Diana, Dandy dot day filled with big pools

July 30, 2011

With a Pick 6 carryover of better than 40k and a Pick 4 guarantee of 500k bettors will have a multitude of options on a terrific eleven race card.  Note that the 11th race is off the turf but that is hardly a big deal given that the field will stay relatively large.  Horses that you now need to keep an eye on include #15 HERO FIGURE, who was on the MTO list along with his stablemate, #4 IN JUST WE TRUST, who is a consistent horse that will be just off the pace early.  Click here for my analysis on the Saturday card.  Here are my thoughts on the two graded stakes races this afternoon:

Race 9, The GI Diana Handicap:

It’s a “what have you done for me lately” world and that’s a big part of the reason why #7 AVIATE is likely to be the 2nd or 3rd choice in this field. She was a solid favorite in the Just a Game back in June at Belmont but did not handle the boggy turf course that enabled C.S. Silk to go wire-to-wire. Trainer Bill Mott has given her some time as she appears to be a filly who’s at her best with time between starts. Mott has won 2 of the last 4 runnings of the Diana and both of those winners were returning off the bench after starting in the Just a Game. #6 ARUNA is 4-5 in America with her only defeat coming at the hands of Aviate at Churchill on Kentucky Derby day. That was this filly’s first start of 2011 and this will now be the third start of her form cycle. The pace scenario in here is a bit unclear given the status of #10 ROMACACA and she seems to need a bit of pace to set up her late bid. #4 ZAGORA has been favored in two of her last three starts and is winless since coming to America. She is a big late runner who will get more pace to run at this afternoon. Trainer Chad Brown receives a great deal of support from the public and this filly will likely be well bet again today.  SELECTIONS: 7-6-4

Race 10, The G2 Jim Dandy:

#2 DOMINUS broke through for his 2nd career win when he wired the Dwyer four weeks ago and he now tries to notch the 2nd graded stakes victory of his career. He was on the lead in the Dwyer but hardly seems like a “need the lead” type given the rally he put forth on debut last fall at Belmont. If #5 WILL’S WILDCAT shows speed today then this son of Smart Strike will be in a stalking position that will give him a huge tactical edge on the closers in this field. #7 ALTERNATION is one of those closers as he returns from a freshening that followed an off the pace win in the Peter Pan. He has been working sharply and was just coming into his own when he scored at Belmont in May. The lack of a great amount of pace in here would seem to work against this impeccably bred colt but he didn’t exactly get a huge setup in the Peter Pan. #3 BRILLIANT SPEED is back off a layoff for trainer Tom Albertrani and will look to improve on his 0-3 record on fast dirt. He ran a very good race in the Belmont but it stands to reason that the wet surface made him so effective. Look for him in the waning stages today.  SELECTIONS: 2-7-3

Best of luck on this outstanding card!

Day 3 headlined by turf, babies

July 24, 2011

Five of the ten races on Sunday’s card are slated for the turf courses with four routes and one turf sprint.  Two of the other five races are for 2YOs, with the 2nd bringing together NY bred juveniles and the 9th is the 97th running of the Sanford (G2).

Before looking at Sunday’s card let’s take a look back at Saturday’s 10 race card.  The day started with an unfortunate incident in the first as Rockettes Escapade broke down at the top of the stretch.  That severely compromised War Clan, who was in the midst of a move on the outside and wound up getting carried out about 4 paths.  Bob Baffert’s Saddleranch was an impressive winner of the 3rd as he hit a new gear turning for home under Martin Garcia.  Whether he was aided by the track profile or not remains to be seen but he is clearly a fast horse with some ability.  Trainer David Jacobson has only had one winner at each of the last four Saratoga meets, so should he just retire after Wishingonastar won the 4th yesterday?  No, I think he’ll continue on and pick up a few more.

It won’t be long before Deposit Slip breaks his maiden as he rocketed home from the back of the pack to miss narrowly in the 5th race.  Tahoe Lake was the beneficiary of a perfect trip and tremendous ride by John Velazquez, but he came from well off the pace and those moves just have not been winning on the Mellon turf course.  Expect him to clear the N1X condition very soon.  I’m still not sure what to make of the 7th other than that sometimes you just have to tip your cap to Todd Pletcher and move on.  Jimmy Simms would have lost if Dominant Jeannes was not scratched.  He made a ridiculously easy lead, set a soft pace and was still all out to hold on for the win.  He is a huge bet against if he moves up a condition and lands in a race with a bit more speed.

