Two weeks until the 2014 Kentucky Derby and time for some end of the week random thoughts on horse racing.
Saturday;'s Lexington drew a field of 11, and while none of the contenders can earn enough points to vault them into the Top 20 for the Kentucky Derby, the field looks fairly deep and competitive on paper.
Mr. Speaker draws morning line favorite status at 5/2 but he'll be making his first ever start over a synthetic surface after picking up two wins, a second and a third over grass. Sire Pulpit is above average with runners on synthetics, so the surface switch might not be too big of a deal. On the other hand, he might be a tad over bet given his inexperience over the surface and perhaps there's a better bet to be found.
Horses in the Lexington field with prior experience and success over a synthetic surface include:
2-Solitary Ranger (6/1): 6-2-2-0 on synthetics
3-Dynamic Impact (10/1): 1-0-1-0
4-Poker Player (10/1): 3-1-1-0
7-Ami's Holiday (10/1): 4-2-0-1
10-Supermonic (8/1): 1-1-0-0
Supermonic enters the Lexington off of a blow-out win versus N1Xers at Keeneland and at a mile and a sixteenth just five days ago. Pletcher wheels him back for one more shot over a surface he obviously likes a lot. Those 8/1 ML odds probably won't last long; I could see Supermonic at 5/1 or 4/1 by post time.
The relegated-to-the-back-of-the-pack-by-Churchill-Downs Illinois Derby is Saturday at Hawthorne Park where a field of eight will contest the mile and an eighth journey. Baffert's Midnight Hawk is the most notable name in the field and the odds-on 4/5 morning line favorite. Midnight Hawk has never run worse than third in his career but he came up short in the Lewis, San Felipe and Sunland Derby over his last three starts.
I'd try to handicap this race but I believe I'm 0-for-1,253,452,476 - or something like that - at Hawthorne.
Speaking of tracks where I'm zero-since-Disco, the G3-Miami Mile at Calder drew a full field of twelve (plus two MTOs and one AE) for the one mile trip around the south Florida oval. Hey Leroy (4/1) comes into the Miami Mile off of a tough win at Gulfstream in the G3-Appleton and he draws well to the inside of race favorite Summer Front (5/2). The two favorites both like to come from off of the pace and there appears to be plenty of speed in the field to set things up for their late-running style.
Padilla (10/1) is one of the more intriguing speed horses in this race after he set very quick splits and fought on well at the end in each of his last two starts. The Miami Mile is a big step up in class for this colt, and the two late-running favorites will be tough to fend off in the final furlong, but I could see Padilla running a big effort in this spot.
Remember Travelin Man, winner of the Swale and second in the Hutcheson as a three year old colt? The connections put him on the lawn for the first time two races back (both at the distance of five panels) and now he's ready to try graded stakes company. And while Travelin Man hasn't embarrassed himself in his two turf tries, the surface switch hasn't caused much of an improvement in form.
Charles Town Classic
The $1.5 million Charles Town Classic is set for Saturday night (post time 10:30 p.m. Eastern), with a field of seven led by Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude (4/5). Moreno (3/1), New York shipper Long River (6/1) , and Clubhouse Ride (6/1) offer some competition from outside sources, while Lucy's Bob Boy (12/1) carries the hopes of the Charles Town locals.
You'd think a race for $1.5 million would draw more than a field of seven but, I suppose, those are the times the sport of horse racing lives in.
I was out at Emerald Downs last weekend for a nice sunny opening to the 2014 racing season, which allowed me to try out the new EmeraldBet.com mobile wagering interface. BetEmerald.com is a site which allows you to place your bets via your mobile device while at the track; Del Mar and Santa Anita began offering similar services over the past year and it's a nice option if you like to get comfortable in a certain portion of the track without constantly walking to the windows to place your wagers.
It took about five minutes to set up my account at EMD; I filled out a short piece of paper, got my card, went to one of the SAM machines and loaded my voucher or my money onto my account. I then logged into the BetEmerald.com site on my phone and, voila, I could make any bet on Emerald or their simulcast tracks from any spot at the track.
Typically, the lines are not exceptionally long at Emerald (much like most tracks), so mobile wagering isn't really saving time from waiting in line or from getting shut out. But what it does allow is the option to stay where I'm at prior to a race, like the paddock or the rail, and simply make my bets from that location rather than giving up my spot to go to the teller.
Like a lot of players, I'm a creature of habit; I have spots where I like to set up for the day, whether it's at the paddock, along the rail, or perhaps a quiet corner of the clubhouse within easy view of multiple TVs. Additionally, on Saturday I sat in a grandstand box where I bet on the simulcast feed from Oaklawn and Keeneland, and I found the ability to bet from my phone allowed me to wait until the very last minute to get my bet instead of walking up to the window and staring at the TVs and then rushing to get the ticket in right before the gate opens. It's not a big deal by any means, but simply a more convenient way for many of us to bet. And tracks should always be looking to making betting as easy and as technologically up to date as possible.
The best thing about the mobile site wagering (from my experience): it keeps track of your bets throughout the day, which are easily recalled by tapping "My Bets" on the home screen. Normally I write down every wager I make when I'm on track but once in a while there are gaps in my record keeping, especially on days that are more hectic., or perhaps by pieces of paper get damaged or thrown out. With EmeraldBet.com, and similar services, I recalled my bets at the end of the day, made my appropriate notes and was done. No second guessing as to whether I had ripped up a ticket and forgot to record the wager, just an easy to recall history of my betting.
BetEmerald.com only works when on-site at Emerald Downs - it's not an ADW which you can use to bet while at home - but it's a great option for wagering when at the track.