Gomez’ Classic ride on Blame was partly payback to Baffert

Garrett Gomez, right, talks Ralph Siraco through a replay of the Breeders' Cup Classic as Blame holds off Zenyatta in the stretch.

LAS VEGAS — In the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, it seemed that winning jockey Garrett Gomez was riding against one horse — and it wasn’t Zenyatta.

Racing down the backstretch in the $5 million stakes, Gomez had Blame about 10 lengths off of the early pace being set by First Dude. With the early speed tiring entering the stretch, Blame surged with a 4-wide move through horses with Lookin At Lucky just to his outside.

Gomez said, at that point, he looked over at jockey Martin Garcia — the rider who replaced him on Lookin At Lucky after the colt’s sixth-place finish as the Kentucky Derby favorite. Two weeks after the Derby, Garcia rode Lookin At Lucky to victory in the Preakness Stakes, and then Garcia won both the Haskell Invitational and the Indiana Derby on the colt.

“When I turned for home, I said ‘he is not going to beat me,’ ” said Gomez, who was speaking to 128 horseplayers Dec. 21 at the South Point Casino race book in Las Vegas.

Blame began inching away from Lookin At Lucky with 300 yards to go. Then  Blame kept on going to lead Lookin At Lucky by almost four lengths at the wire, as Zenyatta closed to miss by a head.

Although Lookin At Lucky is a talented colt and Gomez is a great rider, the two never clicked last spring, so trainer Bob Baffert gave the mount to Garcia for the Preakness. Rarely does Gomez get pulled from a horse due to poor riding, but when it happens he is determined to make the trainer and owner regret it.

“That’s what I try to do,” Gomez said. “If I am not on the horse, then I want them to wish I was when it’s over.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Lookin At Lucky was shut off coming out of post position one, which forced Gomez to steady. Then in the front stretch, Lookin At Lucky was bumped hard on the sloppy track, forcing Gomez to pull the horse toward the rear.

Lookin At Lucky, who usually runs in mid-pack, was 20 lengths behind down the Derby backstretch. He ran on gamely, but was never a threat to Derby winner Super Saver.

Also, Gomez was aboard Lookin At Lucky in his previous race, the Santa Anita Derby. Again, Gomez, who lost this race too, got into trouble with the colt and was forced to steady. 

After losing these two races, Baffert had seen enough and made a change.

Garrett Gomez at South Point Casino race book on Dec. 21.

In retrospect, Gomez said that had Baffert kept him on Lookin At Lucky throughout the year, then he probably would not have ridden Blame in the Classic.  “And it probably wouldn’t have worked out like it did,” he said.

Gomez and Baffert have had a great relationship over the years, with Baffert replacing many jockeys so Gomez could ride his best horses. Because of Gomez’ history with Baffert, and the fact that the two have won several Breeders Cup races together, Gomez thinks he would have chosen Lookin At Lucky over Blame as his BC mount.

Gomez expects to keep riding for Baffert in the future.

During the talk at South Point, radio host Ralph Siraco — who was interviewing Gomez at the front of the room — asked the jockey how concerned he was about Zenyatta, who won 19 straight races coming into the Classic.

Gomez said Zenyatta is a tremendous race horse, but he knew she had one glaring hole in her resume. Although Zenyatta won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic, that race was on Santa Anita’s synthetic surface and the 2010 Classic was at Churchill Downs.

“She had never run against really good horses on dirt,” Gomez said. “Now she was going to be facing the best in the country on dirt.”

Everybody knew Zenyatta would make a stretch run, and when Gomez saw her coming, he intentionally drifted Blame toward her to help keep Blame’s competitive juices flowing. It worked, as Blame held on.

About a month before the Classic, Gomez knew that Blame would be retired after the race. The 4-year-old is going to stand at Claiborne Farm, which is a beautiful, peaceful place with open pastures and rolling hills. “I would like to retire there myself,” Gomez joked.

Siraco asked Gomez whether he thinks Blame should be Horse of the Year over Zenyatta. Gomez has a bias, he admitted, but thinks that the debate was settled on the track.

“I would like to win the Eclipse myself, just like I would like to see Blame win Horse of the Year” Gomez said. “I think he deserves it.”

Siraco took the microphone into the crowd where a horseplayer asked Gomez if he was ever involved in a fight with another jockey like the one between Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano on Breeders’ Cup day.

Jockeys risk their lives during the course of the race, Gomez said, and they have their own code to police reckless riders who endanger others. Most times, it involves strong language and sometimes fighting.

“That’s usually the way we take care of it, but most of the time we wait until we are back in the jockey’s room,” Gomez said.

Also, the stewards are responsible for keeping racing safe, but Gomez does not think it’s necessary for them to interview the jockeys before making a decision. Some riders speak broken English, which gives the articulate ones an advantage, Gomez said.

Gomez gave the audience some things to think about when handicapping the races.

Often horseplayers studying past performances don’t fully realize that horses have good days and bad days — just like people, Gomez said. Sometimes they want to run and other days they just don’t feel like doing anything. For example, maybe the horse developed the flu on race day and the trainer did not detect it, the rider said.

Handicappers, Gomez advised, can look for signs of aggressiveness to confirm whether the horses they bet are feeling good.

Blame, for example, will usually try to nip the stable pony that leads him to the starting gate. But before the Jockey Club Gold Cup in October, Blame never tried to bite the pony at all — and he finished a well-beaten third, Gomez said.

“In the Breeders Cup Classic, he was back on his game. He had more of the fight that he had at the beginning of the year,” Gomez said.

Another racing fan asked Gomez about jockeys who look over their shoulders in the stretch. When he looks back, Gomez said, a lot of times it is to see how much energy he needs to ask his horse to expend before hitting the wire.

“You are getting a gauge on the competition,” he said.

Sometimes Gomez will wait on a horse before pulling away because “that knocks the try out of them.”

He doesn’t prepare much the night before the races because Gomez prefers to wait to see which horses are scratched. His agent, Ron Anderson, makes almost all the decisions about who he will ride, and Gomez loves synthetic tracks, especially the one at Keeneland.

However, the synthetics at Hollywood and Del Mar do not have the right components in the mixture, he said.

“Out of all of the synthetic tracks we have (in California),” Gomez said, “none were installed correctly.”

 Santa Anita, which opens Dec. 26, put in a new dirt track and Gomez reported that it is getting good reviews.

During workouts, horses are bouncing right over it, he added.

“It is supposed to be a sandy race track, but for some reason they are working fast,” Gomez said.

Gomez, who grew up at the racetrack, said his father rode 22 years at small tracks in New Mexico. Gomez began his riding career in Phoenix, then went to Nebraska and later to the larger tracks in the Midwest. In 1994, Gomez took his tack to Del Mar, but returned to the Midwest after Del Mar ended.

In 1998, Gomez came back to California for good where he now makes his home with his wife and two daughters. He built an equistrian arena on his property, which his 7-year-old uses to practice riding. “It is just a great family fun spot,” Gomez said.

Gomez, 38, who usually traverses the country riding the best horses in the biggest races, would like to spend more time with his family in California in 2011.

