Friday, May 29, 2009

$350,000 NYRA Pick Four

First, I must apologize for the lack of a post yesterday. I had to take what is best referred to as a sick day.

Now, on to the business at hand, Belmont Park is offering a guaranteed $350,000 Pick Four on races seven through ten on Saturday and what follows is a look at each of these races and a $1 Pick Four play.

Race 7-You have to like the entry of #1 Personal Shopper and #1a Call It Like It Is. Personal Shopper drew the rail and appears to be the early speed in this field. He could go all the way in front. #3 Structural Change is a first-time starter to admire from a 17% trainer this year with Kent Desormeaux aboard. He is also 10-1 on the morning line here. We will also include #10 Hero Figure, who might be coming from out of it if #1 cannot hold the lead like I expect him to.

Race 8- I think there is an important thought to throw out there for this particular race that I learned from my former co-worker, Martha Claussen, who also spent time at the Houston Chronicle. NEVER IGNORE CHRISTOPHE CLEMENT ON THE TURF!!!!! Martha took care of many tickets with that proviso and I will implement it here with #2 La Hernanda and #9 Shadiyna. Both go into the Pick Four today. Also, I really like #6 Scolara, another Desormeaux horse that had a little trouble in a Grade 3 at Belmont on Kentucky Derby Day and still rallied toward the end. #8 Pastel Gal will be coming late and deserves a look here. She has been off since running at Gulfstream in April. She is the only throw-out here if your play gets a little too pricey for you. #10 Kristi With A K is a definite threat to win this race. She is 2 for 2 on the Belmont turf in her career.

Race 9- The Grade 2 Sands Point- I see this as a two-horse race between #4 Gozzip Girl and #7 Magical Affair. Gozzip Girl ran 2nd behind Hooh Why in the Grade 1 Ashland over the polytrack at Keeneland and won a Grade over the turf at Gulfstream. Magical Affair has never been worse than 2nd in her five-race career.

Race 10- Let us return to the Race 8 corollary about Christophe Clement. He has what appears to be a powerhouse entry in this spot and we will single #1 Wild Entry and #1a Grassy and hope to be cashing tickets as we leave the premises.

Here is the play- $1 Pick Four 1-3-10 with 2-6-8-9-10 with 4-7 with 1
TOTAL- $30

As always, They Are Off is merely suggesting possibilities and assumes no responsibility for any wagers made in conjunction with these suggestions. Tune in on Monday as we get geared up once again for the 141st running of the Belmont Stakes. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Commendable Win

D. Wayne Lukas gets a hard time sometimes from those in the Thoroughbred racing game. Even in this blog, I have said in a post previously that he shouldn't automatically enter horses in a Triple Crown race just to have one in. What gets lost in the criticism is that D. Wayne Lukas is one hell of a trainer. One of his more remarkable wins came in the 2000 Belmont Stakes with Commendable.
Commendable had been a disappointing 17th in the 2000 Kentucky Derby, finishing well behind Fusaichi Pegasus that day. Commendable then skipped the Preakness and came back five weeks after the Derby to win the 132nd Belmont Stakes as the eighth betting choice in the field of eleven at nearly 20-1. It is remarkable that a Lukas horse at that time went off at such a price, considering that it had just happened the year before when Charismatic won the 1999 Derby at 31-1. It is even more remarkable when you consider that Commendable was ridden by Pat Day, who had won the Belmont twice before.
Lukas was widely ridiculed for putting his horse Flying Private into the Derby this year and while the horse did run last, he came back to finish fourth behind Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Lukas' two top three-year-olds this year, Flying Private and Luv Guv, worked at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning to get ready for the Belmont Stakes. Flying Private worked six furlongs in 1:15.2 and Luv Guv worked the same distance in 1:12.2.
While neither Lukas horse will (or should) be among the favorites in the Belmont Stakes on June 6, I am certainly not going to be the one to dismiss them out of hand. History should tell us that would unwise to do.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Bird

News came down today that Kent Desormeaux will be riding Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes. Summer Bird ran sixth in the Kentucky Derby under jockey Chris Rosier. Desormeaux has had two chances at the Triple Crown in the Belmont previously, losing by a nose in 1998 with Real Quiet and posting a DNF last year with Big Brown.

