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Breeders’ Cup 2019 Picks and Analysis

November 1, 2019

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4- FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, 7f

In recent editions, this has been a race to play a bomber, as not only have the last four favorites (all three-year-olds) failed to even hit the board, the winners of those races have checked in at 26-1, 67-1, 9-1 and 10-1. The last three winners have also come from way back after benefiting from a pace meltdown, and a similar scenario appears to be in the cards here, as outsiders like SELCOURT (well-aimed by solid connections but perhaps better at 6f than 7f), BELLAFINA  (light on figures but 4/4 at Santa Anita), HEAVENHASMYNIKKI (takes a class leap) and DANUSKA’S MY GIRL (needs the lead and will be sent) figure to show speed right out of the gate. This is all bad news for the favored three-year old COVFEFE, who draws the rail post directly inside the latter two of those speeds and is likely to encounter pace pressure early. She deserves respect after duplicating 107 Beyers at this distance, but finished third in her lone start this year against elders, and it bears mention that before last year, a three-year-old had never won this race. We will try to keep her off the board entirely. More appealing is the five-year-old COME DANCING, who makes her first start outside of New York but has won four of her five races this year and finished second to the undefeated Midnight Bisou in the other, which came around two turns. Daughter of Malibu Moon boasts the field high Beyer and Brisnet figures at the distance (114) for her Grade 3 score in the Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct back in April. She showed the ability to relax off the pace when winning her last two and makes a lot of sense in this spot. Looking for off the pace upsetters given the expected fast fractions up front, the other two that appear interesting as the lone Brisnet “P” designations in the field both come out of the 6f TCA Stakes at Keeneland, a race that has produced five winners of this event. DAWN THE DESTROYER gobbled up ground to finish 2nd by a nose and seemed to be begging for more. She also finished 2nd to the top selection two back at 7f, and may be overlooked off her slow recent speed figures (90 Beyer), although she does have a 7f win against listed stakes company in January that earned her the field’s third highest Brisnet figure at the distance this year (103). She runs third off the lay for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who wins with 20% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle, and checks a lot of boxes as a potential bomber. SPICED PERFECTION won that TCA race off a long layoff after severe trouble early and has a Grade 1 win at the distance to her credit from April in the Madison at Keeneland (93 Beyer) and should benefit from the stretchout here off her last as trainer Peter Miller wins with 24% of his runners second off the lay. She has won three of her last five at this distance. Horse for the course LADY NINJA is an interesting longshot making a class leap and stretching out for her first try at 7f; she’s won five of nine between 6 and 6.5f over the Santa Anita track (101 Brisnet), many of them from off the pace, and hasn’t missed the board this year in seven starts.

Picks:

  1. #4 Come Dancing (5-2)
  2. #8 Dawn The Destroyer (12-1)
  3. #9 Spiced Perfection (4-1)
  4. #1 Covfefe (2-1)

5- TURF SPRINT, 5f

Always a crapshoot, this year’s Turf Sprint race moves off the famous downhill 6.5f turf course to a shorter 5f distance, which changes the complexion of the race massively. As a case can be made for almost all of these in a wide-open race, our best guess will be to focus specifically on form at the distance. Early in the year, IMPRIMIS seemed an invincible turf sprinter off of back to back scores at Gulfstream and Keeneland, the former of which earned him a field high 109 Beyer at this distance. After a 6th place finish in Britain against Group 1 foes, he returned stateside to encounter two tough trips finishing behind a few of these foes. Running third off the lay here and cutting back, he offers upside at a price as a somewhat forgotten horse if he brings his best race, and is 5/7 lifetime at this distance. Frankie Dettori, who had the mount in Dubai, provides a rider upgrade. It’s hard to believe that PURE SENSATION continues to maintain such solid form at age eight, but 5f specialist has won his last six races at this distance and figures to be the one they all have to catch as one of just two Brisnet “E” designations in the field from his inside post in a shortened race that is truly all about speed. It’s worth mentioning that five of those wins came over turf rated less than firm, including the field high Brisnet figure (108) he earned three back over soft, so he will have to transfer that form to the firmer ground at Santa Anita, where he finished 3rd in his lone career start. Horse for the course EDDIE HASKELL also specializes at this distance, winning 9 of 14 career starts at 5f. His speed figures lag a notch behind the top two selections (97 Beyer, 99 Brisnet) but holds home court advantage and has beaten today’s foes STORMY LIBERAL and STUBBINS in his last three. Astute turf sprint jockey Joel Rosario retains the mount and is second to none in races such as these. BELVOIR BAY also enjoys Santa Anita having won 6 of her 9 starts here including a career top figure at this distance in February (101 Brisnet) and hasn’t been out of the exacta in her last four starts at the distance; she cuts back off a long layoff but can be involved in the early pace breaking widest of all. TOTALLY BOSS has done nothing wrong this year, winning four of his five races between 5.5-6f with competitive speed figures (101 Beyer and Brisnet) albeit favorable trips, beating the top selection at the longer distance in his last. He cuts back here to try the 5f distance he won an allowance as a three-year-old last July, but hasn’t tried since, and draws a tough post on the rail to try to set up his late kick. Closing types OM and STUBBINS may also find this shortened distance a tad sharp, although the former did defeat the top selection closing hard at 5.5f last out, while the latter beat TOTALLY BOSS at 5.5f in last race back in June but has never tried 5f. The aforementioned STORMY LIBERAL has won this race the past two years but seems to have lost more than a step during his seven-year old campaign. We will also oppose the speedy SHEKKY SHEBAZ (102 Beyer, 106 Brisnet) and FINAL FRONTIER (104 Beyer, 107 Brisnet) who have traded trips to the winner’s circle in head to head meetings over their last two, but both take class leaps from stakes company and have posted their wins at longer distances as well. LEINSTER deserves a look underneath on the strength of his 108 Beyer at 5.5f, but tries this distance for the first time. He has beaten both of the top selections over his last three, but lost to TOTALLY BOSS in between. You could easily justify hitting the “ALL” button here in multi-race wagers above any other race on the card, but we will attempt to survive with just the top three.

Picks:

  1. #3 Imprimis (8-1)
  2. #2 Pure Sensation (5-1)
  3. #10 Eddie Haskell (9-2)
  4. #12 Belvior Bay (12-1)