“Over the course of the next year, I am going to play it by ear,” Gomez said. “I would like to stay in California, but if the racing doesn’t get a lot better then I am going to have to head out again.”

Sunday, Del Mar Race 6 — 4:30 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Calif. maiden races

Maiden Special Weight, 5-1/2 furlongs, 2 yo fillies

Possible overlays                   Morning line

#1 Blaze Along                             3/1
#5 Lofty Ambition                         5/2
#6 Clearly Concerned                   7/2
#7 Candid Ride                             4/1

Over the last few years, a good bet when looking for first-time starters in maiden special weight races for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds has been to find top trainers running early foals with good workouts that are going off at decent prices.

In this race, four trainers are winning more than 20 percent of their races for the year: Bob Baffert, Carla Gaines, Jerry Hollendorfer and John Sadler. Their fillies scheduled to go to post in this race all have good workouts and were born in January, February and March.

The morning line maker has them all priced somewhere between 5/2 and 4/1. Of course, all I care about are the odds at post time and I will take whatever horses the public gives me.

I will bet $500 to win on the two highest-odds horses that are between 7/2 and 9/1 among #1 Blaze Along, #5 Lofty Ambition, #6 Dearly Concerned and #7 Candid Ride.

********************************************************************

Results: Lost $1,000. Had $500 to win on #6 Dearly Concerned at 4-1 and another $500 win bet on #7 Candid Ride at 5-1.

*********************************************************************

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
2 1 Sky Flying Eileen (KY) Quinonez A Cho M 23.10 2
3 2 Blondies Bling (FL) Scott J Kirkham B 31.90 6
1 3 Blazing Along (KY) Medina L Baffert B 2.20 3
4 4 True Way of Grace (FL) Valenzuela P Barba A 30.20 8
5 5 Lofty Ambition (KY) Bejarano R Gaines C 2.40 7
6 6 Dearly Concerned (KY) Espinoza V Hollendorfer J 4.30 9
7 7 Candid Ride (PA) Rosario J Sadler J 5.60 10
8 8 Rigoletta (FL) Flores D Hendricks D 12.20 1
9 9 Anniversary Girl (KY) Smith M Hollendorfer J 14.20 5
1A 10 Star Presence (KY) Garcia M Baffert B 2.20 4
 
Pgm Win Place Show
8 $26.40 $10.00 $5.80
2 $19.20 $9.00
1 $2.80
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $313.70 (8-2)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $779.60 (7-1-8)
$1.00 Superfecta paid $7581.10 (8-2-1-9)

RUNNERS WANTED. Experience preferred.

A horse heads onto the track earlier this year at Del Mar. In Southern California, 2-yo and 3-yo first-time starters are winning less frequently than in the past

I noticed an eye-opening trend recently. Since the beginning of 2009, young horses — 2- year-olds and 3-year-olds — making their first lifetime starts at So. California tracks are not winning with the frequency they once did, and almost all of them are unprofitable long-term plays.

Maybe it’s the synthetic tracks, maybe it’s a short-term variance to be fixed by the law of large numbers, or maybe during these tough economic times, owners want some second, third or fourth place purse money before going for the big prize.

In any event, the only young debut horses that are worth a wager these days are those saddled by trainers with an overall win rate of 20 percent or more.

In this study, I looked at first-time starters in maiden sprints for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds at Southern California tracks that ran from November 1, 2006 to December 31, 2008. Then I compared them to debuters that ran from January 1, 2009 to May 23, 2010. I did not use any first timers in races written for horses 3-year-olds and up or 4-year-olds and up. Those types of debuters are in a whole different world. 

I used early foals only — those born in January, February and March — because those are the ones who win most frequently. Then I looked at two trainer groups — the ones whose winning percentages were 20 or more on the day the debuter ran, and those  trainers with winning percentages of less than 20. 

Finally, I broke it down by odds: Horses that were between 7/2 and 9/1, and those whose post time odds were between 10/1 to 19/1.

This is what I found out: Before 2009, trainers with less than a 20 percent win rate who saddled first-time starters with odds between 10/1 and 19/1 won 29 of 299 races or 9.6 percent. A $1 bet on all 299 runners returned $1.50 for every $1 wagered.

However after 2009, these sub-20 percent trainers won with only 7 of 140, or 5 percent, of their runners in the 10/1 to 19/1 odds range. If someone were to bet $1 on all of them after 2009, they would have gotten back just 65 cents for every $1 bet.

In the sub-20 percent winning trainer group, I also looked at their debuters at odds of between 7/2 and 9/1, who had at least two workouts in the top 20 percent for that day’s distance.  Before 2009, the sub-20 percent trainers’ first timers won 26 or 134 races, or 19.4 percent, for an ROI of $1.43 for every $1 wagered.

But after 2009, just 8 of 56 of these 7/2 to 9/1-odds debuters won. The 14 percent win rate gave somebody who wagered $1 on each horse a return of just 90 cents.

Trainer Bob Baffert signs an autograph in Del Mar's paddock. Baffert is the kind of high percentage trainer that is still a good bet with debuters

For the track’s best horsemen, first-time starters going off at odds between 7/2 and 9/1 with two good works is still an extremely strong bet. But once their odds hit 10/1 to 19/1, it becomes less clear.

Before 2009, trainers with an overall record of at least 20 percent wins, had 9 victories in 37 tries, or 24 percent, with first-time starters between 7/2 and 9/1. Every $1 bet returned $1.61. After 2009, the record of these trainers strengthened with debuters between 7/2 and 9/1 to 34.7 percent with 8 wins in 23 starts for an ROI of $2.26 for every $1 wagered. 

Before 2009, at odds of 10/1 to 19/1, these 20-percent-plus trainers won 9 of 61 starts for a win rate of 14.7 percent. Backers got $2.16 for every $1 bet. However, after 2009, these top trainers won just 3 of 32 starts in this odds range for a return of $1.15 for every $1 bet.

In summary, these days, 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds making their first lifetime starts are only strong wagers if the trainer’s win rate is 20 percent or more, the runner has at least two good workouts, and the horse’s odds are between 7/2 and 9/1.

Betting any other first timer is a shaky proposition.

Eight years

Bob Baffert announced to his Facebook friends that today is his eight-year wedding anniversary to his wife, Jill. They were married just before War Emblem’s Haskell Stakes in 2002.

Also, Baffert said that Lookin at Lucky is recovering well from the 102-degree temperature that he suffered this morning.

Owner Mike Pegram and Baffert were considering the Travers before the setback, but now the 3-year-old colt will not run at Saratoga.

Lookin at Lucky will stay at Monmouth Park until completely healthy, Baffert said.

Results, Del Mar, Saturday, Race 7 — lost $800

Jockey Alonso Quinonez

Eight of the 10 runners in this race were making their first lifetime starts. Many of them hailed from the world’s top barns: Those run by Bob Baffert, John Sadler, Jerry Hollendorfer and Doug O’Neill.

But amazingly, the debuter with the no-name jockey — Alonso Quinonez — and the low-profile trainer — Myung Kwon Cho — got the job done.

