As Always, I’m Pulling for Indy

By Art Parker, author of the upcoming “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns – 2014 Spring Meet” edition.

Shortly after my wife and I married in 1991, I became familiar with a two year old in California that began his racing career. He sold for a big price as a yearling and was truly a “blue blood.” The son of Seattle Slew from Secretariat’s outstanding daughter, Weekend Surprise, came to the racing world as a ridgling named A.P. Indy. I was at the OTB the day he won the Hollywood Futurity and remember coming home and telling my wife that we had a youngster to watch. The next week she watched a replay of the race with me and said she loved the way he moved. The big guy became “our horse.”

A.P. Indy was indeed a cool dude and it didn’t hurt that he had a rider who was as cool as they came, the great Eddie Delahoussaye. On the track they looked like they were made for each other. I remember coming down the stretch Eddie D. would have his head cocked to one side and he was hand riding the big guy and coaxing him to go on. It looked like he was asking A.P. Indy if he was going to goof off the rest of the day or get the job done, and of course he would do the latter.

A.P. Indy was the 3 year old champ and Horse of the Year in 1992. He was a product of excellent breeding. He delivered everything we wanted in our weekend track heroes. And when his work was done he went to work at a new job, stud duty, and he excelled with that job just like we wanted. He has given us 11 champions and 136 stakes winners. We asked him to run and he ran as only the great horses can. We asked him to give us great runners and he loaded the starting gate year after year.

But like so many before him ‘Father Time’ caught up and a couple of years ago his last day on the job arrived. A.P. Indy was pensioned from stud duty and he was no longer required to work for a living.

My wife and I always get excited when one of his many fine runners wins a race, even if I bet against them. I think the greatest moment I recall about A.P. Indy’s get is the day his greatest daughter whipped the boys in the Belmont. Her name was one of the great names: Rags to Riches. Wow, was she special. She was obedient and followed instructions. Like her dad she could run all day long. And in the Belmont she went by the script and won, showing what real class is.

Those days of watching Indy’s kids run and win are almost over, at least for the classic races. This year is the last year he will have a 3 year old to run. The bad news for A.P. Indy is that it is now or never for a Derby winner. Among all of the races his progeny have taken, and among all of the top races he won, the biggest jewel of them all is missing from the resume. A.P. Indy was scratched from the Derby in 1992 due to a foot problem and he has never sired a Derby winner. Last year his grandson, Orb, won the Derby, and that is as close as he has been.

So this year I will pull for whatever Indy can get to Louisville and as of now, there are four Indy’s nominated to the Triple Crown. They are Honor Code, Commissioner, and fillies Indy’s Million and Got Lucky. With all due respect to the ladies I am compelled to look to the sons for some Derby magic.

Honor Code has already proven himself on the track with a graded stakes victory and he is definitely a blue blood with the magnificent Storm Cat being the broodmare sire. He is good hands with trainer Shug McGaughey, who trained Orb to victory last year. Commissioner has a shot and is trained by Todd Pletcher. Commissioner’s broodmare sire is another Belmont winner, Touch Gold. There is one thing about A.P. Indy’s three-year-old sons that are nominated to the Triple Crown…distance is no problem.

I don’t get to excited about the Derby, spend time thinking about it or letting it get in the way of my normal racing interests. But this year I have to be interested. I’m pulling hard for his sons and hope they can be there the first Saturday in May.

A win in the Derby by one of his sons will be a great tribute to the big guy who has given us so much.

Important Horse Racing Dates in 2014

And a Case for a Six-Week Triple Crown Series

By ART PARKER

One day early last week I returned from the office supply store and opened my new 2014 calendar. I get one of those large spiral bound types every year with plenty of writing space. One of the first things I do is note the most important days of the year. Naturally the first days are birthdays of the wife and daughter and, of course, my anniversary. Then comes the serious stuff like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup day.

I did the usual and went to the first Saturday in May and noted it as Derby Day. I went to the third Saturday and noted it as Preakness Day. The phone rang (I was at the office) and I was engaged in a long conversation and then someone was waiting to see me. I put away my new calendar and forgot about finishing the important dates. I left the calendar at the office and while at home that night I decided to go ahead and look up the dates for all of the big races in 2014. I noted the Belmont Stakes as June 14 as I was making notes for other races.