6- DIRT MILE, 8f

A collection of misfits meet for a two-turn mile that many would prefer to see abolished. OMAHA BEACH was forced to defect from the Kentucky Derby and subsequently the entire three-year-old division was thrown into chaos; he would have been our strongest play in that race in many years and rightfully looms a heavy favorite here off his 6f score in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (103 Beyer, 106 Brisnet). A perfect world would have seen him land in the Classic to make amends for missing the Derby, but this world is decidedly not that, so he runs here, beyond the 6f distance of his comeback race but short of his ideal distance. Still, lone Brisnet “E” designation should be able to control the pace up front from a favorable post and is versatile and talented enough to dispatch of these on the strength of a strong work pattern. It would be easy but perhaps unwise to dismiss GIANT EXPECTATIONS off of his 1/11 lifetime record around two turns. Note however that all but two of those races came at distances beyond 8.5f, and that his lone win came over this track around two turns at 8.5f against last year’s Classic winner Accelerate. He stretches out here after giving the highly regarded Catalina Cruiser (who might have been favored in this race if not having opted for the Sprint), all he could handle at 7f, losing by just a head while posting career high figures (104 Beyer, 103 Brisnet) which stack up well here. He was a well-beaten 5thafter a bad start in this race a year ago but appears to be in career from as a six-year-old. IMPROBABLE became our de facto Kentucky Derby pick after the defection of the top selection, and runs third off the lay here for Bob Baffert who wins with 22% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle. He enters off a puzzling 4th place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby but has been working well and figures to be involved early from an inside post if he can break, which is never a given for mentally-challenged sort. He did win before that at this distance while posting figures that make him competitive here (104 Beyer, 105 Brisnet), but it’s hard to imagine him turning the tables on the top selection from their Arkansas Derby battle earlier in the year, when he was never able to draw within a length. He does boast a perfect 2/2 record at the mile distance. SPUN TO RUN enters off a dominating win over lesser foes that earned him figures that tower over the field at this distance (110 Beyer, 108 Bris) but was a well-beaten 3rdto Maximum Security in the Haskell and was no match for two of these after that when 5th in the Pennsylvania Derby. He simply hasn’t been able to duplicate the same figures while stepping up to the Grade 1 level, which is reason enough to question their validity. Speaking of the Pennsylvania Derby, runner-up MR. MONEY got away with murder on the front end in that one, but still couldn’t seal the deal in the stretch, and has seen his speed figures downtick over his last three races following his 8.5f Indiana Derby score (100 Beyer, 103 Brisnet). His sire Goldencents did win this race twice but the feeling here is that this formerly strong contender may be over the top after a strong but tiring campaign, and will be overbet; ask yourself what odds you would have required to bet this colt instead of OMAHA BEACH or IMPROBABLE back in April or May. COAL FRONT is another that figures to be among the leaders early after returning to form winning against lesser at this distance in his last, but winning shorter dirt race in California is not Todd Pletcher’s game or priority. DIAMOND OOPS surprisingly lands in this race instead of the Sprint following a 2ndplace finish on turf in the Grade 1 Shadwell, and was 2ndat 6f on dirt before that in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt, finishing ahead of favored Mitole somewhat by default. He’s perhaps the most interesting underneath after having kept such solid company, and switching from turf to dirt is an intriguing angle for trainer Patrick Biancone, who wins 19% of the time after that surface transition, but son of Lookin At Lucky has not won beyond 6f. BLUE CHIPPER enters with a 7/8 lifetime record in Korea but has never raced around two turns, and who knows what he’s been beating.

Picks:

  1. #5 Omaha Beach (8-5)
  2. #1 Giant Expectations (12-1)
  3. #2 Improbable (3-1)
  4. #3 Spun To Run (6-1)

7- FILLY AND MARE TURF, 10f 

 The disappointing defection of world class filly Magical robs this race of a potential battle of titans and instead seemingly results in a free square for multis. Defending champion and Female Turf Eclipse winner SISTERCHARLIE has won all three of her starts this year as she has steadily stretched out in distance, including the 9.5f Beverly D and 10f Flower Bowl, both Grade 1 events, posting towering speed figures (105 Beyer, 107 Brisnet). She holds a seven race winning streak dating back to last year and holds the top RPR in the field (118) for her 9f win in July off a nine month layoff. She’s proven to be able to unleash her closing kick into any kind of pace setup, which is good news given the scratch of rabbit stablemate Thais. There’s no sound reason to get cute or take a shot against the day’s most likely winner, who may not have yet shown her best. Course specialist VASILIKA stretches out to 10f here but has won an impressive 11 of 12 starts at Santa Anita and was second in the other. Primarily raced in mile events, there’s reason to believe she will relish the added ground, as she shows a Grade 1 win over this course and distance last fall, and her charging 9f score two back resulted in career high figures (98 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 111 RPR). VILLA MARINA and FLEETING loom the most imposing of the foreign shippers to our eyes, and both own equal RPR tops at this distance (115). Given that VILLA MARINA has won their last two matchups by narrow margins and also shows a 10f win over firmer ground, she is preferred slightly of the two. The trouble-seeking FLEETING also ships to wheel back after just 14 days rest and gets what should be a taxing third race in a month for the O’Brien barn, which is 0-13 lifetime in this race, and was easily beaten this summer by the favorite, while VILLA MARINA comes in a well-rested four weeks after her last race. An interesting longshot could be BILLESDON BROOK, who has contested her last five races at 8f and shorter including a Group 1 win at a mile over softer turf last time out, but could be competitive if she can translate that form to a longer distance here based on figures (116 RPR at 7f). She beat IRIDESSA in that race, although that one has won a Group 1 at 10f before over firmer turf (114 RPR), defeating a pretty tough customer in Magic Wand, but was a badly beaten 7th well behind FLEETING at 12f three back. She will stretch back out after running her last two at 8f; both receive first time Lasix. MRS. SIPPY was beaten only a length by the top selection in her last but would need to improve figure wise (96 Beyer, 101 Brisnet, 108 RPR); may be overbet based on that effort when the top selection may not have been fully cranked, and will need to come from the clouds. Recent Group 3 winning three-year-old FANNY LOGAN takes a class leap off of four straight wins at this distance and has run faster figures over soft ground (112 RPR), but has upside as a wise-guy play from the John Gosden barn with Frankie Dettori in the saddle and also gets first time Lasix. We’ll pass on the classy closer JUST WONDERFUL off her recent form, as she was beaten by two of these foes over her last two races at 8f, but those races serve as a useful measuring stick- she was beaten 5.5 lengths by VASILIKA but just 0.75 lengths by IRIDESSA.

Picks:

  1. #2 Sistercharlie (8-5)
  2. #7 Vasilika (8-1)
  3. #9 Villa Marina (8-1)
  4. #3 Fleeting (6-1)