Back on April 1 I went on At the Races with Steve Byk and said that It’s Tricky was the best 3YO filly in the country.  I was not joking and now I’m tooting my own horn.  She toiled in obscurity prior to the Gulfstream Park Oaks then many wrote her off after a poor effort in Hallandale, FL.  Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin gave her some time and she’s now rattled off consecutive GI victories.  Mud freak?  Miler?  No, just call her the best 3YO filly in the country.

Binks Forest pulled off the fourth wire job on the Mellon turf in the Saturday nightcap.  Note to the Saratoga jockey colony: speed is really good on the turf right now.

Click here for my analysis of Sunday’s card as we’ll try to snag the late Pick 4 again after taking it down on Saturday.  Here are my thoughts on the Sanford, where I think heavy favorite Overdriven is moderately vulnerable:

#7 POWER WORLD was an impressive winner at first asking as he flew home late to win at 4.5fs after falling 11 lengths back after a quarter-mile. He was then tried in the Bashford Manor and jockey Corey Lanerie tried to keep him closer to the early pace. That dulled his late kick and he wound up plugging along for 2nd as the eventual winner came from absolutely last down the backstretch. In a race that’s loaded with speed this colt figures to be dangerous as he has been this trip and can rate and finish from off the pace. #6 OVERDRIVEN ran the most impressive race by a 2YO anywhere in the country last time out as he took his debut by just over 3 lengths. Trainer Todd Pletcher is bringing him back on short rest and prior to Georgie’s Angel winning the Schuylerville this barn was 0-25 with graded stakes starters coming off maiden wins and returning in less than 30 days. Whether this colt will be ready for another effort is a serious question. #3 MAAN was an impressive debut winner as well as he rated comfortably off the pace and gathered in his rivals late. You have to look for horses who can move from off the pace in this group and this son of Malibu Moon is most likely one of them.  SELECTIONS: 7-6-3

I’ll be back to recap the Sunday card tonight and to take a look at Monday’s card!  Good luck today!

Day 2 by the numbers

July 24, 2011

$249,839.75 – Increase in per race handle on the opening Saturday program in 2011 vs. 2010

0 – Winners ridden by Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez through the first two days of the meet

4 – Number of wire-to-wire winners on the Mellon turf course through six races on it in the first two days of the meet

100 – Beyer figure for It’s Tricky, her 2nd figure of 100+ in a row

$698,000 – Total purse money paid out on Saturday afternoon

2 – Number of wins by leading trainer Todd Pletcher

35 – Days until the King’s Bishop, which will likely be the next start for 3rd race winner Saddleranch

$1,569,406 – Total handle for both Pick 4s today and the Pick 6

9 – Win percentage for David Jacobson in Saratoga dirt races, including today’s win by Wishingonastar

1419 – Days since Bill Mott won a graded stakes race on the Saratoga main track after Royal Delta’s failure in the CCA Oaks

1 – Number of winners Todd Pletcher has with horses coming off maidens facing graded stakes company returning in less than 30 days

3 – Number of mounts Corey Nakatani took off of citing struggles with the heat.

28 – Days until a potential rematch between It’s Tricky, Plum Pretty, and Royal Delta in the Alabama

14 – Hours until Day 3 gets underway

Best of luck tomorrow!

Five-pack in CCA Oaks offers nation’s best 3YO fillies

July 23, 2011

If you were to add Zazu and Inglorious to this afternoon’s TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, you’d have all of the fillies that are considered the top players in the division.  Here’s to hoping they are added to this group of five in the Alabama.  Without them, we will still be treated to an incredible race this afternoon with Royal Delta scheduled to go off a slight favorite.  The CCA Oaks is the only graded stakes race on the card but the entire program is full of large fields with numerous great wagering opportunities.  Click here for my analysis on the card.  Here are my thoughts on the featured race:

Race 10, The TVG Coaching Club American Oaks:

