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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 02-15-2011, 10:11 AM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Triple Crown - 2011

I usually wait until April to start the thread containing my annual Thoroughbred/parimuteul ramblings, but this year, I can't wait.

I'm excited more than usual this year because so far, this looks like a very good crop of 3-year olds. This is in stark contrast to the past few years, which have featured subpar groups (quick: can you name who won the Derby any of the last three years?). One needs to temper one's enthusiasm at this stage, because horses always get hurt leading up to the Triple Crown, but despite this, it's better to have something to be excited about than to be moaning about how lousy all the horses are.

The top-ranked horse on the Derby trail this year is a colt named Uncle Mo. He was undefeated in three starts last year, winning both the Champagne Stakes at Belmont and the Breeders Cup juvenile at Churchill Downs, and taking the 2-year old championship in the process. His talent and running style has him being compared to Seattle Slew, and that's saying something for a horse who's only run in three races. Interestingly, there are doubts about Uncle Mo's ability to stay 10 furlongs -- and some had the same doubts about Seattle Slew before he won the Derby, and the Triple Crown, in 1977. Another interesting fact: the fact that he won the BC Juvie at Churchill is important, because Churchill is an idiosyncratic track, and some horses just don't like running on its surface; the fact that Uncle Mo has proved he can run there is huge.

The Kentucky Derby prep season is about to begin in earnest: The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park is on February 26, and early March is when things start to get really heated, when more important prep races are run, and the contenders start to separate themselves from the pretenders. If it doesn't distract from the conservation threads , I'll post here occasionally, to look at prep races, and to analyze individual contenders. I figure there might be two or three people out there who might find it interesting to see the runup to the Kentucky Derby through the eyes of an inveterate degenerate like me.
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:57 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

I always enjoy it, Chris. My NOLA bookie, Sandra, Won $5,000 on a slot at Harrahs down there last week. She will be placing our bets. Try to control yourself, its February!
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Old 02-15-2011, 08:07 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

If it's OK with everyone here, I'm going to post the occasional remembrance of Kentucky Derby trails past, of times leading up to the big races, and maybe of the big races themselves. Like watching children grow up, the passage of so many Kentucky Derbies is a fun, and interesting, way to watch the years go by. If this is too boring, please say so, and I'll take my semi-coherent memories elsewhere.

I'll never forget, for example, that the winner of the 2004 Louisiana Derby was Wimbledon. Why do I remember this? Because a few months earlier, I had moved from California back to the East Coast, and I had a very firm opinion about some of the California horses. Wimbledon was one. I didn't particularly like his Derby chances -- of my pick that year, I only remember that I thought Smarty Jones was wildly overrated; this shows what I know -- but I do remember thinking that Wimbledon's stretch-running style had been compromised on Southern California's speed-favoring tracks, and that if he shipped East for a Kentucky Derby prep, he might be worth a wager at a decent price.

Wimbledon did indeed ship East for the Louisiana Derby, and won the race at something like 7-1, which made my opinion a remunerative one (I think I had $30 on him to win, which one me something like $200). But why I really remember this race is that the day it was run was the day I met my wife: it was our first date, and while things went well, she did think I was weird for going to the bathroom every 10 minutes (I was calling my friend, who was watching the race on TV, for updates). It was only later, after we were married, that my wife told me she was worried about me - she thought I was going to the bathroom to take drugs. It was perhaps the first, and only, time in my life when someone told me that they were glad that I was only checking on the results of a horse race, only checking on the results of my knuckleheaded obsession wiht horse racing, and with gambling.
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Old 02-16-2011, 12:57 PM
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

I have no problem. Your other contributions sort of qualify you to do anything you want. Besides, members can jump right past.
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Old 02-27-2011, 07:58 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

Racetrack Stories that Make Me Look Like a Moron, #21,455 in a series:

The spring of 2002 was a crossroads period for me. I was living in Los Angeles, working a crappy temp job, and going to school to finish the college degree I'd started 11 years earlier. I was nearing 30, and was dealing with the heavy question of What To Do With the Rest of My Life. It was not an unhappy time, but it was largely filled with void and waiting, and I turned my attention to the racetrack like I never had before, and like I never have since.

I never really seriously considered trying to make a living at the racetrack -- I didn't, and don't, have the temperament or the patience for it -- but I desperately wanted to be a winner, to be a sharpie, to be considered a crack handicapper. I went to lengths that seem absurd, indeed almost embarrassing, now, to try to dope out winners. It was probably because I had so little in my life going on at the time that it became such an obsession to me.

One of my angles then, something that still has validity now, is what I call Speed & Fade. A horse runs its first race, and is so fired up with enthusiasm that it goes right to the lead, and runs fast for a half mile or so. After this, it gets tired, stops running, and finishes far back.

