Arlington Million Day Grade 1 Stakes Pick 3 Analysis

Posted August 9, 2019 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

We’ve decided to focus on the Pick 3 that contains the three Grade 1 races to be run at Arlington on Saturday, one of the very best racing days of the year. Although our Pick 4 scores in 2013 and 2016 remain among our best wagering memories ever, the death of the American St. Leger marathon race has changed the format at the track on Million Day. That was a race where we would often find a single and was run before these three races. Now, the track concludes the all stakes Pick 4 with the Pucker Up, a difficult race to handicap that doesn’t even go off until 6:55 pm, and we have a 6:29 train to catch back to the city.

Below are horse by horse breakdowns for each of the Grade 1 races. To help compare European form where applicable, Racing Post Ratings (RPR) are included, along with top Beyer and Brisnet speed figures within the past year. (All figures reflect races run within a furlong of the distance being contested).

Sistercharlie The Diana4 credit elsa

9- Beverly D, 9.5f, 4:53

1) Fleeting (5-2) (113 RPR)-Three-year old Aidan O’Brien trainee makes her stateside debut and cuts back here after racing her last three at 12f. O’Brien has never won this race and despite a six pound weight break, a sophomore has only emerged victorious in the Beverly D on one occasion, when Euro Charline scored a 10-1 upset in 2014. Group 2 winner at 8f and Group 1 placed at 12f certainly fits here on class and appears well aimed, but may be compromised a bit by the pace scenario and firmer ground. She gets first time Lasix but hasn’t made the winner’s circle since last September, five starts back.

2) Awesometank (8-1) (107 RPR)-Euro shipper gets first time Lasix and stretches out to this distance for the first time as she makes her inaugural stateside start. Group 3 placed in Britain, she will need to step up her game to make an impact in this field, but could find a cozy spot on the rail behind a likely slow pace with Arlington specialist Florent Geroux in the irons; usable on the bottom of the trifecta.

3) Competitionofideas (6-1) (114 RPR, 96 Beyer, 96 Brisnet)-The “other Chad” in this race has had a bit of a case of seconditis this year, but has managed to place in all three of her graded starts this year, finishing less than half a length behind the highly regarded Homerique in two of those after wide trips. Her last win came in the Grade 1 American Oaks run at 10f, so she could appreciate stretching out from the 9f distance of her last, where she was also beaten just a neck after chasing a crawling pace in a small field. Consistent type has missed the board only once in ten career starts and offers value in this spot as Javier Castellano, who has won with her twice before, regains the mount.

4) Oh So Terrible (30-1) (101 RPR, 82 Brisnet)-Daughter of Cape Blanco (who won the Million) will attempt this class leap again after finishing 8thof 9 a year ago and is difficult to support in this spot having never won a graded race; appears aptly named as she was well off the board in the Grade 3 Modesty, the local prep for this race.

5) Remember Daisy (30-1) (84 Brisnet)-Finished 4thin the Modesty, which doesn’t bode well for her chances to hit the board her against tougher company. Listed stakes type may be better suited to races shorter than this one.

6) Magic Wand (3-1) (114 RPR, 103 Beyer, 103 Brisnet)-She was our pick to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on a lone speed angle, and the race played out exactly as we predicted, as she tracked a length off an absolutely crawling pace of :51.4 and 1:18.2 and still faded to 4thwith no excuses as today’s favorite gobbled her up in the lane. She’s cross-entered in the Million and expects to go there so we will treat her as such, and a defection back to this race wouldn’t be a demonstration of much confidence by the connections, although she certainly fits on class, form and figures and may appreciate the cutback in distance as well as the firmer turf course.

7) Sistercharlie (8-5) (118 RPR, 105 Beyer, 103 Brisnet)- Defending champion of the division will attempt to become the first ever to win the Beverly D twice and will deservingly be a heavy favorite in this spot second off the lay following an impressive win in the Grade 1 Diana in her last off an eight month layoff. Chad Brown has won the last four editions of this race and wins with 24% of his entrants second off the lay. Strong closer should appreciate the added ground here and should be expected to improve off her last; a worthy single considering how easily she closed into a slow pace in last year’s race, and the fact that she holds a seemingly insurmountable BRIS Prime Power advantage against her American foes (+35.5).

8) Thais (20-1) (108 RPR, 87 Brisnet)-The Chad Brown rabbit nearly stole this race on the lead last year as she got away with fractions of :50.2 and 1:15.1, which were slow enough to allow her to hang on for 3rdplace and blow up the trifecta at nearly 50-1 odds. A similar scenario isn’t impossible here, especially if Magic Wand defects as expected, which would leave her the only confirmed speed in a small field. She went out far too quickly when playing a similar role in her last, setting a pace about 5 seconds (25 lengths) faster for her stablemate to close into, and faded badly.

Picks:

  1. Sistercharlie 8-5
  2. Competitionofideas 6-1
  3. Fleeting 5-2
  4. Thais 20-1

10- Secretariat, 8f, 5:28

1) Clint Maroon (20-1) (98 RPR, 87 Beyer, 87 Brisnet)-After stumbling at the start, son of Oasis Dream finished 4th, beaten 4 lengths at this distance behind today’s favorite in his last. He’s one of just two in the field to have wired a race at this distance and could have a say in the early pace while saving ground on the rail, but will have tables to turn and speed figures to improve upon; pass.

2) Van Beethoven (8-1) (105 RPR)-Has missed the board in all five 2019 starts across the pond without ever looking like a contender, but a closer look at his form and speed figures indicates he may benefit from a drop in class in this spot, as he’s raced his last three against Group 1 foes. Aidan O’Brien has dominated this race, and no other runner has duplicated three RPR figures of 104 or higher at 8f. Gets first time Lasix and merits a look as a potential overlay for the top spot, and is a must use on the bottoms of exotics.

3) Never No More (6-1) (109 RPR)-Winner of both his 2019 starts in Handicap company enters with some question marks off a four month layoff, but class jump concerns are somewhat diffused by the fact that the colt he dispatched in his last, Madhmoon, ran back to a runner-up finish in the Group 1 Epsom Derby at 12f. Field high RPRs of 108 and 109 both came at 7f and over soft turf; it bears mention he’s never run beyond that distance or on turf rated better than yielding which lingers as the main concern, but Aidan O’Brien charge figures to be running late for a piece based on his previous racing style and adds first time Lasix to boot. He fired a win the last time after racing off a similar layoff and must be feared in this spot with a strong damsire stamina pedigree to fall back on (8.8 AWD) and Ryan Moore retaining the mount.

4) The Last Zip (6-1) (80 Beyer, 89 Brisnet)-Has finished no worse than 2ndin five of his six career starts, including a dead-heat runner up effort in the American Derby, the local prep for this race at a tad longer distance of 8.5f. He wired the race before that to break his maiden in his fifth try, and could be the one to catch here on the lead as he cuts back. Of the local prep entrants we prefer him most on that angle, but he still has class questions to answer, and would only be used on the very bottom of exotics.

5) Ry’s The Guy (15-1) (89 Brisnet)-Allowance winner at 8f finds an ambitious spot here but isn’t completely outclassed from a figure standpoint by any means. Son of Distorted Humor broke his maiden in his 5thattempt on dirt; that came over a sloppy track, but won his only start on turf in allowance company immediately after. Ian Wilkes trainee takes a marked step up in class but his very entry implies upside- perhaps this is his niche? We don’t put much stake in Equibase figures but it bears mention that his 106 in his lone turf start tops the field; the price will be right to find out, and he may be the tactical type to hang around and blow up the bottom of the trifecta, so we will make room for him there.

6) Fog of War (3-1) (105 RPR, 94 Beyer, 92 Brisnet)-Morning line favorite for Chad Brown checks a lot of boxes, having won at this distance as a two-year-old and owns the field’s highest 8f speed figures across the board. He figures to take money off the Brown connection and seems a logical winner in this spot, but in the most wide-open race of the sequence, we’ll take a shot at a higher price in outright wagers as his rider jumps off for another. He’s lost position in the stretch and flattened out in both of his races this year, which isn’t a trend one likes to see when re-entering graded company. Narrow BRIS Prime Power selection (+0.8) will be used defensively in multis and damsire pedigree seems to contradict his apparent distance limitations (10.4 AWD), but we will look elsewhere for value here as it’s hard to side with a short price that is winless on the year against weaker company in such a competitive race.

7) Valid Point (5-1) (90 Beyer, 90 Brisnet)-Lightly raced son of Scat Daddy is undefeated in two career starts, both at this distance, and fits the “other Chad” criteria to a tee off an impressive 3.5 length win over optional claimers in his last. It’s interesting indeed to note that Javier Castellano jumps off today’s favorite and stablemate Fog of War to stay on this colt for his first career stakes try, who hasn’t been working well, perhaps by design? He closed well in both of his wins against lesser to own the highest average BRIS Late Pace speed figure in the field (96), and also has the tactical speed to sit a nice trip and get the job done here. Enters deeper waters but looks up to the challenge given his upside; the pick.

8) Faraway Kitten (9-2) (80 Beyer, 88 Brisnet)-Winner of the local prep American Derby at a distance a half furlong beyond this, Ramsey entrant has shown increasing speed figures in his last four starts. On the downside, those figures still pale in comparison to the top contenders here, so son of Kitten’s Joy would have to take another step forward, and the feeling here is that scenario is more likely to happen with added ground rather than a cutback. Looks like an underlay at these odds considering that the local prep has not translated well to this race historically, and he was 15-1 in that race to begin with; the time to be on him has passed.

9) Crafty Daddy (5-1) (80 Beyer, 88 Brisnet)-Son of Scat Daddy broke his maiden in March at this distance closing hard and ran a similar race when a dead heat 2ndin the local prep at 8.5f. He’s shown ascending speed figures in all six of his career starts but the similar feeling here is that he would benefit more from added ground than a cutback, especially in a race that doesn’t appear to have a ton of pace on paper. We’re tossing all of the American Derby runners from the trifecta.

Picks:

  1. Valid Point 5-1
  2. Never No More 6-1
  3. Fog of War 3-1
  4. Van Beethoven 8-1

Bricks and Mortar2

11- Arlington Million, 10f

1) Robert Bruce (7-2) (115 RPR, 103 Beyer, 99 Brisnet)-Defending champion is rounding into form for his third start of the year, coming off a 2ndplace finish where he wasn’t disgraced when beaten by today’s favorite just 1.5 lengths against Grade 1 company, posting career high speed figures across the board. He stumbled at the start of that race and found himself boxed in behind horses and further from the pace than would have been ideal, so a cleaner trip while saving ground on the rail could narrow that margin as he figures to get the jump on his stablemate. No horse has ever won the Arlington Million in back to back years, and he’s been well aimed for this considering the Breeders’ Cup doesn’t really have a race that fits him; this is a bonafide 10f horse through and through and he picks up Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano for Chad Brown.

