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Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Old Kentucky Home's officially the First Saturday in May! Today is like Christmas, New Year's Eve and a birthday all rolled into one for the Pony Bologna crew.  We research, discuss, toss horses, add them back, discuss, do more research and ulitmately place our bets.  Just before the gates fly open the butterflies in our stomachs are churnning.  We were certainly disappointed when our favorite, ArchArchArch, drew post 1.  However, after even more research we aren't as devastated as we were on Wednesday.  While the 1-hole isn't ideal, we don't believe it to be the "death sentence" for AAA's chances that others do.  In our opinion, too many people have last year's post-time favorite Lookin At Lucky and his awful trip from post 1 in their minds.  But looking back at history there have been very few "real" contenders to break from the 1 since Ferdinand did it in 1986.  While Lucky was the post-time favorite, he was relatively unproven on dirt and was certainly anything but Lucky in his prep races leading up to last year's Derby.  We think that AAA has the ability, speed and toughness to withstand a trip from the 1-hole and as trainer Jinks Fires said, "it's still the shortest way around the track."

So without further ado we present the Pony Bologna 2011 Kentucky Derby picks.  Gregg will start things off by giving us his top 4 horses and one longshot play then Jeremy will lay out his Derby bets.


Short, sweet and to the point.  Here are my Top 5:

1.  ArchArchArch
2.  Brilliant Speed
8.  Dialed In
14. Shackleford
15. Midnight Interlude


$20 ATB ($60)


$5 Ex P/W ($200)

1,2,15,19 / 1,2,3,7,8,12,13,14,15,17,19

$1 Tri P/W ($120)

1/ 2,7,15,19/ 2,3,7,8,11,12,13,14,15,17,19

2,7,15,19/ 1/ 2,3,7,8,11,12,13,14,15,17,19

2,7,15,19/ 2,3,7,8,11,12,13,14,15,17,19/ 1

$1 Super P/W ($48)

1,19/ 1,8,19/ 1,2,8,19/ 1,2,7,8,11,14,15,17,19

$1 Straight Super ($2)

5-7-20-11 (Today's Date)

TOTAL: $430

Good luck to everyone today.  Enjoy it.  It's one of the greatest days in sports.  We'll be back on Monday to recap the race and how we did.  Hopefully by then we'll be recovered from celebrating our big win!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I feel the need...the need for speed.

Using the pedigree-influenced figures of GSV and Dosage Points we have trimmed out 8 horses from the top spot of our Kentucky Derby bets.  Now we'll take a look at how we further sift through the contenders using speed figures to find the horses with the best chance of crossing the wire first at Churchill Downs this Saturday.

There are three major figures that most handicappers use to assess a horse's performance in a race: BRIS speed figures, Beyer Speed Figures (BSF) and Chef-de-Race Performance Figures (PF).  There are historical comparisons which can be made using all three of those figures.  We'll look, first, at Beyer's numbers.

Twelve of the last 19 Derby winners posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 or better before their victories at Churchill Downs.  However, 3 of the last 4 winners did not post such a figure before running away with the roses, Big Brown in 2008 being the only exception.  Taking a look at this year's contenders we see that no horse has posted even a triple-digit BSF in their 2011 campaign and only Uncle Mo (108) and Soldat (103) have had a 100+ BSF in their careers.  Because of this short fall in the BSF's usefulness this year, Pony Bologna has decided not to use the BSF for our Derby projections.

There are no Big Browns in this year's Kentucky Derby
and the speed figures clearly show that.
Next up in the world of speed numbers are the BRIS speed figures.  Developed by Bloodstock Research Information Services, the BRIS figures are similar in nature to the BSF. The advantage in using BRIS numbers is that these figures not only compare a horse's performance in the race as a whole, but break down each race into E1 (the horse's performance to the First Call, 4f in routes), E2 (to the second call, 6f) and the Late Pace figure (LP, from the Second Call to the finish).

