Weekend Overview: At first blush it seemed like a week where favorites suffered in the stakes races. Horses like Square Eddie, Santa Teresita and Commentator all tasted defeat but favorites still did manage to win 3 of the 10 graded events this week. Square Eddie made a massive move in the Lexington after having a bit of a rough beginning but it seemed as though Prado had a little too much confidence in his mount as his challenge flamed out in mid-stretch. To me it suggests that Square Eddie still has his old talent but that he's not quite in shape yet. Watch the works to see if he moves forward or backwards off this effort. I was very disappointed in Commentator but Researcher is a fine horse, one that I'd penciled in for a bit of prominence at the start of the year. He failed badly in his one try away from Charles Town though. Magical Fantasy seemed to appreciate the return to grass as she just outlasted the classy Black Mamba while Parading flourished with a move off the grass. His first synthetic experience was an extremely positive one in the Ben Ali. Midships managed to put everyone to sleep in the San Juan Capristano, I think I even dosed off for a half mile there. Unless California gets an infusion of talent in the Turf division I see no reason why Midships should lose if he stays in state. Likely the toughest challengers for him would be his stablemates Champs Elysees and Zambesi Sun. Santa Teresita proved that not every Californian appreciates a trip east. She lost to a group of somewhat inferior horses and gave the undefeated One Caroline a good form reference.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: Midships was the only major mover in the standings this week. His pair of G-2 victories make him the only dual graded stakes winner of the season in the Turf Male division. It's not a ringing endorsement on the strength of the division but Midships at least looks like a useful sort. Santa Teresita spurned a chance to make it into the top 10 overall with her narrow reverse at Hawthorne and Magical Fantasy further muddled the picture in the Female Turf division. Although it seems like a forgone conclusion that Forever Together will dominate that group we still have yet to see a dual stakes winner among the grass fillies of 2009.
Power Rankings: Not much to report, Kip Deville and Forever Together still hold the top spots in the turf divisions despite advances from Midships and Magical Fantasy. Tizfiz is starting to fall off the pace a bit after her big upset win in the January. Santa Teresita actually got a lower score for her failure to win the G-3 Sixty Sails Handicap.
Performance of the Week: Shug McGaughey has unearthed a real gem of a synthetic horse in Parading. The Ben Ali Stakes was the first synthetic try for the son of Pulpit and he responded in a major way. The early pace seemed awkward as four different horses vied for the lead without really being sure if they wanted it. Suddenly Desormeaux decided that he should take over with Parading and he made a quick move to the front at the half mile pole. From there the race took on a more orthodox shape. It seemed for a moment, as Sterwins and Monba closed in, that the race may finish as tightly as it began but all at once Parading powered away with a move that even seemed to take the track announcer off guard. I was extremely impressed. I know the race looked ordinary on paper and everyone but the winner was left looking ordinary afterwards but Parading beat them like a good horse ought to. He's a six year old that has managed just 16 lifetime starts. Injury has abbreviated a career that seemed to be on the upswing when he defeated the talented Tam Lin in a turf stakes last year but he followed that effort up with nearly a year on the sidelines. He flashed ability in his comeback effort, again on the grass, but after this race I think we'll be seeing him contest some major Californian synthetic events.
Race of the Week: The Santa Barbara looked a good contest on paper and it turned out to be really good on the track. A description of the race shape or the quality of the entrants doesn't really seem necessary. Simply watch the race for what it was and appreciate the excitement that racing routinely provides.
Flop of the Week: It's hard to overlook the out of money finish by Commentator in the Charles Town Classic. I know this was his first start of the year but traditionally he has soared in such events. Routes are supposed to suit him and his speedy style well and despite the nice purse for this race you'd be hard pressed to convince me that this was a better field than he's been facing recently. Perhaps three turns is much more difficult for him than two. Even the winning speed figure was distinctly ordinary. Commentator should have beaten this field and while I can forgive a loss I'm not going to let his off the board finish go unmentioned.
Tip o'the Cap: I reserve this small space to advance the practice of saying one positive thing about racing each week. I find that looking for positives really does aid my enjoyment of the sport. It also minimizes the impact that the so called "black eyes" of racing have on my outlook. After considering the week that was I was struck once again with the wonderful sense of tradition racing has. Keeneland, although the champions of all things new and experimental, still has an air of tradition and while watching the feed one gets a sense that this is the way all racing ought to be. The Phipps family is also a current embodiment of tradition within the sport and I can't help but be pleased for them. Family run, breed to race operations with a private trainer are good for racing. They're a breath of fresh air in a world where slick syndicates have become the dominant force.
KC Handicapping: Another profitable week, I'll have to watch myself because this may become a habit. The gamble with Swift Temper paid off, Santa Teresita ran well but wasn't quite at her best on the dirt and it was enough to get an inferior horse home first. The other two selections were poor and embarrassing but that's the way it goes sometimes.
Most people probably aren't following my progress as a Keeneland public handicapper but it was a fantastic week for me in Lexington. I've managed to run my tally to 31 winners and I'm showing a flat win bet profit of $19. For comparisons sake I only had 25 winners for the entire spring meet last year and I lost $93.40. Six different sources publish their picks at the Keeneland website and right now the best of them has just 30 winners. Hopefully I can carry this form into the last 3 days of the meet. My primary goal is to hold onto my flat bet profit and beat the meet.
Weekly Record: 3(3)-1-0-0 ($3.20 +53.33% ROI)
Overall Record: 730(398)-127-117-95 (-$102.10 -6.99% ROI)