Belmont Day Late Pick 4 Picks and Analysis

Posted June 9, 2017 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

8- Just A Game, 8f turf, 3:58

We’ll take a pass on trying to predict the race shape here and instead try to get through with just two that cover both scenarios in this short seven horse field. Closer ROCA ROJO hasn’t needed a strong pace to win from behind. Although she was closer to the crawling pace when winning her last, she won from well off the pace three back when they were only going :48.2 up front. She’s 3/3 at Belmont and boasts the highest speed figures in the field for 2017 (103 Beyer, 102 Brisnet). CELESTINE only knows one gear and figures to go straight to the lead. She turned in a career best effort in winning this race last year and is also a perfect 3/3 over the course. If SASSY LITTLE LILA doesn’t go with her to the inside, she could have it all her way up front. DICKINSON merits respect and figures to take money coming off an upset win over the highly regarded Lady Eli. We wonder if that wasn’t the better day to play her though, as Lady Eli was making her first start of the year and probably needed the race. She cuts back here to a distance that she may find a bit too sharp. Chad Brown sends out ANTONOE for her second start off the ship from France. She steps up in class off an allowance win last out but is Grade 3 placed across the pond and could offer value in this spot.

Picks:

1) Roca Roja 9-5

2) Celestine 3-1

3) Dickinson 5-2

4) Antonoe 8-1

9- Met Mile, 8f, 4:41

There figures to be an ample enough pace in this seemingly wide open edition of the Met Mile to side with an off-the-pace type, and all signs point in one direction. AWESOME SLEW stretches out a furlong in his third off the lay for Mark Casse. He made up nearly four lengths in the stretch when just missing by a head at 7f in his last and the added distance figures to fit him like a glove in his spot. He has a solid bullet work on 6/2 to fall back on and has won from wide posts before; all systems go for the son of Awesome Again. SHARP AZTECA looms the horse to beat on paper off his 2016 form as well as his win in the Gulfstream Park Handicap at this distance in February, where he posted a field high 113 Brisnet figure and a 106 Beyer. He bested the top choice in that race by 4.5 lengths but enters here off a long layoff following a trip to Dubai, and with other pace signed on, this may be the time to look for the tables to turn. If we like the top pick, then it is tough to overlook the others that closed impressively  in that race, TOM’S READY and SOLID WAGER, who both made up ground late to finish within a length of the winner as well. TOM’S READY appears particularly appealing, having won the 7f Woody Stephens over this course from off the pace a year ago. SOLID WAGER may have benefited a bit from the wet track that day and hasn’t yet won above the Grade 3 level, but has upside. DENMAN’S CALL upset the highly regarded Masochistic two back in the 7f Triple Bend, posting an eye-popping 104 Beyer. He faded to finish 7th in his last behind many of these but have may deserved a pass on the wet track; a return to his prior form puts himself squarely in the mix here. We’ll take a stand against the morning line favorite MOR SPIRIT, who ships in from the west coast following a career best 107 Beyer in a wire job at this distance over Grade 3 company. That was around two turns though, and he’s unlikely to have it as easy this time around with colts like SHARP AZTECA and the suddenly intriguing MOHAYMEN, who has posted two straight bullet works, gunning it early. RALLY CRY enters with strong figures on paper as well but has yet to win a stakes race, and we’d be more inclined to use ECONOMIC MODEL, who beat him head to head here a year ago, for the deeper exotics.

Picks:

1) Awesome Slew 6-1

2) Sharp Azteca 7-2

3) Tom’s Ready 15-1

4) Denman’s Call 15-1

10- Manhattan, 10f turf, 5:37

Don’t look now, but there’s only one horse in the field that has posted a triple digit Beyer beyond 9f. SADLER’S JOY comes in third off the lay for Tom Albetrani in this spot and cuts back another furlong after winning the Grade 2 Pan American at 12f two back and finishing 3rd in the Grade 1 Man O’War at 11f last out. He should see plenty of pace to close into thanks to the presence of APPLICATOR combined with a couple of favorites that are prone to being on the lead. TIME TEST was installed as 5-1 on the morning line but figures to be half of that at best and the likely favorite by post time off his Euro form, which includes a Group 1 win at the distance. His Racing Post Rating of 124 simply towers over this field (next highest is 115, several tied at 114) so he definitely figures on class and is a must use in multi-race wagers. He was beaten as the heavy favorite in his first start off the ship last out, but he gets added distance and a drier course this time, and is in receipt of weight to boot as he runs second off the lay. Sticking with the Euros, POTEMKIN looms an intriguing longshot as he runs with first time Lasix here. He is a Group 1 winner in Italy at the distance as well as a Group 2 placed in France, and also receives weight with Joel Rosario on board. His Racing Post Rating of 114 puts him right there in the mix for a piece. BEACH PATROL, WORLD APPROVAL and DIVISIDERO are the top three choices on the morning line, having established themselves at the front of the American Turf division. The feeling here though is that all three are far better suited to the 9f distance. Of the three, we prefer BEACH PATROL, who does have a win at the distance, and who has been ultra-consistent, finishing no worse than 2nd in his last five starts. WORLD APPROVAL led here most of the way a year ago before fading to 3rd and then was off the board in the Arlington Million in his only other start at the distance, and DIVISIDERO has been 5th and 7th in his two 10f tries.

Picks:

1) Sadler’s Joy 6-1

2) Time Test 5-1

3) Potemkin 8-1

4) Beach Patrol 4-1

11- Belmont Stakes, 12f, 6:37

Given that the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness are passing on the final jewel of the Triple Crown, and that likely favorite Classic Empire was declared out earlier in the week, this year’s edition of the Belmont comes up a bit weak and wide open. That being the case, it is unfortunate that we’ve landed on the morning line favorite as the most likely winner, but we call them like we see them. IRISH WAR CRY seems to be on an alternating pattern of great races and disappointing ones, and is due for a bounce back after fading badly in the Kentucky Derby from a wide post. Fact is, he is still the only runner in the field to post a triple digit Beyer speed figure beyond 8.5f, and that combined with his tactical running style makes him the most likely winner in a race that often favors front runners. There isn’t any other real speed in here, as MEANTIME is a cheap front-running type who faded in the 8f Peter Pan and is bred to sprint. Being a son of Curlin, he’s likely to improve into his three year old season and this appears the right spot in the cycle. Remember, he easily dispatched eventual Preakness winner Cloud Computing in the Wood Memorial, so the quality is there when he shows up, it has just been a bit of an inconsistent proposition. Todd Pletcher has been successful in this race over the years and brings back two Derby runners here. TAPWRIT finished an above-expectations 6th in the Kentucky Derby and has been out working his one-eyed stablemate PATCH over the track. Sons of Tapit, once believed to be distance challenged, have won two of the last three editions of this race, but we will side with PATCH as the Pletcher colt the most upside from a pedigree standpoint, as his sire Union Rags and damsire AP Indy both won this race. PATCH, who had an extremely rough go of it when 14th in the Derby, is still very lightly raced making just his 5th career start, and is eligible to take a bit of a form leap here coming in fresh with John Velazquez aboard. He’ll certainly have no trouble with the distance, and the price should be right to see if he can find the speed to compete with these. Derby runner up LOOKIN AT LEE is the only runner to contest all three Triple Crown events, and while his deep closing style makes intuitive sense with the added distance here, that running style doesn’t always play well into races that don’t set up with much pace up front. He is sure to keep coming yet again but figures to miss the top spot. He is still our favorite of the closers though, as colts like SENIOR INVESTMENT and MULTIPLIER aren’t bred to run this far. J BOYS ECHO is another that defeated Cloud Computing but doesn’t seem to want to run at or beyond Classic distances, and Dubai shipper EPICHARIS has had soundness issues all week and is a play against at his 4-1 morning line. We could offer some lukewarm endorsement for GORMLEY underneath. He turned in an even enough effort when 9th in the Derby, and while he may not want to run quite this far and his speed figures have been in decline as distances have been increasing, may be able to grind his way onto the bottom of the superfecta. All told, we will give a decisive edge to the colts that competed on the first Saturday in May.

Picks:

1) Irish War Cry 7-2

2) Patch 12-1

3) Tapwrit 6-1

4) Lookin At Lee 5-1

Kentucky Derby 2017 Picks And Analysis

Posted May 3, 2017 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

PACE

#17 IRISH WAR CRY (Curlin/ Polish Numbers) 6-1

 101 Beyer, 339 Tomlinson 

Pros: The only runner in the field to duplicate triple digit Brisnet Speed Figures around two turns, tactical type also will enter this boasting the highest last out Beyer for his Wood Memorial win (101), the only triple digit final prep Beyer. He rated off the pace nicely to win that race with authority over a tiring track. Son of Curlin is only three generations removed from the Mr. Prospector sire line and should have no trouble with the distance. His Tomlinson rating is the second highest in the field and is the BRIS Prime Power selection.

Cons: In between his impressive Holy Bull and Wood Memorial scores, he faded badly without excuse when setting the pace in the Fountain of Youth, so there appear to be some consistency questions here. Although the track was tiring at Aqueduct and his stretch move looked visually impressive, the fractions leave something to be desired, as he came home slowly (:39.03, 13.14), posting a meager Bris Late Pace figure of 80.

Conclusion: After bouncing back so strongly in the Wood Memorial, we are inclined to draw a line through his puzzling Fountain of Youth dud, an effort that was too bad to be considered believable when compared to his form elsewhere. He has won all of his other four career races, and has to be considered a contender for the win here.

His tactical speed should give him an edge in a race where closers must worry about traffic trouble in such a large field, while the pace on paper isn’t shaping up to be as hot as it typically is. We are partial to Curlin colts, as they tend to improve steadily into their three year old seasons, so a step forward here would be no surprise. Usable on top.

#5 ALWAYS DREAMING (Bodemeister/ In Excess) 5-1

97 Beyer, 291 Tomlinson

Pros: Promising Pletcher trainee decimated the Florida Derby field in his fifth career start, winning in a blazing 1:47.2, the fastest 9f prep time of this group and the fastest in that race since 1978. The track was surely playing fast that day, as evidenced by the relatively light Beyer (97) attributed to it, but what was most impressive was how he relaxed early and exploded through the stretch, coming home in a commanding :36.52 and :12.53 after racing near the lead. He is the only colt with two wins at 9f in this field, having won an allowance before his last, and descends from the Mr. Prospector sire line from a Derby runner-up sire, one of just two in this field.  He turned in an eye-popping work at Churchill, breezing 5f in :59.2 and galloping out like a monster.

Cons: He has burst onto the scene rather quickly, having just broken his maiden in January in his third attempt, so it is fair to wonder if a big bounce is coming off his last effort over a track that may not play quite as kindly to his style. He has finished races well on paper, but with added pressure up front, the bottom of his pedigree gives the indication that he could have some trouble going this far. Damsire In Excess shows an average winning distance (AWD) of 6.1 among his progeny, which is a field-low number, although he does hold the 10f record at Belmont Park, but apparently has not been able transfer this stamina to his grandchildren. The lowest Damsire AWD ever for a Derby winner is 6.3, and that was the other-worldly American Pharoah. Additionally, his Dosage profile of 5.00 is tied for the worst in the field. And, we’d be remiss not to point out that for all his success, Pletcher has just one Derby win over his 16 years of starters.