Twelve of the last 21 Derby winners had an overall BRIS speed rating of 104 or higher in their final prep. Again, Big Brown is the only winner in the last 4 years who qualified under this category.  Looking through the current crop of Derby hopefuls, no horses posted a 104 or higher BRIS speed rating in their final prep. Dialed In and Shackleford each posted a 101 in their Florida Derby efforts, the only triple-digit figures in a final prep. 

Another BRIS-related stat centers around the LP figure earned by Derby winners in their last prep.  Fourteen of the last 21 winners obtained a LP figure of 103 or higher in their final prep.  Once again Big Brown checks in as the only winner in the last 4 runnings of the Derby to have qualified in this category.  Unlike the other speed figures we've discussed so far, there are a handful of 2011 Kentucky Derby contenders who did earn a LP figure of 103+ in their final preps. 

In the Santa Anita Derby, Comma To The Top earned a 103 LP while Midnight Interlude earned a 108.  Toby's Corner put up a 105 LP en route to his upset win in the Wood Memorial while Brilliant Speed received a blazing 109 LP coming from the back of the pack to take the Bluegrass Stakes.  Finally in the Arkansas Derby, 1-2 finishers ArchArchArch and Nehro posted a 103 and 109 LP, respectively for their efforts at Oaklawn Park.  Of these horses, we have already eliminated Comma To The Top and Toby's Corner from contention based on their low GSV/DP figures.  So we move the remaining 4 horses on through our process.

Midnight Interlude used a 109 LP to edge out
Comma To The Top in the Santa Anita Derby
The final speed figure we use to determine who is performing at a "Kentucky Derby Champion" level coming into the race is the Performance Figure.  A detailed comparison between BSF and PF can be found here.  Here is a (relatively) brief explanation of the PF from the Chef-de-Race website:

     Performance Figures are calculated for the top three finishers in graded stakes races. The figures are based on a combination of fractional and final times converted into a single number. They represent performance integrated over the entire race. In that sense, they differ from conventional speed figures which rely only on the final time. For this methodology, the entire pace line of a race is converted to a performance figure, and it is compared to the number for the class-par pace line or, occasionally, a projected pace line. All pars are adjusted for age, distance, sex, and time of year. Variants are then calculated in the normal way.

     On the scale, a figure of "0" is the standard for an older male $10,000 claimer. At the top tracks, pars for older males are -84 for a Grade 1, -78 for a Grade 2, and -72 for a Grade 3. Pars for older females are -72 for a Grade 1, -66 for a Grade 2, and -60 for a Grade 3. Pars for younger horses will vary throughout the year. For example, par for the Kentucky Derby (in May) is -64 while par for the Belmont Stakes (in June) is -68. The lower the number (i.e., the more negative), the higher the level of performance. Beaten lengths calculations are as follows: 7 points per length at less than six furlongs; 5 points per length between a seven furlongs and a mile; 4 points per length between a mile and forty yards and nine and one-half furlongs; 3 1/2 points per length at ten furlongs; and 3 points per length at greater than ten furlongs.

For our purposes we focus on this historical statistic: Since the introduction of Performance Figures in 1998, 11 of 13 Derby winners have had a figure of –50 or lower. That's an amazing 85%.  Also since 1998, the Kentucky Derby winner has posted one of the 5 best PFs 10 times.  Needless to say, the Pony Bologna crew puts quite a bit of stock in the PF as our "Speed Figure of Choice" when handicapping Kentucky Derby contenders.  There are 8 horses who have posted a total of 12 sub -50 PFs:

Dialed In (-50; 2011 Holy Bull S)
Mucho Macho Man (-52; 2011 Risen Star)
Nehro (-52; 2011 AR Derby)
ArchArchArch (-53; 2011 AR Derby)
Dialed In (-54; 2011 FL Derby)
Shackleford (-54; 2011 FL Derby)
Mucho Macho Man (-54; LA Derby)
Top 5:
Brilliant Speed (-55,turf; 2011 Dania Beach S)
Nehro (-56; 2011 LA Derby)
Pants On Fire (-57; 2011 LA Derby)
Mucho Macho Man (-63; 2010 Remsen S)
Uncle Mo (-86; 2010 BC Juv)

