Thursday, April 30, 2009
What The Voices Think
Jason Beem (Portland Meadows)- Dunkirk
Craig Braddick (Arapahoe Park)- Dunkirk
Larry Collmus (Gulfstream, Monmouth)- Desert Party
John G. Dooley (Fair Grounds, Arlington)- Friesan Fire
Tom Harris (Retama)- Pioneerof The Nile
Dan Loiselle (Woodbine)- Desert Party
Frank Miramahdi (Turf Paradise)- Pioneerof The Nile
Vic Stauffer (Hollywood Park)- Chocolate Candy
James Witherite-Rieg (Chester Harness)- Dunkirk
So, the vocal majority goes with Dunkirk (3 votes), it's a dead heat for second between Desert Party and Pioneerof The Nile (2 votes), with Chocolate Candy and Friesan Fire getting one vote each. Thanks to each of my compatriots that responded to the big Derby question.
I will take Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, by the way. She is the best three-year-old in the country in my opinion. As far as MY Derby pick, well, you just have to check back with They Are Off again on Friday. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Derby (Win, Lose, or) Draw
Also, those of you wishing to see the best three-year-old in the country this weekend will have to go to an OTB or your local racetrack for simulcasting. That is because ESPN also pulled the normal Friday airing of the Kentucky Oaks. Hence, no Rachel Alexandra on Friday either. It truly boggles the mind how the supposed network of the sport of Thoroughbred racing can forgo covering the marquee weekend in the sport. Granted, they are showing some of the races on Saturday afternoon, but in light of what they normally do, ESPN is sadly lacking this year. Wonder if they will show the entire two days of the Breeders' Cup this fall, be it from Santa Anita or Churchill Downs?
Tune in tomorrow for some Derby picks from some of my announcing cohorts. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Super Six Derby Pix
1) Friesan Fire- I continue to be more and more impressed with this guy as the days to the Derby grow fewer. He worked Monday morning (5 furlongs in 57.4) in spectacular fashion and I think he is the real deal, seven-week layoff or no seven-week layoff. Trainer Larry Jones deserves the Roses and I think he will get them.
2) I Want Revenge- The likely favorite on Derby Day will be running for the first time since his impressive Wood Memorial win where he overcame missing the start and traffic trouble to win going away. The unfortunate thing for him is that he won't be able to do that on Derby Day. Getting through seven other horses is a whole different thing that getting through nineteen horses. He will be way overbet as well.
3) Dunkirk- I think this is another horse that will take too much of the public's fancy on Saturday. He is very lightly raced and the fact that he couldn't get past Quality Road in the Florida Derby still bothers me. His last work (5 furlongs in 1:01 flat) was strong and he is trained by Todd Pletcher, so there is a lot to like here, but I still think I will look elsewhere.
4) Musket Man- I believe this will be the lively longshot on Derby Day. I am expecting to get no less than 15-1 on the Illinois Derby winner. The favorite that day, Giant Oak, has already pulled out to try his luck on the grass in Chicago this summer. Musket Man's running style could be suited to the Derby, laying off the pace and making a move on the turn. He should most definitely be used in exotic wagers.
5) Regal Ransom- He and his Godolphin teammate, Desert Party, both bettered one minute in five furlong workouts this past weekend. The word around the backside is that both horses are taking well to the track at Churchill Downs. Godolphin wants nothing more than a Derby win and it seems that this year, they have two likely candidates.
6) Pioneerof The Nile- I have not really liked this horse all spring. He did not do much for me in Southern California, even in victory. How will running on the synthetic surface there translate to Kentucky? His Monday work (5 furlongs in 1:00.4) was excellent and Bob Baffert certainly knows how to get a horse ready for the Derby, but again, he will be bet heavily and at the price I will get, I will be looking at others.
We will, of course, keep updating throughout the week on They Are Off. Official selections for the 135th Kentucky Derby will be posted on Friday, but you might be able to tell where I am going to go already. Kentucky Oaks picks will also be made this week, so there will be quite a bit of Derby info here. Tune in all week for more on the Derby from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Friday, April 24, 2009
The Grade 3 Derby Trial Stakes
There is a whole lot of speed in this race and that could open things up for an off-the-pace runner. If you are looking for a likable longshot, try #4 Checklist at 8-1 on the morning line. The Pletcher trainee has shown a small possibility of sitting off the pace in the past performances. However, he is stepping up in class here and I am not a fan of the fact that John Velazquez elected to ride #5 Santana Six over him today. #1 Silver City is clearly the class of the speed, but there is going to be a contested pace for him and it will be up to Juilen Leparoux to get him to relax a bit. #7 Hull scratched out of the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland last week and appears again here with Miguel Mena aboard. So, here is a fun little play for the Derby Trial.