#5 IT’S TRICKY broke through for her first graded stakes win last time out in the Acorn as she stalked a hot pace, took over and pulled clear late. She will be even better at nine panels today and brings in a record of 2-3 in two-turn races so far in her career. The outside draw will enable jockey Eddie Castro to stalk the pace from the start and if #2 PLUM PRETTY shows no interest in the lead then this daughter of Mineshaft just might be on the pace. #4 ROYAL DELTA missed the Mother Goose in late June after running into a few health problems. There’s no doubt that this filly is one of the best in the country when on her game and she should get a decent pace to run at this afternoon. Trainer Bill Mott can certainly be trusted and this daughter of Empire Maker would not be lining up if she wasn’t 100%. #1 BUSTER’S READY is another coming off a breakthrough performance as she crushed the field in the Mother Goose last time out. She’s been beaten by both It’s Tricky and Royal Delta and is in a tough post given her preferred running style. If John Velazquez lets Plum Pretty and It’s Tricky go then this filly should be able to stalk and pounce once again. SELECTIONS: 5-4-1

Day 1 Recap: The main track played kindly to horses on the inside and speed.  Even with the big pace setup, you can upgrade True Feelings in her next start as she rallied against the grain of the track in the Schuylerville.  Two of the three races on the Mellon turf course went to wire-to-wire winners, so take a close look at today’s races and see if that trend continues.  Pick 6 carryover into Saturday’s 11 race program!  Good luck!

Opening Day by the numbers

July 23, 2011

$15,871,448 – Total handle on the opening day program.

$2,522,398 – The increase in total handle from opening day 2010 to the same day in 2011

1– Total wins by Ramon Dominguez and John Velazquez on the opening day card.

3 – Winning favorites on the card.

96 – High temperature in Saratoga Springs Friday afternoon.

642 – Days since Jackson Bend’s last win, prior to the James Marvin on Friday afternoon.

704 – Days since Nick Zito’s last win in a stakes race at Saratoga (Thunders Dove in the Addison Mallory on 8/16/09)

$865 – Early Pick 4 payoff which was four winners selected on top by DRF’s Dave Litfin.

3 – Wins in a row for trainer Todd Pletcher in graded stakes races for 2YO fillies at Saratoga after Georgie’s Angel’s Schuylerville win (Position Limit in Adirondack, R Heat Lightning in Spinaway)

2 – Wins by Steve Asmussen with first time starting 2YO fillies at Saratoga going back to August 2007

64.89 – Seconds it took Pure Gossip to become the largest priced winner of the meet.

108 – Beyer figure for Jackson Bend, rail-skimming winner of the James Marvin

2 – Winners selected by me on http://www.capitalotb.com

39 – Days of racing left at the greatest meet in America!

It’s Opening Day!

July 22, 2011

The excitement can’t be matched in thoroughbred racing, save maybe the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup.  The first of forty cards at Saratoga is on tap for this afternoon and if the first three cards give any indication, the racing this meet will be terrific.  Click here to read my analysis for Friday’s card.  Here are my thoughts on the two stakes races this afternoon, the James Marvin and the Schuylerville (G3).

Race 8, The James Marvin:

The return to a one-turn event should help #2 JACKSON BEND, as he’s now back in the care of trainer Nick Zito. He was in Zito’s barn in 2010 and went 0-8 but spent much of the year against graded stakes foes. Two turns seems to be a bit out of his range but he began his career quite nicely around one bend. His worktab is sharp and this barn is due for a breakthrough after a poor run at Belmont. #11 JERSEY TOWN was just getting good at the end of 2011 as he followed up a 2nd place finish in the Bold Ruler with a win in the Cigar Mile. He has run well off of lengthy layoffs in the past and this barn is capable of having one ready to go off the bench. He has the speed to stay close and that’s worth noting given that there’s little speed in here. #7 D’FUNNYBONE could end up being the one to catch as he has speed in this largely paceless group. A 5x Grade II winner, this son of D’Wildcat took the Saratoga Special over this oval two years ago. His effort in the Waldoboro two back was solid and you have to be willing to forgive his poor effort in the sloppy True North. If jockey Edgar Prado puts him on the lead he just may forget to quit.  SELECTIONS: 2-11-7

Race 9, The Schuylerville:

