One of the more interesting aspects of handicapping two year old thoroughbreds at this time of the year is the possibility that a stakes class juvenile can be unveiled with nary a press release. Thoroughbred racing is littered with superstars emerging from obscurity in a matter of minutes. In this case fifty-nine seconds flat.
In the fifth race on Sunday July 8th at Monmouth Park fans watching with such anticipation may have been tipped off to a stakes caliber colt. His name is Drum Roll. He is a Pennsylvania bred mated by Barbara Reid and Dan Ryan. His pedigrees is by Majestic Warrior out of Sparkling Forest by Forest Wildcat. The dam Sparkling Forest has yet to produce a stakes winner after dropping four other foals, but the stallion was sired by the top class A.P. Indy out of the equally top class Dream Supreme (Seeking The Gold). Unfortunately Majestic Warrior completed his career with promises unfulfilled after winning the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes of 2007.
While Drum Roll’s parents have yet to prove capable of producing top notch runners on track, his current connections have plenty of experience campaigning them. He is owned by the powerful Coolmore triumvirate of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith and trained by the renowned Todd Pletcher. Sometimes it takes a little better training to get the horses to reach their potential. In other cases it takes a better horse being dropped from the dam. Drum Roll could be a case of both.
Witnessing Pletcher trained two year olds from the Saratoga training track and shipping down to Monmouth Park is not an unusual occurrence. Drum Roll was backed heavily to 4/5 favoritism and drew off to a two and ¾ length win after breaking awkwardly from the gate. The manner is which he won was far more impressive than was the final margin in this five furlong dash.
By comparison a second division of two year old Maiden Special Weight colts featured a tight finish after fractions of 22.59 and 46.34. Earlier Drum Roll blazed his race by setting fractions of 22.33 and 45.78 enroute to finishing his race 1.22 seconds faster, or about 6 length superior to the second division, which was run as the seventh race on the card.
The runner-up in Drum Roll’s race Dark Roast showed marked improvement in the early speed department by could not match strides with what could be a juvenile that is stakes bound. Based on the “hidden class” of this Maiden Special Weight race, Dark Roast could be on the brink of a maiden breaking effort in the near future.
As for Drum Roll he could develop into one of Team Pletcher’s better two year olds for 2012. He certainly is one of the early bloomers. The typical winner of a local Maiden Special Weight race often attempts the Tyro Stakes and / or the Sapling Stakes, but after this performance I would not be surprised to see Drum Roll spotted in a top-tier New York stakes race in the near future.
With thoroughbred racing shifting to Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia for the summer many racing opportunities for the typical Maryland based horseman have diminished. Most specifically the opportunities for dirt racing thoroughbreds on the main track.
As of this writing Colonial Downs has carded racing almost exclusively for their expansive grass courses. Only four of the first ninety races at Colonial Downs have been run on the dirt track. That is correct. So far an extraordinary ninety-five percent of the Colonial races have been carded for those horses who have an affinity for the weeds.
This is not a new phenomenon. In recent years Maryland based horsemen have regularly shipped from the farms and training centers to the races in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey in search for dirt racing opportunities or more lucrative purses.
During the past three years the Monmouth Park summer meet has been a beneficiary of the DelMarVa racing calendar. Handicappers following the meet-specific trends at Monmouth Park have been rewarded with a steady stream of wins, seconds and thirds at lucrative prices courtesy of sometimes obscure but very competent horsemen.
Some of the more notable successes for the Marylanders have been these:
July 30, 2011 – race 6 Tiger Cat Lilly – $19.40 to win
Michael Pino – Chris DeCarlo – David Ross Racing stable
41 days rest with sparse Fair Hills workouts.