Conclusion: While we aren’t in love with this post draw, this colt has been red hot since being transferred to the Pletcher barn and figures vie for favoritism. He looks to be sitting on unlimited potential as he attempts to avenge his sire’s narrow defeat in this race by utilizing similar tactics. He’s a logical win contender that should be used defensively in multi-race wagers and exactas, although this space will take a stand against him on the top line in narrower spots like the trifecta, and we don’t consider him to provide value as an outright bet. The combination of his likelihood to bounce, his relative lack of seasoning and potentially distance-challenged pedigree give some reason for concern at these odds.

#18 GORMLEY (Malibu Moon/ Bernstein) 15-1

90 Beyer, 265 Tomlinson

Pros: Showed a new dimension in his last when sitting a stalking trip behind a quick pace and overtaking the pacesetters in the stretch to win the Santa Anita Derby. That was a step forward from his previous race, when he led and faded badly at a shorter distance in the San Felipe. He has a solid two year old foundation underneath him, showing a Grade I win at 8.5f.

Cons: Let’s face it- the Santa Anita Derby was a pretty weak race, and the winning Beyer of 90 he received for it seems to confirm that suspicion. While he did pass several runners in the stretch, he didn’t do so especially quickly, coming home in :39.49 and :13.51, which seems to indicate he was passing tired horses.

Conclusion: If he can settle off the pace again like last time, a case could be made to use him underneath, but we will side with the colts who have shown better speed and more consistent ability to finish races.

#6 STATE OF HONOR (To Honor And Serve/ Elusive Quality) 30-1

90 Beyer, 240 Tomlinson

Pros: His grinding 2nd place finish in the Florida Derby was his best effort to date, as he showed some ability to relax off the pace and improve position in the stretch. Consistent type has hit the board in 7 of 10 starts and is plenty experienced.

Cons: Finding the winners circle hasn’t been easy, having just a single maiden win to his credit, and even that came in his third try, so this looks like an ambitious spot from a class standpoint. Even more concerning is whether he truly wants to run this far. He has either lost ground or position in the stretch in each of his six starts around two turns.

Conclusion: If he’s losing ground at the end of 8.5 and 9f races and figures to see a more contested pace here from an inside post at a longer distance, it is hard to make a compelling argument to support him.

#11 BATTLE OF MIDWAY (Smart Strike/ Concerto) 30-1

88 Beyer, 310 Tomlinson

Pros: Was involved in a rather torrid pace but held on gamely to finish 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby. He is a grandson of Mr. Prospector, which makes him closest in proximity in this field to the sire line that has won 13 of the last 25 editions of this race.

Cons: Unraced at two, he will have the dreaded Apollo curse to contend with, as no colt has won this race without a start in his juvenile season since 1882. As a result, he comes into this lightly raced having made only four career starts. His speed figures are well below the cut here and the Santa Anita Derby come home times are as well. The BRIS Late Pace figure he earned in that race (71) is the lowest in the field for a final prep on dirt.

Conclusion: Someday the Apollo curse will be broken, but this one would need to take a considerable step forward to even be a factor. A finish in the top half of the field seems unlikely.

JUST OFF THE PACE

#14 CLASSIC EMPIRE (Pioneer Of The Nile/ Cat Thief) 4-1 Favorite

94 Beyer, 284 Tomlinson

Pros: The reigning two year old champion got back to his winning ways in his last as he powered through the stretch to win the Arkansas Derby, coming home impressively in :37.42 and :12.20. He descends from Mr. Prospector, and shares a Derby runner-up sire with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He is also one of just three colts in the field with a win over the track, having won both his starts at Churchill Downs last fall.

Cons: After a middling effort in his first start of the year in the Holy Bull, an injury setback forced him to miss training and wait for the Arkansas Derby, leading to foundation questions coming into this despite his strong juvenile campaign. He won there, but the 94 Beyer he received leaves something to be desired. From a pedigree standpoint, there is reason for distance concern on the dam side; damsire Cat Thief shows an AWD of just 6.7, the third lowest in the field, and the dosage profile of 5.00 is tied for the worst in the field. He has had a tendency to be a bit of a head case before races, so it is fair to wonder how the frantic environment on Derby day will affect him.

Conclusion: At his best, morning line favorite may be the most talented of the bunch, but you never like to see a horse come into this race rushed. He’ll essentially try to wheel back from his only true prep race after just three weeks of rest. Did he get enough out of the Arkansas Derby- a race where he was all out to beat a colt purchased for $8500 last fall, mind you- to take the necessary step forward here? A return to his two year old form likely wins this race, and he’s worth using defensively just in case, but there are plenty of reasons to try to beat him on top.

#9 IRAP (Tiznow/ Storm Cat) 20-1

93 Beyer, 307 Tomlinson 

Pros: Surprise winner of the Blue Grass broke his maiden in that race in his eighth try as the longest shot on the board, taking them all the way around. He has gained muscle and strength since that win and has been a clocker favorite over the track this week. He is well-bred for this distance, and being by Tiznow, figures to improve steadily into the year.

Cons: He got away with a pretty easy lead in his last race (:48.1, 1:12.1) and still lost a bit of ground in the stretch. The 93 Beyer he earned in that race is also on the low side. He took eight tries to break his maiden, so will face a class leap against these.

Conclusion: The Blue Grass result is likely more an indictment of the quality of that field than anything else. He is unlikely to get such an easy trip against a larger, tougher field. But if one wants to make the case that the race was actually better than it looked (and Thoro-graph figures do), we could see including him on the bottom of the superfecta.

#3 FAST AND ACCURATE (Hansen/ Green Dancer) 50-1

82 Beyer, 294 Tomlinson

Pros: He won the Spiral over the Turfway synthetic track to earn a spot here. Connections have emphasized that he will be sent to the lead from his inside post.

Cons: His lone start on dirt was easily the worst of his career. The Beyer he earned in the Spiral (82) is the lowest in the field, as is the Bris Late Pace figure (65). From a pedigree standpoint, he appears distance challenged on top and turf-oriented on bottom.

Conclusion: Derby fever at its very finest, especially considering his connections had to put up a $200,000 fee to supplement him.

#2 THUNDER SNOW (Helmet/ Dubai Destination) 20-1

94 Beyer, 250 Tomlinson

Pros: UAE Derby winner will try to become the first Dubai shipper to win this race, and just like they always do, he will have the advantage of having won at a longer distance than the rest of the field by virtue of the 9.5f there. His damsire AWD of 9.1 is the highest in the field, and he shows the strongest Dosage profile as well (0.89), so the distance would not appear to be a problem. The connections show confidence by shipping here, as he had been considered a strong contender for the Euro classics. He gets first time Lasix and could make a jump figure wise as a result.

Cons: The Beyer equivalent for his UAE Derby win came back a bit slow (94), and he is already up against history trying to ship from Dubai without having to overcome an edge in speed and talent. While his pedigree won’t limit his ability to get the distance, there is an argument to be made that it is more geared towards turf, and his leg action seems to confirm this. He will be forced early from a disadvantageous post inside the speed.

Conclusion: Until one of these shippers actually comes over and makes a solid impact in this race, you would need a pretty compelling reason to include one in your wagers, and we do not see that here.

#16 TAPWRIT (Tapit/ Successful Appeal) 20-1

96 Beyer, 312 Tomlinson

Pros: Posted a triple digit Brisnet figure (101) winning the Tampa Bay Derby, pulling away from the field in impressive fashion and delivering a triple digit Brisnet Late Pace figure (101) as well. Before that, he had finished well to be 2nd behind McCraken in the Sam Davis. He has flourished over the track since arriving.

Cons: Finished a puzzling 5th in his last outing in the Blue Grass, where he didn’t run a lick, coming home in :39.38 and :13.84, and only mustering a Bris Late Pace figure of 81. Sire Tapit has had recent success with his classic distance runners but most are still suited best to 9f races, and the bottom of the pedigree here is fairly sprint-oriented. Tapit is 0 for 7 as a Derby sire and none of his progeny have finished higher than 4th.

Conclusion: The results of the Blue Grass give one incentive to toss that entire field from consideration, and he was arguably worst of them all and least deserving of a mulligan. He lost the most ground in the stretch and didn’t come home at all, and it is difficult to see him completely reversing that form here, having beaten just one opponent in the field head to head in State of Honor, who is not one we are particularly high on.

STALKERS

#13 J BOYS ECHO (Mineshaft/ Menifee) 20-1

102 Beyer, 302 Tomlinson

Pros: His win in the 8.5f Gotham two back earned the highest speed figures of any prep (102 Beyer, 104 Brisnet) and was also his second consecutive triple digit Bris Late Pace figure, one of only three colts in the field to do so.

Cons: He wasn’t able to duplicate his Gotham effort in his final prep as he finished 4th in the Blue Grass. While he can be given the benefit of the doubt to some extent having endured a pretty rough trip, he simply didn’t do any running in the stretch once he finally had a clear path (:38.53, 13.29 final fractions).

Conclusion: The Blue Grass was a strange race and the feeling here is that he deserves a bit of a mulligan for that effort. It wouldn’t be the first time a colt has run poorly there and come back with a big effort in the Derby. While we’d have liked to have seen him come home a bit quicker that day, our fears are somewhat eased by the fact that he’d closed so impressively in his two races prior. Perhaps the rough trip simply broke his will to run, and while he won’t be made any promises to have it any easier in this large field, he appears usable underneath as a potential underlay and forgotten horse. A return to his Gotham race puts him squarely in the mix, on paper at least.

#7 GIRVIN (Tale of Ekati/ Malibu Moon) 15-1

93 Beyer, 216 Tomlinson

Pros: Lightly raced colt dominated the Fairgrounds preps, taking both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby from off the pace. Grinding type came home well enough in the latter, finishing his final 1/8 in :12.97.

Cons: He has history to buck in terms of seasoning, having raced only four times to date and only three times in dirt. While he has proven his ability to win races, he has done so with slow times and speed figures (93 Beyer), leading many to question the quality of the fields he has beaten. The top of his pedigree seems fairly speed laden, and this observation is confirmed by his field low Tomlinson Distance figure (216). He’s had some setbacks leading up to this, as a quarter crack delayed his workout schedule.

Conclusion: There simply isn’t anything that makes him stick out here among these, and it is hard to make a compelling argument to use him, that being the case, especially with so little experience. He’s a fine colt that always accounts well for himself, but the five week layoff in combination with the foot problems make him hard to support; seems a pretty safe bet to finish somewhere towards the middle of the field at best.

#19 PRACTICAL JOKE (Into Mischief/ Distorted Humor) 20-1

92 Beyer, 320 Tomlinson

Pros: Shows solid foundation and class lines, having won the Grade I Champagne around one turn as a two year old before a distant 3rd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup. He picked up some ground in the stretch last out when runner-up in a strange edition of the Blue Grass, covering the final 1/8 in a respectable :12.89. He will go third off the lay for Chad Brown here.

Cons: It’s possible he is more of a dirt miler and may prefer one turn races, as indicated by both his pedigree and form lines to date. Although he did make up some ground late in his last, he did so running close to a slow pace set by a maiden. More concerning was his prior race, where he backed up five lengths in the stretch after the mile mark. He also lost ground at a similar stage in the Breeders’ Cup. He is winless this year and would need to take a big step forward figure-wise.

Conclusion: While he admittedly has upside, our preference in this race is not for closers who seem to want to close at shorter distances, and that appears to be the case here.

