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Arlington Million 2018 Picks and Analysis

August 10, 2018

9- Secretariat

1- REAL STORY, 20-1 (RPR N/A, 93 BRIS, 87 Beyer)- Won local prep wire to wire while setting hot fractions (:47.45, 1:11.45) and looks like he could be lone speed again from the rail. Will need to take a big step forward in figures but they will all have to reel him in as he stretches out here.
2- PLATINUM WARRIOR, 10-1 (Beyer N/A, BRIS N/A, 108 RPR)- Won a 10f Stakes in Ireland two back and posted a career high RPR in that effort. Now cuts back from 12f, where he was 9th against Group 1 foes, in his last. Looks like the most attractive Euro in the double digit range to our eyes as he figures to sit a ground-saving, forwardly placed trip in a race without much speed on paper.
3- BANDUA, 20-1 (Beyer N/A, BRIS N/A, 103 RPR)- Cuts back from last two races, which came at 14f and 12f against stakes company overseas. Shows a win at the distance over soft turf in Ireland.
4- CARRICK, 20-1 (82 Beyer, 89 RPR, 91 BRIS)- Was last seen finishing 3rd in a 9f Grade III event; lightly raced sort is in heavy here in fourth career start but may get a better trip than he did in his last, eligible to improve.
5- PONT DU GARD, 30-1 (83 Beyer, 91 BRIS, 90 RPR)- Was 4th in local prep last out so would have to take a big step forward to hit the board against these.
6- MING, 20-1 (Beyer N/A, BRIS N/A, 98 RPR)- Shipper takes a class leap here but enters off back to back wins against weight for age company in Ireland. He did finish soundly beaten, 7 lengths behind fellow shipper Platinum Warrior, two starts back.
7- CAPTIVATING MOON, 20-1 (88 Beyer, 91 BRIS, 99 RPR)- Consistent type hasn’t missed the board in six 2018 starts and seems to simply keep running out of ground. Deep closer nearly inhaled the field when 2nd in the 9f local prep for this and seems to be begging for added ground. We’d be a bit more supportive if there was more pace signed on but with so many Euro shippers a quicker than expected pace could easily materialize in which case he is live for the win at a huge price. And he’s also adding blinkers, which should keep him more in touch with the leaders that usual. Will be using on top.
8- UNTAMED DOMAIN, 5-1 (84 Beyer, 92 BRIS, 104 RPR)- Keeps switching surfaces and can’t seem to find his niche, as claim to fame still remains a 2nd place finish to Mendelssohn in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He was beaten nearly 7 lengths by the favorite two starts back at 9f and his form seems to have leveled off; looks like an underlay at these odds after missing the board in three of last four starts.
9- ANALYZE IT, 2-1 (99 Beyer, 96 BRIS, 113 RPR)- Owns field high Beyer and BRIS Speed figures at the distance after being nosed by the highly regarded Catholic Boy in his last two. Has a 5L and 7L head to head advantage respectively in recent starts against Captivating Moon and Untamed Domain, so appears by far the most formful of the American contingent. Whether he can maintain the 1.75 length advantage he enjoyed last out against classy Euro foe Hunting Horn remains to be seen; deserving favorite that must be used on top.
10- SNIPER KITTEN, 12-1 (87 Beyer, 92 BRIS, 84 RPR)- Son of Kitten’s Joy is somewhat of an unknown quantity in his fifth career start, having run past 8f only once. He’s closed well and figures to appreciate the added ground but takes a step up in class. He held off a fast closing Captivating Moon at 8f when winning his last, but the feeling is that one would have had him after a few more steps.
11- DUBBY DUBBIE, 30-1 (83 Beyer, 91 BRIS, RPR N/A)- A closing 3rd in the local prep for this, he’s never gone this far but may improve with the added ground based on running style. It would be a surprise to see him hit the board in this spot, however.
12- LUCIUS TIBERIUS, 12-1 (Beyer N/A, BRIS N/A, 107 RPR)- Winner of last two starts at this distance against Handicap company abroad, he will make his first U.S. start here for Aidan O’Brien. Takes a bit of a class leap but fits as a potential underneath type based on figures and experience at route distances.
13- HUNTING HORN, 7-2 (96 Beyer, 94 BRIS, 116 RPR)- Aidan O’Brien charge was third 1.75 lengths behind today’s foe Analyze It in his stateside bow last out in the Belmont Derby. Group 3 winner abroad stands a chance to take a big step forward in second start off the ship considering connections and field high RPR at the distance, assuming he can navigate a wide post. BRIS Prime Power selection would offer value at this price with Ryan Moore in the saddle.
1) Hunting Horn 7-2
2) Analyze It 2-1
3) Captivating Moon 20-1
4) Platinum Warrior 10-1
10- Beverly D
1- DADDY’S LIL DARLING, 8-1 (96 Beyer, 101 BRIS, 109 RPR)- Winner of the local prep is well acquainted with classic distances, as her last three have come at 9.5f or beyond. She wasn’t disgraced two back when finishing 3rd just a 1.5 lengths behind Fourstarcrook and Sistercharlie who she will again have to catch today. Those two seem to consistently be about a length better but she’s very live underneath at a decent price.
2- NYALETI, 15-1 (Beyer N/A, BRIS N/A, 109 RPR)- Group 2 winner overseas has yet to race beyond 8f. After fading to 4th in her last against Group I company, she is in deep waters here for her first start on U.S. soil.
3- SISTERCHARLIE, 9-5 (104 Beyer, 104 BRIS, 112 RPR)- Heaviest favorite of the Grade 1 stakes card had an awful trip two back in the New York when narrowly missing stablemate Fourstarcrook for the win. A cleaner trip here would make her a very tough filly to beat at this distance. Chad Brown has won the last three consecutive runnings of this race and we don’t feel the need to look any further than his two top contenders here. With her field high Beyer, Brisnet and RPR figures, race plays should lean heavily towards keying her on top and perhaps singling in multis. She enters third off the lay and off a bullet work at Saratoga on 8/3.
4- DONA BRUJA, 6-1 (103 Beyer, 98 BRIS, 109 RPR)- Last year’s runner up enters this race in a completely different spot in her form cycle, laid off since April as opposed to entering third off the lay after having won the local prep at the distance a year ago. She was 5th in that April start after strangely setting the pace in a change of tactics, a solid 3 lengths behind two of today’s favorites, Sistercharlie and Fourstarcrook. It’s also worrisome that she hasn’t run back to this distance since last year’s race; this is a lot to ask off the layoff as trainer Correas wins with just 11% of his starters off a similar lay. May be worth keeping off the board in this spot.