Repeating a N1x allowance to take the Crank it Up stakes for 3 year old fillies
July 25, 2011 – race 11 Crafty Bear – $11.00 to win
Michael Trombetta – Paco Lopez – The Meyerhoffs
23 days rest for the dirt claiming sprinter – stabled at Fair Hill and showed no printed workouts
July 16, 2011 – race 10 Dream Louise – $45.40 to win
Edwin Merryman – Elvis Trujillo – Edwin Merryman
third race of the form cycle for a filly turf router. Missing workouts at Fair Hills
July 15, 2011 – race 3 Yes He Did – $11.00 to win
Michael Trombetta – C.H. Marquez jr. – Three Diamonds Farm
2-year-old colt first time starter by Exchange Rate with blinkers on with a Fair Hills blowout
August 10, 2010 – race 5 Bessie M – $16.60
Ferris Allen III – Jose Valdivia jr.- William H. Harris
2-year-old filly dropping to Maiden Claiming $40,000 tag after a MSW debut at DelPark
July 5, 2010 – race 11 Wild Without Wine – $15.80
Dale Capuano – Eddie Castro – Skeedattle Associates
A speed tightener in a DelPark route turning back to a 6 furlong conditioned claimer
For the Monmouth Park racing patron the beauty of following the Maryland based horsemen is the fact that the parimutuel value as a group, will not suddenly reduce itself. Individually they may race on an occasional basis, but as group they figure to provide regular opportunities to make a score.
Since it takes time, effort and money for the two-hour ship up the New Jersey Turnpike, an inordinate number of horses will be carefully prepared and placed properly for their races in order to recoup the investment. More often than not these Maryland based horses are not vanning up for “exercise” or prepping for a future engagement. They already do that at home.
A handicapper looking at the small number of starts for trainer Ferris Allen this meet may not be readily tipped off at the potency his barn. His score with Bessie M (listed above) and the fact that he has hit the board with all three starts during the early portion of the 2012 meet calls for extra scrutiny with his ship-ins for the rest of the meet. Similarly the same holds true for the Dale Capuano barn who is 2 for 3 in the money this meet.
Trainer Edwin Merryman has already found the winners circle with Jazzy Idea on June 9th (enlarge pic) and there could be more on the way. Since the apple does not fall far from the Merryman family tree, Elizabeth Merryman who won a turf race at The Meadowlands race track earlier this spring brought in Forever Diva last Saturday. The well meant filly unfortunately had a troubled trip while finishing third at 8/1 and is worth following next out at any mid-atlantic racetrack.
Also worth a good look are shippers from Howard Wolfendale who is 1 for 2 for the meet. Also potent are Leigh Delacour turfers whose horses are now based at Fair Hill. They have quietly compiled a 1-2-1 win-place-show record from 7 starts at Monmouth Park. Having studied her horses at Delaware Park and Tampa Bay Downs her work is simply too good to be overlooked. The prepared handicapper should not be fooled when these Magicians from Maryland cross the Delaware River.
This device often serves as an “ice-breaker” and helps me meet the insiders who work in the business. Not that I place a high value on “inside information”, as a self-reliant handicapper I clearly do not. But I can assure you for the past three years of blogging I have expanded my knowledge of thoroughbred racing that I otherwise would not have.
During Sunday’s racing card at Monmouth Park I thought I was very fortunate to catch the dramatic gate incident in the fourth race through my modest (and slow) Canon camera. This was the loose horse that was televised nationally via TVG network and necessitated the late scratch of the #8 horse Sitora . It was Sitora who got away from the jockey Carlos H. Marquez jr. and assistant starter after #9 The Wifedoesntknow with Shannon Uske in the irons broke through the starting gate moments before the off.
Click images to view detail.
After Sitora was corralled by the outrider on the clubhouse turn, examined by the vet and then scratched, the race commenced in front of many startled – if not impatient - fans. In this race #9 Thewifedoesntknow ran but finished last in the field of ten. Perhaps she too was feeling the ill-effects of the incident.
I believe many other races feature horses racing on aches and pains incurred at the starting gate yet the public never knows without a comprehensive inspection. Also importantly these incidents which result in late scratches change the probabilities on the horses as well as parimutuel payouts on short notice for the customers. When it does, the product becomes “not as advertised” on paper.