#20 PATCH (Union Rags/ AP Indy) 30-1

89 Beyer, 236 Tomlinson

Pros: Made an impression in his last, when 2nd in the Louisiana Derby in just his third career start. He appears well bred on the bottom, and is the only colt in the field to have two Belmont winners in his immediate family.

Cons: With only three career starts, he is the least seasoned colt in the field, so it is fair to wonder if this is too much too soon. He also did not race as a two year old, so he has a lot of history to buck. He stands to improve off his last effort, but it needs to be said that he has never broken the 90 Beyer threshold.

Conclusion: One-eyed colt would need to improve drastically to be a factor here, so we will focus on more seasoned runners, while keeping an eye on him for races later in the year. Fun fact- by nature of his missing left eye and wide post draw, he won’t see a single horse coming out of the gate.

#4 UNTRAPPED (Trappe Shot/ Giant’s Causeway) 30-1

89 Beyer, 285 Tomlinson

Pros: A bit of a strange pedigree finds him with mostly speed influences on top but strong stamina influences underneath. Damsire AWD of 8.2 is tied for tops in the field for dirt, and he is one of three runners to have won over the Churchill track.

Cons: Enters the race with only a maiden victory to his credit, and has seen his speed figures decline over his last three starts as distances have increased. There doesn’t appear to be much evidence that he wants to run this far, and his off the board finish in the Arkansas Derby in his final prep for this doesn’t exactly set him up well.

Conclusion: A definite outsider among these.

CLOSERS

#10 GUNNEVERA (Dialed In/ Unbridled) 15-1

97 Beyer, 343 Tomlinson

Pros: Impressive winner of the Fountain of Youth stakes showed an explosive turn of foot in that race, and had pace going against him when finishing a middling 3rd in the Florida Derby last out. Even so, he was coming home well in the stretch, finishing the race with speedy fractions of :36.22 and :12.23. His final 3/8 time in that race is the fastest of any in the field for final preps. He is the only colt in the field to post three consecutive triple digit Bris Late pace figures and his strong pedigree statistics (including the field high Tomlinson of 343) seem to confirm that he will be happy with the added ground here.

Cons: He didn’t need to win the Florida Derby and he didn’t do himself any favors falling ten lengths back off the pace on a speed favoring track, but it is hard to view that effort as anything other than a step back following the Fountain of Youth.

Conclusion: The move he made in the Fountain of Youth is exactly the sort of move that wins this race. In previous wins he had been able to remain in touch with the leaders more easily than he did in the Florida Derby, so he doesn’t have to come from the clouds to win this. He doesn’t have any statistical red flags and is the only colt in the field that can claim that. One thing is for sure, this consistent colt will be coming late, and we are admittedly suckers for closers in this race. The pick at likely juicy odds.

#15 MCCRAKEN (Ghostzapper/ Seeking The Gold) 5-1

 95 Beyer, 320 Tomlinson

Pros: Appears the horse for the course, as he is undefeated in three starts at Churchill, so we know he likes the track. He is well bred to handle the distance, as evidenced by his strong Tomlinson and Dosage (2.43) data. An impressive winner of the 8.5f San Davis two back, he doesn’t show many glaring weaknesses and has been working perhaps most impressively of all at Churchill.

Cons: A slight setback de-railed his prep plans, forcing him to skip the Tampa Bay Derby and contest the Blue Grass off a two month layoff. As a result he may have needed that race when a disappointing 3rd in his last. Still, he didn’t appear to have any excuse in the stretch, coming home in just :38.18 and :13.19. For all his talent and potential, he has still yet to run a big figure, topping out with a 95 Beyer for his Sam Davis effort.

Conclusion: An early choice to contend for favoritism here, it would require quite the leap of faith to endorse this colt for the top spot given his slow speed figures and closing fractions, not to mention the fact that he just lost to a maiden. However, Blue Grass results haven’t always translated meaningfully to the Derby, and he does seem to check off a lot of boxes and clearly loves the track, so it would be no surprise to see him run well and grab a spot on the board here; will use underneath, but looks like an underlay at these odds for the win.

#8 HENCE (Street Boss/ AP Indy) 15-1

97 Beyer, 285 Tomlinson

Pros: The Sunland Derby winner has seen the form of that race elevated with the runner-up Conquest Mo Money coming back to run within a half length of favored Classic Empire, and the easily beaten Irap coming back to win the Blue Grass. He finished impressively in that race, coming home in :37.58 and :12.39 after racing close to a hot pace. He descends from Mr. Prospector on the top of his pedigree and the bottom is laced with stamina, so he should handle the distance just fine here. He will enter this race with the highest last out Brisnet figure in the field (103).

Cons: The Sunland Derby was run March 26, which means he will enter here off a six week layoff, and only two colts since 1929 have won this race with that much time between races. The Bris Late Pace figure (93) he earned for the Sunland finish is a bit of a head-scratcher, somewhat contradicting what appeared to be a solid closing effort, but perhaps demonstrates how well that race set up for him. He did not break his maiden until this year in his fourth attempt.

Conclusion: There has been quite a bit of wise guy buzz surrounding him as astute handicappers have realized the quality of the Sunland form in combination with his pedigree and running style. In truth, when comparing transitive results along with speed figures, pedigree and closing fractions though, one can easily make the argument that he stands right up to Classic Empire on paper, and he’ll likely be about four times the price, wise guy or not. He appears to be a solid value play, potentially on top in exactas.

#1 LOOKIN AT LEE (Lookin At Lucky/ Langfuhr) 20-1

91 Beyer, 319 Tomlinson

Pros: Enters with a solid foundation, having finished 2nd to Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity as a two year old and 4th to him at the Breeders’ Cup. He closed like a freight train when 3rd in the Arkansas Derby, coming home in :37.02 and :12.05, earning a Bris Late Pace figure of 101 in the process. That was his second consecutive triple digit Late Pace figure, one of just three colts in the field to duplicate that feat. He is a great-grandson of Mr. Prospector and shows a strong Tomlinson.

Cons: He has yet to win in graded company and has yet to run fast, posting modest top speed figures (91 Beyer, 94 Brisnet). He drew the dreaded #1 post just like his Daddy did, although given his running style, that may not be as negative as it sounds.

Conclusion: The race would have to completely fall apart Giacomo-style for him to actually win it, but he is just the type of colt to simply keep coming late while others are backing up and crash the exotics at a huge price, as he figures to drop back early and enjoy a ground-saving trip. In fact, he may be the key to hitting a huge trifecta payout in our mind, and is a must-use on the second and third lines of that structure.

#12 SONNETEER (Midnight Lute/ Half Ours) 50-1

92 Beyer, 314 Tomlinson

Pros: Came home impressively when 4th in the Arkansas Derby last out, posting final fractions of :36.22 and :11.65, good for a Brisnet Late Pace figure of 109. All of those numbers are tops in the field for 9f. He descends from the Mr. Prospector sire line, and is the only runner here with a grandsire to have won this race.

Cons: The giant pink elephant in the room: He’s the only maiden in the field, winless in 10 career starts. A maiden hasn’t won the Derby since 1933. His come home times in the Arkansas Derby may be deceiving as he sat back far off the early pace. The bottom of his pedigree doesn’t appear to point to stamina, and shows a field low Damsire AWD of 6.1, and sire Midnight Lute was a sprinter, which may not be enough to balance it out.

Conclusion:​ Let’s be clear here- a maiden isn’t winning the Kentucky Derby. His closing style gives him a shot to pick up a piece, but we can’t support using him any higher than the last line of the superfecta.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Gunnevera
  2. Irish War Cry
  3. Always Dreaming
  4. Classic Empire
  5. Hence
  6. Lookin At Lee
  7. McCraken
  8. J Boys Echo
  9. Sonneteer
  10. Irap
  11. Practical Joke
  12. Tapwrit
  13. Thunder Snow
  14. Gormley
  15. Girvin
  16. Battle of Midway
  17. Patch
  18. Untrapped
  19. State of Honor
  20. Fast and Accurate

HOW TO BET $100 ON THE KENTUCKY DERBY:

$10 Win, $20 Place- Gunnevera

$20 Place- Irish War Cry

$1 Exacta Box- Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Hence

$0.50 Trifecta- Gunnevera, Irish War Cry/ Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Hence, Looking At Lee/ Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Hence, Looking At Lee, McCraken, J Boys Echo

USE IN MULTI-RACE WAGERS:

Gunnevera, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire

 

 

 

 

 

Bracketology

Posted March 12, 2017 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Uncategorized

MIDWEST SOUTH EAST WEST

1

Kansas DUKE VILLANOVA GONZAGA

2

Louisville Baylor North Carolina Arizona

3

Florida State IOWA STATE Ucla KENTUCKY

4

Buter SMU West Virginia Notre Dame

5

MICHIGAN Oregon Purdue Wisconsin

6

Creighton Florida Cincinnati Virginia

7

WITCHITA ST Minnesota Miami Virginia Tech

8

Northwestern Maryland Oklahoma State St. Mary’s

9

Marquette Kansas State Vcu Arkansas

10

Wake Forest Seton Hall South Carolina Usc

11

MIDDLE TENNESSEE Michigan State RHODE ISLAND Xavier/ Illinois State

12

NEVADA UNC WILMINGTON VERMONT Dayton/ Providence

13

BUCKNELL WINTHROP EAST TENNESSEE STATE PRINCETON

14

IONA CSU BAKERSFIELD NEW MEXICO STATE FLORIDA GULF COAST

15

NORTH DAKOTA KENT ST UC DAVIS JACKSONVILLE ST

16

NC CENTRAL/ MY ST MARY’S TEXAS ST/ NEW ORLEANS TEXAS SOUTHERN SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

THE TOP TEN 2016 CUBS POSTSEASON MOMENTS

Posted December 30, 2016 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

#10: Aroldis Chapman Pitches Eight Out Save To Preserve Season With One Run Lead- Game 5, World Series

Much was made of Chapman’s shortcomings in Game 7 and overuse in Game 6, but it’s easy to forget that neither would have happened in the first place if not for his performance in the first of his three elimination game experiences. He was able to escape trouble in the 7th and 8th innings with runners in scoring position, and then took his at bat in the bottom of the 8th before closing out the win in the 9th at home. Considering the lack of any room for error while holding onto life with a 3-2 lead, it was an all-time postseason performance.

#9: Dexter Fowler Leads Off Game With Home Run- Game 7, World Series

In a decisive Game 7 scenario, the Cubs came in riding momentum and needed a spark to keep it going. How about the first lead-off home run in Game 7 history? The Cubs needed it too, and every other run they scored, to force extra innings before eventually winning in the 10th.

#8: Kris Bryant Ties Game With Solo Shot- Game 5, World Series

The Cub bats had gone cold and they were facing elimination in Game 5, trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 4th. But then MVP Kris Bryant launched a solo shot to tie the game and sparked a three run inning that would be just enough to stay alive for Game 6.

#7: Grandpa Rossy Hits Solo Home Run Off Of Andrew Miller To Extend Lead in Last MLB Game- Game 7, World Series

One of the best things about Game 7, which was probably the single greatest game of any sport I’ve ever witnessed live, was that every single Cub gave a meaningful contribution, and that every inch of it was needed for the win. After a wild pitch bounced off his mask and scored two runs to cut the lead in half the inning prior, David Ross hit an improbable solo shot off of the seemingly invincible Andrew Miller in his final game. Without it, the Cubs lose 6-5 in an absolute heartbreaker.

