Santa Anita Gold Cup prediction, analysis

Interesting handicapping contest by the folks that bring you the Breeders Cup, Million Dollar Finish, has its 2nd leg today. I believe they are using all of the win-and-you’re-in races for the contest. Essentially you have to predict the full order of finish as close as possible. Given that there are only 7 horses for this week’s challenge, the Santa Anita Gold Cup, there will be points and no prizes.
Here’s my predicted finish with analysis of each horse:

GAME ON DUDE won the Santa Anita Handicap twice, Pacific Classic, Hollywood Gold Cup, CT Classic and the San Antonio. His 110 score in the 2013 SA Handicap is the best of this field for the track. Lifetime best 111 for the 10 furlong distance as well. Jockey Mike Smith with 22 % wins, Bob Baffert 25% during the meet. Has proven to win right off layoff previously. Comes out of a 2nd place finish in this year’s CT Classic, a bold effort for the sprinter who was never out of the money in the 9 furlong race. I love horses who make that kind of effort. My odds: 7-2. Morning line: 4-5. Contender.

FURY KAPCORI had won 4 straight on this track, then a 2nd place last time in the Californian last month. Paired up lifetime best scores of 103 and 104 in last 2 races, a gradual move up from prior races in the 90s. This stalker I’ve measured as fastest of the field (last 3 2nd call numbers: 122, 109, 100). My odds: 4-1. Morning line: 9-2. Contender

CLUBHOUSE RIDE won the last 2 editions of the Californian, last month here, and in 2013 at its former home of Betfair Hollywood Park. Joe Talamo and Craig Lewis have combined forces 3 times in the last 60 days with 1 win, for an ROI of +3.00 (directly referencing the stakes win last month). I like his numbers but nothing compares him to this field. 5 wins in 37 starts. My odds: 20-1. Morning line: 9/2. No shot.
IMPERATIVE comes out of win in the CT Classic in April. Hasn’t won in over a year prior to that, and happens to be just 3 for 15 lifetime. Trainer George Papaprodromou has 1 win and 3 in the money for his Graded stakes horses in 2014 so far, ROI of 11.75. Forged lifetime best of 106 in the CT Classic, sharply ahead of his 89 in the SA Handicap..so there’s possibility of bouncing from that number. With Desormeaux aboard, plus reintroduction to dirt, he’s made some strong, tho inconsistent efforts. My odds: 6-1. Morning line: 4-1. Outside chance
SALTO DEL INDIO ships from Chile with 19 races and 4 wins lifetime. No available speed stats for this horse. I do note that he’s won several Grade 1 races there. Also has the best workout tab of the field, with 8 works at Santa Anita, 4 of them very fast, including the last two, 1 a bullet. My odds: 8-1. Morning line: 8-1. Dark horse.

MAJESTIC HARBOR has a Grade 3 win in the Tokyo City at Santa Anita in late March, 2 races back, plus was 3rd in the Californian, moving pace number from 95 to 101. Appears to be largely outclassed by this field based on pace. Last 2 wins tho have come from an outside post. My odds: 6-1. Morning line: 12-1. Outside contender.

7 LIDERIS ships from Peru and also makes his US debut here. Grandsire is Cozzene, Damsire is Dynaformer. Also a Grade 1 winner. With the lack of available stats, hard to predict how he’ll do. My odds: 20-1. Morning line: 20-1. No shot. Majestic Harbor definitely is taking less money along with the 2 shippers from Central America.

My predicted order of finish:
1-2-6-4-5-3-7 (Game On Dude, Fury Kapcori, Majestic Harbor, Imperative, Salto Del Indio, Clubhouse Ride, Lideris)
It’s fair to say that Majestic Harbor may prove to be the one horse for value today. Looking at the crowdsourced odds on Thorobid.com at this moment, their public suggests an order of 2-1-4, then either 3 or 6 afterward, then 4, then 7. I’m guessing, based on this, that Imperative might become more valuable against odds, tho I won’t include him.

World Cup national team support

Out of sheer curiosity, I attempted to figure how many players are playing for clubs in their home country while also on their national team, looking at just the 16 remaining teams. The results were rather surprising:
104 of the 360 players with some club affiliation are playing for their home country, and 6 national sides have kept players at home: Chile, Colombia, Nigeria, Algeria, Costa Rica, and Greece (leads with 10)
4 countries have more players on foreign soil than at home: Germany (27!), France, Argentina and host country Brazil
Uruguay is invisible, none playing at home, no imports.
It must be fun supporting German football: 16 playing for the home country, and the 27 for others.