The late great writer Stan Bergstein and I often question the starting gates and procedures being used in modern thoroughbred racing. Any progress towards safety and integrity should entail study of the very beginning of the races, as those initial moments are the basic molecule for how the race will be run and that determines which horse ultimately crosses the wire first.
I am pleased that the two horses, their riders and assistant starters involved in this particular incident will be none worse for the wear. But every time something like this happens either in a graded stakes race or a $5,000 claiming race, I yearn for those in charge of racing safety to start a study and recommend improvement to the starting gate and loading procedures. After a quarter of a century I am still hoping it is sooner – not later.
(1) New York based trainer Christophe Clement has come loaded for bear. He has won four races from his first six starts. The Clement barn has three wins on the grass course for a 357% ROI. Trainer Clement is also a welcome addition on Twitter @clementstable
(2) The wagering has become more balanced with the new additions to talented jockey colony. However The Big Three, consisting of riding champions Elvis Trujillo (16 wins), Paco Lopez (15 wins), Joe Bravo (10 wins) with a meet leading 32% win rate among the regulars currently rule the roost. Gone are the days when Joe Bravo would repeatedly jump aboard the 6/5 favorite. The Big Three have combined to win more than half of the seventy-nine races run so far (51%).
(3) In addition to the regular Saturday and Sunday racing cards there will be additional Friday racing cards starting June 1st to August 31st. However I am most looking forward to how the Thursday twilight cards supplement the racing programs from Del Mar. The post times for Thursday programs will be 4 pm E.T. and will provide many eastern horseplayers with a “happy hour” of racing. Here is how the racing calendar is planned for this year.
(4) Blues Heir a five year old mare (Wildcat Heir – Bleeds Blue, by Saratoga Six) became the first two-time winner of the meet for trainer Juan Serey when he annexed an non-winners of two allowance for NJ-breds on the V-move.
The V-move being a class drop to win impressively and then coming back with the improved form to repeat against stronger foes. Blues Heir has proven to love the shore oval in the past having won 4 of her 12 races the past two years.
(5) Layoff trainers having early meet success with horses being entered off two months or more rest: Diane Alvarado who is 4 for 4 in the money, Peter Walder 3 for 3 in the money, Christophe Clement 2 for 3 in the money, Ben Perkins jr. 3 for 5 in the money.
(6) The leading owners race reveals live horses being sent by Patricia Generazio, Live Oak Plantation, Tom Cullen’s The Parting Glass Stable, and owner-trainer Edwin Thomas “E.T.” Broome. Knowing how the successful owners operate is an underused factor in thoroughbred handicapping and deserves more than a cursory mention in handicapping texts.
(7) New members to the jockey colony having limited success in the early going are Kendrick Carmouche jr., Joe Rocco jr., and apprentice Armando Ayuso. These newcomers may provide value when members of The Big Three falter or are not entered in the race. The success of the jockeys mentioned in this blog post also mean there will be some atrocious stats listed in the program for otherwise capable members in the riding colony. That should not scare off the patrons from backing their mounts if the price is right.
When a lightly raced 3 year old colt sired by A.P. Indy scored a longshot victory at Monmouth Park on Memorial Day it was blatant reminder to handicappers everywhere how much of a difference the footing makes in the performance of thoroughbreds. Beaten by 23 and 20 lengths in his two career starts on the main track, Revolving a son of the stakes class Circle of Life, turned in a miraculous form reversal while racing first time on the grass.
Pegged at 12/1 on the morning line despite hailing from the connections of the affluent Michael Tabor and his renowned trainer Todd Pletcher, Revolving was dismissed at 19/1 odds in a field of ten Maiden Special Weight grassers. Running uncoupled with Pletcher barnmate Rockfield who was owned by Melnyk Racing Stables, it was Rockfield who garnered the attention of the crowd as local favorite Joe Bravo was in the irons.