2) Magic Wand (5-1) (114 RPR, 103 Beyer, 103 Brisnet)-A gutsy move by the connections to run against the boys here, as a filly has never won the Arlington Million. Draw a line through her last, where she was essentially eased while trying a distance that was too far for her over too soft a surface, and she’s kept good company as an underneath type against Group 1 company abroad, showing a 2ndplace finish at the distance two races back in Ireland. But in her second US try of 2019, she couldn’t keep pace with the likes of Channel Maker and Arklow in the 11f Man O’War, the former of which was easily dispatched by today’s favorites Bricks and Mortar and Robert Bruce at 10f in the Manhattan, and she was beaten 2.5 lengths by Bricks and Mortar at 9f back in January. It’s difficult to make a case for her turning the tables on those two, especially given her lower speed figures this year, with RPRs ranging from 108-110 in her last three. Hasn’t won in 12 starts dating back to last June but has found the board in half of those efforts; well-traveled filly deserves a spot on the bottom of the trifecta on back class.

3) Bricks and Mortar (8-5) (119 RPR, 107 Beyer, 106 Brisnet)-Leading contender for Horse of the Year honors will be the star of Arlington Million Day, and his presence is worth the price of admission alone. He is very difficult to oppose in this spot coming in off of five straight turf wins and having bested three of today’s top foes on the square (Robert Bruce by 1.5 lengths at this distance, Bandua by 4, Magic Wand by 2.5 at 9.5f) and has demonstrated great versatility in closing to win races that didn’t set up for his style from a pace standpoint. He’ll likely have to do so again, as the race doesn’t appear to have much pace signed on. Still, there’s a sinking feeling that his winning streak will end at some point after such a strong campaign, and it’s peculiar timing indeed for the connections to sell his breeding rights before the race if he’s such an automatic winner. Bris Prime Power selection (+21.3) is by far the most likely winner, and a victory certainly won’t cost us in exotics or multis, but this looks like a decent spot to look for value in the win pool.

4) Catcho En Die (30-1) (111 RPR, 94 Brisnet)-Robbed us of last year’s trifecta in this race after jockey Jose Valdiva made a claim of foul for 3rdplace that was somehow upheld. We would play against him for that reason alone, but it also helps that he’s been incredibly off form since returning from a ten month layoff following that debacle, finishing 9th, 8thand 11thby a combined 27.5 lengths in his three starts this year. Toss.

5) Hunting Horn (12-1) (116 RPR, 102 Beyer, 102 Brisnet)-Our selection in last year’s Secretariat threw in a real stinker in that race when racing wide and rank near the lead, and his detractors will certainly point to that as a reason to oppose him here. They could also rightfully point to the fact that he hasn’t actually won a race in 12 starts dating back to before that race. However, he’s been keeping top company across the pond, racing against Group 1 foes in his last three at distances including 10f and 12f, and has posted consistent and competitive Racing Post Ratings in those efforts (115-115-114). In fact, in the last race he won at this distance last June, the RPR of 116 he earned is the second highest in the field. Looking more closely at his last stateside effort four races back in the Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont run at 11f, he set the pace and held a 3 length lead at the 10f point of the race before folding late to finish 4thbeaten only a length. He should appreciate the cutback from the 12f distance of his last and looms lone speed as the only Brisnet “E” designation with Ryan Moore, an astute judge of pace, in the irons. Playable on top for Aidan O’Brien at anywhere near this price.

6) The Great Day (12-1) (94 Beyer, 86 Brisnet)-A winner at 10f on dirt in Argentina, but son of Harlan’s Holiday has never won a turf race in five career tries. Finished a closing but non-threatening 2ndin the local prep for this and may enjoy the added ground here, but speed figures lag well beneath the top contenders. Trainer Arnaud Delacour has had success with his runners third off the lay, winning at a 29% clip, but this is quite the gap to bridge and a leap in class. A superfecta player at best.

7) Pivione (15-1) (114 RPR)-Euro shipper earned his first win of 2019 in his fifth start, beating 20 other horses in Handicap company at 10.5f over a firmer turf course and earning a competitive RPR. It’s fair to question what kind of field he beat in that race, however, and he did take quite a jump figure-wise in his last (from 107) that may be difficult to replicate after shipping. First time Lasix should help, and he finished ½ a length behind Trais Flurors at 10f just before that one bested fellow shipper Intellogent by a neck at 9f, so the Euro imports appear to be on close to even footing by that measuring stick, but class questions loom larger with this one as has never placed in group company.

8) Captivating Moon (20-1) (104 RPR, 90 Beyer, 97 Brisnet)-Always more of an underneath type against lesser, son of Malibu Moon was off the board in last year’s Secretariat but closed for 3rdin the local prep in his last. Trainer Chris Block doesn’t exactly fire second off the lay, winning just 9% of the time, and it’s difficult to envision a scenario where this deep closer is passing horses of this quality in the stretch.

9) Intellogent (12-1) (113 RPR)-Enters off a two and a half month layoff as the only Euro shipper with a win against Group 1 company; that came last summer at 8f over a firmer turf course and resulted in a 116 RPR, a number that would be quite competitive here if duplicated at the longer 10f distance. However, he just missed winning a 10.5f Group 1 last year, finishing 4thby just ¾ of a length, and finished 1.5 lengths ahead of today’s foe Hunting Horn in that race. Last seen a closing 4th at 9f in Group 1 company over a softer turf course than he appears to prefer, son of Intello boasts a strong AWD of 9.8 despite never having won beyond 9f. Gets Flourent Geroux aboard while receiving first time Lasix and adding blinkers; a player for the underneath spots at a decent price.

10) Bandua (6-1) (107 RPR, 98 Beyer, 96 Brisnet)- Winner of the 9.5f Arlington Handicap in his last after fading badly in the stretch to finish 6thbehind today’s top two foes in the 10f Manhattan before that. Based on prior form and pedigree, it would appear that the 9.5f distance may be his ceiling, and he might be better suited to the 9f distance. Could have a say in the early pace but draws a wide post and figures to back up in the stretch; would be a massive underlay at these odds.

Picks:

  1. Robert Bruce 7-2
  2. Bricks and Mortar 8-5
  3. Hunting Horn 12-1
  4. Intellogent 12-1

PICK 3 PLAY:

Sistercharlie, Competitionofideas/

Valid Point, Never No More, Fog of War, Van Beethoven/

Bricks and Mortar, Robert Bruce, Hunting Horn, Intellogent

(bet will be weighted to appropriately equalize the odds, i.e, heavier bets on the chalk)

 

 

 

 

California Wine Trip Tasting Recap

Posted July 22, 2019 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Vino

For the second straight year, we chose to focus our wine country trip upon Dry Creek Valley and Healdsburg rather than Napa Valley. Quite simply, it’s become almost impossible to vacation with children in Napa, and with Courtney six months pregnant, it didn’t make a ton of sense to be spending $50-$75 to taste. The fact of the matter is that the top Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs and Syrah blends in these regions rival Napa’s Cabernets in terms of quality, and often at about a quarter of the price.

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Sidekicks enjoying an outdoor grove tasting at Seghesio, which continues to set the gold standard for single vineyard Zinfandel in the Sonoma Valley and its neighboring appellations.

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Tasting wine with an 8-year old in tow doesn’t have to be hard, and Alex makes it easy! He enjoyed the hospitality and scenery at Limerick Lane while his Dad evaluated their consistently exciting wines.

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The scenery leaves nothing to be desired at Unti, a unique winery which produces strictly Italian varietals, and is well worth the stop on Dry Creek Road.

In all, I tasted just over 50 wines. Below are my top 20 favorites, sorted by score and then by price.

  1. Bedrock Zinfandel The Heritage 2017, 94 Points, $45- Thick but not overripe, with intense blackberry paste up front and plumcake notes underneath, turning silky as it lingers with black pepper spice and a hint of orange peel that adds complexity, finishing with a firm tannic grip.
  2. Seghesio Zinfandel Rockpile 2016, 94 Points, $50- Bright, jammy red berry fruit and black cherry flavors combine above focused minerality and cracked pepper undertones. Incredible finish that lingers for minutes with tobacco and bay leaf undertones. Rich and polished.
  3. Siduri Pinot Noir Saralee’s Vineyard Russian River Valley 2016, 94 Points, $50- A nearly flawless offering, as lively wild berry and baked plum fruit combine above mushroom, white pepper, white chocolate and tobacco notes. Lingers long with a seamless texture. A textbook Pinot, in the deeper style.
  4. Hartford Family Zinfandel Old Vine Russian River Valley 2017, 93 Points, $40- A huge, jammy fruit bomb of wild raspberry and dark plum gliding over a rich texture that shows notes of allspice and baking spice as licorice notes creep in late and linger long. Beautifully polished and balanced between its deep blue and purple berry fruit notes as exotic spices carry through the finish.
  5. Sbragia Zinfandel Nonno’s Reserve Dry Creek Valley 2016, 93 Points, $44- Ultra-ripe on the nose, as a plump texture of blackberry and licorice picks up undertones of smoke, briary underbrush and tobacco spice. Earthy character lingers long beyond the fruit. White pepper spice creeps in as it lingers, a true Dry Creek terroir expression.
  6. Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel Beeson Ranch Dry Creek Valley 2016, 93 Points, $45- Dark currant aromas gain a smoked meat nuance on the nose. Lush body of blackberry jam is rich and juicy, showing undertones of white pepper spice that catches a mocha hint as it lingers long. Incredibly polished.
  7. Unti Syrah Benchland Dry Creek Valley 2016, 93 Points, $55- Classic Syrah profile, showing smoked red meat, black pepper, and black and purple fruit aromas. Velvety texture comes across like a cool-climate Hermitage, with hot brick, smoked meat and fresh leather up front, leading into plush blackberry, dark plum and black licorice flavors. Finishes with a blast of bay leaf and cracked pepper that are all in balance with the fruit as this extends and lingers long.
  8. Seghesio Zinfandel Home Ranch Alexander Valley 2015, 93 Points, $58- Thick and rich black and purple fruit flavors are backed by cracked pepper, briary herbs, mocha bean and clove spice. Thick, burly and complex. Long finish offers a firm tannic grip.
  9. Limerick Lane Zinfandel 1910 Block Russian River Valley 2016, 93 Points, $60- Super complex, with dark berry aromas shaded by briary tobacco lead and pepper nuances. Intense flavors of blackberry, black cherry fruit is backed by undertones of baking spice, clove and vanilla bean. Long finish shows a firm tannic grip, but this will be even more amazing in time. Packed and powerful offering.
  10. Hartford Family Zinfandel Old Vine Hartford Vineyard 2016, 93 Points, $60- Huge nose of blackberry and briary herbs. Deep, dark and elegant, with blackberry and plum paste notes above savory undertones of bay leaf, tobacco and cracked pepper. Rich and polished through the long finish, with minty nuances and chewy tannins lingering.
  11. La Crema Pinot Noir Shell Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast 2016, 93 Points, $60- Jam-packed, with blackberry and black licorice notes above orange peel spice and a complex echo of tobacco. This showcases an amazing texture all the way through the long finish, lingering on a creamy note.
  12. Quivira Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2017, 92 Points, $25- Delivers a pure Dry Creek Valley essence, with appelation-specific and heavy notes of cracked pepper and briar up front that braces juicy wild raspberry and blackberry fruit. Long finish over an elegantly silky texture, a perfect 4th of July wine.
  13. Unti Barbera Dry Creek Valley 2016, 92 Points, $38- Aromas of smoked cured meats show red currant fruit in the background. Explosive and juicy cherry and wild berry fruit picks up steam behind crackling briar, white pepper spice and smoke. Long finish with savory spice and pepper lingering for minutes. A big surprise.
  14. Unti Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2016, 92 Points, $38- Deep plum, blackberry and tobacco aromas. Velvety and ripe, with thick flavors of plum paste and blackberry preserves above a backbone of tobacco and peppery spice. Extremely rich but not overripe; very polished through the long finish as silky tannins add grip.
  15. Sbragia Zinfandel La Promessa Dry Creek Valley 2016, 92 Points, $40- Silky, floral body is heavily perfumed showing flavors of red plum, raspberry and cherry fruit that finishes with cinnamon spice, clove spice and exotic baking spice. Feminine in style and delivery, with a weightless texture. Cracked pepper lingers; this is all spices and no herbs.
  16. Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2016, 92 Points, $40- Ultra-silky and ripe, with snappy dark plum, blackberry and black licorice flavors that explode into undertones of peppery spice and tobacco that really pick up as this lingers long.
  17. Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel DCV7 Wallace Ranch Dry Creek Valley 2016, 92 Points, $42- Plummy body is silky and fruit-driven, with a plush texture that evolves into peppery, briary undertones. Long finish of juicy red plum, black cherry and dark raspberry lingers with savory spice, baking spice, black tea and peppercorns.
  18. Dry Creek Vineyard Somers Ranch Dry Creek Valley 2016, 92 Points, $44- Huge blackberry preserve and dark raspberry flavors are shaded by cedary spice, chocolate, cinnamon and clove spice. Long finish with plump, juicy dark fruit notes that echo beyond the exotic spice notes.
  19. La Crema Pinot Noir Fog Veil Sonoma Coast 2016, 92 Points, $65- Juicy, plummy and full of ripe raspberry and black cherry fruit that evolves into strong baking spice notes and undertones of creamy mocha. Silky and expressive through the long finish.
  20. Hartford Court Pinot Noir Jennifer’s Vineyard Russian River Valley 2016, 92 Points, $70- Expressive nose of baked red fruit, cherry pie and tobacco. Silky and elegant, with wild raspberry and black cherry flavors that gain depth from heavy tobacco, pepper and mushroom undertones. Long, lip-smacking finish.

