The TwinSpires.com Kentucky Derby Championship Series Begins This Weekend

I’m rarely a one-factor handicapper, but sometimes a particular factor is so glaring and the corresponding price so generous that analysis beyond that one variable just seems like platitude.

In the case of Rise Up in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course (click the stakes name for FREE Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances with Comments), I could wax poetic about his superior pace ratings, best last out Speed Rating, and class edge (based on Brisnet.com Class Ratings), but really, at the expected price (at least 5-to-2), all I need to know is that Rise Up has a 10-point Prime Power advantage on the field, and a gap of 10 or more points in dirt races wins 55% of the time!

When handicappers say “there is a lot of speed in the race” they usually mean “there are a lot of horses who like to run on or near the lead.” That’s certainly the case in the Risen Star with ten of the 14 expected starters (Bond Holder scratched and Teniente Coronel is on the also eligible list) having either an “E” or “E/P” running style, but only Rise Up has posted a triple digit E1 pace rating, and he won two of the three starts in which he did so gate-to-wire, including the Delta Jackpot Stakes in which he received a 98 Brisnet.com Speed Rating, which easily tops this group.

I.e., if he runs 100 again, it doesn’t matter how many other horses want the lead because Rise Up will get it, and we already know he’s fast enough off that kind of pace. He is my pick for the win and the TwinSpires.com Road To the Kentucky Derby SHOWdown competition.

Speaking of that, there are 1,176 people still alive for the $1-million prize and 30 still alive in our last longest game on Twitter.

Before you can get to the Risen Star, though, you have to get past the Fountain of Youth, and I’m admittedly less confident in my pick there than in the Risen Star, but I landed on General a Rod, who appears to the choice of Javier Castellano and figures to sit a good stalking trip behind the likes of Almost Famous and Wildcat Red.

Speaking of those two, I’ve given up on the former but don’t think the latter is up against as some people think. Is he a Kentucky Derby/1 ¼-mile horse? Probably not, but can he do well in this race going 1 1/16 miles on the main track at Gulfstream from post four with a hot jock (Luis Saez) in the irons? Certainly.

Neither Commissioner nor Top Billing would surprise anyone, including me, but I think both will be too short in the betting. In the interest in seeing the most people advance in the SHOWdown competition, I’ll take a General a Rod, Top Billing, Commissioner trifecta as long as General a Rod wins, but from a wagering standpoint I certainly prefer Wildcat Red to the two favorites at the price.

As if either card needed anything extra to be alluring besides the first two 85-point races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but huge carryovers in both the Rainbow^6 at Guflstream and the Black Gold 5 at Fair Grounds add intrigue, and TwinSpires.com is offering 1-million points for those who hit each wager.

In the Rainbow^6, Onlyforyou in the Davona Dale looks like one of the most likely winners, but Aurelia’s Belle and Penwith both intrigue and are two I wouldn’t mind having on most tickets. My top two picks in Canadian Turf Stakes are Salto and Bad Debt.

The Black Gold Five begins with four graded stakes before ending with Louisiana-bred maidens. Shannon Nicole could be a separator horse early in the Rachel Alexandra, and I’ll be using her on all tickets, as my other picks in the sequence—Daddy Nose Best in the Fair Grounds Handicap, Rise Up in the Risen Star, and Prayer For Relief in the Mineshaft Handicap—aren’t exactly reaches. An interesting horse in the nightcap at 15-to-1 is Everett’s Legacy, whose dam’s two foals to race are both winners and whose sire, Half Ours, sends out 15% debut winners. Robby Albarado aboard for a 20% trainer adds to the intrigue, though Frank Leggio is winless in his last 20 maiden special weight attempts. Still worth 15-to-1, though, and a must use on the multi tickets.

Not a part of the Rainbow^6 or any Pick 4 is the sixth race on Saturday at Gulfstream, and entry level allowance race featuring Triple Crown hopefuls such as Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2 entries Matterhorn and Tonalist. Neither of those would surprise, though I think Constitution is the most likely winner. I’m selling Mexicoma, whose hype and outside post means a likely underlay on him.

