Today in Racing, Derby Day, 2014

Well, it’s a pretty big racing day today.  You can purchase the PPs for every race at every track for just $5.99.  And you can print them if you want too.

We have our analysis of the Derby up on the blog here, as well as for the Humana Distaff, the Turf Classic, and the Churchill Downs Handicap.

Here’s my own rundown of the Derby horses.  I’ve discussed a few of these in far more detail in past Today in Racing entries.  And please note: the speed figures you see in the running lines today will be lower than what you’ve been seeing and what we’ve been discussing.  That is because all of the horses are picking up weight to get to today’s 126 pounds; and our speed figures are adjusted on race day for the difference.

1) One thing to say about Vicar’s in Trouble (30-1) is that he’s improved his speed figure in each of his starts.

[Pace figures in the running lines are for the race leader.]

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 8.13.28 AM

Still has a long ways to go however, and he drew a bad post.  His distance ability is in question, and the reviews on his appearance this week have not been good.

2) Harry’s Holiday (50-1) – Best dirt speed figure is 79.

3) Uncle Sigh (30-1)  lost those two toughies to Samraat before breaking bad and getting hung wide on both turns in the Wood.  His figures are competitive and steadily improving; and the Wood was actually a career high.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 10.02.56 AM

I like that Contessa adds blinkers, which are intended, anyway, to help him focus and not to sharpen his early speed a la Palace Malice.  His horse has come up a bit short, so hey, why not take a shot to get him over the top?  He’s also been reshod to address minor foot problems.  Looked great in an unofficial work on Wednesday.  And he has some very interesting distance influence on his female side, as detailed here.  Value play of the race.

4) Danza (10-1) has looked great on the track this week after his upset win in the Arkansas Derby.  The skeptics, of which I am one, will note that he got the good trip slipping up the rail that day.  He also may have benefited from being close up to a pace that slowed down in the middle and late stages; in fact, his raw final time figure was downgraded due to pace considerations.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 8.24.32 AM

I’m gonna pass.

5) California Chrome (5-2) is not the fastest horse on the TimeformUS speed figure scale, which is not the case in the competition’s figures.  Samraat and Wicked Strong earned better numbers in the Wood.  But it’s hard to argue too much with a horse whose last four running lines look like this:

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 8.28.39 AM

Note the pattern of improvement too.  He hasn’t done much on the track since shipping from California, and observers have not been impressed.  The Daily Racing Form’s Clocker Mike Welsch has referred to him as being “stiff,” at least before warming up out of it.  But he has the tactical speed, solid figures, and some interesting distance influence on the female side of his pedigree.  And those running lines. Offers zero value as the expected favorite, but hard to leave him out entirely.

#6) Samraat (15-1) has been beaten only by Wicked Strong in the Wood in his six career starts.  As mentioned above, he’s well fast enough on figures to be a top contender; and he’s another one who has improved his figures in every race; a beautiful thing to see.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 8.32.50 AM


He has great early speed and has also shown that he can sit off the pace.  Not much to not like here, and he’ll be a good price too.

7) We Miss Artie (50-1) will miss the turf or synth, and is running despite the trainer’s misgivings because the owner wants to party at the Derby.  Well, who can blame him I suppose.

8) General a Rod (15-1) has been knocking heads in Florida with fellow speedster Wildcat Red.  Neither of them have run that fast, and both seem distance-limited.  I’ve never taken either seriously as contenders to win this particular race.

9) Vinceremos (30-1) would probably be 50-1 morning line if he wasn’t trained by Pletcher.  How this horse can be rated at the same odds as Uncle Sigh, I don’t understand. His best lifetime figure is an 89, when he won the Sam F. Davis, beating a field that hasn’t produced a subsequent win in 16 tries, as one can see with our result/speed figure ‘continuum’ in our result charts.

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10) Wildcat Red (15-1) has a real pretty set of running lines that should attract some money.

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But see #8.

11) Hoppertunity – scratched.

12) Dance With Fate (20-1), the Blue Grass winner on Poly, has picked up a lot of support this week with his fine workout on dirt (switched from a soggy turf course) at Santa Anita; and an excellent appearance on the Churchill track this week.  However, he’s running despite the initial misgivings of his trainer as to his ability to handle the dirt surface on race day.  I’m firmly against this horse.

