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Road to Kentucky Week 1

The Oracle

Welcome to the 2011 Road to Kentucky handicapping contest! This is a 13 week contest featuring weekly and cumulative prizes. The Grand Prize is an entry to the National Handicapping Championship next January in Las Vegas! History shows that to win this contest you need about 13,000 points give or take a thousand. There are a lot of long and winding roads to nowhere and very few roads that actually lead to success, so let’s try to stay on path. We start the contest at Santa Anita with the featured Robert B. Lewis Stakes. There are also contest bonus races at Tampa Bay Downs and Golden Gate. Bonus races are worth double points so the goal is to find the horse in those spots that can knock out the favorite. If favorites win and we don’t have them, it doesn’t hurt that much. Even if the favorite wins, often times the longshots running second and third can produce more contest points. Good luck in Week 1.

Race 1: The opener is a maiden claiming route for 3yo’s. Not much speed on paper in this one and a few msw droppers to choose from. I selected Star Navigator who stretches out, gets P Val and might get brave with the early lead at ML 6-1. For those familiar with Quirin speed points, Star Navigator had a 4 point advantage in this race.

The Result: Money Included got up at 9/2 over T.K. Fortysix (2-1) and Magaride (7-1). This winner seemed rather unlikely as he was a multiple loser at the mcl level facing many class droppers today. On the plus side he was caught very wide in his last start and still rallied for third. The pace scenario for my pick didn’t materialize as three runners sprinted well clear in a sub 46.0 half mile and Star Navigator (9/2) was caught between horses. They don’t win from there.

Maximum Points: Money Included 190
Maximum Score: 190
My Score: 0

Race 2: This is a 1m starter allowance on the turf for fillies and mares 4+. I selected Ascot’s Highflyer (ML 4-1) who finished 2nd in her first start around 2 turns over a wet-fast track last time out. She has a good grass pedigree and faces a modest field in this spot. Trainer Ellis is winning over 30% with the second time turf angle.

The Result: Elegant (9/2) got up in the last stride over Ruby Lane (9/5) and Ancient Holiday (5-1). Elegant was making her first start around 2 turns and got the money for trainer Hess who was 1 for 55 with turf runners! That statistic had me looking elsewhere.

Maximum Points: Elegant 198
Maximum Score: 388
My Score: 0

Race 3: This is a 7f msw for 3yo’s. The heavy favorite in here is Albergatti (opened 1/5) off a very nice runner up try in his debut that earned a 90 Beyer speed figure. I decided to bypass the “free” points and try Chico d’Oro, a first time starter sired by Medaglia d’Oro and trained by Sadler. The Sadler/Rosario combo has been pretty strong and at ML 10-1 I thought it was worth a gamble.

The Result: Albergatti scored as the heavy chalk (1/2) over Chico d’Oro (8-1) and Purely Awesome (10-1). There was a successful bridge jump show bet on the winner. Chico d’Oro earned the most contest points for his runner-up finish.

Maximum Points: Chico d’Oro 78
Maximum Score: 466
My Score: 78

The Sam F Davis: The first bonus race of the day features Todd Pletcher’s Brethren, a half brother to last year’s Derby winner Super Saver. This colt figures to get a major share of the purse from post position 10, but as contests go we will try to beat the favorite as per usual. I selected Beamer, who scored impressively in his maiden win at Tampa, and then finished third behind a runaway winner at Gulfstream over a sloppy track. Beamer is trained by two-time Derby winner Carl Nafzger and is sired by former Juvenile Champion Vindication.

The Result: Brethren drew off like a heavy favorite should to win easily at 4/5, but the correct contest selection was the second place finisher Too Experience (31-1). Watch Me Go (30-1) finished third. Too Experience was 5 for 6 lifetime and had top Tampa jockey Centeno aboard. He hadn’t raced since November and shipped over from Calder to grab the place spot at a big price. My selection Beamer (8-1) ran on for 4th.

Maximum Points: Too Experience 520
Maximum Score: 986
My Score: 78

Race 4: This is another 1m turf route for fillies and mares 4+. You have to swallow pretty hard to select a horse that is 0 for 26, but I did land on the rail horse Unknown Heat (ML 9/2). She consistently runs races that are good enough to win here even though she never wins. She does look like a logical in-the-money horse.

The Result: Unknown Heat scored in her 27th start as the lukewarm 5/2 favorite over Bila Shaka (5/2) and Nana Beach (9/2). The three favorites dominated the action in this one. I wouldn’t expect this one to be a key race!

Maximum Points: Unknown Heat 132
Maximum Score: 1,118
My Score: 210

Race 5: This is a 20K claiming race sprint for 4+. I chose Positive Force trained by Chambers, who wins at a 47% clip second off the layoff. To be fair, most of that action is at Turf Paradise I believe. He has good early speed in a race without much speed on paper. He also has three wins on dirt and only the favorite shows a single win on dirt. The favorite is Bullfighter who also has speed and is dropping in class. He hasn’t been out since November for Baffert, who has cooled off a bit the past two weeks.