$1 EX BOX 1-4-5-7 and $2 TRI 1-4 with 1-4 with 5-7
Remember, They Are Off is only suggesting a play for the Derby Trial tomorrow and accepts no responsibility for any wagers made based on these recommendations. They Are Off returns on Monday for Derby Week. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Remember, though, that this was between two very different performances by Big Red. He lost the Wood Memorial to Angle Light and Sham just before the Kentucky Derby that year, we know now that he was suffering a painful abscess in his mouth that caused him problems at Aqueduct. This was not known at the time in 1973. Five weeks after the Derby, Secretariat forever cemented his place in racing lore with his 31-length score in the Belmont Stakes, which won him the Triple Crown.
The lesson here, though, is that doubt is prevalent in anything you do horse racing-wise. Your handicapping is included in that sentiment. You will inevitably have doubt as to whether you have selected the right horse, made the right wager, or considered the right angle. You cannot be victim to these doubts you will have, you cannot bet every horse in any race because you just cannot afford it. Whenever you make a wager, whether you are slumping or winning everything in sight, be confident in it. Negative thoughts (or doubt) will cause negative things to happen. When you are putting your money where your mouth is, positive thoughts must prevail.
Tune in to They Are Off tomorrow for a look at the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
We also wish to take a quick moment to thank paulickreport.com for linking to They Are Off through that website. We link to the Paulick Report here and it is a valuable tool for anyone looking for more information on horse racing. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Spirit Of '76
This has got to go down as one of the greatest training jobs in Derby history by Laz Barrera. Barrera knew that his horse was a sprinting specialist that had dominated racing in Puerto Rico, having won seven of eight races as a two-year-old. Barrera worked his horse until he learned how not to go all-out from the get-go and how to conserve some energy for the distance he would face in the Derby. After a half-mile at Churchill, Bold Forbes had a five-length lead. Once the field hit the stretch, Honest Pleasure had cut the lead to less than a length and most observers felt that the favorite was going to blow on by. It was at this point that the training that Barrera had done came into effect and Bold Forbes had enough left to protect his lead and win the Roses by a length.
The ride given Bold Forbes by Angel Cordero was also a thing of beauty. He rode the horse to that large lead and six furlongs in a time of 1:10.2. He and Barrera had a gameplan and he stuck to it all the way around the track and earned the second of his three Derby triumphs (the others coming on Cannonade in 1974 and Spend A Buck in 1985, another front-running win).
Barrera and Cordero made quite a team with Bold Forbes in the spring of 1976. Although Bold Forbes ran 3rd in the Preakness, three weeks later, Barrera and Cordero did it again and stole the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes on the front end to win by a neck. Barrera was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 1979 and Cordero followed him in 1988. Their work with Bold Forbes certainly didn't solely get them honored, but the work they did also certainly didn't hurt their cases.
Bold Forbes isn't in the Hall Of Fame yet, but he was the Champion Three-Year-Old in 1976. Bold Forbes hit the board in all eighteen of his lifetime starts with thirteen wins, one second, and four thirds. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of completerider.com
Monday, April 20, 2009
Super Six Derby Pix
1) Friesan Fire- Worked this weekend and will have a drill next Monday over the track at Churchill Downs for trainer Larry Jones, who is following the same tack he took with his two Derby runner-ups in the last two years, Hard Spun and Eight Belles. Something just keeps gnawing at me that this year is Jones' turn to win it all.
2) Quality Road- Best of the Florida contingent with wins in the Fountain Of Youth and Florida Derby. The only other horse to really emerge from Florida this year appears to be Dunkirk. It calls into question how good he is if he still hasn't really faced anything else, but then you might be able to say the same for Friesan Fire and his Louisiana route to the Derby.
3) I Want Revenge- In my opinion, this will be your betting favorite come Derby Day, maybe at a lukewarm 5-1 or 6-1 on the tote board. His Wood Memorial was terrific after the start, but if he misses the break at Churchill, he has to go through nineteen horses instead of seven as he did at Aqueduct.