#2 FIVE STAR MOMMA was purchased for just 11k at auction but has already outrun her modest pedigree. She was a very strong 2nd in the Debutante last time out and was by far the best in that race. As the field neared the quarter-pole she made a big move just outside the leaders and took over at once. The final quarter-mile wore on her a bit and she wound up tiring to finish second. A better-timed ride under the jockey who rode Flat Out in the Suburban for this barn will help her cause. #1 FORCE DE LA NATURE was a sharp debut winner for trainer Eddie Kenneally as she rated comfortably off the pace and finished strongly to get the job done. When 2YOs can show the maturity at first asking that this filly did you have to be encouraged. The biggest negative today is the rail draw given her preferred style. #9 GEORGIE’S ANGEL wired a field of MSW rivals on debut at Churchill and escaped much of the public’s attention that day at 9/2. She’s back on short rest, especially for this barn, but looks to be a major pace player today in a cozy outside post position.  SELECTIONS: 2-1-9

Best of luck and see you right back here tomorrow!

Goose signals 3YO filly changing of the guard

June 27, 2011

Where we once had Turbulent Descent, Joyful Victory, and R Heat Lightning, we now have It’s Tricky, Royal Delta, and Buster’s Ready.  Where we once had flashy early season fillies we now have stamina-bred hard-knocking gals who look to be developing rapidly. 

Buster’s Ready’s win in the Mother Goose on Saturday was authoritative and somewhat easy.  She seemed poised to tackle GI company after a very strong 2nd in the Black Eyed Susan.  It was an effort that was far more impressive when you viewed the replay than when you simply looked at the running line.  That’s a big part of the reason why she was sent off at a generous 7/2.  Clearly, Buster’s Ready is now among the division’s best 3YO fillies.

Out west, Zazu knocked off Plum Pretty in the Hollywood Oaks.  While the latter may or may not have been recovering from a fever earlier in the week, the former has now beaten her 3 times and seems superior, despite what happened in the Kentucky Oaks.  Zazu is basically the only player from the 3YO filly division in January who is still among the upper echelon.  There are no remaining graded stakes in California for 3YO fillies on synthetics.  Here’s to hoping trainer John Sadler has plans to send Zazu eastward for the Alabama.

So, what did Buster’s Ready and Zazu’s wins teach us?  The 3YO filly division is undergoing some changes.  The division leader heading into 2011 was Turbulent Descent on the west coast and Awesome Feather in the east.  Those two have been re-routed for different reasons.  While Turbulent Descent will still have a chance to win the Eclipse Award for 3YO filly, she’ll have to do it in one-turn races with at least two wins against elders.  Awesome Feather is just now working her way back from an injury and is not likely to be a factor anytime soon.

A few alternatives have emerged over the last few months but it is this latest wave of 3YO fillies that look to be the cream of the crop.  Since Royal Delta’s win in the Black Eyed Susan, her 2nd stakes engagement in her brief 4 race career, we’ve now seen It’s Tricky win the Acorn and Buster’s Ready (who Royal Delta defeated) win the Mother Goose.  Along with Zazu, these are the three big guns in the 3YO filly division. 

We can only hope that the 3YO males begin to sort themselves out over the next few months, but for now we know we have some excellent 3YO filly races to look forward to in the near future.

Ten horses to keep an eye on the rest of the year

June 21, 2011

In just over a week the calendar will turn over to July but racing’s “2nd half” of 2011 is already underway.  When the Triple Crown is over all eyes turn towards the Breeders’ Cup and the now 15 races that will take place between November 4th and 5th at Churchill Downs.  Going through some of the major divisions, let’s take a look at horse who are somewhat under the radar right now yet loom as forces to be reckoned with the rest of the year.


She has just a maiden win at this point but the beautifully bred daughter of A.P. Indy debuted with style last Sunday at Belmont Park.  A Darley homebred, she is out of the Rich Man’s Gold mare Isola Piu Bella.  That name should sound somewhat familiar to racing fans as she came to America after being named Horse of the Year in her native Chile back in 2003.  In the US she won graded stakes at Gulfstream and Hawthorne for trainer Todd Pletcher.  Kinda Spicy is her 2nd foal to race and trainer Tom Albertrani has already said he believes stakes engagements are right around the corner for this filly.


It took three starts but this colt barreled home a convincing winner of a maiden race on Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park.  Another son of A.P. Indy, this colt is also out of an accomplished mare.  His dam is Sightseek, the multiple GI winner who won every Grade I race for females offered at Belmont Park.  Trainer Bill Mott also believes in Raison d’Etat as he said races like the Curlin and/or Jim Dandy will be on his agenda.


