Final Enlightened Derby Trail update for 2014

I have an Enlightened Derby Trail update for you, and my final version of whom should be in among those still on the Trail. I also include a mythical one that includes horses who scored points in my system that are technically still eligible but who have strayed from the trail for reasons other than injury or not being nominated. Below is the new EDT update
 Here are the Cliff’s Notes for eligible races on the Enlightened Derby and Oaks Trails:
*One prep race per track.
*Race must be open condition and on dirt (preferable) and Graded, or the best ungraded, larger purse breaking ties.
*Races for 3YOs considered between January 1 and the same day as the Blue Grass Stakes in mid-April. *
Races for 2YOs between June 1 and December 31.
*There are scores for the top 4 finishers of the preps, with the lowest series of points given to ungraded 2YO races, and the highest to the Graded 3YO races.
Category 1 (2YO, ungraded): 100 for first, 50 for 2nd, 25 for 3rd, 10 for 4th.
Category 2 (2YO, Graded, plus Breeders Cup Juvenile): 250-125-50-25
Category 3 (3YO ungraded): 500-350-125-50
Category 4 (3YO, Graded) : 1000-500-250-125
A defined series of divisions are what the horses are competing on. Think of it as multiple Derby/Oaks Trials. The most points gathered in those races gains entry into the Derby or Oaks.
As posted prior, there are 5 divisions of tracks, plus one large section whose best races are ungraded and for 2YOs. Top 4 in each division get into the list of 24. Unofficial representation for each division is made based on where they score the most points in. A number of horses, of course, are running in different areas (typically NY/Florida, South/Louisiana, and so forth), When necessary, a balancing process ensures there are 4 from each division.
With Ring Weekend and Bayern now off the Trail, here’s the new list:
New York: Wicked Strong, Samraat.Ride On Curlin, Social Inclusion
Cali: California Chrome, Hoppertunity, Candy Boy, Strong Mandate
Bluegrass: We Miss Artie, Harry’s Holiday, Medal Count, Dance With Fate
Florida: Wildcat Red, Vinceremos, General a Rod, Conquest Titan
Gulf Coast: Vicar’s In Trouble, Danza, Intense Holiday, Tapiture
Minor: Big Bazinga
Also eligible would be these 2 horses: Commanding Curve, Coastline. These horses had 250 points, and broke ties in earnings. The lowest ranked horses I have among the 22 remaining are at 250 points.
On the outside looking in: Pablo del Monte, Shivarelli, Asserting Bear, Cleburne. I’d add these if Commanding Curve and/or Coastline defect.
Now I have not one but 2 wrenches to throw in the mix:
If my Derby Trial was truly in form, I believe that eligible horses who had enough points in my system would not stray off the trail, and I would add as many as 8 horses to the list, exluding those who are now injured and those who won EDT races that are actually not Triple Crown eligible. Those horses are Kid Cruz, Tamarando, Rebranded, Rise Up, Matuszak, Our Caravan, Casiguapo and Dublin Up. How would my EDT change if I allowed these horses?
Here’s my new list
Minor: Kid Cruz, Matuszak, Rise Up, Rebranded
NY: Wicked Strong, Ride On Curlin, Samraat, Strong Mandate
CA: Dance With Fate, Tamarando, California Chrome, Hoppertunity
KY: We Miss Artie, Harry’s Holiday, Medal Count, Tapiture
FL: Wildcat Red, Vinceremos, Our Caravan, General a Rod
Gulf: Vicar’s In Trouble, Danza, Intense Holiday, Candy Boy

On the outside of this list, we must exclude, in order of EDT points then earnings:
Commanding Curve

Pablo del Monte
Social Inclusion
Big Bazinga
Conquest Titan
Asserting Bear
Smack Smack
Puppy Manners
Dublin Up
If I were to add my de facto standards for horses that have been prepared properly, we’d still have to eliminate some horses from the Trail. Whether this should be strictly a handicapping angle or actual rule put in place to keep horses eligible may certainly be debated. Any lack of one of these conditions, save field size, is grounds for eliminiation:
Track: Must have a race on dirt at a route distance
Field size: Must have raced in at least a field of 10 horses (that is, 9 others)
Experience: Must have raced at 2.
Danza would be conditionally out based on field size.
Dance With Fate, Harry’s Holiday and Casiguapo has not a dirt route at 3.
Hoppertunity has not raced at 2.
Later tonight, or overnight, I’ll devote more space to both the Kentucky Oaks and the Alysheba Stakes, the latter with 4 Kentucky Derby entrants from 2013.

