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Ask Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is recognized as an authority on surf fishing for striped bass. He is the author of six books and hundreds of magazine articles. Frank is a member of the Outdoor Writers of America and lectures throughout the Northeast.

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  #1  
Old 03-29-2012, 01:52 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Triple Crown - 2012

Get ready for another fun-filled Triple Crown season! Where I get to use my vast knowledge, and my extensive experience as a crack handicapper, to make make myself look like a fool! The list of my Derby picks over the last 15 years is so abysmally bad (what do you mean you don't remember Master of Hounds?) that I almost hesitated to put my head through the fun house window one more time. But it's all in fun, so here we go again.

I've been saying for years that horse racing, which is in generally abysmal condition as a sport and an industry, needs something to captivate the general public. Nothing would do that better, and faster, than a Triple Crown winner. Do you remember when Secretariat was on the cover of both Time and Newsweek at the same time? (me neither; I was only five months old. But don't interrupt my story). This kind of galvanizing figure would go a long way toward restoring horse racing to its rightful place as one of the great sports in our collective public consciousness.

The 3-year-old colt who looks like he could be something special this year is the delightfully named (at least the name is delightful to Ragman) Union Rags, who has been nothing short of sensational in his brief career so far. He's got the trainer, he's got the looks, he's got the style -- hell, he even has a made-to-order back-story for the media types, as he is owned by a member of perhaps the most famous family of artists this country has produced (he's owned by Phyllis Wyeth, who's married to Jamie Wyeth, son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth).

Union Rags's next race is this Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. If he wins this race as impressively as he won his last race, the Fountain of Youth, he will become a heavy favorite for the Kentucky Derby, the most-hyped Derby favorite in many years.

Next Saturday, April 7, is also a big day for Derby preps: the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Handicap, and Illinois Derby are all run that day. I'll be updating this thread regularly as news happens.
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Old 03-29-2012, 03:30 PM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

All kidding aside, Chris, we both value and enjoy your input on the Triple Crown. You know quickly when you are talking to someone who knows the ropes in a game. My wife, Joyce, can spin your head on both football and baseball happenings. So I have an abiding appreciation for your skills.
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Old 03-31-2012, 08:18 AM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

Today is Florida Derby day. It's also five weeks, to the day, to the big Derby, the one in Louisville. These next two weeks are rife with prep action: it's one of the most exciting times of the year, and when you throw in the fact that this is when striped bass schoolie action starts, this time is so great that I'm surprised I don't cream my pants on a daily basis.

One of the great aspects of the Derby prep season is the separation of the contenders from the pretenders. Every year, there are horses who look good in the early races, but who fall by the wayside as the races get tougher and longer. Trying to guess which horses will advance, and which horses will fall back, is a fun endeavor -- and it can be very financially rewarding if you get it right. I still remember a horse named Wimbledon winning the 2004 Louisiana Derby, because the end of 2003 was the end of my time in California, and I had watched Wimbledon run the previous fall at Hollywood Park, and thought that his come-from-behind style was ill-suited to California's speed-favoring racetracks, and that if he shipped east for a Kentucky Derby prep, he would be a great bet. Bob Baffert sent him to Louisiana, and he won by four lengths and paid something like $15.60 (the day Wimbledon won that race was also the day I met my wife, and I often joke that meeting her was the second best thing that happened to me that day, behind the $300 I won betting Wimbledon in the Louisiana Derby. But, as usual, I digress).

One of the great puzzles in cracking the Derby, and the prep races leading to it, is comparing horses who look good, but don't run especially fast, and horses who run fast, but who do so in a less visually impressive manner. This comes up all the time, and there is going to be a fascinating example of this conundrum in today's Florida Derby, which goes to the post at 5.42 this afternoon, and which will be televised on the NBC Sports Network. The two favorites are Union Rags, who was dazzlingly impressive winning the Fountain of Youth stakes, but who didn't run all that fast (95 Beyer Speed Figure); and a horse named El Padrino, who's run faster than Union Rags (figs of 98 and 100 in his last two races), but doesn't possess the same visual appeal.

Most of the time, I am firmly behind the horses who have run faster. Speed figures don't lie, and I am a firm believer in the validity of the figs. Moreover, the notion that a horse who won while not pressed much will run faster when he faces pressure is mostly a fallacy: while it might sound logical, the reverse is usually true; when most horses face pressure, they usually crack, and run slower. Betting against horses who were visually impressive while running slow times is a tried-and-true way to make money at the track.

So of course, after a setup like that, I'm going to tell you that in today's Florida Derby, I'm doing the opposite of what I usually do, and am going with Union Rags. His trainer, a fella named Michael Matz (the same guy who trained Barbaro) is a master at getting horses to peak at the right time, and Union Rags appears to have been developing very rapidly (thoroughbreds, at this stage of their 3-year-old season, are like 14 year old boys, and can mature very quickly). I think that Union Rags moves forward again today, winning the Florida Derby with another visually-impressive move, earning a Beyer Speed figure of about 100, and stamping himself as the legitimate Derby favorite.