8- SPRINT, 6f

Perhaps the deepest, most star-studded and most difficult race of the weekend, a case could be made for any of these ten runners to win. That said, we will look toward some recent race shape trends here, as there appears to be a lot of speed early with the three-year-old SHANCELOT (121 Beyer) figuring to be shot out of the gate like a cannonball. In the last 20 runnings, only one horse has wired this race, and we’ve seen several fields weaker than this one in between. Therefore, we will try to beat him in his first career start against elders coming off losses in his last two at odds-on, while acknowledging that his job did get a tad easier after the scratch of fellow speedster Landeskog earlier this week. Entering off a bullet 4f work over the local track last week, he will surely lead the field a long way; while he isn’t a win candidate in our eyes, excluding him entirely probably isn’t a great idea, but his figures in two losses since that freaky performance (96, 102 Beyer) won’t be good enough to hit the board here. As no closer has won this race since 2008 either, what we are looking for here is a running style that can sit within striking distance of the leaders, not too far off the pace while also not being sucked into it. Both MITOLE (108 Beyer) and IMPERIAL HINT (114 Beyer) fit that description like a glove, as the Timeform pace projector shows them 2ndand 3rdon the rail in the early going. The latter got the best of the former in their lone meeting two starts back, but MITOLE had a legitimate excuse after being buried down on a dead rail at Saratoga; versatile sort has done no wrong outside of that this year, having won his other five 2019 races between 6f-8f including three at this distance. A recent bullet work of :58.4 over the Santa Anita track for this usually slow workhorse indicates all systems go, and after opposing him cost us a Pick 4 score upwards of $2k on Belmont Day, that mistake won’t be made again. IMPERIAL HINT finished 2nd in this event two years ago and 3rdlast year, and as a six-year-old looks to be in as good of form as ever after two straight Grade 1 wins at this distance. He drew outside the speed and should sit a perfect trip just off the pace; he wins on talent alone on his best day assuming he handles the Santa Anita surface in his first try over it, and we feel comfortable to escape this race using just those two on top. Looking for closers to pick up the pieces beneath them in trifectas, we have an absolute plethora to choose from. CATALINA CRUISER may have been better suited to the Dirt Mile, but with that race set around two turns at Santa Anita, one-turn specialist winds up here. His dud as the favorite in that race a year ago remains the only loss of his eight race career. He did break his maiden at this distance and won the Grade 2 True North at 6.5 furlongs three back (103 Beyer, 105 Brisnet). As more of a mid-pack closer, he should get first run in the event of a pace collapse but will have to negotiate a tough rail post, although he is 3/3 previously breaking from the rail. Three consecutive triple digit Beyers seems to indicate he belongs with these. FIRENZE FIRE struggles a bit away from Belmont Park, but still looms the most dangerous of the deep closers given his field high 101 Brisnet Late Pace Figure at 6f and enters off back to back runner-up finishes behind the top two selections beaten a combined three lengths (106 Beyer, 104 Brisnet). It’s hard to ignore last year’s runner-up WHITMORE who seems to always fire his shot from way off the pace; he may have lost a step as a six-year-old but has still hit the board in 16 of 17 starts at the distance. Odds may be worth including underneath as he couldn’t quite catch today’s foe ENGAGE in his last, although he did earn a 101 Brisnet Late Pace figure which is tied for the best in the field at 6f this year. He loooks like a stretch for the win spot though as he hasn’t posted a triple digit speed figure in five races, having been beaten by MITOLE and CATALINA CRUISER as well over that span. HOG CREEK HUSTLE looms the deepest of all the closers. His late kick doesn’t seem to be as impactful at 6f as it is at 7f as he’s never won at this distance, but as a pure one turn runner is better suited here than the Dirt Mile even if he finds this trip a tad on the sharp side. He did finish ahead of SHANCELOT two back, will be five times the price, and should have plenty of pace to run into. A case could even be made for shipper MATERA SKY, who finished ahead of IMPERIAL HINT in Dubai, but has shown declining form since then, while the aforementioned ENGAGE enters off two straight wins at 6f and three straight ascending Beyer figures, but would need to move forward again having never run a triple digit number. This year’s Sprint looks like a great race to watch and a rough one to bet; one to either hit the ALL key or go very narrow with speed types if you are playing multis.

Picks:

  1. #4 Mitole (9-5)
  2. #9 Imperial Hint (4-1)
  3. #3 Firenze Fire (12-1)
  4. #1 Catalina Cruiser (4-1)

9- MILE, 8f

Aidan O’Brien has struggled tremendously in this spot over the years, having no wins to show for 23 total runners, one of the more bizarre Breeders’ Cup statistics considering his overall success in the event. As such, this is often a spot to take a shot against the Euro shippers. However, he holds a strong hand here with the well-aimed CIRCUS MAXIMUS, who appears to be lone speed (a severely off-form BOLO doesn’t count as speed) and adds blinkers in a deep but closer-heavy field. Three-year-old son of Galileo is a two time Group 1 winner in Europe at the distance (119 RPR), gets first time Lasix with Ryan Moore in the saddle and seems to relish firmer ground. Connections opted to defect out of a race across the pond due to the soft ground and as such he enters on full rest. HEY GAMAN finished first or second in all four of his starts over firm ground this year, each at 7f, and is interesting stretching out here just as last year’s winner Expert Eye did.  He can be involved early stepping up in class off the strength of two RPRs of 116 against Group 2 foes and finished just a length behind Romanised in one of those races; that one was beaten just a nose by the top selection in his last. Frankie Dettori gets the mount and may have to gun it from a wide post, so he could take this field a long way on the lead at a price receiving first time Lasix; the extra furlong remains a question, but the lack of expected pace should only help. Mark Casse won this race four years ago with the filly Tepin in an unforgettable romp, and we see shades of that potential with his filly GOT STORMY, who impressively defeated the boys in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at this distance and posted field high figures for the home team (109 Beyer, 114 RPR). She also defeated the hot mare UNI in that race, and that one enters with all kinds of steam following three straight ascending speed figures (105 Beyer, 113 RPR). UNI possesses the best pure turn of foot in the field, but the concern is whether she will have enough pace to run into here, especially as she draws wide; GOT STORMY gets the nod for the Americans on the basis of her running style likely being better suited for this race shape. She may offer some value after being overlooked following an upset loss in her last where she moved way too soon into a hot pace. Draw a line through LORD GLITTERS races over soft turf and beyond 8f and you’re left with a resume that stacks up like a potential winner against these, including a field high RPR of 120 from a Group 1 win at this distance in the Queen Anne this spring, beating preferred measuring stick Romanised by 1.75 lengths before finishing three lengths behind the top selection after that. He ships and runs back off just 14 days rest and is another who figures to drop way back early, likely leaving himself with too much to do late if a decent pace fails to materialize. EL TORMENTA will try to duplicate the upset victory over GOT STORMY last time out where he likely benefited from a favorable race shape scenario, as his prior running lines make him an outsider here. Closers SUEDOIS, LUCALLAN, and BOWIE’S HERO are difficult to endorse given the expected pace scenario, while TRUE VALOUR and TRAIS FLURORS appear simply outclassed. It’s difficult to say what WITHOUT PAROLE is doing here for Chad Brown off a five month layoff after five straight well-beaten off-the-board finishes including two behind LORD GLITTERS; maybe he knows something we don’t as his charge gets first time Lasix, or perhaps this is the missing pace element (read: rabbit for UNI). He did show solid form last year as a three-year-old, winning a Group 1 at Ascot with a 120 RPR that would tie for tops in the field if duplicated; adds mystery to an already puzzling race and gets Irad Ortiz aboard. SPACE TRAVELLER was beaten by two of these foes three races back at 7f, but improving sort offers upside entering after a Group 2 score at this distance in his last (114 RPR), especially as rider Daniel Tudhope opts for the mount on this three-year-old over LORD GLITTERS and SUEDOIS.