Dialed In(2), Nehro(2) and Mucho Macho Man(3) have all posted multiple sub -50 PFs in their careers.  Looking at this list and cross-referencing our earlier blog on GSV/DP we can eliminate Mucho Macho Man and Uncle Mo from contention based on their deficiencies in those areas.  This leaves us with the following horses who have made it through the GSV/DP and PF cuts.  We add Midnight Interlude to the mix based on his strong LP in the Santa Anita Derby and this gives us 7 horses that we are strongly considering for our Derby bets:

Court will be in session on Saturday as jockey Jon
Court rides Pony Bologna favorite ArchArchArch
Brilliant Speed
Pants On Fire
Dialed In

Awarding extra "points" to horses who also posted qualifying LP figures in their final preps or who are in the Top 5 PFs we find there are 4 horses that stand above the others at this point in our process:

Brilliant Speed
Pants On Fire

Obviously the Post Position draw Wednesday evening could have a huge impact on these rankings.  A position of 1 or 18-20 could be very harmful to any of these horses.  Additionally, the weather on Derby Day may play a part in how the Pony Bologna crew plays the race. We will certainly keep you posted so check back soon for more stats, comparisons and opinions.

Ain't Nuttin But a G(SV) Thang

We are just five days away from The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports! It's time for Pony Bologna to start laying out the pieces of our formula for cashing winning bets for the Kentucky Derby.  The approach we take to the Kentucky Derby is to use a large sample size of past winners to create cutoff points for various important statistics.  This gives us a way in which to compare the figures of the current crop of contenders against history to see who best fits this "Winners Profile".  With such a historic race as the Kentucky Derby there are hundreds of facts and patterns that could be used to knock down the chances of any horse in the field.  The most important part of picking the winning combination is to evaluate why the horse falls short in that category and to further decide just how valuable each category is to determining the eventual winner.

Our first piece of the puzzle is Genetic Strength Value (GSV).   The GSV is a 5 generation pedigree rating using racing & breeding statistics from more than 6,500 stallions. The higher the number, the better.  While a high GSV does not guarantee success at Classic distances, a look back at the historical data shows that there is a cutoff point for GSV scores when it comes to Kentucky Derby winners.

The following explanation of GSV and GSV2 comes from the website of George William Smith, developer of the GSV & GSV2 (it's lengthy but really gives a good foundation for why the GSV & GSV2 are important factors):

           "GSV & GSV2 are numerical scores developed by George William Smith, known for his pedigree analysis skills that led to two Eclipse Champions, Farda Amiga and Vindication; European Horse of the Year, St. Jovite; and connected to hundreds of stakes winners.

            Throughout my career I have constantly been asked about the strength of pedigrees.  Clients ask if they should purchase or sell a certain horse, breed this mare to that stallion to produce a certain type of foal, etc.  I usually answer that I need to take an in-depth look at the pedigree, race record and stud performance so that I might be as accurate as possible about the potentials of the pedigrees involved. 

             For over 25 years I have been generating a score for their thoroughbred so that my clients may more easily be made aware of the strength of the thoroughbred I am researching for them compared to other thoroughbreds.  It is called my GRASP score.  GRASP stands for Genetic, Racing Ability and Stud Performance. 

             The Genetic score arrives with the foal at birth, but may change throughout its lifetime as its parents and 5 generations of ancestors do better or worse at stud as time goes by.  The change can be dramatic if both parents are in the early stages of their stud career or slight if both have been in the stud a long time. Usually, the foal can not do a thing about it's Genetic score, but if the foal is very, very good it might have some impact on the stud career of its parents. 