ATP Barcelona Open finals analysis

The ATP 500 Masters series winds up its two weeks in Barcelona with a decent, and rather surprising matchup for the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Kei Nishikori, one of the leading lights in the series, takes on Santiago Giraldo, who is playing in just his 2nd ATP final and seeks his first win on the tour in his 11th year.

Giraldo defeated Nicolas Almagro, who delivered the shock of the tournament by defeating the world #1 and perennial winner here in Rafael Nadal. Santiago is a clay court specialist winning the bare majority of his games there. Today’s win would be number #100 for him outdoors. Notably he has a 77% record after winning the first set, and 16% when losing it. Currently he’s #65 in the world for singles, and actually has a losing record in singles matches combining ATP, Grand Slam and Davis Cup matches.

Nishikori ,world #17, in his 8th year in ATP, with 4 titles and a 61% win record. His last 2 title wins have come at Memphis on an indoor hard srurface. Was a finalist once before on clay in 2011 in Houston. 4-2 in finals lifetime, and 76% in the deciding set of a match. Good on clay but better still on hardcourt. 91% match wins after winning the first set, 30% after. This is his first clay tournament of the year.

ATP stats thus far in 2014:
Giraldo wins returning first save at 31%. Nishikori at 32%
Return games won: Giraldo at 24%. Nishikori at 32%. (top 10)
Points won returning 2nd serve: Giraldo at 47%. Nishikori at 55% (top 10).
Points won returning 1st serve: Giraldo 31%. Nishikori 34% (top 10)
Both players save break points at a rate of 64%.
Break points converted: Nishikori is 20th at 44%. Giraldi is 23 at 43%.
Service games won: Nishikori 82%, Giraldo 76%.
1st service points won: Nishikori 72%, Giraldo 70%.
2nd serve points won: Nishikori 51%. Giraldo 49%.
1st service %: Nishikori 61%. Giraldo: 56%

In comparing lifetime ATP stats across careers, Nishikori has a sizeable advantage in his return game, including 53% of 2nd serve return points and 27% of return games won, at least 5% better than Giraldo.
Giraldo has one advantage,and that’s his total of aces to double faults. +502 and counting.

In the head to head, Kei has a 4-1 match edge, winning 12 of 15 sets, 2 match wins at Indian Wells and a thrilling 5-set match in the 2010 French Open where he had to come from 2 sets down. That was their first meeting and their only one on clay of these 5.

Going inside the head to head numbers here’s what I uncovered:
*In the one match he won, Giraldo gathered 73% success in 2nd service points won, with 30-61% in all losses
*Also in the win: 60% break points converted, 0-30% in losses
*40% return points won in the win, 21-38% in losses.

For Nishikori:
*72-78% 1st service points won in match wins, 66% in the loss
*aces/double fault margin from 0 to +6 in wins, -1 in loss
*break points converted: 19-50% in wins, 0% in loss.
*return points won: 36-50% in wins, 29% in loss.

Now that you know what it takes for each player to win, you’ll understand that all eyes will be on Giraldo on serve, going against one of the best on tour in return games.
On to the cycles, Nishikori first.

These cycles don’t get any better. Triple high for the world #17, which actually peaked 2 days prior.

He peaked as well about days ago, and the dropoff is much more steep in his case. Sure, he’ll make the right shots, but there’s a definite lack of power in them. He seems down on himself and inwardly might cringe at the heavy feel of his racket. If he’s going to win, as mentioned, his serve (especially 2nd) vs. Nishikori’s return game is key, and he must figure how to break back consistently.
It’s a tale of two players, and the trophy should easily go to Nishikori, straight sets.


Enlightened Derby Trail part 2 (4/25/14)

This post will reveal my top 24 (20 +4) for entry for the Derby, factoring in the real-life matters of the connections of all contenders. I also streamline further the info about the tracks involved.

Summarizing what I described thus far: I created an enlightened Derby Trail, the hook being that graded and 3YO races are treat slightly better than the 2YO and ungraded races, tho both kinds have a specific point system that rewards points to the top 4. Top 24 in points get into the show. One key matter: I use the one most qualifiable race that fits the Trail per track. I looked for the best graded race available to 2YOs between June and December, and 3YO between January and April. Horses who were injured or pointed away from the Trail are removed from my list.

Here’s what’s different in part two:

I decided on one race to represent Northlands Park, that being the Canadian Juvenile Mile.

Evangeline Downs was on the original list. In fact, that track won’t join my Trail until 2014 when the initial running of the Evangeline Star Stakes, ungraded for 2YO, takes place.
I added in the Breeders Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, with higher point structure for this graded races than other than same for 2YOs only. This corrects my earlier stance on the issue of having one race on the trail per track.
I eliminated Thistledown from the list as I discovered that their best appro race is for state-breds only.
Attached and linked is a table that lists the tracks, the divisions, the latest info on Graded status and purse money for each race, the title, distance and field size, and with the approximate portion of the month the race occurs. Finally I add in the top 4 from each and a brief cumulative total of $ earned.
 Sheet 2 expands on these:
*A cumulative look at earnings and points from first race to last.
*A list of my top 29 horses factoring in horses who are still eligible in the real life Derby Trail. For this I sourced the current point totals which list 35 horses as still eligible.
*A list of the horses that scored 100 points in my version of the Trail but are not on the real life trail, with short explanations.
*A list of all horses with 100 points plus, broken down by my divisions of major tracks, and my subdivisions of minor tracks.
All info is updated as of this publishing, Friday evening of April 25.
What I’ll publish here too is my method of resolution for determing the top 24 that get in the show:

You’ll see on Sheet 2 there are a number of horses who didn’t make the show, especially from the minor tracks, whose best race reflect the lowest points in general, the 2YO/ungraded ones. None of the horses really qualified on their own because only a few horses like Rise Up bothered to place in more lucrative races. Rise Up is one of 10 Triple Crown nominees that were eventually pointed away from the Trail. If my system were in place, would the connections of those 10 horses still look elsewhere? I doubt it. Rise Up was quite accomplished of those coming out of the minors, winning the Delta Downs Jackpot, along with the Ohio Valley subdivision win, that being the Mountaineer Juvenile. The best from the minors proved to be Kid Cruz, with wins in the Federico Tesio and the Private Terms. Apparently his connections had already pointed him to the Derby after the Private Terms.

How I decided to rectify eligibility for the 24 Derby entries was this: Guarantee 4 entries from each divison (4×6). Then draw from the remaining pool of horses with real-life Derby points, using earnings in the events of ties.
The horses that did qualify by division, no fuzzy math involved:
New York: Wicked Strong, Samraat.
Cali: California Chrome, Hoppertunity, Candy Boy.
Bluegrass: We Miss Artie, Harry’s Holiday, Medal Count
Florida: Ring Weekend, Wildcat Red, Vinceremos, General a Rod (no ties here)
Gulf Coast: Vicar’s In Trouble, Danza, Intense Holiday.
15 in total.
4 horses had points in more than one division: Dance With Fate, Strong Mandate, Ride On Curlin, and Tapiture. My task was to add these 4 to the list evenly. Then I would have to assign 1 more to make the list 20 to satisfy the list for majors.
As for the minors, the only horse that served as best of the rest and still eligible is Big Bazinga, After that, I opted to pick between the majors again.
All ties were broken by my point system, then earnings.
Here’s how it worked out:
I gave Dance With Fate the first option since he had the most points on my list. I put him in the Bluegrass division, then put Tapiture in the Gulf Coast, then putting Ride on Curlin in the NY division, and then Strong Mandate in Cali. Very simple process,
Now the list looks like this:
New York: Wicked Strong, Samraat.Ride On Curlin