Upon inspection of the past performances there were few solid clues that pointed to Revolving as legitimate contender. But… there were clues. Revolving’s running lines revealed two efforts that featured no early speed nor late speed, but did feature chartman’s comments “overland” and “bumped start”. Both can be legitimate reasons for handicappers to dismiss the poor efforts. With the drop in company after facing peers from top class tracks such as Belmont Park and Churchill Downs in conjunction with a “second best of eleven” workout just five days before this race, improved form was possible. In all likelihood it could not get much worse than the previous two efforts on the main track.
BRIS Ultimate Past Performances revealed the following:
- Dam has 3 winners from 4 starters (but 0 Turf winners)
While that is an encouraging signal it does not go on to say how many of them tried the grass surface, but a major clue was the dam herself. Circle of Life was a stakes class filly in New York. She never did win a race on the grass but her lone effort on the grass course came in this allowance race in which she was favored for the same Pletcher-Tabor tandem. Given her pedigree by the adept grass sire Belong To Me and out of Concentric a switch to the turf was a logical move. Despite Concentric being winless in 10 starts, her sire Shadeed was top class having won the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth stakes at Royal Ascot and later finishing third in the 1985 Breeders Cup Turf Mile.
Those wishing to find a list of racing progeny produced by dams can find it at Equibase through this link.
Another nugget in the BRIS past performances was the “Jockey with Trainer stat for the last 60 days”. Rider Chris DeCarlo was 1 for 3 when riding for Mr. Pletcher with two in the money finishes. While that is a small sample size, Monmouth Park regulars know how potent the team of Pletcher-DeCarlo has been over the past few meets. This is a trend that must be watch as the meet progresses and the numbers accumulate.
Video Replay and Larry Collmus’ race call here (May 28, race 2)
results chart of the race
While trying to foresee a winner like this is a most difficult task, it is instances such as these that must be kept for future reference. Back on May 22nd of 2010 it was the same Mr. Pletcher who won another Maiden Special Weight race at Monmouth Park . That was with 3 year old Tiznow colt named Winaholic on the main track who paid “only” $12.20 to win that day. So apparently a “seasonal pattern” was at work for Revolving’s score. Perhaps Mr. Pletcher may pop another well bred 3 year old maiden at Monmouth Park in the very near future when we least expect it. Be ready!
Looking forward to the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 9th there are thirteen early probables to try to stop I’ll Have Another from winning and becoming the twelfth Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing history. I have included a brief analysis of each three year old and how they fit this most intriguing race. Please download the early past performances for The Belmont Stakes so you can follow my insights. In alphabetical order:
ALPHA: Bernardini – Munnaya (Nijinsky II) contender Is already back on the worktab with a four furlong breeze at Belmont Park on Preakness Day. He is one of several horses whose race in the Kentucky Derby was not representative of his talent due to the poor beginnings at the starting gate.
ATIGUN: Istan – Rimini Road (Dynaformer) contender He just annexed a second level allowance race at Churchill Downs after being taken off the Derby Trail this spring. In the process he showed the steady improvement exhibited by many Ken McPeek trainees. From March, April, May his finish positions improved from 11th, 5th, 1st. A similar sequence of development started with his debut effort when he finished 9th, but subsequently improved to 4th and then 2nd. This might be of interested to longshot players.
DULLAHAN: Even The Score – Mining My Own (Smart Strike) contender This horse was impeccably campaigned to peak on Kentucky Derby Day by trainer Dale Romans. Unfortunately his top effort also was sabotaged by the twenty horses filled into two starting gates at Churchill Downs. While he has no wins on the dirt tracks, his strong late kick will be a factor in this longer race as long as the leaders do not crawl the opening half mile.
FIVE SIXTEEN: Invasor *Arg – Third Street (Salt Lake) toss This horse has yet to compete in a stakes race and is winless in one attempt at a first level allowance race. Next !
