Curlin, Jim Dandy and Haskell

With the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes already retired, and two-time Classic runner-up Bodemeister in recovery mode, a whole bunch of purse money is up for grabs this weekend in the three-year-old division.

Saratoga has the $100,000 Curlin Stakes on Friday and the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) on Saturday. Then Monmouth hosts the $1-million Haskell Invitational (G1) on Sunday. All three races are 1 1/8 miles on the dirt.

The Haskell drew just six, from the rail out: Nonios, Dullahan, Paynter, Gemologist, Handsome Mike, and Stealcase. Due to the short field, I don'y see myself betting the Haskell, but it should be an entertaining race to watch.

I think Gemologist could be the slight favorite based on his form prior to the Kentucky Derby, his only career defeat. He was extremely game when winning the Wood Memorial. I would love to see Gemologist and Paynter hook up in the stretch. Paynter has a ton of ability, but he got reeled in by the very classy Union Rags in the Belmont after being sent to the lead in the 1 1/2 -mile classic. A stretch duel with the physically imposing Gemologist or stretch running Dullahan would be a good test for him.

There still are questions about how good Dullahan is on dirt. Both of his career wins came on Keeneland's Polytrack, and I am sure that fact is being mentioned when they go to the stud farms to try to get a deal. They are after the $1-million and a Grade 1 win on dirt in here to boost his value. I've always thought Dullahan looked a little more efficient on turf or synthetic.

Nonios, who has raced exclusively on the synthetic tracks in California, is another question mark. His form looks great at 5:3-1-1, but he hasn't beaten any top horses. The same can be said for Liaison, who has done all his best running on Hollywood Park's pseudo-synthetic course.

In the Jim Dandy, I am giving the nod to Neck N Neck (3-1 ML odds), who has found a nice balance of tracking speed and closing punch. He holds a speed figure edge over this field. The horses I like underneath him at a price include Fast Falcon (10-1), Atigun (8-1), and Prospective (12-1).

But honestly, the Jim Dandy is wide open. Alpha, who got turned back by Gemologist in the Wood, was a huge disappointment in the Kentucky Derby. He has some things to prove in the second half of the year. DRF lists Alpha as the 5-2 ML favorite. I am against him at that price.

There is nothing wrong with Teeth of the Dog at 5-1, although I question if that morning line is accurate. He has put together two nice back-to-back efforts, including his last when he won the pace battle up front and held off a closing Fast Falcon.

The Curlin is the least important of the three races, but it is the one I am most interested in making a bet. Easter Gift (7-2 ML odds) looks like a very talented horse off of his first three races. He has shown the ability to run on or off the pace, and he displayed a wonderful distance focus trying to run down Le Bernardin in the Pegasus (G3) after bumping at the break and falling way too far back at Monmouth.


Leave a Comment:

Mary Zinke

For the Jim Dandy,

After liking him in his NY races, and anticipating his comeback, I'm including Alpha, who seems to be loving Saratoga in the a.m. anyway, on top of a super, along with  Neck N Neck, who gets Goncalves, and as a team they have only ever won, and Prospective, with John Velazquez keeping him not too far off the pace. I like Teeth's fight but I think he will tire in the last 1/16.

26 Jul 2012 7:41 PM
Pete Denk

Prospective looked particularly strong in late stretch of the Ohio Derby (only 4-hose field?!) Does that count as a "Derby?"

But at least the horse he was pulling away from (Politically Correct) has crossform with a bunch of these.

26 Jul 2012 8:00 PM

Pete : Yeah, it's a short field Haskell but I'll still try and go for the some value, using Stealcase in my trifecta.  Paynter should be pretty tough here on the lead but I wouldn't be surprised if Handsome Mike end up setting the pace.  I'm excited at the return of Gemologist and he'll be a good price with Paynter already set at 3-2.  I think Stealcase might be a good exacta bet.

For Jim Dandy, I'm looking at another Casse horse in Prospective.  John Velazquez is a top jock that knows how to win the big ones.  I said before, he's the best fit jockey for UR and he proved it in the Belmont.  I think he'll do well with Prospective against this field.  I'm not sold on Alpha and I'd like to see one win before I start betting him.  There's just too many unknowns and "mysteries" regarding Alpha, leading up the last major preps and just pretty much throughout the triple crown trail.  I'm not even sure if Kiaran actually knows this horse at all anymore.

Street Life I think is a sucker's bet ( I was suckered to bet him the last 2 races lol).  I was pretty impressed with his first 2 wins in the Aqueduct inner track but just goes to show how different tracks are.  His 4th in the Belmont was a good run but think I'll go with how the odds are moving closer to racetime and just bet on gut instinct.   Watch Street Life win by a mile because I probably won't bet him.

Good luck to all playing this weekend!!

26 Jul 2012 8:15 PM

I don't know what to do with Gemologist.  He was in perfect position in the Derby and did nothing.  And I don't buy the excuse; but think he wins for fun if he is primed.  No opinion in Jim Dandy-yet.  Agree with Easter Gift; especially with possibility of wet going.  Will bet that horse heavy if its wet, and odds stay at 5/2 or higher.  

26 Jul 2012 8:38 PM
Pete Denk


I like your approach on the Haskell. Stealcase will be a big price, and he can improve a little on his run in the Matt Wynn.

The six-horse field makes a play like that easier to cover, since your key horse IS the price.

Good luck. It's all about value.

26 Jul 2012 9:35 PM

Gemologist is a cinch in the Haskell. Dullahan is tipped to fill the exacta spot over Paynter.

The Jim Dandy is quite a humdinger on paper. I'll take Atigun to explode in the stretch and tag Neck and Neck with Alpha in the show spot.

The Curlin belongs to Street Life and the Amsterdam to Fort Loudon.

Providing that he remains sound, Gemologist should become the next "buzz horse" among the 3YOs.

Have fun folks.  

26 Jul 2012 10:42 PM
Mary Zinke

In the CougarII, Dynamic Host, Worth Repeating to try to beat favorite Richard's Kid. RK and Romp are both coming back quickly after long routes.

26 Jul 2012 11:10 PM
Matthew W

Liason in the 'Dandy--big time! But that's's my Friday bomb at Saratoga: race 7, #10 Lemon Splendor (15-1) can you say ca-ching?

27 Jul 2012 2:32 AM
Minnesota Kid


Any guess on Alpha's post-time win odds in the Jim Dandy?

I absolutely love him in this spot, even if he drifts down to 2-1. That type of price is not exactly in my wheelhouse, but sometimes you have to settle for tripling your money, right?

I realize he has been a disappointment to some, and accepting that low of a price on a horse with major question marks would be preposterous to many.

However, I believe you simply have to toss the two performances in Louisville.  Alpha's resume looks fairly strong if you can do that.

Throw in the fact that he broke his maiden at Saratoga last summer and is training very well over the track, and maybe, just maybe, 2-1 becomes acceptable.

27 Jul 2012 12:50 PM
Pete Denk

Minnesota Kid-

Alpha's trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is outstanding off the layoff.

One thing about that barn is that they (and their friends) like to bet. You'll know if they like Alpha's chances.

As I said, the horse has some things to prove to me, so I will let him beat me. Only place he will be on my ticket is in the p4 where I single a price shot elsewhere.

27 Jul 2012 1:14 PM
It aint easy being good!

Street life is a beasssst! He was running against union rags and paynter now gets to run against JV horses come on now people dont overthink it. Chad brown and Street life get it done....FOR LIFE! Alpha is going to crush as well he is as smooth as the other side of the pillow. The haskell I have no clue throw a dart at the board....GOOD LUCK just remember Street life is a monster!

27 Jul 2012 1:16 PM
Mary Zinke

Curlin: Reload, Easter Gift, Street Life

27 Jul 2012 1:19 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Steve Haskin was right, Street Life has NO business running the Curlin.  What is wrong with facing better horses in the Jim Dandy, or Haskell??.  Joke that  these trainers skip the preps, and run those quality horses in a listed race.

27 Jul 2012 1:41 PM

Pete : How are you playing the Curlin ?  Straight WPS ? exotics ?  I haven't checked the full lineups but I think the P3s and P4s in each card might be the play.  In the Haskell, Paynter getting 3-2 morning line is not a sure win.  For the novices, he'll probably be singled in P3s and P4s so the payout could be very nice if Paynter doesn't win.  SL is the same in the Curlin, your pick might actually go off at 5-2 but still a good price in P3s/P4s.    I might single Prospective in the JD depending on how I do in the earlier races lol.  Nice insight on the barn (and friends) liking to bet a lot.  

Mary Z :  I like Reload as well but like others have said, Street Life might be too tough to be in this race.  I'll take a stab with reload and easter gift on my P3s and P4s.  

27 Jul 2012 2:48 PM
Pete Denk

The late pick4 sequence is falling apart due to off the turf (except Race 6).

Two scratches out of the Curlin now (both speed horses: Politicallycorrect and Morgans Guerilla)

I'll just bet Easter Gift to win.

27 Jul 2012 3:05 PM
Matthew W

Went with Ever So Lucky today--wire to wire....

27 Jul 2012 4:57 PM
Mary Zinke

Pete, I have my three picks in an ex box. Separate wager on Street Life, too, after I watched an earlier dirt route.

27 Jul 2012 5:36 PM
Mary Zinke

Matthew W., Very nice cha-ching with your pick of Lemon Splendor.

27 Jul 2012 6:00 PM
Matthew W

Mary,  thank you for the pleasant suprise! I also had the exacta with the #1 filly, who had been running v open fields at Arlington--that was my best play of the day, and I sunk 1/2 of my bankroll on her! If Ever So Lucky wins, I will hit the pick three, but now I'm gettin greedy! Liason tom in Jim Dandy--his Swaps run was nice--he's a nice colt, and 6-1 is a gift, although I don't think he'll fetch that==9-2 seems more like it, and he'll win like a 1-2 shot! (mehopes!)

27 Jul 2012 6:18 PM
Matthew W

Mary,  thank you for the pleasant suprise! I also had the exacta with the #1 filly, who had been running v open fields at Arlington--that was my best play of the day, and I sunk 1/2 of my bankroll on her! If Ever So Lucky wins, I will hit the pick three, but now I'm gettin greedy! Liason tom in Jim Dandy--his Swaps run was nice--he's a nice colt, and 6-1 is a gift, although I don't think he'll fetch that==9-2 seems more like it, and he'll win like a 1-2 shot! (mehopes!)

27 Jul 2012 6:18 PM
Mary Zinke

Matthew, Congrats on your big score.  I don't like rain for the Haskell. I want to include Nonios and I don't know if he'd handle an off track.

27 Jul 2012 6:25 PM
Mary Zinke

Saved by Street Life.

27 Jul 2012 6:36 PM
Pete Denk

Nice job to all who picked Street Life. He was much the best.

27 Jul 2012 6:44 PM

Only got to see a few races.  Seemed like it was a tiring main track favoring runners from off the pace.  I'll keep this in mind for tomorrow's handicapping.  

27 Jul 2012 7:26 PM

On Curlin : It was a nice win although it wasn't as dominating as I thought it would be against this field.  I envisioned SL taking the lead at the top of the stretch and drawing away in hand/driving but he didn't seem to be able to pull away from the 6 horse.  Is he just starting to get better ? or did the wet track help him beat this weak field ?  I'm wondering what his connections are thinking now specially if it comes up wet again tomorrow.  They may have given up a 600K purse for 100K, he looked primed to run and the Jim Dandy did not come up that tough.  

I'm also wondering why Hansen isn't running in the Jim Dandy.  I don't see anyone who can keep up with his speed, and would probably win the race at the half mile and canter home.  What's up, Doc ?

Molly Pitcher : Going with the favorite Afleeting Lady with Nefertini, Successful Song and Brushed by a Star for the exacta and trifecta.

Haskell : Stealcase / Gemologist with Stealcase / Gemologist with All

Jim Dandy : Prospective with NnN, TotD with NnN, TofD, Alpha, Liaison

Matthew W : Nice hit on Lemon, not sure about Liaison shipping to Saratoga making a difference, I'm using him to fill out my trifecta.  I hope he doesn't ruin my trifecta by winning or coming in 2nd.   I think the wet track makes it an even more open wide race.  Good luck with Liaison.

28 Jul 2012 12:47 PM
Mary Zinke

I left Prospective out of the top of my Jim Dandy super after considering his competition in the recent wins.

28 Jul 2012 1:45 PM

My Saratoga Picks

3) 7

4) 9

5) 5

7) 3

8) 5

10) 1, 6 exacta

11) 15

28 Jul 2012 1:49 PM

Mary Z : Who did you end up with ?

28 Jul 2012 2:19 PM
Linda in Texas

JayJay did you have Our Edge a 37 to 1 shot at Saratoga Race 5? 5 year old won it and with just a 50 cent bet you would have made $27,000 +. So the HRTV folks announced. I hope one of the regulars who posts on is still standing at the windows counting their money!

Winter Memories did as Emeril Lagasse the N.O. Chef sometimes says when he adds extra spices, "kicked it up a notch" and won nicely today wearing the green that Kip Deville always looked so sharp in. And Alpha seemed to love the slop!

Thanks Pete.

28 Jul 2012 7:49 PM

Only got 2 races right all day, but luckily they were my biggest bets, so I broke even.

28 Jul 2012 8:57 PM
Minnesota Kid


With all due respect, if your two biggest plays of the day were winners, and you broke even for the day, you might need some money management advice.

Please, don't feel lonely, since myself, and many others I'm sure, could use that same type of advice.

As I posted yesterday afternoon, I loved Alpha in the Jim Dandy, tried to "build the bankroll" in the earlier races, failed, and barely got out for the day when Alpha paid "just" $5.60 to win.

Very difficult game.

28 Jul 2012 9:20 PM
Age of Reason

In my ever-so-humble opinion, Take Control ran an excellent race in the San Diego Handicap (G2), "all things considered". Those things to be considered include the fact that he was running only his third race against some of the most seasoned graded stakes veterans anywhere; he was severely compromised by a European turf-style race with horribly slow fractions; and was fanned out extremely wide on the turn. Plus the stretch at Del Mar seems rather short for a major track. I've seen (and continue to see) many California horses who do well on synthetics, but leave the impression that they would show even more talent if running on the East's conventional dirt tracks. Game On Dude is one obvious example, as well as Giacomo and Tiago from years past, and even Zenyatta. Take Control is another. Who knows?, given that Baffert will be loaded in the Pacific Classic anyway, perhaps he might consider running Take Control in the Woodward or some other spot at the Spa. Very little this horse does in the future will surprise me!

28 Jul 2012 10:22 PM
Mary Zinke

JayJay, I had these picks posted: (07/28/2012 04:07 AM)

1,4/1,3,4,7,8/1,3,4,6,7,8/ALL then a blog writer said he though Prospective was grade 3, and an old guy at the track didn't like him(he was quiet and didn't have a bunch of losing tickets surrounding him) so I moved Prospective down to 3rd. That ticket cost $12 and I think I'm getting back a little over $13, lol, but I had 5 across on Alpha, and Winter Memories. I'll try to post more of my picks over here as well. I had a losing super in the Diana, but that one only cost $2.40. I lost money at Del Mar, less than 15, but that's how it goes for me. I sort of break even.  

28 Jul 2012 10:53 PM

HDG being sold at an auction, not sure if it's me but Rick's comment kind of threw me off.  I know he has said in the past that he's in this business for the money so I guess I shouldn't be surprised to read his comment that HDG would be a nice "collector's item" to a lucky someone...

28 Jul 2012 10:58 PM
Mary Zinke

JayJay, the man has needed a press secretary for some time. Maybe he meant that HDG is from St Liam's only crop, if I'm correct about that, and that she became an Eclipse Award winner. She's very nicely bred and is very beautiful besides being a multiple graded stakes winner, too. How much do you think she will bring?

28 Jul 2012 11:04 PM

I honestly don't have an idea how much she will bring, it's weird that Rick didn't mention anything about her breeding career, that's what threw me off.  A "collector's item" comment with her record and being an eclipse award winner just didn't make sense.  I enjoyed watching her race Blind Luck but have to admit that I was a big Bind Luck fan so I was always rooting against her but she has done very well.

I almost threw Prospective out but I have this rule where I don't cancel my tickets or change my picks at the last minute so I thought I'd go and take a shot.  I was feeling good at Prospective's position but you were right to listen to those guys, seems to he really is a G3 horse.  I'll find a race to bet him and get my money back lol, he owes me.

I hit a few tris and exactas but nothing to take home.  I had the 1-8-3 in Arlington 8th race, the 8 was 29-1 but the one was like 2-5 or something and had a $3 exacta and $1 tri, it almost got me even but decided to play Delmar which I shouldn't have.  I have a hard time playing that track.  Glad you kind of broke even :)

On to the Haskell tomorrow!!

28 Jul 2012 11:33 PM

Age of Reason.  I totally agree.  This was a great effort for only his third career start and only his second start in two years.  This was a salty field and though I’m not sure if Rail Trip is still G1 quality, at least he is a past G1 winner.  You’re right in that he tracked very slow fractions and had to go wide, but the way in which he closed in that final 16th he probably ran it in about 5.20 seconds vs the race time of 5.85 seconds, and this after actually losing a half-length in the upper stretch when he began to straighten out.  He was really motoring once he got going late in the stretch.  I think that all he needs now is more distance and a little more seasoning and he could be a viable contender for the BCC.  He still has to show he can run well on dirt in a race but has been training well over it.

29 Jul 2012 2:03 AM

Take Control was but one of two Bafferts to really be compromised by pace.  It's a weird concept, a Baffert horse hurt by a lack of pace, given he has so many frontrunners.  But two of his late runners, Take Control and Liaison, really got the worst of it in the San Diego and Jim Dandy respectively.

It was a good story to see Rail Trip emerge from the wilderness and win a grade 2, but he and runner-up John Scott could not have had things more their own way.  I would have no problem with someone saying Take Control was best in the race; he was off last by himself, lost ground when swinging wide, had no pace to run at, yet still closed ground and was right there at the finish.

I'm not sure Liaison was best in the Jim Dandy, but he ran a sneaky good 3rd.  Alpha was given a heady ride and just backed things up to a crawl.  He's a classy horse, but that was gift wrapped for him.  Neck n Neck did ok to get 2nd, but he was forwardly placed as well but just couldn't get by Alpha.

Liaison, on the other hand, broke poorly and was next-to-last early.  The pace in the Jim Dandy, like in the Swaps, worked against him.  However, Liaison didn't spit the bit; he kept grinding away, and though he had to go wide on the far turn was able to pass everyone but the top 2.  

Given he was the one shipping and that he was running over a Saratoga slop completely foreign to him, that was a solid effort from Liaison.

29 Jul 2012 4:37 AM
Matthew W

thought Liason ran lights out Sat--the eleven horse, Laurens Lady,  in last, Sunday, at Del Mar---I put a little on him......

29 Jul 2012 8:51 AM
Matthew W

Gun Bow Terrific Synnergy, at Los Al Sat Night....bigtime fast horse!

29 Jul 2012 8:54 AM
Pedigree Ann

Jay Jay wrote:

I'm also wondering why Hansen isn't running in the Jim Dandy.  I don't see anyone who can keep up with his speed, and would probably win the race at the half mile and canter home.  What's up, Doc ?

I reply:

Hansen is keeping to the second-tier regional Derbies - Iowa, West Virginia - because Dr. Hansen likes to win races, any races, and this one has a purse of $750K. The colt has yet to win past 1 1/16 versus the better competition, and Paynter and Gemo, the other pace factors, stay better than he does. So given the choice - canter for $750K or face the possibility of being off the board for $1 Million, the owner's going for the easy money.

Three stakes races at the same distance for 3yo in the same part of the country on three consecutive days; it's no wonder that none of them has a very big field. It's every track for itself, no thought about how it harms the competitiveness of the Major G1 races of the sport. (One has to write 'Major G1s' these days because there are so many minor G1s out there.)

29 Jul 2012 9:22 AM

@Minnesota Kid.  Both of my winners paid $5 and change, so even though I bet more on the two winners, it barely covered my losses in the other 20 races I played. Agree I need to limit the number of races I play to preserve my bankroll.  

29 Jul 2012 10:16 AM
Minnesota Kid


Limiting the amount of "races played" could possibly be the most difficult task any horseplayer faces. I could not tell you how many times my notebook stated the phrase "played too many races today" after a trip to the track.

It reminds me of an old line from the Larry Sanders Show--when the network brings in a new producer he tells Larry to "just do the jokes that work"--very similar to an old girlfriend of mine telling me to "just make the bets that you are most confident in".

That was/is the problem--I am confident in all of them, at least until the gates open.

On another note, is it just me, or is Ramon Dominguez putting on an absolute clinic at Saratoga this summer?

I know, it shouldn't be that big of a surprise, since he has been a top jock for many years now. It seems that horseplayers, such as the alleged genius A. Beyer, that are always trying to insist that jockeys don't matter, would have a difficult time converting people to that theory if they were watching Mr. Dominguez over the past few weeks.

29 Jul 2012 10:52 AM
Pete Denk

Take Control might be interesting at 10f. He flew home yesterday, final 5/16 in about 28-1.

29 Jul 2012 11:10 AM
Minnesota Kid

Mary Zinke,

Great line about HDG's owner needing a press secretary--although he certainly is not the only owner who could use one of those.

Since Blind Luck sold for $2.5M, I would suspect that HDG would go for something in that "ballpark", perhaps slightly more.

Jay Jay,

Any singles in the P5 or P4 at Monmouth today?

I am considering two--

Chief Carlson in the 6th(opening leg of a P5, 6-1 ML) and Dealbata in the 10th (closing leg of that P5 and the first leg of a P4, 5-1 ML)

Paco Lopez is the named rider on both, so he might be the key to my day.

29 Jul 2012 11:23 AM
Minnesota Kid

I now see Dealbata is a scratch in the 10th, so, never mind.

29 Jul 2012 11:51 AM
Mary Zinke

Haskell: Nonios


29 Jul 2012 1:04 PM


1) Gun Boat

2) Forty Louden

3) Doctor Chit

4) 4) Currency Swap


1) Gemologist

2) 2) Dullahan

3) 3) Paynter

4) 4) Nonios

29 Jul 2012 3:14 PM
Matthew W

I think Ft Louden runs big today---Love that sixpac in The Haskel--anyone remember King Glorious, in 1989? He looked like the 2nd coming of Dorf today, Nonios....this is a banner crop, there are more three year olds--the Travers this year, with no Classic Winners---will be Classic!

29 Jul 2012 3:58 PM
Rusty Weisner

Hey, I just hit the 50-cent Pick 4, R7-10 at Monmouth, for $657.  I singled Royal Currier in the 9th, who won by a nose.  Would have won $2500 if the 1 had caught the winner in the 10th, but I'll take it.  It was a $56 bet, as there was a Uruguayan horse in the 7th who was an even money favorite in the 7th, and I've never seen a South American do anything his first race in the U.S. (I took ALL).

I had one last chance to play this summer, and took it.  I've got a soft spot for the Haskell, having been there twice (War Emblem, Peace Rules).  Didn't feel real confident about the Haskell Pick 4.  Every time I've ever played Monmouth the bias to speed has been obvious, but I don't see it today, so I don't feel strongly about Paynter.  

I'll play that Pick 3 for some spare change, though.  I'll try singling Afleeting Lady in the 11th, with 1,3(longshot),5,7 in the 12th and not yet sure who to eliminate in the Haskell.  

Good luck, everyone!  

29 Jul 2012 4:54 PM
Rusty Weisner

I'll play the Pick 3 the other way, too.  $40 for two tickets.  Gives me an excuse to sit through a few races before my fare-thee-well.  Didn't get to play Saratoga, which is just as well.  There was some kind of $24,000 Pick 3 yesterday I think, which would have broken up all my tickets.

R11: 1,2,3,6

R12: 1,3,5,7

R13: Paynter

I'm really signing off now.  Next chance I'll get to play before the Breeder's Cup will be Maryland Millions Day in October, which I will attend in person.  

Good luck!

29 Jul 2012 5:04 PM
Rusty Weisner

Quit while ahead.  Good night.

29 Jul 2012 5:34 PM
Rusty Weisner

Ooh, that's a shame.  I had that 3 at 25-1 on those losing tickets.  I liked it that he was competitive in the turf sprint two back, then ran a half race in the route last out, as if for a tuneup.

I'll watch the Haskell, disinterestedly, no bets.  If anyone still likes Dullahan (I never have), this is the race to bet him.  Everyone thinks the shorter distance is to his disadvantage.  No idea how I'd bet this race.  What do you do with Gemologist?    

29 Jul 2012 5:50 PM

Terrible stumble at the start for Gun Boat.  Spotted them 8 or 9 at the gate.  Nice win for Currency Swap.

29 Jul 2012 6:05 PM

Paynter, I'm really beginning to believe.  This guy is good.  Gemologist looks like a miler at best and please Dale put Dullahan on the turf where he belongs.

29 Jul 2012 6:25 PM
Rusty Weisner

Was rooting for Paynter, especially after he lost me a lot of money by a neck in the Belmont.  Petty of me, but I don't like Pletcher and had some Schadenfreude seeing another of his horses unprepared.  By the same token, I'm ever more impressed by Baffert.  A great year, so far, and wouldn't have really been something if he hadn't run into that other horse that was so good.  I guess Paynter was obvious off the rest.

29 Jul 2012 6:32 PM

Does anyone fall in love with a horse and keep expecting more, only to continue burning money as the horse underperforms?  I saw the Unusual One's first race, he had trouble, I put him on my stable alert.  I've bet him bigger and bigger each race and he has yet to cash.  Took my weekend bankroll today.    

29 Jul 2012 7:19 PM

Got it mostly wrong this weekend (only Street Life obliged of my posted selections) ...anyway there were some quality performances from Paynter, Alpha and Currency Swap.

The Amsterdam might have come up too soon for Fort Loudon after his hard fought victory over Trinniberg at in the Carry Back Stakes at Calder, not to mention changing stables, moving to Nick Zito. The King's Bishop is shapping up to be very interesting ...especially if the red hot Baffert points Bodemeister to that 7 Furlongs contest and Hansen joins them there (Dr Hansen might now be scared to tackle Paynter and Alpha going the 10 Furlongs of the Travers). Trinniberg and a refreshed Fort Loudon should make it a very hot affair. Gemologist was disappointing in the Haskel but could've needed the race and deserves another shot in the Travers. Street Life looked impressive in the Curlin Stakes and now seems ready to be taken seriously amongst the elite 3YOs for the remainder of the season.

The much maligned Belmont Stakes quality has been somewhat vindicated by the performances of Paynter and Street Life. Atigun in the Jim Dandy did not seem to relish the underfoot conditions and deserves another shot in the Travers. This crop of 3YOs deserve a passing grade.

Looking ahead to the Breeder's Cup, Bob Baffert is certainly shaping up to have a grand time at Santa Anita this year. So far his hand is looking strong in the Classic, The Dirt Mile and the Sprint and we have to take for granted that he'll be in the juvenile mix once his 2YOs start to come out (very good for him).

29 Jul 2012 8:13 PM

Laz : I agree,  Baffert said Paynter was his best horse early in the TC trail.  See what happens when you don't lose a shoe ?  I think he would've won the Belmont easily had he kept them shoes on lol.  He's pretty much the only real deal in the Belmont. Dullahan who was the only G1 winner in that race didn't really show up, like Rusty, I was never a believer of Dullahan.  I think you had it nailed, he probably should be running in the turf and hopefully this is his last dirt race.  Also, it seems the roles were reversed between Paynter and Gemologist today.   I'm not sure why Javier gunned Gemologist to the lead today.  Having said that, Paynter shows he's not all speed, and he looked natural stalking Gemo and put him away quite easily.  If he continues to run like this, he's going to be exciting to watch.

Kevin : I did that with Dialed In, lost a bundle.  Now I have a rule, if the horse doesn't win, bet him again, if he loses again, bet small on him AND only if he's 10-1 or higher lol.   I'm starting to see this pattern with Gemologist so if he comes back in the Travers, I'll bet small on him.  With Paynter, Alpha taking the favorite role, Gemologist might actually run at 10-1 or higher.  Street Life will probably be the 3rd choice.

I have to say that I like the older horse division in that all the top horses are running against each other, so far, I'd have to say RTG should be the No 1 with his wins in the SA and SF (coast to coast).  

29 Jul 2012 9:51 PM
Rusty Weisner

Alpha crawled against a weak field, where his best competitor broke slow.  He didn't win with speed, he won with class.  I'd look to bet against him but won't be around to do it.

29 Jul 2012 10:16 PM

Even I, a fan living in California, continue to be impressed by just how much better the West Coast 3 year olds are.

And I can't claim before the Derby I knew this.  I knew they were a heck of a lot better than last year's Cali 3 year olds, and I was impressed with the number of local horses that shipped and ran well throughout the country.  I wrote before the Derby that I thought from top to bottom the Cali horses were better than any other single geographic contingent(separating New York, Florida, Louisiana, and Arakansas), but I didn't think they were this much better.

Honestly, just about everyone missed the boat on the clear superiority of the Cali based 3 year olds. Recent history in the Triple Crown certainly didn't inspire confidence for the Cali horses, but this year is not connected to last year or the year before.  Many of the NY based writers at the drf hardly mentioned any of the Cali horses leading up to the Derby.  Brad Free,a leader among drf's Cali handicappers, was among the few that recognized the talent out here.  I saw the signs, but the recent struggles(Lookin at Lucky aside) tempered my enthusiasm.  I hate to think how much money I could have made had I bet with confidence.

With all respect to Alpha, Paynter emerged this weekend as the CLEAR favorite for the Travers, unless his stablemate Bodemeister goes too.  Alpha was able to walk in the Jim Dandy and then did what good horses do with such an advantage and finished the deal.  Paynter, on the other hand, had to deal with much more legit fractions, yet still finished full of run while producing a time that compared very favorably with the other 2-turn stakes at Monmouth.  

The fact Paynter was able to let Gemologist go early and still relax fully tells me the horse is putting it all together mentally.  As others have mentioned, Paynter was the buzz horse in the Baffert barn all along.  

Given an ability to rate, and with excellent distance breeding, I'm not sure that I would still keep Bodemeister #1 among the Baffert 3 year olds.  In retropsect, I think the Belmont was a valuable learning experience for Paynter.  He had to ration is speed an extremely demanding distance, was forced to deal with multiple challenges along the way, then had to go head-to-head late with a big, legit top-flight grade 1 horse.  And given Paynter had one race, a 5.5 furlong maiden, to his name at the start of April, the 12 furlong Belmont was asking a ton of him.  Paynter lost that day, but it might have been one of those "growing up" moments.

Nonios ran an encouraging 2nd in the Haskell given he was shipping out of Cali for the 1st time and running on dirt for the first time.  

On July 4th, I had debated whether to make it out to Hollywood Park for the Swaps Stakes; without I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, Paynter, or Creative Cause, the Swaps field didn't get my imagination going.  But I reminded myself about how good the Cali 3 year olds have been and concluded that even these 2nd and 3rd tier runners could do damage if sent East for the big money pots.  I'm glad I went because I was able to see Nonios for the first time(and the winner Blueskiesandrainbows could end up being a scary frontrunner).

