She's a Handicapper now..and I'm saying "Champagne, Anyone?"

She's a Handicapper now..and I'm saying "Champagne, Anyone?"

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Who to watch? Five jockeys we'll offer...

People like angles when to win races. There are plenty of them out there. I like certain jockeys for certain tracks. At Churchill, there are six jockeys running in the Spring Meet that I pay close attention to. I'll share them with you.

1) Rosie Napravnik.  She gets good horses to ride at Churchill and the major trainers know she'll give them an honest, all-out ride. "Rosie the Riveter" I jokingly refer to her as...rides a smart race and doesn't get a horse in trouble during positioning. She's a recent transplant from the tough New York circuit and she won three races on Tuesday. Respect the lady... 

2) Brian Hernandez, Jr. I've been sold on him in turf (grass) races for a long time now. He also does well on dirt. Brian has a knack of getting a maximum effort out of a horse...regardless of the odds...and he knows Churchill very well. BJH Jr. has made me some very nice $$$$ over the years and I pay close attention when I see him listed on a horse.

3) Corey Lanerie. He is excellent with 2 yr. olds and gets the call on a horse from a lot of very respected trainers. A blue collar type of guy that pays attention to what a trainer tells him and doesn't try to force a horse into difficult situations.

4) James Graham. For a few years, I really didn't care much for him. He was younger and tended to do some stupid stuff on horses. He's been a Chicago circuit top rider, though...and he's matured and done well on the Kentucky circuit. James is also a "speed jock" and can get a horse out of the gate and to the led quickly.

5) Calvin Borel. He's the Godfather of Churchill. Calvin "Bo-rail". He picks his spots, his trainers and the results are usually pretty good. A veteran jockey that understand Churchill's track very well and loves taking the rail and staying there. You won't see him in every race...but when you do, pay attention.

6) Shaun Bridgemohan. "Little midget bast***" is my nickname for him and it stems from a story years ago that a friend shared with me about him in New Orleans. Shaun gets good horses, too...and he knows how to save them for the stretch, He doesn't get caught up in speed duels and he's a great longshot jockey.

So, what do I do if all six are riding in the same race? That's another story for another time.

Good luck and wager responsible.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ya Wanna Bet?


It was mentioned to me a couple of days ago by a colleague that the act of betting horses was something she didn't know a whole lot about but she enjoyed trying to pick the winner of a race. She was at attendance Saturday night at Opening Night at Churchill and proudly told me she picked the winner in three straight races that evening.

Her $2 to win on each horse returned her a total of $47.20. Not bad for $6 wagered. I asked her if she also bet a Pick 3 on those races. She confessed she didn't...and wasn't sure how to do that. An additional $ on the horses she liked...(in this case 8-7-2)...paid $1,034.60

Her eyes flew wide open when I told her that.

And that's why I like the exotics. The Pick 3's, Pick 4's, Pick 5's and Pick 6's.  They are a high risk, high reward venture...but one well placed Pick 4 wager can reap a lot of "benjamins" and absolve a bucketful of race handicapping blunders.

At many tracks...Churchill can bet a .50 cent Pick 3, 4, 5. This is good...especially if you like several horses in a race, or just want a cheap "what the heck" ticket. I have friends who bet their birthdates or street addresses in the pick 3 and 4. Sometimes I'll bet the CARDINAL COUPLE mailbox # (91251) in a Pick 5. If there is a "9" horse in the first sequence, of course.

A popular bet with one of the regular Churchill attenders I know is "buying" a race. Let's say he is betting a Pick 3. He really likes the #5 horse in the first leg and the #3 and #1 in the final leg but can't make his mind up in the middle leg.

He'll take them all. Sounds expensive, right? Not really...he's betting a .50 Pick Three, so the 5 horse in the first leg (X) the eight runners in the middle leg (X) the 3 and 1 in the final leg cost him only $8.00. He's assured at least one winner in the sequence, since he's taken all of them in the middle leg...and if his hunches pay off in the opening and closing leg...he wins the Pick Three!

Taking all the horses in a particular leg is also known as "hitting the Schrupp button" so named after a horse-racing analyst on one of the horse-racing channels who is fond of "buying" a leg in the sequence.

The horses are running today at Churchill. I can't go, because of work...but if I were out there (or what I am going to do on my on-line wagering account with Twinspires) is bet the early Pick 3. It'll be a .50 wager with the 1,4,5,8 in the first leg, 2,3,6,7 in the second leg and 3,6 in the final leg. This will cost me $18. If I hit, and I think a have a real good chance of doing should reap me a nice profit on the $16 I'm forking out.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The first PK3 was 1=6=3. It paid $36. We made a $18 profit on the .50 PK3 wager which cost  us $18. We doubled our money. Not bad....)

No one wins every race, of course. Most people lose more than they win at the responsible wagering is important and a good bit of advice to follow. Bet only what you consider disposable income. I like to call it "steak money".

If I were to take the wife, mother-in-law and I out for a nice steak dinner...with appetizers and maybe a few drinks...I'm figuring on tossing down about $100 bucks or so when I pay the bill.

This is also the limit I will lose at the track. After that, I shrug my shoulders, mention to my buddies that I should have gone for the steak and leave or watch without wagering.

I seldom lose $100 at the track.

I had a substandard Opening Night at Churchill. I made six wagers total...two Pick 4's, three Pick 3's and a exacta. My total outlay was $210. I won $245. After paying for food, drinks and tipping my bartender...I left a $15 loser.

$15 bucks isn't bad for 5 hours of entertainment, food and beverages for two adults.  

Sonja...not into her wagering mode just a win, place and show or exacta bettor. She placed only three bets all night...all to show. Her $25 wagered got her $41 back. That's a 64% return on investment and most financial advisors would sell their soul to the devil to find a consistant profit grabber like that to peddle to their clients.

Combined...she and I made $1 for the evening.   

So, if you go to Churchill (or any other track)...have fun, be responsible and remember that Churchill has a long, long final stretch. Keep an eye out for those closers.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Will "The Chrome" shine brightly on Derby Day?



There is a reason that California Chrome is the favorite for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby. Look at the running line for the three year old:

View Details04/05/14California Chrome1stSA81 1/8 mDSanta Anita Derby-G1 3 MCalifornia ChromeHoppertunityCandy Boy1:47.52
View DetailsView Video03/08/14California Chrome1stSA231 1/16 mDSan Felipe-G2 3 MCalifornia ChromeMidnight HawkKristo1:40.59
View Details01/25/14California Chrome1stSA101 1/16 mDCalifornia Cup Derby 3 M (S)California ChromeTamarandoLife Is A Joy1:43.22
View DetailsView Video12/22/13California Chrome1stBHP107 fSKing Glorious Stakes 2 M (S)California ChromeLife Is A JoyPray Hard1:22.12
View Details11/01/13California Chrome6thSA31 mileDGolden State Juvenile 2 M (S)Better BetElectric EddieTamarando1:37.53
View DetailsView Video09/04/13California Chrome6thDmr87 fSDel Mar Futurity-G1 2 MTamarandoDance With FateCan The Man1:23.07
View DetailsView Video07/31/13California Chrome1stDmr75 1/2 fSGraduation 2 M (S)California ChromeMoving DesertGangnam Guy1:03.48
View DetailsView Video06/15/13California Chrome5thBHP85 1/2 fSWillard Proctor Memorial 2 MKobe's BackWillie B AwesomeSolid Wager1:05.42
View DetailsView Video05/17/13California Chrome1stBHP84 1/2 fSMSW 2 MCalifornia ChromeCharisma CodeNatural Stride0:52.42
View Details04/26/13California Chrome2ndBHP24 1/2 fSMSW 2 MTime For A HugCalifornia ChromeGangnam Guy0:52.47

Four wins in a row out on the West Coast. Undefeated since Christmas. Victor Espinoza on board. There is a lot to like there. He crushes fields and does it seemingly easy.

There are reasons to question him also. He's a California horse and has never run at Churchill.

Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome had his last timed workout before the May 3 classic, going an easy half-mile in 48 1/5 seconds at Los Alamitos (Calif.) under jockey Victor Espinoza. That was the fifth-fastest of 12 works at the distance Saturday, and the Santa Anita Derby winner was clocked galloping out five-eighths of a mile in 1:01.

"Very good. Exactly what I needed for the horse," trainer Art Sherman said. "He doesn't need much now. He's ready. I just wanted to put some air into him. He's happy and fresh. That's the way I want to keep him for this race.

"Victor told me he couldn't believe how easy the horse went. He just said he felt so good. Victor wrapped up on him and didn't let him do too much. He knows this horse so well."

The work attracted a large crowd at the Orange County track, which previously has been best known for its Quarter Horse racing but will conduct major Thoroughbred racing this year.

California Chrome will fly to Louisville Monday. Sherman said he expects to have the California-bred colt jog on Tuesday and then begin two-mile gallops Wednesday at Churchill Downs.
Meanwhile, Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate worked a half-mile in 47 seconds on dirt at Santa Anita, the second-fastest of 62 works at the distance Saturday.

Trainer Peter Eurton had planned to work on grass, but turf training was canceled because of some rain. Dance With Fate is on the same flight as California Chrome.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Opening night at Churchill

Call it $hur$hill Downs.
And not because I made a killing financially on Saturday night. After providing food and beverage for Sonja and I, we got home with $15 less dollars than I went out there with.

It could have been worse.

$hur$hill Downs is all about the pay this season. It has been for a while, but last night cinched it when they decided to make the room I've hung out in for admission section. $25 per head to sit where I've hung out for free since the Clinton administration. Gone are the barstools...present are the gestapo troops to make sure no one enters the forbidden zone unless they folk over a few greenbacks.

It is bull____.

I didn't pay it. We hung out in the newly named Win, Show and Place section...formerly the open area in front of the simulcasting screens on the second floor of the clubhouse.

That was free. Give them a week or so and they'll figure out how to make that area a "pay for seating"  section.

They had a great crowd last night. The music was popping, the new projection screen awesome and the horse-racing...well, still the same old sub-standard claimers and worn out allowance runners we've come to expect under the Twin Spires. can't fill the fields on Opening night? Six or seven horses a race? Incredible.

Kudos to Churchill for hiring track announcer Larry Collmus and sending the babbling Brit Mark Johnson back across the Atlantic. Larry calls a great rack. You can understand him and you always know where the horse(s) you are rooting for are at during his precise and engaging call of a race.

The Derby Trial was exciting. Although the horse I really liked in here (Chitu) of two that bailed on the feature...I thought that Bob Baffert's Bayern should get the money pretty easily.

He did not. A tight finish....a nose separating Bayern, Embellishing Bob and Myosis Dan at the wire. Bayern finishing first but getting disqualified for bumping in the stretch.

More bull____.  Embellishing Bob and Brian Hernandez, Jr. started the pinball-machine bouncing in the stretch...yet got rewarded with the disqualification of Bayern to second. Rosie Napervinik, on board Bayern, couldn't believe it either. I like Brian Hernandez, Jr. as a jockey...but he didn't deserve the win in the Derby Trial.

Chitu will try the Derby. He's worth watching.

That loss blew up my Pick 4 and it was time to go. The trek to the car...passing twenty-something party goers just arriving at the track...on a perfect, balmy Saturday night was fun. I hope they come back in mid-June when it's 90 degrees and the weekday attendance wanes.

The spectacle of events like Downs After Dark is good for bringing younger participants to the track. They don't bet a lot...probably good...because Churchill is there to gouge every loose $5, $10 and $20 they can out of them.

I feel for the bartenders and servers in Silks. Their tip money will be drastically reduced. I've known most of them for years. They weren't happy campers Saturday night. The gestapo guarding the area needs to lighten up. It's entertainment, not quarantine...

Dollars After Dark. Get used to the money grab the rest of the week at The World's Most Legendary Racetrack.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kentucky Derby one week away!

This time next Saturday, the Kentucky Derby will be just 9 1/2 hours away. Who will run, who will win, who will disappoint and are there any upset specials out there?

All the talk is about California Chrome...and the California invader will most likely be the betting favorite to win the Run for the Roses. Trainer Art Sherman has a powerful horse in C.C. and if he gets a clear trip...they probably won't get to him.  Clear trips in the Derby are rarities, though. Anything can happen when you turn 20 horses loose in front of 150,000 people and expect them to run further than they ever have before.

Wicked Strong has been getting a fair share of notice also and Jimmy Jerkins is a veteran trainer that knows how to get a 3 year old ready for big races. Like Sherman, though...he's never won the Derby and some feel that Wicked Strong won't be able to get the distance of 1 - 1/4 miles.

So..who are the longshots that I like? I'll give you three to watch.

1) We Miss Artie. I've been following the Todd Pletcher runner since his 2 yr. old campaign. He's been a horse in the making...until his win at Turfway last month, he wasn't being considered as a legit Derby threat. I like his gritty, refuse to lose style. He doesn't like being passed up and has the strength and stamina to easily run the Derby distance.

2) Tapiture.  He was all the rage as a 2 yr old and horse racing expert writer J.J.Hysell and I were ready to hand him the Derby Trophy after he destroyed the competition after his first three career races. 2 yr. olds become 3 yr. olds, of course...and his 3 yr. old campaign has been rather so-so and disappointing to date. IF he returns to that sparkling form of last year, out.

3) Ride On Curlin. Always so close, but never the win. A hard charger that is going to love the long Churchill Downs stretch...the Billy Gowan trained runner could follow a quick pace and be poised to swing to the middle of the track...where he likes to finish...and zoom past tiring runners. I loved his daddy also...the incredible Curlin...and breeding is a big factor in a horse's chances.

My handicapping pal Tommy Boy is ready to leverage the mortgage on Dance With Fate. He looked awfully good in winning the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland...charging from way back to pass the field and hit the wire first. He'll also have the services of Corey Nakatani in the saddle. "C-Nak" is one of my favorite jockeys of all time and his son is a place-kicker on the UofL Football team.

What else do you need?

With Derby fast approaching, I'll be submitting daily articles over here now. We'll also look at the Kentucky Oaks and Sonja and I will submit our Oaks Day and Derby Day picks here as well.

She kills me every year. She puts little effort into handicapping or studying the races. She won't reveal her
methods...but...consider this:

In the Oaks and Derby Day Stakes races selections last year...a $2 bet across the board on her selections would have cost you $72. You would have collected $310.

Finally, one of my favorite horseracing quotes comes from the late Mike Barry. He wrote for the Louisville Times newspaper many years ago. He said:

"I hope to break even at the racetrack. I could use the money."

See ya Sunday.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kentucky Derby Picture --- Clear as mud

The Kentucky Derby is 15 days away. There are 15 horses out there that have a legit chance to win this thing.

Color me confused.

California Chrome has done nothing wrong in building his case to be the pre-race favorite. He's ruled the California circuit and looked impressive in doing so. How well that'll  transfer to the First Saturday in May is anyone's guess...but there is a lot to like here.

Danza was the big longshot that wowed them in the Arkansas Derby. His sneaky move up the rail and off to the finish line was impressive for the win. He wasn't getting tired. He laid off the pace, made is move and was the best that day.

Dance With Fate took the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland and wasn't expected to do that. A gutty horse. How well he'll adapt from the recent polytrack win to Churchill's surface remains to be seen.

There are others I'm looking at also. Strong Mandate, We Miss Artie rate a chance. Vicar's In Trouble and Tapiture were favorites of mine early in the Derby campaign. I haven't ruled those two out yet.

So, there you have it. A strong seven. The hard part will be whittling this list down.

Stay tuned.