 

 

St. Emilion Wine Tasting Recap

Posted June 13, 2019 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Vino

First of all, when making the wise decision to spend a few days in the lovely wine village of St. Emilion, we can highly recommend the accommodations at the charming Au Logis des Remparts, a centrally located yet secluded hotel within walking distance to all of the restaurants and attractions the village has to offer, and within driving distance to the recommended wineries. Complete with a pool, a parking lot, oversized rooms (we got upgraded!) and set just behind the vineyards of Chateau Villemaurine, we couldn’t have been happier with our stay here.

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While visiting this famous Bordeaux wine region, we obviously took the time to visit several wineries, some of which I’ve placed on a viticultural pedestal for years now. Like most of Europe, wine tastings in St. Emilion are quite different than what most Americans are used to on their normal visits to California or Oregon wine country. Visits are heavily structured and are almost always reserved by appointment only. The format generally consists of a tour of the estate and a brief discussion of its history followed by an explanation of the wine-making process that is usually accompanied by a trip through the vats, barrel-room and caves. Only after this educational overview does the tasting commence; there is no “belly-up and taste” option here. The tastings themselves are quite subdued, consisting of two or three small pours, only one of which represents the actual chateau being visited, as these estates almost always have sister properties or offshoot projects within the family that they are pouring alongside a premier growth. And, the vintage that they’ll be pouring will likely be a much older one and not necessarily the one you’re seeking, since the mentality in Bordeaux is to make wine worthy of cellaring and to showcase that quality to potential customers. Those eager to taste the highly acclaimed 2015 and 2016s will have to buy them by the bottle at this juncture.

Knowing this, I made it my top priority to locate and purchase a bottle of each of the three bottles of 2015 St. Emilion that earned a spot in last year’s Wine Spectator Top 100. We had planned to visit two of these vineyards, and I had tasted those two wines previously, but consuming an entire bottle of wine while residing within the same region where the grapes are grown is a different experience entirely. For one, wine always tastes better with context, and what better understanding could be gained than by visiting and standing in the very vineyard where the wine was born and understanding its history and process? Furthermore, the ability to drink the wine slowly over a day or two provides a more complex tasting evaluation, as the wine is able to be appreciated in its different forms as it evolves and opens. I was able to find the third bottle of wine on my list, which is not available in the United States nor available for public visitation, at a local wine shop across the street from our hotel:

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Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere 2015, 96 Points- An absolutely monstrous nose of smoke, tobacco and tar above deep, dark currants. Weightless texture considering its overall power, this explodes into a beam of rich, polished blackberry and dark plum that coats the palate, then evolves into creamier layers of toasty vanilla and mocha that expose smoky tobacco, smoldering charcoal and graphite notes through the endless finish. One of the greats, and should improve with time.

Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot 2015, 95 Points- Perfumey red currant nose shows vanilla bean and tobacco leaf influences. Very soft and creamy on the palate yet exploding with elegant, pure flavors of black cherry, wild raspberry and damson plum which evolves into deeper, thicker notes of blackberry and black licorice. Expressive fruit, lingering with exotic white pepper spice and sandalwood through the long finish. Firm tannic grip that will soften with time. This really deepens as it opens, lingering with a tarry edge.

Chateau Monbousquet 2015, 95 Points- Intense and complex on the nose, with tons of smoked meat nuances above its perfumey black currant aromas. Thick, bold and powerful body shows rich blackberry and dark raspberry fruit above layered elements of tobacco spice, mocha and charcoal, with a streak of iron running throughout. Long finish, gaining depth from its black licorice notes as spice lingers.

Here’s a look at each of the Chateaus we visited, and my highest scoring wine at each from its tasting session.

CHATEAU PAPE CLEMENT

We had time for one stop in Pessac-Leognan on our drive from Bordeaux to St. Emilion, and this was an obvious choice given the recent successes of the 2015 and 2016 vintages. Planted in 1300, it is the oldest vineyard in the region, and still bears the name of the Pope who acquired it at that time. There is a lot of history here, but the current winemaking team continues to create wines in a powerful, modern style.

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Chateau Pape Clement 2014, 93 Points- Perfumey and dark, with blackberry and black cherry fruit above juicy plumcake notes. This is very velvety and fruit-driven, uncommon for this vineyard, picking up licorice and Italian herbs through the finish. Gains complexity from tea leaf and baking spice notes which linger long; a deviation from the norm as all elements of loam, iron and smoke have dissipated from previous notes.

CHATEAU LA DOMINIQUE

This spectacularly modernized facility sits on the southern edge of Pomerol and borders the famed estate of Chateau Cheval Blanc, sharing the same plateau and terroir. In my estimation, this has long been an extremely underrated producer, and after visiting it was apparent how their superior technological advancements in the winemaking process, specifically in terms of sorting for ripeness, have helped them catch up to the bigger names in the region.

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Chateau La Dominique 2014, 94 Points- Complex on the nose, with deep cassis, cracked pepper and understated smoked meat nuances. Velvety on the palate with its perfumey blackberry and dark plum fruit that leads into a blast of charcoal, campfire smoke, black pepper and chalky mineral. Very intense and muscular through the long finish.

CHATEAU PAVIE

As the lone Premier Grand Cru Classe A Chateau that offers tours to the public, securing a private tour and tasting here was our number one priority on this tasting trip. (These reservations are highly competitive, so secure your spot early). The property itself is immaculate to an almost obsessive degree. One wine is poured and the experience is an expensive one at €45 per person, but the tour is informative and personalized and cannot be missed when visiting the region.

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Chateau Pavie 2008, 95 Points- Powerful aromas of minty cedar, vanilla bean and juicy cherry, showing black licorice and wet mineral notes. Silky body of explosive cherry and dark raspberry fruit that gains a blast of black licorice and anise, backed by a complex combination of tobacco, briar and clove spice with cocoa and dark chocolate underneath. Long, intense finish that is all well-balanced and layered with spices lingering longest of all. Super soft on the palate; finish goes on for minutes.

CHATEAU CANON LA GAFFELIERE

As my favorite producer in all of Bordeaux that I’ve been able to taste on a consistent basis over the years, suffice to say that setting foot in the vineyards of Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere was akin to the holy grail. The tour here was a large group, but we really enjoyed being able to walk through and stand in the actual vineyard and hearing detailed scientific explanations of the grafting process from our guide. This was a hardcore highlight for me, and they even had bottles of the 2015 for sale to help me complete my quest.

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Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere 2011, 94 Points-  Lots of smoke, mocha and black tea leaf on the nose, with subtle red plum aromas. Silky and elegant, with refined plum and pure red currant giving way to layered elements of graphite, smoked meat and mocha bean. Weightless on the palate, as tobacco spice kicks in through the long finish. A solid effort in a tough vintage.

CHATEAU BEAU-SEJOUR BECOT

This was by far the most elaborate, meticulous and expansive cave network we encountered, and it was truly mesmerizing. The sheer volume of wine stored below the ground at this estate is astonishing and surreal. From the standpoint of a tour experience, this was second to none for us. The wine is fantastic as well, and the tasting provides a full overview of the four different winemaking projects the family is currently involved in.

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Chateau Beau-Séjour Becot 2013, 91 Points- Aromas of crushed red cherries, red licorice, vanilla bean and barnyard. Silky, elegant and jammy, with cherry plum and red currant preserve flavors gliding effortlessly over undertones of sandalwood, iron and wet limestone. Understated elegance in a tough vintage, medium length.

CHATEAU FRANC-MAYNE

If your preference is for a more old-school, musky and moldy cave experience, this will be a highlight. Rustic and authentic, this Chateau is well worth seeking out for some of the best wines in the region in the €30 and under range. And the tree that guards the entrance to the cave is simply glorious.

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Chateau Franc Mayne 2011, 90 Points- Jammy and plummy on the nose, with wet limestone nuances. Velvety and mineral-driven, with wet rock and slate notes preceding juicy, violety purple fruits- black plum, fig and boysenberry, finishing in unison as this lingers with a graphite bite.

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France Dining Recap

Posted June 12, 2019 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Eats

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Since becoming such an enthusiast of wine in my mid 20s, it’s been a dream of mine to visit Bordeaux, a region which I believe produces the greatest wines in the world. Instead of home-basing out of downtown Bordeaux, I decided to focus on one specific region- St. Emilion on the right bank of the Gironde River. The easiest way to access Bordeaux is in and out of Paris, as high-speed trains travel between the two cities several times daily, and rental cars are easily available at the Bordeaux train station. One of the best parts of visiting France is enjoying the food, so my Sidekick Courtney (who would soon become my fiance) and I focused on authentic bistro style meals in both regions. The results of our culinary adventures follow below, and played a big part in making this a trip we will never forget. We can recommend dining at each of these destinations.

ST. EMILION

L’Envers du Decor- Bright, bustling and authentic bistro features a chalkboard menu as dishes change daily, and in English to boot. I opted for a rich appetizer of rabbit liver followed by a perfectly cooked and substantial filet of beef. We were dining here among the locals as news of the Notre Dame fire spread throughout the restaurant.