Picks:

  1. #9 Circus Maximus (3-1)
  2. #13 Hey Gaman (12-1)
  3. #6 Got Stormy (7-2)
  4. #11 Uni (7-2)

DISTAFF, 9f

The undefeated MIDNIGHT BISOU will rightfully be the shortest priced favorite on the day, entering with potential Horse of the Year aspirations on the heels of a perfect seven race campaign. She finished third in this race last year and has since put to rest concerns of her ability to excel at this distance, having won her last two at 9f. She’s by far the most likely winner, but by no means a single in our eyes. For one, her speed figures at 9f don’t exactly tower over these relative to the likely odds gap (104 Beyer, 98 Brisnet); in fact, there are two here that own better Brisnet figs this year. Also, she tends to come from a bit off the pace, which may or may not be an asset in a race that doesn’t have a bonanza of speedy front runners. We give the horse for the course PARADISE WOODS a chance to force tactics and pull the upset. A return to her Santa Margarita score over this track and distance likely wins this race given her field high Brisnet speed figure for the distance this year (100 Beyer, 105 Brisnet), and she enters off a solid prep win here in the 9f Zenyatta, where she showed versatility and the ability to rate and win. The rail post looks tough on paper, but this forces her to be involved early which probably increases her chances, as she was no further back than a half length of the leader at the second call in both of her wins this year. For all her perceived inconsistency, she’s 12-5-3-2 at Santa Anita, and is the only runner to post multiple speed figures that could challenge the favorite on her best day. BLUE PRIZE seems to be getting good at the right time, winning her last two 9f races including the Grade 2 Spinster last out, (97 Beyer, 102 Brisnet) where she turned the tables on the highly regarded Elate in a career-best effort. Six-year old mare stands a good chance to improve upon a 4thplace finish in last year’s race. Three-year-old fillies have fared well against their elders in this race historically, and while DUNBAR ROAD may have been exposed against elders in the Spinster (95 Beyer, 101 Brisnet), maybe lightly-raced daughter of Quality Road deserves a chance to improve after being forced to shoot up a dead rail for 3rd. She appears the cream of the crop of the sophomores, having won both the 8.5f Mother Goose and the 10f Alabama and shows ascending speed figures over the last three races. A fading 3rdover the slop in the Alabama, STREET BAND may have benefited from an ideal setup when winning the 8.5f Cotillion in her final prep (99 Beyer, 98 Brisnet), but the added ground should certainly be to her liking; very usable underneath. SERENGETI EMPRESS has twice beaten her, and in between wired the 9f Kentucky Oaks back in May (88 Beyer, 101 Brisnet). Crazier things have happened in this race (Spain and Adoration come to mind) than for her to get loose with easy fractions and win in similar fashion, but she feels like more of an all or nothing type, and this is a tough spot to endorse the former. Again, we do expect some added pace pressure from the top selection as well as SECRET SPICE (better at shorter distances) and cheap speed type MO SEE CAL to her outside. WOW CAT returns after a runner-up finish last year and seems has really taken an extreme step back from her form a year ago, although she did draw even with the favorite in the stretch of her last race before settling for 2nd, beaten 3.5 lengths.

Picks:

  1. #1 Paradise Woods (5-1)
  2. #4 Midnight Bisou (6-5)
  3. #5 Dunbar Road (6-1)
  4. #11 Blue Prize (6-1)

11- TURF, 12f

 All eyes turn toward the undefeated BRICKS AND MORTAR here as he attempts to nail down Horse of the Year honors. He’s a bit of a horse without a country in this spot, having dominated all competitors at 9f-10f this year, but has never attempted this distance. The feeling here is, however, that this is a better spot for him than the Mile; nothing about closer’s running style in previous races indicates that the added ground should be an issue. He’s won races closing into glacial paces as well. He enters off the longest layoff in the field since his Arlington Million score in August at 10f (104 Beyer, 105 Brisnet, 118 RPR). As he holds the largest Brisnet Prime Power advantage and figure of the entire day (192.5, +18.2) he’s a must use on top defensively at the very least. Still, it’s tough to feel incredibly confident for a closer to win at a distance he’s never tried before at such short odds. Searching for better value, the consistent OLD PERSIAN has far fewer question marks, having won five races at 12f which is by far the most in the field, including a Group 1 in Dubai (field high 122 RPR) and a Grade 1 at Woodbine (100 Beyer, 107 Brisnet). He does step up in class, but there will be tougher calls in this Breeders’ Cup than taking a flyer on the most accomplished horse in the field at the distance who also shows the best speed figures as the third choice. Three-year-old ANTHONY VAN DYCK leads the Euros for Aidan O’Brien, and he has a Group 1 win at this distance at Epsom in the Investec Derby (120 RPR). Connections skipped the Arc in favor of firm turf here and will hope for a better result than the last time he shipped to the United States when he was a well-beaten 9th in last year’s Juvenile Turf as favorite. He did run 2nd at this distance after shipping to Dubai more recently. There appears to be a rather significant drop after the top three, and separating the rest of the Americans underneath the favorite is somewhat of a fool’s errand as it seems ARKLOW, CHANNEL MAKER, CHANNEL CAT and ZULU ALPHA have simply taken turns beating one another. More of an underneath type, ARKLOW has undeniably been the most consistent, hitting the board in his last five races against that group and finally winning his last with impressive career high speed figures (104 Beyer, 114 Brisnet, 113 RPR); he was 4thagainst an arguably stronger field last year. CHANNEL CAT has been consistent as well in that he runs the same race every time; not sure another 110 RPR hits the board here however. ZULU ALPHA has been inconsistent but does have three wins at this distance including one just two back (113 RPR), but threw in a real clunker last out against many of these. CHANNEL MAKER could make an impact on his best day, but his career high RPR (118) came over soft turf and his last four races have been sub-113. ACCLIMATE is the only Brisnet “E” designation and could take this field a long way on the lead. He won at a distance beyond this over this course back in June, but faded at 10f after setting the pace in his last, and has a lot of ground to make up in terms of figures (career high 105 RPR). He also could face some added pressure early from BANDUA, who faded to 3rdafter setting the pace in the Arlington Million, and almost certainly doesn’t want to go this far. MOUNT EVEREST is moderately interesting underneath as the “other” O’Brien as he gets first time Lasix for the class leap after winning a 10f stakes over soft turf in his last (109 RPR). Well-bred son of Galileo is out of Breeders’ Cup Mile winning mare Six Perfections but will need to take a big step forward here at a distance at which he has not yet hit the board in two career attempts. If the pace gets going up front, ALOUNAK could come flying late to hit the board at an inflated price; he finished a charging 2nd at Woodbine at a shorter distance in his last (103 Brisnet), finished just three lengths behind the top selection three races back, and has posted three consecutive 110 RPR numbers. Only the favorite holds a higher Brisnet Late Pace last out figure.

Picks:

  1. #10 Old Persian (4-1)
  2. #9 Bricks and Mortar (9-5)
  3. #5 Anthony Van Dyck (3-1)
  4. #11 Arklow (12-1)

