My thoughts on the past weekend. Ignore them at your own peril.
I learned a number of things this weekend: Game on Dude is exactly like I thought, the best of the West Coast handicap horses; Wise Dan's last effort was a complete toss due to the "fast" plastic; I stink at trying to beat favorites that I only see as partly vulnerable; European horses on the turf are ALWAYS the play.
Before I get to anything, I want to give credit to Matt. Our Most Glorious Leader, despite the new job, different hours, having to post my articles for me since I have stupid computers, and his own life (ha! as if) he continues to do an amazing job here putting up with our guff. Thanks. Just wish the mothership thought more of it. And for the record, I liked the old job's hours better...
But as the Classic ended, (and for the record, my pick of Moreno was purely a tantrum; I played Declaration of War and Will Take Charge) I took the time to look through my Twinspires account summary to see where I had succeeded and failed over the past season. If you haven't done the same on your ADW account, I fully encourage a detailed scrubbing of results, it is truly educational. As my handicapping has matured (and thankfully, gotten better) I've continually looked to improve betting strategy, which is my weak point. Finding winners is great, but not capitalizing on them (both literally and intellectually) is what continually kills me. But here's what I found:
With that in mind, I know where to refocus my efforts in the upcoming months. But I don't bring this up to either tout or denigrate my handicapping, but instead as a reflection on Breeders' Cup weekend. These notes are going to be quick and hectic, aka my normal style.
Strength 1: Win bets. I, for the year, posted a small profit. I'll take that all day long, even if the profits are in essence infinitesimal
- Strength 2: Show bets. Just in the red by a few percentage points, but again, not bad.
- Weakness 1: EVERYTHING ELSE. I've hit some good exactas, and they're my favorite thing to play, but overall it's not a good return for me. Which is odd, since I usually have some success with P3s when actually at the track.
My handicapping for the weekend was actually ok. In my eternally useless search for value, I shot myself in the foot. I identified more than my share of winners (Wise Dan, Secret Circle, Mizdirection, Groupie Doll, Dank, Outstrip, and I'll count She's a Tiger too) but did not actually cash as many sizable tickets as I should have. I have to learn to take the money in front of me instead of ignoring my handicapping and looking for something else. But oh well, have to learn and move forward. But I do know that I'll stick to wins and shows from now on.
Wise Dan better be Horse of the Year again. Game on Dude essentially did the same thing last year and still lost. But let's look at this a different way: Each major division's leader didn't show enough to unseat Dan-
- Juvenile: Ha!vana (see what I did there) didn't do enough, obviously
- Juvenile Fillies: Lots of good ones, but nothing utterly dominant that it would take to be HOTY
- Sprinters: Nope. Secret Circle will probably walk away with honors off of two races. Mizdirection/Groupie Doll didn't run enough.
Distaff: Royal Delta lost her last two starts but was still clearly the best.
- 3yo Filly: Princess of Sylmar couldn't beat the track on Friday (and the Beholder argument is just silly)
3yo Colt: Nooooope, but Will Take Charge definitely wrapped it all up.
- Turf: Nobody. Maybe Big Blue Kitten? but I'd still take Dan over any Kitty here.
- Turf filly/mare: Dank won two races and will win the Eclipse too.
Handicap: Dude showed he's not a champion. Mucho Macho Man essentially won two races. Fort Larned was wickedly inconsistent.
- Mile: Dan won every race he was in, minus a "Turf" "Mile" at Keeneland.
The vote for HOTY seems pretty straightforward to me. Had Little Mike done this year what he had last, he'd be my vote easily, but this year was a remarkably odd one in that the most dominant horses didn't show up at Breeders' Cup (Dude and Royal Delta) other than Dan the Man.
And since we're talking about Eclipse Awards, how amazing in Gary Stevens. My favorite betting angle right now is 2nd time Stevens up and I wantonly ignored it in the Classic. Really, truly is amazing what he's doing. Had Joel not gotten hurt, he probably would have wrapped it up by now, but his absence in August and September really pushed Gary to the forefront of the conversations, and he put a bow on the statue with his Distaff and Classic victories.
As vocal as I was on Friday about the shamefully biased condition of the track at Santa Anita was as pleased as I was on Saturday. Yes, it still favored speed as there were tons of runners that held on after suicidal fractions. But it was better, and that's a testament to the grounds crew at Santa Anita. Well done. Just do that the entire week leading up to the races next year. I agree with Matt in the comments that these races are not truly a Championship. But at the same time to knowingly run on a track that basically writes off a third of the field that wants to come from off the pace, or a condition that just does not allow a radioactive pace to meltdown is really doing a disservice to the sport as you now come to emphasize speed instead of quality (not saying these are mutually exclusive, but trainers would be forced to make horses run more forwardly to be truly competitive) in the so-called World Championships. So well done, Santa Anita to make it better, which is all you can ask for.
I want Declaration of War to stand at Ashford. I'd die to breed to him. War Fronts are remarkable though, aren't they? I don't think you get a turf or dirt or synthetic horse with him. Instead you get a good horse that you can choose to run on any of the three. that sure sounds like a good dea... crap, he's $150,000. Anyone got that laying around? Anyone?
What is up with the dearth of true talent in the 2yo colt division? Seems like the best talent are fillies with My Conquestadory, She's a Tiger, Ria Antonia (now I know this) and some others. Havana looks like the best of the colts, maybe New Years Day is part of the conversation now. You really have to go overseas to find the best colts in War Command, Toormore, Outstrip, and the venerable (and presumptive Cartier Award Winner) No Nay Never. And for the record, Vorda was the best in the Fillies Turf, just got caught in traffic. Maybe some connections of these fillies will take a shot at the Derby Trail. I know Ria Antonia's owners have already talked about it.
Best of luck to Johnny V. Really a shame for the Westrock connections and also for the connections of all the horses that were checked up behind the accident. I feel worst for Rosie Napravnik. I thought she had a live mount in there too.
JP, teach me some of your wise ways. And I will take you up on that beer, whether it is a week or 10 years from now. Make it either Mug night or Pint night (I'm guessing those still exist) and you can save a buck!
I know I'm the only one that cares, but there's some good TV on tomorrow. Fasig-Tipton starts tomorrow at 4PM EST. For you, Matt, In Lingerie sells in foal to Frankel. Wanna go halves?
Ok, I had plenty of other things to talk about, but I've lost myself in watching football and trying to find the bottom of this pint. Until next time.