#6: Javy Baez Delivers Solo Shot in the Bottom of the 8th in Pitcher’s Duel- Game 1, NLDS

There is nothing worse in all of sports than the fact that baseball’s first round of the playoffs is a five game series. It throws an element of unpredictability into the result that is completely illogical in a sport that plays a 162-game regular season, placing an uncommon amount of importance upon the first game of a series relative to other sports. In a pitcher’s duel for the ages, Baez was able to get ahold of one here and give the Cubs an important 1-0 win in a game that may otherwise have never ended.

#5: Cubs Pound Clayton Kershaw Early To Lock Up Pennant At Home- Game 6, NLCS

The Dodgers weren’t going to score on Kyle Hendricks, but it was important that the Cubs gave him a lead early against arguably the greatest pitcher of the young century in Clayton Kershaw. An Anthony Rizzo double and a fortunate outfield mistake set the stage for a 2 run first inning, which would be all the Cubs needed to clinch their first trip to the World Series since 1945, and send the home crowd into a Saturday night frenzy for the ages.

#4: Addison Russell Hits A Grand Slam To Keep Cubs Alive- Game 6, World Series

This was an “icing on the cake” moment if ever there was one. Addison Russell, who had been cold as ice at the plate in the NLDS and NLCS, had begun to heat up in the World Series, but had no greater moment than this one, where he launched what was only the fifth grand slam in World Series history and gave the Cubs an insurmountable 7-0 lead basically assured a Game 7 for the ages.

#3: Miguel Montero Hits Pinch Hit Grand Slam To Break Tie, Win Game- Game 1, NLCS

The first game of the NLCS was a roller coaster of emotions. The Cubs came into the series with their pitching rotation set up better than the Dodgers did by way of clinching their previous series in four games, so it was important not to waste the advantageous matchup of Jon Lester versus rookie Kenta Maeda. Lester did his job and the Cubs led 3-1 going to the 8th, but Adrian Gonzalez crushed our hearts with a game tying single off Aroldis Chapman. In the bottom half of the inning, Maddon had no choice but to pinch hit for Chapman with the bases loaded and two outs, leaving the Cubs vulnerable on the mound should they not score. Miguel Montero then launched a grand slam on an 0-2 slider to give the Cubs plenty of insurance.

#2: Cubs Stage Improbable Comeback in the Top of the 9th- Game 4, NLDS

After jumping out to a commanding 2-0 lead in the NLDS against the Giants, the Cubs appeared to be heading back home for a decisive, nerve wracking Game 5. After losing Game 3, they trailed 5-2 heading into the top of the 9th, a 98% win probability scenario for the Giants. But the never-say-die Cubs pulled off only the second clinching game comeback when down three runs in playoff baseball history. Here’s how it happened:

– Kris Bryant starts the inning with a leadoff single.

– Anthony Rizzo delivers a fantastic at bat, drawing a walk after falling behind in the count, fouling off several pitches.

– Ben Zobrist moves ahead in the count 3-1 against Sergio Romo, and then drives a double down the right field line, scoring Bryant and moving Rizzo to third.

– Manager Joe Maddon outsmarts Bruce Bochy, pinch-hitting the left-handed Chris Coghlan for Addison Russell, who had been cold at the plate in the series. But Maddon likely never had any intention of batting Coghlan- he simply went with a lefty to get Bochy to make a pitching change to a a lefty. As soon as that happened, Maddon immediately burned Coghlan and instead pinch-hit with the red hot rookie righty Wilson Contreras, who promptly singled up the middle to tie the game in the biggest at bat of his life.

– $180 million right fielder Jason Heyward had arguably been the only disappointment of the Cubs’ season, but he was sent to the plate to bunt with no outs and Contreras on first. The bunt he laid down was almost too horrendous to be real, but after forcing Contreras out at second, shortstop Brandon Crawford threw the ball away. This crucial error allowed Heyward to advance to second and put the winning run in scoring position, and also prevented him from being remembered as the worst bunter of all time.

– Javy Baez delivered a hard hit single to score the go-ahead run, his second game-winning hit of the four game series.

– Aroldis Chapman absolutely dominated the Giants, striking out the side in the bottom of the 9th, and the Cubs celebrated a series win in front of a stunned crowd in San Francisco.

#1: Cubs Win World Series In Drama-Filled Extra Inning- Game 7, World Series

The stage was set. Two franchises with a combined 176 years since their last World Series Championship would play a single game to deliver one to a starved fanbase. The Cubs had control early, and even after a 5-1 lead was cut to 5-3, a David Ross provided some insurance. But the goat awoke in the bottom of the 8th. Four outs away from a World Championship and leading by three with Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Indians were able to tie the game after a pinch hit double from Brandon Guyer and a soul-crushing two run bomb from Rajai Davis. The latter may have been the lowest point of my entire life as a sports fan.

After the Cubs failed to score in the top of the 9th, panic set in, but Chapman was able to shut down the Indians and force extra innings. A rain delay immediately followed, because of course it did- Cubs fans were really going to have to earn it if they wanted to celebrate on this night. Jason Heyward delivered a now legendary locker room speech during the delay because he knew what we all knew: if the Cubs didn’t score in the top of the 10th, they were going to lose the World Series in heartbreaking fashion.

Kyle Schwarber gave the Cubs life, starting off the inning with an important leadoff single to cap a 3-5 performance and cement an incredible comeback story. Pinch-runner Albert Almora was able to advance to second on a nifty piece of base running following a warning track fly out by Kris Bryant. In a puzzling move, manager Terry Francona opted to walk Anthony Rizzo to create a double play opportunity against the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist, who doubled in the go ahead run on a 1-2 count in an incredibly clutch piece of hitting. The move proved costly, as Rizzo scored what would be a crucial insurance run on the ensuing single by Miguel Montero.

It wasn’t going to be that easy though, as even with a two run lead in the bottom of the inning, the Indians didn’t roll over easily. Carl Edwards Jr. was able to retire the first two batters, but a walk and a single later, the Indians had life, bringing the winning run to the plate with a man on first. Luckily for the Cubs, that hitter was Victor Martinez, not one the Indians’ greatest threats, and Mike Montgomery was able to force a softly hit ball down the third base line, which Kris Bryant easily corralled for the win.
The curse was broken. We Are The Champions!

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted December 18, 2016 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Tunes

To say that 2016 was a “terrible year” has undeniably become somewhat of a cliche. It’s funny; for me, 2016 was great. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. IU basketball eliminated Kentucky from the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Mondialiste won the Arlington Millon. I reconnected with and gained a Sidekick who lights up my days. I saw Radiohead and Sigur Ros, easily my two favorite living bands, live, within 30 days of one another, with her. Also, Harambe happened.  You get the idea.

Musically, it was also strong, if odd. Traditional rock took a backseat as indie rock’s presence in the spectrum as it pertains to quality continued to become more and more subdued. It was an extraordinarily weak year for electronic music as well. While those genres came up lacking in 2016, rap and R&B stepped authoritatively to the front, and even so, this year might best be remembered from the long overdue albums delivered by classic artists that have been around since the early 90s (Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest) and also those that delivered worthy swan songs just before leaving this world (David Bowie, Leonard Cohen).

I can’t use them all though. Here were my Top 10 Albums of 2016:

#10: Cobalt/ Slow Forever

cobalt  

When asked recently to describe the purpose of Cobalt’s music, I deferred to a good friend whose appreciation for metal far surpasses mine. He responded rather perfectly, “Guttural angst. Rural miasma. A curious expedition into general misanthropy.” Calculated, precise and angular while still maintaining accessibility despite its aggressiveness, Slow Forever marked a revitalized return to form for the two man act complete with new lead singer Charlie Fell, formerly of Lord Mantis. This is black metal on its surface but defies genre in reality, holding a unique niche as a hybrid crossover between that and hard rock. The guitar riffs here are simply so melodic and memorable that they nearly overwhelm the guttural ferocity of the vocals.

The raw energy of the guitar hooks dominate the entirety of the album and are clearly present on the instantly engaging opener “Hunt The Buffalo”, which showcases an almost western edge, but it’s the hidden nuances that give Slow Forever such sharp, interesting edges over the course of an album that could have easily relegated itself to repetitive screaming- the way the sludge-driven coda of the constantly evolving “Elephant Graveyard” cuts off suddenly without warning, the intense, grinding riff of the epic “King Rust”, the tonal contrast of the pure rock hook and atmospheric paranoia on “Cold Breaker.” Like Deafheaven’s Sunbather, which has arguably become the template for the black metal crossover genre, Slow Forever utilizes soft interlude tracks to bring the listener down a bit between waves of intensity. It’s a sequencing technique that works effectively here and keeps the album focused on its music first and foremost rather than devolving into redundancy based purely around screaming vocals, which instead work to provide balance and emotion.

#9: Chance The Rapper/ Coloring Book

chance

The rise of Chance The Rapper from Chicago’s underground rap scene over the past five years has been the stuff of legend, as his unlikely ascension led to a headline gig at the 2015 Pitchfork Music Festival behind the strength of two mixtapes. On his third, Chance delivers an upbeat, if stripped down effort, highly focused in its spirituality to such an extent that it practically plays like a Gospel concept album. Coloring Book starts softly with the tone-setting “All We Get”, but then explodes into the bright summer anthem “No Problem”, which somehow seems to make what would sound from a lot of rap artists like a threat or warning to the music industry instead bounce along with positivity and confidence. Chance’s decision to avoid signing with a label and to base his income strictly upon live performances based on word of mouth has been an unorthodox one, but has worked just fine up to this point, and it’s a rare thing indeed in this day in age for rap as a genre to provide so much collective joy and cheer. Call it soft if you want or find a shoulder to cry on if it suits you, but the spaciousness on tracks like “Summer Friends” and “Same Drugs” truly emote like few rap albums do.

There’s an uncommon amount of patience and nonchalance here, and on first listen, it is fair to wonder when the party action will pick up. But the true brilliance of this collection of songs lies in how well the latter ends up balancing out the former. “All Night” seems like the quintessential party track, short, sweet and compact, while “Angels” sounds more like old Chance with its combination of off-kilter beats and horn elements. “Mixtape” even adds an unsettling vibe of darkness with some help from Young Thug, but the context fits perfectly here as a centerpiece. With Coloring Book, Chance appreciates, doesn’t threaten, and simplifies the backbone of rap itself, and in the process shows how much more it is capable of in what was already a very strong year for the genre. When the praises go up, the blessings come down.

#8 A Tribe Called Quest/ We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

tribe

18 years in the waiting, A Tribe Called Quest delivered their final collection of hip hop, and it resonates as a proper send-off to say the least. Double-sided and checking in at just under an hour over its sixteen tracks, it’s an ambitious effort, reminiscent of Vince Staples’ 2015 album Summertime ’06 in terms of scale. The primary difference is that Tribe has such a strong back catalog to fall back on, and as a result, We Got It From Here comes off sounding more like a triumphant victory lap than anything else. Complete with guest performances from Anderson Paak (who made a great record this year in his own right), Kanye West, Jack White, Talib Kweli and Andre 3000 (whose spitfire exchange with Q-Tip on “Kids” is a standout moment here), the album manages to retain its unique east coast sound on tracks like opener “The Space Program”- sparse, brittle beats and razor sharp rhymes- while still sounding decidedly current and of the moment. Dropping the week after the election, the chorus Q-Tip delivers on highlight track “We The People” sounds almost impossibly fitting: “All you black folks you must go/ All you Mexicans you must go/ And all you poor folks you must go/ Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways.”