5- THAIS, 30-1 (88 Beyer, 87 BRIS, 105 RPR)- Would appear to be stretching her capability at this distance, as miler has run only once as long as 8.5f and posted her lowest career BRIS speed figure in doing so. Has the right trainer to win this race but this looks like the Brown rabbit.
6- OH SO TERRIBLE, 50-1 (82 Beyer, 82 BRIS, 84 RPR)- A well beaten 5th in the local prep before running back to finish 5th against optional claimers less than two weeks later. Appears to be aptly named, to say the least of being badly misplaced here.
7- FOURSTARCROOK, 9-2 (101 Beyer, 101 BRIS, 110 RPR)- In career form for Chad Brown as a six year old, mare has not missed the board in her last eight starts spanning the last two years and enters this event fresh off upsetting Sistercharlie, handing that one her only defeat of the year. It will be more difficult to duplicate that result with a more fair trip for her stablemate, but she looms one of the two Brown entries to be feared and will be more than double the odds of her stablemate.
8- INFLEXIBILITY, 8-1 (99 Beyer, 93 BRIS, 102 RPR)- Gets a slight cutback after being caught in the stretch at 10f in her last, but pace type still may be better suited to distances shorter than this. She’s winless in graded events in her career and settles in slightly below the cut in figures. Looking elsewhere.
9- ATHENA, 3-1 (97 Beyer, 97 BRIS, 110 RPR)- Impressive winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks at 10f in her first start off the ship. 3-year old has posted ascending RPR figures in her last three starts for Aidan O’Brien. She figures to take action here on connections alone (despite O’Brien’s winless record in this particular race), but to our eyes she looks like an underlay at these odds without another step forward in figures, which come in a notch below the preferred selections.
1) Sistercharlie 9-5
2) Fourstarcrook 9-2
3) Daddy’s Little Darling 8-1
4) Athena 3-1
11- Arlington Million
1- CIRCUS COUTURE, 30-1 (Beyer N/A, BRIS N/A, 101 RPR)- Tough spot for a class jump in his first US start combined with a stretchout, as his longest race this year has come at 9f. Was beaten 8 lengths by today’s foe Century Dream at 8f, so we’d have to side with that one.
2- SPRING QUALITY, 8-1 (102 Beyer, 97 BRIS, 106 RPR)- Won Manhattan in blanket finish upset last out in first 10f try. Rapidly improving type demands respect in this spot, as he has head to head 1 length wins against two of today’s stingiest foes, Robert Bruce and Money Multiplier, within the last year. May need pace, but enters as the field’s only last out Grade I or Group 1 winner.
3- ALMANAAR, 5-1 (102 Beyer, 98 BRIS, 110 RPR)- Enters second off a long layoff for Chad Brown after an easy win in allowance company. 6-year old fits with these on back class, having beaten last year’s winner Beach Patrol at 9f last winter when that one was in top form, but hasn’t run beyond that distance since 2015. Closing type figures to appreciate the added ground here but lack of form at the distance and limited recent campaign leaves questions against these. Look for room underneath.
4- DIVISIDERO, 10-1 (100 Beyer, 93 BRIS, 115 RPR)- Won local prep for this at 9.5f from deep off the pace and had never won beyond 9f before that. Returns after a 7th place finish in last year’s event, needs pace.
5- CENTURY DREAM, 12-1 (Beyer N/A, BRIS N/A, 111 RPR) Euro shipper may find some class relief in his first US start, as Group 3 winner enters off a respectable 4th place finish in a Group 2 event at 8f. He stretches out here after having run his last four at 8-8.5f though, and was 11th in his only start at 10f this year. He does have one win at the distance from last year, but that came over soft turf.
6- CATCHO EN DIE, 20-1 (100 Beyer, 97 BRIS, 99 RPR)- Won what used to be the local prep for the American Ledger marathon when wiring the 12f Stars and Stripes in his last. He will cut back here and seems likely to see more company up front. Argentinian-bred has never hit the board in a Grade I event and may find this bunch a bit too classy.
7- TWENTY FOUR SEVEN, 30-1 (95 Beyer, 89 BRIS, RPR N/A)- Was 6th in the local Marathon prep and takes an enormous class leap here. Quite rightfully the longest shot in the field as he looks like an extreme outsider on paper having never won above the allowance level.
8- MONEY MULTIPLIER, 6-1 (103 Beyer, 103 BRIS, 112 RPR)- In career form for Chad Brown as a 6-year old.  Held off a closing Divisidero in 9f Monmouth Stakes two back before a runner up finish at 11f in his last against Grade I foes, posting a field high 103 Brisnet Speed figure for 2018 at or beyond 10f. Figures to be sitting on a big one third off the lay as he cuts back here, but feels more like an underneath type against Grade I company.
9- DEAUVILLE, 6-1 (100 Beyer, 95 BRIS, 112 RPR)- Will attempt this event for the third straight time after show finishes in the last two (he was our top selection last year and a late inclusion underneath led to an enormous trifecta score in 2016). Led late in the stretch last year but was caught without excuse and hasn’t won in his last ten starts; he may very well be allergic to winning. Has shown declining figures over his last four and while his best race puts him in the mix, he always seems to find one better. Form-wise he looked more appealing each of the last two years and wasn’t able to finish better than 3rd against weaker fields than this one; expecting a bit of regression here.
10- ROBERT BRUCE, 9-2 (101 Beyer, 97 BRIS, 106 RPR)- Had been undefeated in seven career starts before being bumped in the stretch and finishing 6th just 1 length from the winner, today’s foe Spring Quality, in his last. He had beaten that one at 9f before that however, finishing his final 1/8 in under 11 seconds, and with a cleaner trip, Chad Brown trainee stands to move up third off the lay, where he wins with 22% of his runners at that stage of their form cycle, at a distance he should relish. The feeling here is that BRIS Prime Power selection has been pointed to this and checks all the boxes in this spot. The pick.
11- OSCAR PERFORMANCE, 3-1 (104 Beyer, 117 RPR)- Tied world record time at 8f (1:31.1) when winning his last after a layoff. Boasts field high Racing Post Rating for his win over this track and distance in last year’s Secretariat where he won wire to wire in a time three lengths faster than the Million winner; this race has been kind in recent years to horses with experience over the track (The Pizza Man, Hardest Core, Beach Patrol). Versatile runner looms the one to beat even as he navigates the widest post of all and is a must-use on top as enters off a field high BRIS last race speed figure and also holds the top figure at the distance.
1) Robert Bruce 9-2
2) Oscar Performance 3-1
3) Spring Quality 8-1
4) Money Multiplier 6-1