I think that Summer Bird is a live possibility in the Belmont Stakes for the same reason I like the chances of Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Belmont. Their Sire is Birdstone, who won the Belmont in 2004 and spoiled the Triple Crown that seemed destined to belong to Smarty Jones.

The addition of Desormeaux in the saddle (by the way, he will also work Summer Bird on Saturday) certainly will help even though the Belmont has never been Desormeaux's finest hour. I absolutely plan to have Summer Bird in the mix on Belmont Day. In fact, a Mine That Bird and Summer Bird exacta is not that big a stretch of the imagination. That could be a big enough bird in fact to qualify as a pterodactyl.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Grade 1 Shadwell Met Mile

There appears to be some speed in the Met Mile today at Belmont Park. Amazingly enough, some of the speed was removed from the field with the removal of Mr. Fantasy. He likely would have been with the front-runners and pressed the pace quite a bit.

With that, let's get to those horses that are actually running in the highlight race today. I like #11 Bribon, a French-bred runner that won the Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont on April 29. I really would have been sold on him had Mr. Fantasy still been present since Bribon should be sitting off the pace and be charging late. This will be his second start off the layoff and he has fired Beyers in the 100s in five of his last seven tries at this distance. #1 Accredit drew the rail here and should be part of the pace run. The big question regarding him is whether or not he can get the distance. He has never been this far before, but I am inclined to include him at his 10-1 morning line odds. He won in the slop last time out in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on Derby Day. An even longer shot I like quite a bit today is #12 Driven By Success, who is 20-1 in here. He has been off since April 9, but did run third in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap. The thing that stands out to me is Ramon Dominguez in the saddle. He has been paired with Ramon five times, winning three and running second in the other two. I will wrap the top four with #8 Mr. Sidney, who is going turf-to-dirt today after winning the Grade 1 Maker's Mark at Keeneland on April 10. He did that with a career-best Beyer figure of 101. Kent Desormeaux will be aboard for trainer Bill Mott today.

So, what's the play today? Well, I know I picked the favorite on top, which I normally don't do, so we will pair up a box and a key in the play on the Met Mile:

$1 EX BOX- 1-8-11-12 and $2 TRI 11 with 1-8-12
TOTAL- $24

We hope everyone has a good Memorial Day holiday today and remind you that They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers in connections with these suggestions.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Point Given

There have been many near-misses of a Triple Crown since Affirmed turned the trick in 1978. Spectacular Bid in 1979, Pleasant Colony in 1981, Alysheba in 1987, Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, and Smarty Jones in 2004 spring to mind. However, the horse that most deserved to be covered in Triple Crown glory never had a chance after running 5th in the Kentucky Derby.
That would be the horse pictured here, Point Given. Point Given drew the outside (#17) post in the 2001 Derby and while he chased a suicidal pace set by Songandaprayer, Jorge Chavez had Monarchos nice and relaxed at the back of the pack and he made his big move on the turn and turned in the second-fastest time in Derby history (1:59.4). Point Given flattened out in the stretch and had to settle for 5th. Trainer Bob Baffert admitted after the Derby that he may have had the horse too much on tilt and promised better in the immediate future.
Well, Baffert was able to deliver on that promise with Point Given in the Preakness and the Belmont. Point Given cruised to a 2 1/4 length win at Pimlico and then followed it up with a devastating Belmont win by 12 1/4 lengths, while Monarchos struggled home in third place. Point Given would go on from his Belmont win to also score in the Haskell at Monmouth and the Travers at Saratoga in 2001. In fact, he only lost one race in his entire three-year-old campaign, and that was the Kentucky Derby.
Other horses have won the Derby and Preakness or the Derby and the Belmont, even the Point Given double of Preakness and Belmont. However, in recent years, no horse was more deserving of his accolades than Point Given. I think he might be the best three-year-old we have seen since Spectacular Bid. He should have won the Triple Crown. It is a shame he didn't.
Tune in on Monday for a look at the Grade I Shadwell Metropolitan Mile at Belmont. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Giant Oak