Founding member Phife Dog passed away earlier this year, putting some doubt into longtime fans’ minds in regard to the feasibility of this project coming to fruition, but not to fear, he’s featured prominently here from start to finish, and gets a homage from Busta Rhymes, who chants his name in reggae fashion over the entirety of closer “The Donald.” Busta Rhymes was always closely associated with Tribe’s prior work, and his presence here is an added bonus that doesn’t really feel like a guest appearance. His contributions to near perfect tracks like “Dis Generation” take the record to another level. More melodic tracks like “Enough!” and “Lost Somebody” provide balance and help avoid any chance of hook-less redundancy. While the first half of the second side tends to meander a bit and the record as a whole could arguably have been a few tracks shorter, it’s hard to penalize the group much, as none of it seems overly indulgent. Penultimate track “Ego” might be the single most immediately grabbing moment here, with its ominous bass line that picks up an incredible hook and subtle electric guitar as it bounces along effortlessly. It’s a reflective track lyrically, but it’s also a microcosm of the entire album- these guys have earned the right to have a big ego and to have some fun with their swan song, which hits on serious current topics without ever taking itself too seriously.

#7: Blood Orange/ Freetown Sound

bloodorange

Dev Hynes has had his fair share of memorable singles as Blood Orange, but nothing in his back catalog indicated that anything as complete, ambitious and with as much scope as Freetown Sound was on the horizon. There isn’t a single weak moment over its 17 tracks, and there’s a tonal consistency here thanks to impeccable production that results in an atmospheric and ethereal vibe that is rare for the R&B genre. There’s a whispery quality to Hynes’ vocal delivery that lends an element of intimacy to every song here. To its credit, the soft, soothing nature of this album is balanced effectively by some truly incredible beats. After “By Ourselves” opens the record with some slam poetry, the dark, pumping drum machine of “Augustine” follows, complete with carefully subdued but gorgeous piano lines and plenty of politically charged lyricism, which finds Hynes more reflective and pained than actually angry in regards to the current state of the treatment of African Americans in American society. Centerpiece “E.V.P” is an immediate banger, showcasing the hardest drum line on the record and adding saxaphone, funk elements and synthesizers over its catchiest hook. What makes this such a stunning moment is the juxtaposition of these seemingly sunny musical aspects with such lyrical uncertainty: “Choosing what you live for/ It’s never what you make your life/ How could you know/ If you’re squandering your passion for another?”

Highlight track “But You” probably best demonstrates the overall theme of the album, as Hynes appears to be singing to himself and offering himself encouragement as he grapples with his own self-image and construction- “You are special in your own way.” Tonally, it’s a masterpiece that evokes Michael Jackson’s more reflective, optimistic work, and brings together a devastating, perfectly executed bridge with jabs of electric guitar through its coda. “Hands Up” is a more direct observation of the Trayvon Martin killing than the closing lyric on “Augustine” offers, but musically, it’s the exact opposite of aggressive or combatant, as it glides along effortlessly and mournfully. Female guest vocals power two of the album’s most tender tracks, as Empress Of absolutely soars on “Best To You”, which picks up tempo as it evolves into a steady groove and Hynes begins to trade lines with her; it’s a song about wanting to give love and feeling helpless when that feeling isn’t being reciprocated. And Nelly Furtado shows up on “Hadron Collider”, one of the prettiest tracks here. Freetown Sound touches on so much, combining its small stories and societal observations into a mass collection that eventually adds up to a lot- a dreamlike, seamless mix of melancholy, beauty and hope.

#6: Anderson Paak/ Malibu

apaak

Anderson Paak burst onto the scene this year to such an extent that his third proper full length feels more like a sprawling debut. A concept album loosely-based around a surfing analogy, Malibu plays like a magnum opus of innovative music that straddles the line between rap and R&B in a manner far more personal than anything from artists like Drake or Future. These songs are accessible, yet confident, honest and thought-provoking, thanks in large part to Paak’s admirable vocal command. The breezy, effortless warmth of opener “The Bird” sets the stage immediately, as Paak tells the story of his family background with a soulful vocal delivery that can’t really be described as either singing or rapping, complete with an atmospheric horn and a gorgeous piano line behind it. It’s a truly unique niche that he fills as this isn’t an album that can be categorized by genre, constantly shifting and evolving between musical styles. Insightful tracks (“Look at the time/ My God/ So precious/ Is yours/ Is mine”) like “Am I Wrong” border on straight up club music, complete with more horns through its coda, while “Put Me Thru” evokes soul from a more distant generation, and “Silicon Valley” almost seems to borrow horns from Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” behind its seemingly satirical lyrics and intentionally overpowering vocals. The most complex track on the album is a doubly titled effort; “The Season” begins as a somewhat dark R&B track before shifting suddenly into the swanky, effortless groove of the hip-hop section “Carry Me,” with Paak’s ability to straddle the line between genres with his raspy vocal on full display. There is hardly any way to even reasonably explain the brilliance of the tightly-coiled power of “Come Down”, which packs its triumphant funk vibe into an intense three minutes that we wish would never end (“Cool beans/ Cool beans!”).

The greatest attribute of Malibu, though, may be the way it concludes. The aptly titled penultimate track “Celebrate” could serve well as a closer on an album equally ambitious as this one, as an upbeat bass line meets more major piano keys, creating a song every bit as optimistic, warm and imparting of young wisdom as its title suggests: “It’d be a bad look/ Talkin’ bout what coulda been/ So let’s celebrate/ while we still can”. But it’s really all just a setup for the incredible closer “The Dreamer” and its rolling drum line, which looks at something as dark as poverty as a glass half full situation : “Who cares ya daddy couldn’t be here/ Mama always kept the cable on/ I’m a product of the tube and the free lunch/ Living room, watching old reruns.” It isn’t even remotely easy to make a 16-track album without any clear low point or drag that still sounds this varied, vibrant and consistently melodic. Paak appears poised for even bigger things in the future, and with this record, has created a persona that is very difficult not to love. Listening to this, I have the exact opposite reaction I still have when I listen to To Pimp A Butterfly; Paak’s arms are open, not closed, and his smile feels wide and accepting.

#5: Danny Brown/ Atrocity Exhibition

danny

With his fourth full-length album, Detroit’s Danny Brown takes a detour way off the mainstream map. There may have never been a hip hop album made before that sounds quite like Atrocity Exhibition, an unsettling, menacing and unrelentingly dark collection of introspection. There’s plenty of stylistic variation here but the album never deviates from its steady vibe of internal paranoia and terror. The overwhelming sonic experience provided by tracks like “Ain’t It Funny” and “Golddust” is straight up panic-inducing behind their deep, powerful bass beats; I imagine this is about exactly how it feels right before having a heart attack. In contrast, the raw, spacious, and haunting beats on “Pneumonia” and “Today” make a strong impact due to how chilly and stripped down they are. Confessional opener “Downward Spiral” sets the tone immediately, as Brown amazingly rhymes a word that appears to be the plural of “ghost” with “oh shit” as the track builds in a manner representative of being trapped in a claustrophobic nightmare of his own creation (“I gotta figure it out”), while the brutal “White Lines” finds him in the thralls of a potentially fatal drug overdose. Brown’s unique nasal vocal delivery is among the most recognizable in rap, and it’s easy to forget how unparalleled his flow can be, but we are reminded of that fact as he spits rapid-fire rhyme schemes on the brilliantly tense and apocalyptic “When It Rain”, and the moments where he uses his more baritone speaking voice on tracks like “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” and “From the Ground” add depth and complexity to the record.

If there was a stronger back to back duo of tracks all year than the high-powered, rock-driven bass line of “Rolling Stone” and ultimate posse track “Really Doe”, I’m not sure what it was. The latter stands out especially, as Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul lend verses behind a horrifying bell chime loop. Only “Dance In The Water” seems truly out of place here, with its ramped up and somewhat overdone rave beats, but we’ll allow for a small misstep, especially since the album concludes as powerfully as it does. The soothing and melodic penultimate track “Get Hi” is as peaceful as it is depressing, as Brown seems to be simultaneously lamenting and justifying drug dependence through its devastating hook: “Say ya had a bad day/ Want the stress to go away/ Just rollup/ Take the pain away/ And get high.” “Hell For It” is the perfect closer, as Brown takes the intensity to another level, which is saying a lot on this album. There’s such anger and fear evident here, especially as his voice constantly evolves from his usual nasal tone into a more threatening sounding baritone on the back end of the beat. (Not even Iggy is safe). As great as his last album Old was, it’s easy to make the argument that the best three or four moments here are better than anything on that record. Its rare focus and consistent tone renders this is the strongest hip hop album of the year, and 2016 provided many rap highlights.

#4: Avalanches/ Wildflower

avalanches

Sixteen years in the making, the long-awaited follow-up to The Avalanches’ legendary Since I Left You is impressively varied and substantial, and is as worthy a follow-up effort as could have been reasonably expected over such a timespan. While still heavily dependent on sampling, the primary difference lies in the amount of guest appearances present on Wildflower. There’s the obvious appearance of Danny Brown and MF Doom complete with a carnival beat on highlight track “Frankie Sinatra”, where the calypso sample from Australian artist Robbie Chater perfectly balances the line between being kooky and brilliant, in the same way that classic Avalanches tracks like “Frontier Psychiatrist” did, complete with elements of electro-swing that make it a repeatedly fun and addictive listen. Brown shows up again on the dreamy “The Wozard of Iz”, but Wildflower also features contributions from Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue on psychedelic tracks like “Colours”, “Harmony” and “Kaleidoscopic Lovers”, while Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick lends a sunny, ethereal vocal element to the steady “If I Was A Folkstar.” Even Biz Markie drops by to help out with the impossibly silly “The Noisy Eater.”

Opening track “Because I’m Me” evokes memories of the title track from their debut, with its nostalgic, self-affirming female vocal that glides along a triumphant beat. There’s so much mood and feel here, from the glimmering sweetness of “Sunshine” to the bouncing groove of “Subways” and the bittersweet optimism of the gorgeous penultimate track “Stepkids.”There’s a certain wistfulness that permeates all of The Avalanches’ music, and it’s perfectly captured by the joyful closer “Saturday Night Inside Out”, complete with guest appearances from Father John Misty providing backing vocals on the chorus and David Berman reading a spoken word poem. Making music out of samples is time-consuming, as it requires as much listening as it does creativity and meticulous application, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve had to wait so long to hear music as unilaterally unique as this is. (There aren’t any Avalanches imitators out there). What might be a surprise after all this time though, is that the delivery is again so well executed and so worth the wait. Wildflower retains that same consistent, unmistakable sound that is decidedly Avalanches, yet still also carries with it a certain timeliness, and a modernized air.