12- CLASSIC, 10f

 It’s a somewhat depressing testament to the weakness of this field and the older horse division overall that the morning line favorite for America’s richest race has never won at this distance in two tries and enters having won only two of his six 2019 starts- and that’s after throwing a total dud in the same race last year. If you’ve been reading up to this point, then you’re already well of the emphasis we place on form at the distance. It should come as no surprise then that we will oppose MCKINZIE (111 Beyer, 109 Brisnet at 9f) for the top two spots here despite his having hit the exacta in 12 of 13 career races and use him only defensively underneath. Joel Rosario takes over the mount after Bob Baffert chose to remove jockey Mike Smith following a disappointingly apathetic ride that cost the win last out in the 9f Awesome Again; we don’t think this is a good change considering Smith had ridden him in all 13 of his prior races. VINO ROSSO gets extra credit for having won two 10f races at this distance (one was stolen via a highly questionable disqualification) including the only win in the field over this track in the Gold Cup while defeating Gift Box, who beat the favorite at this distance in the Big Cap. We’ve had a soft spot for son of Curlin since last spring on the Triple Crown trail and he looks to be in career form, so why jump off now? He crossed the finish line first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at the same distance in his last before the aforementioned dubious disqualification moved him to 2nd(106 Beyer); he’s arguably the most accomplished at the distance in the field and Curlin progeny tend to be late bloomers. Irad Ortiz retains the mount and that can only be considered a plus, aggressive riding or not; staying in touch with the pace as he did in his last will be crucial, and Timeform’s pace projector has him sitting comfortably in third early. The horse that moved up in that race after losing it by a nose (106 Beyer) was CODE OF HONOR, and he could stake a claim of his own in terms of accomplishment at the distance, having won the 10f Travers going away before that and moving up to 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. He’s a must use underneath but seems beatable on top, as east coast three-year-olds shipping west for this race are a combined 0-21. In a year that’s ripe for an upset, we turn to Bill Mott and Mike Smith who combined to win with Drosselmeyer at 20-1 in 2011, the latter the scorned prior jockey of the favorite. YOSHIDA stacks up well in terms of 9f figures following a runner-up finish in the Whitney behind the favorite and ahead of the top selection after that one suffered a wide trip (108 Beyer), and after closing well to finish 4th last year is in a great spot to surprise here at a price. He hasn’t won at the distance or won often in general but is always gobbling up ground late at shorter trips; should relish the added ground but may not find the pace scenario or track conditions ideal for his closing move. HIGHER POWER owns the best Beyer at the distance from his Pacific Classic score at Del Mar (107); you could do worse than trying to get him involved underneath after stumbling out of the gate when 3rdin his last. Perhaps more interesting however is the $200k supplement MONGOLIAN GROOM, who defeated him and the favorite in his last when wiring the 9f Awesome Again over this track earning field-high last race speed figures (110 Beyer, 105 Brisnet) and could be dangerous again if given an easy lead, but that’s a scenario we consider unlikely. ELATE opts to face the boys at the 10f distance rather than face Midnight Bisou again at 9f, and that might be the right call as she is 3/3 at this distance and hasn’t been able to beat that one in three tries this year. We will oppose her strongly here however in her first start against males, as her storyline screams underlay, and her last race seemed to indicate a regression as she lost the lead in the stretch to a weaker opponent than she meets here. Preakness winner WAR OF WILL looks to set the pace with blinkers added, but hanging on in the stretch against these at 10f will be a tall order, while the 3rdplace finisher in that race OWENDALE will look to pick up the pieces late but was no match for CODE OF HONOR in the Travers. Longshots MATH WIZARD and SEEKING THE SOUL are probably better suited to shorter distances than this.

Picks:

  1. #10 Vino Rosso (4-1)
  2. #5 Yoshida (8-1)
  3. #11 Code of Honor (4-1)
  4. #8 McKinzie (3-1)

 

 

 

 

Arlington Million Day Grade 1 Stakes Pick 3 Analysis

August 9, 2019

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

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

Sistercharlie The Diana4 credit elsa

9- Beverly D, 9.5f, 4:53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picks:

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

10- Secretariat, 8f, 5:28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picks:

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

Bricks and Mortar2

11- Arlington Million, 10f

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picks:

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

PICK 3 PLAY:

Sistercharlie, Competitionofideas/

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

Bricks and Mortar, Robert Bruce, Hunting Horn, Intellogent

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

 

 

 

 

Belmont Day Late Pick 4 Analysis

June 8, 2019

BELMONT DAY PICK 4 PICKS AND ANALYSIS

Tacitus

8- Woody Stephens, 7f, 4:04

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

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

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

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

Try to beat:

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

9- Met Mile, 8f, 4:46

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

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

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

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

Try to beat: The sprinters.

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

10- Manhattan, 10f, 5:36

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

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

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

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

Try to beat:

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

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

11- Belmont Stakes, 12f, 6:37

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

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

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

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

Try to beat: The Preakness colts.

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

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

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

Pick 4 Bet:

Honest Mischief, Mind Control, Hog Creek Hustle/

Firenze Fire, McKinzie, Prince Lucky/

Bricks and Mortar/

Tacitus, Tax, Intrepid Heart, Sir Winston

Kentucky Derby Undercard Picks

May 4, 2019

churchill-downs-og

6- Humana Distaff, 7f, 12:13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9- American Turf, 8.5f, 2:37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11- Turf Classic, 9f, 4:25

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

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

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

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

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

Kentucky Derby 2019 Picks And Analysis

May 2, 2019

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

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

Improbable-Work-CD-042219-001

 PACE:

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

101 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 267 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

94 Beyer, 96 Brisnet, 368 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

94 Beyer, 101 Brisnet, 313 Tomlinson

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

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

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

#2 TAX (Arch/ Giant’s Causeway), 20-1

96 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 338 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

N/A Beyer, N/A Brisnet, 227 Tomlinson

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

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

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

JUST OFF THE PACE:

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

98 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 294 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

 99 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 306 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

 95 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 372 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

95 Beyer, 97 Brisnet, 293 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

96 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 289 Tomlinson

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

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

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

STALKERS:

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

97 Beyer, 98 Brisnet, 323 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

95 Beyer, 95 Brisnet, 267 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

97 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 252 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

95 Beyer, 99 Brisnet, 244 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

58 Beyer, 72 Brisnet, 329 Tomlinson

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

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

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

CLOSERS:

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

97 Beyer, 103 Brisnet, 289 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

91 Beyer, 95 Brisnet, 360 Tomlinson

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

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

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

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

89 Beyer, 97 Brisnet, 291 Tomlinson

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

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

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

PICKS SUMMARY:

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

HOW TO BET $100 ON THE KENTUCKY DERBY:

$0.50 Trifecta ($30):

Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner/

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

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

Exactas ($30):

$4 Box: Improbable, Maximum Security, Game Winner

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

$20 WIN, $20 PLACE: Improbable

 

2019 NCAA Tournament Picks and Analysis

March 21, 2019
*** All game probabilities and efficiency ratings are referenced from the Ken Pomeroy website, as it is the single greatest predictive evaluator ever created by mankind.
deandre-hunter-broken-wrist

EAST:

Early Upsets:

#9 UCF over #8 VCU: 

This is an interesting matchup that features two teams that rank in the top 15 nationally in defensive two point shooting percentage, so this could come down to who is able to knock down threes the most effectively. That is not VCU’s modus operandi at all, as they rank a lousy 330th nationally in three point shooting percentage, and UCF’s imposing 7-6 center Tacko Fall could wreak havoc on their inside game. With leading scorer Marcus Evans still questionable to play, VCU will likely not be at full strength.

#6 Maryland over #3 LSU:

There’s value here as many hot on the Belmont bandwagon may pick the Terps to lose their first round game, but a significant rebounding edge (#7 vs #73 in total rebounding percentage) combined with superior talent should push Maryland forward in that one. LSU actually looms the most likely 3 seed to lose first round, so it’s a low risk proposition to take a chance with a balanced team like Maryland, who ranked in the top 25 in efficiency on both sides of the ball per KenPom for most of the season, to make the Sweet 16. LSU is defensively challenged, ranking just 62nd in defensive efficiency, and looks to be the most overseeded from an overall efficiency standpoint of all the 3 seeds. Additionally, questions loom over coach Will Wade’s suspension from his duties.

