Monday, June 08, 2009

Weekend Review

Weekend Overview: It's not often that a Triple Crown race is nearly obscured by the quality of other races being run on the same weekend but that was very nearly the case this weekend. I thought the Belmont was extremely entertaining. Dunkirk, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird all ran good races and it was great to watch but it's hard to say that this was the best race of the weekend. Fabulous Strike was majestic in the True North, Munnings was dominant in the Woody Stephens. Gio Ponti came from the clouds and no one has figured out how to get Midships off of cloud nine. Carlsbad rebounded from her first career loss to show that she can carry her speed around two turns in Graded Stakes company. The best race that perhaps few people saw was from Tasty Temptation in the Woodbine Oaks. She missed the break badly, then circled the field with an unbelievable move before flattening out a bit in the lane to be second. Also who can forget Acoma who stayed undefeated on the grass when she outlasted Pure Clan at Churchill Downs. With so much great racing it's unfair to focus on just one race.

Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: I've been waiting all year long to see some quality in the Male Sprinter division and I think we finally have it. Fabulous Strike just needed a return to his best distance. He's now the top ranked sprinter in the nation. Benny The Bull and Munnings look like high quality additions to the division as well. Both Turf divisions are led by Californian based horses. This is usually the case in the first half of the season. It's usually until July or August that the balance of power shifts to the east. Forever Together blew her chance to go top of the Turf Female division. She did manage to claim 4th spot but connections will be hoping for much better as the season goes on. Mine That Bird has taken over top spot in the Three Year Old Male division for the first time this season. The division is still very much in the air though. Every horse in the top 5 likely still has a shot at the title. The Triple Crown yielded inconclusive results. It should be an exciting second half of the year.

Power Rankings: His accomplishments may not be quite enough to see him ranked first in the TCR Turf Male division but Gio Ponti is definitely the best turf horse in the country. Not many horses can win G-1's from 8f to 10f in back to back starts. 10f is likely not his best distance but that didn't stop him from putting in a career best performance. Gio Ponti is the real deal and a good spot from the Power Rankings.

Performance of the Week:
I was extremely impressed by Munnings in the Woody Stephens. I thought he had a good chance going into the race but I never thought I'd be so impressed with his performance. Belmont was speed favoring on Saturday and although he broke sharply he found himself in behind the leading group. For just a moment on the far turn it looked as if he was faltering but then a hole appeared to the inside and Munnings burst through like his tail was on fire. Not many horses were closing ground and it's not as if the leaders tired. Munnings simply accelerated and floored the rest of them. I thought it was an unbelievable race from a horse who has never looked that good before. I sure hope he can maintain that level throughout the summer and fall.

Race of the Week: With so much great racing on tap it's hard to pick out just one race. The push towards marathon racing has been met with mixed reviews. Some fans love it, some confess to having fallen asleep while waiting for the stretch drive. The stretch drive in the Brooklyn would have even had Rip Van Winkle standing bolt upright. Nite Light seemed to have made the winning move around the turn as he put away Rising Moon and Ea but Eldaafer loomed a danger under Chavez. Even with 100 yards to go it seemed impossible that Nite Light would get caught but Eldadfer would not be denied and he nailed the Pletcher horse right on the line.

Flop of the Week: Overconfidence is a killer. It really is a shame that Calvin Borel failed to recognize how it had come to affect him in the week leading up to the Belmont. The poor choice he made to go after the leaders a bit early in the Belmont may just have been a split second decision but it was the decisions he had made all week that contributed to the poor ride and the seemingly clueless post race interview. Choosing not to ride at all in the days leading up to the Belmont was a mistake. Not just because it would give him insight into how to ride the track but because he was in a zone. Things like pace judgment are a feeling the jockey has. When you're away from the track sightseeing and doing interviews all week instead of preparing for the event you're losing focus, you're no longer in the zone. Borel misjudged that race because he had no feel for the pace. He wasn't in sync because he was out of practice. He was out of practice because he thought confidence was all he needed.

Tip O'the Cap: As a racing fan I think the decision to bring Benny The Bull back to the races was a great one. This is simply a very good horse and it's good to see him on the track. So a thanks to his connections for choosing to bring him back and a thanks to the vets and Dutrow for making sure he regained top condition. A loss to Fabulous Strike in a 6f race is hardly a result to be ashamed of. I hope we get to see those two knocks head again over the summer. I think it's important that we celebrate little positives like this.

KC Handicapping: Who would have thought that I would correctly predict the demise of Benny The Bull, Forever Together, Justwhistledixie and Mine That Bird but not have the insight to nail the correct alternatives. Aside from Fabulous Strike and Munnings my day was unsuccessful. There were prices to be had because of some of the high profile failures I mentioned. I just wasn't the one getting those price horses. Congratulations to those who came up with Diamondrella, Summer Bird and Gabby's Golden Gal.

Weekly Record: 8(6)-2-0-0 (-$3.20 -20.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 772(429)-133-123-99 (-$143.90 -9.32% ROI)

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