March 12, 2017




Louisville Baylor North Carolina Arizona




Buter SMU West Virginia Notre Dame


MICHIGAN Oregon Purdue Wisconsin


Creighton Florida Cincinnati Virginia


WITCHITA ST Minnesota Miami Virginia Tech


Northwestern Maryland Oklahoma State St. Mary’s


Marquette Kansas State Vcu Arkansas


Wake Forest Seton Hall South Carolina Usc


MIDDLE TENNESSEE Michigan State RHODE ISLAND Xavier/ Illinois State











Belmont Day Pick 4 Picks and Analysis

June 10, 2016

8- Just A Game, 8f, 2:58

Oh my, what a way to begin the Pick 4 sequence. One could justify using as many as nine in this wide open affair. There’s an interesting mix of pace types cutting back to a more ideal distance alongside a bunch of deep closers who may need more. While we’ll lean towards the former, fillies like CELESTINE and LA BERMA should ensure an honest pace up front while taking steps up in class, so the closers aren’t completely out of this. For the top selection, RECEPTA appeals most. She enters third off the lay, and cuts back in distance following a 3rd place finish in her last at 8.5f, where she lost all chance after clipping heels at the start. She’s been working well, posting a 4f bullet on June 4th, and should be well-positioned mid-pack from her ground-saving post; appears to split the difference tactically in a race where race shape advantages aren’t readily apparent. She’s won twice at Belmont and has only missed the board once in six career starts over this track. If she can run back to the 103 Brisnet Speed Figure she posted here last September at this distance, the field high, she seems to be the one to beat. If she doesn’t fire here, things get cloudier. TAPITRY ran quite well when 2nd in her last, defeating the top selection for place honors. She actually held the lead at the 8f mark in that race, and should appreciate the cutback in distance. Improving filly gets a jockey switch to the red hot Flourent Geroux, has been working well, and may be ready to peak in her third start off the lay at long odds. MY MISS SOPHIA disappointed when 5th as our single in the same race as the top two selections, but was coming off a long layoff, and perhaps needed it, as she ran rank on the lead setting fractions quicker than she needed to. Her workouts leave a bit to be desired but her tactical speed and class make her a looming threat every time out. Trainer Bill Mott wins with 20% of his starters second off the lay, and the price will be right on this occasion. Deep closers FAUFILER and RAINHA DE BATERIA are in receipt of a considerable weight break and figure to attract attention, but appear underlays at their morning line odds based on relative form and speed figures. If we are forced to use a closer, we’d rather have a mare who has shown success at this track and has stronger back class. LADY LARA shows the second highest Brisnet Speed Figure at the distance (102) from a win here last September and figures to be a bit more forwardly placed than the aforementioned closers. Her first two starts of the year have been huge steps back in terms of form, but she’s been working well and perhaps Mott has her ready to roll in this spot. That means being against favored MRS MCDOUGAL, who seems a massive underlay in this spot, having never run a Brisnet Speed Figure above 95, coming off an eight week layoff, and stepping up in class. The attention she’s receiving is likely a result of beating STRIKE CHARMER last out. That one defeated each of our top three selections in her last, so what gives? The feeling here is that she needed the extra distance last out and won’t benefit from the cutback as much. Her rail post, drawn inside the speed, is also a negative. Can’t bet them all…


1) Recepta 6-1

2) Tapitry 15-1

3) My Miss Sophia 8-1

4) Lady Lara 15-1


9- Met Mile, 8f, 3:41

CALCULATOR fits this race like a glove at a very attractive price. After hitting the board in all four of his 2016 starts at 7f following a lengthy layoff due to injury, he finally gets to stretch out to the more suitable 8f distance, in which he won last year’s Sham at Santa Anita before being sidelined. Take a look at his 2nd place finish in the Carter two back over the slop. He defeated ANCHOR DOWN handily in that race, and then that one came back to post a field high Brisnet Speed Figure of 108 in his last, again over the slop. One could think this points toward the top selection as an off-track specialist, but he was a hard closing second in his last over a fast track in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs, missing by just a length and begging for more ground. He’s been working like a monster, posting a bullet 5f work in :58.0 on June 4th, and trainer Peter Miller wins with 30% of his runners over the past three years going from sprints to routes. The distance in which he bested ANCHOR DOWN seems to give him a form edge over STANFORD and BLOFELD, who will both take money as well, given how close ANCHOR DOWN was to those two in the Gulfstream Park Hcp at this distance. NOBLE BIRD must be respected coming off his wire to wire destruction of the Pimlico Special field, posting a Brisnet Figure of 117 that simply towers over all of these. He gets an extreme cutback from 10.5f to 8f, but figures to be dangerous on the lead once again in a field that isn’t exactly loaded with speed. AMI’S FLATTER has experienced quite the career resurgence, winning two of his last three at 7f and increasing his lead into the stretch, posting Brisnet Speed Figues of 106 and 105 respectively. Aside from the top selection, only BLOFELD has shown two consecutive 100+ Brisnet Speed Figures, and having won the aforementioned Gulfstream Park Hcp at this distance and cutting back from a 9f race, seems a logical contender. It’s worth wondering how well-suited this distance will be for favored FROSTED, a personal favorite. Coming off a trip to Dubai and two longer races, he cuts back to a distance that may be well short of ideal for him. He’s a versatile type that can be placed anywhere, but has never shown blazing speed, and may be worth beating on top as the favorite here.


1) Calculator 10-1

2) Noble Bird 9-2

3) Ami’s Flatter 6-1

4) Blofeld 10-1


10- Manhattan, 10f, 4:37

It is very difficult to get around favored FLINTSHIRE here, so we won’t even try, as he appears the best option for a single in the sequence. He makes his first start of the year but has run well off layoffs before, and his Group 1 Euro form outclasses the field in this one. In his last US start, he posed a 116 Brisnet Speed Figure when winning the 12f Sword Dancer, a number that simply towers over these. His last six races have come at the 12f distance but we don’t mind the cutback here off the lay, especially considering he figures to be more forwardly placed than his most likely challengers in a race that doesn’t look heavy on pace. He also receives first time Lasix, which is a scary proposition. The 1-2 finishers from last year’s contest return here both second off the lay and both at the age of 8, and of the two, we give the slight edge to SLUMBER based on his current form and workout patterns. He wasn’t disgraced when rallying for third at a distance shorter than this in his season debut. He was aided by a fast pace that day which he isn’t likely to see here, but should enjoy the added ground as this a distance he has relished in the past; he’s 5 for 10 lifetime at 10f and has never won at any other distance. He fired a bullet 5f work here on 6/4 and should be ready to move forward. BIG BLUE KITTEN appeared a step slower in his debut and hasn’t been working as sharply, but does own the best speed figures in the field at this distance as well as a 12 point Bris Prime Power advantage, and can’t be easily dismissed. There’s a new Kitten in town, and that’s DIVISIDERO, who beat many of these last out in the 9f Turf Classic. This will be his first try at 10f, but he didn’t look to be done running in that win. The concern for them is whether that race, coming third off the lay, was his peak, and whether he can duplicate his closing punch on the stretchout. He was also aided by the quick fractions up front that day. A colt who could make the opposite argument is WORLD APPROVAL, who hung on gamely for 2nd in that race and deserves a look at short odds as the likely pacesetter from the rail in a race where no one appears to be gunning for the lead. Questions remain about his ability to handle the added ground, however, so it will come down to how much pressure he sees from the likes of GRAND TITO and TAKE THE STAND, who also appear to be distance challenged. IRONICUS will be well-backed in the wagering and deserves respect as he also stretches out to 10f for the first time in his second race since returning from injury, but looms a potential underlay off his last, which was extremely light in terms of figures relative to these.