It's going to be fun to watch. Remember to get your bets in early, buoys and gulls.
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Old 03-31-2012, 03:31 PM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

Chris, be sure to let us know how the race goes.
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Old 04-01-2012, 03:03 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

Union Rags went off at 2/5, and when a horse is that kind of price, he's expected to win. And he didn't: he ran a well-beaten third.

I'll write more about this later, but I don't think that this means the horse won't win the Derby. It reminds me of 1973, when Secretariat lost the Wood Memorial as an odds-on favorite. This may end up being a blessing in disguise for the connections of Union Rags.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:11 PM
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

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Originally Posted by Chris Garrity View Post
Union Rags went off at 2/5, and when a horse is that kind of price, he's expected to win. And he didn't: he ran a well-beaten third.

I'll write more about this later, but I don't think that this means the horse won't win the Derby. It reminds me of 1973, when Secretariat lost the Wood Memorial as an odds-on favorite. This may end up being a blessing in disguise for the connections of Union Rags.
CHRIS----I only follow mules and donkeys, but I enjoy reading your horse-racing posts because of your passion for things that interest you, and for almost everything that you present on this web-site.-----It is contagious.

MULE.
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Old 04-03-2012, 06:46 AM
biggestsquid biggestsquid is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

My bride and I made a point of watching the Florida Derby because of Chris's endorsement of Union Rags. Maryanne said he was in trouble when he couldn't get out of the box he found himself in. She also said that, given his lineage, he should be a very good horse. As a non-horseman it appeared to me that, given another 1/8, he would have won.

We will be following him now as his trainer, Michael Matz, used to be a local and rode jumpers for Erdenheim Frams (Fitz Dixon). He also walked away from that passenger jet crash in the cornfield in Kansas. Kinda a local legend.

Thanks for the tip Chris --- now I have a reason to look forward to the big Derby!!
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Old 04-03-2012, 09:16 AM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

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We will be following him now as his trainer, Michael Matz, used to be a local and rode jumpers for Erdenheim Frams (Fitz Dixon). He also walked away from that passenger jet crash in the cornfield in Kansas. Kinda a local legend.
If he doesn't get hurt, Union Rags is going to the Derby, perhaps as the favorite, and the networks are going to have a field day doing human interest stories about his connections. There's the Matz factor, as you mention, Al, which will surely be played up again, as it was when Matz won the Derby with Barbaro in 2006. There's also the owner: he's owned by Phyllis Wyeth, who A) married into arguably the most famous artistic family in the country, and B) sold Union Rags as a yearling, and was so regretful about the sale that she bought him back a year later (for $250,000 more than she sold him for. It must be nice to have that kind of dough. But I digress). The "owner buys back horse and wins the Kentucky Derby" angle is going to be one that is going to be too hard for the networks to resist.

Interestingly, Union Rags has fallen a bit out of favor in the Kentucky Derby rankings. On Mike Watchmaker's Derby Watch list in the Daily Racing Form, Rags' subpar Florida Derby has relegated him to #2, with the West Coast colt Creative Cause, who won the San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 10 in smashing fashion, taking the top spot. Creative Cause runs in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, and if he wins convincingly, he could end up as the Derby favorite. This weekend is going to be a tremendous racing weekend -- the Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, and Illinois Derby are all on Saturday, and the Kentucky Derby picture should be much clearer in a week than it is now.

It's a fun parlor game to watch these horses develop, and try to pick your Derby horse early. I tend to wait, though, before making any emotional investments, because the horses get hurt so often these days that it's not worth falling in love with a horse in December or January, only to see his season end before the Derby Trail even begins to heat up. Take Algorithms, for example: he was undefeated in three races, including a very fast win in the Holy Bull stakes in January, and then he popped a splint and is going to miss the entire Triple Crown. He could very well have been the best of his generation, but we'll never know, because he got hurt.

If you're on Union Rags, though, there's no reason to jump ship yet. I would normally be pretty dismissive of him, because he hasn't run very fast yet, but Michael Matz is good at more things than surviving plane crashes: he's among the very best trainers I've seen at getting horses to deliver peak performances in big races (what he did with Barbaro was nothing short of amazing. I thought Barbaro was an overrated grass horse, but his win in the Derby was the most impressive in at least 20 years). With Matz taking care of him, Union Rags will get every chance to show whether he can show his great natural ability in a big race. I'm still bullish on his chances, not just in the Derby, but to win the Triple Crown as well.
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Old 04-04-2012, 09:57 AM
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

Geez Chris, you are the kiss of death for a horse once you mention them in a post!

On a serious note, thanks to Chris for continuing this yearly tradition and thanks to Frank D for letting us show our expertise (ha ha ha ha) in something other than (striper) fishing.

When you really think about the Triple Crown and Striper Fishing there are some strikingly similar attributes.

