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Road to Kentucky – Week 1

Hello everyone, welcome to the Road to Kentucky weekly blog recap – year 2. Every year, Canterbury Park offers a three-month long contest culminating with the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.

The winner of the Road to Kentucky contest receives a trip to the Horse Player World Series next year at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The contest starts at the Fair Grounds and there are three Bonus Races in today’s contest: the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, and the Whirlaway at Aqueduct.

Good luck to all.

Race 1: The first race is an Alw44000N1X for fillies and mares at 1m40 yards. I selected Violetinha who breaks from the rail and is ML 9/2 odds. This filly is moving from turf to dirt and stretching out in distance. She didn’t handle the turf well in her last effort, but shows a strong series of three workouts since her last start. She was battling for the lead in her two previous dirt sprints and may settle nicely over a route of ground. I’m expecting her to go for the lead from the inside post. I tabbed Acacia and Victory Romance as the main contenders.

The Result: Favored Acacia took advantage of a pace battle between my selection and Victory Romance, and scored easily at 4/5 odds. Syrianna’s Song rallied for second and Victory Romance held third. My selection never got the clear lead I was hoping for and faded down the lane at 3-1 odds.

Maximum Points: Acacia 85
Maximum Score: 85
My Score: 0

Race 2: This was a MSW44K for La bred 3yo’s at 6f. I selected Swing N Jones (9/2 ML), a first time starter trained by William Calhoun. Swing N Jones is by the very strong debut sire Seneca Jones, who gets 19% debut winners. Calhoun and jockey Castanon have combined for 6 wins from 10 starts at the Fair Grounds meet thus far. The likely favorite will be Seven Mile Bridge, but he has lost as the favorite four consecutive times. Even if he wins, there’s no value in going that particular direction. My contender group also included Down the Road, South Line, and Pack of Lies.

The Result: Down the Road sprinted clear early and cruised to an easy victory at 5-1 odds. Augustus Macray rallied for second and Coach Carroll finished third. My selection rallied to contention on the turn but faded down the lane. Favored Seven Mile Bridge faltered in a poor effort.

Maximum Points: Down the Road 244
Maximum Score: 329
My Score: 0

Race 3: This was an OC30K/N4L for La breds 4+ at 6f. It looked extremely wide open on paper and I selected the entry of Taylortown and Time Is Crucial (6-1 ML) to hopefully stalk a fast early pace put in a strong bid down the stretch. I preferred Time Is Crucial of the two runners, as he showed a very sharp workout since his last race and was switching back to jockey E Perrodin. Perrodin scored on this horse 3 starts back at 10-1 odds. My contender group also included Sprightly Star, Double Helix, Belend, Cush, and Baruff (just about everybody else!).

The Result: Cush scored an easy victory as the favorite. Belend was second and Time is Crucial was up for third. The strong pace battle that I envisioned never materialized.

Maximum Points: B B Frank 100
Maximum Score: 429
My Score: 22

Race 4: This was the 43rd running of the Pan Zareta for fillies and mares 4+ at 6f. Two scratches left a field of only four runners. I selected Precious Kiss from the outside post as she showed a series of sharp workouts since her last start. Jacinto rides.

The Result: Precious Kiss rallied for the win with Classify second and P.S.U. Grad running third. With the 4 horse field, there was only win-place wagering available.

Maximum Points: Precious Kiss 96
Maximum Score: 525
My Score: 118

Race 5: This was the 22nd running of the Colonel Power at 5.5f on the turf. This looked like a 2-horse race on paper between Storm Treasure and Chamberlain Bridge. I selected Chamberlain Bridge with the better early speed, hoping to turn the tables on Storm Treasure who defeated him in their last meeting.

The Result: Chamberlain Road powered home to a wire to wire victory as the 3/2 favorite. Grand Traverse finished second and there was a dead heat for third between Storm Treasure and Rouse the Cat.