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La Terrasse Rouge- The restaurant at La Dominique vineyard offers an affordable three course tasting menu (€39, additional €25 for a three glass wine pairing) combined with expansive vineyard views that look north towards Pomerol. Adjacent first growth Cheval Blanc is visible as well. Lunch consisted of goat cheese ravioli and a succulent roasted breast of duck. Terrace seating is available in warmer months, but the main dining room smells incredible, and the views are the same.

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Lard et Bouchon- The entire St. Emilion region is defined by its limestone plateau, so dining inside of one of its quarries is a magical and mandatory experience. The food here was arguably the most flavor-intense of our entire trip. Innovative dishes like poached eggs in Bordelaise sauce with foie gras and duck breast topped with a foie gras cutlet in Perigeux sauce really hit the bull’s-eye.

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Atelier de Candale-The intimate restaurant at Chateau Candale offers a bargain prix fixe menu at lunch time (€26) in a gorgeous countryside vineyard setting. A crab meat and lobster bisque was followed by a perfectly medium-rare cooked and richly prepared filet of beef. Outdoor seating is available in warmer months, and the dining room features floor to ceiling windows to soak in the views.

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Les Delices Du Roy- This small and casual bistro is famous for its duck burger, so that’s what you order here. This is not ground duck, as you can plainly see, but instead consists of sliced duck breast and foie gras cutlets doused in a rich green peppercorn sauce. Knife and fork are advisable when consuming this juicy dish. An appetizer of rabbit terrine was the perfect prelude.

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La Table de Plaisance- This Michelin two star restaurant provided a unique and romantic ambiance to both execute a proposal and celebrate an engagement. The terrace looks out upon the Monolithic church with the city square and medieval town below. At €72 per person for three courses and two glasses of wine, this is a bargain special occasion lunch for such a highly acclaimed establishment. Highlights included a white asparagus soup and monkfish soaked in beets and wrapped in bacon.

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Chai Pascal- Cozy and laid back wine bar was the perfect finale to our St. Emilion adventure, as the friendly servers delivered substantial portions of rustic bistro classics at affordable prices. My starter of pork terrine could have been a meal in itself, but I made room to finish the crispy, gamey confit leg of duck.

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PARIS

Le Procope- Always a lively destination for a late night dinner on Rue l’Ancienne Comedie, Paris’ oldest cafe is always a mandatory stop when visiting the city, specifically for its famous Coq Au Vin served in a cauldron.

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Les Deux Magots- No cafe crawl can be considered complete without a trip to this famous literary rendez-vous next to the Saint-Germain des Pres church. It served as the perfect first meal off the plane for weary travelers as the confit duck leg served with crispy potatoes really hit the spot.

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Polidor- Hemingway’s favorite establishment still draws a packed house in a noisy, bustling setting. They go to extreme measures to maintain the antique quality of the place; for example, the restroom consists of a single hole in the ground behind a door (not pictured). The service is friendly, if a bit frantic and inattentive, but the Beef Bourguignon with mashed potatoes lived up to its billing.

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Le Petit Pontoise- A charming little restaurant off the south bank of the Seine that provides a €23 two course lunch menu along with friendly service. We sat outside on a narrow sidewalk as I started with a pork mousse terrine followed by a sliced duck breast in peppercorn sauce served with roasted potatoes and carrots.

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Le Trumilou- Finding decent dining in the touristy area around the Notre Dame can be challenging, but you could do worse than this location set just north of the Seine. They offer a two course lunch for €20, which culminated in a simply prepared roast beef .

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Cafe Pont Neuf- We enjoyed an impromptu and leisurely Easter brunch here at this centrally located spot before heading to the airport, and I finally got my leg of lamb.

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Au Revoir!

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Belmont Day Late Pick 4 Analysis

Posted June 8, 2019 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

BELMONT DAY PICK 4 PICKS AND ANALYSIS

Tacitus

8- Woody Stephens, 7f, 4:04

1) Honest Mischief (6-1)- Chad Brown charge owns the best Brisnet speed at distance (108) and field high Beyer at the distance (97) for his maiden win last out. Makes his third career start and has room to improve from a ground saving post; can sit in the second flight of runners and get first run on what figures to be a hotly contested pace. Best bet of the day on a colt who may have unlimited upside.

2) Mind Control (5-2)- Deserving favorite draws outside the main speed here and enters having won two of his three 2019 starts, and was a Grade 1 winner at the distance as a two-year-old. Won the Grade 3 Bay Shore last out and earned a Beyer that ties for the best here at the distance (97); fits well in this spot and must be used on top in all wagers.

3) Hog Creek Hustle (20-1)- The lone Brisnet “S” designation in a field full of speed merits a look on that attribute alone as he cuts back to the distance where he has won before following a respectable 2nd at 8f in the Pat Day last out. Has shown ascending Brisnet speed figures in his last three races while running in graded company; usable on top at hefty odds.

4) Burracho (15-1)- Winner last out at this distance beat a salty field on Derby day and now steps up in class, but has shown three straight ascending Brisnet speed figures.

Try to beat:

Complexity (4-1)- Talented Chad Brown runner has a Grade 1 win at 8f over this track as a two-year-old but picks a tough spot for his first start of the year after more than seven months on the shelf as he draws inside the main speed and will likely be forced into a hotly contested pace early.

9- Met Mile, 8f, 4:46

1) Firenze Fire (4-1)- A perfect 3/3 at Belmont, one-turn specialist stretches out over his favorite track having won here at 6f in his last. Ran the best race of his career over this track and distance when winning the Dwyer, earning a field high 8f Beyer (107). Looks poised to lay back off the pace and set up his late move in a likely speed-heavy race.

2) McKinzie (5-2)- By far the horse to beat on paper as he cuts back following a triumphant score in the 8.5f Alysheba, where he posted speed figures that tower over these (109 Beyer, 112 Brisnet). There’s not much to knock here besides the fact that he’s never raced at Belmont and draws inside the speed; must-use on top in any case.

3) Prince Lucky (12-1)- Appears a bit overlooked here after a dreadful outing last out over a sloppy track, but he’d won three in a row before that race. Pletcher and Velazquez team up for a colt that owns the highest Beyer and Brisnet speed figures at this distance in the field this year (106, 106) for his February win in the Hal’s Hope; a run back to that race puts him squarely in the mix at long odds, and he’s one of just three here to have won at Belmont.

4) Thunder Snow (5-1)- Two-time Dubai World Cup winner has raced well at Belmont and has tactical speed, but has never won a race in the United States, and all of his best races have come at 10f. The feeling here is that the 8f distance may be a tad sharper than ideal for this likely race shape but he deserves respect on class alone.

Try to beat: The sprinters.

Mitole (3-1) and Promises Fulfilled (12-1)- Horses cutting back tend to fare better than those stretching out in this race, and these two happen to both be “E” designations who figure to be on the motor from the start. Mitole just won at 7f in his first attempt beyond 6f; we opposed him there and will do the same here on principle in a tougher spot. Promises Fulfilled is perhaps a bit more appealing as he’s won at 8.5f before, but that was over a year ago against less pace and far inferior foes.

10- Manhattan, 10f, 5:36

1) Bricks and Mortar (7-5)- Besides the fact that he’s won 8 of his last 10 races, with the two losses coming by a combined 1.5 lengths, what’s been most impressive has been the way he’s won. The glacial paces he closed into in winning his last two (1:15 for the 3/4) usually mean death for off the pace types, but he gobbled up ground both times and simply refused to lose. Catches some added ground here as he’s never gone 10f, but it seems that should only help based on his last two and also that his highest career figures came in his longest race at 9.5f (107 Beyer, 106 Brisnet).  A highly viable single every time he runs until someone beats him.

2) Raging Bull (10-1)- Sneaky Chad Brown closer has caught soft ground in 5 of his last 6, but the one race of those over firm came in the 9f Hollywood Derby where he won convincingly and earned competitive figures (97 Beyer, 104 Brisnet). The move back to firmer ground combined with the added distance could hit him right between the eyes at a price as he owns the highest Brisnet Late Pace figure of 112. Runs third off the lay and adds blinkers; Brown wins with 25% of his runners after making that equipment change.

3) Robert Bruce (6-1)- Our Arlington Million champion has been somewhat of a forgotten horse since that win, having missed the board entirely in his last two. He’s been running on soft turf and distances both longer than shorter than this one, however, and a return to firm turf here at the same distance as the Million which seems to be his sweet spot could inspire an improved effort second off the lay for Chad Brown, who wins with 25% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle.

4) Channel Maker (9-2)- Inconsistent type cuts back to 10f after winning his last over this turf course, earning competitive speed figures (106 Beyer, 103 Brisnet) at 11f. His best race puts him right in the mix but the feeling here is that he may be more effective going longer than this; was easily beaten by the top selection three back and only three wins in the last ten starts came at 11f or longer.

Try to beat:

Olympico (6-1)- Chad Brown holds a heavy hand here but we upgrade the runners moving from soft to firm ground who have been losing over the off going rather than the opposite; his last nine races have all come over good to soft turf so it’s fair to wonder whether he moves down over firmer ground.

Quarbaan (8-1)- Fits on figures but has lost ground in the stretch of both of his last two after leading and getting ideal trips; not sure he wants to go this far.

11- Belmont Stakes, 12f, 6:37

1) Tacitus (9-5)- Favorite checks off a lot of boxes in this spot, as sire Tapit has won three of the last five editions of this race, and colts to skip the Preakness after contesting the Derby have won four of the last five where a Triple Crown wasn’t on the line. Additionally, he was the only colt in the Derby to gain ground on the winner in the stretch after racing within five lengths of the pace at the second call, so the added distance should be a positive. Still owns the best Brisnet speed figure of the group (103) for his 9f Wood Memorial score; the one to beat, albeit at short odds.

2) Tax (15-1)- Didn’t do a lot of running when 14th in the Derby, but he had excuses from an inside post that didn’t allow him to be comfortably positioned near the pace as preferred, and the sloppy track didn’t seem to do any favors either. With a pedigree that suggests he can run all day, the combination of tactical speed and grinding style should suit quite well in this race third off the lay. With all of the steam on the new shooters, it’s worth mentioning that he defeated Sir Winston by 5 lengths earlier this year in the 9f Withers. The Timeform figure he earned in defeat in the Wood Memorial (120) is second only to the Preakness winner, and if we like Tacitus to win, we have to like him at least a little bit coming narrowly beaten out of the same race.

3) Intrepid Heart (10-1)- Primarily a pedigree and pace play, as sire Tapit has been responsible for three of the last five winners of this race, and damsire Touch Gold won it to deny a triple crown attempt. A stumble at the start cost him over this track last out when 3rd in the Peter Pan, but the addition of blinkers and a less taxing race shape should increase tactical type’s chances. Lightly raced and facing Grade 1 company for the first time (and graded company for just the second time), but has shown increasing Brisnet speed figures in his three career starts is eligible to improve again third off the lay for Todd Pletcher.