4) Dunkirk- Edgar Prado has been named the rider for the Derby. His move on the final turn of the Florida Derby was visually impressive, but he still couldn't get by Quality Road. He will likely be the hot horse going into the Derby, but so were Noble Causeway and Stephen Got Even. He is still very lightly raced for a Derby horse.
5) Musket Man- The Illinois Derby winner showed a running style suited to success on the first Saturday in May at Hawthorne. Again, he might suffer from not beating anyone he will face in Louisville in that Chicago race. The favorite from that day, Giant Oak, is already out of the Derby and looking elsewhere.
6) Square Eddie- He had enough money to get in going into the Lexington and I think he provided his connections with exactly what they were looking for that day. He led into the stretch and then showed the effects of his 13-week layoff by slowing a bit and ending up third. He got the tightener necessary to be ready for the Derby and he might be a factor, even after the injury and layoff. Would be a fabulous story if he won it.
Regal Ransom fell off the list this week, but he and Desert Party have been impressing in Kentucky already. It will be interesting to see how they lead into the race in twelve days. They Are Off also wishes to congratulate all of the Hall Of Fame inductees announced today: Bob Baffert, Eddie Maple, Tiznow, Silverbulletday, Janet Elliot, and Ben Nevis II. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. Right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Friday, April 17, 2009
The Lexington Stakes
Tune in again on Monday for the updated Super Six Derby Pix. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tune in again tomorrow for a look at Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Everything But The Roses
1) Native Dancer- Went 21 for 22 in his career. The only loss he suffered came to Dark Star in the 1953 Derby. "The Grey Ghost" might be considered the greatest horse of all time had he won the Derby. The loss was widely blamed on jockey Eric Guerin and some traffic trouble the Dancer suffered on the first turn. The Vanderbilt runner went on to win the Preakness, Belmont, and Travers that year. He was voted Champion Three-Year-Old in 1953 and Horse Of The Year in 1954. His progeny also carried on his greatness with names like Northern Dancer, Dancer's Image, Kauai King, and Raise A Native among the horses with Native Dancer in the lineage.
2) Nashua- Won 22 out of 30 lifetime starts, but came home behind Swaps in the 1955 Derby. Bill Shoemaker gave the West Coast runner an expert ride to cop the Roses, stealing the race on the front end. Nashua rebounded to win the Preakness and Belmont also, just like Native Dancer. He also made up for his loss to Swaps with a match race victory over his rival in Chicago. Nashua was named Champion Two-Year-Old in 1954 and Champion Three-Year-Old and Horse Of The Year in 1955.
3) Alydar- He had the great misfortune to come along the same year as Affirmed in 1978. Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner in history, while Alydar goes down in history as the only horse ever to finish second in all three races. He got progressively closer and closer to Affirmed in each race and ended up losing the three-race series by less than three lengths. Alydar even stuck a nose in front of Affirmed in the stretch of the Belmont, as noted by race caller Chic Anderson. One place where Alydar exceeded Affirmed was in the breeding shed, producing horses like Alysheba, Easy Goer, and Strike The Gold.
4) Point Given- He really should have been the most recent Triple Crown winner in 2001 because he was that good. He drew the outside post position in the Derby and finished fifth, behind Monarchos, who ran 1:59.4 on a rock-hard racetrack. Even trainer Bob Baffert admitted afterward he had the horse too much on tilt that day. Point Given went on to match Native Dancer's accomplishment by winning the Preakness, Belmont, and Travers. He was voted Champion Three-Year-Old and Horse Of The Year in 2001.
5) Damascus- Won 21 of 32 lifetime starts and only missed the money once in that time. The 1967 Derby was supposed to be his, but John Galbreath's Darby Dan Farm produced the winner with 30-1 Proud Clarion, ridden to victory by Bobby Ussery in 2:00.3, the third-fastest Derby up to that time. Damascus came back to win the Preakness, Belmont, and Travers like the others on this list and was voted Champion Three-Year-Old, Champion Handicap Horse, and Horse Of The Year in 1967. He also won what many consider the greatest race of the 1960s, the 1967 Woodward, beating both Buckpasser and Dr. Fager in the process.