Upsets to avoid:

#5 Mississippi State over #4 Virginia Tech:

This is a bad matchup for the Bulldogs who rank 221st nationally in three point percentage defense against a Hokie team that ranks 8th in three point shooting percentage and plays at a glacial pace (345th in the nation in terms of tempo). Mississippi State’s inability to defend the perimeter will likely force themselves into an early hole that they won’t have enough possessions left to cut into.

#7 Louisville over #2 Michigan State: 

This one will be tempting for some as Louisville has a head to head win from earlier this year and Michigan State has made early exits the last two seasons and draw an underseeded opponent in terms of efficiency (the highest ranked of all the 7 seeds), but the Spartans have made defensive strides since the overtime loss to Louisville despite injury issues. More specifically, MSU boasts the 3rd best two point percentage defense in the nation, which may force Louisville into attempts from beyond the arc, and they rank just 179th in three point shooting percentage. Izzo is hell-bent on getting back to the Sweet 16.

Regional Semifinals:

#1 Duke over #4 Virginia Tech:

Virginia Tech pulled the upset at home while both teams were missing their best players, but now Zion Williamson and Justin Robinson return for this potential clash. One of those tips the scale a bit more than the other, however, and we like Duke’s ability to guard to perimeter (37th in three point shooting percentage defense) against a team that plays slowly and lives and dies by the three.

#2 Michigan State over #6 Maryland:

Sparty won the lone conference meeting at home in a fairly easy manner, and the way they are playing currently, this doesn’t look like a table that can be turned. Maryland’s major strength is on the boards and that will be completely neutralized by the Spartans, who rank 6th nationally in total rebounding percentage.

Regional Final: 

#1 Duke over #2 Michigan State:

For as much crying as the Spartans have done over the unfortunate (and incorrect) decision for the committee to send them to same the region as the field’s top seeded team, it’s arguably Duke that should be more outraged by this potential matchup- they should have been rewarded with the field’s weakest 2 seed, rather than the team with more quadrant one wins than any other in the field and a legitimate claim to a 1 seed based on that attribute. It’s actually a dangerous game for the young Blue Devils from a matchup standpoint; Michigan State ranks 3rd nationally in two point field goal percentage defense, and Duke is dismal from three point range, ranking 330th nationally (at 30.9%, they would be the worst ever three point shooting team to win a National Championship). Still, with Zion Williamson playing at his current level and the boon of NBA talent surrounding him, Duke will get some threes to fall and create enough points off turnovers, as Michigan State ranks just 180th in turnovers per possession, to get the job done. After watching Duke erase a 20 point lead with under ten minutes to play at Louisville, it appears they may simply refuse to lose with their current core of starters at full strength.

WEST

Early Upsets: 

#12 Murray State over #5 Marquette: 

It’s the only one of the always popular 12/5 upsets that we like this year. Marquette comes in having lost five of six and is the lowest ranked of all the 5 seeds from an efficiency standpoint by a wide margin (28th per KenPom, which equates to the weakest 7 seed). Murray State’s Ja Morant may be the second best player in this entire tournament, and while Marquette has ammunition of their own in the sharp-shooting Markus Howard, they don’t have a clear defensive matchup advantage that shows any ability to stop Morant, who may very well score and assist at will in this one. Conversely, Murray State ranks 4th in the nation in three point shooting percentage defense, and looms well equipped to neutralize Marquette’s biggest strength, as the Golden Eagles rank 9th in three point shooting percentage. A key matchup to keep an eye one will be how Murray State can get to the rim, as they rank 5th in two point shooting percentage to Marquette’s 19th ranked two point shooting percentage defense. Given that Marquette is the most likely 5 seed to lose both their first and second round game, this looks like a low risk play in what should be a fun, high-octane game.

#10 Florida over #7 Nevada:

This game is a virtual tossup from an efficiency standpoint, with just 0.52 points separating them, the closest of all the 7/10 matchups. More than that though, the feeling here is simply that the Gators are more battle tested, having made a late run to the SEC tournament semifinals to earn a bid following a lot of close defeats to top competition in conference play. Compare that to Nevada’s complete lack of quality wins and their puzzling, inexplicable losses- a 27 point loss at New Mexico and two losses to San Diego State- and we’ll give the Gators the seasoning edge. The key here could be the Wolfpack’s ability to take care of the ball- they rank 8th nationally in turnovers per possession, but Florida turns its opponents over at a decent rate, good for 46th nationally. With Michigan statistically the most likely 2/7 winner next round anyway, this is a low risk pick.

Upsets to avoid:

#6 Buffalo over #3 Texas Tech:

This is a pick that is gaining steam and it’s borderline disrespectful to the often overlooked Red Raiders, who made the Elite 8 a year and boast the nation’s best defense. Specifically, their 2nd ranked two point percentage will likely force the Bulls (who like to shoot quickly- they’re 12th in possessions per game) into ill-advised attempts from the perimeter, and that’s not their forte- they rank 215th in three point shooting percentage.

Regional Semifinals: 

#4 Florida State over #1 Gonzaga: 

In a rematch of a game that the Noles won by 15 a year ago (strange that the committee set this same region up to be potentially identical to last year), the depth and seasoning of Florida State could again be too much for Gonzaga to overcome for the same reasons. The Bulldogs enter the tournament on an ugly note, as they were held to 47 points by a St. Mary’s defense that ranks just 55th nationally in total efficiency. The Noles check in at 9th, and their impressive length presents a much stiffer challenge that Gonzaga’s top ranked offense may likely be unprepared for given their recent competition, especially inside the arc, as they enter this tourney riding high off an impressive ACC tournament showing. Florida State stunningly shows 11 players that average ten minutes or more, and this depth could come into play with Killian Tillie’s status still up in the air for Gonzaga, just as it was a year ago in the same spot.

#2 Michigan over #3 Texas Tech:

An intriguing matchup featuring the nation’s two best defenses, we’ll give the edge to Michigan, who has a bit more consistency on the offensive end (18th vs 35th in offensive efficiency) and has an experience edge after last year’s run to the title game. Michigan is also far more likely to reach this game in the first place, so this is partly an odds play in a region that looks like it could completely explode.

Regional Final: 

#2 Michigan over #4 Florida State: 

Michigan beat Florida State 58-54 to win the West region a year ago, and a similar defensive struggle can be expected again this year with the same team emerging victorious. Michigan has two major attributes that should work in combination for them in this spot. For one, the importance of point guard play in the tournament can’t be overemphasized, and Zavier Simpson’s assist to turnover ratio of 3.56 is the best in the nation. This correlates to Michigan’s top ranked offensive turnover percentage; this team simply doesn’t give the ball away. Its tendency to play slowly (340th in possessions per game) exacerbates this efficiency.

