The Road to Kentucky Week 2 Recap

the dude

The Road to Kentucky led us to Santa Anita racetrack this week for a nine race contest slate. The featured Robert B. Lewis was the double point bonus race, and there were also two other Grade II Stakes events on the undercard.

It turned out to be a very good day for logical contenders, as 6 of 9 winners went postward at 5/2 odds or lower, and two other winners paid 3-1 and 4-1, respectively. In 3 of those 8 races, longshots managed to finish second and generated more contest points than the winner. But overall, it was a tough day for the contrarian approach.

Ironically, the lone longshot winner of the day occurred in the race that also included the shortest-priced favorite of the day. The Grade II San Antonio Stakes featured the return of Game On Dude, the now 7-year old gelding trained by Bob Baffert. “The Dude” is a California fan favorite who has dominated West Coast Graded Stakes races for the better part of three years. Today he was facing a field of runners who hadn’t won a single Grade I race amongst them, and the public had no fear in making him the prohibitive 3/10 favorite. When the gate opened, Blueskiesnrainbows, the second choice in the race trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, went after Game on Dude and the two raced in tandem through an opening half-mile in a rapid 46.2 seconds. The speed duel doomed both horses by the top of the stretch, and it was evident by the 16th pole that heavily favored “Dude” would not even hold the show position.

Note: It was tweeted by DRF Jay Privman before the race that Game On Dude was wearing a quarter crack patch on his inside right front. Perhaps meaningless, perhaps not, but this race result illustrates why I strongly encourage playing against odds-on horses in pick and pray formats such as this one. Even when they win, the second place horse will often generate more points, and the point bonanza available when the heavy favorite runs out of the trifecta is well worth the risk.

The winning horse was Blingo, a 15-1 longshot trained by John Shirreffs. He generated 652 contest points for his victory, aided by a giant show payoff (capped at 200 points) made possible by Game on Dude’s failing to finish in the trifecta. Finishing second was 26-1 Imperative, who generated 322 contest points. He was the second highest contest point horse on the day. Correctly selecting this winner gave you a nice advantage in going for the weekly prize.

The maximum points available this week was 2,138, and with only one longshot winner I expect the scores to be quite bunched. A 1,300 point total should put you squarely in contention for the top prize, and 1,400 would likely be a winner.

My contest score was marginally better than last week. (Insert joke here). I managed to hit the board three times with longshots, but missed the ticket in the important San Antonia Stakes with Willyconker (50-1). When El Nino Terrible (45-1) didn’t contend in the Robert Lewis, it effectively ended my contest day.

Next week the contest is at Golden Gate Fields and the bonus race is the El Camino Real. Hope to see you here.

The Oracle

Who is Your Horse of the Year?

Wise DanAs 2012 draws to a close, the debate over the Horse of the Year heats up. It’s a contentious group this year without any overwhelming favorite. Who did you think was the best of 2012? Here’s a look at the field:

Fort Larned – He’d fit the mold of HOY most years, winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well as the Whitney (G1), but this year it’s not so cut and dry. While he leads the way in the older handicap division, this division has had its share of back-and-forth jabs for top honors, and he has lost a couple of times against horses not even mentioned in HOY conversation. While the length and five length defeats are understandable, the bomb in the Stephen Foster puts a significant blemish on his record. He did endure a rough trip that day but with the resumes his competition have put forth, it may cost him.

Groupie Doll – This filly has not ducked her competition this year and has become a new animal with blinkers. A win in the Cigar Mile would have bolstered her chances at this honor but she will attract attention for continuing her campaign past the Breeders’ Cup. In a division that doesn’t put many G1s on the table, she certainly rose to the occasion every time. You just don’t see many distaff sprinters overtaking HOY honors, Ta Wee being one of the few that comes to mind. Just think if the blinkers had been on since the start!

Game On Dude – Didn’t he kind of blow it? The boys came to play in his sandbox and he didn’t show up. As nice of a record as he’s put together he’s the big fish in a small pond. Any time he faces double digits in a field it just doesn’t seem to work out for him, where his weapon (SPEED) isn’t as effective with pressure. With the game of musical jockeys being played on him lately, it appears they’re working out the kinks and should have him ready for another good run at HOY next year.

I’ll Have Another – The Derby & Preakness winner would have been a slam dunk around June 1st, but he has had his reputation muddled with his sale to Japan and the Belmont scratch. Even if he is voted Horse of the Year, it’d revive the tales of O’Neill’s suspension, injury, etc. His name has all but disappeared from tongues of turf writers, and deservedly so. Just another casualty of the Triple Crown Trail in 2012 (And there were quite a few this year.)

Little Mike – Three turf horses are in the conversation this year, but he appears to be the least likely prospect to end up with the award. It’s not that Little Mike can’t run, it’s that he bounces. Good race, bad race, good race, bad race. That last bad race was a bomb, not the kind of impression you want to leave on those thinking of betting you in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Give the horse credit for coming from a place he normally doesn’t, but I don’t think that upset constitutes Horse of the Year.

Point of Entry – This is another of the grass runners in contention, but he too would be a mild surprise. Put an impressive string of wins together this spring/summer, but like Game On Dude found a lot of the same faces next to him in the starting gate. He’s another one with a bright future but this year probably isn’t his for a crowning.

Royal Delta – Bill Mott’s wonder filly kept right on rolling this year, though she took her share of defeat among a very impressive campaign. She racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles this year, taking in seven different tracks this year while only missing the board against males in Dubai. The field she beat in the Ladies’ Classic was as deep as has ever been put together for the race, and despite being taken out of her style she still drew off with authority. She can beat you in a number of ways and she’s only four – while she may have a tough time swaying votes from Wise Dan she would be in the hunt for me if not for that debacle in Dubai.

Wise Dan – The front-runner and deservedly so. Without Ron the Greek to spoil the party this would be a very, very easy decision. He still is an overwhelming favorite for HOY honors, and what I can say you’ve probably seen at one point or another on paper. He’ll run on broken glass if they put up enough purse money, and he’ll win on the front or from behind. While dirt may be his one weakness, he still gallantly made a run in the Stephen Foster and defeated his main HOY competition (Fort Larned) in the process. Milers generally don’t get their due in Eclipse voting, but this year may break the mold.

DRF has past performances available for all divisional contenders in the Eclipse Awards, available here.

Who would you vote for? Comment below with your choice or comments!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann just completed her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.