Cali: California Chrome, Hoppertunity, Candy Boy, Strong Mandate
Bluegrass: We Miss Artie, Harry’s Holiday, Medal Count, Dance With Fate
Florida: Ring Weekend, Wildcat Red, Vinceremos, General a Rod (no ties here)
Gulf Coast: Vicar’s In Trouble, Danza, Intense Holiday, Tapiture
Now we have our 19, and now to pick the horse with the most points under my system from the minor tracks. Big Bazinga, who is 25th in the real-life points standings per DRF was my one choice, and is the one representative of all those small tracks. No other horse is officially on the real-life trail, and the remaining horses had 150 points at the most.
My feeling is that, so long as there is some representation from one area, that would be enough for the 20+4 field. So we have 1 from the minor tracks, 3 from NY, and 4 each from the others.
Now with 20 horses, time to pick the last 4 in among the majors. These would be the also-eligibles. Our lowest score between the horses from major tracks so far is Candy Boy, at 250. This also reflects my top 29 list, which also creates a benchmark of 250 for being 20th or even 24th. For my system, if you won a graded race at 2 or finished a graded race in first or 2nd, you were in, right on the number at 250. At that point, earnings would break the tie.
NY: Social Inclusion at 250
KY: Coastline and Pablo del Monte with 250
Gulf Coast: Commanding Curve and Bayern with 250.
So we have 5. Who gets cut? We turn to earnings:
Social Inclusion: $90k
Coastline: 131k
Pablo del Monte: 102k
Commanding Curve: 140k
Bayern: 100k.
By a margin of $10k, Social Inclusion, who only placed 3rd in the Wood Memorial, is OUT and cannot back in. The other 4 are IN. These are the 4 horses who are also-eligible and get in if any of my top 20 defect.
The third sheet in the table lists the horses by division and then by points, followed by the also-eligibles.
I can only imagine the what-if scenarios re the 10 horses that aren’t continuing, not for injury or lack of nomination. Kid Cruz certainly could’ve been a big contender, as much as Tamarando. Rise Up deserves better, as does Casiguapo. Matuszak placed well in 2 races. Smack Smack did likewise among the minor tracks.Rebranded and his 500 points should be enough for the show. What if my system were in place instead? It would make Tapiture the 20 horse with 375, and then 3 horses at 350, and then I’d make Candy Boy #24 and last in with his 250. Then everything else would be set by earnings, with General a Rod the first out. So it would eliminate 5 spots among the real-life entrants.
Also of note: 8 of the 10 horses that I wanted to eliminate from the real-life trail are still eligible. 4 horses already rate on both their list and mine: Danza, Dance With Fate, Hoppertunity, and Harry’s Holiday. Danza I can’t fault as he’s never faced a large field. But, Harry’s Holiday and Dance With Fate both need a dirt route, Hoppertunity has no races at 2. I have to believe the betting public will take a negative slant against them.


Be aware that I will provide updates with individual posts when horses fall off the Trail.
Away from the trail for a moment: My rank in the non-elimination handicapping contest at Emerald Downs is 68th. I am ‘in the barn’ and in a temporary hold from wagering races in the Remington Park contest. That hold lifts next Thursday.
Saturday and Sunday I continue with the Emerald Downs contest. Also on Saturday there is a prize contest involving races at Atlantic City and Pimlico.
Here’s the point standings per DRF that I used as a template:
My next scheduled racing posts will likely be Tuesday and Wednesday when Brisnet rolls out the Oaks and Derby past performances. I will give you my thorough analysis, horse-for-horse, on these.
Right now, given my financial status, I don’t foresee wagering on any other races outside of the Oaks and Derby.

Call for an enightened Derby Trail

I hate the idea of racing at Keeneland being the all-but-forced path to Churchill Downs. That is, if your horse didn’t get enough points and really need that last x amount of points to make the final 24 (20 plus 4 also eligible). Why was the trail set up so that category of horse must race on something other than dirt? I thought a prep race was just that, to prepare one for what was to come.
We all know that no thoroughbred on this side of the Atlantic will see a field of 19 others at any time before or after. That’s a true given. Here’s another: It’s all but impossible to find a 10 furlong race that a colt or filly should run to prepare for the 10 furlongs of the Derby. It makes matters worse when there are races on the Trail that don’t measure up or get lost in the shuffle compared to the big races, the Grade 1 3YO races that dwarf the marginal ungraded ones in terms of ponits and stature.

How I have wagered the race is my usual: choosing my top 3 horses, plus the field, in a series of wins and exactas in all 4 Derby pools (plus same for the Oaks). This year, it seems that a lot of my horses are just not making the show. The first thing I think of is this: The Trail point system is creating haves and have-nots of the different owners and trainers, and the actual path in terms of geography and timing make it challenging to race in a horse’s best interest. Look at the number of horses who fell off the Trail this year. And please don’t bring up the case of Steve Asmussen and Tapiture (I have several wins and exactas on that horse alone).
Why are the Keeneland races run at the end? Why are they involved? I’m glad at least to read that they will go back to dirt for next year’s Trail, so this rant has a short shelf life. Even with that, it’s hard for us horseplayers to know how a horse will do going into the Derby itself. I say there should be better and proper prep races.