The attached chart breaks it all down.
https://idealisticstats.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/national-team-reps.xls

Given the breakdown of home team players, would it be too arrogant to suggest a Germany Mexico final?

general Enlightened Trail and contest update

Giving you an update on 3 handicapping series I’ve involved in, each of which is hosted by 123racing.com. The contests are free, and it’s simply a matter of selecting one horse per race to win. Each contest has their own set of ways and means.
With these contests, my approach is simply selecting the one most likely horse to win, not to simply contend. I don’t hold out for value horses, and you can’t skip a race with these contests. What I actually do in practice is nominate my top 3 horses. In actual wagering I might play these along with actual favorites for partial exacta wheels and straight win bets if the odds suggest an overlay. In my own system, I create my own betting line and compare it to the odds a few minutes to post time. These contests are true pick-and-pray; you have to get your selections in x amount of minutes before the first contest race, usually 30 minutes.

SURVIVAL AT THE SHORE began 2 weeks into the Monmouth Park meet. To survive, a player must have at least 1 podium finish each day between 3 pre-selected races, wagering a mythical $2 WPS ticket. You are allowed one lifeline, and more are added the longer one survives. A second total miss on 3 races eliminates you. You survive (read ‘win’) if you make it to the end of the meet. Cash prizes for top 3, also one for most winners, and merch for week’s best bankroll.
I already have lost my safety net so it’s a matter of cashing the rest of the long summer. I did survive this last year, so I know it can be done. 1708 players remain out of 6777 that have entered. I’m actually ranked 1178th with $204.80. My single best score came on Sunday, with a win by Hampton Bays Sun. $27.40 was the payout. On day 4, I had 2 wins and a place for my best day of the 14 so far, $37.80. Next ‘life preserver’ comes 6/29, so I must cash on Friday and Saturday to get that far. I really don’t expect to finish high in earnings. I’m happy to survive this one.

GRAND RIVER CHALLENGE is non-elimination, basically picking 1 horse each in 3 races with a mythical $2 WPS wager. From now through mid-August, 22 race days in all, it’s a matter of cashing. Top 5 get cash prizes. 6th through 30 get merch prizes.
Grand River Raceway hosts standardbreds. I’m still rather rusty with this sort of handicapping but I stumbled upon a system melded from a few introduced by Bob Pandolfo. It’s not a terribly scientific method and there’s mostly faves and overall fast times involved, but I’m cashing. There are 1685 players involved, and yours truly is currently 93rd overall in winnings, and 7th in overall wins. 7 players have 8 wins in the 12 races contested. I’m in the next tier with 7 plus one show finish. Big score so far was Windsun Kenda at $18.20. Each day’s total, in fact, has succeeded itself, from 12.20 in day 1 to 36.30 in day 4. Overall I have $97.90. Curiously tho, if I really did play across-the-board wagers in 12 races, would I have profited? $6 x 12 races = $72. So I’d realize about a 36% profit. I suppose it’s fine, but my confidence in real wagering would go toward wins with value horses, and exactas (er, exactors) with my top 2 or even top 3 horses.

EMERALD DOWNS runs their contest through September. Also non-elimination, it involves the last 6 races each race day (weekend dates plus Friday and sometimes a Thursday or Monday), and also involves a mythical $2 WPS wager. Scoring is ranked on the $ won. Top 3 placing at the end of the challenge earn a cash prize. There are also prizes for most winners during the challenge and most $ earned during a calendar week. The thing with Emerald is that there aren’t a lot of shippers, and the ones that do might come from the lower Cali tracks or western Canada. Plus the fields are smaller, and you’ll often see the same horses running every month.
I’m cblue456 during the challenge. Why not have a look at how I’m doing?


Absolutely true, folks. 2nd in the overall challenge, and nearly won the weekly merch prize at that this past week. On the bulletin board, I made my picks for Saturday with this quote:

$78.60 was the payout for Kiss Em, the longest shot of 7 running.
Here are the stats through 180 races:
58 wins, 31 seconds, 25 thirds, 20 fourths.
That’s 32% win rate, 63% in the money. Figure that I’ll get 2 wins and 4 placings on an average day
My overall earnings are $1153.80, which is an average of $6.40 earned per race. Figure that against a $6 WPS wager and I’m barely breaking even. And I’m #2! Again, I don’t recommend WPS wagers in real life but they’ll do just fine in contests.

