Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Review

Weekend Overview: It was a very formful weekend as favorites went 16-8-4-0 in all the G-1 and G-2 races. In fact in those 16 events there were only 2 horses who won at odds longer then 5/1. It was not a great week for bettors who were looking for upsets but for those in fantasy contests or those simply hoping to see high quality match ups from in form horses it could not have gone much better. Zenyatta and Curlin kept the ball rolling with a pair of good performances. Zenyatta equalled high highest career Beyer figure (108) although figures have to be suspect on the new Pro Ride surface. Curlin seemed business as usual. Both the visual aspects of his races this year and his speed figures suggest solid high class performances but not brilliance. Mauralakana, Ginger Punch and Street Boss all had their winning streaks broken but they ran well and should be setup nicely for the Breeders' Cup. Red Giant confirmed the talent he showed last year and all of the sudden he might be America's best turf horse. Grand Couturier won the Joe Hirsch in impressive style but how well will he run on firm ground? Wait A While proved once again that at Santa Anita she is as good as anyone. Stardom Bound will likely be an odds on favorite on Breeders' Cup day as she annexed the Oak Leaf in facile fashion. Although Midshipman lost I think he has marked himself as the top juvenile for the time being. He should come a great deal from this race. What is up with the Sprint division? Results are were all over the place with Black Seventeen and Cost of Freedom beating the likes of Street Boss, Idiot Proof, In Summation, Lucky Island and Fabulous Strike. Meanwhile Fatal Bullet has still never lost a 6f race and he's won on 3 different synthetic surfaces. Lost in the shuffle a bit was Tam Lin who is become quite a useful miler. The only horse who has beaten him over the distance in America is Kip Deville.

Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: There was a lot of movement in the rankings as you might suspect on such a huge weekend. Curlin takes top spot back from Big Brown and actually opens up a bit of a lead. Big Brown will need to win the Classic or finish no worse than second with Curlin out the frame in order to get the top spot back. For the Curlin camp they just need to be focused on finished ahead of Big Brown. Zenyatta remains firmly entrenched in 3rd overall and atop the Main Track Older Female division. Ginger Punch could still reel her in with a win in the Ladies Classic but on the evidence of this weekend it might be a tough ask. With so many odd results in the Male Sprinter division recently it has left Street Boss alone at the top. Benny The Bull is technically right behind him but since we know he's done for the season Street Boss effectively has a huge lead on all active sprinters. Mauralakana maintained her lead in the Turf Female division but Wait A While closed quite a bit of ground and it now up to 4th. Despite a loss to Street Hero, Midshipman still outranks him in the Two Year Old Male division. A rematch in the Juvenile should decide the proper order.

Power Rankings: Curlin is dominating the Power Rankings leaderboard with a massive 50.86. Only Invasor has been ranked that highly at the end of a season. Curlin still has a chance to earn an even higher ranking with a win in the Classic. Big Brown and Zenyatta are actually ranked pretty closely together in second and third. According to the rankings Zenyatta is just about as good as Azeri was during her Horse of the Year campaign. Red Giant sprung to the head of the Turf Male division. His two for two season has been impressive enough to see him outrank Grand Couturier. Stardom Bound and Midshipman are the top juveniles and it likely comes as no surprise. Despite losing Street Boss has opened up a huge lead on the other active sprinters. Most of his main challengers like Lucky Island and First Defence performed very badly. Cocoa Beach made a huge leap in 5th in the Main Track Older Female division. She is still well behind Zenyatta but she looks to have a promising future. You can check the entire Power Rankings by clicking on the bolded header.

Performance of the Week: I have to give it to Red Giant for his phenomenal race in the Clement L Hirsch. He set a new world record for 10f on the grass, breaking the old mark by 0.24 seconds. He also earned the co/top Turf Beyer Speed figure for the season (112). It was a lot to ask of this horse, who got a late start to the season, to come out to California and put up a performance like that. He showed a lot of his sires grit and determination through the lane. Some would say Out of Control actually ran the better race because he was closer to the pace but I preferred Red Giant's effort partly because he won and partly because of the unknowns surrounding him. He had just one 9f start and had never been on ground that firm. Pletcher may or may not be thinking BC Turf with him. 10f is as far as he's gone although he's never been worse than second in any turf race. Giant's Causeway's progeny have done well on synthetics so the Classic might also be an option.

Race of the Week: It does not get much more exciting than the Norfolk. It was a bit of a messy race but we saw great performances by four different horses and there was little to separate them at the line. Midshipman ran very well despite being a little green and despite his preparation which I thought was too stiff coming off his last race. Street Hero had a really bumpy trip, he was constantly steadying and re-rallying. He showed quite a bit of heart. Del Conte nearly took them wire to wire on a track where few horses do. Believe In Hope was flying up the rail to complete the four horse photo. We can only pray the juvenile is as exciting.

Flop of the Week: There are a few to choose from. Lucky Island, First Defence, Idiot Proof and Dancing Forever all ran very poorly but they could perhaps pin some blame on the surface. Spring House had very little excuse for tanking in the Hirsch, he even finished behind Transduction Gold, a horse he handled easily last time. The distance might not have been his favorite but this was a very very poor performance and it will likely keep him out of the Breeders' Cup Turf. They might try an easier race like the Marathon with him. You can't blame him for not matching Red Giant and Out of Control who both ran massive races but he showed nothing at all and was dull in 4th.

Tip O'the Cap: Myung Kwon Cho is best known for starting hopeless longshots in well above their heads, that is if he is known at all. He does not have many starters since he only trains the horses he owns and he generally does not win at a very high percentage. But this small time owner/trainer is a big fish all of the sudden thanks to a pair of crack juveniles Palacio de Amor and Street Hero. Both will go to the Breeders' Cup as real contenders after Street Hero won the Norfolk and Palacio de Amor finished second in the Oak Leaf. Although he broke his maiden while winning the Norfolk, Street Hero was only beaten 3/4 of a length in third in the G-1 Del Mar Futurity. Palacio de Amor now has a pair of second place finishes in G-1's behind Stardom Bound. So from 9 combined starts Cho has milked a G-1 win and 3 G-1 placings. Hopefully he has a lot of success with this talented pair.

KC Handicapping: I thought I had some good analysis this week but I lacked the one thing that would have made it all successful: Winners. It was a weekend dominated by favorites and in most races I was playing longshots. At least my banker of the week, Wait A While, came through for me. The Joe Hirsch was really the only race that I was completely out to lunch on. Despite the terrible advice I give out in this space on a regular basis I'm not totally useless. In fact I'm currently 50th overall in the Breeders' Cup NHC Qualifier. It's not enough to win anything but it is encouraging since it's my first try with the handicapping contest format. Now that I've shared my moderate success I'm sure I'll plummet out of the top thousand.

Cumulative record of selected horses: 14(9)-2-4-0 (-$20.60 -73.57% ROI)
Overall Record: 607(311)-108-104-87 (-$145.20 -11.96% ROI)

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