Good luck this weekend!

43 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Pedigree Ann

And if I were to point out that the 3 tracks at which Rise Up has won are a)Presque Isle Downs on Tapeta; b) Mountaineer Park; and  Delta Downs the bullring, would you still be thrilled with his numbers? The one and only time he ran at a first-rank dirt track in a graded race, he showed speed and faded, over this same distance and track configuration. Since his loss at Churchill, Tom Amoss has placed him well to earn a bunch of money without being tested; tomorrow will show whether he belongs with the big boys or should go back to picking up big events at minor tracks.

21 Feb 2014 7:17 PM
Kevin

I like Intense Holiday in the Risen Star and General A Rod in the Fountain of Youth.  I wish Constitution was trying the Fountain of Youth.  Really like that horse.  Now if he runs well, he'll have to finish top 2 in the Florida Derby to make the Derby.

21 Feb 2014 8:59 PM
hopalong

Wicked Strong needs to show up in the 6th, the allowance race .

21 Feb 2014 10:03 PM
Sail On

I am eagerly awaiting these races. IMO none of these horses has been tested. The idea that the speed horses cannot be bested by horses that press, stalk or come from way back is silly.

That said I do like Rise Up, Quick Indian, Emmett Park and Vicar's In Trouble.

The Risen Star is shaping up to be more of a training opportunity, this year, than a genuine test.

21 Feb 2014 10:38 PM
Ranagulzion

In the Risen Star I can't see Vicar's in Trouble having any trouble winning this race by daylight. Albano and Intense Holiday should follow him in that order with Rise Up needing the race.

The FOY looks like a geat dress rehersal for the Kentucky Derby in terms of the pace scenario and the class of the top contenders. I figure that Wildcat Red, Almost Famous and General a Rod will battle for the lead with Commissioner stalking down on the rail. However, its going to be tough for the latter to bully his way pass the front three without paying a price, while Top Billing should be able to relax early, make his bold middle move and be full of momentum for the stretch drive. Its going to be a horse race down the lane but I think that Top Billing can prevail over General a Rod, Almost Famous and Wildcat Red. Of the Todd Pletcher pair, I'd give We Miss Artie the better shot at pulling it off at a nice price. Some strong Derby contenders should emerge from this race IMO.

22 Feb 2014 7:52 AM
predict

I don't generally play FG, but will try a stab with Commanding Curve, for a possible long shot, small bet only.

22 Feb 2014 8:44 AM
Kevin

My best bet is Loves Last Chance (#9) in the 8th at GP.  Hoping for 5/2.  

22 Feb 2014 10:11 AM
El Kabong

Pedigree Ann,

You hit the nail on the head. Couldn't have said it better.

22 Feb 2014 10:25 AM
El Kabong

Predict, I'm with you on Commanding Curve. Good luck.

22 Feb 2014 10:32 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Kevin -

Regarding your day's best,  I'm curious as to how you were able to separate the 9 Loves Last Chance from the 7 Dylan Ward.

Good luck.

22 Feb 2014 11:32 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Gulfstream  R1  1 All Tied Up is the card's best.  His 'neutral or better win' for us last out came on the heels of back to back upgrades in Speed favoring races.  I'm expecting a forward move of some note today.

22 Feb 2014 11:49 AM
Kevin

Constitution looked very impressive.  Too bad he didn't run in the FOY today.  

22 Feb 2014 3:16 PM
Kevin

Phil, reference my best bet and separating him from the 7.  Darts.....

Last race, Loves Last Chance was cut off and lost momentum, but came again, lost the whip and still finished a close 3d.  I'm also a sucker for increasing beyers.  Finally I expect better odds.  

22 Feb 2014 3:21 PM
Rusty Weisner

Kevin,

I'm with you on Love's Best Bet, with the bad trip and the lost whip.  I like that he doesn't have that jockey and that the jockey on the 10, another seeming contender, is now on him.  I will give Sportcaster a try, too, second on turf route.  I will try them in a double with Penwith in R9.  I'm considering longshot 6.  

22 Feb 2014 3:46 PM
Rusty Weisner

Sorry, Kevin.  The Rusty curse!

22 Feb 2014 5:26 PM
Kevin

Rusty, story of my gambling.  My picks for the day were A Rod, intense holiday, constitution, and my best bet. 2 wins, close 2d, and nothing for my bet.  

22 Feb 2014 8:43 PM
Pedigree Ann

Don't beat yourself up, Kev. I was about to congratulate you for your perspicacity about those three races. I used General A Rod in the FoY for the TwinSpires showdown, but was confused about the Risen Star. I got it down to Hoppertunity and Albano and, just like usual, I picked the wrong one for my bet.

22 Feb 2014 10:08 PM
Plod Boy Phil

It's pretty clear that Constitution would have been buried in the FOY.

23 Feb 2014 9:12 AM
Rusty Weisner

Kevin,

Me, too.  My handicapping of the two preps was sound.  I liked Intense Holiday, period, by default, figuring him eligible to move forwards a few Beyer points, enough to win.

For the FOY, I was ambivalent, then I decided to play the three likely speed with Top Billing to get up for a piece:  three trifectas 12 with 4,5,8.  I had actually typed it up in a comment in this blog... Then, for no good reason, I tossed Wildcat Red...again, for no good reason.  If only I had posted it! -  I wouldn't have gone back on it, if only out of superstition.

There's handicapping, there's betting...then there's gambling.

23 Feb 2014 9:55 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Intense Holiday investors:  Well done.

23 Feb 2014 9:59 AM
Rusty Weisner

Kevin,

My whole drama is one the other thread, by the way.

I played the FOY as if it would be replay of last year's, with speed holding and this year's Orb equivalent getting up for a piece.  And that's what happened.

I'm interested in the Beyer for the Risen Star.  My prediction was a 90-92 would win it, and that Intense Holiday was the default candidate for getting that.  

It looks like the winner of the Derby may be coming out of Florida again, and Cairo Prince is looking even better now.  What are the plans for Top Billing?  I hope he runs in the Florida Derby and is meant for the Kentucky Derby.

23 Feb 2014 10:02 AM
Rusty Weisner

The FOY trifecta paid $36-1.  I would have bet $18.  That's an awfully hard way to make a buck at this.

23 Feb 2014 10:07 AM
Plod Boy Phil

A general betting idea:  

When your top selections on a given card are separated by more than one race, start making manual Win / Place parlay bets.  It's pretty simple, and rewarding, if you have access to the 'window's throughout the day.

For instance:  $2 WP on a 3-1 shot is likely to return ~$12.  Using the same strategy discussed in the past for show parlays,  pull the initial stake and bet the remaining money, $4 WP, on your next key horse. Imagine another 3-1 winner and another $12 return for every 2/2. Your return will be $24, and the two race sequence has produced a 6-1 return. In one runs second, there is some return on your investment.

Now, imagine (this won't be hard) the same sequence in which the two horse are separated by two races, yet the goal is to 'crush' the rolling gimmicks.  Suddenly, horses lacking the same plus factors as your better bets have diluted the opinion.  

Again, for me, there is something beneficial beyond the increasing bankroll to cashing tickets and being rewarded for good results.  Winning selections that are not accompanied by an extra zip in your step might as well be losers.

Of course,  I'm often wrong.

Good luck.

23 Feb 2014 10:19 AM
Rusty Weisner

The two New Yorkers are also legitimately strong.  That stretch battle reminded me of Funny Cide and Empire Maker in the Wood.  I hope this Wildcat Red is in the Derby so I can toss him.

23 Feb 2014 10:21 AM
Rusty Weisner

Another horse I hope to see in the Derby and toss is Vicar's In Trouble.  I would like to see him win the Louisiana Derby.  But I think he may have passed his high water mark.

23 Feb 2014 11:15 AM
Rusty Weisner

Plod Boy Phil,

Thank you for the advice - it's always appreciated.  But in my case it's falling on deaf ears and glazed eyes.

Just help me win the whole enchilada May 3!

Just kidding. Sort of.  I like this:

"Now, imagine (this won't be hard) the same sequence in which the two horse are separated by two races, yet the goal is to 'crush' the rolling gimmicks.  Suddenly, horses lacking the same plus factors as your better bets have diluted the opinion."

I am curious whether and when you play multi-race bets and how; your picks here are generally single picks at good odds.  I prefer multi-race to verticals because I usually feel like picking horses underneath a potential winner is too random and chaotic - it's only when I feel I really "visualize" the race do I try them.  

23 Feb 2014 11:28 AM
Kevin

Phil, why do you think Constitution would have been burried?  I don't think we've seen him run hard yet.  

23 Feb 2014 12:08 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Rusty -

I am in a number of pools on any given card.  As a Flow purist, my wagering keys are limited to upgrades only, thus races w/out upgrades (nones) frequently prevent me from making as many P3s, and certainly far fewer Pick 4 plays, than most.  Exactas are limited to upgrade only boxes, though I've always had a weakness for hedging with 'neutral' threats over finishing leg horses if the 'will pay' warrants.  The trifecta bet is rare for me, though I will box upgrades only for the minimum; the multi-upgrade race is not a favorite of mine.  Of course, Win and WP bets are a given,  unless I get greedy and try to crush.....

23 Feb 2014 12:12 PM
Coldfacts

The FOY turned out to be the tale of the two leaders and the two trailers. The two leaders went from gate to wire and the two trailers passed the rest of the field to occupy the two remaining slots on the board.

Both Top Billing and East Hall showed a lot of grit and determination to overcome bad post positions and a speed favoring track to get on the board. While Top Billing was expected to feature late, East Hall must have been a surprise to all but one. He was included at #12 in my dozen and has to some extent justified his inclusion.

We Miss Artie ran a disappointing race and was surprisingly far back at the start. He made a mid-race move but failed to sustain his bid. I guess his BCJ effort was a result of high octane administered for the big day. I guess it’s back to either turf or synthetic.

Commissioner ran as I expected. He was used early to stay in touch and found little in the stretch. His grinding running style is not suited to the ultra fast GP strip. He is a slow colt that has not improved in the speed department between races. He will need a top 3 finish somewhere to make the Derby. He is an imposing looking colt. His #7 ranking was always suspect based on his speed figures and running style.

Top Billing ran very hard and I just hate when a young horses is required to produce such all out effort on a speed favoring track from the back of the field. He was very tired at the end of the race as there was very little gallop out. He reminds me a little of Normandy Invasion. Will the extra 100M of the FL Derby and a better post be in his favor?  Certainly! However, if Honor Code and Havana are added to the field his task become more difficult as he will have to contend with three fast colts and an equally determine closer.  

23 Feb 2014 12:36 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Kevin -

It's as simple as reviewing the chart of the two races. The differences in the first two quarters of the races are enormous, yet the FOY not only ended up with a faster final time, it was achieved under duress by two horses that dueled head to head almost the entire 8.5f.  

Constitution was the w-w winner of a Speed favoring race that was inferior on so many levels.

The races are worlds apart.

23 Feb 2014 12:53 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Looking for my first posted winner at Oaklawn in 2014:

R5  8 Visionary Man (3-1) exits one extreme for speed and one very speed favoring event in his last two.  Changes scenery and steps up in claiming price needing a fair or + Flow race.

23 Feb 2014 2:34 PM
Kevin

Phil, Guess we will have to agree to disagree with Constitution.  Acknowledge what the charts say, but I saw a horse who wasn't pushed.  Hopefully we will get to find out during the Florida Derby.  I'd love for Top Billing, General A Rod, and Wildcat Red to return so I can get 7-1 or more on my horse.  

23 Feb 2014 4:38 PM
Ranagulzion

Going forward from this past weekend Derby preps, Vicars In Trouble confirmed my suspicions about his stamina limitations for the Kentucky Derby distance although I think that he still has a shot in the up coming La Derby. Intense Holiday and Albano continue to improve but are not elite contenders.

Top Billing confirmed his status among the elite Kentucky Derby hopefuls with a gutsy performance behind two underrated colts on a speed biased track.

Wildcat Red is a top class colt indeed that reminds me somewhat of Big Drama (very fast, rateable and hardly ever losing a race while showing a lot of grit and determination when challenged). His pedigree, like Big Drama's, makes him suspect at the Derby distance but his pace, class and dogged determination makes him a dangerous sort, not to be gnored.

General a Rod has Derby distance pedigree and acts like he'll definitely relish going further. This is a serious colt that doesn't back down from a stretch duel. Perhaps his connections should avoid another head to head gut-wrencher with Wildcat Red before their 1st Saturday in May appointment, in order to be at his best on the big day. This colt as earned his place among the elite.

I'll say one thing, whichever of these two or if both show up for the Florida Derby, Cairo Prince will have to improve (contrary to what his trainer thought) to overcome them, not to mention Top Billing and the extra half furlong of a truly run nine furlongs race.

Constitution appears to be Todd Pletcher's brightest Derby aspirant this year. He has a bright future and perhaps should not be 'thrown to the wolves' in the Florida Derby just yet. His stable companion Commissioner shold be pointed to the Belmont Stakes. He looks like the typical AP Indy progeny - a late developer that flatters to deceive early in the season. I think that if they don't rush him, that he'll be heard from in the Summer (Belmont and Travers).

23 Feb 2014 5:31 PM
Brontexx

Ranagulzion I see the Florida Derby much different if both General A Rod and Wildcat Red run the same race at 9 panels, Cairo Prince will settle and make a similar move as in the Holy Bull to win the FD.I also think Conquest Titan will finish ahead of Top Billing in that race.Honor Code is Shugs best hope if he can regain his 2yo form and Cairo Prince loss to him a small margin to him at 9 panels giving him 6 pounds.At equal weights I dont see anyone running in Florida that can beat him.

24 Feb 2014 8:05 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Allow me to rephrase the final sentence of my previous:

The performances by the top two in the FOY and that of Constitution are worlds apart.

24 Feb 2014 11:52 AM
Ranagulzion

Brontex: Cairo Prince is yet to run a 100 Beyer figure. Those two colts, Wildcat Red and General a Rod are very pacey runners that do not weaken. Also, Wilcat Red has already qualified for the Derby and may run only for conditioning since it would be unwise to go for another gut-wrenching stretch battle before the first Saturday in May. You never know how the trainers set their objectives because after all the Florida Derby is a Grade one event. We'll have to wait and see but at the moment I rank these two FOY graduates on the same level at least, with Cairo Prince.  

24 Feb 2014 5:49 PM
Pedigree Ann

As I expected, Rise Up couldn't handle decent class horses on a mile track; Albano ran him into the ground, even though the pace wasn't frenetic. The first two were more than 5 lengths ahead of the next horse; of those behind them, I think the big-and-big-striding, inexperienced Hoppertunity is the only other horse out of the field who should seriously consider remaining on the Derby Trail. Some of them could win stakes races in less exalted circles if they are not gutted by running over their heads for an owner with a 'FEVER.'

24 Feb 2014 9:31 PM
Brontexx

Ranagulzion Beyers are a  tool that shouldn't be used alone to pick out a winner of a race.Especially now that anyone that buys a racing form has this tool you wont get the overlays that Beyer himself exploited when he was the only one with the figures.

IMO Beyer speed figures are most useful for sprints,because in sprints in the US the race only has one turn, so ground loss,traffic etc are not issues.The figures use a lot of subjective reasoning to arrive at the final figure from the raw figure, and thus are not close to being an absolute science such as basic mathematics.

25 Feb 2014 7:40 AM
Rusty Weisner

Ranagulzion,

To take the most obvious comparison, last year Orb hadn't run a 100 Beyer (and didn't till the Derby), but Itsmyluckday had.  

25 Feb 2014 10:24 AM
KY VET

people(haskin) in other blog censoring people..............Apparently, as you age.....your skin gets thinner and thinner.......you dont have patience when others irritate you..........you become a "get off my lawn!" guy..............you only want to here how great your vanilla "horse overcame the odds" stories that make people cry......you forget free speech, avoid any criticism of a sport run so poorly.....with so many flaws....no leadership......people that dont understand the game implementing rules....etc........that you mail in fluff, after fluff piece........why not write about the many many problems this sport has?   Threatening to ban people or edit peoples post on a blog, is in a word weak.........it's a blog........there are villians and good guys......thats what makes the blog interesting......threatening to ban someone who says "you breeding people" is a joke......especially when another said same thing without any response.......you breeding people is nothing close to "you black, or chinese or any other race of people......not even close........coldcuts has a right to his idiotic stupid beliefs........he makes things interesting........listen....when many people were commenting on the sam davis winner being a top 10 contender, and someone says "people youve lost your minds" 82 beyer?  Its telling the truth.......do we all just respond to every post with "yea.....anything can happen?"...........No censorship!!!!    If you dont like something....post a disagreement.........but of course thats why shandler had to leave huh? thats why he had to agree not to post on any of these blogs huh?...oh.....forgot.....you people didnt want that to get out....

26 Feb 2014 8:15 PM
Coldfacts

KY VET,

I cannot recall ever having a pleasant exchange with you as you have made that impossible. However, as much as it pains me, I must agree with premise of your post.

Many bloggers are guilty of sensationalism and when they are called out on it they take offense.

In the case of Mr. Haskin, it appears he has been spoilt by his army of adoring supporters who seem to always agree with his every position and conclusion. It clear he is not accustom to being challenged.

I have not reviewed his summation of brutal honesty as it relate to me. I can just imagined how I was vilified and demonized. I have no time to read an analysis presumably loaded with negative views classified as brutal honesty, from someone that has been spoilt into believing that his positions and conclusions are above and beyond criticisms. It is interesting that when brutal honesty is directed to him, it results in anger.

Let me be clear Mr. Haskin is a very accommodating gentleman. I have nothing but respect for his body of work. However, his supporters reserve the right to post dissenting views so long as they are done within a respectful framework.

If he found my post in rebuttal of his conclusion that  Intense Holiday was a rising star, he was at liberty not to post same.

26 Feb 2014 9:20 PM
Coldfacts

KY VET,

I cannot recall ever having a pleasant exchange with you as you have made that impossible. However, as much as it pains me, I must agree with premise of your post.

Many bloggers are guilty of sensationalism and when they are called out on it, they take offense.

In the case of Mr. Haskin, it appears he has been spoilt by his army of adoring supporters who seem to always agree with his every position and conclusion. It is clear he is not accustomed to being challenged.

I have not reviewed his summation of brutal honesty for which I opened the door. I can just imagined how I was vilified and demonized. I have no time to read an analysis presumably loaded with negative views classified as brutal honesty, from someone that has been spoilt into believing that his positions and conclusions are above and beyond criticisms. It is interesting that when brutal honesty is directed to him, it results in anger.

Let me be clear, Mr. Haskin is a very accommodating gentleman. I have nothing but respect for his body of work. However, his supporters reserve the right to post dissenting views so long as they are done within a respectful framework.

If he found my post in rebuttal of his conclusion that  Intense Holiday was a rising star offensive, he was at liberty not to post same.

26 Feb 2014 9:50 PM
Little Bill

why not write about the many many problems this sport has?

Bad press = bad for business.  

27 Feb 2014 9:47 AM

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