#3: ANOHNI/ Hopelessness

anohni

If you’ve ever wondered what an electronic album from Antony and The Johnsons would sound like, you now have your answer. ANOHNI is the post-transition moniker of the artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty, and this effort far surpasses anything previously put to record in what was formerly a more baroque pop style. Hopelessness flips any notion of reliance upon some past formula completely on its back, and it’s a powerful statement, both musically and politically. ANOHNI’s other-worldly voice absolutely soars on standout track “4 Degrees”, and has there ever been a song about the impending apocalypse that sounds this beautiful? It’s clearly a sarcastic commentary on global warming, as the artist attempts to convince us that if we are going to continue to destroy the planet, we should do so because we want to-“I wanna see this world, I wanna see it boil.” It all builds behind a percussion sample that sounds as though it has been fired out of a cannon, picking up horns and violin that cascade upon themselves through the coda. Elsewhere, there’s more politically charged lyricism on tracks like “Drone Bomb Me”, a dark, suicidal cry from the perspective of a young child who has lost her family in a drone attack, and “Execution”, which takes a hard look at American foreign policy decisions behind its steady synth beat. The chilling “I Don’t Love You Anymore” uses an echoed, fuzzy bass beat with an off-kilter time signature behind a subtle, gorgeous church organ as listeners are forced to confront the stunning, transition-confirming line “You left me/ for ANOTHER girl.” No one is off the hook here, as “Obama” investigates the disappointment felt now by many relative to the naive expectation of “hope and change” eight years ago over music that resembles a Gregorian chant.

A surveillance analogy, “Watch Me” is the most melodic and intimate moment here, among one of the very best, as dark but soothing beats glide behind the addictive “Daddy” chorus line, while centerpiece “Why Did You Separate Me From The Earth” arguably delivers the single most incredible vocal performance on the record. While it hits hard, nothing comes off as finger-pointing or preachy here. In fact, tracks like the devastating “Crisis”, which again touches on drone bombing, find ANOHNI grappling with personal culpability and asking the listener to do the same over its apologetic chorus. Closer “Marrow” is such a soft, restrained letdown with its gorgeous but understated piano lines. A bracing indictment of society combined with a new sound altogether from what was once a familiar artist, Hopelessness is the embodiment of a new identity.

#2: Bon Iver/ 22, A Million

boniver

In 2011, Bon Iver released their impeccably produced self-titled album, which at the time of this writing, is still easily in the Top 3 best albums of the decade. Given that, it’s no surprise that this release stood as one of the most highly anticipated of the year. While it doesn’t quite match the greatness of its predecessor, the band should be commended for simply conceding its own inability to top it, and instead doesn’t even try. Everything about 22, A Million, from the bizarre, Aphex Twin-esque song titles to the sequencing and composition, demonstrates the undertaking of a new direction entirely, and it’s a far less accessible one. There’s an ambient quality to this record, with its crackling, glitchy synths, echoed percussion loops and vocal processing, that makes it sound even more stripped down than either Bon Iver or For Emma, Forever Ago did, which is an interesting observation considering those were both composed of primarily acoustic songs, while these lend more toward the electronic variety. The auto-tuned vocal manipulation on “715- Creeks” is so prominent it sounds almost like it could have been lifted from 808s and Heartbreak, ironic since Kanye West has noted that lead singer and mastermind Justin Vernon is his favorite living artist. “10 Deathbreast” opens with unorthodox, chaotic electronic drums that pick up complex horns and lifted vocal samples through its powerful crescendo. But this level of experimentation isn’t for everyone, to say the least of those fans hoping for more of the same after five years of patiently waiting. To that end, the band doesn’t completely divert from its lifeblood, and it’s the highlight “8 (Circle)” that is most reminiscent of their immediately prior work, and again, that’s a very good thing. Straightforward but bursting from the seams with emotion and melody behind impeccable production and its gorgeous synthesized horn, it’s a reminder that sometimes what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing. The ballad “29 Strafford APTS” isn’t a notable diversion either, with its pretty acoustic guitar plucks, subtle violin string orchestration, and of course Vernon’s unmistakable falsetto. “666” combines a bit of the old with the new, as a gorgeous melody combines with synthesized trumpet and a commanding drum backbone.

But what makes 22, A Million such an exciting record are indeed the moments where the band takes risks and succeeds. “33 God” opens with what sounds like a typical piano line, but evolves quickly and astonishingly over its three minutes, revealing stunning complexity as it explodes into buzzing synth, ethereal howls and thunderous drumming. Opener “22 (Over Soon”) begins with a shot of sharp synth before Vernon’s heavily processed voice alternates stanzas with his regular one. It’s an atmospheric, spacious track that examines finality, picking up subtle horns before it suddenly cuts off without warning, an analogy for the question/ reality it raises and obsesses over in the first place. Still, what prevents this album from completely living up to its admittedly sky-high expectations are moments where the focus seems to meander and flatten out on tracks like “21 Moon Water” and “_45_.” Those tracks water down the back half a bit, but aren’t enough to undo the overall impressiveness or cohesion present here, especially as closer “00000 Million” ends it on such a strong note. Melancholic piano carries Vernon’s aching vocal in a manner that is straightforward but heart-wrenching, as the album ends with the somber resignation “If it’s harmed, it harmed me/ It’ll harm me, I let it in.” In a way, the ultimate direction and result of 22, A Million is reminiscent of Kid A, in that a band seemed either bored or unwilling to revert back to some pre-determined formula or expectation, and was more intrigued by looking forward rather than backward while playing by its own rules.

#1: Radiohead/ A Moon Shaped Pool

radiohead

Radiohead has arguably been the single most important band to the musical spectrum in terms of contribution over the course of my 37 years of life. In fact, can you think of another band in history with a reasonable argument to have made the single greatest album of three different decades? Their previous eight studio albums spanned eighteen years and covered an incredible breadth of musical ground, beginning with the rock-driven Pablo Honey and The Bends, evolving into the musical personification of perfection that is OK Computer, and then veering off course to set the stage for the change to come in the new century with the more electronic and experimental albums Kid A and Amnesiac. In Rainbows was a serious return to form in between the more scattered offerings found on Hail To The Thief and The King of Limbs, but over the course of time, Radiohead has provided something for everyone. Personally, while I appreciate and adore all of it, I’ve always been more drawn to the beauty of their work than the power of it. Softer, more nuanced tracks like “Street Spirit”, “The Tourist”, “How To Disappear Completely” “Exit Music” and “Pyramid Song” are to me, the band at their very best. Given that tonal preference, with A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead has delivered exactly the kind of album that I had always hoped they would make. These songs are rich, beautiful and emotional in a manner above and beyond what the band has ever put all in one place previously.

Opener “Burn The Witch” is a politically charged number that serves as somewhat of a red herring. It’s surely a highlight, but isn’t indicative at all of what the rest of the album sounds like, either musically or lyrically. The melody is ominous but pretty, and as Radiohead has never made a song with this type of staccato string instrumentation, it’s an immediately engaging listen. The driving synth buzz is as chaotic as the album gets however, and Thom Yorke’s high falsetto wails are the star of the show. Last year, Yorke split with his longtime partner of 23 years (Rachel Owen) in an “amicable” fashion, but everything that comes the after the first track has a sense of heartbreak, pain and sadness that adds a measure of relatable beauty. “Daydreaming” delivers a gorgeous, repetitive piano line beneath some of the most hopeless lyrics he has ever written; this is the true tone-setter, as lyrics like “It’s too late/ The damage is done” seem to simply surrender to loss. But While A Moon Shaped Pool is much too complex to be categorized as a “break-up” album per se, it is highly evident through his songwriting that the toll the separation took on Yorke was immense. “Present Tense” is arguably the most honest, emasculating song he has ever written. The absence of any other instrumentation during its lush, engaging opening guitar line lends focus to his gutwrenching plight. The closing line “In you I’m lost” sounds so defeated that it actually turns uplifting and optimistic somehow.

“Decks Dark” is an early standout and grabber, as the amazing piano riff that starts the song is reminiscent of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, but also showcases a subtly dark beauty as a lifted choral element enters over the bassline. A sense of doom builds as Yorke repeats “Just a lie” over and over again; any time he sings at this sans-falsetto pitch level for an extended period of time, it just sounds like he’s talking and it conveys hopelessness and fear, reminiscent of previous closers like “Wolf At The Door.” The complete shift into a breakdown groove complete with echoey percussion blasts through the coda adds an unexpected and layered contrast, and it’s one of the most complex songs they’ve ever put to record- drummer Phil Selway gets extra credit on this one for his contribution. “Ful Stop” holds a unique spot on the album as it’s basically the only track that could possibly be described as up-tempo, but that doesn’t mean you’d want to dance to it. There’s nothing in the band’s catalog that compares to that synthesized horn that carries the first minute and a half, and I’d argue it’s the single most ominous sound the band has ever created. After that, there’s a shift in tempo that is highly reminiscent of “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, as few other songs have demonstrated such propulsion in combination with such ethereality. The coda comes together in a lush manner similar to how “Arpeggi” made you feel like you were literally underwater drowning with weird fishes. Even in moving forward, Radiohead has not forgotten to draw upon what has gotten them here.

There is a lot to enjoy here even on less immediate and more challenging tracks. “Identikit” turns anthemic after its punchy riff, intermittent synth jabs and choral interjections, as Yorke wails, “Broken hearts! Make it rain!”, while the steady, melodic groove of “The Numbers” adds warmth and depth, and the stripped down orchestration of “Glass Eyes” and raw acoustic flavor of “Desert Island Disk” contribute to the tonal beauty that permeates this album. Perhaps the most rewarding element though requires patience, as closer “True Love Waits” was actually, FINALLY given the official, committed-to-album recording that it always deserved. The band did so by stripping the song of its acoustic guitars and instead revitalizing and freshening it with hypnotic, haunting pianos. What remains is a slower, emotionally darker, more lyrically powerful ballad than existed before. It’s the perfect closer, greatest song and most welcome surprise on the year’s best album, thankfully still containing one of my favorite Radiohead lyrics of all: “I’m not living/ I’m just killing time.” Leave it to Radiohead to take a song they’ve been playing for 20 years, change its primary instrument entirely, remove a chord, slow it down to a virtual halt…and in the process create a piece of music that perfectly ties together, both thematically and musically, a collection of other pieces with far more recency. That, my friends, is true genius.

THE TOP 10 SONGS OF 2016

Posted December 5, 2016 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Tunes

#10: Parquet Courts/ Two Dead Cops

In a year that rightfully placed so much focus on police brutality, it was important to be reminded of the other side of the story, which is equally disturbing. On the best song from their best album to date, Parquet Courts use a powerful riff to tell the tale of walking upon murdered police in a New York City neighborhood. It’s a propulsive, powerful punk song, and about as dark as this band’s music gets.

#9: Kevin Morby/ I Have Been To The Mountain

2016 wasn’t overly generous in terms of providing transcendent indie rock, but this might have been the single best song that used a guitar as its primary instrument. Folksy acoustic chords turn more dramatic as the song evolves, complete with a horn section and lifted back-up harmonies. It’s a masterful balance of triumph and melancholy.

 #8: Anderson Paak/ The Season-Carry Me

The most complex track on Anderson Paak’s stunning concept album Malibu, “The Season” begins as a somewhat dark R&B track before shifting suddenly into the swanky, effortless groove of the hip-hop section “Carry Me.” Paak’s ability to straddle the line between genres with his raspy vocal is on full display here as he appears poised for even bigger things in the future.

#7: Blood Orange/ But You

The highlight track on Dev Hynes’ epic Freetown Sound probably best demonstrates the overall theme of the album, as he appears to be singing internally and offering himself encouragement as he grapples with his own self-image and construction- “You are special in your own way.” Tonally, it’s a masterpiece that evokes Michael Jackson’s more reflective, optimistic work, and brings together a devastating, perfectly executed bridge with jabs of electric guitar through its coda.

