses were listed to complete the exacta). Failed choices from our previous week’s overnight features appear for the second time in the H2W list. 


    That’s My Girl, $24.60, $6.40, $4.40 (Exacta $56.20), Miami Valley
    Ringside Winner, $13.20, $6.20, $4.80, Freehold
    Ideal In Vegas, $6.90, $4, $3.10, Yonkers
    Dora Des Rivieres, $5.80, $3.20, $2.60, Miami Valley
    Rare Beauty, $5, $4.20, $3, Cal Expo
    Itsabouttonight, $3.40, $2.80, $2.40, Cal Expo
    All Star Dragon, $3, $2.40, $2.10, Yonkers


    Late For Work, $11.80, $9.40, Miami Valley
    Screen Saver, $11.10, $6.60, Meadows
    Eddie Sweat, $7.80, $4, Meadows
    Bad Angel, $7.40, $4.30, Miami Valley
    Cash Poor, $7, $3.90 (Exacta $26.20)
    Last Luck, $6.90, $7.80 (ok), Fraser
    All On My Own, $6.80, $5.40, Freehold
    Luna Hanover, $3.60, $2.40, Miami Valley


    Stiletosilverheels, $4.80, Cal Expo
    Sparticus Jim, $4.60, Flamboro
    Juntique, $4.40, Miami Valley
    B Good Lexi, $3.60, Miami Valley
    Mr Salming, $3.20, Freehold
    TT Tucker, $2.60, Meadows

    News And Notes

    As we go to press, the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) held its annual awards dinner at Dover Downs. Most of the divisional winners have already been announced and a few categories were held for the evening’s ceremony. These were not, however, surprises. We congratulate the connections to all of the winners, including Horse of the Year, Bee A Magician, and our choice for the top horse in 2013, Captaintreacherous, who won Pacer of the Year. Both of these horses have a history with this blog that goes deeper than public opinion. Bee A Magician is a filly trotter we supported before anyone in the business or sport gave her the respect she deserved, going back to her frosh year. Captaintreacherous was heralded here early this year when he began his soph campaign and we stuck with him as many journalists knocked him regardless of his stunning performances.

    World Champion trotter Guccio, a winner of $1,021,809, has been retired to stud in Indiana. Trained by Jimmy Takter, Guccio became one of the top contenders of his generation as a three-year-old and missed winning the $1.5 million Hambletonian by a neck. At 4 he trotted to his personal best of 1:51.1f, a World Record for four-year-old trotters.

    Takter said, “It was our plan to race in Europe in 2014 had this opportunity for him to enter the stud not developed. Indiana clearly has one of the most attractive regional programs and we do plan to breed to Guccio as I believe he has every quality to become an outstanding trotting sire.”

    Horse racing in British Columbia has been saved for at least five years now that a new deal has been negotiated. “The major component of this for us is the five-year deal. We’ve been told we have government backing for five years. We have race dates for five years,” said Jackson Whittup of Harness Racing BC. The new deal assures racing at the two tracks in the province, Fraser Downs (harness) and Hastings Park (runners). Both tracks are owned by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which also owns Flamboro and Georgian Downs in Ontario. The agreement will see 71 race dates at Fraser this year but that number will be reduced throughout the life of the deal. To read the full story in the Cloverdale Reporter, please click here.

    Extraordinary Extras

    Indulge in many standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this blog

    Cartoons by Thom Pye

  • A Statistical Look at the Fountain of Youth and Risen Star Stakes

    POSTED Feb 21, 2014
    It’s no secret that I love numbers. I love them on a plane; I love them on a train; I love them… well, I think you get the picture. So what better way to prove that love than by sharing it with all of you (in a strictly platonic way, of course)? Below is a numerical look at this weekend’s big Kentucky Derby preps:

    Risen Star Stakes (Grade II)
    11th Fair Grounds. 1-1/16 miles.

    Brisnet Speed Figure Par: 101

    Fair Grounds Dirt Averages 
    Median Early Speed Ration (ESR): -7.5
    Median Late Speed Ration (LSR): -17.0

    Wire-to-Wire Win Rate: 18%
    Lengths Back at First Call: 3.4
    Lengths Back at Second Call: 1.1

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    COMMENTS: Not sure the son of Istan wants to go this far, but he’s certainly eligible to improve after a wide trip in the LeComte.

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    COMMENTS: Tom Amoss trainee looked great winning the Delta Downs Jackpot, but that race was over three months ago; worse, the colt’s ESRs look too low (fast) for this particular race and track. At 4-1 on the morning line, the cons outweigh the pros.

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    COMMENTS: Hollywood Park shippers won four of 20 starts and lost six cents on the dollar in 2013. What’s more, Bond Holder’s speed and pace figures are competitive against the likes of these.

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    COMMENTS: Trainer Bob Baffert has a three percent ROI with recent maiden graduates and this guy recorded a stellar -5 LSR in his Jan. 30 win.

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    COMMENTS: It’s worth noting that 39 percent of all races run at the Fair Grounds are won by the post-time favorite. In handicaps and stakes, that figure rises to 56 percent — with a positive ROI to boot. This bodes well for 14-Vicar’s In Trouble, the winner of the Grade III LeComte and the 5-2 morning-line favorite. The Into Mischief colt pressed a moderate pace in the LeComte and drew clear late while earning an 88 Brisnet speed figure and a (very solid) -4 late speed ration (LSR). He looks like the one to beat.

    Fountain of Youth Stakes (Grade II)
    11th Fair Grounds. 1-1/16 miles.

    Brisnet Speed Figure Par: 101

    Gulfstream Park Dirt Averages
    Median Early Speed Ration (ESR): -5.3
    Median Late Speed Ration (LSR): -13.6

    Wire-to-Wire Win Rate: 22%
    Lengths Back at First Call: 1.9
    Lengths Back at Second Call: 0.9

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    COMMENTS: Both the morning-line odds and the presence of John Velazquez in the saddle suggest that this guy is trainer Todd Pletcher’s best hope, but the lack of early speed is a huge concern. On the plus side, the son of A.P. Indy has been improving with every start.

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    COMMENTS: Pletcher’s “other” horse looks intriguing. True, he’s only won on turf and all-weather, but his race in the BC Juvenile was encouraging — featuring a -13 ESR. Obviously, We Miss Artie was too close to the pace that day, yet he still finished within four lengths of the winner.

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    COMMENTS: This guy’s versatility is impressive and the fact that he lured Javier Castellano from the Todd Pletcher barn is duly noted. The colt’s speed and pace figures add to his appeal.

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    COMMENTS: Top Billing’s median ESR of +5 is over 10 lengths slower than the track par (-5.3) and the 7-2 morning-line odds are hardly enticing.

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    COMMENTS: He’s the most experienced runner in the field and appears to have the numbers to compete against these.

    Early Speed Ration (ESR): A measurement of a horse’s early energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The lower the figure, the greater the horse’s early exertion in that event.

    -15= Demanding.
    -10= Brisk.
      -5= Moderate.
       0= Soft.

    Late Speed Ration (LSR): A measurement of a horse’s late energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The higher the figure, the greater the horse’s late exertion in that event. Because late speed is calculated at a time when a horse is being asked for his/her maximum effort, LSRs can be a great indication of form as well.

       0= Excellent.
      -5= Good.
    -10= Fair.
    -15= Poor.

    Pace Profile: A simple comparison between a horse’s LSR and the ESR of the race in which it was earned. Positive profiles are greatly desired.

    Note: ESRs and LSRs recorded on turf or all-weather surfaces tend to vary by 5-10 points from those garnered on dirt tracks.

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