SOUTH

Early Upsets:

#11 St. Mary’s over #6 Villanova: 

There are a lot of reasons to like this pick. For starters, St. Mary’s is the highest rated 11 seed in terms of efficiency, and Villanova is the lowest rated 6 seed, making this by far the most likely 11/6 upset independent of the matchups. But the matchups add further issues for the Wildcats, a team with a tendency to bomb threes relentlessly (53.5% three point rate, highest in the tourney), and one that ranks 352nd in percentage of points from two point shots. That’s very bad news against a team like St. Mary’s who really contains the perimeter, ranking 9th in the nation in both three point percentage defense and three point rate defense. Both teams play a very slow style, ranking 324th and 340th in possessions per game respectively, which likely means less three point attempts for Villanova. And they don’t connect that well on all those threes in the first place, ranking just 121st in the three point shooting percentage. That’s more bad news, because St. Mary’s hits the glass hard, and ranks 16th in defensive rebounding percentage. With Purdue the most likely winner of all the potential 3/6 games, this looks like a low risk upset pick with a lot of upside.

#13 UC Irvine over #4 Kansas State:

The red hot Anteaters haven’t lost in two months and boast the nation’s best two point percentage defense. Kansas State isn’t an offensive juggernaut by any means as they rank just 104th in offensive efficiency, but they especially struggle from deep, ranking just 211th in three point shooting percentage. If those are the shots that Kansas State is forced to settle on against the stingy UC Irvine interior defense, they could be in for a long afternoon, especially as leading rebounder and double digit scorer Dean Wade remains questionable and unlikely to play. Kansas State is the lowest ranked 4 seed in terms of efficiency while UC Irvine is the highest ranked 13 seed, and with Wisconsin the most likely 5/4 winner, this pick checks out as another obvious low risk shot.

Upsets to avoid:

#12 Oregon over #5 Wisconsin:

Oregon is actually going to go off favored in this game so this isn’t technically an upset, but rather an extreme value proposition to fade the public by backing the higher seeded and better team. Oregon has been hot lately but Wisconsin holds far superior efficiency numbers and this is a rare instance where you can receive several points of edge relative to the Vegas line, which usually converges to analytical estimates like KenPom and Sagarin. Notably, Oregon’s main defensive strength is containing the three, as they rank 10th in three point percentage defense. However, this advantage is likely to be meaningless as Wisconsin is not a team that depends on the three; they rank just 295th in three point rate. We have to side with the math in this one, especially as the Badgers have a favorable matchup in the next round.

Regional Semifinals:

#1 Virginia over #5 Wisconsin:

This won’t be the most exciting game in the tournament, not by a long shot, as these teams play some of the slowest styles of basketball in the country, ranking 353rd (dead last) and 323rd respectively in possessions per game. Virginia has perfected the style, however, and won the battle of styles earlier this year against the Badgers.

#2 Tennessee over #3 Purdue:

Purdue may be lucky to get this far, but we are picking them to get here primarily because of a favorable path. No team depends more upon one player than Purdue depends on Carsen Edwards, who takes 37% of their shots. That strategy can’t last forever, as every great player is bound to have an off night, and an experienced Tennessee squad with an upperclassmen point guard like Jordan Bone, who ranks in the top five tournament players in assist to turnover ratio, will expose the inconsistency of the Boiler offense.

Regional Final:

#1 Virginia over #2 Tennessee:

We promised to never take Virginia to the Final Four ever again after last year’s unprecedented debacle of a first round exit as a one seed, yet here we are. Of course, the name on the uniform doesn’t mean this team is constructed the same as last year’s was, or any of the other Virginia teams that disappointed before it were. For starters, DeAndre Hunter didn’t play in that game, and the Cavaliers have never had a lottery pick type of talent on a team in the Tony Bennett era. Statistically speaking, consider that last year’s squad ranked just 30th in offensive efficiency, and this year they rank 2nd. It would be unwise to dismiss that massive difference in production. In fact, they are the only team in the nation to rank in the top five on both sides of the ball per KenPom. They boast one of the strongest backcourts in college basketball behind the trio of Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, the latter of which is 3rd in the tournament in assist to turnover ratio at the point (3.25).

But perhaps the most terrifying stat about Virginia is that they rank 4th in the nation in three point shooting percentage, but rank just 174th in three point rate. This essentially suggests that they don’t depend on the three at all, but when they shoot from beyond the arc, they usually go in. Tennessee isn’t especially strong defending the perimeter, as was on display in their blowout loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship, and rank just 174th in three point defensive shooting percentage. Both teams leave something to be desired in terms of front court presence, and Tennessee’s backcourt is talented but doesn’t seem physical enough to truly take Virginia out of its game plan. Tennessee also leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the ball altogether, ranking just 33rd nationally in defensive efficiency. That’s a fringe number for a Final Four team, and doesn’t inspire much confidence against the nation’s 2nd best offense. Virginia was gifted with the field’s easiest region and path to the Final Four, full of teams that play to their desired tempo but aren’t as skilled as they are at doing so. The loss in the ACC tournament to a tough and underrated Florida State squad seems to have added some value to a team who remains by far the most likely winner of the tournament per KenPom; this is the year they finally land in the Final Four for Tony Bennett. And if they don’t, then they likely never will.

MIDWEST

Early Upsets:

#7 Wofford over #2 Kentucky:

Gasp! Admittedly, part of the allure of this pick is the sheer amount of joy and warmth that this upset would create within our collective hearts. But, this selection isn’t without support. Of all the potential 7/2 games, this one contains the smallest efficiency gap, and we love the matchup here for a Wofford team that has won 20 in a row and basically wins by making threes. Kentucky really struggles defending the perimeter, and ranks just 211th in three point defensive shooting percentage. They could find the pesky Terriers a tough out considering they are the 2nd best three point shooting team in the land and the best in the tournament behind the theatrics of Fletcher Magee. Kentucky’s main advantages are all neutralized here, specifically their ability to rebound, as they check in at 2nd in the nation in total rebounding percentage, but Wofford is no slouch at 18th. Digger deeper, Kentucky doesn’t rank in the top ten in either offensive or defensive efficiency, and that’s historically meaningful in terms of Final Four probability- it drops them a tier, so the risk in making this pick is less than it seems. Also, “Wofford” is super fun to say. Much more fun than “Kentucky”, for sure.

#6 Iowa State over #3 Houston:

This is the most likely 6/3 upset as Houston owns just a 0.56 efficiency margin over the Big 12 Tournament champion Cyclones having played a weaker schedule by far. Houston has had a spectacular season and is very balanced, ranking in the top 25 in efficiency on both sides of the ball per KenPom, but they may not be ready for the attack of the Iowa State offense, which ranks 9th in the nation and will be the strongest weapon for either team on the court.

Upsets to avoid:

#10 Seton Hall over #7 Wofford: 

Part of this opinion derives from our generally negative opinion of Marquette, who the Pirates beat to advance to the Big East Championship, and they seem to be getting a lot of credit for that. In fact, this seems to be the most popular 10/7 upset pick by the public despite the fact that from an efficiency standpoint, this is the least likely of the four 10 seeds to win a first round game. That equates to serious value whether you are playing a bracket pool or betting the game. Seton Hall will struggle with Wofford for the same reason we believe Kentucky will- they struggle to defend the three point shot, ranking just 130th in percentage terms. Amazingly, Wofford will be the best offensive team Seton Hall has played all season, as they rank 11th in offensive efficiency, besting Kentucky, Marquette and Villanova.