Some blog posts have shaped my thinking further. JJ Hysell, Louisville, KY-based writer on all things thoroughbred racing, and the creator of the blog In The Money, gathered a quote from trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Cairo Prince. The interview is dated March 27, 3 weeks before Cairo Prince was withdrawn due to his injured left front ankle.
McLaughin states that “..right now….to win on different surfaces around the world and get 100 points for races or 50 points, and then have proper dirt preps that have been there forever and the Breeders’ Cup be worth 10 points, I just don’t understand.” More:
I also located a Q&A with McLaughin by Ciara Bowen, who writes for Here there is more ammo for the veteran trainer’s argument against the point system. In part: “…if you want 20 of the best horses to get in the gate for the Kentucky Derby, you have to give equal weight to everybody. You can’t penalize people for winning prep races. What if you have no points?”
Read more
I think the point system is here for the long term. But I’m willing to change things up, or at least make some proper suggestions that will effect that change. I cannot speak to weights as well as a trainer can as I don’t handicap along those lines. I can come from the standpoint of studying each prep, seeing where and when these races occur, and try to build a better mousetrap.

I wrestled with the final product for days, wondering if I should go as far as to rank every single prep race on its own merit, but I stopped short. I did, though, begin by keeping the 3YO races ahead of the 2YO races, making the Breeders Cup Juvenile the best race for 2YOs. The top rung belongs to the tracks that showcase the Grade 1 races with the largest purse.

I was tempted to follow through with ranking all North American tracks to determine which belongs on the Trail and which doesn’t. Such ranking would fine tune a sort of point system that would include smaller tracks and give them new life by putting their one best race, appropriate and timely for the Derby Trail, in the mix. It would certainly aim to attract fans to the track, knowing that their representative race will have Derby points and something to hang their hats on.
I gave thought to streamlining the points in 4 categories.
The lowest category would go to racetracks whose best appropriate race is ungraded and for 2YO colts (or colts/geldings).
The 2nd category would be the same except that the best race would be the graded ones, with the best race in this category being the Breeders Cup Juvenile. All the races in that 2nd category get more points than the ungraded ones.
Next up would be the ungraded best race per track pointed to 3YOs. Finally, the most points would go to the graded 3YO events.

I’d eliminate the non-American race, the UAE Derby from the mix. Also, I nix, with 2 main exceptions, multiple races on the Trail per track. Every track gets one race on the Trail, their best one. I rank those based on Graded status, then by purse.
I then attempted to calculate the effectiveness of a Derby prep, to answer this question: How worthy of a prep race is it to the track? The Sunland Derby has seen 12 KY Derby entrants fail to win the Run For The Roses. On the upside, the most successful track is Gulfstream, where 18 horses out of 136 winners of the Florida Derby won at the Kentucky Derby. Percentage-wise, that’s 13%, more than the 6% from Keeneland and Belmont, and the 4% range by Santa Anita, Churchill Downs itself, and Aqueduct. Note that I factor in, for these tracks, the combined total of the active prep races. Aqueduct is 25-547, just over 6%.
I further wanted to rank tracks by their average graded race, lessening the graded total for the 2YO races they have involved. By my ranking, Gulfstream comes out ahead again, over Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, Tampa Bay, Keeneland and Belmont. Woodbine and Delta Downs were at the bottom.
After all this, I buried somewhat my own direction, thinking maybe I could devise a much more graduated point system involving every track, as suggested. Then a new thought came into being that stuck with me: What about those trainers who’d rather race horses in one or two geographic area (such as the common NY to FL and back move) and not ship so often simply to chase points? Even

And then the big idea came in. Having been enamored for years by tournament structures, namely football’s (OK, soccer’s) World Cup and the NCAA basketball Big Dance, I hit upon the idea of creating a system that would guarantee that the 24 final eligible horses for the Kentucky Derby would represent all ‘geographic divisions’ of North American horse racing. The race has such history, such lore, such a place in Americana that it deserves to be a worthy prize. The Mine That Bird story, now made into a film, can be retold, and redone, with a different horse. Or a true superhorse that hardly gets attention at first but is suddenly on everyone’s lips as it turns three. I want there to be a good story, and have the best competition be existent in one place.