Although lots of these eight debuters had quick workouts and great connections, each one seemed to have strong drawbacks, also.
By looking at years of past results, I know that Florida breds have better records for precociousness in Southern California than horses bred in Kentucky or California. So, I prefer them.
 
But in this race, Florida breds #4 Rock So Hard and #6 The Phenom were both May foals, which are usually a money-losing propositions when debuting. Other information sent me mixed messages, too. 
 
For example, trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled Rock So Hard, also ran #7 Prayer for Relief, who was a February foal with good workouts – both positives. 
 
Baffert has an outstanding record when he uses jockey Martin Garcia on his first timers. But Garcia was on Rock So Hard and not Prayer for Relief. So Baffert’s money horse was unclear to me.
 
In the race, #10 Premier Pegasus, who is a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, shot out of the gate at 44-to-1. As the field went down the backstretch, Rock So Hard took the lead, but some seven runners were within two lengths of each other. On the inside, jockey Tyler Baze tried to make a move with #1 Red Sharp Humor, but that didn’t work, so he backed off.
 
Throughout the turn and at the top of the lane, the running order didn’t change much. Rock So Hard led on the inside, Premier Pegasus was a head behind in the two path, while #9 Just Imagine was looming three wide and a half a length away.
 
The field remained compact as race caller Trevor Denman told the crowd “this one’s wide open.” In deep stretch, Garcia was wailing away with his whip on Rock So Hard, while Quinonez was essentially hand riding Premier Pegasus, although the rider did give him a few taps of the stick as the wire approached.
 
Just Imagine disappointed his backers by hanging in the stretch as the even money favorite. I’ve heard race track myths that when first time starters are bet down below 3-to-1 they are great bets. But, in reality, they are some of the worst wagers in racing.
 
I had $200 on #1 Red Sharp Humor at 16/1, $300 on #6 The Phenom at 8/1 and $300 on #7 Prayer for Relief at 10/1.
 

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
1 1 Red Sharp Humor (KY) Bejarano R Hollendorfer J 16.40 4
2 2 Clubhouse Ride (KY) Espinoza V Lewis C 9.20 5
3 3 Joburg Star (KY) Flores D Miller P 9.20 7
4 4 Rock So Hard (FL) Garcia M Baffert B 5.20 2
5 5 Palio Prince (KY) Smith M Barba A 42.40 9
6 6 The Phenom (FL) Talamo J Sadler J 8.00 10
7 7 Prayer for Relief (KY) Pedroza M Baffert B 10.10 6
8 8 Purgestein (KY) Santiago Reyes C Bonde J 22.20 8
9 9 Just Imagine (KY) Rosario J O’Neill D 1.00 3
10 10 Premier Pegasus (KY) Quinonez A Cho M 44.40 1
SCR American Wildcat (VA)    
 
Pgm Win Place Show
10 $90.80 $30.60 $11.00
4 $6.00 $3.60
9 $3.00
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $434.80 (10-4)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $5813.30 (4-10-10)
$1.00 Superfecta paid $18710

In Vegas, being hot is only fun at the gaming tables

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers attended Del Mar's opening day with Kyler Boller of the Oakland Raiders and 2009 Miss California Carrie Prejean

It’s one trip that never disappoints. 

This time of year, the painful Las Vegas sun scorches any fool who dares venture from the 72-degree chilled air of the casino. Most organisms aren’t made to live in this overwhelming desert summer heat. 

That’s why the area surrounding Las Vegas looks like the surface of the moon: aside from a few cactuses and a lizard or two there’s nothing alive out there.  Only God knows how wild horses survive here. 

Certainly, human beings weren’t made for this. Our bodies are mostly composed of water.  We like drinking water, looking at water and submerging ourselves in it. A little humidity and a cool breeze is nice every now and then, too. 

Water makes us happy. Don’t you find it curious that people at the beach always seem so relaxed and good natured, while the residents of  the desert climates of the warring Middle East are often angry and downright hostile? 

Even if Del Mar’s Opener wasn’t one of the best days of the year at any track in America, all arrows were pointing to San Diego for me last Tuesday.  Walking the aisles at a Las Vegas-area Costco, I found $100 coupons for sale at the Hyatt Marina Bay that Costco was selling for $80. And when I booked the room on Costco online, they knocked off another 10 percent and threw in a $25 gift certificate upon arrival. So, this $200-a-night room – right on breezy, 65-degree San Diego Bay – ended up costing just slightly more than the La Quinta Inn built under the screaming, soot-spewing jet engines swooping down at LAX. 

I rented a car – not that my 2002 Acura wouldn’t make it or anything — but if a car depreciates by mileage, then why not put the miles on the one Enterprise owns and not mine? Then I pointed the vehicle toward Del Mar and pulled away, noticing that my car’s temperature gauge read 113-degrees. 

As I drove through State Line, it was baking.  And in Baker, it was roasting. By the time I hit Barstow, I was cooked. 

But gradually, after I passed San Bernardino the temps started to cool down and when I finally got to San Diego five hours later, it was all worthwhile. I was greeted with a cool breeze of heavy, oxygen-rich humid sea air, chilled down to 65 degrees. 

Go ahead, take a deep breath near the ocean in San Diego and you’ll feel like you can run a 26-mile marathon or fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. In Las Vegas, you take that same deep breath, and all you do is cough up desert dust or get a mouthful of  second-hand cigar smoke. 

Before going to Del Mar’s Opening Day, I worked up a sweat by running a few miles through the misty Mission Beach air, then I dove into the frosty Pacific Ocean. Ahhhhh. 

When I got to Del Mar, things just got better. I was allowed to go into the paddock area where former movie stars like Bo Derek were chatting with owners and race fans. While in the winner’s circle, a young woman who was Miss California 2009, was with two NFL quarterbacks. 

Bo Derek was named to the California Horse Racing Board in 2008

Horse racing’s own celebrity of sorts — trainer Bob Baffert — seemed to be everywhere. But mostly he stood not too far from the saddling area, eyeballing his Thoroughbreds while entertaining the partners in the expensive animals that he likely persuaded the men to buy.  

Looking around, a record-setting crowd of 45,000 showed up. And everybody seemed to be dressed up and wound up. As the gates shot open for the first race, the customary huge Opening Day cheer went up from the overflowing grandstand. 

And in the second race, the same thing happened. Only fewer people cheered. But then somebody must have said something because the third race went off without much fanfare. 

As the day went on, drinkers sipped their cocktails, TV personalities interviewed trainers and jockeys, and others just soaked in the tremendous atmosphere. 

Yeah, Del Mar, California. This is the kind of place where human beings thrive. 

TVG's Christina Olivares interviews Bob Baffert after Go On Babe dead heated to win the 7th

Results, Santa Anita Saturday Race 10 — lost $500

Jockey Joe Talamo took #7 Get My Fix off the pace then rolled to victory in the stretch

Jockey Joe Talamo took #7 Get My Fix off the pace then rolled to victory in the stretch

 Usually, when Bob Baffert starts two horses in a race, one or both of them run huge.