At the office the next morning I recorded all of the big racing days in the new calendar and that’s when it hit me. A Belmont Stakes on June 14 would  not be the traditional three weeks from the Preakness but rather four weeks. That makes the time frame of the 2014 Triple Crown races six weeks instead of five weeks. I may be wrong, but I can’t ever remember a six week time frame for the Triple Crown, at least in my lifetime. I started to dig a little deeper and there is conflicting information on the date of the Belmont, but it appears to be on June 7, 2014…as far as I know (I’ve been waiting on NYRA for weeks to respond to my email so I would know for sure).

For the moment let’s go with June 7, 2014, which would be the normal three weeks between the race in Baltimore and the race in the Big Apple, which would also hold the traditional five week time frame for the Triple Crown.

But what if we had a four week gap between the Preakness and the Belmont? I always remember racing pundits say that one reason the Triple Crown was hard to achieve is because a horse must win all of the races over a short five-week period. And I agree that the time frame adds to the difficulty.

Will a four week gap provide an advantage to a horse that wins the Derby and the Preakness? The answer is “probably not.” It will certainly help a horse that wins the first two legs since it will provide an extra week of rest, or at least in theory that’s true. On the other hand, I remember a big surprise named Charismatic in 1999. Wayne Lukas ran this horse a bunch and the Hall of Fame trainer insisted that his horse needed to run frequently. And the son of Summer Squall almost won the Triple Crown. Based upon that, it’s up to the horse.

There is another reason I don’t think it will give a prospective Triple Crown winner an advantage. That extra week between races just means more time for more maturing horses to be in the starting gate. The three year olds are like teenagers where a couple of weeks can bring about significant changes.

The extra week between the second and third leg would give more time to promote the Belmont and that would probably be a positive change if we did eventually have a possible Triple Crown winner. But if we do not have a possible Triple Crown winner after the Preakness then the extra time between races may actually be too much down time and hurt the Belmont, more so that usual.

What I would like to see is the Preakness moved back one week, whereby the gap between all of the Triple Crown races would be three weeks. No one can complain about the differential in time between races. It would stretch the overall time of the Triple Crown from five weeks to six weeks, which I believe is good for the equine athletes that compete, and it is also something the marketing people should be able to live with.

Oh yes, the calendar with the big racing days. The only huge days I am missing, as of the moment, are the Arlington Million and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (awaiting word from NYRA). Here is a good start in case you wish to make notes in your calendar for important 2014 horse racing dates.

March 01 – Santa Anita Handicap (Santa Anita)

March 29 – Dubai World Cup (Dubai)

May 02 – Kentucky Oaks (Churchill)

May 03 – Kentucky Derby (Churchill)

May 17 – Preakness (Pimlico)

June 7 – Belmont (Belmont)

August 16 – Alabama (Saratoga) and Arlington Million (the track says this date is probable)

August 23 – Travers (Saratoga)

August 24 – Pacific Classic (Del Mar)

October 05 – Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (France)

October 31 and November 1 – Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships (Santa Anita)

The Difficulty of The Triple Crown

The Triple Crown TropyNumerous sports have the equivalent of horse racing’s Triple Crown, which is sweeping the three Classic events for three year old runners – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and  the Belmont Stakes. With three races packed in a tough, five-week schedule and the longest of the three, the Belmont, at the conclusion, sweeping all three has been extremely difficult.

Eleven horses have accomplished this amazing feat, but the last horse to do so was the great Affirmed back in 1978.

Numerous horses have come close in recent years:

2008 Big Brown

2005 Afleet Aleet

2004 Smart Jones

2003 Funny Cide

2002 War Emblem

2001 Point Given

1999 Charismatic

1998 Real Quiet

1997 Silver Charm

1995 Thunder Gulch

Other great horses that won two of the three events but were unable to sweep the Crown include Sunday Silence, Risen Star, Alysheba, Swale, Spectacular Bid and Pleasant Colony.

Other Sports

GOLF: Only one golfer has won all 4 majors in a single year, that being Bobby Jones in 1930. The Tiger Slam back in 2000-1 covered two years.

TENNIS: Five singles players – Don Budge, Rod Laver, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf – have won the Tennis Grand Slam.