Before I launch into the nuts and bolts, allow me to rant about a few things I really don’t like that may be taking away from the Derby and likely the Triple Crown itself.
Doing my stakes schedule research via several sites, I discovered that in 2011, there was a prize for the connections of horses who finish in the top 3 in certain races, and the Preakness. Nothing about the Derby. Is there unspoken temptation to skip the Derby just for a $5.5 million shot at glory? Is that the going rate for glory?
Equally heinous was the connections of Spend A Buck in 1985. After winning the Run For the Roses, they opted to race him in Garden State Park’s signature race, the Jersey Derby for a huge $2.6 million prize. He did win by a neck over Creme Fraiche, who would later win the Belmont. This felt like a travesty, shunning the Triple Crown. I’d rather see owners go for that lofty prize instead of a pure money grab. I haven’t seen evidence of a bonus for the Preakness on top of prep race placement since 2011 but I sure would not like to see anyone skip the sainted Kentucky Derby for this. It’s wrong for the sport.

And here’s what else I would change:

Space out the Derby, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes to a period of 4 weeks. First Saturdays in May, June, July. It’s for the horse’s safety, and our sanity, for sure.
Also, the Derby shouldn’t have to be 20 horses. Why can’t it be 14, more in line with the biggest fields normally fielded in North America? Again, safety, sanity, and the familiarity with field size should be prepared for.
To briefly amend my de facto rules for Derby qualifications, field size alone should not eliminate a horse, but you’re sure asking for trouble.if you really want to tackle 19 others when you’ve run against only against, say, 9 before.
OK, now that system:
What I envision are divisions by geography of the different race tracks. I see x amount of horses coming from the major and, let’s say mid-major race tracks that offer Graded stakes races and some of the better ungraded stakes on the continent.
Going beyond this idea, I wanted to include every track that offered something that would fit into a Derby Trail:
The one best race for 2YO colts (and possibly geldings) between June and December on the calender, and the best 3YO race for colts scheduled between January and before the Blue Grass in mid-April.
I first took a look at the ratings listed by the Horseplayers Association Of North America.‎ They rank 64 tracks based on field size, handle and more. From the list, I studied the stakes schedule of each. Using my calendar/race rules, I uncovered the best representative race of each track. There were 2 notable exceptions: The Bredeers Cup tends to change tracks annually. It’s the best race for a Derby prospect at 2, bar none. If the race is at a track whose best race is, say, ungraded, then the Breeders Cup race is best. In all other cases, it is the 3YO race, graded or no, that must take priority.
Also, Northlands Park has 2 stakes aces at $50k. I decided on keeping them both.
Recall the four categories for race tracks I listed earlier:
*Tracks whose best race is ungraded for 2YO. Examples for available info per track include: Monmouth Park (Sapling Stakes), Woodbine (Grey Stakes), Louisiana Downs (Sunday Silence Stakes). 20 tracks in all fit.
*2nd category: Tracks whose best race is Graded for 2YO. Full list: Delta Downs (DeD Jackpot), Belmont (Champagne), Del Mar (DM Futurity), Saratoga (Hopeful), Churchill Downs (KY Jockey Club), 5 tracks total.
Add to this the BC Juvenile ONLY for these 5 tracks. If it’s held elsewhere, where 3YOs races rank better), it will not trump the 3YO race there. That’s how it goes.
*3rd category: Tracks whose best race is ungraded for 3YOs. Full list: Pimlico (Tesio), Laurel (Private Terms Stakes), Sam Houston Park (Texas Heritage Stakes), Sunland Park (Mine That Bird Stakes), Fonner Park (Baxter Stakes, at 15k). 5 tracks total.
*Top category belongs to the top tracks with Graded races pointing the way: Turfway Park (Spiral), Fair Grounds (LA Derby), Golden Gate (El Camino Real), Oaklawn Park (Arkansas Derby), Santa Anita (SA Derby), Tampa Bay Downs (TB Derby), Gulfstream (FL Derby), Aqueduct (Wood Memorial), Keeneland (Blue Grass). 9 in all.

Right now, as I type this I envision the point system to go this way:
Category 1: 100 for first, 50 for 2nd, 25 for 3rd, 10 for 4th.
Category 2: 250-125-50-25
Category 3: 500-350-125-50
Category 4: 1000-500-250-125

Earnings from non-restricted races will continue to break ties.
Hold these thoughts, and continue to read, if you’re still with me.
The other system I’m folding into this is, again, based on geography. Musing on the list of tracks, I created 6 divisions, listed by division title, track, and appropo point category, 1 being lowest, 4 the highest. 39 different tracks in all.
17 tracks:
*Empire State: Aqueduct (4), Belmont (2), Saratoga (2)
*California: Santa Anita (4) Golden Gate (4) Del Mar (2)
*Bluegrass: Keeneland (4), Turfway Park (4), Churchill Downs (2)
*Florida: Gulfstream (4), Tampa Bay Downs (4), Calder (2)
*Gulf Coast: Delta Downs (2), Evangeline Downs (1), Fair Grounds,(4) Oaklawn Park (4), Louisiana Downs (1)
The sixth division consist of all smaller tracks, whose best race is of the ungraded variety. These are broken into subdivisions just for the sake of demonstration:
22 tracks:
*Midatlantic: Colonial Downs (1), Laurel Park (3),
Monmouth (1), Pimlico (3)
*Ohio Valley: Woodbine (1), Mountaineer (1), Presque Isle (1), Thistledown (1)
*Midwest: Araphoe Park (1), Fonner Park (1) (2 races), Prairie Meadows (1), Canterbury (1), Arlington Park (1)
*West: Emerald Downs (1), Hastings Racecourse (1), Assiniboia (1), Northlands (1), Portland Meadows (1)
*Southwest: Sam Houston Park (3),Remington Park (1), Sunland (3), Zia Park (1)

Eligibility to the Kentucky Derby would be based on division. The top 4 in each division would be either starters (top 20) then also-eligible (next 4 out) Ties would be broken by non-restricted stakes earnings. If and when there are defections, the horses in the also-eligible column move up regardless of division. If that list of 4 is exhausted, then the onus would fall to the next horse(s) with the next most Derby points regardless of division.
Yes, it would be rather competitive between the minor 22 tracks to compete for 4 spots but those are my rules.

The system is automatic by nature. Top 24 in Derby points get in, with the top 20 making the show. Here’s the real-life matter: there will be horses who run in more than one division, and likely in 3 or more. So it becomes a matter of both pride and dollars to determine which division to represent. If you have a place in the top 4 in your division, you have a say. But it must be in a division in either the division it was bred in, or the division it earned the most points in. A claim must be filed by a connection on a certain day (call it Derby Decision Day) to lock this in and make it official.
The final result: Equal representation from tracks, large and small, all across North America, in arguably the most storied race on the continent.
In the attached table I’ve gone a bit deeper to list the races involved, and the approximate date and value of the race based on the research I did this past week. Some info, of course, may be inaccurate. Hey, it’s the Internet. But I’m sure the margin in error is slight, as I am using 2013 stakes schedules.

That’s enough for one post right there. Next, to help flesh out the details, I’ll outline the calendar as to what the enlightened version of the Trail would look like in that format, and then see which of this year’s Triple Crown nominees would be eligible. Granted I don’t have access to earnings but I can tell you by points who’d belong.

2014 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters final analysis

Shortly in the Principality of Monaco is the final of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on the ATP Tour between Swiss countrymen Roger Feder and Stanislas Wawrinka.

Federer owns this matchup, with a record of 15-1 in matches, and dropping only 8 of 38 sets between them. Federer owns the clay matchup 5 sets to one. The one blemish happened on this very court in 2009. You can watch highlights of Wawrinka’s win right here: and here
Stan has a 72% win record on clay, ahead of his 68% win record on hardcourt, and is 4-0 on this year’s tour on clay. The tourney was his first clay one since the Gstaad in October of 2013, where, in the quarters, he retired in the middle of the deciding 3rd set. It’s also his first final on clay since losing to Rafael Nadal in Madrid in September. His last final overall was also against Rafa, when he won the Australian Open. He has 9 clay titles out of 12 total in singles format, pairing up with Fed himself for his 1st of two doubles titles.

How does Stan manage to win today? Here’s what I see: He led in one category and had his own best performance in the 16 match head to head history: return points won, at 41%.
1st service points: 61-69% when better than Federer in this category in a match, 44-62% when trailing
Aces/double faults ratio: +3 to +9 when ahead, -1 to+4 if behind.
1st service points won: 79% if winning this category, 48-78% if losing.
2nd service points won: 53-57% ahead in this category, 35-59% if losing.
Break point conversion: 43-100% if ahead, 0-50% if losing.
Return points won: 41% in the lone win, 21-40% when losing in this category
He’s also trailed in winners/unforced errors and net approaches in all matches with such recorded stats.
So we can spot the benchmarks pretty fairly despite being outpointed in nearly all matches.