Maximum Points: Chamberlain Road 107
Maximum Score: 632
My Score: 225

Race 6: This is the 24th running of the Mineshaft Handicap for 4+ at 1m1/16th. My selection was My Pal Charlie, who was a hero in last years Road to Kentucky contest when he finished 2nd at 60-1 in the Louisiana Derby right here at Fair Grounds. My Pal Charlie has 2 of his 3 career wins at Fair Grounds and jockey Bourque rode him to victory in the Super Derby last year; lots to like in this difficult spot. Others in my contender group are Grasshopper and Honest Man.

The Result: My Pal Charlie got the lead in a pretty easy pace, but must have needed the race as Honest Man blew by him down the stretch to win going away. Good and Lucky rallied for second and Brothers Nicholas finished third. My Pal Charlie tired to fourth as the 5/2 second choice.

Maximum Points: Honest Man 134
Maximum Score: 766
My Score: 225

Aqueduct Race 8: This was The Whirlaway for 3yo’s at 1m1/16th, a double point bonus race. The heavy favorite will be Haynesfield who is exiting three consecutive victories. I decided to go a different direction and selected the probable pace setter Mike From Queens (ML 5-1). My selection finished 3rd behind Haynesfield in his last start, but he was pressured on a fast pace and he continues to improve race by race. He has some upside potential as an alternative to the favorite, although Haynesfield will probably win the race.

The Result: Haynesfield toyed with this group as he even grabbed the early lead from the inside post and drew away at odds of 2/5. Cellar Dweller rallied for second at odds of 16-1 and Mike From Queens was third at 5-1 odds. Cellar Dweller got the most contest points for his second place finish.

Maximum Points: Cellar Dweller 224
Maximum Score: 990
My Score: 285

Race 7: This was The Fair Grounds Handicap Grade III for 4 yo’s at 1m1/8 on the turf. Many ways to go here, I decided to try Demarcation (ML 9/2) as he exited a win at the distance at Churchill Downs in his last start at 33-1 odds. Castanon remains aboard after a 2.5 month layoff. The Racing Form comment noted that Demarcation had won twice off layoffs in 2007 although that doesn’t show up in the horses past performances. This is a very tough race; I tried to avoid the favorite with my selection. I’m guessing Demarcation goes to post above his Morning Line odds. My contender group also included Jimmy Simms, French Beret, Corrupt, Windward Islands, and Diamond Tycoon.

The Result: Diamond Tycoon rallied into a slow pace and scored at 7/2 odds. Favored Windward Islands ran second and Corrupt finished third. My selection made a brief bid on the far turn but flattened out at 4-1 odds.

Maximum Points: Diamond Tycoon 172
Maximum Score: 1,162
My score: 285

Race 8: This was the 28th running of The Silverbulletday Grade III for 3yo fillies at 1m1/16th. I selected Four Gifts from the rail, getting the rider switch to Albarado after losing as the favorite in her last start to race rival Just Jenda. My selection defeated Just Jenda two starts back at Delta Downs, so these two fillies are evenly matched. Neither will be much of a price but Just Jenda is the ML favorite. War Echo trained by Steve Asmussen also merited some consideration in my view.

The Result: Four Gifts made a winning move into the stretch but was run down late by the “other” Asmussen horse War Echo. Those two finished far ahead of the others. Just Jenda was a distant third at even money. Bridgmohan had left Four Gifts to ride War Echo, perhaps that was the angle in play that pointed towards this filly. She ran a big one.

Maximum Points: War Echo 200
Maximum Score: 1,362
My Score: 351

Race 9: This is the feature, the 36th running of The Risen Star Grade III for 3yo at 1m1/16. I’m taking a chance with Larry Jones’ “other horse”, It Happened Again (ML 10-1). This colt tries a route of ground for the first time in his career after exiting a victory going short at Delta Downs. Trainer Jones commented that he thought his two colts were very similar in ability, and since his other colt is the probable favorite Friesan Fire I thought I would go for the much better odds in this spot. This race is so tough that it’s really the better strategy to try a longshot in my view. Unless the favorite wins…My contender group also included Nowhere to Hide, Uno Mas, and Flying Pegasus in addition to the two Jones’ colts. I didn’t care for highly regarded Indygo Mountain after reading that trainer Calhoun didn’t think he had his horse fully cranked for this one after missing some earlier training. We shall see…

The Result: Jones now knows which of his colts is better, and unfortunately it wasn’t my selection. Friesan Fire ran very well, staying near a quick pace and continuing on down the lane to defeat longshots Flying Pegasus and Uno Mas. Indygo Mountain rallied wide and flattened out, and Giant Oak had no visible excuse while passing tired horses. Friesan Fire has

stamped himself as a legitimate Derby contender with this win. Some of these will drop away and others will move forward to the next opportunity.

Maximum Points: Friesan Fire 312
Maximum Score: 1,674
My Score: 351

Race 10: This was an ALW46000N1X for La bred fillies and mares 4+ at 6f. I didn’t have any original insight here and selected the probable favored entry (ML 2-1) as it looked like both halves of the entry were strong win candidates. These two ran 1-2 in their last outing against claimers and I envisioned a similar result today.

The Result: This was the one you needed to win the contest today. Jockey Graham, who has ridden quite a few big priced winners at Fair Grounds this meet, put Miracleinthemaking in the winners’ circle at gigantic odds of 40-1. The horse was very tough to find, although he had finished second three starts back at this level at 20-1 and had won twice last year at Evangeline Downs. In his last start, he had a bad start and never factored. Today he showed tremendous early speed and just kept running. Congratulations to those who found this winner! My selection went off at even money and had every chance down the lane while finishing third. Not very good!

Maximum Points: Miracleinthemaking 1,018
Maximum Score: 2,692
My Score: 373

Race 11: This was a MSW42K for 3yos at 6f. Another race where I couldn’t see past favored Hillswick (ML 5/2). He ran a very strong third in his career debut in a swiftly run key race. He looks too tough against these and appears to be a short priced winner.

The Result: Not so fast…a pair of first time starters finished 1-2 as my selection had a lot of trouble early and finished a distant third at even money. Congratulations if you found the winner Hull or the second place finisher Trip in Time as they both scored 166 points.

Maximum Points: Hull 166
Maximum Score: 2,858
My Score: 395

Santa Anita Race 8: This was the 71st running of the Robert B. Lewis Grade II for 3yos at 1m1/16th. Another very difficult bonus race, I selected Shafted, a seemingly very talented Mineshaft colt who exits a maiden win after having some trouble at the start and closing into a slow pace. This is really just a guess so I’m hoping for something close to 10-1 odds at post time. I know the probable favorite Pioneer of the Nile already has enough earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, so he is probably not in this race to win it. Baffert did make a comment about getting his horse some experience. No clue in puzzler…

The Result: It appeared that longshot Papa Clem had pulled the shocker at 17-1, but favored Pioneer of the Nile got up in the final strides to stamp himself a top Derby contender on the West coast. Baffert mentioned after the race that he would not send Pioneer of the Nile out of California until the Kentucky Derby. Papa Clem was the top point getter in the race and ran extremely well in defeat. My selection was bet down to 6-1, but never factored in a poor effort.

Maximum Points: Papa Clem 416
Maximum Score: 3,274
My Score: 395

Summary: The play of the day was to find “name play” Miracleinthemaking in the tenth at Fair Grounds. That winner combined with a few points here and there should put you squarely in the top 6 for the week. There aren’t any other races that point half of what that horse was worth. Other than that, it was a pretty formful day for winners. Papa Clem was a good contest horse as well. As a rule of thumb, if you can get about 2/3 of the maximum points on any given day, you should be right near the top. I would expect the winning score to be somewhere around 2,000 points this week. You will find the scores posted on the R2K web page each Thursday.

I can’t blog the contest next week but I will be back in two weeks with hopefully more winners than I had today. Good Luck!

The Oracle