The Result: Position A won at a nice price of 9-1 over The Whammer (5-1) and Mensa Heat (19-1). The two favorites were off the ticket. Position A was dropping a notch in class for Spawr and switching to P Val. His 0 for 5 record at SA with 0 itm had me looking another direction. My selection got the lead as hoped but faded badly at 3-1 in a poor effort.

Maximum Points: Position A 358
Maximum Score: 1,476
My Score: 210

Race 6: This is the Robert B. Lewis at 1m1/8 for 3yo’s. Tapizar is the likely winner and taking all the early money (currently 1/9). He probably wins but like the Sam F. Davis maybe the runner-up will be worth more points. I selected Anthony’s Cross who was also entered at Golden Gate but chose this spot. He was handily defeated by Tapizar last time out but has trained well since and adds blinkers today. He did beat Tapizar last November at Churchill Downs. Maybe he improves a ton in his second start off the layoff.

The Result: Something went amiss for Tapizar today as he sprinted clear and then offered no resistance on the turn. He looked a bit rank early as if he didn’t want to be rated and that is a potentially huge problem for the Asmussen camp. It was a battle to the wire between Anthony’s Cross (8-1) and Riveting Reason (7-1) and Anthony’s Cross got the nod. Tapizar’s fade also created huge show prices for the horses that finished in-the-money. Quail Hill grabbed 3rd at 68-1. It will be interesting to read what Asmussen has to say about Tapizar after this debacle.

Maximum Points: Anthony’s Cross 844
Maximum Score: 2,320
My Score: 1,054

Race 7: This is an optional claimer on the hill for 4+. I chose Cherokee Heaven who is pretty chalky but this runner has 3 wins on the SA turf and makes his second start off the layoff. Trainer Jones is over 30% with the second off angle.

The Result: Earnednevergiven (4-1) outgamed Cherokee Heaven (2-1) and Leroy’s Dynameaux (6-1) finished third. The winner was 2 for 3 on the SA turf and 4 for 9 on the turf overall. He also had defeated Cherokee Heaven last time out. In hindsight probably the wrong horse was favored in this race.

Maximum Points: Earnednevergiven 180
Maximum Score: 2,500
My score: 1,118

Race 8: This is the 1m1/16 Santa Maria for fillies and mares 4+. St. Trinians was last seen in June 2010 losing a very close race to Zenyatta. Mitchell is deadly off a long layoff; the only possible negative is that she has never run on dirt. I couldn’t beat her on paper so I settled on the heavy favorite in this spot. Two scratches leave a field of 5.

The Result: Vision in Gold stepped up for Ellis and scored at 5-1 over Zardana (9/2) and St. Trinians (4/5). No excuse for the big favorite, she drew even at the top of the lane and was outfinished. The winner had a win over the SA main track in her previous start.

Maximum Points: Vision in Gold 204
Maximum Score: 2,704
My Score: 1,142

El Camino Real Derby: This is the final bonus race of the contest and features another heavy favorite Comma to the Top. He scratched from the Santa Anita race for this easier spot and has won five consecutive races by daylight. I selected Positive Response who has won his last three at Golden Gate and has the home track advantage. He appeared to be second best on paper.

The Result: Another heavy favorite bit the dust as Silver Medallion (6-1) won it over Jukes (12-1) and Positive Response (5/2). Comma to the Top (1/2) tracked the early leader and came up empty in the stretch while appearing to bear out. His fourth place finish triggered big show payoffs for the top three finishers. Baze at 6-1 in Northern California. Rare indeed…

Maximum Points: Silver Medallion 636
Maximum Score: 3,340
My Score: 1,290

Race 9: This is a 1m turf allowance race for 3yo fillies. I took the speed on the rail Scarlet Starlet who wired a maiden turf sprint in her debut at 29-1. She recently finished third in a Graded Stake on the main track. The kicker is it was a three horse race. Trainer O’Neill is a rather unlikely 61% with the dirt to turf move.

The Result: When in doubt take the Euro shipper on the grass. That’s the lesson as Bonita Star parlayed some suspect Euro form to victory at 22-1! Wave of Applause (2-1) finished second and Recipient (9-1) was third. Often times that first Lasix wakes up those Euro horses and they get overlooked by the public. Scarlet Starlet (9/2) faded late.

Maximum Points: Bonita Star 690
Maximum Score: 4,030
My Score: 1,290

Race 10: The finale is a 12.5K claiming sprint for 4+. I went to the rail horse Zulu King (ML 8-1) who plunges in class after being soundly defeated against much tougher. He needs to overcome a lack of early speed and the rail combination which isn’t a recipe for long term success.

The Result: Peacock Alliance was the logical 2-1 winner but bomber Warren’s Prancer was an illogical second at a huge price. Swongs finished third. Warren’s Prancer was the top point horse for contest purposes and his place price is capped at 400 points. If you found him on paper, let me know how you did it. He had finished dead last in his prior three starts and looked hopelessly overmatched.

Maximum Points: Warren’s Prancer 566
Maximum Score: 4,596
My Score: 1,290

Summary: There should be a few scores over 2,000 today and if you made it to 1,500 that’s a good start. Two very big favorites were busts in the bonus races, which helped generate some big point totals for the day. Brethren looks like a legit Derby contender for Pletcher as he was a very impressive winner. The California horses look a little shaky right now. Back next week for Fair Grounds.