             The Racing Ability score is earned during it's racing career and once retired does not change.  The Racing Ability score can help you understand you whether the horse got its fair share of the good genes or not.  If a horse has a high Genetic score but cannot outrun a fat man, the Racing Ability score will reflect that it did not get much of the 'good stuff' from its parents.  On the other hand, if the foal has a high Genetic score and runs like the wind, the Racing Ability score added to the Genetic score will be very high, predicting that there is much potential in this horse when sent to stud.  Thus, I use the GRA score as a guide on how much potential there is in the horse before it produces a foal.  I always publish the GRA scores of potential stallions so that my clients know ahead of time who I predict will succeed and who are likely to fail.

            The Stud Performance score is earned during the stud career of the horse and until it no longer has foals from its producing daughters racing on the track.  Depending on how many foals and the length the horse stood at stud, this score often changes even after the death of the horse.  The older a horse is or would have been, the less this value changes.

            The GSV and GSV2 are derived from the GRASP scores of the 31 thoroughbred sires found within 5 generations and weighted according to how close up they appear, but is not male dependent like dosage, etc. The GSV actually measures the Genetic Strength of 57 of the 62 horses within those 31 sires, beginning with the sire of the horse and the next four generations.  The horses currently not measured are the 5 dams of the tail-female line and these can be found on a catalog page. The GSV & GSV 2 is a perfect supplement to catalog page of a horse for sale as the  GSV & GSV2 objectively measures the genetic strength of the horse, whereas a catalog page is highly biased toward the best ancestors in a horse's tail-female line pedigree."

Since 1950 just five Kentucky Derby champions have had a GSV/GSV2 under 70.  This is the starting point for the Pony Bologna team.  A horse with a GSV under 70 will not be considered as a potential Derby winner.

Here are horses with a GSV/GSV2 under the 70 point cutoff:

Comma To The Top (59.96)
Toby's Corner (62.53)
Mucho Macho Man (65.71)
Animal Kingdom (69.55)

So after just the first cut we've taken 20% of the field out of our bets.  Next we'll look at Dosage Points.  This information can be obtained from Chef-de-Race, a well-respected dosage website run by Steven A. Roman, Ph.D.  Taking a look at a major stat from past Kentucky Derbies our list of potential winners is reduced dramatically.

Since Middleground, with his 12 total DP, took the 1950 Run For the Roses, NO horse has won the race with fewer than 16 total dosage points.  The DP total is calculated by adding the dosage points in each of the horse's 5 dosage categories (Brilliant, Intermediate, Classic, Solid and Professional).  Note: It is usually a plus for a horse to have the highest number of DP in his "Classic" wing.  Taking a look at this year's crop of Derby contenders we see that there are 8 horses who have fewer than 16 DP:

Pony Bologna believes likely post-time favorite Uncle Mo
will lay down in the Kentucky Derby.
 Twice the Appeal (14)
Twinspired (14)
Decisive Moment (14)
Mucho Macho Man (12)
Toby's Corner (10)
Comma To The Top (8)
Animal Kingdom (8)
Uncle Mo (8)

Yes, you read that correctly. Anointed "superhorse" Uncle Mo, the likely post-time Kentucky Derby favorite, has only 8 Dosage Points. If Uncle Mo were to win this year's Derby he would have the lowest DP total of a winner since Count Fleet (4) in 1943!  Clearly there are other reasons which we will discuss later (illness, poor 2011 campaign, etc.) but based on this figure Uncle Mo will not be on top of any Pony Bologna tickets this year.

Based on GSV and DP we have eliminated 8 horses from the top spot on our Derby bets.  This is nearly half of the field.  Next blog we'll look at other variables, including speed figures and how a horse finished in his final prep, to further trim down our tickets in our search for the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Duh, winning!

With apologies to Charlie Sheen, yesterday Pony Bologna was winning!  We went to Fairmount Park to watch the two preps and ended up playing some of the earlier races at Keeneland.  While we didn't really cash many tickets in those early races we began seeing a pretty significant pattern.  In every route run on the main poly track that day, no horse outside of post position 6 even hit the board.  There was clearly an inside bias on the track and it could not be ignored.  Sometimes no matter how much handicapping a person does, they have to adjust their picks to other factors. 

Inside = WINside.