In this event, Baffert saddled both #4 The Program, 16-to-1, and #5 Mr Charlie, 4-to-1. But, surprisingly, both broke slowly and neither one fired.

The winner, #7 Get My Fix trained by Brian Koriner, was one of the most likely winners when looking at the past performances. This 2-year-old had run a 79 Beyer Speed Figure in his second lifetime start on Aug. 8, which is significant because the median Beyer Speed Figure for this class is an 80. In his last race, Get My Fix rated behind the leaders and finished up well, which is the preferred running style for 6-1/2 furlongs.

Others who looked like they had a shot were #9 Frisco Kid, a first-time starter who went off at 13-to-1, and #1 The Skinny Man, a 7-to-2 shot. Neither ran well, although The Skinny Man showed speed until the stretch.

In the race, Get My Fix and jockey Joe Talamo mowed down pace setter #10 El Gran Matador while outrunning another late runner, #6 Domonation. In my betting scenario, I intended to bet $200 on Get My Fix if his odds were 5-to-2 or better. But the bet was live only if both #4 The Program and #9 Frisco Kid were 8-to-1 and #5 Mr Charlie was less than 4-to-1.

As the horses loaded into the gate, I bet The Program at 16/1 and Frisco Kid at 13/1. Then Mr Charlie’s odds moved up from 7/2 to 4/1, so I ended up betting him instead of Get My Fix. In all, I wagered $500.

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
1 1 The Skinny Man (KY) Bejarano R O’Neill D 3.90 9
2 2 Kuro (KY) Espinoza V Machowsky M 15.40 6
3 3 Mister Do It (KY) Valdivia, Jr. J Hendricks D 53.90 10
4 4 The Program (KY) Garcia M Baffert B 16.00 5
5 5 Mr Charlie (KY) Smith M Baffert B 4.00 8
6 6 Domonation (KY) Rosario J Sadler J 8.40 2
7 7 Get My Fix (KY) Talamo J Koriner B 2.80 1
8 8 Brady Blue Eyes (KY) Borel C Glatt M 4.20 4
9 9 Frisco Kid (FL) Solis A Headley B 13.60 7
10 10 El Gran Matador (NY) Santiago Reyes C Becerra R 53.70 3
 
Pgm Win Place Show
7 $7.60 $4.40 $3.60
6 $9.40 $6.80
10 $16.40
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $39.30 (7-6)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $91.20 (5-1-7)
$1.00 Pick 4 paid $1679.50 (8-2/5-1-7)
$1.00 Pick 5 paid $3351.10 (1/6/9-8-2/5-1-7)
$1.00 Place Pick All paid $583.30 (10 OF 10)
$1.00 Super High Five paid $0.00 (NO WINNING TICKE
$1.00 Superfecta paid $9445.30 (7-6-10-8)
$1.00 Trifecta paid $1372.40 (7-6-10)
$2.00 Daily Double paid $84.40 (1-7)
$2.00 Pick 6 paid $11781.60 (10-1/6/9-8-2/5-1-7)
$2.00 Pick 6 paid $89.60 (10-1/6/9-8-2/5-1-7)

Results, Santa Anita Saturday Race 5 — lost $450

Trainer Bob Baffert gave a leg up to jockey Rafael Bejarano on 4-to-5 shot Excellent News

Trainer Bob Baffert gave a leg up to jockey Rafael Bejarano on 4-to-5 shot Excellent News

Almost all of Bob Baffert’s horses are bred to win stakes races, so they can dominate a field of maiden special weight sprinters at any moment.

Rafael Bejarano rode #10 Excellent News in her third lifetime race after she spun an 82 Beyer Speed Figure in her second race on Aug. 29. Since the median winning Beyer Speed Figure for this race was just an 80, Excellent News was a standout — especially considering that the next highest Beyer was just a 69.

There were no secrets with this filly. She had the top Beyer, a top jockey and a top trainer. It was easy to see her outstanding qualifications and it was no surprise that the public knocked Excellent News’ odds to 4-to-5.

But with odds this low, horses need to win some 70-to-80 percent of the time to make a bet worthwhile. And all of us bettors are all dealing with incomplete information, so it’s tough to find angles that work seven out of 10 times.

A couple of first timers in this race — #4 Stunning Ally and #7 Carrie Rose — had strong long-term angles working for them. And I also took a chance on second-time starter #5 Evening Jewel.

However, Excellent News won like a 4-to-5 shot should win.

At the window, I wagered $200 on Stunning Ally at 9/1, $100 on Evening Jewel at 5/1 and $150 on Carrie Rose at 8/1.

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
1 1 Dance the Dance (CA) Talamo J Hofmans D 37.50 6
2 2 Shesoprovocative (CA) Espinoza V Becerra R 13.20 5
3 3 Pocatello Wild Kat (CA) Baze M Fanning J 63.20 8
4 4 Stunning Ally (CA) Quinonez A Canani J 9.50 4
5 5 Evening Jewel (CA) Smith M Cassidy J 5.40 2
6 6 Giveme Onereason (CA) Santiago Reyes C Solis W 35.10 3
7 7 Carrie Rose (CA) Gomez G Mitchell M 8.30 9
8 8 Tiz Cee’s Ballet (CA) Martin G Locke T 57.40 10
9 9 High Five Gal (CA) Rosario J O’Neill D 7.00 7
10 10 Excellent News (CA) Bejarano R Baffert B 0.80 1
Pgm Win Place Show
10 $3.60 $2.40 $2.40
5 $4.60 $4.20
6 $8.60
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $8.80 (10-5)
$1.00

Saturday, Santa Anita Race 10 — 5 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden Special Weight, 2-year-olds, 6-1/2 furlongs

Possible overlays                  Morning line

#1 The Skinny Man                       3/1
#4 The Program                            12/1
#5 Mr Charlie                                6/1
#7 Get My Fix                               5/2
#9 Frisco Kid                                 8/1

On Aug. 29, co-favorites #1 The Skinny Man raced against #7 Get My Fix and only a whisker separated the two for second place. Both colts have decent early speed, they’ve both run in the neighborhood of the 80 median winning Beyer Speed Figure for this class, and they’re learning how to rate.

Either of them can win, but it won’t be easy.

Although neither half of the uncoupled Bob Baffert entry came close to winning their debut, I expect either #4 The Program or #5 Mr Charlie to run very well today. I have seen Baffert work his magic too many times to ignore his colts even when the morning line maker seems to be disregarding them. 

The Program appears to have been bought for $310,000 while Mr Charlie looks like a $725,000 purchase. Although these purchase prices are published in the Daily Racing Form, sometimes nobody really paid that much for the horse and the published sale price is the amount the animal was bought back for when the sale’s reserve price was not met.  Anyway, Baffert doesn’t train many mules and these two have been working out well. So I expect big things.

In The Program’s last race, he came out of the gate very slowly and while watching the replay it was difficult to tell if jockey Mike Smith intentionally pulled him to the back. But one thing I am sure of is that Smith certainly wasn’t hustling The Program down the backstretch.