4) Sir Winston (12-1)- Earned the highest Beyer in the field when 2nd over this track in the Peter Pan (100). Deep closer is rapidly improving but will need to stay in touch with the leaders in a race that is not traditionally kind to that style of running, as well as turn tables of 9 combined lengths against the top two selections. The transitive property doesn’t mean much in horse racing, but it’s still worth mentioning. He’s never won a dirt race and chooses a tough spot to earn his first, but the added distance could be the key for a colt who is rapidly improving and is bred to run true routes, by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again and out of an Afleet Alex mare, one of just two damsires in this field to have won this race.

Try to beat: The Preakness colts.

War of Will (2-1)- Admittedly a warrior, but draws an outside post here and will have to track the speed while losing ground all the way around following two very tough races over the last five weeks. 12f may be further than he wants to go under those circumstances. The feeling is that the top four selections are better colts than any that ran in the Preakness, and all four have run higher Brisnet tops. He rode a golden rail in the Preakness and the setup doesn’t appear to set up as kindly here against a tougher group.

Bourbon War (12-1)- Our Preakness selection removes blinkers after that experiment backfired, but we are through endorsing him for anything more than a spot underneath the superfecta at this point. Grinders without tactical speed are not generally successful in this race, although he does round out the Tapit contingent.

Everfast (15-1)- Continues to destroy exacta bets by coming in second at long odds thanks to perfect setups, but that trend ends here in a race that doesn’t favor his drop back early style. (He was 22 lengths back at the start of the Preakness. 22!)

Pick 4 Bet:

Honest Mischief, Mind Control, Hog Creek Hustle/

Firenze Fire, McKinzie, Prince Lucky/

Bricks and Mortar/

Tacitus, Tax, Intrepid Heart, Sir Winston

Kentucky Derby Undercard Picks

Posted May 4, 2019 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

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6- Humana Distaff, 7f, 12:13

1) Spiced Perfection (7-2)- Winner of three of last four at this distance, and the other was a 2nd place finish by a nose, so she’s really found her niche at 7f and is well-aimed in this spot. Received a brilliant ride from Castellano who retains the mount here when winning the Grade 1 Madison, sitting just off the pace behind today’s foe Amy’s Challenge and pouncing late, earning career high speed figures (100 Brisnet, 96 Beyer). Should be even sharper second off the lay for Peter Miller as her figs have been ascending over her last three.

2) Marley’s Freedom (7-5)- BRIS Prime Power selection cuts back to 7f in her third start off the lay for Baffert, who wins with 27% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle. Owns the best speed at the distance for her score last summer on Travers day (103 Brisnet, 100 Beyer) and also has a 7f win over dirt labeled “good” at Santa Anita (97 Brisnet, 99 Beyer). Fired a bullet at Churchill on 4/25, the fastest of 25 workers; all systems go, a must-use on top.

3) Amy’s Challenge (4-1)- Front-running type took them as far as she could last out while seeking her first win beyond 6f, but couldn’t quite hold off the top selection. With a bullet work under her belt from 4/27, the fastest of 79 that day, she should be keen to make the lead again, but the fear is that there’s enough pace signed on to keep her honest, and she may meet a similar fate beyond her ideal distance of 6f.

4) Mia Mischief (12-1)- Held her own against this group last year, as she defeated Talk Veuve To Me to win over this track and distance on Derby weekend (98 Brisnet, 97 Beyer) and ran within a neck of Amy’s Challenge at 6f. She’s run twice over muddy tracks this year, finishing 1st and 2nd, and is 5-2-2-0 lifetime at Churchill. Should be involved early third off the lay for Steve Asmussen, who wins with 22% of his starters in that form stage.

7- Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, 8f, 12:55

1) Proctor’s Ledge (5-1)- Defending winner of this race (99 Brisnet, 96 Beyer) returns to her ideal distance a bit under the radar after having experimented and failed going longer. She still owns the best speed figures at 8f in the field from the narrow runner-up finish on Belmont Day that followed that score (100 Brisnet, 99 Beyer), although she’s had three declining figures since then. Wasn’t disgraced when beaten a neck for the win by today’s foe Valedictorian in her last when cutting back to this distance from 10f after a nearly six month layoff, and will be sharper for this; daughter of Ghostzapper hasn’t been out of the exacta in her last three 8f starts.

2) Precieuse (3-1)- Chad Brown on turf can’t be ignored, especially with the girls, and he has this one in form. BRIS Prime Power selection exits a half length win over today’s foe Valedictorian at this distance after a 7 month layoff (98 Brisnet, 97 Beyer). Has another shorter layoff to contend with here, but Brown wins with 27% of his runners off a 46-90 day rest and this one in particular appears to run well fresh, and has handled surfaces ranging from soft to firm.

3) Valedictorian (6-1)- There’s little separating the top three here based on recent head to head results, and she merits inclusion based on race shape considerations. In a race with no “E” designations, she’s the only one to have wired a race, which has happened in two of her last three, and also shows a wire to wire win over yielding turf from last year at 8.5f. Looms potential lone speed, dangerous at this distance which hits her right between the eyes, although the wide post is a concern.

4) Environs (8-1)- The “other Chad” looks to be potentially ignored here, and that might be a mistake. Stakes winner in France won her stateside bow at this distance in allowance company and earned a 94 Brisnet figure; fits here with a move forward in her second off the lay for a trainer that wins with 24% of his runners in that spot. Leaving Chad Brown out of races like these in multis is generally not wise.

8- Churchill Downs Stakes, 7f, 1:45

1) Whitmore (4-1)- When we see a race that sets up with this much pace, the first thing we ask ourselves is who the best closer is at the distance. It’s true that Whitmore has been racing closer to the pace of late but his best races emerge from more of a stalking trip, and consistent six year-old continues to run his race every time out; he hasn’t missed the exacta in his last seven races, and he’s run triple digit Beyers in 8 of his last 10. He ran a great race when 2nd over this track at 6f in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and owns the top Beyer in the field at the distance (104) from last year’s Forego. That’s appealing in a race full of types that may prefer a panel shorter. It’s true that he was no match for likely favorite Mitole in his last, but that one has never raced beyond 6f and will meet pace pressure the likes of which he hasn’t seen before, and he’s one that we will try to keep him off the board entirely.

2) Do Share (10-1)- His last race may fall into the category of “show me that again before I believe it”, but at this price it’s worth finding out if he can. Deep closer finds a spot here that fits his style perfectly following a career best where he saw his high Brisnet speed figure at 6f explode from 105 to 116, which by far tops the field. Enters off a long layoff and has lost head to head to some of these, and while he does have a win against weaker at 7f, his closing kick hasn’t been duplicated beyond 6f; a head scratcher for sure, but must be used if there is any chance his last was real, especially as he figures to be flying from off the pace.

3) Promises Fulfilled (4-1)- Our BC Sprint selection from last year makes his first stateside start following a 4th place finish in the world class Dubai Golden Shaheen. He’s the only pace colt we have any faith in to hang around for a piece, as he’s far more battle tested than Mitole and has indeed won at 7f. But the feeling is that he might simply be better at 6f and that he may need this race to regain his top form after the Dubai trip. An interesting speed figure paradox we stumbled upon today: both he and Whitmore covered 7f in and identical 1:21.2 on Travers Day last August in separate races. Beyer awarded the top selection a figure five points higher, while Brisnet, perhaps more logically, awarded equal figures (102).

4) Majestic Dunhill (30-1)- Bombs away underneath, playing for a complete pace meltdown. George Weaver trainee has run four straight times at this distance, and has posted Brisnet Late Pace figures above 100 in three of them; holds the best average closing number and makes sense to blow up the trifecta at a price if the pace sets up as we imagine.

9- American Turf, 8.5f, 2:37

1) Social Paranoia (10-1)- In a race that sets up as fairly paceless, Pletcher entry figures to sit a ground saving trip near the lead as the only colt in the field to have run a triple digit Brisnet E1 Pace figure. He takes a class leap having just broken his maiden in his first start of the year after five unsuccessful attempts last year, but if the figure earned in his last at this distance is to be believed (95 Beyer, 97 Brisnet) they are all running for 2nd, as no other foe has broken the 90 Beyer threshold. Morning line price seems unlikely to hold, but half of that seems sufficient.

2) Avie’s Flatter (6-1)- Winner of last three dating back to last year, all at distances at or beyond this one, including the field’s only win over yielding turf last October, where he posted a competitive 92 Brisnet (81 Beyer) speed figure holding off today’s foe Henley’s Joy as that one charged late.

3) Henley’s Joy (8-1)- Encountered traffic in both of his last two turf starts but rallied strongly in both to just miss, son of Kitten’s Joy could work out a better trip at a price here and fits on form going back to his 8f win in last year’s Pulpit Stakes (94 Brisnet). Ran poorly in only start on off-going.

4) A Thread of Blue (3-1)- Perfectly logical favorite draws the rail and should show some speed early. Winner of last three owns the field’s second best speed figures at the distance (95 Brisnet, 88 Beyer) but hasn’t raced in over two months; may need a sharpener, and lost only race over yielding turf. Include in multis but doesn’t jump off the page at this price in a wide open race.

5) Seismic Wave (8-1)- Closing type stretches out for Bill Mott third off the lay following a 9f Stakes win. We don’t really like Bill Mott third off the lay, but will include son of Tapit reluctantly in multis. Shows ascending Brisnet figures in all four career races but moves up in class here.
10- Pat Day Mile, 8f, 3:28

1) Last Judgment (5-1)- This race is a shitshow, but hopefully not on par with last year’s result, which saw slop transform the race into a catastrophic win by a colt named Funny Duck that destroyed the Pick 4 dreams of the entire planet. We digress. At 8f on the dirt, eager and ambitiously placed speed colts will ensure a wicked pace up front, so again we look for a closer with upside, and land on this lightly raced Pletcher trainee, who cuts back from 8.5f after winning in optional claiming company. Drawn wide in 14, he may be slightly overlooked, but the feeling is that he wouldn’t be entered here if he couldn’t win (read: wasn’t GOING to win). His Brisnet Late Pace Last Race figure (99) is best in the field after having run at least a 75 E1, and that is the stat that we are banking on here.

2) Instagrand (6-5)- By far the most likely winner, but far from a lock or an advisable single in our eyes. The two “Ps”- pace and price- render this race worthy of a spread, but son of Into Mischief must be used off his field high figures at this distance (100 Brisnet, 93 Beyer). Provides some security in this spot as his form towers over these, but far from a sure thing, especially at these odds. He’ll have company on the lead, including Mr. Money Bags, who doesn’t appear to be bred for this distance.

3) Durkin’s Call (15-1)- Rail draw can’t hurt, and neither can experience… Bill Mott charge has raced his last five at this distance and has gone 3-1-1, winning his last two (89 Brisnet, 87 Beyer). A class leap looms large here but he has finished races well, and he is the only colt in the field to have won twice at this distance in 2019. Versatile runner runs off a layoff here but can be competitive fresh.

4) Frolic More (20-1)- How about a closer that is also a horse for the course? Son of More Than Ready is 3-1-1 at Churchill and gets a cutback following a 90 Brisnet figure, which is competitive here. Still has just a maiden win to his credit, however, and that came at 7f, but he did earn a 94 Brisnet figure when 2ndover an off track at 8f three back, and was flattered when the colt that beat him just 1.5 lengths came back to win the Lexington.

