Weekend Overview: It was a mostly formful weekend. Many of the results in the major stakes races were predictable with perhaps the El Encino the notable exception. Life Is Sweet made a barn storming run and found Country Star and the rest unable to match her. Artiste Royal also caught the eye with a huge late move to win the San Marcos. Despite the 10 point disparity in the Beyer Speed figures one was left with the impression that Cowboy Cal is a higher quality horse than San Fernando winner Nownownow. I suppose the Strub Stakes in a few weeks will settle that question. It possible that we saw three Derby trail contenders in action with Chocolate Candy, The Pamplemousse and Square Eddie all running well enough to earn them a trip to the next phase. as I've said before I don't put a ton of stock in the January preps but these horses could easily have an impact on the Derby Trail without doing well in the Derby itself. I thought the breakout performance for Alpha Kitten would come in the Hollywood Starlet, instead it came this weekend in the Santa Ynez. The Moss's have another good one in the barn. I thought two of the better races of the weekend were the graded sprints at Gulfstream. Both winners Game Face and Ikigai look like they'll win several more stakes races this year.
Thoroughbred Championship Ranking Awards: It's the final week of voting to determine the TCR Awards. You can read a complete explanation of the TCR Awards here. But the basics are that these Awards are based on fan votes and the TCR point system. The purpose of them is to present an alternative workable model for revising the Eclipse Awards. The Cartier Awards use a points system as well as votes and even the Sovereign Awards have clear cut rules and guidelines. The Eclipse Awards have lost their way and many times the finalists aren't what they should be. If you're interested in supporting a model that offers a more logical and accurate way to give out the awards then please follow this link and vote.
Performance of the Week: Hard to deny Ikigai the title of performance of the week. I had considered The Pamplemousse but Ikigai was so much more dominant. Marty Wolfson has yet another good horse who seemingly came out of nowhere. It's true that this race wasn't exactly chalked full of G-1 sprinters but Ikigai really stepped it up and looked top class. Rollers, who I think is going to be a very good sprinter, was helpless in his wake despite pulling away from the rest of the field.
Race of the Week: Artiste Royal came from dead last to win the San Marcos. It's a neat accomplishment but its not all that rare in a turf race. What made this race so exciting is that you don't even see Artiste Royal come into the picture until the last 100 yards. He was absolutely flying under Gomez who must have had the horrifying thought that he'd left himself too much to do. It seemed impossible to get his nose in front after arriving on the scene so late but good horses get the job done and this is definitely a very good horse. Overlooked by many because of his international expeditions he has captured two G-1's and has only been worse than 3rd once in the last two years, aside from his ill fated attempts overseas. This eight year old hasn't passed his prime yet.
Flop of the Week: Most of the favorites ran well so it's hard to find someone specific to pick on. I settled on Country Star who did manage second in the El Encino but is clearly not the horse most people thought she was. She really hasn't improved much on her 2yo form and it shows. She simply wasn't good enough to beat a field that contained only two listed stakes winners. Country Star, who is a multiple G-1 winner, is well overrated at the moment.
Tip o'the Cap: I make it my practice to say at least one good thing about racing each week. It helps me keep a positive outlook on a sport where there is so much that needs changing it's easy to spend all your time ranting. One of the best innovations in this game has been the National Handicapping Championship. Bettors fund this game and it's great to see the best of them showcased over a tough weekend of handicapping playing for a massive prize. The really great thing about this tournament is that it's full of average joe's who happen to be exceptional at one thing that very few people consider to be valuable. I have personally only played in one qualifier but it was an excellent experience. It's definitely not easy to make it. I certainly hope to qualify for the Championship one day. I have to thank the NTRA and DRF for creating and hosting this fine event.
KC Handicapping: Lethal Heat was scratched from the El Encino so it means that my selections were perfect this week. I figured The Pamplemousse had the stuff to beat Square Eddie but not in the fashion he did. That was more impressive than I figured. Game Face was exactly as I expected. It's nice when things go your way.
Weekly Record: 2(2)-2-0-0 ($8.00 +200.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 681(359)-118-108-92 (-$120.50 -8.85% ROI)