1) Flintshire 8-5

2) Slumber 10-1

3) Big Blue Kitten 6-1

4) Divisidero 8-1


11- Belmont, 12f, 5:37

The prevailing train of thought regarding the marathon 12f distance of this final leg of the Triple Crown is that closers are at a disadvantage and that handicappers should focus in on horses that show a combination of tactical speed and pedigree for the distance. We’ve always played against this angle when appropriate, as the connections of so-called “deep” closers are well aware of the dangers of dropping back too many lengths off a slow pace and instruct their riders accordingly. Birdstone, for example, was only four lengths off the lead turning for home when he spoiled Smarty Jones’ bid for the Triple Crown. For this reason, we will lean towards the colt that showed the most powerful closing kick in the Kentucky Derby, and who figures to be more forwardly placed than he was in that race. That’s SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS, who made up 7 lengths in the stretch to finish 5th in that race after dropping back some 27 lengths off the pace, coming home in his final 1/4 in an eye-popping :24.3, the fastest of any colt that day. We won’t want to see him that far back in this race, but he’s showed ability to race closer to the lead in the past; he actually had the lead at the first call when breaking his maiden, and was never further back than 5 lengths when winning his first stakes as a 2 year old. The rider switch to Mike Smith should ensure a more tactical position. From a pedigree aspect, a fun angle to look at is the fact that both his grandsires, Afleet Alex and A.P. Indy, won this race, and he’s only the third starter since 2010 that can make that claim. (The last one, Commissioner, ran the best race of his life here at long odds and just missed the win). From a class standpoint, EXAGGERATOR still looms extremely large off his Preakness score, and with the possibility of rain again in the forecast, he’s a must use in multi-race wagers and on top of verticals. He’s one of just two colts to contest each of the three Triple Crown races, but fatigue is not an angle that we find applicable here, as Curlins tend to just get stronger and stronger with more races. Searching for a horse with a combination of front-running speed and pedigree, you could do worse than landing on DESTIN. He ran a deceptively good Derby despite running off an unprecedented 8 week layoff, and actually closed ground in the stretch to finish 6th. Todd Pletcher has been very successful in this race over time, and with that race under him he comes in fresh with some bottom, and should be expected to improve. A ground saving trip from the rail should find him very much in the mix late as he is bred to run all day. The same connections that spoiled California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid with Tonalist (Christophe Clement and Joel Rosario) are here with GOVERNOR MALIBU, who enters off a similar patter as that one did, using the 9f Peter Pan over this track as a prep. His combination of tactical speed and closing pace numbers make him dangerous here at a price. He’s the only runner in the field to show triple digit Brisnet Late Pace numbers in all of his last three starts. The issue with actually supporting him for the win is the combination of the class jump and the fact that he doesn’t really stack up on figures, with only a 94 Beyer to his credit.

BRODY’S CAUSE makes a lot of sense here from a pedigree standpoint and sure seems like a big overlay at his 20-1 Morning Line. He actually closed the second fastest in the Derby behind the top selection, making up 5 lengths in the stretch to finish a respectable 7th. The negative with him continues to be his seeming lack of speed, as he’s still never topped a 94 Beyer and seems to have leveled off there. He’s difficult to support on top unless he improves. LANI was another who was closing into the lead in the Derby, and didn’t run a bad Preakness when 5th. Still, he’s contested all of the Triple Crown races, and it’s possible that fatigue will catch up to him here especially  considering how hard he’s been training, although it would be no surprise to see him crash the bottom of the superfecta. Last time out was probably the time to be on CHERRY WINE, who wheels back quickly here and may have pedigree limitations based on the bottom of his pedigree. CREATOR threw in a real clunker in the Derby and is rested here, but remains somewhat of a mystery. With so many closers entered here and the many negatives such runners encounter in this race to begin with, there are simply others we like better. STRADIVARI ran on well for 4th in the Preakness but is possibly the biggest underlay of the entire year at 5-1 and second choice on the morning line. His Late Pace figures are among the field’s worst, and nothing about his pedigree seems to indicate that this distance will be to his liking. Toss.


1) Suddenbreakingnews 10-1

2) Exaggerator 9-5

3) Destin 6-1

4) Governor Malibu 12-1


March 13, 2016



2Villanova West Virginia NORTH CAROLINA OREGON

3Utah Miami Seton Hall Xavier

4Texas A&M Purdue Texas Indiana

5Iowa Iowa State Duke KENTUCKY

6Maryland California Notre Dame Providence

7UCONN Cincinnati Baylor Arizona

8Dayton Wisconsin Temple Michigan

9ARKANSAS LR St. Mary’s Colorado Butler

10GONZAGA Oregon St Pittsburgh Texas Tech

11South Carolina ST JOSEPH’S Tulsa/ Witchita St USC/ Syracuse






Arlington Million Day Pick 4 Analysis

August 14, 2015

7- American St. Leger, 13.5f

In contrast to previous runnings of this marathon, where runners like Jakkalberry and Dandino seemed like obvious singles, this year’s wide open affair is a race to spread deep to open the Pick 4 sequence. With only three graded winners in the field and a European contingent that leaves a lot to be desired, this appears to be a race to take a stab at a price shot in outright bets. CALVADOS hasn’t won since moving over from Argentina in 2013, but has endured troublesome trips in his last two. He was arguably best when 3rd in his last, the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes run at 12f over this course, having to steady twice and closing well in the stretch; a step forward from that effort combined with the added distance here could find him in the winner’s circle at a nice price. He would need to improve on his career high Racing Post Rating of 109, but that figure is competitive enough here to take a chance that the extra ground will provide the needed improvement. The angle here is that his three best career races have all come at 12f on firmer turf, and that the extra 1.5f provides an element of mystery at an attractive price for a horse that has had time to familiarize himself with the Arlington turf course; bombs away.  Of the Euros, LUCKY SPEED seems to possess the most back class, having won a Group 1 race at 12f in Germany in 2013 (113 RPR), although with only one start this year and a 365-day hiatus from hitting the board, it’s fair to question what kind of form the five year old will bring across the pond. A duplication of that effort probably makes him the horse to beat, but with only one 2015 start, there are question marks, although he has looked a picture of health over the track this week. His sire/damsire average winning distance numbers of 9.2/10.4 dominate this field so he should have no trouble with this amount of ground.  PANAMA HAT rounds out the Euro shippers, exiting a 12f Stakes win in Ireland, and interestingly shows the highest Racing Post Rating in the field (116). Having run three prior races at 14f, he shows solid foundation for distance but is still looking for a win against top company; could be heading in the right direction but he is not yet Group placed in Europe. Tactically, he stands to receive a ground saving trip near the lead from his inside post. Of the graded winners, favored HYPER, an eight year old son of Victory Gallop, was most recently seen when 3rd in the 12f Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes, his third start following an 18 month layoff. He shows a Grade 2 win at 10f from 2013, has raced against top company since his return, including a 3rd place run in the Grade 1 Man O’War off the layoff, and has won at 13f before in open stakes company. He holds a significant BRIS Prime Power advantage over the rest of the field as well as the highest last out BRIS speed figure and Late Pace figure and merits inclusion in multi-race wagers on those angles, but is worth beating for the top line in outright bets at this price in such a wide open race.

XTRA LUCK exited allowance company to win the Grade 3 Louisville at 12f, and was last seen fourth over this track at the same distance after tracking the pace. Having lost a bit of ground in his last two towards the finish though, it’s fair to wonder how much he will relish the added ground. CRUCERO surprised at 23-1 in the Grade 3 marathon San Juan Capistrano (14f) in his last but ships east for the first time following that career effort and lands in a tough spot.  The rapidly improving ROMAN APPROVAL set an easy pace in the Stars and Stripes in his first attempt at the 12f distance before just missing at the wire, but he could have a bit more pace pressure today. The added distance here remains a concern for the front-runner who will be making just his second graded start, especially with pedigree numbers like 6.7/6.4 for average winning distance in a race twice that long. HIGHBALL, 5th in last year’s Secretariat but unraced beyond 10f seems in an odd spot here, while AZ RIDGE and ALPHA KITALPHA also appear relative outsiders based on class.


