Friday, May 13, 2016

The Nomination Is In: The Grade 2 Ruffian at Belmont Park

Thank you to the wonderful people at The Thorofan for allowing me to share my thoughts today on the Grade 2 Ruffian, a 1 mile dirt race at Belmont Park for Fillies and Mares, 4 years old and up.

My first race track romance was with Ruffian.  As a young boy, like many boys my age in an era before instant information, we waited every week for our copies of Sports Illustrated to arrive by mail.  I never saw Ruffian run, but I read about her, was captivated by her, and ultimately horrified at her sudden and gruesome death.  I'm still not, some 40 years later, able to think about Ruffian without getting emotional.  Her death, like the death of George Washington and Tuscan Evening, resonated with me at a very deep level, the level in my soul that makes me a fan and lover of these animals and not someone who can purely think of them as a post position and a price.  It's a beautiful and cruel sport all wrapped into one.

I'm not embarrassed to say I'm not really a very good blogger.  The Turk is celebrating his 8th year of hack handicapping and poorly written sentences, and my traffic in 8 years is about the traffic the good blogs get over a Breeders' Cup weekend.  No matter, I love talking about the horses and my ROI speaks for me when I can't string the words together properly.  I wish I had the time, and talent to write like this piece I found about Ruffian.  This  blog entry at The Vault: Horse Racing Past and Present is  real writer's articulate retrospective on one of the finest race horses ever.    As promised, I'm getting emotional talking about Ruffian, and I'll shut up now and get back to the business at hand! Rest in Peace Ruffian and Trainer Frank Whiteley Jr.

I wish there was more business to be at hand.  Today we have a 6 horse field and you could make a legitimate case for 5 horses to win this race.  While it's a wonderful field, I just wish it was more than six horses.  As a race track investor, the reward must be worth the risk, and I can find much easier marks on any card on any day of the week than this race.  That said, I like to handicap and assemble bets, and while I may not ultimately play it, I follow the same consistent steps for every two part handicap/bet construction and I have found that it is that consistent approach to interpreting the past performances and the race charts that brings me success.

Let's get after it!

Right off the bat, keep your eyes on the weather.  It's going to pour on Friday and maybe it will dry out by Saturday for a very fast track.  If it goes sloppy, our field has 7 total wet starts, with 2 wins both by Carrumba, so that may change thinking slightly at post time.  Our field has a top Beyer of 100 by Cavorting with a variance of (16) Beyer points down to our toss horse, Welcome Aboard.  The Beyer didn't toss the 6 year old, her wretched 5 year old campaign did.

I think Carrumba is the logical choice: 3 wins in last four starts, in the money in all 7 lifetime starts, 2 wins at the distance, 2 wins in 2 tries on off track, 2 wins in 3 starts at BEL, a Grade 3 winner, the Phipps Stable (Barbara Phipps-Janney, owner of Ruffian) runner looks the part of pure class.

I like Spelling Again as a contrarian choice;  owned by Buffalo Sabres Hockey Hall of Fame member and one of the true gentleman of our era.  She'll be near the front and looking to fire off of speed.  I'm not sure the pace scenario will set up for her, but I like this mare quite a bit.

Cavorting makes another excellent argument for the Win.  Her last four starts she's been stretching out at the 7 furlong wire, and the 1 panel extra distance may just be what she wants.  She runs against Grade 1 caliber horses consistently and she has a Grade 1 win.  No wins yet at the distance for the 4 YO, 2 wins at BEL, and she had much success at Saratoga last year, something I generally dismiss.  5 wins in 10 starts.

Include Betty is also a graded stakes regular and Grade 2 winner.  Trainer Proctor is 19% off a 61-180 day layoff, I think she needs another start after this.

There is nothing to dislike about Calamity Kate, you just can't cover them all and the Yes It's True 4 YO with Johnny V up fell off my list a bit.  She seems to still not be able to rate very well and with a cut back in distance I think the thought is to steal the race from the front and hold on.  I'm not sure, its very possible.

As you can see, this is a jam packed quality field. Be careful in a race like this over covering and over investing.  Calamity Kate, Spelling Again and Welcome Aboard will have big prices come post time. If you need action, play Calamity Kate and Spelling Again to Win or Place, or toss them into an exacta box on top of Cavorting and Carrumba.

No comments: