Another Strange Saturday for Me

May 29, 2011

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Without a major stakes race to attract attention, it was a day to take a few shots and mix them with some seemingly dependable shorter prices to improve my handicapping success.  Out of 15 selections, there were four winners and four seconds.  There are good and bad things to be said for a day like that.  But it's what happens on a strange Saturday in racing.

Now for the Simulcast my record shows 30 winners from 102 selections.  That is below the acceptable 30% figure that a public handicapper should be achieving and for that I am disappointed.  I am also seeing the profit level diminish as the percentage figure of winners drops.  The four winners returned $28.70, a loss of $1.30 for the day, if you wagered a $2 win ticket on each.  For the season our winners have earned $225.50 on that $2 win basis, meaning that our profit percentage has dropped below the 10% level.  Remember, we are cherry-picking from good horses on these days.  From my way of thinking, we should be doing better.

I am going to try to pick a whole bunch of winners for Monday, Memorial Day, since there is so much great racing, especially at Lone Star Park.  I know there will be plenty of racing fans out there and I hope I can be of assistance in helping them have a good day.

I will say that I was impressed by Keertana's win in the Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday.  It was easily the best feature of the afternoon in my opinion.

For one thing I have already written of how much I look to the female horses for our stars.  I noted that Keertana was given a good chance to beat her male rivals.  Yet I chose Musketier.  He was coming off a good effort and, for a more subtle reason, his name is pronounced the same as the mascot for the University from which I graduated, Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.  That's a bad reason to handicap a horse, but horses have won for a number of my friends who use names to pick their winners.  I was hoping that the combination of his quality performances, plus the name, would make him a winner.  To be honest, he was never a serious factor.

But Keertana is a major factor in filly and mare turf racing this year and I am a big fan of trainer Tom Proctor, who is, like me, a big guy.   His turf horses seem to perform beyond expectations and he is a good trainer to follow on the turf.  He has horses at both Churchill Downs and Arlington Park and I would suggest always giving them points for coming from his barn.

But the Louisville Handicap on Saturday was about efforts from three horses who ended up on the wire together.  Sure Keertana gets the glory, since the photo finish camera shows her nose on the wire.  But the other two who were with her, Bearpath and Guys Reward, deserve credit for nearly providing us one of those rare triple dead heats in racing.

Guys Reward raced lapped on Keertana through the stretch, while Bearpath, with regular French rider Freddie Lenclud aboard, flew at that pair at the end and was going fastest of all when the went under the wire.  It was breath-taking finish which, to the naked eye, could have gone either way.  All three ran winning races and it's a shame any of them had to be losers in that race.  But that's why we have the photo finish camera and it makes yet another argument for the fact that the fillies and mares in America have caught up with the guys and in many cases surpassed them as the turf stars.  Now Keertana moves over $950,000 in career earnings and the five-year-old daughter of Johar would appear ready to pass that milestone in her next outing.  Tom Proctor has been on the big stages with his runners before and should enjoy the rest of the year with this wonderful mare.

In the coming weeks we can anticipate the doings at Belmont as the three-year-olds prepare for the mile-and-a-half of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 11.  Oaklawn locals will have rooting interests in Nehro and Alternation.  Nehro gets the backing of the people who put out the Ragozin sheets, while Alternation has a winning race over the track, the Peter Pan, and has the advantage of familiarization with the surroundings.

What surprises me is that there is a chance for a full field of 14 for the event.  Normally the Belmont field is much smaller.  American racing is slanted towards races up to one mile.  Most of the horses with great distance pedigrees find their way across the Atlantic or Pacific. Because of the full field, there will be more attention paid to post positions, although at a mile-and-a-half post position shouldn't make that much of a difference.  Pace will, however.  Thus the presence of Preakness winner Shackleford, along with his archrival, Animal Kingdom, will help the race get attention.

The backing of "The Sheets" for Nehro includes the warning that this appears to be the slowest group of three-year-olds in a long time.  There will be the usual horse or two which train well at Belmont and become the favorites of the "wise guys".  But almost to a person, everyone who saw Shackleford enter the starting gate for the Preakness thought he was "cooked".  He was sweaty and worked up.  Not at all what you expect of a horse just minutes away from a Triple Crown success.  Suddenly you have to throw all those pre-conceived ideas out the window.

There will be some great races on Monday, the Memorial Day holiday, and plenty of time to anticipate the Belmont.  These are fun times for racing fans.  But Saturday was another strange day for me and I know I have to produce better results to save my reputation and your bankroll.

Since this blog was originally written Alternation has been pulled from conideration for the Belmont Stakes on June 11.  The reason given is that they want to back off and wait for significant races of the summer like the Haskell, Jim Dandy, Travers, etc.  Let's hope that's the reason.  Trainers are often like poker players.  They say one thing, but it's what they don't say that we only find out later.  Racetrack poker players and bridge players are very different.  At bridge the "dummy" sits at the table.  At racetrack poker, the dummy is usually you or me.

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