In last year's Kentucky Derby we loved Lookin' At Lucky but after he drew post position 1 we had to back off of him.  Going into Saturday Jeremy liked some horses which were starting from far outside posts.  Once it came time to place bets he could no longer bet those outside horses with any confidence.  He liked some of the inside horses before the race but once the pattern was noticed he decided to adjust his bet to compensate for the bias.  Clearly things worked out well because when the 5-7 exacta came across Jeremy cashed in a pretty nice ticket!  Score one for flexibility in handicapping.

Gregg used GSV (we'll again post something more on that later) to nail the winner, Brilliant Speed, and cashed a win ticket on the horse. As was mentioned in the last post, Brilliant Speed's GSV was so much higher than any other horse in the field.  With Keeneland being a track where GSV can play such a big role Gregg knew which horse he was picking for the win.  Score more cheese for the Pony Bologna sandwich.
Brilliant move backing Brilliant Speed!

After the Bluegrass we turned our attention to Oaklawn Park and the Arkansas Derby.  Jeremy sent Gregg an email a while ago which contained a snippet about ArchArchArch. 

In part the email stated: "Assistant trainer Pat Tanner noted that Archarcharch has grown as the winter has progressed and pointed out that even the blinkers worn in the workout were even getting a little too small."

This was a vital bit of information, as it turned out.  Any horse that grows out of his 2yo blinkers is certainly worth a look.  In three previous starts this season, Archarcharch finished fourth as the favorite in the Jan. 17 $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, then bounced back to win the Feb. 21 $250,000 Southwest Stakes (G3). He then finished third behind The Factor in the March 19 $300,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) despite being kicked repeated by Alternation, the horse next to him in the starting gate who was scratched after flipping in the gate. 

Winning exacta? Exactly!
To see ArchArchArch go off at odds of 25-1 given all of his past success was an absolute shock for both of us. Gregg nailed both the exacta and had a win bet on AAA's nose to cash in a big ticket on the race.  However, for as good a job as Jeremy did being flexible with his betting in the Bluegrass, he did an equally poor job with betting the Arkansas.  He liked both AAA and runner-up Nehro but only had a trifecta part-wheel bet on the race, with no exacta box.  Had he made the exacta box bet he certainly would've hit the exacta in both preps but the lesson was certainly learned. Don't put all your eggs in one type of bet. Picking third place in a race with a large field is difficult so make sure to have something bet for just a winner, the exatca and, if you feel lucky enough, the tri and superfectas.
Winner, winner...ribs for dinner!

Overall there can be no complaining about the final major prep day of this Triple Crown season. Tickets were cashed, winnings were turned into more winnings when the Pony Bologna crew went from the track to the casino and there was much rejoicing and celebrating into the wee hours.  We now turn our attention to the First Saturday in May, with a small detour for the Coolmore Lexington this Saturday which will feature Bob Baffert's Jaycito.  In the weeks to follow Pony Bologna will discuss the process we use to narrow down the field to select our Kentucky Derby horses. We'll provide stats from past winners and will show how we use historic figures and numbers to create a profile for the Derby winner.  We'll then compare the current crop of contenders to mine out which horse or horses best fit the profile.  Stay tuned for all this and more...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Land of Opportunity

The Arkansas Derby is being run today and we at Pony Bologna have been on The Factor's bandwagon for quite some time now.  His speed figures are far and away better than any horse not named Uncle Mo. He's trained by Bob Baffert who has shipped to Oaklawn twice now in favor of his home track of Santa Anita, claiming that the dirt at Oaklawn simulated Churchill Downs far better than any other track in the nation. With a board-hitting finish in the AR today The Factor will likely solidify himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite come the first Saturday in May.