#12 New Mexico State over #5 Auburn:

Similarly, this is the least likely 12/5 upset in terms of efficiency, and ironically, the higher seeded team is another that lives by the three, perhaps even more extremely. New Mexico State ranks 105th in defensive three point shooting percentage, and that likely won’t do against Auburn, who depends heavily on this shot, ranking 8th in three point rate and 27th in shooting percentage. For as well as they shoot it, Auburn’s Achilles’ heel appears to be its perimeter defense, but neither of its first two likely opponents present much of a challenge here. New Mexico State is 190th in three point shooting percentage, and Kansas ranks just 136th, and also can’t defend the three (127th). Auburn also is the best in the nation at turning teams over, which they do on nearly 25% of possessions. Both NMSU and Kansas have a tough time taking care of the ball, ranking 129th and 168th respectively.

Regional Semifinals:

#1 North Carolina over #5 Auburn:

If it happens, this game will be a lot of fun, if a tad anxiety-inducing given North Carolina’s preference for a breakneck pace (5th in the nation in possessions per game, and fastest in the tournament), and Auburn’s reliance on the three point shot. Carolina is just average against the three, ranking 89th in the nation against it, but the difference here will be the speed of the Tarheel offense, which is lethal in transition, against a suspect Auburn defense that ranks just 41st in efficiency- a borderline eliminator for Final Four consideration.

#6 Iowa State over #7 Wofford:

These teams are similarly constructed, as both have strong offenses and defenses weak enough to ensure that they will not win their next game. We’ll lean towards the team that has both the slightly stronger offense and the less difficult second round upset to accomplish, but from an efficiency standpoint overall, this is neck and neck, with Iowa State holding only a 1.03 point advantage.

Regional Final:

#1 North Carolina over #6 Iowa State:

It bears mention that the Midwest is by far the toughest path to the Final Four, as 7 of the Top 20 KenPom teams reside in the region. But our predictions benefit Carolina as they would not have to play Kansas in Kansas City or Kentucky in the regional final, which generously upgrades their overall chances of advancing to Minneapolis. Iowa State will try to impose their will and play a slower pace (234th in possessions per game) but UNC is simply the deeper and more talented squad. The rebounding edge looms large here, as the Tarheels rank 5th in the nation in total rebounding percentage to Iowa State’s 147th.

FINAL FOUR:

#1 Duke over #2 Michigan:

Duke got a raw deal as their potential opponents weren’t seeded anything like what one would expect for the overall number one seed, but that’s just the committee being the committee. They would find themselves in a favorable matchup scenario here, however. Michigan would be at a huge disadvantage on the boards, ranking 162nd in total rebounding percentage to Duke’s 20th. As neither team depends too heavily on the three, the battle here would be inside the arc, with Duke’s 4th ranked two point shooting percentage battling the 12th ranked two point shooting defense of the Wolverines. Compare that to the fact that Michigan ranks just 105th in two point shooting percentage and Duke ranks 20th defending shots inside the arc, and you have to wonder where the Wolverines get points in this game. Michigan has been prone to long stretches of offensive droughts and would have trouble making up ground from the perimeter, as Duke ranks 37th in defensive three point shooting percentage.

# 1 Virginia over #1 North Carolina:

From a possessions per game standpoint, this potential showdown features the fastest team in the tournament against the slowest team in the tournament- the tortoise versus the hare, if you will. This game happened once already and Virginia won fairly convincingly on the road. North Carolina has been hot lately but given the prior head the head result and the relative difficulties of both teams’ paths to this spot, we have to side with Virginia, aside from an obvious rooting interest- does anyone really want to see UNC in the National Championship for the third time in four years?

CHAMPIONSHIP:

#1 Virginia over #1 Duke:

Part of March Madness is having someone to root for. The entire planet is picking Duke and North Carolina to play in the title game, which has never happened before, and admittedly, would be pretty cool. If that’s your play, you’re probably right, so go ahead, but you won’t be getting much value, and you’d better make sure you get everything right before it because there won’t be much separating you from the masses. But, who doesn’t want to see UNC win a 7th title or Duke win a 6th, and pass Indiana in the process?  **(buries head in the sand)**

What would be even better though, would be this story: A team that endured one of the greatest embarrassments in the history of sports only a year earlier pulled itself together, improved, and angrily, with a massive chip on its shoulder, avenged that loss and earned a highly esteemed university its first national title ever, while simultaneously rendering  a certain style of play to be revolutionary rather than simply uneasy on the eyes. That is a story I would want to hear, and the good news is, the math supports it.

As mentioned before, Virginia is the best value pick in the field based on their actual probability of winning it all, based not only on KenPom math but also on their entire body of work. Duke has beaten them twice already this season, but instead of falling into a cliche in regard to how difficult it is supposed to be to beat the same team three times, let’s instead break down each game individually. Most recently, Virginia was dominated at home by Duke, losing by 10 in a game that was not nearly as close as that score seems to indicate. In that game, Duke- the worst three point shooting team in the tournament against the best three point defending team in the tournament- made 13 of the 21 three point shots they attempted. You do not need to be a mathematical genius to recognize that this amounts to an enormous outlier that can’t possibly be repeated.

The game at Cameron Indoor Stadium was much closer and could have gone either way, as the teams traded leads throughout before Duke emerged victorious by a 72-70 score. However, there are too many eternally rule-breaking strikes against Duke to pick them as a national champion this year, and as a value proposition, it is basically absurd considering everyone has convinced themselves that they are the second-coming of the ’76 Hoosiers. Aside from having a much more difficult path to even get to this game, we again must restate that they would be the worst three point shooting team ever to win a title. In an era so defined by the long ball, we find this difficult to grasp and support. Some argue this deficiency is balanced by the stat that Duke gains more “and one” opportunities than any team in the country. The problem with that argument is that Duke is also a truly bad free throw shooting team, connecting on only 69% of its attempts, good for just 241th nationally. Virginia ranks 48th and in games like this, that has to mean something. Speaking of fouls, Duke’s bench is shorter now given the injury to Marques Bolden. This is a team currently playing, realistically, with only six players for real minutes. If Zion, or Jack White for that matter, encounters foul trouble, then what? Depth is a real concern here and gives the Cavaliers the edge.

Bracketology 2019

March 17, 2019
MIDWEST WEST EAST SOUTH
1 MICHIGAN STATE TENNESSEE DUKE VIRGINIA
2 North Carolina Gonzaga Michigan Kentucky
3 Texas Tech Florida State LSU Kansas
4 Houston Kansas State Purdue Marquette
5 Mississippi State IOWA STATE AUBURN Wisconsin
6 BUFFALO Maryland WOFFORD VILLANOVA
7 Iowa Virginia Tech Nevada Cincinnati
8 Louisville Minnesota Washington Seton Hall
9 UNCG UTAH STATE Belmont MURRAY STATE
10 TCU St. John’s Ole Miss Oklahoma
11 NC State/ Ohio State OREGON VCU UCF
12 Syracuse/ Baylor ST. MARY’S LIBERTY NEW MEXICO STATE
13 SAINT LOUIS VERMONT NORTHEASTERN UC IRVINE
14 GEORGIA STATE MONTANA OLD DOMINION YALE
15 BRADLEY NORTH DAKOTA STATE COLGATE NORTHERN KENTUCKY
16 F DICKINSON/ P VIEW GARDNER WEBB SAM HOUSTON ST IONA/ UNCC