6) Easy Goer- Suffered the same issue that Alydar did, he came along the same year another great one did. Sunday Silence won the Derby, Preakness, and Breeders Cup Classic in 1989, beating Easy Goer each time. Easy Goer won the Belmont on his home track by nearly ten lengths, denying Sunday Silence the Triple Crown. Easy Goer's biggest problem might have been the surface at Churchill Downs. Keep in mind that he also lost the 1988 Breeders' Cup Juvenile over the Louisville strip and even with this, he was still named Champion Two-Year-Old in 1988. Easy Goer never missed the money in twenty starts, winning fourteen of them.
I know there is one glaring omission from this list, Man O'War. He did not win the Derby in 1920 because he did not run in it. Therefore, he doesn't qualify for this list since he did not get the opportunity to run from his owner, Samuel Riddle. His son, War Admiral, was sent to Louisville by Riddle and he won the Triple Crown his Sire wasn't given the chance to win in 1937. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...Goodbye!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Luckiest Of The Bs
Monday, April 13, 2009
Super Six Derby Pix
All this leaves only one more chance for those horses on the outside looking in for the First Saturday In May, the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland this coming weekend. This race was most famously won by Charismatic, won went on to win the 1999 Kentucky Derby two weeks later. So, with only one hurdle left to clear, here are the Super Six Derby Pix:
1) Friesan Fire- Still idle after the win in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, but trainer Larry Jones now has to consider this his last best hope for this year with Old Fashioned now on the sidelines. Will be most interested to see his workouts leading into May 2.
2) Quality Road- Drops a spot from last week after it was discovered he has a slight quarter-crack in a hoof. The connections don't think it will be a big deal for the Derby, but any slight nick at this time of year is usually a cause for panic.
3) I Want Revenge- Is he Fusaichi Pegasus or Bellamy Road? Both were winners of the Wood Memorial and both went into the Derby as favorites, as I Want Revenge is likely to do. FuPeg won the Derby in 2000, while Bellamy Road did not in 2005.
4) Dunkirk- With several horses dropping out, it is now inevitable that he will get into the Derby, which was not certain last week. His race in the Florida Derby was strong, although even with his big move on the turn, he was still turned back by Quality Road.
5) Regal Ransom- He and Desert Party have made the trip over to Kentucky from Dubai and now will (supposedly) have plenty of time to acclimate themselves to their new surroundings to get ready for the race Godolphin wants more than any other. We'll see.
6) Musket Man- Makes another appearance in the Pix here following his win in the Illinois Derby. His running style might be ideal for Derby Day and I would be very surprised to see him at anything less than 20-1 in the Run For The Roses.
Tune in again tomorrow for a look at the last maiden to win the Derby. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby
The Blue Grass Stakes
I tend to lean toward #10 Hold Me Back here, who finished fast to win the Grade 2 Lane's End at Turfway Park on March 21. He is now 2 for 2 over Polytrack surface, including a win at Keeneland during last fall's meeting. #3 Theregoesjojo was clearly the third-best horse in Florida at Gulfstream Park behind Quality Road and Dunkirk. His Beyers in the two races in Florida would clearly be better than anyone's here and if he runs those races again, he could be the winner. If there is a longshot to like in here, it just might be #8 General Quarters, who is 15-1 on the morning line. He won the Grade 3 Sam Davis at Tampa and posted a blistering 5F workout at Churchill earlier this week.
The Arkansas Derby
#8 Old Fashioned needs to prove that his loss in the Grade 2 Rebel was a fluke and I think he is capable of doing that today. Terry Thompson reclaims his seat in the saddle from Ramon Dominguez after the loss and he is 2 for 2 aboard this runner. Trainer Larry Jones is one of the best in the business and he should have this colt ready to go here. I think that #9 Win Willy is just a horse for the course. However, this is the course he is the horse for. Win Willy is 2 for 2 at Oaklawn, including his upset win in the Grade 2 Rebel on March 14. His Sire is 2001 Derby winner, Monarchos. A longshot to consider in this spot is #4 Poltergeist, who is 20-1 for this go. He was 3rd in the Grade 2 Rebel and has a win and a third in three lifetime Oaklawn starts.
Tune in again on Monday for the updated Super Six Derby Pix and have a very Happy Easter. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Thursday, April 09, 2009
The Forgotten Champion
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Where Have All The Rivals Gone?