On to the race today, we're actually heading out the door to spend the day at Fairmount Park to watch the day's events so I'll save the long-winded descriptions and just cut to the chase:


1. The Factor
2. Archarcharch
3. Alternation
4. Nehro


$1 Tri Part Wheel ($120):

1/1a,2,3,5 (Alternation/Caleb's Posse, Nehro, Elite Alex, Brethren)
1/1a,2,3,4,5,9 (add The Factor & AAA)
1/1a,2,3,4,5,6,9,11 (add Sway Away & JW Blue)

$5 ATB ($30):
7 - Truman's Commander
11 - JW Blue

Total: $150

I'm also playing the Stakes Pick 4 at Keeneland for $1 with the following combo:

R6 - 2, 4, 6
R7 - 2, 3
R8 - 4, 12
R9 - 3,7,8,11


Good luck to everyone on a great racing day!  We'll follow up on our picks after the races.

Bluegrass Breakdown

After all of the talk and analysis we're finally down to the last true Kentucky Derby prep weekend.  Last weekend's races really shook up everyone's "Top 5/10/25" lists. Uncle Mo showed that he was not the superhorse that he was thought to be. Before the race the announcer made mention of the Triple Crown as a possibility for Mo, now even the Derby looks iffy for the 2-year-old champ.  A GI tract infection, no that's not Grade One but gastro-intestinal, was discovered in Mo following his disappointment in the Wood Memorial.  The infection is not considered serious and both trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole insist that if the horse is healthy and works well leading up to the Derby he will run.

The Illinois Derby gave us a winner in Joe Vann who won't likely even make it into the Derby field because he wasn't even late nominated to the Triple Crown. While newcomer Midnight Interlude punched his ticket to Churchill by nipping Comma To The Top in the Santa Anita Derby.  Of the three Derby preps last weekend Gregg and Jeremy cashed tickets in all three races.  Jeremy's hope to beat the superhorse Uncle Mo in the Wood led to an exacta hit, Gregg used pedigree numbers plus the trust in Pletcher to grab Joe Vann in the IL and also went with the Bob Baffert-trained SA winner too!  Overall a great day for Pony Bologna at the windows, we're hoping for more of the same this Saturday!

On to our breakdown of the two preps this weekend.  In all honesty it could be said that there is really only one true Derby prep being run this weekend, the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.  The Toyota Bluegrass Stakes, being run on the AWS of Keeneland, has only produced one Kentucky Derby winner (Street Sense in 2007, 2nd in the Bluegrass) and no horse has won both races since the track has switched from a dirt surface.

While there are several horses entered into the Bluegrass who are likely not true Kentucky Derby contenders, even with a win on Saturday, one horse has been on people's Derby radars for quite a while.  Santiva won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall at Churchill and has never finished off of the board in his 5 lifetime races.  He currently sits 18th on the Graded Earnings list with $240,254.  That would be good enough to make it into the starting gate if the Derby was run today, but a good showing by a few horses below him on the list coupled with a bad run by Santiva could have him on the outside looking in.  This means that, unlike The Factor in the Arkansas Derby (more on him later) Santiva does need to run well in the Bluegrass to insure his spot in the Kentucky Derby.

On to the race itself.  First we'll look at Gregg's Bluegrass Picks:

1.Brilliant Speed
2. Santiva
3. Queen'sPlateKitten
4. Newsdad

Brilliant Speed - By far the highest GSV in the field. Horses with such a big advantage in this bloodline figure usually do very well over the AWS at Keeneland.  Sometimes horses in a race have similar GSV numbers but Brilliant Speed is at 75.32 while the second-highest number in the field is Newsdad at 67.98.  That's too big of a difference to ignore. GSV helped me spot Joe Vann in the Illinois Derby field and on a track where GSV plays bigger than most, I'm taking a flyer on this longshot.

Santiva - I have had this horse on my short list for the Kentucky Derby for months now. I see no reason to get away from him now. He appears to be the class of the field and that deserves credit. Plus his trainer, Eddie Kenneally, works out of Keeneland and knows the track well.

Queen'sPlateKitten - This horse appears to be on the come. A Canadian who's won at 1m1/16 on the AWS at Woodbine and Pletcher has been doing well this Derby prep season.

