June 8, 2011
Getting ready for Belmont weekend, we took a shot at quickly handicapping the cards for Saturday on the Oaklawn website. We weren't especially sharp, but we haven't been for a few weeks. It's time to make up for our shortcomings of May.
Out of 18 picks on Saturday there were a season-low four winners, which picked up $27.30 for a $2 wager on each. That brings the season record to 44 winners from 138 races and sets out profit mark at $18 for the season. That means our profits have dipped to just over 6% for the Simulcast Season. The pressure is really on, but this is one of the weeks we've anticipated for some time, so perhaps we can get out of the funk starting Saturday.
It's almost time for the two-year-olds to start making their mark. While Wesley Ward is the biggest name these days as a two-year-old trainer, the talented horseman will be spending much of the next couple of weeks in England with the stars of his stable, racing at Royal Ascot. During the interim, there is a chance for some of the other horsemen to strike while the iron is hot. Trainers like Tom Amoss, Eddie Kennealy, Steve Asmussen and Ronnie Werner are likely to make noise in Kentucky, while Bret Calhoun and Asmussen normally are the big names in Texas. It used to be that Wayne Catalano and Larry Riveli were names to watch in Chicago, although that certainly could change this year. Many of the New York trainers will wait with their best for Saratoga, while Larry Jones at Delaware has always been known to turn loose his best at his home track. In south Florida I always watch for trainers like Marty Wolfson, Eddie Plesa and William White. At many of these venues trainees of Wesley Ward have been left behind. But they are clearly the second-stringers. Nevertheless, they will be bet heavily because of the trainer's name recognition. There will be no value there. I will prefer those representing the names of the trainers I've already mentioned.
Another Oaklawn success story surfaced over the weekend when Caleb's Posse won the Ohio Derby. The Donnie K. Von Hemel trainee was wagered down to the 21-10 favorite and was in control under regular jockey Eddie Razo. Caleb's Posse looked good all year at Oaklawn, although he threw in a clunker at the Arkansas Derby. That race, which has become a "key" race to handicappers across the land, has proven to be an excellent barometer of top three-year-olds. Caleb's Posse won the Smarty Jones at the start of the Oaklawn meet, but in recent weeks has been overshadowed in the Von Hemel barn by stablemate Alternation. The latter won the Peter Pan at Belmont after a fifth place finish in the Arkansas Derby and might have been heavily-backed in the Belmont Stakes had Von Hemel decided to wait. Von Hemel has learned his lessons well from his Dad, Don Von Hemel, and has had a great training career. He now has two solid three-year-olds to spot around the rest of the year. We should see them in various spots, both on the east coast and in middle America. It should be enough to keep Von Hemel busy and help Oaklawn players cash even more tickets.
Of course the Oaklawn name in the Belmont Stakes will be Nehro, whose last race was his second to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby. While Animal Kingdom had a hard race in the Preakness, Nehro sat out and freshened up. While a lot of the attention this Saturday will come down to Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness respectively. That fact remains that it was Nehro which split them in the Kentucky Derby and he comes into this race a lot more rested that either of that twosome.
I guess we'd all better beware of Master of the Hounds. Since he is trained in Ireland and from the barn of Aidan O'Brien, the man who is considered one of the greatest ever in the British Isles, we might be inclined to watch carefully when he goes to the trouble to take this colt back home, then fly him back to the USA for a go at the Belmont. Furthermore, there are those who believe all Irish runners are trained on Guiness. The last American horse I was aware to be training on the popular Irish beer was none other than Zenyatta herself.
Salut and Cheers to you, Master of the Hounds. If Nehro should run second again, I hope it is to you. I'll then know the proper drink with which to toast on Saturday evening.