BASEBALL: It’s been 44 years since a batter led the league in average, home runs and runs batted in. That was the Yaz, Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

The Belmont Search

By Art Parker

If you play the races long enough you will come to realize that wagering on favorites is a losing proposition, not that other strategies are necessarily different. The truth is if you wager on the favorite to win in every race you will cash more tickets than most people but you will still lose about 17%-20% of the amount you wager. The payoffs on favorites do not compensate for the 67% of the races you lose.

2012 Belmont StakesWith that little tidbit in mind, it is important to use the strategy that many good players use, which is to find a way to beat the favorite and get a larger payoff on your money, that is if you feel you can. To make that strategy work one must be divorced from racing emotions. Days like Kentucky Derby Day and Belmont Day generate emotions that test your resolve. The Belmont Stakes of 2012, the big race this Saturday will provide such a test. They call the Belmont Stakes the “Test of the Champion.” I like that because it has a great ring to it. Let me suggest that because of horseplayer emotions the Belmont Stakes could also be called the “Test of the Player,” especially when a 3 year old attempts to run into immortality by winning the Triple Crown.

Many people are going to bet on I’ll Have Another just because of the emotions tied to having a Triple Crown winner. They will buy win tickets that they will never cash, either because he doesn’t win or because they want the souvenir if he does. Personally, I think this is insane.

So, what does the smart horseplayer do? The smart player sharpens the pencil, calls upon all of his power and resources and says, “I’m gonna find a way to beat him. And, if he beats me then we have a Triple Crown winner and I will tip my hat to him.”

Somewhere in all of the running lines and the information and the press reports is something, ever how small it is, that can be the clue for upsetting the big favorite. In looking for a Belmont winner, regardless of the Triple Crown factors, one needs to do several things to separate the pretenders from contenders. Analyzing breeding and a general, often brief, investigation into past performances will help you in this process. For at least one good reason or another that I have learned over many years I have thrown out all of the Belmont entries except the favorite, I’ll Have Another, and the following horses: Paynter, Street Life, Union Rags and Dullahan. The four I have mentioned other than the favorite, will probably be the next four favorites. That’s right. I feel that the rest of the field really doesn’t belong in the race at all.

Of the four remaining to challenge the favorite, I must tell you that I question the stamina of Union Rags and I have uneasy feelings about Dullahan. One of the things that bothers me about Dullahan is that I feel he is better being the “Closer from Hell” going a shorter distance. For the sake of brevity let me toss them while I got a chance. Now I’m left with Street Life and Paynter.

I believe both horses have the genes to win at 12 furlongs. And, if it is wet then Paynter becomes even more attractive. This is a good time to point out that the only time I’ll Have Another failed to run first or second was in the slop at Saratoga last year (just a little note for you to make). Paynter has the bloodlines of Breeders’ Cup Classic winners Awesome Again and Tiznow. Street Life’s sire and dam sire both won the Kentucky Derby, being Street Sense and Grindstone respectively. That’s good enough for Saturday’s Belmont.

Both have excellent trainers. Paynter has the old master named Bob Baffert and Street Life is trained by the very talented high percentage trainer Chad Brown.  I suspect both horses will be on the muscle and ready to go for the Belmont Stakes.

So what else tickles my fancy about these two characters in the Belmont cast? It’s their last races. First let’s look at Paynter’s last which was at Pimlico just a couple of hours before I’ll Have Another won the Preakness. Of course he faced lesser in a non-classified allowance race going only 1 1/16th miles. If you dig into the times of the race and figure it out, Paynter covered the last 5/16th of a mile going at 53.79 feet per second. The comment line on Paynter says “hand ride.” So what? I’ll Have Another just a couple of hours later ran the last 3/16th of the Preakness in 53.08 feet per second, and he was all out with a target to chase. That’s a slower rate going an 1/8 mile shorter on the same track the same day. Paynter has good tactical speed and may even grab the lead in the Belmont if he wants to.

Street Life last ran in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont and showed the possibility of being a classic winner. He lost that race to a good horse, Mark Valeski, who was one of the more heavily bet horses in the Derby future pools and then opted out of Louisville to go to New York. The Peter Pan is a 1 1/8th mile race. Street Life was five wide into the big Belmont turn when asked to go after the leaders. The critical time as far as Street Life is concerned is the final 3/8, which he covered in a very hot 53.82 feet per second. That 3/8 mile is 1/16 longer than the hot figure for Paynter and 3 /16 longer than the figure for I’ll Have Another.