*** We could make a case for nearly anyone here. Dream Maker, specifically, continues to puzzle, as he works bullets and then refuses to run when the gates open; he’s burned us one too many times at this point to play again despite our affinity for Monarchos, but would be no surprise to win this outright. Also, Hog Creek Hustle offers value at 30-1 in the event of a full blown pace meltdown, and Captain Von Trappe is the other colt to win at 8f this year. Dumph and Mr. Money are also appealing on the cutback, and Mr. Money Bags could be any kind despite the fact this will be a massive stretchout for him. ALL key is in play here with a likely even money favorite, which isn’t great news.***

11- Turf Classic, 9f, 4:25

1) Bricks and Mortar (5-2)- Son of Giant’s Causeway should be the star of the entire day, and would be an absolute steal for the win at these odds, as he is the most likely winner of the sequence by far in our eyes, and holds the largest BRIS Prime Power advantage (+12.9). The race doesn’t appear to be loaded with speed to set up his late move, but look at how impressively Irad Ortiz sat close to a slow pace in his last and was able to overtake the leader. The fractions of :51 and 1:15.1 he closed into are almost impossible to imagine regardless of the lack of speed, and the defection of Brisnet E designation Prime Attraction from the Alysheba back into this race ensures at least a target to run at. Simply put, his figures tower above these (106 Brisnet, 107 Beyer), and he’s won over both yielding and firm turf. A very logical single in a sequence where one is badly needed, and it merits mention that this “S” designation still holds the highest average E1.

2) Synchrony (8-1)- He was our pick in this race last year, when he ran out of ground chasing a very slow pace and finished 3rdover yielding turf. He is the only other runner to have duplicated triple digit Beyers at or beyond the distance outside of the top selection, but considering the similarities in their running style, it is very hard to imagine this six-year-old turning the tables given the fact that they both chased the same slow pace in their last.

3) Breaking The Rules (15-1)- Sneaky type won his last two races of 2018 before a three month layoff, and his return at the shortened 8f distance did not result in a win, but he was gaining ground late to finish 2nd. Son of War Front out of an AP Indy mare merits a look in this spot as a mid-pack runner in a race loaded with what appear to be deep closers; if the pace is a crawl, he can have a say here from a more tactical position.

4) Ticonderoga (8-1)- We’d be remiss to not include a Chad, so this is the one. To view this son of Tapit as a win candidate is likely a bit of a stretch, but deep closer will be flying late, and shows ascending Brisnet speed figures over his last four races dating back to last May.

***We are generally not a fan of the 8f Makers at Keeneland form, as all of the runners that exit it appeared to be losing ground at a shorter distance. Markitoff and Prime Attraction will not get away with easy fractions given that they are here together, so both will be tossed. Next Shares deserves respect but the feeling is that he is better suited to 9f races, and his recent form has been in decline. ***

Kentucky Derby 2019 Picks And Analysis

Posted May 2, 2019 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

Below, our Derby picks and analysis for every colt in the field are organized by projected running style. Included are the sire and damsire for each, as well as the top Beyer and Brisnet speed figure earned beyond 8f as a three-year-old, and the Tomlinson Distance Rating, which attempts to quantify 10f distance pedigree. The defection of morning line favorite Omaha Beach, who was going to be our selection, leaves the race in unique shape from a historical perspective for two reasons:

  • There are now no colts in the race designated as an “E” by Brisnet. This designation attempts to predict a colt’s running style, and in this case indicates early speed. This is somewhat of a rarity, having occurred only 4 times in the last 18 editions of the race. Historically, this would seem to indicate a slower than usual pace, but the fact that all of the main speed is all drawn next to each other on the inside adds a bit of a wrinkle to that assessment.
  • There is now only one colt in the field to have earned a triple digit Beyer figure around two turns. This is also extremely rare, having occurred just once since the inception of these figures in 1992; that race was won by 21-1 longshot Animal Kingdom. The average top Beyer earned by the winner before the race over that time has been 103, and no colt here equals that figure. That has happened only twice in the last 27 years (2010, 2017), and implies an extreme lack of separation among the top contenders.

Improbable-Work-CD-042219-001

 PACE:

#7 MAXIMUM SECURITY (New Year’s Day/ Anasheed), 8-1

101 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 267 Tomlinson

Pros: Undefeated in four career starts, son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion New Year’s Day wired the Florida Derby after being allowed to set slow fractions on the lead (:48.4/ 1:12.4), and then powered home in a stunning :35.96 for the final 3/8. That’s the fastest in the field, the first sub :36 9f prep fraction since the Blue Grass was still run on synthetic in 2011 and the fastest on dirt in over two decades. That effort earned him a 123 Brisnet Late Pace Figure, which is the fastest figure ever for a Derby prep. Somewhat amazingly, he is the only colt in the field to post a triple digit Beyer around two turns and he shows ascending Brisnet speed figures over his four starts. His pedigree is a bit of an unknown quantity but he does get bonus points for having Mr. Prospector in his immediate sire line, and his female family seems fairly laden with stamina influences, as damsire Anasheed boasts a 7.7 AWD. Won a 6f race over a muddy track, one of just two colts to win on off-going.

Cons: Having only four career starts, he has some history to buck, as only three colts in the last 100 years have won the race without having run at least five times. However, all three came in the last decade, so perhaps trends are changing. More specifically, he has extremely limited route experience, having run just once beyond 7f. For the sake of comparison, of the aforementioned three that won this race with four or fewer career starts, Animal Kingdom had run beyond that distance all four times, Big Brown had done so three times, and Justify had done so twice. For a front-running type, it’s fair to question how brilliant his speed truly is, considering he has never run a Brisnet E1 pace figure higher than 90. Will he be able to duplicate his powerful finish after facing real pressure on the lead? His sire doesn’t have much of a sample size in terms of measuring distance pedigree, but Tomlinson and AWD (6.7) numbers are on the low side.

Conclusion: In a race that figures to be somewhat devoid of early speed relative to previous Derbys, he stands to benefit from a tactical edge as the likely pacesetter drawn centrally and outside most of the other speed. While many will dismiss his powerful closing move in the Florida Derby based on how slowly that race was run early, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle- many preps are run slowly, and we still have never seen numbers like that, so it has to at least count for something. Still, the four fastest final 3/8 times and Brisnet Late Pace figures in the field did all come out of that race, so handicappers would be wise to approach that data with some uncertainty. However, he may offer inflated odds based on that as well as the fact that he ran in a 16k claiming race when he broke his maiden (more than a few horsemen are likely wishing they had forked over that dough). The feeling here is that this one could be any kind and offers upside potential that makes him a must use on top, at least defensively. A trendy angle that is beginning to emerge involves the idea that he either wins the race or misses the board entirely, with little room in between; we will not fall into this trap, as it stands to reason that he could surely lead most of the way and get nailed on the wire. This general mentality also seems to indicate value for him in the 2nd and 3rd slots in exotics relative to his win odds.

#1 WAR OF WILL (War Front/ Sadler’s Wells), 15-1

94 Beyer, 96 Brisnet, 368 Tomlinson

Pros: Held in high regard after breaking his maiden over a sloppy Churchill track in his first try on dirt, Mark Casse trainee won his first two starts of 2019 before an injury in the Louisiana Derby caused him to fade to 9th in his last. From a pedigree standpoint, checks in with a powerful Tomlinson, and owns the highest damsire AWD in the field (10.7). Fired a bullet 4f work over the track in :47.3, the best of 73 that day, and had worked equally well at Keeneland before that; Casse has already said that he will be sent straight to the lead from the rail post.

Cons: We never like to see a colt encounter obstacles in the run up to this race. The six week layoff since his last race is enough to overcome (only two colts in the last 90 years have won off a similar lay) without having to worry about an injury; now, despite the strong pattern of works, he may be at a fitness disadvantage after not getting what he needed out of that race. His speed figures never really did jump off the page even when he was healthy and winning and remain a cut below here. Closing fractions of :39.89 and :13.94 at 9f would make him a virtual toss if he didn’t have excuses, but he only posted an 83 Brisnet Late Pace figure in his prior race when healthy. A colt that finished worse than 4th in its final prep hasn’t won this race since 1957, excuse or not. Draws the dreaded #1 post, a particularly tough spot this year with all of the speed nearby to his outside, which will force jockey Tyler Gaffalione’s hand early.

Conclusion: One of the early favorites in the future pools this winter, he appears to have a lot of catching up to do to make an impact here. Supporters who choose to stick with him will be well compensated by the price, but his talent never suggested that he is capable of overcoming a setback like this to pull the upset from the post of death. Passing.

#6 VEKOMA (Candy Ride/ Speightstown), 15-1

94 Beyer, 101 Brisnet, 313 Tomlinson

Pros: Scored a front-running win in the 9f Blue Grass, earning a competitive 101 Brisnet speed figure and 119 Timeform rating. Sire Candy Ride was a winner at 10f and a descendent of Mr. Prospector, a sire line that has won more than half of the last 27 editions of this race, and that side of the pedigree seems to account for the relatively strong Tomlinson Distance Rating. Holds BRIS Prime Power selection designation and if the track ends up sloppy, his 469 Wet Track Tomlinson tops the field.

Cons: Despite triple digit Brisnet E1 and E2 pace figures in his Blue Grass win, he didn’t close strongly, finishing his final 3/8 in only :39.33 and his final 1/8 in :13.45. Only one colt in the last 28 years has won this race after finishing the final 1/8 of his 9f dirt prep  more slowly than :13.07. The 84 Brisnet Late Pace figure he earned there is a huge cause for concern, as just one colt in the last 20 years has won this race with a figure below 95 in his 9f prep. This doesn’t appear to be an anomaly either, as he has never run a Brisnet Late Pace figure above 100. With only four career starts, he has seasoning questions to contend with. Out of a Speightstown mare (6.5 AWD, second lowest damsire number in the field), it’s worth wondering if he isn’t better suited to 8-9f races. The Beyer figure he earned in the Blue Grass (94) appears to disagree with the Brisnet (101) and Timeform (119) figures, and the strength of that race leaves something to be desired. He isn’t the prettiest mover, to put it mildly, and may have benefited from a speed-favoring track that day.

Conclusion: It’s hard to get past the combination of the speed-oriented bottom of the pedigree and the historically slow closing fractions. Trainer George Weaver doesn’t excel third off the lay either, winning with just 15% of his runners in that spot, and we like others better in that stage of their form cycle. Should be part of the early pace from an inside post and fade off the board.

#2 TAX (Arch/ Giant’s Causeway), 20-1

96 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 338 Tomlinson

Pros: Boasts arguably the most well-rounded pedigree in the field as the only runner showing both sire and damsire AWD above 7.7, and combines this with a solid Tomlinson. He’s run three times at 9f, a rarity in this day in age for a Derby entrant, and earned three 100+ Brisnet Speed Figures each time at that distance, which no other runner can claim. Finished 2nd last out in the Wood Memorial off a two month layoff after briefly leading in the stretch, earning a solid 102 Brisnet speed figure; should be more fully cranked in this spot for trainer Danny Gargan, who wins with 22% of his starters second off the lay. Going back to last year, the 103 Brisnet Speed figure he ran in the 9f Remsen in defeat is equal to Game Winner’s number when victorious in the BC Juvenile, and is tied for the top figure here around two turns. The 121 Timeform speed figure (adjusted for trip) he earned when 2nd in the Wood Memorial is also the highest in the field.