#6: Chance The Rapper/ No Problem

This bright summer anthem highlights Coloring Book and somehow seems to make what would sound from a lot of rap artists like a threat or warning to the music industry instead bounce along with positivity and confidence. Chance’s decision to avoid signing with a label and to base his income strictly upon performances based on word of mouth has been an unorthodox one, but has worked just fine up to this point, and it’s a rare thing indeed in this day in age for rap as a genre to provide so much joy and cheer.

#5: The Avalanches/ Frankie Sinatra

On first listen, you either loved this track or you hated it. Considering it features guest appearances from Danny Brown and MF Doom above an impossibly playful carnival beat, it should be pretty clear where my mentality lies. The calypso sample from Australian artist Robbie Chater perfectly balances the line between being kooky and brilliant, in the same way that classic Avalanches tracks like “Frontier Psychiatrist” did, complete with elements of electro-swing that make it a repeatedly fun and addictive listen.

#4: Danny Brown/ Really Doe

The standout track from the Detroit rapper’s unsettling, menacing and unrelentingly dark and introspective Atrocity Exhibition, this was the posse track to end all posse tracks, as Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul lend verses that showcase the diversity between each of their styles all behind a horrifying bell chime loop. It’s a whirlwind of a rap song that will leave your head spinning, but still flows perfectly together.

#3: Bon Iver/ 8 (Circle)

Of all the tracks on Bon Iver’s experimental offering 22, A Million, it’s “8 (Circle)” that is most reminiscent of their immediately prior work, and given that their self-titled album is a lock for Top 3 Albums of the Decade, that’s a very good thing. Straightforward but bursting from the seams with emotion and melody behind impeccable production, it’s a reminder that sometimes what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing. Also: That HORN.

#2: ANOHNI/ 4 Degrees

ANOHNI’s other-worldly voice absolutely soars on Hopelessness standout track “4 Degrees”, and has there ever been a song about the impending apocalypse that sounds this beautiful? It’s clearly a sarcastic commentary on global warming, as the artist attempts to convince us that if we are going to continue to destroy the planet, we should do so because we want to-“I wanna see this world, I wanna see it boil.” It all builds behind a percussion sample that sounds as to have been fired out of a cannon, picking up horns and violin that cascade upon themselves through the coda.

#1: Radiohead/ True Love Waits

It’s a strange thing indeed to land on a track that’s been in existence for over two decades as my song of the year. By definition, it wasn’t a song that defined the year’s mentality or that felt timely or of the moment- which should quantify the significance that this particular Radiohead classic was actually, FINALLY given the official, committed-to-album recording that it always deserved. The band did so by stripping the song of its acoustic guitars and instead revitalizing and freshening it with hypnotic, haunting pianos. What remains is a slower, emotionally darker, more lyrically powerful ballad than existed before. It’s the perfect closer, greatest song and most welcome surprise on the year’s best album, thankfully still containing one of my favorite Radiohead lyrics of all: “I’m not living/ I’m just killing time.”

Leave it to Radiohead to take a song they’ve been playing for 20 years, change its primary instrument entirely, remove a chord, slow it down to a virtual halt…and in the process create a piece of music that perfectly ties together, both thematically and musically, a collection of other pieces with far more recency. That, my friends, is true genius.

 

 

Breeders’ Cup Saturday Picks and Analysis

Posted November 4, 2016 by The Enthusiast
Categories: Sports

4- Juvenile Filles, 8.5f, 2:05

In a tough-to-sort-out field of rapidly improving two-year olds, we’ll focus on fillies that have experience around two turns and that are in a preferable spot in their form cycle. VALADORNA is just a maiden winner at 8.5f and makes her third start, but with two speedy fillies to her inside, should be able to drop back and attain a ground-saving spot to mount her closing kick. While her speed figures appear middling among these (75 Beyer, 88 BRIS), daughter of Curlin has right to improve off of her 10/22 bullet work at Keeneland (5f in :59.3, 1/24). The horse to beat is perhaps NOTED AND QUOTED, who boasts field high speed figures around two turns from her win in the 8.5f Chandelier over this dirt track (80 Beyer, 90 BRIS). Baffert trainee has looked fantastic this week and seems very logical here. The other Baffert entry is BRIS Prime Power selection AMERICAN GAL who has yet to contest two turns, but looked spectacular in winning a listed stakes here at 6f, pulling away through the stretch (84 Beyer, 94 BRIS, both field highs over a dry track). That race came against lesser, but speedy filly draws outside the pace and has been working like gangbusters. She turns around quickly (13 days!) but has as much upside as any. YELLOW AGATE made a fair enough account of herself while stalking and winning the 8f Frizette at Belmont (77 Beyer, 91 BRIS) and fits right in on figures, although she’s another that will be stretching out. Looking for value, you could do worse than to land on WITH HONORS, who led for most of the local prep before losing the lead late to be beaten a half length by NOTED AND QUOTED. If we like that one, we have to like her at least a little bit off that effort, and she does have a bullet work under her belt over the track. The concern is being buried near the rail in a race where she will face more pace pressure. A couple that we will try to beat include JAMYSON N GINGER, whose freaky speed figure earned in her last appears to have been slop assisted, and UNION STRIKE, who was an impressive winner of the 7f Debutante but skipped her two turn prep and now races for a new trainer; bad signals. SWEET LORETTA is a perfect 3 for 3 but also comes in off a long layoff trying to stretch out.

Picks:

1) Valadorna 5-1

2) Noted And Quoted 9-2

3) American Gal 6-1

4) Yellow Agate 8-1

Longshot: With Honors 10-1

5- Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, 10f, 2:43

The revival of morning line favorite LADY ELI’s career after her life-threatening battle with laminitis will be one of the feel good stories of this Breeders’ Cup. After winning the 10f Flower Bowl in her last race (102 Beyer, 101 BRIS) she proved that she can handle this distance, and stands as the home team’s best chance. However, she is far from a single, and not even our top choice, in this spot. We’ll take a shot with the three-year old European SEVENTH HEAVEN, who gets Ryan Moore aboard for Aidan O’Brien. This filly beat the highly regarded Arc winner and defending Breeders’ Cup Turf champion FOUND two back, and gets a cutback in distance combined with some class relief here. She also gets first time Lasix and has a considerable advantage over the field in terms of Racing Post Ratings (121 to Lady Eli’s 114). SEA CALISI was 3rd behind LADY ELI in the Flower Bowl, but closing type was up against it coming off a two month layoff since her Beverly D score, and thanks to the slow pace that day. She should see a bit more here and be coming late, but appears just a cut below the top two. Another three-year old shipper is QUEEN’S TRUST, who is Group 1 placed in Britain and actually finished ahead of the top choice in her last. She gets first time Lasix and has the second highest Racing Post Rating in the field (115) but has never won a race over the turf; seems to be more of a contender for the bottom of exotics than for the win. AL’S GAL is a former claimer turned Grade 1 winner, and this rapidly improving Mike Maker mare always shows up, having not finished worse than 2nd in her last six starts, all stakes races. The waters are deeper here but her ability to rate and close make her intriguing in a race that sets up with a fair amount of pace. CATCH A GLIMPSE, SENTERIO ITALIA, AVENGE, KITCAT and ZIPESSA should account for that, but all have shown signs that this distance is at or beyond their limits.

Picks:

1) Seventh Heaven 3-1

2) Lady Eli 5-2

3) Sea Calisi 8-1

4) Queen’s Trust 6-1

Longshot: Al’s Gal 15-1

6- Breeders’ Cup Sprint, 6f, 3:21

The defection of Lord Nelson took a lot of glamour out of this race. He would have been our pick for the winner and the race now stands with just seven runners, a disappointingly short field for a Breeders’ Cup race. This is the one race that year after year, we tend to simply eyeball the speed figures and apply accordingly. This race is rarely won by closers, and usually the horse that has shown the fastest speed at the 6f distance is a pretty safe bet. Unfortunately, this year, that picture isn’t as clear as two of them top out with 107 Beyers and both have been working extremely well.  But they do appear to tower above the rest, and it’s tough to go much deeper than two here in multis considering the small field.  The lightly raced MASOCHISTIC actually has the field’s highest overall Beyer (110), but that came at 7f and was back in August, and he’s only 1/5 lifetime at 6f. He hasn’t raced since then, but has posted an absurd six bullet works over the course off that layoff. He’ll be sent straight to the front, and they’ll all have to catch him. He’s 4/6 liftetime at Santa Anita, and trainer Ron Ellis wins with 31% of his runners off a similar lay.  Horse for the course gets the nod narrowly over A.P. INDIAN, who has done nothing wrong in winning all six of his starts this year. He has also posted two bullet works since his last race. The separation between these two is truly so small, but the feeling here is that this colt may have regressed slightly in his last after such a tough campaign, and he has also never raced at Santa Anita. It’s also worth noting that his two best career efforts have come at 7f, although his record at 6f is superior to the top choice. We won’t split hairs and will try to simply get through this race with one of the two without having to take a hard stand either way. Three-year old DREFONG has upside but looks like an underlay against the above two coming off a long layoff following a 7f win in the King’s Bishop against lesser. He’s 2/3 at Santa Anita but takes a big step up in class; he got away with an easy lead in his last and will need to improve several lengths on his career high 103 Beyer to be competitive here. LIMOUSINE LIBERAL added blinkers in his last and popped a big number in giving A.P. INDIAN all he could handle, but lost to the speedster DELTA BLUESMAN three back; that one actually crossed the wire ahead of A.P INDIAN in May but lost by disqualification. He comes in fresh here off sharp works, and actually owns the field high BRIS figure at the distance (108), will go straight to the lead and could hang on for a share. There shouldn’t be much chance for a pace meltdown in such a short field, but MIND YOUR BISCUITS is the lone closer signed on. He was no match for DREFONG or today’s foe NOHOLDINGBACK BEAR in his last two, but crazier things have happened at the Breeders’ Cup, and race shape players should take notice.

Picks:

1) Masochistic 2-1

2) A.P. Indian 4-1

3) Drefong 7-2

4) Delta Bluesman 15-1

Longshot: Mind Your Biscuits 20-1

7- Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, 6.5f, 4:05

Always one of the biggest crapshoots of the day, this edition of the Turf Sprint stretches out a full furlong from last year’s event at Keeneland and takes place on a downhill course. There are several angles in play here, as a quartet of Euro invaders ship in to run against horses stretching out, cutting back, and returning to their specialist course. Defending champion MONGOLIAN SATURDAY will race out of the #3 hole, which has been successful on this turf course, but pure speed horse has always been better going shorter than 6f. We’ll toss him along with tepid morning line favorite PURE SENSATION, another pace type that will be forced to gun it from the rail and figures to struggle going longer. We’ll instead focus in on those who are true downhill specialists at Santa Anita, as four of the five Turf Sprint winners on this course owned a win on it before the race. We land on HOLY LUTE. He won the local prep for this at the distance (101 Beyer, 98 BRIS) and is 9-2-3-0 lifetime here. AMBITIOUS BREW is another horse for the course, boasting a 10-5-2-0 record here. Despite the slightly better record, he ran a bit slower than the top choice on the same day (96 Beyer, 95 BRIS), although both will be fair prices. Sticking with horses that have run well on the Santa Anita turf, an obvious contender (sorry) is BRIS Prime Power selection OBVIOUSLY, who arguably gets some class relief as he cuts back in distance. Pure speed type is deadly on the lead even at the ripe old age of eight and has made a career out of being a consistent miler. They’ll all have to catch him out of the #2 hole, and we’re not sure they can. Compared to the other cutback horses, including OM, CELESTINE and A LOT, he has the most consistent Beyers (104, 108 and 106 in last three races) and fastest average BRIS E1 and E2 pace figures (108, 113). Of the rest, A LOT looks most appealing on the cutback following a career best Beyer of 105 in his last race but will have a two month layoff to contend with. The Euros are pretty hard to separate here, but the slight edge goes to KARAR, who has kept the classiest company, finishing 2nd at 7f in his last to the highly regarded LIMATO, who goes in the Mile, and holding off fellow contender SUEDOIS. All Euro shippers receive first time Lasix, although no Euro has ever won this race, downhill or otherwise. More plausible as a longshot is probably UNDRAFTED, who has been off form this year but has been racing at distances shorter than ideal, and now gets to stretch out to his sweet spot. Six-year old deep closer was once the most fearsome in his division and while not a downhill specialist, should get ample pace to set up his late run.