If I played my top 3 in these races the way I usually do, with wins and exactas, I wonder if I’d do more than break even .Maybe. Just maybe.
You can jump any time you want tho you’ll have a ways to go before catching up to me. http://www.emerald123.com
***
Coming up this Saturday is a one-day event from the folks behind the Breeders Cup: Million Dollar Finish. They are involving one race a week that serves as a win-and-you’re-in event for the BC races later on (I don’t like this approach to entry but that’s a rant for a different post). You have to predict the exact order of finish for the top 10 horses. I’m intrigued enough to want to join. Care to partake? www.milliondollarfinish.com

The Enlightened Derby/Oaks Trails will begin with 2 races at Oak Tree @ Pleasanton. The two races in my focus are the Everett Nevin Stakes for 2YO, and the Juan Gonzalez Memorial for 2YO fillies. http://www.race-track.info says that this track is the oldest of its kind in the US. Probably a fitting beginning for the trail!
The key quote in a story by the San Francisco Gate relates to the power of what a publicly-owned track can do. http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Oak-Tree-bolsters-Alameda-Fair-meet-5563101.php

Also,at Colonial Downs, site of the next track on my trails, there is serious talk about scrapping their 2014 season to provide a 2015 season instead. News came just hours ago:
http://www.tidewaterreview.com/news/va-tr-colonial-downs-ordered-to-sign-2015-thoroughbred-season-contract-would-forgo-2014-race-season-20140623,0,6902185.story

2014 Sprint Cup at Michigan International Speedway stats/prediction

The fastest track in NASCAR, Michigan International Speedway, is in focus today, for the Quicken Loans 400, a 200-lap event around the D-shaped track. Here are the stats i’ve compiled:

Starts:
Jeff Gordon, starting 2nd, makes his 43rd start, tops among active drivers. Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Tony Stewart are next on this list, with their 30th starts taking place today.
Wins:
Greg Biffle leads with 4 wins, ahead of 7 drivers with 2. Biffle’s 4 wins have come in just 22 races. Jimmie Johnson, for all his success, has not won here in 24 prior starts. Casey Mears is 0-21, Jamie McMurray 0-22.
Top 5s:
Jeff Gordon is 18-42. Others who are at or near 50%: Kenseth & Stewart 12-29, Biffle 10-22, Carl Edwards 9-19. David Gilliland is 0-15 here.
Top 10s:
Gordon has 25 top-10 finishes at Michigan. Some of the notable % scores here: Tony Stewart 20-29, Kenseth 18-29, Edwards 15-19, Biffle 14-22. Gilliland has never been in the top 10 here.
Laps turned without victory: Jimmie, 4462, McMurray 4188, Mears 3462, Martin Truex Jr 3129. David Gilliland leads among those who have not reached the top 5 or top 10: 2739.
Laps led without victory: Jimmie by a wide margin with 586. Truex Jr is next with 71, and Kasey Kahne with 63.
Average positions gained per race, 3 race minimum: Carl Edwards imprsses, with a gain of 11.6. Kenseth 8.1, Stewart 7.5. David Ragan 5.8, McMurray 5.3. Travis Kvapil 6.7

Running at finish: Jeff Gordon 36-42. Biffle is perfect in 22 races, as is Edwards through 19, and Martin Truex Jr in 16.
Lead lap finishes: Kenseth is 27 of 29. Edwards 18 of 19.
Top 10 prediction:
1 Harvick
2 Menard
3 Keselowksi
4 Gordon
5 Aric Almirola
6 Dale Jr.
7 Jamie McMurray
8 Joey Logano
9 Carl Edwards
10 Kyle Larson

Stats sourced from http://www.racing-reference.info

2014 US Open golf prediction

The US Open returns to Pinehurst (NC) Golf Club’s #2 Course, a site that played host to prior Open championships in 1999 and 2005. There’s a great and poignant story in USA TODAY about the late Payne Stewart.

And whatever happened to New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, the 2005 winner? He’s stil on the European Tour with 8 wins there, and 7 in Australasia, but his lone win on the PGA Tour came on these hallowed grounds. He’s made just 5 cuts in any of the major championships since his iconic 2005 campaign. This year, he will not return to the scene of his triumph. More here from The News Observer, based in NC’s Triangle section.