This kind of a trip can be a tremendous learning experience for a horse, because the horse realizes that it can't go balls-to-the-wall at the beginning and still have energy at the end. When the light bulb goes on this way, a horse can win his next race -- the first time back after a Speed & Fade -- and can do so at gargantuan prices.

By April of 2002, my crappy temp job had ended, but I still had about a month to go before school ended. I had (barely) enough money to last me through school, so with all this free time, I dove headfirst into Racetrack Degeneracy 101. I bought the form every day, watched the replays every night, and when I went to sleep, instead of dreaming of Katarina Witt doing double axels wearing nothing but ice skates, I dreamed of finding winners at 30-1.

I was about a week into this when I found the perfect horse, the horse that would justify all the time, effort, and money I'd put into trying to become a wise guy. Her name was Sheza Slick Chick, and for a few days, I couldn't think of anything else.

Her race record was, on the surface, dismal: she had run once, had vied for the lead, and then stopped badly to finish something like 7th of 10. But she had actually run a lot better than it first appeared: in a tough maiden race, she outsprinted two of the faster horses on the grounds, two fillies who went on to have success in stakes races, and then fought valiantly even after it was apparent that she was in over her head. It was only in deep stretch, when it was apparent that she was beaten, that the jockey put the brakes on her, easing her to the wire and allowing a few horses who hadn't run much to pass her.

Now she was stepping down in class - running against lesser horses than in her first race -- and she appeared to be the controlling speed. Moreover, she had a couple of good workouts since her first race, so she looked to be fit and healthy. She was almost a sure-fire winner in my mind, but because her running line was so superficially dismal, she was 20-1 on the morning line.

She was running on Wednesday, which is the first day of the week at Santa Anita (they run Wednesday through Sunday). The entries for Wednesday are usually announced Sunday, which meant I had three days to try to contain my enthusiasm for this ridiculous longshot, this absurd animal.

I tried to keep quiet, only telling one friend who shared handicapping opinions with me, but by Tuesday night, I could no longer contain myself. I was going to the track to place the biggest bet of my life, a $200 win wager, and was so nervous and excited about the prospect of winning $4000 or $5000 that I had to walk down to my local bar to take the edge off.

I knew most of the people there, and I also knew that none of them would bet a lot, that none of them would shove enough through the windows to destroy my odds. So I gave the tip to a few people there, my certainty in my pick growing in direct proportion to the number of beers I consumed. Toward the end of the night, I even talked Jennifer, who was the bartender and my friend, into letting me go behind the bar and write on the chalkboard. Just below that night's drink specials, in beery handwriting, it said, Sheza Slick Chick. 6th Race Santa Anita tomorrow. #5 horse. Can't miss.
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Old 02-27-2011, 07:59 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

This story is taking way too long, and I'm guessing that nobody cares. I'll finish it there's any interest.
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Old 02-28-2011, 02:02 PM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

Thanks a lot! You take us this far and don't finish the story ..... :
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Old 02-28-2011, 05:44 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

I'll finish it tonight, Frank. I'll have a couple of beers on the way home to make things more interesting.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:58 PM
Jer114 Jer114 is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Garrity View Post
I'll finish it tonight, Frank. I'll have a couple of beers on the way home to make things more interesting.
Go ahead and finish it Chris---I like the ponies too, but the "realities" of life the past few years have cut my wagering way back. It's hard to believe, but striper fishing may be cheaper!
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Old 03-09-2011, 10:57 AM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

I'm going to cut to the chase:

- I made a few small bets on the early races
- I lost them all, with some excruciating bad luck (one horse threw his jockey, anotehr lost a close photo finish)
- Around race 4, I saw something I liked, bet it, and recoiled in horror at even more extreme bad luck - it was a turf race, and my horse pulled up because he stepped on a piece of glass. I'd never seen that before, and I've never seen it since.

After all that, I chickened out - I figured it just wasn't my day, and I decided that making the biggest bet of my life when the gods were aligned against me was stupid. I left with my tail between my legs after about the fifth race. So much for being a crack handicapper.

Needless to say, then, Sheza Slick Chick, my mortal lock, my this-is-gonna-make-me-a-star-at-the-local-bar pick, won the race easily, paying something like $26 (12-1). My $200 win bet would have won me over $2,000 -- this was an otherworldly sum to me at the time -- but because I chickened out, I got nothing.

What made this worse was the humiliation I felt -- I'd blabbed about this for days, and my friends called me to congratulate me (and more than a few of them had bet the horse themselves. One guy -- man, did I want to strangle him -- won something like three grand). I had to admit to them that I hadn't won, because I was a chickensh!t and hadn't had the cojones to push the money through the betting window.

