Weekend Overview: Favorites dominated all the major stakes this weekend. Black Mamba, Big Brown, Indian Blessing and Zenyatta all obliged their fans and won in differing manners. Black Mamba had to endure trouble in running but was impressive once she got a clear sight. Indian Blessing blew her overmatched rivals out of the water with a facile score and Zenyatta once again looked untouchable. There has been quite a bit of discussion about Big Brown's performance. Naysayers are quick to heap abuse on him as he only narrowly defeated Coal Play who seemed completely overmatched. But personally I did not think his race was all that bad. Monmouth can be a very speed favoring track. Big Brown was coming off a layoff and did enough to get it done. He still managed a healthy 106 Beyer. I suspect he'll look much better next time out.
Performance of the Week: Zenyatta was her usual self on Saturday and it bears mentioning that her usual self is most unusual. It simply seems inevitable that no matter how well a rival may perform or how the pace sets up she will forge her way to the front and ease down in the final furlong. It seems that she only ever runs for about 1 furlong, generally the second last furlong, of any race. By the time she hits top gear her rivals are already fully stretched and Smith just lets momentum coast her to the line. She has never really been hard driven and I suspect her two most difficult opponents from here on out will be fitness and Curlin. You really have to feel for Model's connections. That horse absolutely ran out of her skin and Zenyatta still shrugged her off with little ado. I had to watch the race several times because I just could not believe how easy it was for the giant filly.
Race of the Week: I've been hoping to see Red Giant back on track ever since last fall. I'm also hoping to see him at longer distances but this race was a good comeback spot. Red Giant has never run a bad race on the grass, it's a shame he wasn't ready for the Arlington Million. Back to the Fourstardave specifically. It appeared like a well matched field but almost no one could have predicted such a big race from Stalingrad. He probably prefers a mile but he was a tough customer in this spot. Red Giant showed a ton of class to come and get him right on the wire. It must also be noted that John Velasquez gave him a superb ride. I've often been critical about the way he tends to give horses the "favorites ride". 3 wide and out of trouble about 2 lengths off the lead all the way around. He gives up a lot of ground and has often seemed unwilling to take the inside holes. He rode Red Giant fearlessly and flawlessly in this race.
Flop of the Weekend: What on earth is up with War Monger? He looked like the Turf heir apparent when he romped his way to a stylish win in the Sunshine Millions but he really has been lakcluster since. He did manage a third in the Kilroe but he was well and truly stomped that day. A terrible finish in the Makers Mark along with this stinker in the Fourstardave has to have connections wondering what went wrong.
TCR Mover’s and Shakers: Big Brown rides his Haskell success to the top of the rankings and dethrones Curlin after a 3 week stint in second place. It was a big week for Indian Blessing as she became the #1 Three Year Old Female and the top Female Sprinter. It looked at one point as though the Two Year Old Champion may not contend for the award this year against her peers but I think she's firmly in the frame. Black Mamba also took top spot in the Turf Female division but closest rival Mauralakana need only run third in the Beverly D to reclaim first place.
The TC Power Rankings underwent a slight shift in calculation this week. This version does not change the historical results much at all but it will make the real time standings more accurate. Despite being the most accomplished Big Brown did not manage to take top spot in the Power Rankings. Curlin is still the best horse out there. Music Note is also still ranked above the red hot Indian Blessing. Remember to check out the ranking of the 10 best active horses on the sidebar.
Tip O’the Cap: I'm a contrarian by nature so I just have to give my weekly toast to the oft maligned Todd Pletcher. He had a terrible Saratoga last year and has been struggling this year as well. He had a very rough first week but caught fire recently and is now leading all trainers at the Spa. He also captured 3 stakes races over the weekend. People love to hate Pletcher and they theorize that with the recent crackdown on steroids his barn will suffer. If anything it's gotten much better over this last week.
KC Handicapping: I felt rather uneasy about my selections this week and I ought to have stuck with that sentiment and stayed away from the races entirely.
Saratoga has not been going any better. I'm hitting winners at a decent rate but they're all 3-1 or less. Every horse I take a shot with runs up the track.
Cumulative record of selected horses: 2(1)-0-0-0 (-$4.00 -100.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 566(288)-100-98-81 (-$133.00 -11.74%)