I know I said we would have another look back at the Belmont in today's blog post, but I'd rather postpone it until tomorrow and discuss the story this spring of Giant Oak. Giant Oak was bound for Churchill Downs earlier this year, seemingly ready to run in the Kentucky Derby. He was the runner-up in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, finishing behind Musket Man, who has proven to be one of the better members of a decent three-year-old class. However, Giant Oak's connections decided to bypass a chance at the Roses (good thing too since they have since said he would have scratched with the sloppy track) and head to Chicago for the Mid-America Triple, a three-race turf series at Arlington Park. Giant Oak will start this Saturday in the Arlington Classic, which is the prelude to the American Derby in July, which is the prelude to the Grade 1 Secretariat on Arlington Million day in August.

Arlington Park has put up a $500,000 bonus to any horse that manages to sweep the series. No horse has done that since Honor Glide in 1997. Let's bypass the bonus for a second and applaud the connections for doing the right thing by their horse. Giant Oak would not have been one of the favorites for the Derby. All he would have been doing was taking someone else's spot (Mine That Bird, maybe) and if he would have gone on to scratch in the wake of the weather, that would have been all the more disturbing. It is not easy for horsemen to say no to the Derby and put their horse in the spot that benefits them the most (are you listening Nick Zito and D. Wayne Lukas?). The connections of Giant Oak (Trainer Chris Block and Owner The Virginia H. Tarra Trust) should be rewarded for their approach. Maybe they'll get $500,000 as their ultimate reward.

Tune in tomorrow for that Belmont look back from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"We'll Test These Two To The Wire"

That is maybe the second-most famous thing that Chic Anderson ever said in a race call. Needless to say, "He is moving like a tremendous machine!", ranks #1 on the Chic Chart, but the quote in the title of this post was nearly as amazing. Anderson said this shortly after Alydar poked a head in front of Affirmed in the stretch of the 1978 Belmont Stakes.

If you watch the replay of that 1978 Belmont (which you can at, notice how well Steve Cauthen dictated the pace with Affirmed in the early stages. He went a quarter in 25 seconds and a half in 50 seconds. Conversely, Stewart Elliot on Smarty Jones in 2004 went a half in 48 and change and had nothing left in the stretch when Birdstone mounted his challenge. Anderson even notes several times in the race call how slow the pace of the race is. Cauthen assured that he would have enough horse in the stretch when he would need it the most.

Jorge Velazquez was aboard Alydar and he had his horse in front in that classic stretch duel and that likely spurred Affirmed to come back and get the win and the Triple Crown. Affirmed was much like Silver Charm in that respect. Bob Baffert always said that if the Charm could see you, you weren't going to get by him. While Silver Charm never did see Touch Gold until it was too late in the 1997 Belmont, Affirmed had Alydar in his sights almost all the way around the racetrack. Had Velazquez waited to stick a nose in front with Alydar, might the result have been different? Well, we'll never know.
The Belmont Stakes has had many memorable renewals in the previous 140 years, but maybe none quite like the 1978 edition. Just based on what was at stake, the players and the rivalry involved, and the fact that Affirmed is the last Triple Crown winner we have had, it might have been the greatest Belmont Stakes we have seen and it might be the greatest one we will ever see.
Tune in again tomorrow for another look back at the Belmont from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What If...?

The big question coming out of the Preakness is whether or not Rachel Alexandra will start in the Belmont. To some on the scene and watching the race on TV, she seemed very tired in the aftermath of her greatest achievement. She had to be sponged repeatedly to cool her off. This happens to many horses following a hard race, but this horse is something special, so everyone has to be very careful with her going forward. That creates the question as to whether or not she will race at 1 1/2 miles in the "Test Of The Champion" in three weeks, but what if she had more time to get ready for the 141st Belmont Stakes.

I think there are two alternatives to the current Triple Crown schedules that are acceptable to the one we have now. To review that for those of you scoring at home, the Derby is the first Saturday in May, the Preakness is two weeks after that, and the Belmont is three weeks after the Preakness. Why can't you have three weeks between each race? This gives more recovery time after the longest race of their careers (the Derby) and stretches the overall time between the series to six weeks instead of five.