1) Calvados 8-1

2) Lucky Speed 5-1

3) Panama Hat 10-1

4) Hyper 7-2

8- Secretariat, 10f

Never worse than 2nd in six career starts including a win last out in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby at this distance, favored FORCE THE PASS will take a lot of beating. After closing with authority when victorious in his prior race, the Penn Mile, he then showed versatility while rating just two lengths behind a slow pace in the 10f Belmont Derby and pulled away to win easily. The 92 Beyer earned in that effort tops the field and with the defection of Divisidero, he appears a significant cut above the rest of the Americans.  The two classiest colts in the field make the trip from Europe where they faced off in June two races back. HIGHLAND REEL merits respect on the Aidan O’Brien connection alone. Son of Galileo is Group 1 placed over soft turf and a Group 3 winner over good turf at distances beyond this one, and boasts the highest Racing Post Rating in the field (116). He is the lone Euro shipper receiving first time Lasix and comes from the same connections as last year’s winner Adelaide; watch out on the cutback from 12f to 10f. WAR DISPATCH, who finished just behind him in the aforementioned Group 1 race, has never missed the board in seven career starts, and he is also a Group 3 winner and Group 2 placed abroad over soft turf and shows competitive figures (112 RPR). A more tactical runner, we feel he stands a good chance to turn the tables this time in a race somewhat devoid of pace as he switches to an American surface, and may be a bit more suited to this particular distance. While all three turf starts this year have come over ground rated “soft”, he shows two wins at the distance over polytrack, and that angle may translate well.  Another Euro invader worth a look is GOLDSTREAM, who is unbeaten in five career starts, including a Group 2 in Italy at 10.5f over good turf. In a small field without any confirmed pace presence, he figures to be forwardly placed as well coming out of the #3 Post, but has a three month layoff to contend with and class questions abound relative to the other two shippers.

CRITTENDEN has been improving steadily since switching to turf and ran on well when 2nd by a neck in the local prep for this, the 9f American Derby, but would need a big step forward in figures to hit the board here. GRANNY’S KITTEN is a bit of a tactical mystery, having shown speed three back when winning an 8.5f allowance. He was within a length of the top pick two back when 3rd in the Penn Mile, but faltered in his last when stretching out to this distance.


1) Force The Pass 2-1

2) War Dispatch 4-1

3) Highland Reel 5-2

4) Goldstream 9-2

9- Beverly D, 9.5f

This year’s salty edition of the Beverly D returns the winner and runner-up from last year’s race.  STEPHANIE’S KITTEN arguably got the worse trip of the two last year, squeezed back 11 lengths off a slow pace before closing like a freight train to just miss the winner’s circle. She came back to win the Grade 1 Flower Bowl following that effort while running much closer to the lead, and then again sat too far behind soft fractions when 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup. In her final bow at Arlington, she is the sentimental favorite to turn the tables, as she exits two off the board finishes where she didn’t miss by much, and now stretches back out to a more ideal distance in her third start off the layoff; this could be the time to get some actual value on her following those efforts as the pundits jump off her recent form. If the pattern continues, the fact she was somehow 15 lengths off the lead in her last and closed to miss by only 2.75 may lead her connections to again give specific instructions to keep her closer to the lead. A field high Beyer of 99 and a competitive Racing Post Rating (114) should stand up well against this group as long as she doesn’t lose touch with the pacesetters. Three year-old Euro shipper and daughter of Galileo WEDDING VOW comes in for Aidan O’Brien, gets first time Lasix and should vie for favoritism following a runner-up finish in the 10f Group 1 Nassau Stakes (113 RPR) last out and a win in Group 2 company in the 9f Kilboy Estate Stakes two back, the same race Dank had won before her 2013 victory here. While she must be respected on her current form, she has a lot to prove against this group at these odds as she tries to become just the second three year old winner of this event, but that does mean she will be in receipt of six pounds from the field. Defending champion EURO CHARLINE received a dream trip in last year’s race but nonetheless must be respected on form. She’s only raced twice this year and hasn’t won since last year’s score over this track, so she may not be as sharp coming into this as she was last year, when she had five evenly spaced races under her belt, but her top Racing Post Rating of 115 is the highest in the field. However, no runner has ever won this race twice, and she may be a bit of an underlay here against a deeper field than she met last year. SECRET GESTURE is Group 1 placed across the pond and returns to the US for the first time since a respectable 5th place finish at the Breeders’ Cup, only 3/4 of a length behind the top selection. Since then, she was an impressive Group 2 winner at 10.5 at York and looms dangerous here as well from close to the pace if she breaks well from her less than ideal post.

CARLA BIANCA appears a bit less credentialed on paper but does enter off a Group 3 win at 9f where she defeated Million entrant Elleval, and can work out a good trip near the lead from the middle of the field. There is a lone speed angle that could be attractive should it materialize, but it is hard to get past the eight lengths that separated her and WEDDING VOW three races back. MANGO DIVA took a big step forward when 2nd in the Modesty, the local prep for this race, and could be sitting on a big improvement in her third start on American turf, but would need to move forward in terms of figures (93 Beyer, 105 RPR). The mare who defeated her in the 8.5f Gallorette, WATSTHECHANCES, faces a step up in class here as she stretches out but closed sharply in her last two and should appreciate the added ground, but with so many other closers in this field she also would need to improve upon her prior efforts.  LOTS O’ LEX and MAID ON A MISSION will try to take this field all the way around and should ensure an honest pace but would need to improve massively to hang on for a spot on the board, while LACY ships in from Germany off the layoff and could be a bit off the form that saw her Group 1 placed last fall.


