Thursday, May 05, 2011

Getting The Band Back Together

For the majority of my time in Houston, I had the distinct pleasure of working with two excellent people in the Communications Department. If you read this blog, you are already familiar with Martha Claussen, who was the boss and an astute handicapper. The second person I worked with was Dr. Reid McLellan, a gentleman who was the Fan Education Director at the racetrack in Houston, but he is about as familiar with horseflesh as anyone I ever met. The three of us would have very spirited seminars where we would discuss the merits of our picks for the big occasions and usually spend a good chunk of time bashing the other two members of the trio for whatever reason. So, for the first time (and certainly not the last time) in the history of They Are Off, here are the opinions of two of the three members of the group (with the third member's thoughts to come tomorrow). We'll go with ladies first!:

Martha Claussen's Derby Thoughts

Always a pleasure to reunite with my former colleagues, Michael and Reid and I will try not to be too crabby about this less than stellar group of 3-year-olds!

I have been a fan of Dialed In since the Holy Bull in January and although I am disappointed that he is the favorite, I cannot get off the Nick Zito bandwagon. Dialed In has a huge closing kick and quality pedigree as his sire, 2003 Horse of the Year, Mineshaft, is a son of the incomparable A.P. Indy. My last Derby winner, Monarchos, won the Florida Derby, so I have always loved the Florida road to the Derby. This will be Zito's 25th Derby starter and his third win. Go Nick Go! Soldat flopped in the Florida Derby, but is the only horse in the field with a Beyer Speed Figure over 100 (no joke!). I had my doubts about Master of Hounds, believing he was more of a turf specialist than a true Derby contender. This year, obviously, the standards have changed and the Aiden O'Brien charge has as much of a shot as the rest of the 30-1's. He did run last November at Churchill Downs, finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2). His prep for the Derby was the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) on the Meydan polytrack, where he ran second. I dissed the chances of Paddy O'Prado last year and he ran third, so why not go turf again for a nice price. Nehro ran a huge race in the Arkansas Derby, closing gamely for second. Might be peaking right at the right time.

Martha’s Top Four Selections – Dialed In, Soldat, Master of Hounds, Nehro

Suggested Derby Play:
The Woodford Reserve precedes the Derby and is wide-open, but I am going to narrow it to four runners: Little Mike, Prince Will I Am, Doubles Partner and Expansion. Will wheel over eight Derby horses (my top four and four more longshots) and finish it off with a single in race 12, Streakin' Mohican.

Pick 3 - Race 10-12
1-5-8-14 with 1-7-8-9-11-15-17-19 with 9
Total $32

Dr. Reid McLellan's Derby Thoughts

This was without doubt the most difficult Derby field to handicap since I started handicapping before my announcer buddy was born. If this was a non-winner of THREE allowance race, THIRTEEN of these would be eligible to enter, with three being non-winners of TWO. One of my favorite Derby winners (and to be a favorite Derby winner it had to be my top pick for that race) was a non-winner of two, 1987 winner Alysheba. So in 2011 I am going back to that well one more time and pick #11 Master Of Hounds as my top pick in what could be one of the most exciting Derby finishes in a long time. This son of Kingmambo looked impressive training at last year's Breeders' Cup at Churchill and I think his breeding is the best of this bunch. Then what do I do? Another of the N2L runner, #19 Nehro, has the co-best last race Beyer Speed Figure, sharing that (lowly) number with #1 Archarcharch. I have a special connection with #13 Mucho Macho Man as his trainer, Kathy Ritvo (and her husband Tim) are big supporters of the Groom Elite program at Gulfstream Park. The Ritvo Stable pony that escorts "3M" to the track in Florida each morning is my demonstration horse in the afternoon. I wonder if Martha picked #7 Pants On Fire and his female rider, Rosie Napravnik, a good young rider that has an outside shot to be the first female rider to win the Derby. But what do I do with #18 Uncle Mo, impressive as a two-year-old but enters the race with a lot of questions. And, it was #4 Stay Thirsty that looked the best to me on the track during morning gallops last weekend. If everyone takes back and lets either #6 Comma To The Top or #14 Shackleford get loose on the lead, they may prove tough to catch. But I think we will see a mad dash to the front, Uncle Mo will get caught up in it and the race will go to the mid-pack closer that gets the best trip.

Reid's Top Four Selections- Master Of Hounds, Nehro, Mucho Macho Man, Archarcharch

PURPLE POWER DERBY PLAY: $10 WIN #11 and $1 EX BOX 1-11-13-19 and $1 SPR 11 with 1-13-18 with 1-4-7-13-19 with 1-4-7-8-13-18-19

TOTAL- $82

My thanks to both Martha and Reid for their contributions to the blog and we will certainly try to bring them both back for the remainder of the Triple Crown races. My selections for the 137th Kentucky Derby will be posted on the blog tomorrow. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

1 comment:

bsd987 said...

I'm not happy that Martha has different horses than I do because if I've learned one thing over time, it's usually I who is wrong.