And another thing that makes me curious about The Program is that, according to my records, Baffert and The Program’s jockey Martin Garcia won with five first-time starters from just 12 rides for a return of $3.31 for every $1 wagered. These Baffert/Garcia firsters were all in 2006-07, so they happened too long ago to be included in the DRF’s statistics, which show that the Baffert/Garcia team are 0-for-3 overall since 2008.

I know The Program is not running in his debut, but my point is that Garcia might be one of Baffet’s money riders. All I am saying is beware.

As for Mr Charlie, he seemed to be full of run in his Sept. 7 race. As it began, Mr Charlie went to the lead with hardly any encouragement from jockey Joe Talamo. However, right next to Talamo that day was Indian Firewater, who is another Baffert runner, and Indian Firewater exploded in the stretch while Mr Charlie faded.

But I’m sure that was not Mr Charlie’s best run.

OK, moving on. The last promising horse is #9 Frisco Kid. The only drawback with him is that trainer Bruce Headley is 0-for-11 with debuting MSW juveniles over the last five years, according to “A Closer Look” in the DRF. Otherwise, Frisco Kid is the prototype of what a winning debuter looks like.

And don’t ask me why, but a higher percentage of first timers win at 6-1/2 furlongs than at any other distance.

At odds of 7/2 to 19/1, I will bet $200 to win on #9 Frisco Kid. Also, I’ll put $150 on #4 The Program at 5/1 or better and $150 on #5 Mr Charlie at 4/1 or more. However, if The Program and Frisco Kid both go off at odds of 8/1 or higher and Mr Charlie is less than 4/1, then I will also put $200 on #7 Get My Fix at 5/2 or more.

Saturday, Santa Anita Race 5 — 2:30 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, 2-yo fillies

Possible overlays                       Morning line

#1 Dance the Dance                           15/1
#4 Stunning Ally                                  6/1
#5 Evening Jewel                                 6/1
#7 Carrie Rose                                     8/1

The obvious favorite of this bunch is #10 Excellent News, who rang up an 82 Beyer Speed Figure in her last race on Aug. 29 while finishing second to Miss Georgie Girl. Since Excellent News has already ran a speed figure that’s better than the median winning number of 80, she is the most likely winner. However, the Baffert brand name will ensure she’s way overbet.

Therefore, I’m looking toward either a couple of first time starters or a filly making her second lifetime run to get the job done at a price.

Over the past year or so, trainer Mike Mitchell has been firing well with his young horses when he sends them out in their debuts.  And it doesn’t hurt that Garrett Gomez will be aboard #7 Carrie Rose, especially when noting that the Gomez-Mitchell tandem has produced 27 winners from their last 82 runners. A $1 bet on all of them yielded $1.31, according to the Daily Racing Form.

James Cassidy saddles #5 Evening Jewel who was bet to 9/2 in her first lifetime race on Aug. 23. On that day, Evening Jewel ran evenly in the middle of the pack, however when I watched the replay it looked to me like  jockey David Flores was taking it easy on her. This filly has some nice workouts and she fits the profile of a winning second-time starter.

Breaking just inside of Evening Jewel will be #4 Stunning Ally, who is another debuter. Julio Canani has this daughter of In Excess working out well and she looks like a bet if the price is right.

Finally, owners Rod and Lorraine Rodriguez have had much success winning with debut horses over the years, but I am not that big of a fan of their filly, #1 Dance the Dance. At the right price, though, a small bet based on the connections may be in order.

I will wager $200 on #7 Carrie Rose from 3/1 to 9/1, but just $100 at 10/1 and up. Also, I will take  $200 on #5 Evening Jewel at 5/2 to 9/1 and $100 at 10/1 or higher. Finally, if #4 Stunning Ally is 7/2 to 9/1, I want $150 to win on her, but I’ll take $200 to win at 10/1 to 19/1.

Results, Santa Anita Wednesday Race 9 — lost $550

Jockey Kyle Kaenel rocked the tote board to the tune of $157 with Spartan Jet

Jockey Kyle Kaenel rocked the tote board to the tune of $157 with Spartan Jet

At 77-to-1, it should come as no surprise that Spartan Jet’s only two past performance lines were ugly. In both races, he broke slowly, made no move on the turn and had no rally in the stretch. 

But on Wednesday, Spartan Jet broke alertly and virtually led this 12-horse field wire-to-wire, lighting up the toteboard with a $157.60 win payoff.

Before being awarded the official victory, however, owner-trainer Juan Lopez had to sweat out a claim of foul by jockey Martin Pedroza. Pedroza, who ironically rode Spartan Jet in his first two starts, claimed that his mount Red Door Drive was impeded when rider Kyle Kaenel allowed Spartan Jet to swerve out approaching midstretch.

Red Door Drive, trained by Bob Baffert, had last raced in September 2008 and nine of his 10 lifetime races were on the turf. In Wednesday’s race, Red Door Drive moved from last place on the turn to a good stalking position about two lengths away from the leaders.

As the field moved into the stretch, Pedroza tried to take Red Door Drive outside of Spartan Jet, but that horse unexpectedly swerved suddenly, so Pedroza went inside. Red Door Drive had plenty of time to pass Spartan Jet but — perhaps because he was inside of him — Red Door Drive never went by and lost by a head.

At 7/2, I bet $300 on Red Door Drive, wagered $150 more on #8 Good Newsman at 3/1 and another $100 on 23-to-1 shot #10 Little Heater.

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
1 1 Irish Weis Man (CA) Quinonez A Abrams B 37.10 7
2 2 Panda (CA) Santiago Reyes C Van Berg J 12.70 6
3 3 Red Door Drive (KY) Pedroza M Baffert B 3.80 2
4 4 Whizer (CA) Valdez F Bradvica L 28.80 10
5 5 Trueno (CA) Vergara O Capitaine N 16.50 4
6 6 Spartan Jet (KY) Delgadillo A Lopez J 77.80 1
7 7 Smokenomore (CA) Migliore R Spawr W 6.90 8
8 8 Good Newsman (KY) Espinoza V Hendricks D 3.30 3
9 9 Markus D. (CA) Talamo J Jones M 22.80 9
10 10 Little Heater (CA) Garcia M Mullins J 22.90 12
11 11 De Brief Me (CA) Baze M Puype M 7.60 5
13 12 Boo Too (KY) Rosario J Lewis C 3.40 11
SCR Glorious Mon (CA)    
 
Pgm Win Place Show
6 $157.60 $76.60 $29.80
3 $6.00 $3.60
8 $3.40
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $496.30 (6-3)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $932.20 (2-3-6)
$1.00 Pick 4 paid $15769.00 (3-2-3-6)
$1.00 Pick 5 paid $47870.00 (8-3-2-3-6)
$1.00 Place Pick All paid $3271.80 (9 OF 9)
$1.00 Super High Five paid $0.00 (NO WINNING TICKE
$1.00 Superfecta paid $83656.60 (6-3-8-5)
$1.00 Trifecta paid $2585.40 (6-3-8)
$2.00 Daily Double paid $522.80 (3-6)
$2.00 Pick 6 paid $37620.80 (3-8-3-2-3-6)

Wednesday, Santa Anita Race 9 — 5 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Today is opening day at Oak Tree and this ninth race looks like it should have a good bet or two. I’m still a bit behind in record keeping, so after this I will only be posting on the weekends while I catch up.

Possible overlays                   Morning line

#3 Red Door Drive                      7/2
#8 Good Newsman                      9/2
#9 Markus D.                            12/1
#10 Little Heater                       12/1
#11 De Brief Me                         8/1
#13 Boo Too                             4/1

Owner Arnold Zetcher transferred #3 Red Door Drive from trainer Ron McAnally to Bob Baffert since the colt’s last race one year ago. This colt tried nine times to win on the turf against better horses, but was often wide and never quite got the job done.

Red Door Drive, who last raced in September 2008, has the right running style for 7 furlongs and has a good shot to win despite the layoff — especially if there’s some betting action. Also, jockey Martin Pedroza jumped off #13 Boo Too, 4-to-1 on the morning line, to ride for Baffert.

Four other runners are also coming off recent layoffs. Trainer Dan Hendricks saddles #8 Good Newsman and Hendricks has done well in the past with this type of horse. I would only consider geldings #9 Markus D. and #11 De Brief Me if they are bet drastically below their morning lines of 12/1 and 8/1 respectively. But the Jeff Mullins 5-year-old #10 Little Heater could spring an upset at a good price.

I will bet $300 on #3 Red Door Drive at 2/1 to 7/2, but only $150 if the odds drift from 4/1 to 10/1. In the unlikely event that any of these horses are 2/1 to 7/2, I will bet $150 on the highest priced runner in that odds range among #8 Good Newsman, #9 Markus D., #10 Little Heater and #11 De Brief Me.

At odds of 4/1 and up, I’ll put $100 on #10 Little Heater.

Results, Del Mar Saturday Race 7 — lost $500

Newly-inducted Hall-of-Famer Bob Baffert broke #12 Marcello's maiden on Saturday.

Newly-inducted Hall-of-Famer Bob Baffert broke #12 Marcello's maiden on Saturday.

It really made sense for the Bob Baffert-trained #12 Marcello to win this race. In his only lifetime start on July 25, Marcello lagged at the back of the back then came with a strong rally at 5-1/2 furlongs to get fourth.

Garrett Gomez is all out on #12 Marcello to hold off #9 Pulsion

Click photo for view of the finish

The winner that day, Tiny Woods, was another colt out of the Baffert barn who led wire-to-wire. Marcello’s running style didn’t fit at that short sprint distance, but it was perfect for Saturday’s 6-1/2 furlongs.

In the race, Marcello broke alertly then settled in fourth place, as #2 Our Crazy Monkey led down the backstretch. Jockey Garrett Gomez — who was likely the reason Marcello’s post time odds were crushed to 1-to-2 — began his wide move as the horses approached the turn.

Our Crazy Monkey gave the lead up quickly and had no chance of staying with Marcello. But #9 Pulsion, another second-timer, had lots of fight in him and really showed up ready to run.

Pulsion, a 9-to-1 shot who was adding blinkers for trainer Patrick Biancone, closed into Marcello’s 2-length lead with every stride as the wire approached. But Marcello hung on by a nose in a dramatic photo finish.

I liked Marcello but his short price forced me to look elsewhere. So, I spread $500 out over three first timers. #3 Poker Trick, at 14/1, #6 Erbeia, 11/1, and #10 We Will Rock, 12/1. However, none of them fired.

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
2 1 Our Crazy Monkey (NY) Pedroza M O’Neill D 18.90 3
3 2 Poker Trick (FL) Baze T O’Neill D 14.30 10
1 3 Viva Macho (FL) Baze M Cho M 44.10 6
4 4 Mr. Saturdaynight (KY) Talamo J Sadler J 11.70 7
5 5 Quietly Waiting (KY) Garcia M Knapp S 44.60 11
6 6 Erbeia (KY) Nakatani C Mandella R 11.10 8
7 7 Nuggets Please (NM) Kaenel K Leonard R 51.90 9
8 8 Came Aboard (KY) Quinonez A Gonzalez J 30.80 4
9 9 Pulsion (FL) Smith M Biancone P 9.50 2
10 10 We Will Rock (KY) Rosario J O’Neill D 12.90 5
12 11 Marcello (KY) Gomez G Baffert B 0.50 1
SCR Retired American (MD)    
SCR Undaunted Rally (KY)    
 
Pgm Win Place Show
12 $3.00 $2.60 $2.20
9 $6.60 $4.60
2 $5.60
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $9.00 (12-9)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $152.40 (1-1-12)
$1.00 Superfecta paid $1255.90 (12-9-2-8)
$1.00 Trifecta paid $136.00 (12-9-2)
$2.00 Daily Double paid $41.40 (1-12)
$2.00 Quinella paid $14.60 (9-12)

Saturday, Del Mar Race 7 — 5 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden Special Weight, 6-1/2 furlongs, 2-year-olds

Possible overlays                    Morning line

#3 Poker Trick                            7/2
#6 Erbeia                                   9/2
#9 Pulsion                                  8/1
#10 We Will Rock                8/1
#12 Marcello                               3/1

In his first lifetime race on July 25, #12 Marcello sat at the back of the 10-horse field before accellerating four-wide on the turn. In the stretch, jockey Garrett Gomez ducked Marcello to the inside and closed more than three lengths.

On that day, trainer Bob Baffert also saddled the wire-to-wire winning favorite Tiny Woods, so Marcello might not have been well meant. This 6-1/2 furlong distance seems to fit his running style much better.

However, Gomez might cause Marcello to be overbet.

Doug O’Neill is training three first-time starters in this one: #2 Our Crazy Monkey, #3 Poker Trick and #10 We Will Rock. I don’t like Crazy Monkey, but will bet on Poker Trick and We Will Rock if the odds are decent.

Other colts who deserve consideration are #6 Erbeia and #9 Pulsion. Richard Mandella, the trainer of Erbeia is winning at 20 percent for the year, but Pulsion’s trainer Patrick Biancone is struggling at 8 percent since coming off his suspension for possessing cobra venom.

I will bet $250 on Marcello at odds of 5/2 and above. Also, I want $150 to win on #3 Poker Trick at 7/2 to 19/1, and $200 on #10 We Will Rock at 5/1 to 19/1.

Finally, if #6 Erbeia is 10/1 to 19/1 I will bet $150 to win on him. And only if Marcello is bet below 5/2 will I put $150 to win on #9 Pulsion at 5/2 to 7/1.

Results, Del Mar Saturday Race 4 — lost $400

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is part owner of Lions Story, who won Saturday's 4th.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is part owner of Lions Story, who won Saturday's 4th.

The best value horse in this race turned out to be #3 Seattle Ruler. He was making his fourth start and his Beyer Speed Figure improved every time he hit the track. Also, Seattle Ruler showed the quickest first quarter mile in his past performances of any of these runners.

At 19/1, I had $100 on him and Seattle Ruler led most of the way, but was no match for #7 Lions Story, who wore him down in the stretch. I also liked #5 Magic Max, who was making his first lifetime start for trainer Bob Baffert.