1) Stephanie’s Kitten 7-2

2) Wedding Vow 4-1

3) Euro Charline 5-2

4) Secret Gesture 9-2

10- Arlington Million, 10f

The main event of the day presents a fascinating handicapping puzzle in terms of race shape. Flamboyant owner Ken Ramsey has entered SHINING COPPER as an obvious rabbit for his favored BIG BLUE KITTEN, a deep closer who has been more successful over his career at the 12f distance than at 10f. That strategy worked well last out at a slightly longer distance than this, although it deserves mention that the rabbit held on gamely and only missed the winner’s circle by 1.75 lengths and gets to cut back here. With several confirmed closers in the field, one might think the rabbit factor will play into the hands of a pace meltdown. However, we will play contrarian here, as perhaps the transparency of this strategy will prevent any of the other front-runners from engaging in a suicidal pace duel, and they’ll instead sit back in the second flight ready to make first run. In that event, Euro import MAVERICK WAVE seems like an intriguing proposition. From the John Gosden barn, which shocked this event in 2010 with 11-1 shot Debussy, the four-year old son of Elusive Quality exits a Group 3 win at 10.5f over soft going where he earned a 114 Racing Post Rating that seems to fit here. As with any Euro shipper that has won over soft turf there are question marks, but there are also reasons to believe he’ll handle the firmer ground, as he’s a three time winner over polytrack at this distance. He has a three month layoff to contend with but gets first time Lasix here, and winner of three of four 2015 starts figures to be forwardly placed early. SLUMBER was an impressive winner two back at this distance over the aforementioned favorite in the Grade 1 Manhattan before having those tables turned on him last out. He endured a tougher trip in defeat that day and if able to sit a bit closer to the pace as he did in his Manhattan score (field high 106 Beyer) should have every right to make an impact late. As for the favorite, it’s tough to overlook his runner-up 105 Beyer and field high 116 Racing Post Rating in terms of multi-race wager structuring. But the feeling here is that a lot has to set up for him to win at this distance in terms of pace, and would you believe he has never won a race above the Grade 3 level at shorter than 11f? He certainly would be no surprise but we will seek value elsewhere in terms of outright bets. The horse with perhaps the most potential upside in the field is TRIPLE THREAT, who exits a highly impressive late running win in the 9f Monmouth Stakes, where he endured a brutal trip in his US bow and looked to want every part of the added furlong he’ll get here. A Group 2 winner at 10f in Europe as a three year old, he shows a competitive Racing Post Rating of 115 from prior efforts abroad and figures to improve upon the 99 Beyer earned in his last in his second start off the layoff. It is a tad concerning that he missed his prep for this over the local course after having to be scratched with a brief illness, but trainer Bill Mott is an expert at bringing horses along quickly under such circumstances. If our race shape angle is wrong altogether and a meltdown does materialize, his field high 114 BRIS Late Pace number is somewhat towering; he should be used just in case.

Local favorite THE PIZZA MAN is 9 for 12 lifetime over this turf course and seems logical enough if using the same pace angle we used for the top selection. However, he again looms a potential underlay in this spot based on his popularity at the track relative to his speed figures (92 Beyer), which have actually been in steady descent over his last three races. While he has thrown together a highly impressive resume, he still has never won above the Grade 3 level or placed at the Grade 1 level and was a fairly easily beaten 4th behind the favorite last fall at Woodbine in a 12f race; we will play against him yet again on this significant class leap. QUIET FORCE was a somewhat surprising winner in the local prep for this, the 9.5f Arlington Handicap, posting a competitive 100 Beyer in that effort, but it bears mention that no winner of the local prep race has ever won the Arlington Million. UP WITH THE BIRDS was a distant 4th here last year against a weaker field and was an easily beaten 3rd last out in the local prep, and it’s hard to find an angle to include the deep closer here. LEGENDARY has shown speed before but faltered last out against the two favorites without excuse and is difficult to support in this spot. Rounding out the rest of the Euros is BOOKRUNNER, who figures to be forwardly placed and deserves a look at a price based on pedigree as he stretches from 8f to 10f, and German import WAKE FOREST, a last out winner at the Group 3 level at this distance; both show Racing Post Ratings of 112 and get first time Lasix. ELLEVAL and BELGIAN BILL also ship over but appear as much outsiders on form as they are in terms of post position.


1) Maverick Wave 8-1

2) Slumber 7-2

3) Big Blue Kitten 3-1

4) Triple Threat 6-1


June 5, 2015

RACE 6- Brooklyn, 12f, 2:34

In a preview of the main event, the Pick 6 will lead off this year with the 12f Brooklyn, a marathon dirt race for older horses, most of whom don’t make a habit of running this far on a regular basis since there are very few Stakes races on dirt at this length. Therefore, the race is a bit of a crapshoot, but we won’t try to overcomplicate things. What we are looking for, then, is a horse that has run on well at a shorter distance and appeared to want the extra ground. Look no further than EFFINEX, who is 2/2 this year and comes off a hard closing win at 10f in his last, posting a field high Beyer of 107 and giving no indication that he was done running. This will be his third race of the layoff and he seems the most obvious win choice. There is one horse in the field that has actually won at 12f recently, and that is SKY KINGDOM, who emerged victorious in the Grade 3 Tokyo City at Santa Anita in late March (101 Beyer). He’s been laid off since March, but has been working well, and if you’re looking for a horse that’s already proven on dirt at this distance, he could be your play. NECK N NECK has never run beyond 9f but shows the field high BRIS Late Pace Last Race figure and seems to always be making up ground late, we’ll give him a shot to grab a piece at decent odds. COACH INGE finished well behind the top choice two back over the slop but returned to crush his foes last out again over an off track at 9f. Interestingly, he shows both the field high Early Pace figure and the second highest Late Pace figure for that effort. Do the math, and that’s good for the best all around last race BRIS speed figure (108) and a competitive 104 Beyer, but the question remains whether he is a slop specialist.

*** Red Rifle is assumed to scratch and run Friday, if not, he would be in the mix here.


1) Effinex 7-2

2) Sky Kingdom 6-1

3) Neck N Neck 10-1

4) Coach Inge 5-1

RACE 7- Acorn, 8f, 3:15

Perhaps the most wide open race on the entire card, and that’s saying something, the trickiest part of handicapping this race is trying to determine how the pace will play out. On paper, 8 of the 12 runners project as pace or pressing types, which would seem to suggest a hot pace and potential meltdown scenario. The key would seem to be the new shooters: undefeated PROMISE ME SILVER and lightly raced MISS ELLA, both of whom have never raced beyond 7f and like to go fast up front- like :46.0 for the half fast. We’ll play against them as potential underlays against this company given the likely pace scenario, taking notice of the fact that PROMISE ME SILVER was actually losing ground late in her last at 7f and that this may be further than she wants to go. CONDO COMMANDO will take action here on the cutback from 9f, which is a solid angle that should see her stick around awhile, but her speed figures have now declined in four consecutive races, and hooking up inside more speed here isn’t the sort of proposition that leads us to believe that trend will be reversed. So what does that leave us with? It leaves us with total chaos, so why not take a giant stab at a price here. DANZATRICE draws a wide post outside all the speed which shouldn’t be an issue; she demonstrated in winning her last, the 8f Parx Oaks, that she can succeed running wide. What’s most interesting is that she shows the field high last out BRIS (98) and Beyer (85) figure for this distance, so if the 7f runners don’t want to stretch out and the 9f runners need more ground, it could be right in her sweet spot. Her Late Pace Figure of 104 is among the best in the field and could come in handy if the leaders begin to fall back; she isn’t a dead closer and should be close enough to the pace to be in great striking range. She fired a bullet work on May 31st and comes in third off the lay sitting on a big effort. Morning Line favorite SHOOK UP seems to have a case of seconditis, but there isn’t much else negative to say about her, and the Kentucky Oaks runner up looms a major player here. OCEANWAVE probably wants more ground than this to see the winner’s circle, but the race shape sets up for the deepest closer in the field to make a late move and grab a piece.