Newsdad - FInished 1st & second in his last two races over the turf, both at 1m1/8 so distance shouldn't be an issue. Had a good 6f workout for trainer Bill Mott on Sunday over the Keeneland surface.


Keeneland can be an unpredictable surface to bet, to say the least.  Favorites in Grade 1 races on Keeneland Polytrack are 1/25 according to the track's program.  While once again I agree with Gregg that Santiva is a deserving favorite in this race, I don't think he'll offer any betting value and I don't know if he'll regain his winning form from last fall. Additionally the horse hasn't race in 56 days and hasn't been training particularly great at Palm Meadows.  I'm going to once again take a stand against the favorite and hope that this race goes the way of every other prep run this season.

To narrow down my choices I wanted to see what horses had experience running over the polytrack surface:

Santiva - 2nd at 1m 1/16 in the BC Futurity over this same track.

Sensational Slam - wins at 5 1/2 & 6f over the track at Woodbine, though these were his first two races and are clearly not the same as running a route on a big Stakes day.

Twinspired - last 3 races have been on poly (1st at 1m, 4th at 1m1/16 and 3rd last out at 1m1/8)

Willcox Inn - 3rd behind Santiva in BCFut

Wilkinson - won first race of career at Kee 7f (but has been exclusively a dirt runner/trainer since then)

Praetereo - 5th at 1m1/16 in 2nd race of career

Crimson China - 3 of 4 races on poly. (2nd by a nose at 1m, win at 1m1/16 by 3 lengths, 2nd by 2 lengths behind Swift Warrior in the Rushaway at 1m1/16)

Queen'splatekitten - win by 5 1/4lengths at Woodbine going 1m1/16 in Dec '10.

To me, Twinspired and Crimson China seem to have the best experience on poly. Additionally, Wilcox Inn was only a length behind Santiva on this same track, finishing 3rd in the BCFut. It's likely that Santiva has progressed further than Wilcox Inn over the last year, but at a price I'm willing to take a chance.

It appears that Joe's Blazing Aaron will jump out to the lead in this one, and rider Garrett Gomez is winless in Derby preps this season.  I don't know if such a good jockey will be held winless the whole season and Keenland can sometimes lead to wire-to-wire winners.  Another good price so I'm willing to take a chance here.  Also, I can't ignore how Brilliant Speed's GSV towers over the field so I'll be playing him as well.  So here are my bets for the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes:

$1 Tri P/W

7,8,11 (Twinspired, Willcox Inn, Crimson China)
3,4,7,8,11,12 (Add Santiva, Joe's Blazing Aaron, Queen'splatekitten)


$15 Show Bets
4 - Joe's Blazing Aaron
5 - Brilliant Speed

Total - $90

Later today we'll post our breakdown of the Arkansas Derby.  Check back soon!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pick A Peck of Pickled Preps

Going into the most action-packed day of Derby preps of the season, the Pony Bologna crew is amped.  Admittedly, two of the three Grade I races on slate for today have little true Kentucky Derby implications.  Uncle Mo is the only real Derby contender in the Wood Memorial and the relatively small purse of the Illinois Derby ($300,000, down from $500,000 in years past) means that Tampa Bay Derby upset winner Watch Me Go is the only horse at Hawthorne with a chance to earn enough money to make it into the Derby dance.

Of course once the gates fly open Saturday afternoon we'll all still be engrossed in some of the most exciting action in sports.  So without further ado we present our picks for all three prep races.  Gregg will give his top 3 horses for each race while Jeremy will post his bets for each race.


Wood Memorial - I think Uncle Mo destroys this field of plow horses.  He should wire them and post a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure in the process. Starship Caesar was claimed for $25k on 3 January, Toby's Corner won The Whirlaway but was 3rd in the Gotham Stakes, Full of Scoundrels won a 6f NYbred $12.5k maiden claimer on 12 March, Arthurs Tale has 6 starts with only 1 win, In 5 starts Preachintothedevil has won a NYbred MSW and a restricted stakes race, Duca 4 starts only 1 win, Norman Asbjornson was 2nd in the Gotham,  Isn't He Perfect his only win was in a maiden claimer, finally Son of Posse was 3rd in the Battaglia Memorial.
Gimme Some Mo; Uncle Mo hopes to not
only win, but win big today at Aquedcut

1. Uncle Mo
2. Duca
3. Toby's Corner

Illinois Derby -  Not much to talk about in this one, so here are the choices.

