I've got nothing against Zenyatta, she's a wonderful champion and I think it's great that her connections have decided to send her out to Churchill to get maximum exposure this weekend. Other than the Breeders' Cup this is the one other place to be all year long. It's great that racings highest profile horse is here. Having said that I think now is a great time to go against her. Zenyatta is a freak but One Caroline also looks like a freak and she has several advantages. She is a freak with more speed, she's been over the track and her recent races should have her ready for a top effort. Zenyatta on the other hand is coming off a long rest. Often horses don't produce their best race off the shelf. I've also always had the feeling that if Zenyatta was going to get beaten it would be by a quality speed horse on the dirt. The sloppy track, which often favors speed, will just be a bonus. I think One Caroline is the value here and I'm taking a shot against the champ. I don't an upset by One Caroline will necessarily mean she's the better horse just that things stacked up in her favor on the day. She is very good though and she could even get better. Miss Isella is a track specialist who should run well but it would be a major shock if she managed to beat both undefeated freaks here.
This race may not have mouth watering quality but it is a very well matched field and I can see people making an argument for 6 or 7 of the 9 entrants. To me that says a chance to get some decent value on some very well credentialed horses. I've decided not to use Cool Coal Man in any way. He's a very inconsistent horse and although he does run big on occasion I think he's not worth the risk. He comes off a good race so maybe this time he regresses. Macho Again is a logical horse that I think you have to use. He loves Churchill Downs and he loves off tracks, although I have always considered him suspect around two turns I think the off track offsets his stamina issues. He has only won twice around two turns, both times on off tracks. If the track happens to be fast I'll drop him off the ticket or maybe just use him as third tier win selection for multi-race wagering purposes. Bullsbay will be my primary pick, I don't like that Motion was a little cold at Keeneland and that Bullsbay's last two races were at Laurel where the competition is suspect. But look at his two turn record on conventional dirt. 3 wins, 1 second and 1 race where he was eased from 5 starts. He also has a pair of wins at CD and is undefeated at the distance. He is simply a good horse on the dirt and will take some beating. Dr. Pleasure is one horse who may be up to taking on Bullsbay. Unlike the Motion horse and Macho Again he has good tactical speed and should be near the front of this race. That means the advantage of first run goes to him. Dr. Pleasure is a horse who has always been talented but seems to have been troubled for most of his career. All of the sudden he has put the pieces together and his last two wins were very nice. A return to that form will make him very tough, there is still a slight doubt over his consistency though. I'd consider using Mambo In Seattle based on his record at Churchill Downs. I know he went sour after the Travers but there is a real chance that he could bounce back. He was very sharp in the morning after his seasonal debut on the Polytrack. A return to the CD might be just the stuff to awaken him. I'll also find a way to use Shift In Power the claimer. He loves both CD and the distance, his record is actually unbelievable for a horse of his quality. It's a huge step up to be competitive here but horses are make big jumps when they're at their favorite course and distance.
Macho Again (If track less than fast)
American Turf Stakes
Another interesting contest where I like my chances to get some value. The favorite will be Stormalory and while he's a solid enough horse he's not the kind that really scares you. I wouldn't be leaving him out of any trifecta's but it's easy enough to believe that another horse could outrun him. Bittel Road looked like an unbelievable turf horse in the making last year. He didn't fare as well in the Breeders' Cup as connections would have liked but he was still a very good horse on turf. Then, like so many horses, an attempt was made to make him into a Derby horse. Three straight poor efforts convinced them it was a bad idea but I have to think that as long as his mind was not affected this spring he still ought to have some game on the grass. Even as a 2yo he was better than Stormalory is right now. He is certainly capable of winning this race and it's even possible that he could wind up being the best turf sophomore this year. The other horse I like is Jack Spratt. I think he really gets over this course well and like Bittel Road he's had his form obscured by Derby trail attempts. He's a turf horse and a pretty decent one as well. He's got better tactical speed than the three favorites Stormalory, Bittel Road and Battle of Hastings. In the stakes race at CD last fall I thought he was moved a bit too soon. With a more savvy ride he might be very tough. Bunker Hill is an interesting contender. He comes from the same barn as Musket Man and his record is just about as consistent. The worst he's ever been beaten is by a neck and although he's never been on grass his connections have tried to put him on it twice. Obviously they think he'll handle it well. He has a live shot here and I'll use him in some way. I think Battle of Hastings and Stormalory should also be used defensively. There is a chance that this race could be taken off the grass if the weather gets really bad. In that case I'll put all my faith in Bunker Hill and cancel the wagers on Bittel Road and Jack Spratt.
Bunker Hill (MTO)
I've handicapped the entire card at Churchill Downs for Saturday. You can see my picks, proposed multi-race wagers and entire field ranking by visiting this spreadsheet: Pick 6
Thursday, April 30, 2009
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Well I can't accuse you of being a "master of the obvious". The winter and spring is the time to take a stand against marquee horses running on last year's form.
I wrote a blog piece yesterday about Zenyatta and other "reputation horses" like Mossflower and Proud Spell who have come up short in their annual debuts. Please take a look.
Zenyatta may indeed trounce this subpar field, but the long-term principle still promises big parimutuel gains
when the signs point to the big horse being vulnerable. The moment that door is left open for an upset, one must blow it open !
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