On the plus side, though, I was popular at the bar for a while. After seeing the pick on the chalkboard -- they kept it up, as kind of a monument, for a few weeks -- a bunch of the regulars bet, and they too won a bunch of money. I didn't have to buy a drink down there for a while.
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Old 03-10-2011, 06:43 AM
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

Its not the money but I love it when people buy us drinks. It projects a sense of importance. When I was a kid in DC on Liberty two guys in a gin mill almost got into a fight over the privilage of buying me a drink. I solved that problmen to keep the peace -- I drank them both.

Bill Hubbard, our member Logoonguy, bought Joyce and me dinner one time. That's a good score.
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Old 03-17-2011, 10:02 AM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

Derby Favorite Uncle Mo made his first start of the season last Saturday, in a race at Gulfstream Park (the Timely Writer) that was created just for him.

He won easily, and looked pretty awesome doing it: the pace was slow early, but when they turned for home, Uncle Mo turned on the jets, closing with a very strong late kick and winning by open lengths. He defeated only five tomato cans, and earned a weak speed figure, but he looked very good doing it.

His running style, his undefeated record, and his visual impressiveness -- the horse looks phenominally good when he runs -- has some creaming their pants in anointing him the next superhorse. The current hot trend is to call Uncle Mo the next Seattle Slew, because their running styles are similar, and Mo's record is analogous to what Slew's record was at this time in Slew's career.

I get the fact that Uncle Mo is good; I get the fact that he's the undefeated two-year old champion, and that as such he should be a strong Kentucky Derby favorite. But I just can't get overly enthusiastic about his chances. Maybe it's my innate contrariness, but I am going to be looking, enthusiastically, for a way to beat him if he makes to Churchill Downs as the favorite.

Things are starting to heat up, and the picture on the Derby trail is getting clearer. The race, believe it or not, is only seven weeks from this Saturday (March 19). I'll be posting more here as things unfold.
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Old 03-18-2011, 06:43 AM
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

Calm down, Chris. In seven weeks a lot of better horses could come along or your Uncle Mo could have a brain fot. Besides, "Uncle"? How could anybody bet on an uncle?
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Old 03-20-2011, 09:25 PM
Chris Garrity Chris Garrity is offline
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

I've been quietly but intently following a very interesting three-year old named The Factor.

He lost his career debut back in November, but since then he's been nothing short of sensational: he set a track record at 6 1/2 furlongs on December 26 at Santa Anita; he followed that up by winning the 7-furlong San Vicente in front-running fashion, setting wickedly fast fractions, running the other speed into the ground, and saving just enough for the stretch to hold off the closers.

Yesterday was The Factor's first big test: he went around two turns for the first time in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. I for one figured that The Factor would run a decent race, but would lose; I thought he'd get the lead, tire, get passed by a horse or two, fight back, and finish having run a gallant second or third.

Instead, The Factor (you can see the race by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post) simply ran the field off their feet, setting a brisk early pace, settling nicely in the middle of the race, shaking off a challenger entering the stretch, and winning by an emphatic half-dozen lengths, earning an impressive 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.

The Factor will probably not win the Kentucky Derby; his front-running style, which is an asset in most situations, is a large liability in the Derby. But he has two things going for him: first, he's hugely talented, and might just possess enough natural speed to outrun all the things that are aligned against him; and second, his trainer is Bob Baffert, who's a crafty tactician, especially with speed horses, and who's won the Derby a bunch of times, and knows what it takes to get there.

This is really shaping up as a very good crop of three-year olds. It's going to be a fun prep season, to see how these horses sort themselves out, and who ends up making it into the field at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Here's the Rebel: http://www1.drf.com/replays/savedreplays.jsp?RACE=1425
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Old 03-20-2011, 10:49 PM
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Default Re: Triple Crown - 2011

Thanks Chris for the great story.

First, let me talk about Uncle Mo. His "paid workout" is a complete embarassment to great horses across the whole world. He had a chance to run against better horses for a larger purse and he chose to run in a race that had the slowest 1/4 and 1/2 mile fractions ever for that class race at that race track.

Sorry but I'm a big anti-fan of this horse because of this choice by the owner/trainer.
The trainer is likely to have 2 to 4 horses in the race so I'm going to guess this was a pure owner choice to run against no competition.

Second, picking the winner of the KD is really not where "good handicappers" look for cashing tickets. I'd say right now that there are 2 or 3 plays that have evolved in the last 10 years because of the extraordinary amount of info available to the public. Compare that to the 70's and 80's where a hard worker could go to the track with 3 or 4 horses a week and make substantial money when 1 or 2 of those picks won.

It's more of a bragging right to have hit the derby than a bet that is intended for profit. Professional gamblers rarely risk much if any on this race. An exception would be when the odds created by the public are so whacked that value becomes available for other horses. Uncle Mo will fit this bill if he runs and he is the overwhelming favorite.

Doug
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