Horses who posted big performances last weekend at Belmont are not supposed to be a theme in this blog post.  However, this colt ran arguably the best race of any horse last weekend when he won the Hill Prince.  He is rapidly improving as he’s rattled off three wins in a row over the Belmont turf courses and is now a graded stakes winner.


It took some time, but this daughter of Afleet Alex has gotten really good for trainer Kenny McPeek.  She has now won three in a row, including the Regret on Saturday.  Her final time of 1:49.66 compares quite favorably to the final time Banned posted in the Jefferson Cup just an hour before.  Look for Bizzy Caroline to show up at Saratoga in an attempt to de-throne Winter Memories as the 3YO female turf division leader.


After breaking his maiden impressively last November this Bob Baffert trainee was sidelined all spring.  Since coming back he has won two in a row at Hollywood, including the Affirmed Handicap on June 11.  His victory in the Affirmed was his first came in his first try around two turns and it appears as if he’ll be fine as the distances increase.


After locally based horses swept the graded stakes that comprise the Summit of Speed program at Calder in 2010, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the horses pointing there this year.  Giant Ryan is chief among the contenders for the Smile Sprint as he registered his fourth consecutive win in the Ponche Handicap on June 11.  For those of you who are wondering, he’s 1 for 1 on wet tracks, so a bit of rain in South Florida on July 9 will not hurt him.


Ever since an eye-catching maiden win on the inner track I’ve held this filly in high esteem.  She was not up to stakes caliber competition in the Cicada back in March but has since returned from a brief freshening an absolute monster.  After winning at Parx despite battling through ridiculously fast fractions she made mince meat of the field in last Thursday’s Ms. Royal at Belmont Park.  A daughter of Roman Ruler, she is by Jeanne Jones, who was a GI winner and ran 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Kentucky Oaks.  Look for Roman Treasure in a little race called the Test.


Does this name sound familiar?  He finished 2nd in the Secretariat last year behind Paddy O’ Prado and is scheduled to return to Arlington Park for the Million on August 13.  His 2011 campaign has already been busy as he won the Jebel Hatta at Meydan before finishing 3rd in the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night.  His recent poor efforts in Asia do not take away from the fact that he’ll be very tough in his 2nd try in America.


This horse was always fast.  The problem was that he had health issues to go along with his speed and that kept him from the races in 2010.  New trainer Allen Iwinski brought him along slowly before trying him in the Longfellow at Monmouth on June 5.  He couldn’t have been expecting what the colt named for the famed NY Ranger forward would put forth.  While the field in the Longfellow was hardly star-studded, he obliterated his rivals en route to earning a 112 Beyer Speed Figure.  If Iwinski can keep him in one piece then he’ll be heard from in major sprint races.


The “Chief” had this son of Bernardini entered in the Woody Stephens on Belmont day and wisely scratched him.  The latest foal of BC Distaff winner Hollywood Wildcat, you’d like to think Allen Jerkens’ options with him are endless.  He’s a half to BC Mile winner War Chant, is already a winner at 7fs and his sire and dam both won GI races at 9 furlongs and beyond!  Let’s hope this guy lives up to his potential.

Well, hopefully I uncovered a few interesting horses who you may not be familiar with, as many of these should be in graded stakes company within the next 60 days.  Saratoga is right around the corner, so getting familiar with some of the main players up there is always wise.  I’ll be back this weekend with a look at some of the graded stakes races from across the country.

Ladies look lovely; Foster faves fail to fire

June 19, 2011

There were 3 Grade I stakes races run on Saturday, one at Belmont, one at Churchill, and one at Hollywood.  While the winning performances of Awesome Maria and Blind Luck stamped each as major contenders in the older female division, Pool Play’s upset score in the Stephen Foster threw an already chaotic handicap division into a further tailspin.

