Another mixed bag today. I’ve got something special in mind for Thursday’s blog that I’m looking forward to, so make sure you come back to check that out.
A lot has already been said – and I’m sure will continue to be said – about Saturday’s Long Branch Stakes winner Trappe Shot. I figured I might as well add my two cents. After watching the race live, seeing trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s reactions both during and after the race, and watching the replay, I offer this analysis:
I think no matter the outcome of the Long Branch, Trappe Shot was going to run in the IZOD Haskell. After being able to sit back and analyze Saturday’s happenings, I think McLaughlin has known all along that Trappe Shot is a serious animal. I base this on his very scientific in-race body language and extremely confident post-race quotes. I had half an eye on McLaughlin throughout the entire running of the Long Branch and he was the exact opposite of most trainers who win stakes races. He wasn’t standing up banging his program; he was sitting close to the television watching every move Trappe Shot made. And he was on his way to the winner’s circle before Trappe Shot even hit the wire. After the race, McLaughlin said if it wasn’t for some early physical issues, Trappe Shot would have been a major Kentucky Derby contender. When I watched the replay of the Long Branch, it seemed to me that jockey Alan Garcia gave Trappe Shot an absolutely perfect “schooling” ride. Garcia kept Trappe Shot behind horses, held him inside of rivals instead of opening up, and left something in the tank in the stretch. He’s likely to take a lot of money in the IZOD Haskell, but Trappe Shot has a serious chance to upset Super Saver, First Dude, Lookin at Lucky and the rest of the field come August 1.
It seemed like the whole world was on edge Thursday night as Lebron James kidnapped ESPN to make his worldly-important announcement about playing for the Miami Heat. While there’s no arguing that James is one of the three most talented players in the NBA, I will argue that Saturday’s news from Miami could have more of an impact on them winning an NBA title: free agent Derek Fisher was in town to meet with Heat management. Fisher is the prototypical blue-collar, winning player and his addition to Miami would guarantee an NBA title. I honestly think the starting five of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Derek Fisher and Brian Skirka could win a championship.
Does anyone out there have any advice about how to get out of a handicapping slump? It’s been a rough couple weeks for the Skirka selections, culminating with yesterday’s failed Pick 4 attempt at Calder, where I got knocked out by D’Funnybone losing at odds of 1-9. You know it’s going bad when you can’t even rest assured singling a 1-9 shot in a four-horse field. I’ve tried using different betting machines, I’ve tried watching the races on different TVs, and I’ve even tried a necklace made entirely of garlic. I’m running out of ideas on how to actually cash a ticket!
After a recent Mets game, I left the SNY post-game show on in the background as I worked on the computer. The question posed by the host was “which Mets pitcher do you have the most confidence in right now?” Everyone who answered said either Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey or Jon Niese. Excuse me, but when did the Mets get rid of Johan Santana? The short sidedness of the media drives me absolutely insane. I don’t care if Santana loses his next 20 starts – he is far and away the Mets ace and one of the top 5 pitchers in the National League.
I missed the Grade I Man o’War yesterday when it was run live, but tuned in just in time to see Gio Ponti in the winner’s circle. When I got home, I watched the replay and was extremely impressed with what I saw. Last behind absolutely dawdling fractions, Gio Ponti eased out in the stretch and exploded past the Naipal Chatterpaul-trained frontrunner with minimal encouragement. (I knew I would get Naipal Chatterpaul into a blog at some point!!) Make no mistake, despite only one win in his last six starts, Gio Ponti is BY FAR the best American-based turf horse in training right now.
If you’re a regular reader of the Monmouth Park blog, you’ve noticed I’ve changed things up a little bit the last couple of weeks. I personally enjoy the shorter, hodgepodge blogs where I can touch on some different material. However, I want this blog to be what YOU want to read, so please let me know if you don’t like the new style and would prefer if I return to more hardcore handicapping. Brad and I have noticed a drop in the amount of comments we’ve been receiving recently, too. We’d love to hear from you guys about any and all topics!! I think the back and forth makes it more fun for all involved.
Brad Thomas’ Sunday Samplings
It’s not only the bountiful betting product that’s different at Monmouth Park this year, it’s the people wagering on it as well. When you combine multiple viable options in a given race with simulcast and account bettors unfamiliar with the circuit, the number of potential overlays increases exponentially. There’s no telling where or when they might appear, but a player should be prepared and aware.
Take, for example, the card of July 9. In the 1st race, the strong 2.30-1 second choice was a first-time starter trained by J. Willard Thompson, who wins with a debut horse about once every three years. His Porchini Prince ran well, but was beaten a neck by Saratoga Louie, the 4.80-1 third choice. The latter was the only experienced member of the 2-year-old New Jersey-bred field and was dropping from open company – which was the exact pattern of the 7-1 filly winner of this state-bred race’s counterpart on July 2. Additionally, Saratoga Louie was working in sharply improved fashion, probably with his new blinkers, and clearly was listed in the short comments of the past performances as having raced on the rail at a time early in the meet when the inside was dull virtually every day. Basic Handicapping 101 rules do apply even in baby races full of firsters!
In Race 3, Very Sweet deserved to be the heavy favorite, but Classofsixtythree should have been second choice and/or no more than 7-2. Instead, she was the 6.60-1 third choice. Debonair Darling, the 3.80-1 second choice, is a speed filly who would have had to duel and put away the .70-1 fave and also hold off the closers in order to win. Conversely, Classofsixtythree is a closer who figured to benefit from two sharp rivals sharing a style that could lead to their mutual destruction. Styles, and how they interact with each other, are key in determining what prices horses truly are worth!
In Race 5, A Unique Treasure, a three-time winner at the highly specialized conditions of five furlongs on turf, was the 5.30-1 fourth choice. The 3.70-1 second choice was Pointing North, who never even had raced before at five furlongs on turf much less ever had won at it. Experience competing in such a unique contest almost always trumps perceived class on this circuit!
Potential Stakes Horses to Watch
Simmstown (Churchill, June 26, Race 5) showed boundless reserves of energy while fighting through repeated episodes of race traffic and personal inexperience. Will really get a chance to shine going long later in the year.
Z Appeal (Churchill, July 2, Race 5) won’t be running for a claiming tag anytime soon after taking dirt, accelerating like a motorcycle, and running through the wire in his debut. Moves like a turf horse and has much sneaky grass in his pedigree.
Wickedly Perfect (Hollywood, June 27, Race 2) has an unlikely pedigree for one who showed such speed going five furlongs in her debut. She moves with uncommon fluidity for a horse so quick and is heads and shoulders the best synthetic filly prospect I’ve seen so far this year in California.
Trappe Shot (Monmouth Park, July 10, Race 11, the Long Branch Stakes) was able to continue his schooling, out-gear a very talented albeit inexperienced Southern Ridge, and still have a burst (or, more likely, two) left to pull away from well-seasoned Nacho Friend. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s ultra-patient handling was validated by a colt now possessing a huge chance in the Grade I IZOD Haskell Invitational!