1) Danzatrice 15-1

2) Shook Up 7-2

3) Condo Commando 4-1

4) Oceanwave 12-1

RACE 8- Just A Game, 8f turf, 4:00

Just as it did last year, this race looks fairly devoid of speed, with only three of ten runners having ever shown the desire to race on the lead, and all of them having taken back off the pace at times as well. We’ll look towards runners that figure to be forwardly placed and that enter this race in the right stage of their form cycle. Third off the lay, TEPIN has become a different horse since getting a jockey switch to Julien Leparoux, undefeated in her two starts this year. She flashed early speed and wired the Distaff Turf Mile in her last, posting field high Beyer and BRIS speed figures in the process. A similar forward trajectory here wins easily at a nice price if this morning line holds. Defending champ COFFEE CLIQUE also has two races underneath her this year and probably needed them. Following a bullet work on May 31st, she is probably due here, and wasn’t disgraced when finishing second last out  just a length and a half behind the top choice. She rarely falls more than two lengths off the early pace and should be in striking range even if they go slow up front. DISCREET MARQ has been a monster at Belmont, winning five of eight starts, and exits a 8.5f win in her first start of the year where she wired the Beaugay Stakes. As many of her wins have been over her career, she was allowed to set super soft fractions on the lead (:50.4/ 1:13.4), which may or may not work to her advantage here. We are quickly reminded of her 4th place finish last year in this race as our top selection when the pace went faster than expected. Still, she has the back class to be impactful here and is always a risky mare to overlook given her proclivity to steal races on the lead when the pace presence looks to be lacking as much as it does here, especially on the cutback. Given the likely race shape, it is difficult to support any of the closers, but if we have to, LADY LARA appears best. She gets a pass for her last, when she pulled between horses on the first turn. She may find herself too far back early, but also enters third off the lay, has a win over the course at this distance, and fits on speed figures if she returns to peak form. Notably, we will take a stand against morning line favorite BALL DANCING, who is more of a 9f closer that appears to need more ground than this to get to the winner’s circle. She’s also arguably benefited from softer turf in two of her last three races and enters of an eight week layoff. By transition, we’ll also toss FILIMBI, who has finished a combined 7.5 lengths behind Ball Dancing in her last two starts, enters off an equal layoff and comes from even further back.


1) Tepin 6-1

2) Coffee Clique 7-2

3) Discreet Marq 6-1

4) Lady Lara 12-1

RACE 9- Met Mile, 8f, 4:49

This highly contested running figures to be quite speed laden, especially with both of main controlling speed horses both drawn right on the rail. This could set up extremely well for the versatile TONALIST, who is a remarkable 4/4 lifetime over this track at all different distances, winning at 8f, 9f, 10f and 12f. He exits an 8f win over this track in his last, where he posted field high Beyer (111) and BRIS (106) numbers for the distance. He figures to be awfully tough sitting outside the main speed, and until he loses at Belmont is very difficult to oppose on top even given likely short odds. BAYERN is another that has been successful at multiple distances, having won the 7f Woody Stephens over this track a year ago and wiring the 10f Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall. He threw in a real clunker without an apparent excuse in his first race off the layoff, finishing a distant 6th in the 7f Churchill Downs Stakes five weeks back. Perhaps he needed the race, or maybe it was just another one of many difficult to explain off-days this colt has had in his career. It bears mention, however, that following his two previous worst career races- a 9th place finish in the Preakness and a 10th place finish in the Travers- he won both his subsequent races by a combined 13.5 lengths. A sharp recent workout gives every indication that pattern could continue here, and he should benefit from the added furlong this time. With so much speed lined up in this race, it seems logical to consider a closer, if you can find one. KOBE’S BACK certainly fits that bill. He is one that has made a career out of gobbling up ground late in 7f races as he did in his last, winning the Grade 3 Commonwealth and posting a field high BRIS Late Pace Figure in the process. He has a layoff to contend with but gets the extra ground he appears to be begging for, and gets a perfect setup with so much pace to run into. A more obvious closing choice would be HONOR CODE, who made up 5 lengths in the stretch of the 8f Gulfstream Park Handicap two races back to get up for the win. But it’s hard to dismiss his last race in the 8.5f Alysheba where he didn’t run a lick and appeared disinterested throughout. He certainly has the talent to capitalize on a pace meltdown but appears difficult to trust based on that effort. The horse he overtook on the lead at Gulfstream that day was PRIVATE ZONE, and that one is as gritty as they come. He looms as pure speed from the rail and may find this distance a touch too taxing just as he did at Gulfstream. He does have one win at 8f to his credit but figures to face more pace pressure here. WICKED STRONG has long been a personal favorite but faces the opposite problem here; he is more of a 9f horse that probably needs more ground than this. He finished 4th in the same Gulfstream race. PANTS ON FIRE has been serviceable enough at a mile but appears on the downswing of his form cycle based on his last race, and picks a tough spot to reverse that momentum.


1) Tonalist 5-2

2) Bayern 7-2

3) Kobe’s Back 20-1

4) Honor Code 6-1

RACE 10- Manhattan Stakes, 10f turf, 5:46

A wide open affair that appears to have very little pace presence, this edition of the Manhattan showcases an interesting mix of 12f horses cutting back, and 8f horses stretching out, with no evidently dominant 10f runners (only four horses here have ever won at this distance, with just six total wins between them). While the pace doesn’t figure to be lively, there is one eye-catching closer who seems to close every time regardless of the pace, has won 3 of 5 starts over this turf course, races at this distance for the first time and may find it right in his wheelhouse. That’s BIG BLUE KITTEN, who makes his second start off the layoff following a hard closing win at 9f last out. We really like the stretchout for him here after closing into moderate fractions in his last, and see no reason he can’t do the same with the added distance over a turf course for which he has a proven affinity. The feeling here is he may find a stronger finishing punch in his first career start at 10f than he typically has left in his 12f races. Additionally, trainer Chad Brown is fitting his other runner SLUMBER with blinkers. This horse is usually not placed forwardly; could this be an effort to ensure a more honest pace for the closer? Another typical 12f horse that is cutting back for this in his third off the lay and figures to be on the lead is WAR DANCER, who took them a long way on the lead in the 11f Man O’War last out before settling for 2nd in the final strides. He shows a win at this distance from his three year old campaign and should benefit from the cutback if he’s the one to catch on the front end. He has some form questions to resolve, having lost to three of these foes in his last six races, but should get a favorable setup to turn the tables. Man O’ War winner TWILIGHT ECLIPSE must be respected on class, but there’s reason to wonder if he needs a bit more distance than this, and to doubt whether he is capable of duplicating another career effort at this point in his form cycle. He does show the best last out and overall Beyer speed figure in the field however (104), so he’ll be included in multi-race wagers. FINNEGAN’S WAKE has done nothing wrong recently, winning four of his last five races, including one at this distance. One could argue that he has been beating weaker competition out west, but he does have a win over this distance over the second choice from last summer, and seems to fit well enough on form. In that particular race, the Arlington Handicap, he changed tactics and raced near the lead in order to adapt to a plodding early pace. He’s a versatile and proven winner that isn’t our top choice for outright bets, but must be included for multi-race wagers as well. HYPER deserves consideration as well from the rail. He was a distant third in the Man O’War, but that came after being layed off for a year and a half. An old-timer at eight years of age, he does have a win over Finnegan’s Wake at that distance from two years back, for whatever that’s worth, and if nothing else should be expected to move forward from his last.