Street Life has had a full month to rest and has turned in an impressive breeze in preparation for Saturday. To date he has 5 career starts and Paynter has 4 career starts. To the best of my knowledge I’ll Have Another has not worked since the Preakness and he carries the wear of 3 very tough recent races coming into the Belmont Stakes.

Will this strategy work? I don’t know. But if the price is right on either or both of these guys then I will buy the ticket and hope for the best and even if I’m wrong I had a good time doing it and made a good bet. And those are the most important things.

Good luck Saturday!

HRRN Launches 13 Hours of Live Belmont Stakes Coverage

Broadcasts will air nationwide on HRRN affiliates, SiriusXM and online at horseracingradio.net

Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN), the Eclipse Award-winning broadcast organization based in Lexington, KY, announced Monday they will begin 13 hours of live Triple Crown coverage from Belmont Park beginning Wednesday, June 6th.

HRRN will host a series of two-hour morning shows from outside the Belmont Café on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning.  Each show will feature interviews with jockeys, trainers, owners and Belmont Stakes personalities, as well as up to the minute workout reports and top stories surrounding Belmont 144.

The three “Triple Crown Countdown” show’s will be broadcast live from 8-10 a.m. ET on select HRRN affiliates and can be heard via live streaming on the HRRN website, www.horseracingradio.net.  SiriusXM will air the Countdown shows nationwide on taped delay from Noon – 2:00 p.m. ET each day on Sirius 93 – XM 209.

HRRN will also provide live coverage of the Belmont Stakes post position draw on Wednesday morning beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.  Draw coverage can be heard exclusively on the HRRN website.

HRRN returns Saturday with six hours of Belmont day coverage beginning with their popular weekly Equine Forum show from 8-10 a.m. ET followed by live coverage of the Belmont Stakes undercard from 2-4 p.m. ET.  The network’s coverage culminates will a 2-hour broadcast of I’ll Have Another’s run at history in the 144th Belmont Stakes from 5-7 p.m. ET.

Fans can tune-in to all Belmont day broadcasts on Sirius 94 – XM 208 and on the HRRN website.  HRRN’s broadcast of the Belmont Stakes will also be carried on more than 50 affiliates across the country and broadcast to U.S. service men and women around the globe on the American Forces network.

HRRN’s Eclipse Award-winning broadcast team will be anchored by HRRN President, Mike Penna, along with analysts Jude Feld and Kurt Becker with paddock interviews and commentary provided by Sean Clancy.  Lee Dellapina and Michelle Penna will produce.

A complete Belmont week schedule with affiliates and SiriusXM information can be found at the following link:  HRRN Belmont Week Schedule and Affiliates

About HRRN

The Horse Racing Radio Network is the Eclipse Award winning broadcast organization, providing live radio coverage of many of the sport’s biggest races throughout the year.  In 2012, HRRN will broadcast more than 100 stakes races from racetracks across the country, and is the exclusive radio network of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and provides the national radio broadcast of the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

I’ll Have Another could face as many as 13 rivals in Triple Crown attempt

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another could face as many as 13 rivals in his Triple Crown attempt in the Belmont Stakes on June 9th. Millions will be watching as the Doug O’Neill trained runner seeks to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes over Alydar in 1978.

Probable starters include:

Alpha

Atigun

Dullahan

Five Sixteen

Guyana Star Dweej

I’ll Have Another

Optimizer

Paynter

Ravelo’s Boy

Rousing Sermon

Steelcase

Street Life

Union Rags

Unstoppable U

Wynn Las Vegas has released the odds on I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown attempt. “Yes” he will capture the crown is +165, and the “No” against him accomplishing this rare feat is -185.

The biggest threats to I’ll Have Another on the second Saturday in June figure to be Paynter, Union Rags, Dullahan and Alpha. The later two runners are closers who will be at the mercy of the pace. Paynter and Union Rags both have good tactical and early speed and will be forwardly placed, along with I’ll Have Another. Paynter is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who saddled Bodemeister to very strong runner-up performances in both the Derby and Preakness.

Win a Trip to See the 2012 Triple Crown Attempt

Belmont Park is giving away two tickets and a trip to the upcoming Belmont Stakes, June 9th.  The grand prize includes:

Two (2) tickets to the 2012 Belmont Stakes at BelmontPark on Saturday, June 9 (Value $200), two (2) airline tickets (Approximate Value $1,100), and accommodations at the Long Island Marriott (Approximate Value $800).  If the grand prize winner lives within 100 miles of BelmontPark, transportation to the track will not be provided. (Total Approximate Value $2,100).

Fill out the registration form at NYRA.

I’ll Have Another seeks 1st Triple Crown since 1978

KY Derby and Preakness winner

I'll Have Another edges out Bodemeister, copyright Eclipse Sportswire

I’ll Have Another seeks to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he goes to the post in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. After a surprising win at odds of 15-1 in the Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another proved that was no fluke with an even more impressive victory in the Preakness Stakes last Saturday.

The talented Bob Baffert colt Bodemeister was loose on an uncontested lead through moderate fractions, as I’ll Have Another stalked in third behind Creative Cause. Turning for home jockey Mario Gutierrez made his move aboard the Kentucky Derby winner, and I’ll Have Another responded by cutting into Bodemeister’s lead with each stride. He caught him yards from the wire, and the result…now we will have party on the second Saturday in June in Elmont, New York!

New Yorkers come out in throngs when a Triple Crown bid is on the line, and June 9 will be no exception. Belmont Park will be packed to the rafters, and the outside picnic area will be overflowing.

Who will stand in the colt’s way? The leading threats will be Fountain of Youth winner Union Rags and Bluegrass Stakes winner Dullahan, who was a good third in the Kentucky Derby. Will I’ll Have Another become the first Triple Crown winner since the mighty Affirmed in 1978? Find out on June 9th!

Premier summer meets no longer impact KY Derby

Keep your focus on the upcoming fall meets

 Handicapper Art ParkerBy ART PARKER

  The visual is still there. I can see Secretariat storming into the Saratoga stretch against helpless two year olds, who are shaken by his rush to the front. Other two year olds embarrassed by the legend in the 1972 editions of the Sanford and the Hopeful. Of course we know what happened the next year. Secretariat made history, winning the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown.

   The two premier summer meets in America, Saratoga and Del Mar, bring us thrills and provide an escalator for talent in big stakes races to come. That’s the way it may have been, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer when it comes to the Kentucky Derby.

 Premier 2yos at Del Mar, Saratoga All of us who are lovers of the great sport of thoroughbred racing are always looking to the future. We anticipate the content of history yet to be written, and in thoroughbred racing history is first dominated by the greatest race of all, the Kentucky Derby. In the last ten years Saratoga and Del Mar have almost totally failed to contribute to the history of the Kentucky Derby. Let’s look at the last ten Kentucky Derby winners and take a glimpse at their two year old season.

None of the following Kentucky Derby winners (showing the year in which they won the Kentucky Derby) raced at Saratoga or Del Mar in their two year old campaigns:

2002 War Emblem, 2003 Funny Cide, 2004 Smarty Jones, 2005 Giacomo, 2006 Barbaro, 2007 Street Sense, 2009 Mine that Bird, and 2011 Animal Kingdom.

The 2008 Kentucky Derby winner, Big Brown, broke his maiden at Saratoga on the turf. The 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver finished second in his initial maiden race at Saratoga.   

It looks like the Kentucky Derby winners are getting a later start in the business. Of the last ten Kentucky Derby winners only three broke their maidens before September and only one of those, the previously mentioned Big Brown, broke his maiden at one of the premier meets. The other two, Street Sense and Mine That Bird, broke their maidens in August at Arlington Park and Woodbine, respectively.

I’m sure many racing aficionados feel sad that the history of Kentucky Derby now seems to exclude Del Mar and Saratoga. But those storied meets still make their significant contributions to the annals of thoroughbred racing history. Furthermore, it means that good news is coming our way since it is late August. Next year’s Derby winner will probably be seen soon (if not already). If you enjoy thinking about the first Saturday in May then steer your focus in on September and October. Pay attention to the two year old maiden and stakes races at Arlington Park, Woodbine, Delaware Park, Keeneland, Hollywood Park and, of course, the always superb fall meeting at Belmont.

The answer to the question us handicappers always ask during the spring will probably be racing at one of those venues soon.