1. The YOY index is much like a current crop of TC contenders. It's either dismal/mediocre or it is great. A big # YOY usually translates into some great fishing although it is much further down the road for the "catching fish part".

A great crop of 3 yo horses usually brings some great racing that year and sometimes for the next couple of years. Who can forget the battles between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer (1989), Secretariat's annihlation of Sham in the record setting Belmont Stakes (1973). My all time favorite horse to watch race was Zenyatta (2010 Horse of the Year). It was a shame that she and Rachel Alexandra (2009 Horse of the Year) never faced off.

2. Most of us who place bets on horse races have a few plays (honey holes) that we have found over the years to be profitable. Second time blinkers, first or second race off a claim by a good trainer, third race after long layoff for a route horse etc. are much like fishing that particular spot (Cape Point, Buxton; South Point, Ocracoke, Ramp XXX on Assateague; etc.) that seems to reward you more often than other spots.

Any others that you guys can think of?

Doug
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Old 04-04-2012, 11:07 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

I'm not comfortable posting on this thread because I don't know nuthin. But I do read it whenever something is put up.
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Old 04-04-2012, 09:22 PM
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

I'm not comfortable posting on this thread either, since I've never bet on a race (horse or otherwise) in my life.

But I just gots to post this horse racing tune

MOLLY AND TENBROOKS [b] solo
Bill Monroe 1947
APRS BMI
arr Bill Monroe 1947/1989

Break: banjo

Run, oh Molly, run--run, oh Molly, run
Tenbrooks's gonna beat you to the bright, shining sun
To the bright shining sun, oh Lord, to the bright shining sun

Tenbrooks was a big bay horse--he rode a shaggy mane
He run all around Memphis--he beat the Memphis train
Beat the Memphis train, oh Lord, beat the Memphis train

Break: fiddle

Tenbrooks said to Molly what made your head so red
Running in the hot sun with a fever in my head
Fever in my head, oh Lord, fever in my head

Molly said to Tenbrooks, you're looking mighty squirrel
Tenbrooks said to Molly, I'm leaving this old world
Leaving this old world, oh Lord, leaving this old world


Break: fiddle

Kuiper, Kuiper--you're not a'riding right
Molly's a'beating Tenbrooks clear out of sight
Clear out of sight, oh Lord, clear out of sight

Kuiper, Kuiper, Kuiper, my son
Give old Tenbrooks the bridle and let old Tenbrooks run
Let old Tenbrooks run, oh Lord, let old Tenbrooks Run

Break: banjo

Go and get your Tenbrooks and hitch him in the shade
We're going to bury old Molly in a coffin ready-made
Coffin ready-made, oh Lord, coffin ready made




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  #12  
Old 04-06-2012, 12:42 PM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

Great job, Rob. The technology! Computers have come a long way since my old Commodore 64 in 1985.
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Old 04-06-2012, 04:34 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

Some good races are tomorrow, but I haven't looked at any of them because -- get this!! -- I was fishing. I'll look at them tonight, and post something either tonight or tomorrow. The Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial both look like corkers.
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:24 PM
Doug Doug is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

The last big weekend for KD preps is upon us, I'm guessing Chris is not real excited about this years crop as he has been pretty silent lately.

I'm pretty sure we will never see another Triple Crown winner in horse racing. The only real shot at this accomplishment will have to come from a horse like Seattle Slew. He bucked a trend that is set well in stone.

Affirmed and Secretariat were serious race horses who raced early and often. 11 (ELEVEN!) stakes wins as two year olds between them. You might have to add up 1/4 of this years field (5 horses) to get 11 races TOTAL. You will have to add up near half of the field's races this year in 2011 to equal Affirmed's 6 (six) stakes wins as a 2 (two) YO!

As 3 year olds, Affirmed won 7 (SEVEN!) stakes races and Secretariat won 9 (NINE!!!!). Someone please name me a 3 (three) YO Horse who has even raced in 9 (nine) stakes in the last 15 years.

Seattle Slew was a sleeper who did not sneak up on any body. He certainly proved in later years that the cries of him beating a weak crop in His Triple Crown year made for a story that stands the test of time.

These 3 horses mentioned above are Legend in a decade that has become the True Grit movie that can never be remade, people that attempt to are only kidding themselves. The game has changed and the abilty to sire a future winner is more important than the actual act of Being the King for a year or two.

Doug
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Old 04-17-2012, 08:48 AM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2012

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Originally Posted by Doug View Post
The last big weekend for KD preps is upon us, I'm guessing Chris is not real excited about this years crop as he has been pretty silent lately.
It certainly looks like a sub-par group so far, but despite that, I am a bit excited about the group. I haven't been posting because I've been crazy busy, but I'll post when I get home tonight. The Bodemeister-Union Rags matchup might just be a fascinating illustration of the kinds of issues that degenerate horseplayers like me have to face when handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

It's less than three weeks away now, boys and girls, so it's time to get excited about the Derby. There's always a pile of money to be won on the race, regardless of the quality of the field.
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