GUYANA STAR DWEEJ: Eddington – Special Feeling (Pine Bluff) toss Same as above. Not only that, this horse had been racing in maiden claiming company with tags of $35,000 and $25,000 – losing both times. Hails from the same connections that entered Isn’t He Perfect last year in 2011 The Belmont Stakes as a hopeless longshot and wound up interfering with Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom at the gate break.
I”LL HAVE ANOTHER: Flower Alley – Arch’s Gal Edith (Arch) contender Brings in a four race winning streak for this year. Lightly regarded by many at the start of the year this colt is on the verge of becoming a household name. If you backed this horse with a $2 win wager back in February starting with the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis stakes and reinvested your winnings in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness stakes you now have in your wallet $30,670.20 . Does he have one more grueling physical effort in him? Or will he fall short? Your decision – pass or play?
MARK VALESKI: Proud Citizen – Pocho’s Dream Girl (Fortunate Prospect) contender Exhibits a wide range of efforts from 5 furlongs to 1 1/8th miles. A win in the Grade 2 Peter Pan stakes at Belmont Park will provide ample recovery time before the biggest test of his career.
OPTIMIZER: English Channel – Indy Pick (A.P. Indy) toss A plodder with a terrific knack of getting into traffic trouble. Still eligible for a non-winners of 1 allowance race. Does not belong in this race, despite trainer D. Wayne Lukas saying he “may like the configuration of the Belmont track”.
PAYNTER: Awesome Again – Tizso (Cee’s Tizzy) contender Rapidly improving sort with a facile win on the Preakness undercard. Was beaten only 3 3/4 lengths by I’ll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby back in April. But is clearly a much more professional race horse at the moment for Team Baffert.
ROUSING SERMON: Lucky Pulpit – Rousing Again (Awesome Again) toss California bred is winless this year and has not shown the development expected of him this spring from the Jerry Hollendorfer camp.
STEALCASE: Lawyer Ron – Steal the Show (Cat Thief) toss Has no stakes wins and is eligible for a first level allowance race. Would be overmatched against the best of his generation.
STREETLIFE: Steet Sense – Stone Hope (Grindstone) toss A pure sustained pace runner who despite the addition of Blinkers still fell back to last in a field of 10 in the Grade 2 Peter Pan stakes before nabbing third place. The only thing left to try is to give him shorter speedier early morning drills to help him stay in contention on the backstretch.
UNION RAGS: Dixie Union – Tempo (Gone West) contender Heralded by many handicappers over the winter, including yours truly as the best in the east. The Florida Derby featured a possible regression in form after a peak effort in his debut. That along with a slow pace prevented him from showing his best race at 2/5 favoritism at Gulfstream Park. The Kentucky Derby featured a poor start that may have caused physical duress for him during the entire race. Both races are toss outs. Will await the workouts to see if this horse has recovered mentally and physically for a top effort at 1 1/2 mile distance.
UNSTOPPABLE U: Exhange Rate – Naseem (Point Given) toss Undefeated two for two lifetime but only at the six furlong and flat mile distance. He has no two turn races and no stakes attempts at this time and entering him in the Belmont Stakes against the best of his generation would probably set him back mentally for the rest of his career. See Trinniberg.
The Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico race course this Friday afternoon presents a promising race for vertical players myself – those handicappers who indulge in the win, exacta and trifecta pools. One of my favorite trainers over the years has been former D. Wayne Lukas protegé Mark Hennig who is perennially based at the New York racetracks. Many of the horses from his barn show a similar pattern of development through their racing careers. On Friday Mr. Hennig ships in a interesting three year old filly named Nuffsaid Nuffsaid from Belmont Park to Pimlico.
Statistical minded handicappers will find that trainer Hennig has won twice from four starts at Pimlico since the 2010 Spring meet. Those are decent numbers from a small sample but one that will probably not compel most handicappers to head to the windows. Upon further scrutiny, I unearthed the record of a three year old colt named Chinglish who on May 21, 2011 was shipped to Pimlico for the grassy J.W. Murphy stakes taking top honors while paying $19.60 to win.
This Friday’s $100,000 Hilltop Stakes is slated to be run on the grass for 3 year old fillies. Granted it is a guessing game when it comes to surface switches involving horses racing on the lawn for the first time, but this horse figures to be a square price given her poor recent running lines on the main track. Nuffsaid Nuffsaid is tabbed at 8/1 on the morning line to win but should be given a 50/50 chance to hit the board and bolster the exotics. Given her success in a first level allowance at top quality Gulfstream Park this winter, she fits well in this field as far as seasoning is concerned. The big question of course will be… can she produce the required late kick on the grass? There is only one way to find that out – let her turf!
(click past performance to view clearly) BRIS past performances: Hilltop Stakes
Recapping the striking correlations between Chinglish and Nuffsaid Nuffsaid
- Seasonal pattern (both racing in the month of May)
- potent trainer ship-ins to Pimlico race course
- 3 year olds attempting a grassy stakes
A notable statistic leaps that leaps off the past performances is that the trainer has won with only 3% of races in which his horses are trying the grass for the first time. This is where the win bettor gets off the train. But for a vertical player like me an exacta back-wheel or a trifecta-as-a-show wager can still prove to be lucrative. Over the years I have found that “pattern match” horses are expected to run well, if not win the race outright. These are the instances where a longshot also ran is every bit as good as picking a winner and the reward is just as green.
The focus of the horse racing world this week will be at Pimlico race course where The Preakness Stakes will be run on Saturday May 19th. As usual many fans from around the country will be indulging in Maryland racing for the first time this year. Many will be looking at the jockey and trainer standings trying to get a feel for what is happening during the current meet.
While the overall statistics for any meet is valuable, the short-term two week trends also can be a powerful factor in any handicapping approach. For example the jockey colony features two very hot local riders at the moment. This is not readily evident by surveying Pimlico’s leading jockeys. Abel Castellano jr (pictured) is riding in razor sharp form tallying with 15 horses from 43 mounts for a win rate of 35% which far exceeds his average for the meet.
From a Return On Investment (ROI) perspective there is no rider more potent than Geovany Garcia who has won 6 races from his last 15 mounts throwing a 181% return on every dollar. While there are many capable jockeys on the circuit, it is the mounts from these two riders that must be respected during the handicapping process at the moment.
On the training side Jamie Ness continues his torrid success this year for his main client Midwest Thoroughbreds. He has won with 9 of his last 19 starters at “Old Hilltop”. Similarly Christopher Grove who often ships out of the Bowie training center has won 5 of his last 12 starters since May 1st.
Trainers falling into the “developing trends” category are John Robb (3 for 7) Mark Shuman (3 for 5) Kathleen DeMasi (2 for 2) Richard Small (2 for 4) and Timothy Kreiser (2 for 4). The latter trainer based at Penn National is currently on a major shipping rampage to the mid-atlantic tracks having won 4 races from his last 6 starters as of this post. Timothy Kreiser horses can be found at exotic locations such as Charles Town and Monmouth Park where he just took a $44,000 purse with More Than Candy a Penn National shipper,on opening day with regular rider Manuel Chaves.
Simulcast players supplementing long-term statistics along with knowledge of the current state of racing are in a solid position to succeed. Good luck to fans heading to the Baltimore area for an exciting week of horse racing action at venerable Pimlico race course.
After several weeks of surveying the technical situation at the Blogger site I have decided to give the WordPress site a whirl. Thanks to the many friends on facebook as well as tweeters on Twitter for their patience and continued interest in my blogging projects.
While I am just getting my feet wet setting up this new home for Horse Racing news, insights, images and opinions, it should not be very long before I am in high gear. Feel free to bookmark this page and visit regularly. I look forward to reading your comments concerning the many topics in the greatest game ever created.