Not the best day for Stan today, as he is under a physical critical day, suggesting he’ll experience more pain today while giving his best possible effort and showing heart. He’ll also make more than his share of unforced errors and faults. Overall athletic ability is low.
Federer is 76% victor on clay lifetime, 4-0 himself in 2014. Today’s his first final since Indian Wells. His previous clay tournament was also at Gstaad in 2013. He’s won 10 titles on clay, the last being at Madrid in 2012.

We are sure to see Roger at his physical peak today, tho he’ll also put up his share of mental errors and he’ll likely be out of touch with his emotions. The passion is strong today regardless of this.
Can’t see this one other than a straight set victory for Roger Federer.

Lexington Stakes analysis

I’ll spare my further ranting against Keeneland’s use of anything but dirt for a major Kentucky Derby prep race. I’m quite glad they will return to dirt next year and restore integrity to the Derby trail. I’m in the midst of an essay that I’ll share in a future post about the rating of racetracks in relation to the Derby Trail, and presenting an alternative form of the Derby trail that will level the field a bit re graded races and earnings.
So we turn to the Coolmore Lexington Stakes with no real impact on the Derby whatsoever.
Here’s my top 3:
Solitary Ranger has raced here prior and across the Midwest tracks. Winner of the Arlingon Futurity (G3). Solid record on all-weather, with his best run 2 race back, a 92 Brisnet win in the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park last month, same 8.5 furlong distance as today. The 92 score is a slight improvement of his 2YO best, an 88 to graduate from maiden status. This is the lone speed of the field and has first-call numbers in the last 3 races ranging from 102 to 116. Even with the 9th place finish in the Spiral, the aim here is to show that it was a fluke, and I believe this to be the case with decent value possible.

Poker Player also maybe some value here too. Winner of the G3 Bourbon last October, 2nd to Solitary Ranger in the Battaglia, forging lifetime best speed figure of 87. Stewart Elliott has a 22% win rate here, combined with a 2-for 7 mark thus far at Keeneland by trainer Wayne Catalano. Also took drop in speed and placing in the Spiral, and I’m seeking a bounceback for him too.

Supermonic broke maiden status in 4th career start, followed up with debut at Keeneland with a convincing win, scoring a 90 Brisnet in that 60k allowance race. That speed figure is the best of this field here and represents his lifetime best. Prior to that he surged past his 2YO best with an 83, making his all-weather debut. One of just 3 in the field coming out of very good trip.

2-4-10 my selections for this one.

Porter/Malignaggi analysis in biorhythms

Biggest fight on tonight’s boxing calendar amidst a few championship bouts is this one: Shawn Porter v Paul Malignaggi, taking place at the DC Armory in the nation’s capital. Porter’s IBF welterweight title on the line. Challenger first:
Malignaggi is ranked as the #7 welterweight in the US by and #11 worldwide. Ring magazine gives him the #8 ranking. Magic Man, out of Brooklyn, is 33-5-0, with KO 7 wins, 2 KO losses. Last loss was to Adrien Broner last June, split decision. Last KO loss was to Amir Kahn in 2010, 11th of 12 rounds. The loss to Broner ended a 5 fight win streak. Just one KO win in a 12 round fight, 9th round vs Senchenko 2 years. This Malignaggi’s 5th straight title fight having previously held the WBA World welterweight title and the vacant NABF title in the same class. Here’s the stat I’m intrigued by: 16 fights have come vs fighters with 0 or 1 loss. , with a record of 12-4. His opponent is #17.

Bad cycles for a boxer anytime, with weakening power and already deflated motivation.

The man they call Showtime (does Showtime network call him that too?), Shawn Porter is 23-0-1, 14 KO wins. This is just his 2nd fight scheduled for 12. First one was his most recent effort, decision win vs. Devon Alexander. The lone draw came 16 months ago vs Julio Diaz, 10 rounds. Ring magazine gives him the #6 welterweight ranking. says he’s #4 in the US, #8 worldwide.

Cycles not much different for Showtime, as his skills are very weak but he has much better smarts in the ring, and he’ll know when he’ll able to block, and be somewhat able to use the ring more to his advantage.
Both fighters make their first appearance in DC. No common opponents between the two nor common judges or referees.
Prediction: Decision for Porter, barely able to hang in in the 12th. Paying for the fight? You might get your money’s worth.