Let’s start with Awesome Maria.  After being transferred to trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn for her 3YO campaign, many waited patiently for her return to the races.  Off since the Frizette in October 2009, Pletcher entered Awesome Maria on the turf in the Riskaverse at Saratoga on closing week.  She was victorious but her participation in a turf route race was an odd placement by Pletcher.  After a poor effort in the Cotillion, Pletcher gave her another try in graded stakes company in the Gazelle, where she finished second to the Larry Jones-trained No Such Word.  The question marks on her coming into 2011 were numerous.  Pletcher campaigned her with no confidence in 2010 and you had to wonder if the potential she showed as a 2YO was a product of precocity as a juvenile.  Well, that was then and this is now.  With wins in the Sabin, Rampart, Shuvee, and now the Ogden Phipps, she has to be considered the 3rd best older female in the country.  Her win in yesterday’s Ogden Phipps was authoritative and awfully easy.  She earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, her 3rd such triple digit figure of 2011.  Pletcher said afterwards that she will be pointed to the Ruffian Invitational Handicap on July 31 at Saratoga, a race run at 9 furlongs.  Awesome Maria is already a winner at the Spa having broken her maiden on Alabama day in 2009.

Have we had a horse over the last 5 years that’s been as easy to cheer for as Blind Luck?  The pint-sized powerhouse traveled all over America last year and won races at Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Churchill Downs, Delaware, and Saratoga.  After consecutive defeats at Santa Anita this winter many had written her off as a 4YO whose best days were in the rearview mirror.  Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was unconvinced and never lost confidence in the defending Eclipse Award winner.  She has now rattled off consecutive wins at Churchill and Hollywood Park and seems to be every bit as good as she was in 2010.  Her win in yesterday’s Vanity Handicap came despite a poor pace setup but jockey Garrett Gomez hardly urged his filly late as she passed every rival in the final 3/16ths.  Let’s hope that Switch is cut back in distance by trainer John Sadler as she has the potential to be the best female sprinter in the country.  9 furlongs has proven to be too far for her and her record around two turns is just 2-8.

Where clarity came from the Ogden Phipps and Vanity, the Stephen Foster was a total head-scratcher.  Pool Play, making his first dirt start, charged down the center of the track to register a last-to-first win at odds of 36-1.  He ran down New Orleans Handicap winner Mission Impazible, who rebounded significantly from a poor effort in the Alysheba.  In fact, the Alysheba was a very odd race in terms of how its participants came back.  The winner, First Dude, did not participate in the Foster.  Regal Ransom and Equestrio, the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the Alysheba, finished 11th and 9th.  The 4th place finisher from the Alysheba, Giant Oak, finished 5th in the Foster with no viable excuses.  Tough trips hurt Apart and Duke of Mischief, but it’s tough to think either would have won with more racing luck or better rides.  As for Pool Play, you would think his future is on dirt as he looked more like a BC Marathon than a Classic horse prior to yesterday’s Foster.  Until further notice I’m chalking the Foster result up to the randomness that takes place in a bad division.  Let’s hope the next round of handicap races, the Suburban on July 2 at Belmont and the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9 at Hollywood Park, show that this division still has some decent horses.

There’s a carryover of better than 169k today at Belmont Park on the Father’s Day program.  The first three legs look as if they should be very formful with Far Isle, Hyper and Race to Urga all slated to go off heavy favorites.  The 8th-10th should be very wide open and I’ll include horses like Considerate in the 8th, Slevin in the 9th and Strikealinethruit in the nightcap.  Best of luck if you’re getting involved and Happy Father’s Day to all fathers and grandfathers out there!

The Belmont/Triple Crown Postmortem

June 13, 2011

Well, it’s over.  Belmont day stretched on and featured a handful of tremendous performances, a handful of upsets, and a few buckets full of rain.  Fortunately, we had only one Triple Crown race run on an off track in 2011.  I am happy it was the Belmont above all because of the quality work done on a daily basis by NYRA Track Superintendent Glen Kozak and his crew.   Let’s take a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of Belmont Day and the Triple Crown altogether.

1.) The Emergence of Shackleford and Animal Kingdom

When Uncle Mo was scratched on the day before the Kentucky Derby a seemingly wide-open Derby was completely up for grabs.  While there were significant doubts about Uncle Mo being able to rebound from his Wood Memorial defeat, it was universally understood that the best he could offer would win the Derby.  Who was the horse that stood up and made himself a potential star in the 3YO division?  That was Animal Kingdom.  Two weeks later, Shackleford gamely held off the late threat of the Derby winner in the Preakness Stakes and made it clear that he will be a force in the 3YO division this year.