For my selections I once again turn to the golfers who have the best combined stats in ball striking and scrambling.
ADAM SCOTT, world #1, one major win, has top 10s in these categories: Birdie and scoring average, sand saves, total driving, all around (#1), par breakers, par 4 and 5 birdie or better leaders, ball striking, GIR% all the way up to 150 yards, all putts from at least 15 feet. 2005 US Open results: tied for 28th, with scores ranging from 70 to 76. Best holes: 4,11,12. Worst: 3,6,7,15.

Adam’s cycles are, well, were, in perfect shape 2 days ago, with all cycles at the top. Now he has to weather a physical critical in round 3. So there’s no issue qualifying but he’ll need a great lead as insurance. Mental game will be sharp but physically weakening as the tournament winds down.

SERGIO GARCIA, world #8. Still no majors to his credit. Top 10s: GIR%, birdies, sand saves, all-around, par 4 birdie or better, scrambling, par 3 & 4 performance, GIR% 175 yards +, putting 10′-15′ and over 25′, GIR% other than fairway, plus 2 radar stats. 2005 US Open results: tied for 3rd, scored betwen 69 and 75 in the four rounds. Best holes: 7,9,10,16,18. Worst: 6,15

Sergio’s patterns starting with a difficult mental and emotional outlook but improving. Physically rather weak and approaching nadir by round 3. He’ll have to rely on instinct which is much better than his actual follow-through.

KEEGAN BRADLEY: World #25, one major win. Top 10s: Birdie average, approaches from over 200 yards and 75-125, GIR% 175-200 yards. First appearance at Pinehurst

Mixed bag for Keegan, leading to 2 critical days physically and emotionally should he survive the cut. Athletic ability will improve but it’s an uphill battle.

ZACH JOHNSON, world #14. One major win
Top 10s: driving accuracy %, bounce back, GIR % under 125 yards, approaches 50-125 yards, putting over 25′, scrambling from rough, plus 1 radar stat. Missed cut in 2005 here, going 74-75. Best holes: 4,10. Worst: 6,15, 16

Zach has to lead with pure strength in attacking this course, to go for it, instead of playing safe..

MATT KUCHAR: World #5. No major wins.
Top 10s: Scrambling, par 4 performance, total putting, scrambling over 30 yards, approaches 50-75 yards, putting 5-25′, scrambling from rough,
Also missed cut in 2005, going 75-74. Best hole: 4. Worst: 9

Matt’s got the ideal cycles here, triple and peaking between rounds 1 and 3.
You’ll notice a pattern between these golfers: Worst holes are 6 and 15, 2 of the par 3 holes. The 6th hole has received the fewest changes, while the 15th gets a better sightline and more hole locations.
With no rough and longer tees, and more strategy involved on all shots, the game will play better for Sergio and Keegan among these five.