The other alternative is to run each race on the first Saturday of each month. The Derby on the first Saturday in May, the Preakness on the first Saturday in June, and the Belmont on the first Saturday in July. What is the big deal with giving young, fragile horses sufficient recovery time between the most grueling races they will ever run in their careers?

Is it because Secretariat did it that way? Take that tradition stuff and stick it in a sock, folks. Gallant Fox won the Preakness four days BEFORE he won the Derby in 1930. Does that cheapen Secretariat's accomplishment because he didn't do it on the same schedule? Of course not.

Thoroughbreds are not as sturdy as they were in Secretariat's day, just as they weren't as sturdy in Secretariat's day as they were in Gallant Fox's day. The sport's marquee events need to evolve with the breed to give the horses of today an adequate chance to complete the Crown and even more so, a chance to do it in one piece.

Tune in for more tomorrow from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Monday, May 18, 2009


It is not often that a horse race lives up to the hype, but the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday certainly fulfilled all the pre-race expectations. How often do you see the winner of the Kentucky Oaks hold off the winner of the Kentucky Derby in a captivating stretch drive at the Preakness? Well, the right answer is never.

Rachel Alexandra was challenged early by Big Drama and late by a charging Mine That Bird and Musket Man to win the Black-Eyed-Susans in 1:55 flat. She almost single-handedly pushed the TV ratings of the Preakness up 27% from last year, when we all thought Big Brown was the real deal. She is being talked about in the same breath with Ruffian as maybe the greatest filly runner of all time. And you know what, I think she might be deserving of the comparison.

Mine That Bird was a large part of the Preakness story also. No one thought his Kentucky Derby win was legitimate. Now, everyone thinks it is. He came rallying late from last place up the backstretch (sound familiar?) to very nearly turn himself from a 50-1 outsider to a potential Triple Crown champion. If he had won Saturday, the movie script was already being written somewhere in the Disney studios.

Calvin Borel might become a certified Hall Of Famer in his own right as a result of the last several weeks. He rides the Kentucky Oaks winner to a Secretariat-like score. He then wins his second Kentucky Derby in three years with a rail ride, matching his effort with Street Sense on Mine That Bird. He then gets off the Derby winner to ride the Oaks winner in the Preakness and gallantly holds off the Derby winner to win on the Oaks winner. Now that I think about it, I might get into the Hall Of Fame just for understanding and explaining that whole deal in a single paragraph.

So, the new question is will the filly run in the Belmont? We already know that Mine That Bird will go in the Belmont and he probably should be the favorite. After all, his Sire (Birdstone) won the Belmont and denied Smarty Jones the Triple Crown in 2004, so the distance is in the lineage. Should Rachel Alexandra go in the Belmont? Well, I am glad this is not my decision. One thing I think I can say with certainty is that Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen will do whatever is best for the horse, regardless of what the public wants them to do. If they run her, we might have a great rivalry on our hands. If they don't run her, she might put together a record-setting campaign in 2009 and already be a Classic winner.

Speaking of Classic, this might be a Classic win-win situation for all of horse racing.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of

Friday, May 15, 2009

Preakness Picks

The middle jewel of the Triple Crown is Saturday at Old Hilltop. The weather forecast is calling for some rain during the program, so the track condition could be iffy for the Preakness. This does not send me off my top pick in the race which is #3 Musket Man. He ran a great race in the Derby to finish 3rd at 19-1 and his pairing with jockey Eibar Coa has produced that third and a good win in the Illinois Derby. His work at Monmouth on May 12 was a speedy 4F in 46.3. He should be primed for another big effort and keep in mind he has never been worse than third in seven lifetime starts. Derby runner-up, #9 Pioneerof The Nile, stands a good shot of being runner-up again or even better in the Preakness. The Baffert trainee handled the off-track well in the Derby and even if it rains Saturday, it shouldn't affect the So. Cal. runner. While the filly will be the favorite, Pioneerof The Nile should be second choice in the wagering at Pimlico. Speaking of the filly, I will put #13 Rachel Alexandra third. By all rights, she should be the winner. She is the best three-year-old in the country, but the far outside post could be a problem with her speed. It all but guarantees she will have to cover more ground than anyone in the field and anyone that thinks Mine That Bird will bounce off his Derby has to think that she should have a regression off her shattering Oaks performance also. For a longshot to like, how about #11 Take The Points? He is 30-1 on the morning line, adding blinkers, and trained by Todd Pletcher. That's an intriguing trifecta of facts in his favor on Saturday.

What happened to #2 Mine That Bird you might ask? Well, if the track comes up wet, I fully expect him to be in the mix. If not, that bounce factor could strike again. Also, Mike Smith is an excellent jockey, but the ride Calvin Borel gave him in the Derby will become the stuff of legend. Borel is riding the filly in the Preakness. Don't think I dislike #5 Friesan Fire either. My top Derby pick will certainly get some consideration in the Preakness from me.

Tune in on Monday for a look back at the Preakness from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Truth And Consequences

Rachel Alexandra has drawn the outside post position in the thirteen-horse Preakness Stakes. How does this negatively affect her chances on Saturday? Well, it almost guarantees her a wide trip. She will likely try to go to the front (or near it) and she will be caught outside all the speed. I feel that Big Drama, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem, Pioneerof The Nile, Take The Points, and Tone It Down could all block her path to the garden spot. What if she elects to run with them early? Her post will compromise her overpowering ability since she should lose a bit of her edge getting to the front.

What about the other possibility? Letting the speed go and trying to rate slightly. This horse has lost three times in her ten-race career and each of those times was when she sat off the pace. So, she is going to have to gun it from the break and try to get the lead.

The post also takes away the best asset of her rider, Calvin Borel (or Calvin Bo-Rail), which is getting to the fence and riding it all the way to victory.

Her (new) connections expressed pleasure at the way the draw went, but what are they supposed to say? They have to try to put a brave face on it, no matter what. They are getting into uncharted waters here and they are trying for a stable atmosphere. The less they stir up, the better for them.

So, there is the truth, now what are the consequences? Her price will be way too low to bet her on Saturday. If she goes off at anything higher than her morning-line odds, you should consider it a bargain. My guess is she will be something close to even money at post time and, even though, she might be a "superhorse", I don't know if I can wager on her at that price.

Tune in tomorrow for the official Preakness picks from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Deputed Testamony

In the Preakness, there are always new shooters. There are also local Maryland-based horses that get entered by horsemen with a dream. Sometimes these dreams almost come true, as in Magic Weisner in 2002 and Scrappy T in 2005, both of whom finished second behind horses that hit the board in the Kentucky Derby.

Back in 1983, some local Maryland horsemen had a dream (Bill Boniface and Bonita Farm, to be exact) and darned if it didn't come true. Deputed Testamony won the 1983 Preakness, defeating 1983 Derby winner, Sunny's Halo, in the process. Deputed Testamony had won the Federico Tesio earlier at Pimlico during the 1983 spring meet to earn a chance to run for the Black-Eyed-Susans. He came through and won the Preakness that year over a sloppy racetrack and although he ran sixth in the Belmont, he came back later that year and won the Haskell at Monmouth Park.

Deputed Testamony ran twenty times, winning eleven of those and running second in three others. The picture above is from well after his retirement. He won't go down as one of the great Preakness winners of all time, but in Maryland's eyes, he was a hero and he stands today as the focal point for all those Maryland dreamers who want those Black-Eyed-Susans, even more than the Roses or the Carnations. He gives them hope and hope is always a good thing (just ask Morgan Freeman).

There will be no post on Wednesday from They Are Off, but tune in again on Thursday for a look at the draw. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of

Monday, May 11, 2009

You Go Girl!

Well, well, well. Rachel Alexandra will go in the 134th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday. She will more than likely be the heavy favorite in the wake of her crushing win in the Kentucky Oaks on May 1 and the fact that the Derby field really didn't acquit themselves very well the following day.

The owners of Mine That Bird and Pioneerof The Nile were trying to do some shifty maneuvering to try and keep the best three-year-old in the country out of the race, but they backed off. Rachel Alexandra has to supplement for $100,000 to get into the Preakness and any supplement gets second consideration behind any horse previously nominated for the Triple Crown. The other connections were considering entering (and then scratching) lesser horses (one of which I believe is a maiden) to keep the filly out. Thankfully, they thought better of that plan and she is a go and I think that is a good thing. One thing any competitor should want to do is beat the best.

