Friday, June 06, 2008

Weekend Picks and Analysis

Overview: The True North starts off the all stakes Pick 6 at Belmont. There is a lot of chalk in this sequence so it remains to be seen if it'll be worth playing. On the other hand if Benny The Bull, Indian Blessing and Big Brown all lose the payoff could be massive. I'll assume that upsets might be possible and play these 6 race as if I'm constructing a vertical exotic ticket on all these races.

True North Handicap
Benny The Bull is your most likely winner but there are slight questions about him. The first race back from Dubai is always a tricky one and Benny The Bull has had just 3 workouts since coming back. Despite his massive talent and class advantage I'm slightly worried that Dutrow won't have the foot to the boards. When prepping Benny for the Sunshine Millions off a layoff Dutrow gave him 6 works, 3 of them bullets. This time coming off a longer layoff with a trip round the world he's worked just 3 times and while they've all been in good racehorse time none of them were blazing. On the flip side I think we've got a great opportunity looming with Man Of Danger. I went for him last time out against Lucky Island and he ran a great race but was no match for the winner. The positive here is that he is once again the lone speed in a sprint and he ought to be better this time since he's second off the layoff. Levine is pretty sharp with horses coming second off the shelf. He usually gets some improvement from them and considering that Man of Danger already ran a near lifetime best in the Bold Ruler he could step up in a big way. The other variable is the surface. Man of Danger and Abraaj are best suited for off going. Benny handles it okay but he's not as brilliant and that's basically all we're looking for here. You have to protect yourself with Benny but in order to get some value pray hard that Man of Danger can hold. If you're playing exacta's and tri's use Suave Jazz as well. He should run very well here but I don't see him as the winner.

Man of Danger
Benny The Bull

Just A Game Stakes
Pre-race reports are calling this race Lady of Venice's to lose, I rather believe the morning line that has Vacare on top. Lady of Venice is a fine horse but all her career she has flattered to deceive and I think that at her best she simply can't run with Vacare at a flat mile. There is a slight question mark over Vacare's readiness so she can't be a single. Clement said he tried to get her in an easy prep for this race but it didn't fill. That may mean she won't be firing on all cylinders but she really is the best horse in this race and I think she's going to be tough every time she starts. Bit of Whimsey could bounce back like Precious Kitten did but I'm inclined to think she isn't quick enough at this distance. Same goes for Criminologist, she's not a miler and is therefore less likely to beat this same group. Lady of Venice is a miler so although I think Vacare is better you still need to use her. Sharp Susan is also a horse that is well suited to the distance. Not sure if she is actually good enough but she is the bomb I'd use to juice the exotics. The other unexplored angle in this race is the pace. Bayou's Lassie took them all the way around on Derby day, who's to say she couldn't turn the trick again. She did quite badly on the course and conditions in the Noble Damsel but she went the first quarter in :22 4/5 that day. With only Sharp Susan and Vacare to push her I think a half in :48 is more likely. Once she digs in she is not an easy horse to get by. Since much of the riders focus will be on Vacare, Lady of Venice and Bit of Whimsey she may steal this. I'll use Vacare an Bayou's Lassie for sure and will strongly consider hedging with Lady of Venice.

Bayou's Lassie

Acorn Stakes
I wish this race was not a part of the sequence. Indian Blessing, Zaftig, Game Face and Golden Doc A could all win this but none of them will be a square price. I might just have to go with Indian Blessing, but of course I'd feel like an idiot if I singled her and she lost. But here are a few things I dislike about her competitors. Zaftig's Nassau County performance came out of nowhere. She may return to nowhere in this one. Horses who run such a big new top rarely run back to it next time out. I'd have more confidence if she had more starts under her belt prior to the big race but still she makes me nervous. Also the way she seems to fall asleep on the turn is a worry. You can't do that against these horses. Positives on her are obviously that she is capable of a big race and she gets the services of Johnny V who chose her over Game Face. She is also undefeated away from Aqueduct. Game Face's pilot jumped ship coming off a win. That's not a great sign. Neither was the way she drifted in the Davona Dale. My suspicion is that beyond 7f she is less effective. Keep the Peace, the horse who ran her to a nose last time came back to lose the Dogwood after sitting a perfect trip. I think Game Face is the suckers horse but oddly enough she could still win. Golden Doc A is a tempting horse to use given her price and the speed in here. The wildcard is that we don't know how much she really likes dirt. The Kentucky Oaks was not a typical race. She was closer to the pace, the distance was likely past her best and it was quite muddy. She is a true wildcard, I'm going to oppose her simply because I think she's more likely to put in another "too late not enough" type of rally. Indian Blessing has been blessing with brilliant speed which Baffert is apparently going to try and harness. Hopefully he doesn't do that too much because I think if he just let's her roll she should take this. Dance Gal Dance has real sprinters speed and is in here to burn the favorite but Indian Blessing has never been bothered by having company up front. She doesn't need the lead as much as she simply likes to run fast. Indian Blessing is very nearly a single for me, Zaftig is the horse I'd use as an alternative if I chicken out.

