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Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015 Wireplayers Derby Dozen Debuts

Far From Over winning the Withers at Aqueduct on Feb. 7
Photo Credit: Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

The sixth annual Wireplayers Derby Dozen kicked off to a rousing start with two horses tied for the top spot in the initial poll for 2015. The panel made up of 12 horse racing writers, bloggers, tweeters has once again delivered some witty dialogue and a solid first poll to kick off the Derby trail as we enter the Championship Series portion of the schedule.

The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing, followed by the Preakness and culminating in New York where all of the 2015 Belmont Stakes betting will take place, hopefully on racing's first Triple Crown champion in 38 years.

Last year, I looked back at our initial polls over the past and found that in only one year was the eventual Derby champion ranked in the initial poll (Super Saver, 3rd, 2010). Last year, California Chrome was in the "others receiving votes" category just outside of the initial Dozen, in 14th place. Interestingly, in 14th place in this year's poll is Khozan, a horse who with a win or place in the Florida Derby will be attempting to break the Apollo curse on the First Saturday in May.

The two horses sharing the top spot are Far From Over (Blame, pictured above) and Dortmund (Big Brown), both horses with pedigrees to handle the Classic distance. My top pick was American Pharoah (see individual ballots here), which means he's totally up the creek without a paddle.

Here's a look at this year's initial poll:


Monday, February 9, 2015

Derby Watch: Futures Pool 2 Recap

Upstart winning at Saratoga on Travers Day
(Photo Credit: NYRA)
The Derby trail is starting to heat up with two big races wrapping up last weekend with Far From Over winning the Withers at the Big A and Dortmund winning a stretch duel with Firing Line in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita. Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2 closed out this weekend with the All Others (also known as the field) betting line as the favorite at odds of 5-2, capturing over 23 percent of the total win pool.

With the Run for the Roses less than three months away and live Kentucky Derby wagering available, we'll take a rundown below of some of the top competitors in Pool 2 and where they finished in the final odds tabulation. I made two small wagers, action bets if you will, a $5 win bet on Khozan, who finished at 25-1 (will pay $131 with a win), over his morning line odds of 20-1. The second bet was a $1 exacta wager, boxing All Others with American Pharoah, Dortmund, Khozan and Upstart.

The key in making a future wager is betting on horses that you believe will be at a higher price now than they will be when they leave the gate on May 2. Of course, most of the 23 horses in Pool 2 may never even see a Derby gate, it makes the wager all the more riskier. In 2014's second pool only five of the 23 horses included in the wager actually made the Derby starting gate. There is still a third Future Wager Pool that will run Feb. 27 to March 1.

Here are some of the top competitors and some preliminary thoughts on each (in alpha order):

American Pharoah (final odds 10-1). This son of Pioneerof the Nile, a second place finisher behind Mine That Bird in 2009, has the pedigree to handle the mile and a quarter and has been described as one of the best 3-year-olds Bob Baffert has ever trained. He missed the Breeders' Cup Juvenile due to injury and has not raced since last September, and had his first recorded workout of 2015 on Feb 2.

Carpe Diem (final odds 12-1). The second place finisher in the BC Juvenile, and son of Giant's Causeway has not raced since the Breeders' Cup for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has 34 nominees to the Triple Crown. He will likely start next in the Tampa Bay Derby. Had some betting behind him in the Futures pool finishing several notches under his 15-1 morning line odds. Has a Grade 1 under his belt, winning the Breeders' Futurity last fall at Keeneland. He had a sensational workout on Saturday morning drilling five furlongs in 59 2/5, best of seven workers that morning.

Dortmund (final odds 10-1). A son of the 2008 Derby winner, Big Brown, he impressed this weekend in the Robert Lewis rallying in deep stretch after being overtaken by Firing line (final odds 35-1) to overtake his rival and win for Baffert and rider Martin Garcia. An imposing looking horse who should thrive as the distances get longer, like Pharoah is also on the west coast Derby trail.

Khozan (final odds 25-1). Another Pletcher trainee who has only an impressive maiden win under his belt at Gulfstream.  I love his breeding with Distorted Humor on top and his dam sired by Belmont winner A.P. Indy. Pletcher is pointing him either to an allowance or a stake with eyes squarely on the Florida Derby, a path that Commissioner, this weekend's Donn winner took last spring winning Gulfstream's premier 3-year-old race.

Ocean Knight (final odds 18-1). This horse was listed on the morning line at 50-1, but took some big money after his win in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa two weekends ago.  Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said to be thinking about shipping him to New York for the Gotham next. The son of Curlin's speed figures aren't quite up to what some of his competition has been running, but the thing about 3-year-olds is they develop over the course of the early spring. He could be one to keep an eye on.

Texas Red (final odds 9-1). He finished as the second choice behind the field at 9-1, after the BC Juvenile winner finished second in his 2015 debut in the 7-furlong Grade 2 San Vicente last weekend, losing by a neck to Lord Nelson. The Juvenile winner has only won the Derby once in the history of the Breeders' Cup when Street Sense performed the feat in 2007. This son of Afleet Alex should continue to blossom as the trail winds towards Louisville.

Upstart (final odds 12-1). This New York-bred (pictured above) shined in the Grade 2 Holy Bull on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream. Could see him right back in the Fountain of Youth for trainer Rick Violette, Jr. Was third in the BC Juvenile, a race that is shaping up to be one of the better ones in recent memory.

Quite a bit can happen between now and the first Saturday in May, but it sure seems like more than five of the 23 horses listed in Pool 2 will be in the gate when they spring the latch in Louisville.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Look at Racing's First Tweets

The Tweeter recently turned 8 years old and Twitter has concocted a website to take a look at various users' First Tweets. (h/t @TrendingBuffalo) Of course, this opens the door to have some fun and we're all about having fun in the Space Station (see "Twitter Accounts Back in Time").

So I decided to check out some of my racing Twitter pals and some folks I like to follow on the Tweeter from an informational and entertainment (mostly entertainment) perspective...starting with none other than yours truly before we take a little ride through the archives.

12/06/2008:  Early adopter...but what a dork...twittering...really?

6/22/2010: The Pocket is one of the best follows in surprise he's looking for a harness draw.

5/4/2011: In time for Derby 137, my pal Mac joined with great fanfare.

4/10/2007: One of the racing pioneers on twitter provided some cool racing insights. (PS dana is a super terrific follow!)

12/22/2008: My man Derek is as witty as they come.

10/23/2008: How about K-Mart promoting the now defunct TBA page and one of our blogger contests. Wonder what his pal Chad's firster was?

9/9/2011: Welcome to the Club.

5/16/2009: Couldn't find dana's response...guessing she does.

10/6/2010: One of the few racing parody accounts entered the scene in 2010.

5/11/2009: Translation - talking with my bookie.

7/25/2008: This is awesome on so many levels.

3/1/2009: No shocker here, Sid is an authority on pedigree and international racing.

12/31/2008: Happy New Year! Our guide to Woodbine snarks on Aqueduct.

4/14/2011: Late to the party and likely addicted.

10/12/2010: Classic.

1/6/2012: Maybe my favorite.

6/25/2009: You don't say.

4/21/2009: The Tweeter is a wealth of information.

7/21/2012: The Goose is loose!

7/7/2009: The eternal optimist.

I think I'll quit on that note.  Enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rehashing Old Wireplayers' Derby Dozens

I decided to take a journey back to look at some of the Wireplayers Derby Dozens from the past four years since inception to see how well our panel did in our opening dozen and then the final dozen with respect to the eventual Derby winner. What I found was somewhat fascinating in some respects, and somewhat predictable in others.

You can catch this year's initial 2014 Derby Dozen here and if you are looking for live Derby odds this new site will provide you up to the minute odds for this year's Derby contenders. The Wireplayers panel has turned over some in the past four years, but the core group remains pretty much in tact to provide some consistency and some pretty funny commentary and we've added some sharpies to the team.

The initial polls typically have come out at the end of January or the first week in February (like this year's) so finding the Derby winner this early is nearly impossible. The final polls are released after the draw during Derby week so those polls should be scrutinized the most. Take a peak at how we did:

2010 Poll
First: Lookin at Lucky (1st); Super Saver (3rd)
FinalLookin at Lucky (1st); Super Saver (6th)

Commentary: We were pretty much in love with Baffert's ace who ended up winning the Preakness, but was doomed on the rail in the Derby. One of our better jobs with the eventual Derby winner as the #3 choice in the inaugural pool in January 2010, but feel to #6 in the final poll. 

2011 Poll
First: Uncle Mo (1st); Animal Kingdom (NR)
Final: Dialed In (1st); Animal Kingdom (6th)

Commentary: We were drinking the Uncle Mo kool-aid in mid-January 2011 and Animal Kingdom was nowhere on anyone's radar, he didn't even garner a single vote. He got a little more respect and ironically was the #6 horse in the final poll (see Super Saver above). We nailed the favorite in Dialed In, just not the winner.

2012 Poll
First: Union Rags (1st); I'll Have Another (NR)
Final: Gemologist (1st); I'll Have Another (6th)

Commentary: So for the second time in three years the horse on the top of our initial poll ended up a Classic winner (Belmont Stakes), but not the Derby winner. For the second consecutive year the Derby winner was unranked and without a single vote. Amazingly, for the third year in a row the Derby winner was the #6 horse in our final poll. (Man, why couldn't I play that hunch?)  Our final poll had Gemologist on top who never ran again.