1) Big Blue Kitten 5-1

2) War Dancer 5-1

3) Twilight Eclipse 7-2

4) Finnegan’s Wake 4-1

RACE 11- Belmont Stakes, 12f, 6:50

Contrary to popular belief, the marathon distance of the Belmont does not correlate strongly to closing tactics. In fact, the winner of this race has been within one length of the lead at the quarter pole in nine of the last ten runnings, and six of the last ten winners have been on the lead at that point. This would seem to bode well for AMERICAN PHAROAH, who will seek to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. By all accounts, the colt has been masterful over the track this week, showing no sign of fatigue following his Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins. If anything, he appears to be flourishing and strengthening by the day. What has always impressed us most about him is his professionalism and ability to relax near the lead, a style that should suit him well here and potentially create some separation from the field. It bears mention that while the Mr. Prospector line has won 15 of the last 23 runnings of this race, only two of the six runners that qualify under that criteria here have descended from a winner of this race, as his grandpa Empire Maker was victorious in 2003. The other is MATERIALITY, whose sire Afleet Alex romped in this race in 2005, and he appears to loom the most dangerous potential spoiler. Lightly raced and making just his fifth career start, he is another that figures to be forwardly placed and has the pedigree to carry his speed the entire distance. His inexperience cost him dearly in the Kentucky Derby, where his failure to break from an inside post at the start cost him all chance at hitting the board. What was most impressive about that effort, though, was that the colt was able to adapt to different tactics than ever before as a result, racing far back and making a strong late move to finish a respectable 6th; he actually closed more ground on the winner than any other runner that day and galloped out strongly. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been on fire at Belmont, so those looking for value in outright bets should give him a close look. We were strong supporters of FROSTED in the Derby, and he was far from a disgrace there, suffering a horribly wide trip and covering more ground than any other runner while still managing a 4th place finish, also closing ground on the winner. He has been working well and should be primed for a big race. The one lingering doubt with him is if he has quite as much tactical speed as the top two preferences here, and in a race that appears chalky for the win, it’s difficult to make a case to use three horses on top; we have to take a stand against one. While his grandsire AP Indy won this race, it’a hard to imagine a Tapit colt winning two consecutive editions of this race. One colt that could be improving rapidly enough to crash the party at big odds is KEEN ICE. He ran the best race of his life when a solid 7th in the Kentucky Derby, the only other of the three horses to make up ground on the winner in the final furlong. His breeding has always kept him a live longshot in our eyes, and while he may be too far back early to be seriously considered for the win, he appears very useful in the 2nd spot in exotics. MUBTAAHIJ still has the best pure distance pedigree in the field, but wasn’t as impressive in the Derby and hasn’t looked great over the track this week. His pedigree will keep him on the bottom of the tri but we look to others for the top two spots.

MADEFROMLUCKY won the 9f Peter Pan over this track, and that experience worked well for last year’s winner Tonalist. He may have a say in the early pace but looks a cut below these as he looms the wise guy pick as horse for the course. The feeling is that he is just not bred for this distance. TALE OF VERVE exceeded expectations when a distant 2nd over the sloppy track in the Preakness. He seems be a bounce candidate wheeling back so quickly from that effort, which was undeniably slop-assisted. FRAMMENTO is another late mover but isn’t bred well for this event, showing the lowest 12f Tomlinson Distance Figure (244); doesn’t fit.


1) American Pharaoh 3-5

2) Materiality 6-1

3) Frosted 5-1

4) Keen Ice 20-1

What To Do With Virginia?

March 18, 2015

Perhaps the most difficult decision of the entire bracket will be to determine how much impact star guard and leading scorer Justin Anderson’s injury will have upon the chances of Virginia. Anderson was sidelined for eight games following a broken pinky finger on his left (shooting) hand. Shortly before he was scheduled to return, he underwent an appendectomy that kept him out the final week of the season. In his return to action in the ACC tournament, he appeared lifeless,  ‎going scoreless over 26 minutes of action in two games and missing all six of his shots.

Let’s attempt to measure the impact of one single player. Before Anderson’s injury, Virginia was one of the most balanced teams in the nation, a finely tuned machine on both sides of the ball that operated surgically on offense, working carefully to create high percentage shots and crashing the boards when those shots missed. As the #9 AdjOff and #1 AdjDef, Virginia was the only team besides Kentucky to be own a top ten efficiency profile on both sides of the ball.

The impact of ‎ Anderson’s injury upon Virginia’s offensive production can’t be understated, and is actually quite remarkable considering he is just one player. Virginia’s offense ranked #9th in AdjOff before his injury but finished the season ranked #26. Interpolating this for the eight games he missed, we can conclude that without Anderson, Virginia operated with an offense in the #75 range while he was unable to play, an absolutely stunning departure in terms of efficiency.

The good news for Virginia is that a similar scenario was not the case on defense, as they maintained the #1 AdjDef ranking despite Anderson’s absence. This alone is enough to qualify them as a Tier 3 Final Four contender regardless of their offense. However, the difference in the probability of actually making the Final Four between ‎the Tier 1 profile that Virginia once showed and the Tier 3 profile that they showed down the stretch is substantial.

The committee didn’t exactly do the Cavaliers any favors either. After spending most of the season a virtual lock for a one seed, winning the ACC regular season outright with a 16-2 record, a couple of stumbles late were enough to delegate them to a two seed. But worse than that, the committee added arguably the toughest 7 seed in Michigan State as a potential second round matchup, and easily the toughest 3 seed in Oklahoma, a Tier 2 Final Four contender, in the Sweet 16. The Spartans put Virginia out of the tournament last year, and the Sooners boast an AdjDef of #5, which could spell trouble if the Virginia offense endures the types of scoring droughts they have suffered from without Anderson at full strength.

‎Now, time to look at some positives. For one, although Virginia may have lost a seed line by losing to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, an argument could be made that that was the best thing that could have happened to them. Anderson gets a full week to get healthier now and Virginia merely has to get through one hard game against Michigan State before he gets another week to get healthier. Also, the team they are most likely to face in the Regional Final, Villanova, actually presents a favorable matchup for Virginia. Villanova is a team that thrives on three point shooting, but Virginia’s defense has held opponents to .303 shooting from beyond the arc, the 7th best of any team in the tournament.

Another element of Virginia’s game that gives them matchup advantages is their ability to rebound. They rank third among tourney teams in total rebounding percentage, while Oklahoma is actually the ninth worst rebounding team in the tourney by that metric. Virginia also is very careful with the basketball, ranking sixth among tourney teams in least turnovers‎ per possession. It should also be noted that while technically a Tier 2 team, Oklahoma’s AdjO, at #50, ranks at the extreme outer cusp to meet that criteria. Even with Anderson at less than 100%, one would expect Virginia’s offense to be operating on at least an equal level to that, and with the Virginia defense superior to Oklahoma’s, we can expect the Cavaliers to pull this one out.

Conclusion: Virginia’s offense goes as Justin Anderson goes. At 100% effectiveness, they are a bonafide national title contender; with an offense operating like the 75th best in the nation, they figure to get a tough test in the second round regardless of how good their defense is. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. But while their top-ranked defense and solid rebounding probably are good enough to carry them through some tough early matchups, Anderson’s production will be the determining factor as to whether they ultimately challenge for the title. This is truly anyone’s guess, but given the nature of the human body as it pertains to being injured (it heals with time), I’m going to take a shot on him improving steadily as the tournament goes on. At the very least, he should make more of an impact than he did in the ACC tournament, and with veteran teammates hungry to avenge last year’s Sweet 16 defeat combined with one of the best offensive coaching schemes and defenses in the land, bet against Virginia at your own peril.