Race of the Week 2017

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Maryland's Own GQ

Field of 6 at Santa Anita is a Sham(e) for a Derby Prep

Top Fortitude and Kayla Stra.
Photo: Betfair Hollywood Park

From the conclusion of the Breeders’ Cup during the first weekend in November through the end of the year, thoroughbred horse racing, as far as national coverage, goes into hibernation. With the new year, every horse turns a year older, and with that every owner who had a 2-year-old colt that showed promise in 2013 begins to dream of being at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May for the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

Getting a 3-year-old into the starting gate for the Run for the Roses took on a new twist last year. The Churchill Downs Corporation formed a committee which developed a “point system” to determine the pecking order for entry to the Kentucky Derby. The committee designated specific races across the country as official Derby Preps in which horses earned points based on how they finished. Some races are worth more points than others.

For the entire list of Derby “point system” races, click HERE.

So, trainers needed to map out a plan for their 3-year-olds to insure they compete in the races that offer the valuable points versus the biggest purses.

With that being said, last week at Aqueduct the Jerome Stakes was the first test in 2014 for 3-years-olds who may have Derby aspirations where they can earn valuable points for entry into the Derby. Noble Moon (4-5) came away with the victory and 10 Derby points, while the Classic Giacnroll (7-2), Scotland (6-1) and Matuszak (16-1) earned 4, 2 and 1 points for their 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes, respectively.

The next up is the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday (Jan. 11th). Though it only offers a $100,000 purse, it is a Derby “point system” race. Run at 1 mile, a field of 6 is scheduled to go postward for the 5thrace at “The Great Race Place”.

Note: Odds indicated below are not Jon White’s official M/L, rather my predicted Post Time odds.

Trainer Bob Baffert has entered #6 - Midnight Hawk (2-1) won by 6 1/4 lengths on December 13 going 7 1/2 furlongs despite a slow start over the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park. The early fractions will likely be set by #1 - Kristo (8-5) with Rafael Bejarano in the irons with no other threat to press him. Therefore, I’ll trust that Bejarano can nurse this son of Distorted Humor through easy splits and take this field from gate to wire.

Assessing the chances of the other runners…

#2 - I’ll Wrap It Up (10-1) best efforts in 6 lifetime starts have been on synthetic surfaces.

#3 - Life Is a Joy (30-1) is a CA-bred who has been an Also-Ran in restricted company.

#4 - Ontology (6-1) just broke his maiden last out. It was his 8th career start, but only 2nd in MSW. The other 6 were in stakes races, some graded but on the turf. Could be a Sleeper.

#5 - Top Fortitude (9-2) is 1 for 1, but are you willing to trust that an AZ-bred and Kayla Stra can win a graded stakes at Santa Anita?

Throughout the LAUREL PARK winter meeting, I handicap and post my opinions for Saturday races here.

Due to weather conditions races at Laurel Park for Saturday January 11th have been cancelled. Several inches of rain and a spike in temperatures from sub-freezing to mid-50's, causing the track to start to thaw unevenly, posing a safety issue for both horse and rider.

Recapping my previous blog posted selections at Laurel Park selections from Saturday, January 4th had 7 winners from 9 races (2 Top Selections; payoffs in BOLD) having $2 WIN pay-offs of $10.40 (1st race), $14.80 (2nd), $4.40 (3rd), $3.00 (4th), $8.00 (5th), $5.80 (6th) and $20.80 (7th).

The BEST BET of the Day (1: 0-0-1) Jonesin for Jerry (4th race: 9-2 M/L; 5-2 PT) didn’t get the quickest of breaks and was rushed up to engage the eventual winner (1-2 PT favorite; Gracer) in a speed duel. The slow start did her in as she weakened in the final sixteenth, only good enough for a SHOW returning $2.20.

The LONGSHOT PICK (1: 1-0-0) Germaniac (2nd race: 10-1 M/L; 6-1 PT) was quick from the gate, unchallenged by rivals in the early going and had plenty left in the tank when entering the stretch, easily pulling away to score a gate to wire victory by 6½ lengths, returning $14.80 to WIN, $3.60 to PLACE and $3.00 to SHOW.

FYI – the BEST BET of the Day selection will never be a M/L favorite and the LONGSHOT PICK will simply be the runner having the highest M/L odds among my top picks for an entire card.

PLEASE NOTE: Statistics provided for the BEST BET and LONGSHOT PICK in parentheses represent the Number of Picks: Wins-Places-Shows. For example, the BEST BET (10: 1-2-3) was picked 10 times resulting in 1 winner, 2 places and 3 shows. In the past, I would reset these numbers at the start of each meet. For 2014, I reset these numbers on Jan. 1st in order to chart results on a yearly basis.


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Older Comments about Field of 6 at Santa Anita is a Sham(e) for a Derby Prep ...

We're now down to 4. Cal racing has become a joke
Yes Los Al has made itself well up to task of supporting racing in CA. Let's see if the TB people appreciate the effort the track went through to accommodate the horse situation. Also if the TB people are smart, they will realize they are being presented with an ability to greatly expand their market and the popularity of the sport.
Yes, Bp, I'm commenting on the "expediency" at Los Al. The CHRB is, I'm sure, another story.
That is true Goblin. But in truth the CHRB was not preparing for the closure of HP. The Board pushed HP to commit to a full yr racing, they said they could only commit to a six month extension at a time. The plan for training and stabling kept changing, because at one point the TB did not want Los Al involved, but the fact was without them, there wasn't enough space for all the horses. Interesting thing is that from what I have read, there doesn't seem to be any building permits in the works for HP.
Los Alamitos only received approval to begin the expansion from their respective city council the second week of December, 2013. They are proceeding at warp speed to be ready by the projected date of January 22. http://www.drf.com/news/los-alamitos-gets-city-approval-track-expansion
NO planning. Same thing happened in Washington when old Longacres closed. The racing community had 3 years to set up an alternative plan while Boeing allowed them to use the land, and DID nothing. Sad fact that after the track was buldozed, BOEING DID NOTHING with the land.
Hollywood Park hasn't fully closed down yet and already it is having an effect on racing, just wait it will be getting worse, poor preperation for when H.P. closed is what will create this BIG problem racing will now start to experience. It will be real tuff for racing to recover from the closure of Hollywood Park. F.I.
we had that same problem at the standarbred track in British Columbia. Subsurface freezing takes longer to thaw, so the track had randomly placed areas of dense track surface right nest to soft slushy thawed areas. Wheels of the sulky got caught in many of them making it widly unstable.
Laurel Park LIVE RACES CANCELLED for Saturday, due to tons of rain and spike in temps from sub-freezing to mid-50's causing an uneven thaw of the track..
Buckpasser has it correct. Same thing I was told
This is why Los Al has cancelled some cards to get the track and stabling ready. The CHRB knew there was a possible stall shortage and didn't prepare as well. I also thought they were increasing stall space at San Luis Ray Downs too.
I saw someone speculate that the closing of Hollywood Park and the lack of stall space was having an impact on the field sizes at Santa Anita. If that's the case, then it was poor management all the way around. Hopefully next month's races will be larger.
These Kentucky Derby Prep Season races 10-4-2-1 have been pretty thin in 2014. I'm still not sure about this whole point system and its impact on racing beyond Churchill Downs and the first Saturday in May.

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                Meet Gary Quill

  I am the most passionate person on the planet when it comes to thoroughbred horse racing! One sunny summer day in 1964 at Timonium Race Track is where my Dad and mentor introduced me to “The Sport of Kings”. Since that day, I have had the pleasure to visit over 40 different tracks across North America. Though an IT professional by trade, I’ve had a part-time gig with the Maryland Jockey Club since 1988.

here are thousands of rail-birds who claim to be great handicappers. Well, I don’t claim to be the best… just the most passionate and one that won’t tout “chalk”. Like a savvy stock broker, I look for value and often find it. Unlike the talking heads on horse racing television networks and the dozens of websites featuring handicapper’s opinions, I’m ACCOUNTABLE. That is, good or bad, you’ll always know how my previously posted picks performed along with a running record of my BEST BET and LONGSHOT Play of the Day selections for Maryland tracks (Laurel and Pimlico) at TheRacingBiz, see "The GQ Approach".

   In addition to focusing on the Maryland thoroughbred racing circuit, each year I follow the Derby Trail and post “GQ’s Derby Double Dozen” in early February. 

   My personal mission is to rejuvenate interest in thoroughbred horse racing. Being able to share my energy, thoughts and opinions on this sport via HRN will certainly help the cause.


"I lost $2 at Santa Anita and I've spent $3 million trying to get it back." - Mickey Rooney

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