Nonios just has a smart way of moving.  He possesses tactical speed, can accelerate, and seems fine up to at least 9 furlongs(his breeding suggests 10 furlongs should be in his range). If it wasn't for Nonios, Paynter would have waltzed to the wire with absolutely no resistance.

I think it's back to the drawing board with Gemologist.  Something had to have gone amiss because I don't think he's THAT bad.  But I don't know about going forward to the Travers, Ranagulzion.  That performance was just so bad that I'm not sure he got enough out of it to be ready for 10 furlongs and a deeper field.  A more prudent path would seem to be giving the horse a little longer to sort things out in the mornings and then pick one of those softer, 2nd tier derbies.  

The situation with Dullahan is simpler.  But him back on turf or synth.  There's the Pacific Classic on Poly, but I don't think he's ready for that level of older horse.  So, maybe point for Keeneland or target the Jamaica and the Hollywood Derby, both grade 1s on turf againt his age group.  The Secretariat in 3 weeks would appear to be too soon.

30 Jul 2012 3:15 AM

The Bing Crosby added further evidence to what I've been claiming for a while, Amazombie is the #1 pure sprinter(6 furlongs) on the continent and The Factor is ill-suited for the BC Sprint.

Going back to last year's Sunshine Millions Sprint, Amazombie's first stakes win, he has now crossed the wire 1st in 7 of his 8 races at 6 and 6.5 furlongs(he was dq'd from one of those wins, a bogus dq in my opinion).  The one legit loss was in last year's Bing Crosby when Amazombie was likely tailing off a bit from sustained campaigning( after a brief freshening he won back-to-back grade 1s to seal championship honors).

What makes Amazombie so special is his consistency, durability, and his ability to run over multiple surfaces, in California and away from home.  He possesses enough tactical speed to keep the leaders in range early, and has a solid mid-late kick.  And he's tough.

I recognize that on any given day there are a number of sprinters out there that can beat Amazombie.  However, if you line all these horses up 10 times, with a good number of the races producing legit paces, and I believe Amazombie wins the plurality.

And even when Amazombie does meet a top sprinter on that horse's best day, or gets an unfavorable pace set-up, or has to run a little further than preferred(7 furlongs), he still tries and still runs in the money.  He's just a true pro.

What many seem not to recognize about Amazombie's loss to Shackleford in the Churchill Downs Cap' is that Amazombie was spotting that horse 5 pounds.  He was also running a 7 furlong distance that isn't his best, and was forced to race closer to the pace than normal.  With the BC at a track Amazombie has done very well over, I rate him the early horse to beat.

I've stressed this for a while: if The Factor is challenged on the front end to run quick fractions, he just isn't the superstar he appears to be on other occassions.  When The Factor has looked particularly good is when he was able to sit outside of horses through moderate fractions(22 and 2 or slower, 44 and 4 or slower); when he gets that scenario he can fly home in under 23.  However, if he gets hooked in a duel and forced to run faster, he is made vulnerable in the stretch.  

Sunday in the Crosby, the first quarter in 22 and 2 was fine, but because Comma to the Top didn't back off when Garcia moved up on The Factor asking for the lead, they went the next quarter in 22.  And that did in The Factor.

What's telling is that it's not like the Crosby fractions were that fast.  The track has played slower these first 2 weeks than last year, but 44 and 2 for 6 furlongs is still not THAT fast.  But with another horse looking him in the eye, it was too fast for The Factor.

Maybe if The Factor could clear off in front of horses he could conserve more mental energy and have more fight for the stretch?  The problem is that The Factor just doesn't have the type of early speed to be able to clear elite sprint fields.  Think back to The Factor's sprint races-when was he able to clear a field?  The answer is, he hasn't.

In the BC Sprint, I would think the field would include some horse, like Frumious, who is capable of going 21 and 43 early.  Then, there will proably be a couple of others that can go 21 and 3, 44.  Where will that leave The Factor?  Most likely, in 5th struggling to keep up and being forced to do something he has never done, rally and win.

30 Jul 2012 3:49 AM

Matthew W:

I made it out to Los Al Saturday night for races 9-13.  Terrific Synergy was by far the horse of the night.  It's hard to win big races by 2 lengths.  He knocked on the door is some big futurities last year, but he seems to have put it all together at 3.  He might already be ready for El Aquila Real in the battle for best horse on the grounds.

By the way, what has happened to the times at Los Al?  Just about every stakes race is about 4/10ths slower than the previous couple of year.  Terrific Synergy wins the Governor's Cup Derby off by himself in 19.48.  Top older males go 19.68 in the Spencer Childers, and top older females go 19.97 in the Matron.  Last year, a horse much less talented wins the Derby in 19.40, the Mtron goes in 19.37, and Chivalry wins the Childers in 19.067.

Is it a coincidence that during the past 12 months there have been a number, a large number of notable stakes disqualifications for medication violations?  That a number of the leading tainers have been suspended for medication violations, and the leading trainer the past few years was basically asked to get out of town after a number of medication violations?  Is it possible that we are simply seeing how fast these horses really are when not juiced?  Are the years 2008-2011 at Los Al going to be looked upon like the steroid era in baseball?  Or is the maintanence crew doing something different to the track?  