Indian Blessing

Woody Stephens Stakes
This is the most confusing race in the Pick 6 for me. Maybe it's just a match race between Ready's Image and J Be K or maybe there is a longshot who could upset the party. Let's start by tossing the horses I would not use. Majestic Warrior is a horse I want no part of, Run With Me is not good enough to compete with this class, Groomed for Victory may want more distance his last win was just a case of outclassing bad horses. Lukas runs more horses into the ground these days than anything else. Silver Edition may have run well last time but I don't trust him. True Quality does not look fast enough and will not get an easy lead. So that leaves the two favorites, Fatal Bullet and Ling Ling Qi. Fatal Bullet is a very professional looking horse. He's a win machine on the Polytrack but this is his first try on dirt. There is no telling how he'll take to it but he looks good enough and Prado gets on. Reade Baker is also a savvy shipper and has very good numbers with last out winners. Fatal Bullet will likely either win or run poorly but he offers value. Ling Ling Qi offers the best value of the race perhaps. Many people will see that he has some spotty form and he does not look extremely fast but what I like about him is he has some nice hidden dirt sprinting form. He is 5-3-1-1 in dirt sprints and 4-0-0-1 in all other races. His best lifetime effort came in a 7f race. People are overlooking him, he's McPeek's only starter at Belmont. I don't think he came just for good seats to watch Big Brown. I marginally prefer J Be K over Ready's Image among the two favorites but either could easily win. I prefer the way J Be K is coming into the race and he's also undefeated in sprints.

J Be K
Ling Ling Qi
Ready's Image
Fatal Bullet

Manhattan Handicap
It's a G-1 race that will likely be won by a G-1 horse. Better Talk Now, Out Of Control, Proudinsky, Dancing Forever and Stream of Gold are the classiest horses in the race. You could probably do well by boxing those 5 in the trifecta and hope for the best price combination to come in. I'm opposing Pays To Dream despite the fact that I hope his Dixie performance was real. The fan in me wants to see him do it again, the handicapper in me says you need to bet on a bounce. Shakis only offers disappointment. Of the fab five I like Better Talk Now the least, I hate to say it but the old champ has looked very old in his last three starts. I won with him in this fixture last year but it does not look on the cards again. The Frankel pair look phenomenal, I especially like Out Of Control. He has spent most of his career at a mile but his best races have all come going further. He is untested at this distance but I think he has another furlong in him. His form is excellent and softish ground is the only worry I have. Soft ground is more Proudinsky's thing. He is in lifetime best form. I do think the distance will dull his kick a bit but he is very capable. Dancing Forever and Stream of Gold have been running some big races according to BRISnet. The Beyer figures disagree though, they make them look more ordinary. Whoever you choose to believe they both must be respected. Dancing Forever is a good horse all of the sudden and he is a very complete challenger. He handles all types of going and every distance. The pace should be fair and he should be coming hard at Out of Control and Stream of Gold in the final furlong. Stream of Gold finally broke his losing streak but then went right back to his old ways in the Elkhorn. I think he's good enough to win but unlikely to close the deal. out of Control will get first run on him and the Frankel horse doesn't back down, Stream of Gold will. I guess the main question for me is, will the ground disadvantage Out of Control enough to let Proudinsky and Dancing Forever get to him? We won't know until the race is run so use all three.

Out of Control
Dancing Forever

Belmont Stakes
Big Brown is the most likely winner of any race in this sequence. He's the best horse in this race and I'm more inclined to bet on the winning margin than another horse against him. But then again if we're live this late into the Pick 6 do we really want to have just the horse that everyone else has? Big Brown is far better than the rest but he is likely to move early in this race because of the inside post. I would not even rule out a head to head, Secretariat vs Sham type duel with Casino Drive through the first half. We might see some speed from Da' Tara but he's really not that fast. If the big two want to press the issue he'll be left toiling. Big Brown could realistically beat this field by 20 lengths if they really let him go and he's up to it. That's my best guess for this race but if we want to find value I'm going to have to try and make a case that he could lose. Here is my angle, Big Brown was lightly prepped for the Preakness and had an easy race. That was designed to keep him fresh for the Belmont but then quarter crack issues came up and he was forced to miss some time. Perhaps that may have set him back a touch fitness wise and we'll only find out in the final furlong. I'm convinced he'll be in front for most of the stretch even if he gets beaten. So who could run him down? Casino Drive will get run into the ground by Big Brown, I don't like his chances at all. Denis of Cork looks like the next best option but I think he's poor value even at 12/1. I think he'll hit the frame but he's going to be ridden closer to the pace and that will dull his kick. I like the fact that Tale of Ekati is is undefeated at Belmont. In fact his best races came at Belmont. I know he does not appear to have any chance of staying the distance so I have to pass. The horse I come up with actually disgusts me a bit. I have hated Anak Nakal all spring, I never once considered using him in any race he's run this year but now all of the sudden he appears to be a bit enticing. If the Belmont is not won by the logical top two it is often won by a horse so outside the box the announcer has to double check his name in the stretch. Here are the positives, he has some decent two year old form. At one point he looked like a horse that could be someone and that is the basis of my case for him. I'm hoping that somehow he will get back on that path of improvement, Birdstone and Commendable both did it. His figures have been silently improving lately. The FOY and Rebel were just a disaster but the Wood and Derby were not as terrible as they might have been. He is bred to stay the distance and every indication we get of him is that he genuinely can run this far. Leparoux is back on board and is the last jockey to have won with him. His patient style should help. He has also been working on the deep and tiring Saratoga Training track. Birdstone and Andromeda's Hero both bid the same and ran well despite having indifferent form. Even after I write it I'm not fully convinced that Anak Nakal can win this race, but he is the only horse I'd use along with Big Brown.

Big Brown
Anak Nakal

No comments: