Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kentucky Derby Point Race Standings

Like it or not, the 20 spots in the starting gate for the 139th Kentucky Derby will not be based on graded stakes earnings as it has since 1986, but instead points earned in 36 races designated by a completely unbiased (cough) Churchill Downs Incorporated.

I'm on record as liking the concept; I like the idea of a roadmap towards the starting gate. I'm content with watching it happen this year and I think that some really interesting tweaks can be added to the system over the next several years if the men in grey flannel suits can get a bit outside the box. Right off the bat, one of my beefs has been a 2 YO wins a $1.0 Million dollar pot in one of racino races or the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the super genius trainers start to conjure up how little they can start their charge before the first Saturday in May. The next tweaks should reward the runners who take part in the most prep races with a weighted ball advantage at the starting gate draw.

Anyhow, before tomorrow's Smarty Jones we are 12 races into the chase, with 7 left in the Prep Season before we reach the more lucrative Championship Series.

It's realistic that a horse will win the Prep Season with as few as 34 points. The first leg of the Championship Series awards 50 points for a win and 20 for Place, which makes the value of the Prep Season fairly poor. The second leg of the Championship Series is worth 100 Points for the win and only 40 points for Place, so you could argue that current prep leaders Shanghai Bobby and Goldencents need only win one more race and they are cemented. I think some tweaks to the number of points per race may be justified as well.

We'll keep making suggestions and then summarize them after the Kentucky Derby is run.

My beloved Buffalo Sabres just kicked the snot out of the Flyers. All is right in the world again. Have fun race fans, Turk Out!

By the way, I have skipped all coverage of the Eclipse Awards on purpose: I think these sort of popularity contests are a joke and I'd rather see the awards based on points just like this. How Frankel can't be Horse of the Year, I'm still waiting for a sane answer on that. Joke, not to be taken seriously.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Nomination Is In: The Lecomte at Fairgrounds: 10 Point Kentucky Derby Prep Race

I wasn't sure I was going to talk about Lance Armstrong today, but I think it's important to tell my story. In 1986 I became enamored with International Cycling and The Tour de France. I loved the drama of Greg LeMond, as well as the American 7/11 Cycling Team, taking on these dashing, eccentric and seemingly unbeatable Europeans, like the badger, Bernard Hinault, Thierry Marie, Laurent Fignon, and a youthful Pedro Delgado. It was an American coming of age story with Andy Hampsten, Davis Phinney and of course the eventual winner, LeMond. If blogging were around in 1986, I'd be blogging about the classic races, the Tour and the World Championships. Then, drugs ruined it for me. It wasn't overnight, but I didn't need to be a drug tester to realize the feats I was witnessing were chemically fabricated. The ability to attack constantly on the mountains, stage after stage, the ability to recover so quickly, the ability of middling riders to suddenly become superstars was disgusting to the sportsman in me and in response, I quit the sport cold, sometime after 2001, when Armstrong attacked my hero, Greg LeMond viciously, even forcing his bike sponsor Trek to shutdown their affiliation with LeMond. I am repulsed by what Armstrong did, not only to the sport, but to the people who dared challenge him. I thought less of him when he left the mother of his children, starting women hopping, and I never believed he cared much at all about the cancer patients he made so much money claiming to care about. It took his 13 year old son defending him to finally stir some sense of manhood in him and admit his lies and deceit.

I don't want this to happen to horse racing. I quit betting the local track in the 1990's when I heard rumors of rampant drug use and screwy results. I have faith that horse racing has drug use and cheats under control, but I don't really know for sure. If my faith gets shaken I may shift blogging back to cycling, where clean athletes seem to have retaken the sport again. Go away Lance Armstrong and please don't bother with your attempts at public reconciliation, I don't care.

The Kentucky Derby Prep Season continues today with the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fairgrounds. Let's get after it!

Charles Fipke, like fine diamonds, finds gems like Golden Soul. Comes in off a strong route race here in late December. I expect similar results today.

Elusive Quality son Avie's Quality, trained by Josie Carroll, with Rosie Napravnik up, will provide a serious challenge. The race's sole 90+ BSF rated and the money earnings leader, a first trip across dirt for this Woodbine snowbird.

Trainer Lukas brings in Oxbow, an Awesome Again son from Tizamazin, with J. Court, up. Well traveled so far, looking for him to assert himself at some point on dirt at two turns.

These prep races aren't my betting cup of tea in January, more like handicappers homework. No bets for me, but if I were I'd assemble a trifecta with my top 4 boxed.

Have fun with this friends, Turk Out!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 3 Sham Stakes (10 Point Derby Prep) at Santa Anita

Happy New Year from the Turk and his little buddy, the aptly named Little Turk.

New Year's always brings to me renewed purpose. As it relates to horse racing, I wipe away what I thought was a ho-hum race season and hope for better this year. This is always a time of discovery for me as well: I pay almost no attention to 2 YO racing and I like being introduced to the 400 or so horses that will be eventually nominated for the Triple Crown Races. The Turk however doesn't live under a rock and I know a few of the names, like the Delta Jackpot winner Goldencents running today in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, but I really know nothing about this group of horses at all. Honestly, I think it helps me, as I don't really care what these horses did late summer and fall of 2012, I care about how they grew and where they are now in 2013. I used to get all caught up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and some of the other 2 YO races, and while stirring, that form doesn't always translate into the next season. It's a sort of visual bias I can live without.

I'm torn on how to feel about the new point system instituted to determine the 20 slots available in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby, which is 119 days away. On one hand I think it makes more sense to add weight and perspective to the road that Triple Crown nominees take, but then again, humans created it, and humans have flaws like picking certain races that are owned by certain racing conglomerates. So a six horse Grade 3 Sham field today gets 10 points, while a Grade 2 race with 8 horses at Aqueduct gets nothing. I don't know why they could not have had more races with points associated. This is considered the "Prep" season with races accounting for 10 points for wins. Races jump to 50 and 100 points in the next legs and while I think 150 would safely get you into the gate, I think the weighting of these prep races will pick up significant value for the fifteen through twenty horse and injustice will be felt at some point. I won't condemn the system yet and it's not like the graded stakes earnings system didn't need a few tweaks, I'm just thinking that instead of tweaking they sledge hammered it.

Anyhow, let's get after the Sham Stakes and see what we have going on. Speaking of Sham, forever linked to Secretariat, he's pictured above to the right of Big Red.

I'm betting against Goldencents for no particular reason. I like his 6f work at Santa Anita an awful lot and he did run a strong Champagne as well as the Delta Jackpot. At some point I think his class gets the better of him, but when, I dunno.

I'm putting Baffert's two entries one and two, with Den's Legacy over Manando. Den's Legacy closed well in the Futurity in December and has a smokin' :46 2/5ths bullet just before the new year. Gomez is up, a 24% at Great Race Place . Manando, with Garcia up, went :46 and 1/5th a week earlier and comes in off a dominant MSW 45K race at Hollywood. Baffert and Garcia clip along at 26% together at Santa Anita.

I like Dirty Swagg too, the sort of horse like Love Theway You Are that Trainer Cho does well with.

I must be getting old as an Any Given Saturday colt, Dry Summer enters the gate. No idea what to expect out of him on a first race back since Breeders' Cup Saturday, a layoff Trainer Mullins wins 24% of the time. He's switching surface as well back to dirt, something he didn't do well on at Santa Anita in late September.

Welcome back race fans. The Turk feels rejuvenated, time to make a stack of bills.

Have fun, Turk Out!