In my opinion, Rachel Alexandra is the best three-year-old in the country (male or female) and she should be in the sport's showcase events. Let's see how she does against the boys. Don't forget it was only two years ago that Rags To Riches topped Curlin to become the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in over a century.

As for Mine That Bird, the connections wanted to keep the filly out, but they also wanted to maintain Calvin Borel in the saddle. They are now going to their second choice, but I have the feeling they will still get a good ride. I also have the feeling they will still get a good price. Mine That Bird should be no less than 10-1 on Saturday. He might be the longest-priced Derby winner ever to run in the Preakness.

It's going to be a fascinating week.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Grade 3 Lone Star Derby

The premier three-year-old race in the state of Texas occurs on Saturday with the Grade 3 $400,000 Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie. It is a small field of seven, but there is quite a bit of quality present. I am thinking that the Bob Baffert trainee, #5 Mayor Marv, might jump out to the lead and go all the way in front. He won the Turf Paradise Derby and broke his maiden with front-running scores. He tried to do it also in the Sunland Park Derby (which also featured Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird), but faded on the turn to run 11th. #3 Uno Mas finished behind Friesan Fire in three straight at Fair Grounds this winter and spring. His work on May 2 was strong and he gets one of the area's top jockeys in Cliff Berry. #2 Cape Truth is a California invader with two wins in three lifetime starts. The only time the Doug O'Neill trainee missed the money was a turf try in the Pasadena Stakes on the grass at Santa Anita. This will be his first start on dirt, since the two wins came on artificial surface. #7 Mythical Power was the runner-up in the Sunland Park Derby (which by the way ought to be graded in time for its next running). This is the second Baffert trainee in the field with Victor Espinoza aboard. The only other time Espinoza rode resulted in a third in his debut effort. Here is the play for the Lone Star Derby:

$10 WPS #5

I know it's simple, but if Mayor Marv hits the board, you'll get something back. As always, They Are Off is only making a suggestion and accepts no responsibility for any wagers made based on these picks. Tune in again on Monday for the beginning of Preakness week. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


You know, I like to consider myself a professional handicapper. For many years, I have written a tip sheet for the track I work for and also done the morning-line there. Since I work at the track, I really try not to bet too often. It just wouldn't do to just turn my paychecks back to my employer to wager since I have things like rent, car payment, phone, electricity, and other basic expenses I need to live. For that reason, my biggest hit ever has been a $565 pick-three in the summer of 2008.

However, we have a new record-high after Derby weekend. I had the exacta of 8-16 in the Kentucky Derby and cashed a new topper of $2,075. You might ask how I hit that crazy exacta of Mine That Bird and Pioneerof The Nile. Well, I could go into a long dissertation as to how I am a professional and analyzed all the information and came up with the wager that moved to #1 on my personal list, but I won't.

I was born on August 16, 1970. Also, known as 8-16-70. Since there is no #70 in the Derby, I did a birthday bet of 8-16 as an exacta box. Just that simple. Sometimes, folks, it is just your day and I guess that Saturday was mine.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rachel Alexandra

Mine That Bird scored a monumental upset in the 135th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, winning at odds of 50-1. By now, the story of the connections and the horse's humble situation has been told and retold. With all of the hoopla now surrounding the Cinderella story, let's not lose sight of the fact that the best three-year-old in the country also ran at Churchill Downs this past weekend. Rachel Alexandra is her name and she turned in a performance that can only be described as "Secretariat-esque".

Yes, that's right, I am invoking Big Red's name in describing what she did to the field in the 134th running of the Kentucky Oaks. While it is true that the scratch of the second-best horse in the field (Justwhistledixie) with an abscess probably extended her winning margin, she still wins the Oaks easily. She won the race by an astonishing 20 1/4 lengths. Jockey Calvin Borel never even moved on her back through the stretch. Bravo race caller Tom Durkin likened Borel to a statue in the final moments of the race. Borel himself would call the horse, "the best horse I have ever ridden in my life". This from a man who is the only rider to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby aboard the same horse (Street Sense in 2007).