Monday, April 06, 2009
Super Six Derby Pix
How about the race that I Want Revenge turned in The Wood Memorial? He completely missed the break, got caught in heavy traffic, had to shift outside in the stretch and STILL won by open daylight. He didn't even need to win the race, really, to get in, but sometimes you just cannot deny the heart of a champion. Also, Musket Man's win in the Illinois Derby over the more highly regarded Giant Oak was worthy of note as well. So, without further ado, here are this week's Super Six Derby Pix:
#1 Quality Road- His wins in the Fountain Of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream this season have been impressive. The Fountain Of Youth was a front-running score and the Florida Derby showed his guts by turning away the solid Dunkirk after he made a massive move on the turn. In years past, the Florida Derby winner has always been a strong play in the Kentucky Derby (ex. Monarchos, Barbaro).
#2 Friesan Fire-The Louisiana Derby winner might have a style more suited to winning the Kentucky Derby, laying just of the pace, instead of contesting the pace and getting caught up in a speed war. The only qualm I have is the seven-week layoff between the Fair Grounds win and the Derby at Churchill Downs. Needles in 1956 went six weeks between his last race and his Derby win and trainer Larry Jones has had the runners-up in the last two Kentucky Derbies, so he obviously knows what he is doing.
#3 I Want Revenge- How much did that supreme effort in the Wood Memorial take out of him? It would be a shame if he spent his reserve winning what shapes up to be a unnecessary race for his Churchill chances. Keep in mind that Bellamy Road established himself as the Derby favorite with a devastating 19-length win in the Wood only to flop on the first Saturday in May, which, of course, resulted in the 2nd greatest longshot ever winning the race (Giacomo at 50-1).
#4 Regal Ransom- You know, one of these years, Godolphin is going to get it right and claim the prize they covet the most in the Kentucky Derby. This year, they have two bona fide contenders with this one and Desert Party. Regal Ransom held off his stablemate to win the UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup day at Nad Al Sheba. I honestly think one of the two will be there at the end and since Regal Ransom has topped Desert Party twice, he gets the nod.
#5 Musket Man- OK, he might be the livest longshot on the board in four weeks, but he still deserves a mention now. He has two wins around two turns in his last two starts (Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby). The Sire, Yonaguska, is probably the biggest argument against since he was a seven-furlong specialist, but if all the horse does is win, he makes it tough to count him out. Don't forget War Emblem won the Illinois Derby in 2002 and took the Roses later on.
#6 Old Fashioned- Lost of a lot of the luster on his star with the mystifying loss in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park to Win Willy. They will match up again this Saturday in the Arkansas Derby, which will also feature Louisiana Derby runner-up, Papa Clem. He was the most highly regarded entering the season, but needs to put up or shut up now.
Elsewhere, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this past weekend was opening weekend at Canada's jewel, Woodbine. That means the return to the microphone of Dan Loiselle, one of the best race callers in North America and one certainly great guy. Good luck to Dan and everyone in the Great White North this season. Tune in again tomorrow for a look at a fading element from the racing scene these days. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Friday, April 03, 2009
$400,000 Aqueduct Pick Four
The Grade 3 BayShore- I like #6 Not For Silver over #10 Taqarub in this spot. They have returned to the main track at Aqueduct after the winter break and it has favored the speed thus far. However, there is a lot of speed in here and #6 might sit well just off the hot pace.
The Grade 3 Excelsior- #1 Barrier Reef went three for three over the inner track at Aqueduct with Ramon Dominguez up and I see no reason his strong performances should stop now. Cozzene is on the Sire side and he was a personal favorite.
The Grade 1 Wood Memorial- This could be a two-horse epic between #2 I Want Revenge and #5 Imperial Council. I Want Revenge took the Gotham after pacesetter Mr. Fantasy faded from view. Imperial Council, in the same race, was way off the pace and rallied to get 2nd late. Just a hunchy-hunch, but I think Imperial Council will prevail here.
The Grade 1 Carter- #3 True Quality is going to the lead here and might not give it up. The only horse that might get by him is #4 Fabulous Strike, who split the last two graded duels with #3. A longshot to possibly get behind is #6 Understatement at 15-1.
PICK FOUR PLAY- 4-6-7-10 WITH 1 WITH 2-5 WITH 1-3-4-6
Remember, this blog is only offering suggestions and in no way assumes responsibility for any wagers made in conjunction with these selections. I am only here to try to help and make the "Sport Of Kings" more fun for everyone. Tune in again on Monday when "They Are Off" offers the Super Six Derby Contenders after the big prep weekend. For right now, I am Gone.... Goodbye!