Magic Max, who fit the profile of a Baffert debut winner, broke slowly but made a quick wide move on the turn. In the stretch, jockey Victor Espinosa didn’t seem to be riding as hard as he was on the turn and Magic Max flattened out at 6-to-1.

The bettors enthusiastically went for second-time starter Lions Story, who was 7-to-5, and #2 Ivory Fudge, whose post time odds were a mere 2-to-1.

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
1 1 Worth a Punt (KY) Solis A Zucker H 15.40 6
2 2 Ivory Fudge (KY) Gomez G Sadler J 2.30 4
3 3 Seattle Ruler (KY) Garcia M Harrington M 19.20 2
4 4 Alfarabi (KY) Gryder A Harty E 4.20 3
5 5 Magic Max (FL) Espinoza V Baffert B 6.90 5
6 6 Wayman (KY) Pedroza M Mollica M 30.80 7
7 7 Lions Story (FL) Rosario J Hollendorfer J 1.40 1
8 8 Happy M. B. A. (CA) Stra K Ho H 61.00 8
 
Pgm Win Place Show
7 $4.80 $3.60 $2.80
3 $12.20 $6.20
4 $3.40
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $27.50 (7-3)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $11.90 (2-1-7)
$1.00 Superfecta paid $223.00 (7-3-4-2)

Saturday, Del Mar Race 4 — 3:30 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden special weight, 6 furlongs, 2 year olds

Possible overlays                 Morning line

#2 Ivory Fudge                              3/1
#3 Seattle Ruler                             12/1
#5 Magic Max                                 8/1
#7 Lions Story                                2/1

Bob Baffert trains #5 Magic Max and he looks like the type of first-time starter that Baffert wins with regularly. I expect a decent price even though this horse has win-early breeding and has been working out well.

Two second-time starters, #2 Ivory Fudge and #7 Lions Story, look like good bets also, but only at 5/2 or more. The morning line maker made Lions Story the 2-to-1 favorite and I won’t be backing him if his odds are that low.

Baffert's debuter Magic Max looks like a strong bet today

Baffert's debuter Magic Max looks like a strong bet today

A sleeper in here might be #3 Seattle Ruler. He’s been improving with every race and he ran the quickest opening quarter mile of any of these horses when he raced on June 20.

I want $300 to win on #5 Magic Max at 7/2 to 9/1, but $200 at 10/1 to 19/1. I will also take $200 to win on the higher odds horse between #2 Ivory Fudge and #7 Lions Story, as long as that runner is 5/2 or higher.

Finally, at 8/1 or more I will bet $100 on #3 Seattle Ruler.

Friday, Del Mar Race 4 — 4:30 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden claiming $40,000, 5-1/2 furlongs, 2 yo, F

Possible overlays                     Morning line

#1 Sheza Foxy Jackpot                   5/1
#3 Royally Large                            8/1
#4 De Car Chic                              20/1
#7 Right to Work                            8/1
#8 Salty Fries                                9/2
#10 Boots n’ Bangles                       20/1
#11 Miss Salt Mine                          7/2

This race is full of money making angles and I can see any of seven of the 12 runners winning it. When wagering, I will consult the odds board for clues and to determine value.

First-time starter #1 Sheza Foxy Jackpot breaks from the rail for trainer Mike Mitchell, who has an excellent record with debut horses in this class. Garrett Gomez has won on both first timers that he rode for Mitchell and the owners, Vessels Stallion Farm, is also 2-for-2 with debuters.

Jeff Mullins is another trainer who does well with maiden claiming first-time starters. Mullins saddles #3 Royally Large, who is owned by David Lanzman Racing Stable and that outfit frequently wins first time out. 

An early foal, #4 De Car Chic is another filly making her first start. She’s been working out well and I’ll need to see the tote board for more clues.

I most likely won’t be betting #7 Right to Work, who is trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Christian Santiago-Reyes. However, if she’s bet below 5-to-1 she becomes a player.

Second-time starter #8 Salty Fries ships in from the Northern California fair circuit.  She ran decently on July 2 and now adds blinkers while dropping in class. 

Owners D & E Racing usually employ Bob Baffert to train their stock, but this time former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen gets the call. Their debuter #10 Boots n’ Bangles has been working out at San Luis Rey Downs and is a good bet if the price is right.

Trainer Mike Puype won with four of his last six maiden claiming second timers that were dropping in class. Although, unlike #11 Ms. Salt Mine, most of them were coming off long layoffs. In Ms. Salt Mine’s first race on July 2 she dueled for the lead for a quarter mile and showed much better early speed than any of the other experienced runners in this race.

With so many horses to like, it complicates the win wagering. My best bet is #1 Sheza Foxy Jackpot and I will put $300 on her at 3/1 to 9/1, but just $100 if she drifts to 10/1 and up. My second choice is #11 Ms. Salt Mine and I’ll take $250 to win on her at 3/1 to 9/1 only.

If either of those two horses are out of the betting zone, then I will put $200 to win on both #3 Royally Large and #8 Salty Fries at 4/1 to 10/1, and $150 at 10/1 to 19/1. But if both #1 Sheza Foxy Jackpot and #11 Ms. Salt Mine have bettable odds then I’ll put only $100 on #3 Royally Large and #8 Salty Fries and bump their acceptable odds to 7/1 to 19/1.

Finally, if #4 De Car Chic and #10 Boots n’ Bangles are 10/1 to 19/1 then I’ll put $150 to win on them both regardless of anything else.

Saturday, Hollywood Park Race 10 — 5:30 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden claiming $32,000, 6 furlongs, 3 yo’s and up, F

Possible overlays             Morning line

#1 Bouncer                         5/1
#2 Xtraordinary                   6/1
#4 Lion Princess                  5/1
#5 Coatcheck Girl                9/2
#6 Kaylie’s Joy                    20/1
#9 Flash Dance                    5/1
#10 Metallic Waters            7/2

This is a very competitive race and as usual it’s important to get a good price on any of the contenders.

Making her third lifetime start, #10 Metallic Waters is trained by Bob Baffert, who drops her in class after she showed a bit of speed against maiden special weight company in the spring. On the rail, #1 Bouncer is also dropping and she’s coming off a seven-month layoff.

The median winning Beyer Speed Figure for this class is 68 and #9 Flash Dance has run two of her last races within four points of that.  Other runners like #2 Xtraordinary, #4 Lion Princess and #5 Coatcheck Girl have recently run well and they can all win under the right circumstances.

At 2/1 to 7/2, I will bet $200 on #1 Bouncer.  But if Bouncer is not in that range, then instead I will play $200 on #10 Metallic Waters at 5/2 to 5/1 only.

If neither of those two horses fall into their odds zone, then I will put $200 on any of the following horses: #2 Xtraordinary at 7/1 to 12/1, #4 Lion Princess at 5/1 to 12/1, #5 Coatcheck Girl at 6/1 to 12/1 and #9 Flash Dance at 5/1 to 12/1.