2013 Poll
First: Violence (1st); Orb (NR)
Final: Orb (1st); Orb (1st)

Commentary: Unfortunately, like Uncle Mo in 2011, the promising Pletcher colt Violence, our initial poll topper, never made it to the gate. For the third straight year the Derby winner was neither on the list or received a vote (do you see a pattern here?). We nailed Orb in the final poll. By the way, Goldencents was the #6 horse and later won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last November.

2014 Poll
First: Cairo Prince (1st); Derby winner (?)

Commentary: Just going out on a limb, but guessing that Cairo Prince probably won't win the Derby and our initial list probably doesn't even include the eventual champ that will wear the roses on the First Saturday in May. I'll be sure to take a hard look at whoever ends up #6 in this year's final poll!

Moral of the story: Keep on digging...he's out there somewhere.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's Derby Dozen Time

It's been some time since we've posted, but the Derby trail is usually a good time to come full circle and start getting after it again. What better time than the first edition of this year's Derby Dozen poll, of which I am honored to be a member. Of course, we'd like to start smelling like roses if possible. I went back to my last four number one votes in the final poll for the past three years and came up with Lookin at Lucky (6th - 2010); Mucho Macho Man (3rd - 2011), Bodemeister (2nd - 2012) and Revolutionary (3rd - 2013).

It looks like Cairo Prince is out ahead of the pack in this year's Dozen based on the panel votes, wherein four different horses each garnered two first place votes. My top vote went to Midnight Hawk (no. 6 in the poll) with Cairo Prince second. We're not too far away from 2014 Kentucky Derby horse betting (less than 90 days away) and the second Futures pool is underway this weekend.


Here's a look at the initial poll by our esteemed panel....

I'll also be posting over at the Sports, Ink blog tomorrow about the big Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. I caught up with trainer Nick Gonzalez yesterday by phone and he'll enter his star 4-year-old River Seven taking on some monsters such as Will Take Charge and Revolutionary.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Breeders' Cup Friday

This weekend's office view
The Space Shuttle arrived safe and sound (well, mostly sound) in Southern California Wednesday evening after a long journey from the B-lo. The place is absolutely stunning and I could be convinced that a permanent home for the Cup has some merits. But that's a whole different topic and one that my predictions several years ago on the Blood-horse site really haven't come to fruition. (If you have time - check out the comments, some are pretty funny).

The Space Gal will be joining me tonight and for Saturday's races -- wait 'til she gets a load of this credit card is definitely not safe.

I posted a few photos from yesterday morning below at Clockers' Corner, most of the BC horses were galloping on a beautiful, crisp morning. The big news yesterday was the scratch of Ron the Greek from the Classic from a quarter crack.

I have some analysis up at the Sports, Ink blog on Friday's late Pick-4 and check the HRF website for some picks of some of the blogging brethren. I'll be live blogging tomorrow's card at the Sports, Ink blog starting at 3 p.m. ET, so check it out if you have a moment, for a few laughs and info from the Great Race Place.

Sunrise over Clockers' Corner

Mucho Macho Man



Julien Leparoux

Seabiscuit's barn

Have fun and enjoy the races!

Monday, October 28, 2013

SI Covers - Through My Years

Space Gal's Birthday Cake for #50
No posts since the Travers and we lead with a non-horse racing post the week of the 30th anniversary of the Breeders' Cup. Well, we'll try and post some stuff this weekend in California, but Monday represents the 50th anniversary of the ole' Space Man's birth, so I thought I'd go through the SI Covers on each of my milestone birthdays (every 5 years, 18 and 21) and reminisce about the good old days.

Some of the covers have absolutely no relevance to my life, but some actually do, at least via my sports fanaticism through the years. Unfortunately none of the covers were actually horse racing related. Ironically there was a SI issue on the date of my birth (10-28-63 [below]) and on my 50th.

D.O.B: 10-28-63: Hot NBA Rookies
Art Heyman (Duke, NY Knicks) and Jerry Lucas (Ohio State, Cincinnati Royals) graced the cover on the day I was brought into the earth. I hate Duke and Ohio State, so maybe a foreshadow of what was to come (see Buffalo Bills Super Bowl outcomes).

5 Years Old: 10-28-68: Bob Brown, Green Bay Packers 
I was still too young to pay attention to sports, the 1969 Baltimore Orioles and Colts were my first favorite teams as I grew up on Cayuga Lake in Cayuga, New York, where no hometown allegiances existed. My grandfather took me to my first-ever sporting event in 1971, at eight years old for the first ever football game in Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The Eagles took on....wait for it...the Buffalo Bills and a certain running back.....
10 Years Old: 10-29-1973 The Juice
 I remember watching O.J. break the record in week 14 against the Jets at old Shea Stadium behind the Electric Company. I wasn't a fan and even rooted against the Bills as a Johnny Unitas/Colts fan pre-Mayflower days. Watched the game in Cayuga, we didn't move to Syracuse until June 1974 when my father started his own business. In 2004 some 31 years later, the Space Gal and I would have a random encounter with the Juice at Casino Niagara and I sat next to him for a solid four hours as we watched the USC-Notre Dame game as he wore a Reggie Bush jersey. And no, I didn't ask him.....