I wish the answer was the latter, but I doubt it.  And all the medication violations occrred as a number of prominent trainers and owners were allegedly doing business with the cartels.

30 Jul 2012 4:04 AM
Rusty Weisner


I am really looking forward to your Breeder's Cup analysis this year, it being at SA, and I hope you get a guest post or two.  

30 Jul 2012 7:22 AM
Age of Reason

Gun Bow, on the strength of Cali's 3 year old crop: I share in your delight. Now you know why we haven't seen most of the East Coast Bias hacks in a while. (Sylvester, are you listening? Love ya, buddy--all due respect, of course.)

While I'm on the subject of California racing, surely I'm not the only one who's really looking forward to the Pacific Classic? Talk about a strong field if all the hopefuls make it, and one that includes the winners of the last 3 editions of the race! Also, I've been impressed by the fact that there's at least one coast with the guts to keep their major races at 10 furlongs year after year.

30 Jul 2012 6:41 PM

Age of Reason:

Because the Pacific Classic is over a synth surface, a turf-synth surface, it has attracted Acclamation and Suggestive Boy.  Acclamation won it last year, then there's Richard's Kid the winner in 09' and 10'.  Maybe Rail Trip, a grade 1 winner, and Take Control from the San Diego go.  Then there's the best maintrack older horse in California, Game on Dude.

Of those, I'll take Richard's Kid.  Del Mar is his track, he is just as sharp as he was during his highly productive 2010 season, and the type of move he made in the Hollywood Gold Cup wins Pacific Classics.  Acclamation is going to have plenty of pace company, and he may not be quite as good as last year.

30 Jul 2012 9:44 PM

Good start on the racing side for Del Mar.  And it's been good for the old timers.

Two Eclipse champion Cal-bred 6-year olds(Acclamation, Amazombie) win the first 2 grade 1s of the meet, Richard's Kid, a 7 year old, takes the gr.3 Cougar II, and Rail Trip, another 7 year old, wins the gr.2 San Diego.

From the younger set, 4-time Argentine gr.1 winner and gr.1 Shoemaker Mile runner-up, Suggestive Boy, wins the restricted Whickerr, and last year's Haskell winner, Coil, won an allowance impressively.

30 Jul 2012 9:49 PM

GunBow : If Paynter wins the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, would that be enough to challenge IHA for the 3 yr old championship ?  I think it should be enough, but wondering what your opinion is on that.  I'm not sure when Bode will run, but he also has one G1 win in the Arkansas Derby, which I think was a tougher race than the Haskell with regards to the field.  I guess the same question applies to Bode, if he wins the Travers and the JCGC, would it be enough to "eclipse" IHA ?

31 Jul 2012 1:44 AM
Pedigree Ann

Jay Jay, useless to speculate about a championship. Heard the same sort of thing in 1971 after Bold Reason won the Hollywood Derby (10f dirt, getting 13 lbs from the second), American Derby, and another race in the summer of 1971. He did win the Travers but couldn't land a blow against his elders. And he had been comprehensively defeated by many of the top spring colts who were no longer racing, so double classic winner Canonero II received the very first Eclipse award for his age-group.

31 Jul 2012 9:03 AM
Pete Denk

Paynter would need to sweep the rest of the year, including the BC Classic, to have nay shot at 3yo champion.

I'll Have Another pretty much has that award on lockdown.

31 Jul 2012 12:13 PM

Pedigree Ann : I guess you're right.  I became a full on fan of IHA after the Preakness and was so ready for a TC winner as in my mind, I was guaranteeing a win by IHA in the Belmont and winning it easily.  It was very frustrating to learn of his injury.  I guess in some way I wanted the 3 yr old championship to be a US horse, not a horse from Japan.  Yeah I know, he raced here but it's still nagging me lol.

Pete :  Yeah, I guess Paynter would have to beat older horses twice to take it away from IHA.

Paynter spiked a fever, it doesn't surprise me anymore.  It's like these colts has 1 or 2 good races in them and then they fall apart.  I was questioning Hansen not running in the Jim Dandy but now I'm happy if they just run lol, if Hansen only runs in G3 races just so they can keep him healthy, I'd take it.  I just want to see them race past their 4 yr old season, get some bottom on these colts before they start breeding.

01 Aug 2012 2:03 AM
Matthew W

Saratoga--today!--race seven: #6 Princess Malia (6-1), it seems lately I've been hung up on these 6-1 shots--oh well, 6-1 is good enough for me!

01 Aug 2012 8:17 AM
Pedigree Ann

Jay Jay, I feel your pain.

1971 was the first year I was able to follow a Derby candidate from its 2yo year into the spring - I went to university in a town with a major league track and the DRF on sale. My 'baby' was Jim French, who seemed to race every weekend and thrived on it. The only reason he didn't run in the Travers (in which he would have been favored) was some suspicious circumstances about his ownership, not any physical ill. A shame he was sent to France for stud; his hickory constitution would have been a real plus for US dirt bloodlines. (And he had great bloodlines, from the first crop of Graustark out of Dinner Partner, by Tom Fool, second dam Bluehaze by Blue Larkpur, she a full sister to Derby second Blue Swords. Family of Native Partner, Arazi, Exchange Rate, plus a bunch of Euro SWs and classic Japanese runners.)

02 Aug 2012 9:37 AM

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