May 19, 2011

Barbaro - 5 years later...

This is a bittersweet Preakness weekend for me for sure. Since my birthday (17th) falls on the week of the Preakness I'm usually celebrating with a watch party or even attending the race in Baltimore (about to fly northeast for the second year in a row). Not to mention my four year consecutive streak of cashing Preakness exotic bets - truly a rarity with my unorthodox handicapping skills.

May 17, 2011

Preakness Stakes 136 Preview

Lookin At Lucky redeemed himself in Baltimore after a troubled trip in Louisville en route to an Eclipse award for 3YO male. Can Dialed In follow in his steps and claim the $5.5 million Magna bonus? Or will Animal Kingdom again reign supreme? We'll know in a few days!

May 7, 2011

Animal Kingdom brings Team Valor deserved Derby glory

Barry Irwin is the man! One of my first Derby idols was Cot Campbell, when the pioneer of horse racing syndicates campaigned the ever popular, Summer Squall, to a runner-up finish in the 1990 Kentucky Derby to Unbridled. Then in early 1997, the sharp eye of Barry Irwin led him to drop a large sum of money to acquire a horse for his racing syndicate with a crooked leg called Captain Bodgit after a third place finish at Gulfstream Park. Not only was Bodgit a paddler, he was from an unheralded sire, Saint Ballado. But Irwin's intuition reigned supreme and the Captain finished just short of Silver Charm in that year's Derby and Preakness Stakes after winning two Grade I preps in the interim.

While other top owners and syndicate managers keep overbidding for the same bloodstock in American sales, Irwin quietly goes about his business attending races and sales in South Africa, Brazil and Germany -- not quite the racing meccas. He acquired Animal Kingdom's dam with this model and in her first foal (that essentially occured as a backup after the sire he sought for the mating - Kingmambo - was injured) he captured the greatest two minutes in sports with a horse that still appears to have huge upside, considering he is also a beast on turf and synthetic surfaces. And if any of you reading this has a stamina laden mare ready to hit the mattresses in the Florida region, now would be a good time to visit the funny named sire Leroidesanimaux before his stud fee rockets past the 2011 price of $10,000.

Having recently set up a similar syndicate to purchase a two year-old in training from a top regional sire at the same 10K stud fee, this is the success that pulls in fringe players like several of my partners to hopefully be hooked by the sport and become major owners of tomorrow. Irwin has ushered in countless of new owners into the game with a business model that isn't sexy, but posts much higher than average ROI with his discipline and keen eye for detail. And to top it all off, he started his career as a sports-writer (like I aspire to be!). So Barry Irwin, you didn't just win the nation's greatest race for you and your dozen or so partners, you won it for racing enthusiasts everywhere. And your post-race comments were those of respect and humility, something you need to teach to the new kids on the block.

Animal Kingdom claims Derby 137 in a decent time (especially after historically slow fractions) with the largest group of spectaters to ever view The Derby. Following Barry Irwin's plan and resulting success, I am thrilled to be a member of this sport along with several other new owners with dreams of our own stakes races that lie ahead. And I have a feeling that many other potential owners will be lining up with dollars after hearing more about how easy horse ownership can be with folks like Mr. Irwin at the helm. And if you haven't read my morning blog, my respect for him sure doesn't hurt after having a certain #16 horse keyed in some backup exotic bets (and if Santiva had gotten up for fourth - beaten about a length - I would have a ticket that could get me at least a 10% share of Team Valor's next offering. There's always next year!).

I hope all your Derby dreams come true, either today or in the future. Don't give up on the dream. Something good happens to good people every day. Trainer Graham Motion and owner Barry Irwin are proof of that. And a tough break for Robby Albarado, who won a stakes race on the undercard in spite of a recent smashed up face and broken nose, but lost the mount on Animal Kingdom because of the injury. I hope to see you on "the King" again in the Preakness. I'll definitely be pulling for you.

Happy Derby Dreams to all!

May 6, 2011

Derby Day hunches

Just a few final thoughts about this year's Derby. I listed my top choices earlier in week, but my official pick to win is Dialed In, with Mucho Macho Man second and long-shot Animal Kingdom running third. I would like to hear your picks (top 3, in order) since I usually give props to the best handicapper out there in my Derby wrap article.

I had a difficult time trying to find a long-shot that I have strong feelings about. Earlier in the week I thought I might use Decisive Moment, but then I heard his trainer say he wanted to use his speed to their advantage. So I don't think he'll be sticking around at the end. But from that same race - Vinery Spiral at Turfway Park - comes Animal Kingdom. He only has raced four times, but did run 1 1/8 miles at age two when breaking his maiden on turf. He returned in fine form in March when just missed at a short mile on the turf before stretching out nicely on the Polytrack surface at Turfway. More and more young horses are making that turf/dirt adjustment, such as Soldat. Due to the big gap from last race, mainly foreign bloodlines and never having run a race on dirt, Animal Kingdom may be overlooked, as he closed day one early wager pool at 23-1.