The question for the connections of Rachel Alexandra is what to do with her now. Do they try to challenge the boys in either the Preakness or the Belmont (which they would have to supplement $100,000 to do)? Do they try to capture New York's Triple Tiara (Acorn, Mother Goose, CCA Oaks) and then try the boys in the Haskell or Travers this summer? Do they forget the boys altogether and keep her running against females, pointing for a showdown with the formidable Zenyatta in Breeder's Cup at Santa Anita (albeit over an artificial surface)? I can tell you this, it is a set of questions I would love to have to deal with.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mine That Bird

The second-biggest longshot in the 135 year history of the Kentucky Derby won the race on Saturday. Mine That Bird had been the Canadian two-year-old champion last year and had been running at Sunland Park in New Mexico, where he couldn't win in two races. He did win four times at Woodbine, including the Grade 3 Grey Cup Stakes, named after the CFL's championship trophy. The trainer vanned the horse 21 hours from New Mexico to Kentucky for the race. The horse's previous highest Beyer speed figure was an 81.

All of this prompts the biggest question of all from Saturday's race, how was this horse only 50-1? Even the other 50-1 shots had field-comparable Beyer figures. Mine That Bird, by all rights, should have been closer to Donerail's 91-1 odds that he won with in 1913. There are only two answers that come to mind, either there was a huge contingent of Audubon Society members watching the race or everyone that had him took a chance on Calvin Borel. The trainer, Chip Woolley, admitted that he owed the win to Borel after the race and it was a masterful ride to be sure. If you have a chance to see it, go back and watch the overhead shot of the race to see a genius in action with Borel hugging and, at some points, touching the rail.

Saturday's events, however, truly prove why horse racing is such a magnificent sport. Stables like Godolphin, Darley, Winstar, and others try desperately to win the Kentucky Derby every year. In fact, Godolphin has stated over and over that their biggest goal is to win the Derby. Godolphin and their love of the sport has truly helped racing over the last several years while they have been trying to win the Roses by pouring money into their efforts and building a first and now a second magnificent facility in the desert at Dubai. Saturday just showed why you cannot buy those Roses, just like a golfer cannot buy a Green Jacket. You can spend all kinds of money on fabulously-bred, expensive horses and you can run up the track. Meanwhile, a $9,500 purchase can come from absolute nowhere, fly up the rail, win by the largest margin since 1946 for a trainer on crutches and two owners who looked intimidated to be talking to Bob Costas and become the darling of the equine world.

It certainly is some game, isn't it?

Tune it tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
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Friday, May 01, 2009

It's Friesan Fire...

...for me in the 135th Kentucky Derby. I honestly thought he was the winner before the forecasts called for rain. All that did was ruin my price. I expected to get around 6-1 or 7-1 on the Louisiana Derby winner, but now everyone will be on him if the track comes up wet and that will drop his price to around 4-1 or 5-1. Certainly not what I hoped for. His razor-sharp work earlier this week just put an exclamation point on my feelings for him in the Derby. Trainer Larry Jones ought to get a Derby win before he retires and I think the stars will align for him.

As far as the other 19 going to the gate on Saturday, I do like Musket Man to be there at the finish, which is contrary to some popular thoughts. His Sire is Yonaguska, who could not go farther than seven furlongs at his best. However, Musket Man's win in the Illinois Derby really impressed me with the style it was done, a style that should serve him well in the Derby. Also, I expect him to be no less than 20-1 and I certainly like that price.

Desert Party is another that stands out and gets into my top three on Saturday. He defeated Regal Ransom, his Godolphin stablemate, twice in three head-to-head match-ups. If you like both of those horses, doesn't Desert Party have to get a bit of an edge for that very reason? Advice can certainly be a factor in the race also. His win in the Lexington was resounding two weeks ago, but the ever-present Polytrack question could be a tough one for him to answer. Papa Clem won the Arkansas Derby and that is always a strong Derby prep. However, he also finished 7 1/4 lengths behind my top pick in the Louisiana Derby.

So, how do you bet the Derby and not go broke in the process? I will be taking the easy way out and do a simple five-horse exacta box with the runners I like here. Remember, They Are Off assumes no responsibility for any wagers made in conjunction with these suggestions. Tune in again on Monday for a Derby recap. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

TOTAL- $20