The first day of March. It's bitterly cold outside, but after yesterday, my Derby fever is really heating up.
There are 401 horses nominated for this year's Triple Crown and the contenders are starting to peal away slowly from the vast number of pretenders. For each Old Fashioned, we have numerous Parade Clown. For each Quality Road we have a plethora of Jack Spratt. For each The Pamplemousse we have Tiz True in legion.
I don't blame the horses, I never blame the horses. Horses are what they are. It's us humans that assign the lofty goals to them. Some of these horses in the Past Performances with the fancy Triple Crown nominee logo will be fun runners, some graded stakes winners, some hard knockers who give it their all and thrill us for years after this year's 3 YOs are off at stud.
I watched four races yesterday, with mixed, semi-poor results. The handicapper in me knew that much is still to be revealed at this point in the year, so I kept the bets small and enjoyed the races for what they were.
Race 8 at Aqueduct: The Stymie Handicap, 1 1/8 miles on the inner dirt track for 3 YO and up.
I expected Researcher to be the chalk and I expected play on Manteca. I was semi-surprised that Barrier Reef was the chalk, but I was not surprised that he won. Pre race I thought that Real Merchant had a chance to be live and long, but I was shocked at how well the foreign raider did here. I liked Barrier Reef's form and success at A, and I think Researcher was just away a bit too long. He'll be back.
Race 9 at Gulfstream Park: The Fountain of Youth Stakes G2, 1 mile for 3 YOs.
I missed on Quality Road. Pre Race when I poured over the PP I noted a few things about the horse: "Hadn't raced since 10 Jan. First time Lasix, Trainer sports 33% win rate in Graded Stakes and J/T don't run alot together, but when they do, they win 40% of the time. 5f in :58 and 2/5 seconds." I didn't like the post position and I didn't like the long layoff. I liked others better, it happens every week.
The number of prep races and chances to bolster earnings are dwindling. Each week, there are heavy hyped horses that seem to stumble when it is their moment to shine. Capt. Candyman Can and Taqarub and This One's for Phil leave me wondering where they fit in. The distance and the trip that these horses took will make me revisit this race several times this week as I try to assign meaning to the chaos. This is the fun part of handicapping, forgiving blame for some efforts and taking credit away from horses that at first blush did well. All that said, I missed on Quality Road. It wasn't that I didn't like him, I just liked others more, so shame on Turk.
Race 9, Santa Anita Park: The Sham Stakes G3, 1 1/8 miles on pro ride for 3 YOs.
The Pamplemousse. He's been wow in his workouts, he's wow physically, and he just toyed with the field in the Sham and made it look way too easy.
Todd Pletcher reminds us he knows a thing about horses. He found a better race for Take the Points and at the same time showed that the colt can run on synthetics just fine. I guess that will be the trifecta of stud values next, getting the G1 on dirt, turf and synth.
As predicted, a Calvary charge left the final results muddled. I swung for the fences on series of straight trifecta bets. If Mark S the Cooler ($22.60) or Hi Flyin Indy ($59.20) make it into the mix, I'm gloating about a big payout. Instead I bet 8 bucks to gain $22.10. Consistency will always rule over the long haul.
And finally I looked at Turfway Park, The John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, 1 1/16 miles on synth for 3 YOs.
I'm not done yawning after two Triple Crown pretenders fizzled, one scratched, and one losing to a good, but out classed opponent.