13) I have to admit that I’ve never really paid much mind to Chitu (20-1).  The fact that Baffert was waffling back and forth between running him here or in the Derby Trial only made me take him less seriously.  He is moving in the right direction figure-wise; and the 104 he earned in the Sunland Derby isn’t too far off. He figures to get caught up in the early pace though; and Welsch noted that he tired at the end of his six furlong work the other day.

14) Medal Count (20-1) has gotten good reviews for his appearance on the track this week, particularly by Welsch, who watched him in Florida all winter.  But his form strongly suggests that he strongly prefers the synthetic.

15) Tapiture (15-1) is, I think, the horse that is most incorrectly underlaid by the morning oddsmaker (and he is in fact 38-1 in the very early betting as I write this). He’s another one whose figures are moving in the right direction.

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But he just doesn’t seem fast enough.  I don’t like him.

16) Intense Holiday (12-1) – Even someone such as myself who couldn’t tell Secretariat from a 20K claimer can see just how phenomenal this horse looked in his workout last Sunday, and in his subsequent gallops.  In fact, I’ve been so dazzled that I forgot until just now of just how far he needs to progress in the speed figure department.

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I loved his Risen Star, in which he overcame logistical obstacles, and showed grit and determination in getting up to win after looking hopelessly beaten late.  And it seems to me that he was taken to school when closer to the pace in the Louisiana Derby, a race which he did not have to win.  Very possible that his stellar appearance augurs well for the necessary figure improvement.  Don’t think however that he’ll be sufficient value in the win pool.

17) Commanding Curve (50-1) – Best I’ll say for him is that he has improved his speed figure with every start.  But his last number is a 92.

18) Candy Boy (20-1) – He’s been getting some attention in the morning, particularly for his five furlong work a week ago.  Guess it must be my east-coast bias that, as with Chitu, I honestly haven’t paid him much mind either.  He earned an OK speed figure of 102 when he finished nearly nine lengths behind California Chrome in the SA Derby, and Gary Stevens says he’ll take him further off the pace. His figures are definitely moving in the right direction, so maybe I’ll throw him in at the bottom.

19) Ride on Curlin (15-1) has only been out of the money once in his nine career starts. He’s had some adventurous trips as well – this is one horse to whom it won’t be unfamiliar should he be hung seven wide turning for home.  He’s gained my respect, as I’ve never liked him going into any of his recent races.  His figures are a cut below, but you can probably add a few points to a few of them in deference to the wide trips.  He closed well late in the Arkansas Derby (and in the Champagne last year as well), and could definitely hit the board with a similar rally here.

20) Wicked Strong (8-1) has the highest TFUS speed figure in this field.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 9.38.59 AM

Get the picture?  It was a stellar performance; the best figure in the fastest prep. Funny that we haven’t heard the word “bounce” associated with this horse. Instead, we’ve just heard about how well he closed and how everybody knew he had it in him because his prior race in Florida wasn’t as bad as it looks. Personally, this horse was dead to me after I had him in the Holy Bull and he ran holy awful.  I’ve attributed his Wood more to his liking Aqueduct and to the circumstances that made the win possible – saving ground on the first turn, getting a good pace to run into, a track which was honest but thoroughly unforgiving to ambitious front-runners, and a completely unimpeded journey home.  I’m skeptical that he can do it again, and think he’ll be a big underlay in the win pool. However, I’m reconsidering my prior assertion that he won’t hit the board.  Not because I necessarily think he will.  To be perfectly frank, I’m wussing out and using him defensively. Considering that I like the two NY-breds that also came out of the Wood, and that I think it was indeed the strongest prep, I’d feel dumb should I walk away empty-handed because this horse beat me.

The play:  Uncle Sigh to win and place.  Using in exotics with California Chrome, Samraat, Intense Holiday, and Wicked Strong.  Throw in Candy Boy and Ride on Curlin at the very bottom.

OK, now enough of this damn race already!  Plenty of other action today, get to work (and jeez, buy the unlimited plan for the day, what are you waiting for?). And good luck, and have a fantastic Derby day!

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