15 Years Old: 10-30-1978 Bill Rodgers, NYC Marathon
The only runner who made one of my covers. I was more of a Jim Ryun fan, pretending to be him in the Olympics in the Cayuga days racing my next door neighbor and lifelong friend Jay (who was Kip Keino from Kenya) jumping picnic tables as our hurdles.

18 Years Old: 10-26-1981 Graig Nettles, NY Yankees
Graduated that year from North Syracuse High and hit the golden number (drinking age!) while attending Elmira College. Hate the Yanks, as I was a big time Orioles fan (still am) with my idols Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer. Spoiled early on as the O's won the 1970 World Series against the Reds and the Colts won the 1971 Super Bowl against the Cowboys...little did I know it would be 12 years between celebrating one of my team's championships.
20 Years Old: 10-24-1983: Rick Dempsey, World Champion Orioles
I couldn't have it any better as the Phillies were my second favorite team (due to my family being from the Philly area) and the O's met them in the '83 Series in my junior year at College. Was playing varsity basketball for Elmira and enjoying the College years. It was all good....unfortunately didn't celebrate another title for one of my teams for another 20 years....

21 Years Old: 10-29-84 Larry Bird & Bill Russell
While I wasn't a Celtics fan, I had a deep appreciation for the Bird-man and loved his game, following it closely over the years. Was in my junior year in College, started working for the Anheuser-Busch distributor as a marketing intern and was named co-captain of the hoops squad.

25 Years Old: 10-24-1988 Notre Dame Football
I used to watch Notre Dame football highlights every Sunday morning as a little kid (in Black & White) before looking at the morning paper so I wouldn't know the score. I was a huge ND fan until right about this point. I watched the UCLA 88-game losing streak fall with my dad and was in tears with 3 minutes left and before the improbable comeback.

30 Years Old: 11-01-1993 Joe Carter, Blue Jays walk-off Series HR 
This is the first cover, where I can actually say I was at the game it took place at. My father and brother Greg and I had tickets in the nose-bleeds at SkyDome for the Carter HR and then partied into the evening. Of course, we were rooting for the Phillies, but to see a World Series-winning HR was super cool. In the years between covers, I have my first child, who is now in her 5th year of school getting her Masters. We've gone through three Super Bowl losses at this point...ugh.

35 Years Old: 11-09-1998 Doug Flutie, Buffalo Bills
The guy who saved the franchise for Buffalo was on the 30 years old cover (ok I skipped one, but saw Flutie in the next issue...sue me). Another Super Bowl loss and still not interested a lick in horse racing. Leave the national firm and start our accounting firm in October 1994 with a total of 5 people. The Sabres lose the "No Goal" game and beginning to think I'm jinxed.

39 1/2 Years Old: 4-16-2003 National Champs!
The Cuse wins the title and we unveil our first half-birthday issue. I make an exception here since it's been 20 years between celebrating a winner. The Bills haven't done squat in some time and the Orioles are struggling through the early 00's.
40 Years Old: 10-29-2003: LeBron James NBA Preview
Not really a big LeBron fan, but respect his game and root silently for Cleveland due to the fact they share a lake with us. Firm is a mature nine years old and start dating the Space Gal, the best thing that's ever happened to me. In August 2004, the Saratoga Resident introduces me to the Saratoga Race Course...and well, you know the rest...

45 Years Old: 10-29-2008 Kobe Bryant NBA Preview
Kobe is another NBA guy I respect, but rarely root for. He's a tremendous athlete though and the guy I would want to have the ball in the final seconds of an Olympic game down one. I start the EquiSpace blog in April 2008 (686 posts ago) and the rest is history. The Space Kid is born in January 2009 and the Space Filly in November 2010 on Black Friday. In October 2010, I start the Buffalo News gig and start traveling to the Triple Crown races and Breeders' Cup. Trips to Woodbine, Fort Erie and Saratoga covering the biggest races fills out my assignments on an annual basis.

50 Years Old: 10-28-2013 Brooklyn Nets (Jason Kidd) NBA Preview
That takes us up to today, the big 5-0. An issue on my birthday, just like the day I was born a few weeks before the JFK assassination.I visited my son at Geneseo (a frosh) today and it brought back memories of my college days seeing his suite room during the time the World Series was going on. Sports has always played a big role in my life and I'm glad I found horse racing to fill the void after I stopped playing hoops. I have lots to be thankful for, an awesome wife, great kids, super parents and in-laws, lots of friends and good partners in business. I guess that about covers it.


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