2.) The disappointment of Dialed In

Dialed In wound up being the Kentucky Derby favorite and underperformed in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.  He is supposedly pointing to the Jim Dandy and will continue on facing 3YOs in the top level of his division.  My hope is that by the time the leaves on the trees turn colors and begin falling that Dialed In is running in one mile races around one turn.

3.) The Euro fascination

When the early Belmont odds were available on Friday afternoon there was one horse who was receiving a ridiculous amount of support from the wagering public.  As Birdrun won the Brooklyn Handicap and we took a look at the probable payoffs in the Brooklyn/Belmont double, that one horse was practically favored.  That horse was Master of Hounds, who at 6-1 will forever be one of the most inexplicable underlays in the history of the Triple Crown.

4.) The Dale Romans Show

Let’s not forget that in addition to winning the Preakness and having Shackleford run 4th in the Derby and 5th in the Belmont, Dale Romans was the only trainer to pick up a win in an undercard race on each of the 3 individual racecards.  He also did it with three different horses.  Sassy Image won the Humana Distaff on Derby day, Paddy O’Prado took the Dixie on Preakness Day, and CS Silk won the Just a Game on Belmont day.  Even the far flung operations of Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen couldn’t accomplish such a feat.

5.) The randomness of the Belmont Stakes

I love the Belmont stakes.  With that being said, the last two winners of it illustrate the point that there will always be a randomness that goes into the result that exceeds the other two legs of the Triple Crown.  What do I mean by that?  The 1-2 finishers were hardly competitive against vastly inferior horses going the more traditional 9-10 furlong distances of the Triple Crown trail.  Racing close to a moderate pace on a track that was kind to speed they were able to stay.

6.) The lack of consistency

Going back to the Rebel at Oaklawn Park, no horse has won two graded stakes races restricted to 3YOs on dirt or synthetics with the exception of Animal Kingdom.  That’s right, we had different winners of the Sunland Derby, Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby, Bay Shore, Wood Memorial, Illinois Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass, Arkansas Derby, Jerome, Derby Trial, Peter Pan, Preakness, Laz Barrera, Ohio Derby, Woody Stephens and Belmont.  That’s what you call parity.

7.) As for Belmont day itself, how about Kiaran McLaughlin?

Though his Derby hopeful, Soldat, was nowhere to be found on Belmont day, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin scored two impressive wins with It’s Tricky in the Acorn and Trappe Shot in the True North.  Both vaulted towards the top of their respective divisions and proved two separate things in their victories.  First, It’s Tricky winning over the heavily favored Turbulent Descent showed that you can never hold one bad performance against an otherwise consistent horse.  Trappe Shot’s victory showed that discretion is the better part of valor.  He had been very sharp as a sprinter in 2010 and in his first start this year and his connections kept him sprinting despite upcoming route races at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park.

8.) The disappointments

In six stakes races at Belmont on Saturday there were 5 favorites that failed.  What went wrong for Turbulent Descent, Arch Traveler, Aviate, Gio Ponti and Animal Kingdom?  All different things, and while you can be sure they’re all quality horses, each will have to rebound moving forward.

9.) The slop/bog

Moving forward handicappers are going to have to decide how to approach the damp conditions that Mother Nature created at Belmont on Saturday.  Is Mission Approved really a GI caliber turfer or simply a beneficiary of a tremendous pace edge over a course that negated his main rivals’ late kicks?  Is It’s Tricky ready to become a top level 3YO filly or did the slop move her up?  Did Justin Phillip benefit from getting clear on a type of surface that he had handled nicely in the past?  Will Ruler on Ice ever win a GI again?

10.) Approaching the Belmont from a handicapping perspective

In years to come it is going to be imperative to take a stand against horses exiting the Preakness.  Since Afleet Alex’s win in the 2005 Belmont, horses exiting the Preakness are now 0-16 and 2-31 overall dating back to Point Given’s victory in 2001.  While there are plenty of “rules” that are tossed around about the Derby, this might be one of the best with regards to the Belmont.

While it is always a bit sad to see another Triple Crown come and go with it vacant for another year, the future looks bright.  Beginning with Saturday’s Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, there are Grade I stakes races on each of the next five weekends leading up to the opening of Saratoga and Del Mar in late July!