Cons: He enjoyed a favorable trip in the Wood and still couldn’t get the job done late, earning just a 93 Brisnet Late Pace figure. He finished slightly better than that when winning the Withers (96), but still lost ground in the stretch as he has in all three 9f tries, and this tendency to hang late in races gives pause to the idea that he will relish the added ground here, despite the strong pedigree. Additionally, the Beyer folks don’t view his races quite as kindly, as he tops out at a 96 for his Withers win. Connections can’t be super thrilled by his post position, as he’s pinned down on the rail inside of most of the speed and will have to be involved early to avoid playing bumper cars.

Conclusion: Never off the board in five career starts, consistent type has the pedigree and the bottom to get a piece of this, and should benefit from being tactically placed potentially saving ground here in a race expected to have moderate fractions up front. Worth consideration for the underneath spots in exotics as a potential bomber; it’s not often one finds the colt tied for the highest Brisnet and Timeform speed figures sent off at these odds. Value play.

#4 GRAY MAGICIAN (Graydar/ Johannesburg), 50-1

N/A Beyer, N/A Brisnet, 227 Tomlinson

Pros: Secured entry via a runner-up finish overseas in the UAE Derby after running wide most of the way in his first attempt beyond 8f and best career race to date. Forwardly placed type has tactical speed and some favorable pedigree on the top, descending from Mr. Prospector.

Cons: No colt has ever won this race after using the UAE Derby as a prep, and he didn’t even win a weaker than usual edition of that race. He took three tries to break his maiden and didn’t run competitive speed figures while contesting three straight races at 8f after doing so, topping out at 93 per Brisnet and 80 per Beyer (has no available speed figures beyond a mile). Finds a tough spot to seek his first graded stakes win and holds the lowest Tomlinson Distance Rating in the field.

Conclusion: Barring a transcendent improvement, he appears to be the poster child for limiting the points allocated to overseas races; many more talented runners are sitting on the sidelines as a result of his inclusion. He could have a say in the shape of the race, however, as connections could feel his only chance to be competitive is to be sent early from his inside post.

JUST OFF THE PACE:

#17 ROADSTER (Quality Road/ Silver Ghost), 5-1

98 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 294 Tomlinson

Pros: The most lightly raced of an absolutely loaded Baffert contingent enters off a strong win in the Santa Anita Derby, where turned the tables on two-year old-champion stablemate Game Winner from off the pace. Runs third off the lay for a trainer that wins with 27% of his starters in that stage of their form cycle. Hot sire Quality Road descends from Mr. Prospector, and this is a colt with upside that may be ready to take another step forward, entering off ascending Beyers in each career start.

Cons: Despite winning his last from off the pace in a race that appeared to set up perfectly, finishing his final 3/8 in an impressive 38.13 considering the slow track at Santa Anita, the Brisnet Late Pace figure earned for that effort was only a 98. In fact, he has never run a Brisnet Late Pace figure above 100.​ While eligible to improve, he hasn’t crossed the triple digit speed figure threshold per Beyer or Brisnet, and the Timeform figure assigned to his win (113) is both well below the best here and slower than his beaten stablemate, who covered more ground while chasing a hot pace. With only four career starts, he will have seasoning questions to answer, and it bears mention that jockey Mike Smith had jumped off to ride Omaha Beach, although that is likely a greater reflection of that colt’s quality than anything else.

Conclusion: At a likely short price, we’d like to have seen something from him that stood out as above average relative to past Derby winners. As it stands, the lack of triple digit speed figures and late pace figures leave us with a somewhat middling feeling. Broadly speaking, he’s benefited from favorable trips in small fields in both of his wins this year and now draws a challenging wide post. While cautious of his upside, he’s the one Baffert we will try to beat on top and in the exacta, and use only underneath.

#5 IMPROBABLE (City Zip/ AP Indy), 5-1

 99 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 306 Tomlinson

Pros: Runner-up in both his graded stakes starts this year, he now runs third off the lay for Baffert, who as mentioned wins with 27% of his starters in that stage of their form cycle. Interestingly, he is the only runner in the field to post three Brisnet Late Pace figures above 100 around two turns, including a 104 in his last at 9f where he covered the final 3/8 in an impressive :37.45 and final 1/8 in an even faster :12.38, which is the second fastest final 1/8 in the field. The heavy stamina breeding on the bottom of his pedigree out of an A.P. Indy mare (8.2 damsire AWD, second highest in the field) should help to balance out any questions on top. He won a stakes race over this track as a two-year-old, one of just three runners in the field with a win at Churchill, and has never been worse than second in five career starts. The 120 Timeform rating he earned in his last is tied for the second fastest here, as is his Beyer speed figure, and both are the fastest over a sloppy track. Eligible to move forward, as his Thoro-Graph pattern has shown a new top with each race, indicating he may be sitting on a career effort.

Cons: Son of the sprinter City Zip, whose AWD of 6.5 would be tied for the lowest ever for a Derby winner. Other than that he doesn’t have any historical red flags, but it does give pause that he was so difficult to load at the start of the Arkansas Derby, a race in which he made a move and was ridden hard, but was never getting past the winner, who would have been deservedly favored here. Goes blinkers off now after wearing them in that race; the equipment changes seem to imply some trainer tinkering that shows uncertainty, and no colt has ever won this race after such a change. He gets a new rider in Irad Ortiz, whose brother jumps off to ride Tacitus, and he’ll need to break more sharply this time from an inside post.

Conclusion: He is starting to seem like the forgotten Baffert, which is great news considering we prefer him of that bunch. In the Rebel, he had excuse as he likely needed the race after a long layoff, and was arguably best when racing wide the whole way before being caught by today’s foe Long Range Toddy. The Arkansas Derby was quite simply the strongest prep in our eyes and this notion is supported by Beyer, Timeform, Thoro-Graph and Racing Post figures, and he’s appealing in general for his lack of statistical drawbacks. While many will be turned off by his pedigree, we’ve seen nothing in his races to suggest he can’t get the distance, and are encouraged by the fact that he ran the final eighth in his last faster than the two that preceded it. Recall that Collected, a Grade 1 winner at 10f, also shares the same sire, and that his female family (out of a Johannesburg mare) is not nearly as accomplished in terms of stamina influence. Additionally, City Zip also sired Dayatthespa, who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at 10f. For those concerned about the equipment changes, perhaps there’s a method to the madness, as over the last five years in graded stakes, Baffert is 5/15 winners and 12/15 in the money when removing blinkers. A colt racing third off the lay has won 8 of the last 12 editions of this race, and at likely higher odds than both his stablemates in that same stage, this one looms potentially the best overall value in the field. The pick.

#19 SPINOFF (Hard Spun/ Gone West), 30-1

 95 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 372 Tomlinson

Pros: Has posted ascending Beyer and Brisnet Speed Figures in each of his four career starts, and earned a competitive 102 Brisnet figure for his runner up finish in the Louisiana Derby after a wide trip. Pletcher trainee is eligible to improve third off the lay, as his trainer wins with 24% of his runners in that spot. Owns the highest Tomlinson Distance Figure in the field.

Cons: Enters the race off a six week layoff since the Louisiana Derby, which is a historical obstacle, as only two horses in 90 years have won this race after such a long rest. Also, has only four career starts. 2nd place finish in the Louisiana Derby was solid enough, but that was a race he probably should have won after leading in the stretch, giving cause for concern that he may be better suited to 9f races. Speed type faces the strong possibility of another wide trip from post #19.

Conclusion: With the Pletcher connection, lightly raced campaign and long layoff, he looks awfully similar to Noble Indy last year, who finished 17th. Velazquez spurns both Pletcher colts in this spot to ride a pace dependent 15-1 shot. Has upside, but we’ll pass and look towards the summer races for this one.

#18 LONG RANGE TODDY (Take Charge Indy/ AP Indy), 30-1

95 Beyer, 97 Brisnet, 293 Tomlinson

Pros: Upset winner of the Rebel over today’s foe Improbable posted a 104 Brisnet Late Pace figure for that effort.

Cons: Disappointed when 6th over the slop in the Arkansas Derby, backing up an ugly 8 lengths in the stretch and coming home in a dismal 40.00 for the final 3/8 and an even worse 14.13 for the final 1/8. Remember that a colt that finished worse than 4th in its final prep hasn’t won this race since 1957. From a speed figure standpoint, even his Rebel score came back on the weak side.

Conclusion: Maybe he didn’t like the mud at Oaklawn, but this pedigree screams 8-9f and the closing fractions seem to agree with that notion. He will be left off our tickets.

#21 BODEXPRESS (Bodemeister/ City Zip), 30-1

96 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 289 Tomlinson

Pros: Tracked the leader in the Florida Derby to finish 2nd, coming home impressively in :36.46 for the final 3/8 and earning a 118 Brisnet Late Pace figure, the second highest in the field. His sire nearly won this race after contesting a torrid pace, and descends from Mr. Prospector.

Cons: Let’s address the giant pink elephant in the room- he’s a maiden. That’s technically his only statistical drawback, but it’s an enormous one, as no maiden has won this race since 1933. Moreover, only one colt of the last 92 colts to hit the superfecta since 1996 had even contested a maiden race two starts before trying their luck in Derby. He sat behind a slow pace in the Florida Derby when 2nd and earned the points to draw in here after the incredibly unfortunate scratch of Omaha Beach, but was never a real threat to the winner. The waters get deeper here out of the field’s widest post, and he may find the distance a bit beyond his scope, as he doesn’t have much route experience. It bears mention that his worst career race came over a sloppy track.

Conclusion: Depending on how one feels about the somewhat enigmatic nature of the Florida Derby in combination with the chance that this pace is slower than expected, he is endorsable on some levels. However, it would take quite the leap of faith to use him on any tickets and it is simply hard to justify including him in this spot, as he certainly benefited from the slow pace that day and will likely find this test a different animal altogether. The class leap simply looms to a monolithic degree. Would need to take a massive leap forward in terms of figures, as he earned just a 112 Timeform rating in his last.

STALKERS:

#16 GAME WINNER (Candy Ride/ AP Indy), 9-2

97 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 323 Tomlinson

Pros: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and two-year-old champion runs third off the lay for Baffert, a trainer that wins with 27% of his starters in that stage of their form cycle, off of what have to be considered two very solid preps despite losing them. ​Undefeated in 2018, including the BC win at Churchill, he’s lost both of his 2019 races after racing wide in each attempt, being caught late by his stablemate in his last when he was arguably best after receiving a bit too eager of a ride from Rosario (Timeform and Thoro-Graph figures agree), and failing to run down Omaha Beach, losing by a whisker in his debut. From a pedigree perspective, there is no better-bred runner in the field for this distance; sire Candy Ride holds the track record at this distance at Santa Anita, and damsire A.P. Indy needs no introduction.