Picks:

1) Holy Lute 10-1

2) Obviously 6-1

3) Ambitious Brew 10-1

4) A Lot 8-1

Longshot: Undrafted 12-1, Karar 15-1

9- Breeders’ Cup Turf, 12f, 5:22

Three contenders appear to tower above the rest here. A decided lack of pace may prove beneficial to HIGHLAND REEL, an Aidan O’Brien trainee. We were supporters when he wired the Secretariat at our hometown Arlington track last summer, so his affinity for firmer turf is noted. He gets the nod here on form going back to his Group 1 win in Hong Kong in a head to head matchup with FLINTSHIRE. That one is another who should enjoy the firmer going, boasting field high speed figures at the distance (112 Beyer, 116 BRIS) and will try to turn the tables on the defending champion filly FOUND. She won the prestigious Arc de Triomphe over the top choice and defeated the second choice last year, but may find less pace and firmer ground than she did in either of those events. This will also be her third start in five weeks. All three of them boast equal Racing Post Ratings of 124. BRIS Prime Power Selection MONDIALISTE won the Arlington Million at 10f as our top choice, and finds a bit of an odd spot here, having raced most of his career at shorter distances. But why not give him a shot underneath, as he gave no indication of distance limitations in that win, and his last start at a mile didn’t set up for his closing style up front. Perhaps he will appreciate the added ground. The three-year old Irish colt ULYSSES is regally bred and enters off two solid Group 3 efforts across the pond over firmer turf. He’s trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who has four career wins in this race and two over this turf course, and appears live at a price underneath against a weak contingent of Americans. ECTOT defeated FLINTSHIRE last out (106 Beyer, 97 BRIS), the only horse to do so this year, but that race came over yielding turf and this one won’t; he was losing optional claiming races prior to that. MONEY MULTIPILER and TWILIGHT ECLIPSE have never been any match for FLINTSHIRE, although the former did put up a competitive figure 109 Beyer, 112 BRIS) two back, and may have not liked the yielding turf in his last.

Picks:

1) Highland Reel 3-1

2) Flintshire 3-1

3) Found 5-2

4) Mondialiste 15-1

Longshot: Ulysses 12-1

10- Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, 7f, 6:01

Evenly matched field figures to be a smart race to spread in multi-race wagers. TARA’S TANGO goes third off the lay and looks like horse for the course here as she cuts back for Jerry Hollendorfer following a 4th place finish in the 8.5f Zenyatta against far better company. Before that, she won a 6.5f Grade 3 at Del Mar and was gaining ground through the wire (90 Beyer, 103 BRIS). She’s a Grade 1 winner over this track and is 8-2-3-1 lifetime at Santa Anita. She fired a bullet 5f work on 10/16 (1:00.0, 1/59). She has proven ability to relax and rate off the lead and her average Late Pace figures make her competitive here at a price. The most logical winner is HAVEYOUGONEAWAY, who earns morning line favorite status off her win in the 7f Ballerina (99 Beyer, 102 BRIS), which looks like a key race for this. She’s had a two month layoff since then but has fired two bullet works leading up to this, and holds the fastest BRIS Late Pace Last Race figure in the field (104). BY THE MOON was second in that race and also closed well to miss the winners’ circle by just a half length. She’s run her last four at this distance, having bested several of these runners, so she seems to merit inclusion at a fair price here off a two month layoff. If CARINA MIA can reproduce her runaway win in the 7f Eight Belles from May (93 Beyer, 104 BRIS) she may have a say, but she’s tough to endorse off her easily beaten 3rd in the Ballerina. She’ll cut back here and get some class relief after an 8.5f beating at the hands of Songbird, but Bill Mott has won with just 1/25 runners going from a sprint to a route and back to a sprint. IRISH JASPER looks light on figures following a closing 6f win in the TCA at Keeneland (89 Beyer, 94 BRIS) but stands a chance to pick up a share from off the pace as she stretches out here; could be to her liking. Defending champion WAVELL AVENUE hasn’t been in the same form this year and looks to require a total pace meltdown, having lost to several of these foes head to head this year. PAULASSILVERLINING could be the speed of the speed here, but strikes us as more of a 6f type as she faded in the Ballerina after leading, and the decent figures (94 Beyer, 102 BRIS) she earned at 6.5f in winning her last came over the mud. GLORYZAPPER is 4-1-3-0 over this track and shows a sharp work here recently (5f in :59.0, 1/41) but takes a class leap and would need to improve figure-wise, appears to be part of the early pace.

Picks:

1) Tara’s Tango 8-1

2) Haveyougoneaway 3-1

3) By The Moon 8-1

4) Carina Mia 7-2

Longshot: Irish Jasper 10-1

11- Breeders’ Cup Mile, 8f, 6:40

This looks like the deepest race on the entire two-day card, with a whopping 10 Grade 1 winners signed on, any of which one could make a case for. The race appears to have a fair amount of pace, which is not to say it will be blazing up front, but fractions of :23.0 and :46.0 on the lead seem a reasonable estimate. IRONICUS closed like a freight train into slow fractions when just missing the win by a head in the Shadwell Mile, (106 Beyer, 100 BRIS) gobbling up three lengths in the stretch in his first try off a long layoff. He looks to have the most devastating turn of foot in the field (103 Late Pace Last Race is tops here by double digits) and should improve on that effort in his second start off the lay. With the right trip he could upset here at decent odds, and has been working very well for Shug McGaughey. It would be impossible to exclude defending champion and all-world mare TEPIN, who had won eight in a row, including a Group 1 win at Ascot, before being upset in her last by a loose-on-the lead PHOTO CALL. Egregious and collective jockey error played some role in the odd outcome of that race, but one has to wonder if Tepin was fully cranked for that race to begin with or whether that was simply a workout for this. She’s as classy as they come (121 Racing Post Rating) and knows how to stalk and pounce on the leaders. The two primary speeds in this race both merit looks on a “horse for the course” angle. MIDNIGHT STORM comes in fresh off a ten week layoff and shows a 5-2-1-0 record over this turf course, including a win in the 8f Shoemaker Mile in June where he posted a field high Beyer figure (110). He backed that up in his most recent start with a 106, and if the pace goes slower than expected, he could be very difficult to pass on his home turf. We prefer his chances to WHAT A VIEW, another speed type, who draws the rail here. He’s undefeated in five starts over the turf at Santa Anita, but threw in a real dud when 8th in the Shadwell last out. That was his first start in six months though, and perhaps he needed the race and could improve returning to this track. We’ll stay away from PHOTO CALL, who was allowed to set easy fractions when separating from the field on the lead and upsetting TEPIN; they won’t let her get away with that trick again. MISS TEMPLE CITY is another that won her last on the lead while setting easy fractions, and TOURIST has been tough to figure out recently, showing just one win in his last seven starts. Both appear in pretty deep here despite our preference on top for a horse that ran right with them in their last. That turns our attention to the formidable Euro contingent. LIMATO comes in highly credentialed, and boasts the highest Racing Post Rating in the field (126). The concern with him is the distance, as he has never won beyond 7f, and his only career off-the-board finish came in his only career 8f try. He’ll get first time Lasix but will also encounter firmer turf than he is accustomed to and while he should certainly have a say at the end, may be worth beating on the top line and in exotics. ALICE SPRINGS is more accomplished at the distance, winning three of her last four races, all at 8f and all in Group 1 company, and has every right to win this. We’ll go four deep here in multis.

Picks:

1) Ironicus 8-1

2) Tepin 3-1

3) Midnight Storm 12-1

4) Alice Springs 4-1

Longshot: What A View 20-1

12- Breeders’ Cup Classic, 10f, 7:35

The main event seems focused around two primary contenders that come into this race with an equal amount of hype for completely different reasons, as one seems to have Horse of the Year all but locked up, while the other has catapulted into contention for the Three-Year Old Eclipse award after one of the most stunning performances in recent memory. If ARROGATE’s towering 13 length win in the 10f Travers is to be believed, then they are all running for second. The 122 Beyer and 124 BRIS speed figure he earned there simply puts him double digit lengths ahead of the next fastest horse. There’s certainly an argument to be made that he has to prove it again against older, stronger foes, but at 5-2 on the morning line, the price is right to find out. He’s been layed off by design since that romp, and has been working impressively over the local track, where he already has won twice. He reminds us of the great Tiznow, another west coast based three-year old who came out of nowhere that fall and won this race. CALIFORNIA CHROME will take a lot of beating however. The 2014 Kentucky Derby winner has been in career form as a five-year old, winning all six of his starts here and abroad in Dubai. He’s back on his home track and if the top choice doesn’t fire, should win rather easily off his prior form (113 Beyer, 112 BRIS). There isn’t a blazing pace expected in this edition of the Classic, but MELATONIN figures to go to the lead. He’s 4/4 lifetime at Santa Anita and has competitive figures at this distance (109 Beyer, 107 BRIS). If he gets too easy of a lead up front, anything is possible, as he has no limitations getting 10f. He has a four month layoff to contend with, however. FROSTED turned in one of the year’s greatest performances when he annihilated the Met Mile field by 14 lengths, earning a 123 Beyer. However, after failing to hit the board in last year’s Derby, we were reminded that he is better going a bit shorter than this, and the Dirt Mile would probably have been a more logical spot for him. Expect him to tuck in behind the pace and make a fair account of himself, however. HOPPERTUNITY, by contrast, is a colt that thrives with added ground, and finally got his first Grade 1 victory in the 10f Jockey Club Gold Cup last out (105 Beyer, 103 BRIS). He’s familiar with the track here, showing an 11-3-4-2 career record. He’s kept strong company all year and actually finished ahead of FROSTED at this distance in Dubai, so he stands a chance to crash the board at decent odds; he’s consistent and always brings it late. EFFINEX was 2nd in this event last year and should be placed close to the place, but he seems to be just a step slower this year and finished just a half length behind HOPPERTUNITY in the Jockey Club. KEEN ICE and SHAMAN GHOST will both be coming from the clouds but may find less pace here than is ideally conducive to their style.

Picks:

1) Arrogate 5-2

2) California Chrome 1-1

3) Melatonin 12-1

4) Frosted 5-1

Longshot: Hoppertunity 15-1