1. Sour
2. El Grayling
3. Watch Me Go

Santa Anita Derby - Hopefully none of my picks get injured on the way to the track.

1.  Mr. Commons
2.  Anthony's Cross
3.  Silver Medallion


Wood Memorial - I can't argue with Gregg. Uncle Mo SHOULD wipe the track with this less-than-stellar batch of competitors. However at 1-9 odds there is no real benefit to putting money on that outcome.  That's why I'm going to try and beat the "superhorse" here. Horse racing can be a crazy thing.  Derby contender Mucho Macho Man lost a shoe right out of the gate in the Louisiana Derby and ran 3rd, horses can stumble out of the gate, get jostled around by others in the field or just plain have a bad day. At such short odds I feel it's worth my money to see if I can cash a big ticket betting on an Uncle Mo slip up.  Why not?
My picks here are based mostly on jockeys who are riding well at Aqueduct and, to a much lesser extent, what kind of talent the horses have shown in the past.

$1 exacta box:
1 - Starship Caesar
2 - Toby's Corner
4 - Arthur's Tale
6 - Preachintothedevil

Total: $12

Illinois Derby - Another subpar group of horses. From all indication horse racing in Illinois is on the brink of extinction. Which is a big disappointment to Pony Bologna as we're only a stone's throw from Fairmount Park. While the track itself isn't the most beautiful in the country, it provides live racing and a place to satisfy the gambling urge of these two degenerates.  On to the race at Hawthorne. Watch Me Go will be the favorite here but I was certainly not impressed with his Tampa Derby win. He looked like UCONN in the NCAA Finals, just doing enough to win against no real competition. He doesn't have much more competition here but I do like the Mike Maker-trained El Grayling. He has monster breeding numbers (I'll discuss things like GSV, dosage points and Triad more in the coming weeks) and has reportedly been training well up to this race.  The horse is owned in part by Louisville attorney Tom Conway, and an Illinois Derby victory would be no more improbable than his Stately Victor (also trained by Maker) taking the Blue Grass last year. I'm keying the 10 over the first 7 positions in this race for no other reason than Hawthorne is notorious for favoring inside posts and punishing the outside. I think the 10 can overcome this bias but have no faith in anyone outside of 7 doing so.

$1 Exacta Key
10 over 1-7
1-7 over 10

Total: $14

Santa Anita Derby - This is the true marquee matchup of the day. While the injuries to favorites Premier Pegasus and Jaycito have taken some of the shine off of the race, the $1million in graded earnings available means that the winner here punches their ticket into the Kentucky Derby.  I was very high on Pegasus but also felt that Bob Baffert wouldn't push the horse too hard here.  I really like Mr. Commons and Anthony's Cross (see post Pegasus's wings clipped for a description of these horses) and will be throwing in Bench Points based almost solely on jockey Rafael Bejarano's success at the track so far this meet. Comma To The Top's trainer has said he's sending him to the front so I add him here on the chance that he holds on for at least a piece of the exacta.

Mr Commons began his career with
an impressive turf victory.
$2 Exacta Box
3 - Mr Commons
5 - Comma To The Top
9 - Anthony's Cross
10 - Bench Points

Total $24
Total bet for all races $50 (I told you, we're not big time here)

The Wood can be watched online at the NTRA website starting at 4:30 central or on HRTV with a replay shown on TVG immediately following the race.  The Illinois Derby will be shown on TVG while the Santa Anita can be watched live on TVG will of course show a replay of the races soon after they finish but it's really a shame that NBC is not showing any of these prep races, as they've done in the past. It seems as if the Sport of Kings is becoming more for the peasants every year.  Enjoy the races and good luck.