Cons: Final 3/8 come home time of :39.08 and resulting 89 Brisnet Late Pace figure jump off the page, and not in a good way, as only two colts have ever won the Derby after posting a final 3/8 above :39 or a Late Pace figure below 95 in their 9f prep. It would be easy to point to the 102 Late Pace figure he posted in his shorter previous race at 8.5f, which came at Oaklawn over a faster surface than the tiring Santa Anita track, except for the fact that he only received an 88 for his BC win here at that same distance. He hasn’t shown much improvement figure wise from his two-year-old campaign and actually shows declining Brisnet speed figures since his BC score. (Beyers disagree and are slightly ascending over his last three).

Conclusion: It’s hard to get past the idea that what you see is what you get with him and that he has already reached his ceiling. It’s difficult to isolate what his particular strength is- it isn’t his speed or his turn of foot, but consistent type always seems to run his race, having never finished worse than 2nd in six career starts. Perhaps duplicating his two-year-old form will simply be enough to get the job done here. After all, no runner in 2019 has been able to top the Brisnet figure he earned as a two-year-old (103), and only two have matched it. The slow come home time seems somewhat forgivable considering the condition of the track, and the fact is that he did run his final 1/8 in :12.94, faster than the two before it, despite contesting the pace. We liked Omaha Beach to win this race before the scratch, so we have to like Game Winner at least a little bit considering all the ground he lost against Omaha Beach in such a narrow defeat. Likely favorite seems to be sitting on a big one and looms a contender for the win, and a must-use in the second and third spots at the very least. It’s worth noting that the favorite has won this race in every edition since the initiation of the points system in 2013, and he figures to offer a better relative price, as the last six favorites have averaged 3.45-1 on the tote.

#13 CODE OF HONOR (Noble Mission/ Dixie Union), 15-1

95 Beyer, 95 Brisnet, 267 Tomlinson

Pros: Pletcher’s preferred jockey John Velazquez maintains this mount for Claude McGaughey, which seems meaningful at least relative to the two Pletcher starters. Fountain of Youth winner had a perfect setup to close into in that race but won with authority and owns the field high Equibase speed figure (111) for that effort. He never had much of a chance when 3rd in the Florida Derby based on the speed-favoring fractions that ensued in that race.

Cons: Benefited from a complete pace meltdown while winning the Fountain of Youth, and the strong closing fractions and Brisnet Late Pace figure (115) for the Florida Derby he owns arose in large part from the opposite scenario (he earned only a 91 Late Pace figure when winning the Fountain of Youth). Outside of the Equibase number, his speed figures lag beneath the fastest here. The pedigree looks more like a miler-9f profile to our eyes and the low Tomlinson Distance Rating and AWD numbers (7.2/6.9) appear to confirm that notion.

Conclusion: With a moderate pace expected, he seems like a middle of the pack type that may find this extra furlong a bit further than he wants to go to maximize the impact of his closing kick.

#3 BY MY STANDARDS (Goldencents/ Muqtarib), 20-1

97 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 252 Tomlinson

Pros: Won the Louisiana Derby impressively from off the pace, coming home in :37.79 for the final 3/8 and :12.49 for the final 1/8, earning a 102 Brisnet Late Pace figure and a 102 Brisnet Speed Figure. Has been working sharply at Churchill.

Cons: Like the other Louisiana Derby runners, he enters off a six week layoff up to the race. A bit of a late bloomer, he didn’t break his maiden until this year in his fourth career race, and given the questionable quality of the Louisiana Derby as a prep, takes a bit of a class leap here. The AWD numbers and pedigree are by far the worst in the field for 10f; Damsire AWD of 5.9 would be the lowest ever for a Derby winner by a considerable margin.

Conclusion: He has developed a bit of a wise guy feel after working so well over the track and coming on so suddenly, but as pedigree plays a big part in our handicapping process, we can’t advocate playing him here as a likely underlay with that female family and weak Tomlinson in combination with exiting a prep that hasn’t historically been productive.

#10 CUTTING HUMOR (First Samurai/ Pulpit), 30-1

95 Beyer, 99 Brisnet, 244 Tomlinson

Pros: Came flying home to win the Sunland Derby over a wickedly fast track, finishing his final 3/8 in :37.01 and his final 1/8 in :12.18, the latter of which is the fastest in the field.

Cons: Jockey John Velazquez jumps off him here to ride Code of Honor, which has to speak volumes. The Sunland Park closing times can tend to be misleading as that surface usually plays like a race course, and the middling Brisnet Late Pace figure of 101 he received for those fractions relative to the raw time appears to bear that out. The Beyer and Brisnet speed figures also came back low considering the record breaking raw time of 1:46.4. That race was run six weeks ago, so there are seasoning concerns and historical hurdles to account for as well. He took three tries to break his maiden, and head to head losses to today’s third tier foes Plus Que Parfait and Long Range Toddy don’t inspire much confidence. The weak Tomlinson Distance Rating indicates that he may be better suited to shorter distances.

Conclusion: We are inclined to toss that final 1/8 fraction altogether based on the track condition. After doing so, there isn’t a whole lot that stands out about this one and there are several reasons to knock him. Seems to have the least upside of a weaker-than-usual Pletcher contingent.

#9 PLUS QUE PARFAIT (Point of Entry/ Awesome Again), 30-1

58 Beyer, 72 Brisnet, 329 Tomlinson

Pros: Owns a head to head win over today’s foe Cutting Humor when breaking his maiden last year in his third career start. By virtue of winning the UAE Derby, he’s the only runner in the field to win beyond 9f, and his pedigree should suit him well to get this trip. Ran a hard closing 2nd over this track in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Cup as a two-year-old, and that came over the slop.

Cons: A UAE Derby winner has never won this race, and this was an even weaker edition of that race than usual—perhaps the weakest ever. To put that idea into perspective, the Timeform and Racing Post figures earned for that race are the lowest of any of the final preps (111/110; Beyer and Brisnet did not calculate figures for Dubai.) Took three starts to break his maiden and has been beaten handily by today’s foes War of Will and Country House.

Conclusion: If colts like Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn couldn’t make an impact in the superfecta traveling over from Dubai, it’s hard to endorse one coming out of a far weaker edition of the UAE Derby that has head to head losses to colts we aren’t high on for the win. Someday, one these shippers may indeed crack the exotics, but until one does, they won’t be on our tickets.

CLOSERS:

#8 TACITUS (Tapit/ First Defence), 8-1

97 Beyer, 103 Brisnet, 289 Tomlinson

Pros: Notably, he is the only colt in the field to post a 100+ Brisnet Late Pace Figure after running a 90+ E1 Pace Figure. Owns the highest 2019 Brisnet Speed Figure in the field for his Wood Memorial score, and the Timeform rating he earned there (120) also stacks up well here, tied for the second highest in the field. He drew well and figures to work out a good trip as Jose Ortiz retains the mount.

Cons: Improving rapidly for Bill Mott but relatively inexperienced with only four career starts. ​As impressive as his closing move in the Wood looked visually, it doesn’t bear out in the numbers, as he finished the final 3/8 in just :38.37, and the final 1/8 in an even slower :13.42, which would be the second slowest closing prep dirt fraction for a winner in nearly 30 years. In terms of speed, Beyer did not look on that performance as favorably as Brisnet and Timeform did. It’s also possible that last race was the time to be on him, as Mott wins with only 13% of his runners third off the lay, and has never won the Derby.

Conclusion: Strangely, the Brisnet Late Pace figure for the Wood came back somewhat strong at 101, seeming to contradict the raw fractions, likely an indication of how tiring the Aqueduct surface was playing that day. We are drawn to the idea that he is able to run fast early and late, and cognizant of his upside, admitting that years ago he would have been the type of colt we’d have fallen head over heels for. But the dynamic has changed in the points era, and he has the feeling of a colt with a lot of steam on him in a race that doesn’t figure to be kind to off-the-pace types, and could wind up an underlay. Regardless, he should be expected to be in the mix late for a piece. A Tapit progeny has never won the Derby and his female family doesn’t scream distance, but there will be room for him underneath on exotic tickets.

#20 COUNTRY HOUSE (Lookin At Lucky/ War Chant), 30-1

91 Beyer, 95 Brisnet, 360 Tomlinson

Pros: This colt is bred to run all day. He descends from the Mr. Prospector sire line and possesses a combination of robust AWD numbers (7.5/7.6) and a top three Tomlinson Distance Rating. While no match for the top two when 3rd last out in the Arkansas Derby, he came home well in that race, finishing the final 3/8 in :37.60 and the final 1/8 in :12.68, earning a 103 Brisnet Late Pace figure.

Cons: Consistently breaks poorly and loses a lot of ground early, which shouldn’t be a substantial drawback in a field this large and out of a wide post. Still, his speed figures lag well below the best here, and he hasn’t yet won a graded race. He took three tries to break his maiden and has only one career win.

Conclusion: Grinding sort has a bit more going for him than the average 30-1 shot and appeals as the “other Mott”, especially given his pedigree. He’d need a complete pace meltdown to actually win this but it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him hang around to gobble up the bottom spot of the trifecta or superfecta and light up the board. It’s interesting to note the massive diversion between his published speed figures depending on who you trust- the weakness illustrated by Beyer and Brisnet is somewhat offset by a 115 from Timeform for his Arkansas Derby behind the top selection, which is equal to the number assigned to the favorite in his last. Not impossible underneath.

#14 WIN WIN WIN (Hat Trick/ Smarty Jones), 15-1

89 Beyer, 97 Brisnet, 291 Tomlinson

Pros: Gets bonus points for closing into a slow pace for 2nd after a rough trip in the Blue Grass to earn a trip to the starting gate, finishing his final 1/8 in an impressive :12.55 and gaining 4.5 lengths in the stretch on the winner Vekoma after steadying hard.

Cons: Seems to always find trouble in smaller fields than this one, and speed figures have declined as distances have increased- he remains winless beyond 7f and hasn’t topped the 90 Beyer threshold beyond that distance in two attempts. Despite what appeared to be a powerful finish in the Blue Grass, he earned just a 90 Brisnet Late Pace figure for the effort, and his Beyer top around two turns is the lowest in the field outside of the Dubai and Japan shippers.

Conclusion: Another that fits the mold as a closing sprinter, and won’t be in an advantageous spot loading next to the auxiliary gate based on the combination of the expected pace and his tendency to encounter trouble in traffic. Hard pass for us.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Improbable
  2. Maximum Security
  3. Game Winner
  4. Tax
  5. Tacitus
  6. Roadster
  7. Country House
  8. Code of Honor
  9. Spinoff
  10. By My Standards
  11. War of Will
  12. Vekoma
  13. Bodexpress
  14. Plus Que Parfait
  15. Long Range Toddy
  16. Win Win Win
  17. Cutting Humor
  18. Gray Magician
  19. Master Fencer

HOW TO BET $100 ON THE KENTUCKY DERBY:

$0.50 Trifecta ($30):

Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner/

Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner, Tax, Tacitus/

Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner, Tax, Tacitus, Roadster, Country House

Exactas ($30):

$4 Box: Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner

$1 Key: Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner/ Tax, Tacitus

$20 WIN, $20 PLACE: Improbable