The other nice price out there is Santiva at 30-1. He received perhaps the worst ride of any Derby prep when Julien Leparoux had him boxed in on the rail for the entire Blue Grass Stakes. That actually makes me nervous since Julien is on Dialed In tomorrow! But Santiva proved that his 2YO form carried over when he ran a great second in the Risen Star Stakes to Mucho Macho Man over the Fair Grounds dirt track. I learned several years ago with Bluegrass Cat that a good horse may throw in a clunker for a number of reasons, but in the Derby giving them a second chance could lead to a five figure trifecta ticket! Wheeling Santiva in the 2nd and 3rd positions may be a good backup bet.

Please email me your picks or post a comment and best of luck in The Derby, especially to my friends who will be there in person tomorrow!

May 5, 2011

Uncle Mo and the A-hole

I'll let you read this blurb and guess whether the A-hole I am referring to is the GI health issues that caused Uncle Mo to scratch, or his cocky owner.

"Does it hurt that he’s not here?" Repole said. "Yes, because Uncle Mo, in my opinion he’s five to seven lengths better than any horse in this race," Repole said.

"As bad as I want win this race, (Pletcher) is 43 and I’m 42. He looks a lot older than I do, but the bottom line is that we’re going to be around a while. I have 100 friends and family in town and we still have a chance. Stay Thirsty had the best work of his life the other day. How many people have a horse scratched from this race and still have another one?”

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There has been much talk within the racing circle that something was not quite right with this horse for over a week now. Robert LaPenta, the owner of the likely clear favorite in Dialed In with Mo's defection, essentially called out Pletcher and Repole on this issue in a statment a week ago. Mike Repole has a history of making cocky statements, such as just the other day saying he would wager enough money personally on Uncle Mo to guarantee he would go off as the favorite. Now he trashes the other Derby owners by saying his sick horse is "five to seven lengths better" than the actual Derby field?

This is an asinine comment and it's time that the racing world stand up to arrogant bastards like Repole. The Blood-Horse magazine recently featured young owners like Repole, Kevin Plank and Bobby Flay titled "Young Turks" and described how these young owners with large bankrolls are impacting the sport. But if this childish, schoolyard behavior and comments are representative of the type of impact to the future of our sport, I want no part of it. I wish Uncle Mo (and Stay Thirsty for that matter) well, but to Repole -- grow up you jerk!

Mint Juleps with Mucho Macho Man

Thursday of Derby week in my household means one thing -- securing enough mint to begin the maturation process of my secret syrup base to be used in Saturday’s mint juleps. Once I smell that fresh mint on my fingers, it’s yet another enforcement that The Derby is indeed within 48 hours of actually happening! Did I mention this is my favorite week of the year? My friends and family think my fascination with The Derby was fate since my birthday occurs on the day the first Kentucky Derby was ever run on May 17th way back in 1875 when Aristides’ name became revered in Derby lore.

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May 4, 2011

Derby 137 - Wednesday

Knocking on Wood – Potential toss horses

Now that I’ve spent the last two days singing the praises of Dialed In and Archtothe3, let me pause to mention my list of knocks against a bevy of horses (most notably from the Wood Memorial) that are likely to find good support at the windows on Saturday. Wood Memorial horses tend to get quite a bit of hype each year (after Secretariat ran there, why not?) and the last Derby winner from this race was in 2003 – Funny Cide, the longest dry spell of the major preps (FL Derby, SA Derby, AR Derby, Blue Grass, Wood).

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May 3, 2011

Toby's Corner is "Brooks -n- Done"

Toby's Corner was just declared out of Saturday's Derby after a slight injury following a breeze. The son of Bellamy Road was on my "toss but fear" list, so probably a good thing from my perspective.

Be sure to vote on Derby horses at left!

May 2, 2011

Derby 137 Tuesday - Archtothe3

I’ve already received several emails plotting strategy for Saturday’s big race, which usually leads to rewarding payoffs with the amount of money infused into the wagering pool from gamblers and social goers alike. "With the large, competitive fields that the Kentucky Derby draws and so many individual betting interests, the Derby is the greatest single wagering opportunity in horse racing," said Jeremy Clemons, senior director of marketing for Churchill Downs. There are several handicapping angles heading into this Derby.

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May 1, 2011

Derby 137 Monday - Dialed In Profile

Happy Derby week everyone! How sweet it is to turn the calendar page to May once again. This is one of the few - if not the only – Mondays of the year that I have a skip in my step and actually eager to get into the office to “Talk Derby” to people.

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