Archives for August 23, 2017

Handicapping Tip of the Day #42 – Beware the Triple Drop

by Rich Nilsen

On opening day at Del Mar racetrack (July 19, 2017) top local trainer and crafty claiming horseman Peter Miller entered the 6yo gelding, Belisarius (Ire), in a $16,000 claiming race going one mile on the dirt.  On the ‘surface’ the winner of $174,659 lifetime looked like a major player. Although all his wins were on the grass (and this was on the dirt), Belisarius was making his third start off the layoff, getting a switch to a high percentage jockey, and was getting a sharp drop in class. At morning line odds of 8-1, he looked juicy … at first glance.

However, handicappers are always warned to look beyond the first glance.  With a closer look, one could see that Miller had dropped this runner in class three consecutive times since he had been moved into his barn from that of Hall of Famer Bill Mott.  His first start for Miller was an also-ran effort in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap. He then returned off a layoff, dropping sharply in class to an optional claimer, two other than.  He ran dead last in the field of six, beaten nearly 16 lengths.

He then received an sharp drop in class to a $35,000 claimer for non-winners of three races lifetime.  Off at 6-1, he defeated two horses.  So, let’s try another drop in class and a surface switch. Red flags don’t come any bigger.  Miller was desperately trying to find a spot where the once-sound horse could be competitive.  We don’t know why, but some reason this horse had soured on racing.

race horse from Peter Miller










Bet down to odds of 6.10 to 1, Belisarius was never competitive en route to a fifth place finish.   Miller wasn’t done yet with the class drops.  On August 5, he ran for $8,000 at Del Mar and finished a non-competitive sixth.

Class drops are not always positive, especially when it is a series of consecutive class drops that do not result in improved performances.

More 2017 Travers Stakes News

Source: NYRA

Whitham Thoroughbred’s multiple graded stakes winner McCraken galloped 1 ½ miles over the Saratoga main track Monday morning, likely setting the 3-year-old Ghostzapper colt up for a final tune-up on Tuesday ahead of the Grade 1 Travers, said trainer Ian Wilkes.

Wilkes said he’ll wait until morning to decide where and how to breeze McCraken, who put in his first work since his runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last Wednesday over the Oklahoma training track, covering six furlongs in 1:16.23.

“I’ll do something tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock [but] I want to see how he eats up tonight, look at him in the morning and decide,” said Wilkes. “Obviously, it’s something that depends on the horse and the timing of where you’re at. He’s just coming off the last race and the timing coming into this race, I don’t need a lot, but I’ve got to do something. All you’re doing is a light work, setting them up for that race.”

With five days until the ‘Mid-Summer Derby,’ the planned breeze on Tuesday is comparable to McCracken’s prerace routine before the Grade 3 Matt Winn, when he breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 four days prior to his 2 ¼-length comeback win, and before the Haskell, where he finished second by a nose to Girvin following a half-mile work in 49.20 seconds five days earlier.

Following a half-mile breeze on Monday, Marylou Whitney Stable’s Grade 2 Alysheba winner Bird Song is likely to pass over a start in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Forego, opting instead to target the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap on September 23 at Belmont Park, said Wilkes.

Wilkes has been experimenting with blinkers on the 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song in the morning, following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at six furlongs on July 29, where he cut back dramatically in distance after an eighth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Stephen Foster.

Despite breezing four furlongs in 48.45 seconds on the Oklahoma track, the seventh-fastest of 75 horses, Wilkes said Bird Song didn’t show the same keenness in Monday’s move as he did the previous week, also with blinkers on.

“The horse worked alright, but I may wait for the Kelso,” he said. “He was very relaxed today, switched off. I’m just not 100 percent sure where I am with the horse after that work to come into the Forego. It’s just where I think I am with the horse and where I want to go with him. I think the Kelso might be a better race for him.”
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The first two of three expected European invaders for Travers undercard stakes took to the track for the first time on Monday morning, nearly two days after entering quarantine. Niarchos Family’s Francis-Henri Graffard-trained invader Erupt appears one of the expected favorites in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on the strength of his victory last fall in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine over the Sword Dancer’s 1 1/2-mile distance.

Both Erupt and Ross jogged on the training track before being rerouted to new non-quarantine barns. While Tuesday plans are not set for Ross – stabled in Graham Motion’s barn – French-trained Erupt is expected to do a light canter at 7:30 a.m., according to Aurelian Bellei, the on-site contact.

Stall Domstadt’s Ross is a German-trained son of Acclamation facing the tall task of taking on American dirt horses in the Grade 1 Forego on the same card. Still, the Peter Schiergen-conditioned 5-year-old horse has proven left-handed dirt form, having finished second by a neck in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile in March on the Dubai World Cup undercard. In said event, he out-finished highly regarded American sprinter-miler Sharp Azteca.

The third and final European invader from as many countries is Irish-based Idaho, who will join Erupt in the Sword Dancer. The Coolmore conglomerate-owned, Aidan O’Brien-trained full brother to globetrotting turf superstar Highland Reel arrives Tuesday and is expected to be on the track Thursday morning after clearing quarantine.

Grade 2 Jim Dandy runner-up Giuseppe the Great is in good shape after his breeze on Friday morning. The four-furlong work in 48.80 seconds over the Oklahoma training track was his last before his start in Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who won the 2004 Travers with Birdstone, will saddle the son of Lookin At Lucky as his 29th Travers starter.

“We went over to the main track today just to go through the paddock, and gallop around. He looked good, he went there, we liked what he did, we were happy about that,” Zio said.

“The whole thing now is to make sure he doesn’t go over the edge. One day here [at the Oklahoma track], one day there, today he went to the main track, tomorrow we’ll stay here, maybe go to the gate Wednesday, and school. It really was a great work, to do that, with all those big horses.”

Giuseppe the Great, still in search of his first graded stakes victory through six career starts has been called a professional by Zito. The colt has a runner up finish in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in addition to the Jim Dandy, and gives the 69-year-old Brooklyn- born trainer a solid competitor on Saturday. The Jim Dandy result and projected field for the Travers doesn’t deter his confidence.

“I think it’s terrific,” Zito said. “I’m happy we hung in there. I’m happy Chad is running that horse [Cloud Computing]. It legitimizes our horse a little bit. It makes him look legitimate, and that those are the horses to beat again. It’s funny that nobody talks about Good Samaritan. He was impressive.”