Results, Hollywood Park Monday Race 10 — lost $450

Trainer Bob Baffert closed out Memorial Day by winning with #8 Only Be Cause

Trainer Bob Baffert closed out Memorial Day by winning with #8 Only Be Cause

Second-time starter #12 Bango popped out of the gate and led for most of the race by open lengths. This 9/2 shot, who is trained by Jorge Periban, had a two-length lead in midstretch, but he quit badly as #8 Only Be Cause inherited the front and put trainer Bob Baffert back in the winner’s circle.

Only Be Cause was making his eleventh lifetime start, however only three of them came at maiden claiming $32,000. I had him rated about the same as #7 Domestic Gold, who did not fire at 7/2.

In his previous five races, Only Be Cause never went off at odds higher than 3-to-1, and this race was no different as he was the 2-to-1 favorite. On social networking site Twitter, poster @larryzapeye was at Hollywood Park and minutes before the race he provided his reasoning for betting Only Be Cause:  “Baffert is still here and horse looks healthy.”

During the race, jockey Victor Espinoza sat Only Be Cause about four lengths off Bango’s lead. Espinoza asked for more in the stretch and, with the wire approaching, it looked like the son of Giant’s Causeway would lose for the 11th straight time. But Bango could not last and Only Be Cause ran onto victory.

I wagered $200 on #7 Domestic Gold, $150 on #12 Bango and $100 on #13 Candy Coat.

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

© Copyright Maiden King, 2009. Written exclusively for  maidenking.wordpress.com. Not to be duplicated or reprinted.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
2 1 Classical Bartok (CA) Delgadillo A Papaprodromou G 41.40 8
4 2 Decarchy Fever (CA) Quinonez A Sticka R 37.50 7
7 3 Domestic Gold (MD) Sorenson D Gallagher P 3.60 6
8 4 Only Be Cause (KY) Espinoza V Baffert B 2.40 1
9 5 Truly a Delight (CA) Baze M Bernstein D 5.90 4
11 6 Richardminichiello (CA) Valdez F Truman E 45.00 9
12 7 Bango (KY) Valdivia, Jr. J Periban J 4.90 3
13 8 Candy Coat (KY) Stra K Sise, Jr. C 7.00 5
14 9 Box Office Star (KY) Bejarano R Yakteen T 4.80 2
SCR Fire Scout (CA)    
SCR Benjamin Z (KY) Baze T Mitchell M
SCR Sovereign Lord (CA)    
SCR Boomtown (KY)    
SCR Downtown Banker (FL)    
 
Pgm Win Place Show
8 $6.80 $3.60 $2.40
14 $5.20 $4.60
12 $4.20
 
Exotic Payoffs
$1.00 Exacta paid $20.70 (8-14)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $

Bad bets: Super filly Rachel and ‘That (lucky) Bird’

In the May 1 Kentucky Oaks, Rachel Alexandra’s dominating 20-1/4 length victory brought back memories of Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont win.

Being a filly who was training well, she would have been a great value bet at about 6-to-1 had she run in the Kentucky Derby. But the secret is out and at less than 2-to-1 today, she will offer absolutely no value and cannot be bet in the Preakness Stakes.

For the past 15 days, all of the pundits have been raving about Rachel Alexandra’s Oaks. Many dismiss Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird at Pimlico because, they say, he was extremely fortunate to ride the golden rail without being blocked. And he’s unlikely to get a trip as favorable in The Preakness.

Furthermore, experts say that Rachel Alexandra is a special filly who should be able to whip this weak group of 3-year-old colts. But these are the same horse racing pundits that tried to tell us that War Emblem, Smarty Jones and Big Brown were all-time great horses before they earned their stripes by winning the Triple Crown.

The problem with many of these newspaper and television analysts is that they want to be a part of greatness the same way that hometown baseball writers want to see their teams win the World Series. Therefore, they write stories about what they want to see happen and use superlatives to get people excited about the possibilities.

Usually, racing writers are too quick to jump to conclusions. From a betting perspective, it’s great because casual race fans believe they’re betting the second coming of Secretariat, so the money pours in and a horse that should be 5-to-2 goes off at 3-to-5.

This leads to monster payoffs like the 2002 Belmont Stakes when Sarava defeated War Emblem paying a whopping $142.50, and again in the 2004 Belmont when Birdstone outran Smarty Jones to pay $74. In last year’s Belmont, another anointed superhorse named Big Brown succumbed to the unheralded D’Tara,  whose backers were rewarded with $79. 

But, you say, Rachel Alexandra won the Oaks in a gallop, so how could she possibly lose today? I’m glad you asked.

First of all, she has undergone many changes since the Oaks. She was bought by Stonestreet Stables and transferred from trainer Hal Wiggins to Steve Asmussen. That means she needs to acclimate to a new trainer, groom and new surroundings at Old Hilltop. Also, her recent races have been spaced out by a minimum of 22 days, but now she’s coming back on just 15 days of rest. The one time she ran with only 14 days rest, she suffered one of her three losses.

In the Oaks, Rachel Alexandra did not face much competition and she had one of racing’s easiest trips. She stalked the leader from second place, then pulled away in the stretch.

The tour around Pimlico doesn’t figure to be quite as easy. First, she’s breaking from post number 13, which may cause a wide trip that’s made worse by the track’s tight turns.

And the other riders are likely to make her life difficult by trying to intimidate her. Jockeys may intentionally push her wide on the first turn or box her in at any point in the race. She may get bumped hard by other horses or blocked as she’s looking for running room.

Rachel Alexandra may lose because Borel moves her too quickly into a hot pace or she may finish second because Borel loses too much ground by keeping her wide to avoid trouble.

If handicappers think these scenarios are far fetched, then think back to War Emblem’s loss in the 2002 Belmont shown below. A confirmed front runner, War Emblem got off a bit slowly, was shuffled around, then a wall of horses pinned him on the rail on the backstretch, so he never made the lead until the far turn.

And in the 1997 Santa Anita Derby, Bob Baffert’s Silver Charm gunned to the lead with the D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly Sharp Cat. Silver Charm ran 6 furlongs in 1:09 while running head-to-head with Sharp Cat until she could not take anymore and tired in the stretch. According to my pace software, Silver Charm’s Santa Anita Derby was the fastest run 6 furlongs of any Kentucky Derby prep race in 12 years. I believe Baffert ordered the tactics intentionally to compromise Sharp Cat’s chances.

My opinion of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird is that his win can be attributed to the rail-skimming ride that Borel gave him. The rail was faster than other parts of the track and he saved tons of ground the whole way. He ran a 105 Beyer Speed Figure, which I reduced to 95 because he’s not likely to have the advantages he enjoyed at Churchill Downs.

Watch the overhead video below and you’ll be amazed how Borel slips through tightest of cracks with Mine That Bird while never being blocked.

In the Derby, Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man and Papa Clem all ran decent races while either being wide or bumped around. All three should be in the 5/1 to 10/1 range and they may get better trips, which will give them the necessary energy to pounce on the pace setters in the stretch.

At the window, I will put $200 on Pioneerof the Nile at 4/1 or more; and $200 on both #3 Musket Man and #7 Papa Clem at 7/1 or better. Also, as a long shot, I’ll put $100 on #11 Take the Points at 12/1 or better.

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