On superhorses…and supershooters

In this post, I want to explore California Chrome owner Steve Coburn’s idea about a dedicated Triple Crown series that eliminates the presence of horses just running 1 or 2 legs of the series. I also muse about the very idea of the ‘superhorse’, which is what we all want, anyway, right?
In light of the heated remarks on NBC, these in the immediate aftermath of the race one has to wonder about the context. Steve had probably never been in the limelight before, or to this level of prominence, and maybe his comments were well-meant toward his competition, but the mic remained in his face, and maybe he simply felt he was getting his money’s worth on national TV and certainly across the Internet, feeling he was never going to get this close to a mythical presence in racing history. Along those lines, I feel NBC did a disservice by not pulling away from his thoroughly emotional presence.
So what does Coburn want? And what do we want as fans?
We want a superhorse, one that will be talked about as a household word, much like Native Dancer, Seabiscuit and Secretariat were in the past; a horse who transcends imagination, more than a series of races. Younger fans will not remember the 3 Triple Crown winners of the 70s, and likely will not understand why the circumstances were in place for these wins to happen. The more serious fans, the handicappers, do understand why, and yet will not wager much on those heavy favorites, rather using the big favorites with Tonalist, or the horses who seem to have the stamina along with the speed and the right trip, and maybe the right amount of luck, knowing that 12 furlongs is such a guessing game in this modern age of racing. The industry, well, simply wants to rope the fans in, get them to wager, have fun while doing so, educate them fairly on the game, and hype the marquee horses. They care most about getting fans into the track, even if there is no classic race on the line. So there is polarity here, the supply and demand between the fans and industry, with the handicappers somewhere in between, all looking to the great places of power and might, and to those questionably bred equines.
Without having a sense of the strength of breeding, or lack of it, we are duped to believe that a Triple Crown win can be acheived in our generation of fans, let alone lifetimes. These 3 races were established in a time when racing in routes along the lines of 12 furlongs plus were much more commonplace, along with the fact that there weren’t always as many as 20 horses in the Derby, or even double digit fields in the other Crown races. It can be argued that, before the influential sire Native Dancer came along, there were so many more horses bred for stamina, on dirt, capable of winning these important races, and run more often, and win more often. I am not at all sure just when the thought process changed, but we are seeing too often horses that are retired before age 4 to the breeding shed after a relatively decent career. Or there are horses who are gelded, and we’ll never know to some degree whether Forego, Funny Cide, or John Henry would have passed on some amazing gene.
We hang on to these faded old calendars in horse racing in thinking the old ways will translate to an instant superhorse and not understand why the horse lost, except that he/she lost and, well, time to turn on the NBA playoff game. Hearing sports talk this week, I pick up a strong defeatist vibe from hosts among the very casual of equine fans. This is sad, and there has to be more education to have those people understand why it is so difficult to win a racing series like this. If we look at the current stakes calendar, as of this typing there are under 10 races left in 2014 contested on dirt that are even 10 furlongs in length. One is the Canadian Derby at Hastings, another is the Birdstone at Saratoga. The others take place at relatively minor tracks. During the year there are many other races of longer length, but they all take place in Europe or Japan, and often on turf.
Maybe what the Triple Crown needs is the presence of those horses running outside North America, to make these races equal the might and the pull of the Dubai World Cup, which does bring the best of the best worldwide. This is an undeniable fact. Our American races should certainly attract outsiders on the distance alone, yet few foreign horses have tried at all.
What the sport also should educate fans on is the importance of summer racing, inbetween the Derby Trail and the series of Breeders Cup preps. All of those baby races at all those minor tracks such as Pleasonton, Remington, Emerald Downs, Thistledown, Monmouth, and so forth. The love has to be cultivated and educated from these minor tracks and others to keep this sport even somewhat relevant compared to others.
We can only hope that stamina can be exploited more with each annual foal crop and not focus so much on speed. The number of foals may make it easier or harder for producing a superhorse, but I believe the prime focus is really about providing the best educated, informed guess as to what type of horse can handle running routes in an expedient timeframe like his or her pedigree. I stress this point to mean distance without regard to surface.
To sum up: Educate the fans and the handicappers better on breeding. Put more importance on the smaller, takeout-friendly tracks that care about the fans and encourage the running of longer distance races for 2YO and 3YO horses, along with opportunities there overall for older horses. I’d love to see a Triple Crown for older horses. I want the Triple Crown races to attract more horses that run on other continents. If we do not do this, the Triple Crown will remain a rusted relic. And if the pressures of delivering a better fan experience continue to mount, (as it has this year for Churchill Downs) and fans and handicappers withhold their virtual and physical wallets, it can irreparably damage the sanctivity of the big race there and maybe the Triple Crown itself.
***

The issue of changing the Triple Crown is rather thorny. I am wont to believe that breeding has the main impact on whether or not it will happen in any one year. Again, I’m not entirely sure when things changed for worse, but it seems we’re reaching at best to have a horse accomplish in the same manner than it was done in the 70’s or even in the 40s with smaller fields and fewer shooters. It’s been 36 years now. If we get to the 50-year mark and things do not change, then someone, probably some people who sit on the boards of NYRA, the Louisville Jockey Club, or the Maryland Jockey Club will stand up, and speak up and urge change. So what are the possible changes?
Distance: The distances are sacrosanct but they have changed in prior years nearly 100 years ago. Would it be sacreligious to move the Belmont to 10 furlongs, in line with the longest stakes races American racing offers? Yes, most likely. But, given the short time frame to make history, it’s impossible nowadays to get a horse to succeed in the Belmont.
Time: Does it make sense to space out the 3 races? Yes it does. It affects workout and travel plans, and certainly more time for rest and strategy. My ideal situation is to set up the First Saturdays in May, June, July. for the races.
The Coburn Idea: Limit the Preakness and Belmont Stakes to horses running in the Kentucky Derby. No new shooters.
I could only think of improving on this by involving all horses who were nominated and made the final list of 24 by the current point system (or, selfilshly, using my Enlightened Derby/Oaks Trail system) including also-eligibles. If I really had my druthers, I’d max the Derby at 14 runners, in line with the maximum number of runners in American racing. I’m honestly OK with Coburn’s idea, even if he says the grapes are sour. Fewer horses to challenge in the Belmont then. It would be like old times. Would it result in less nominations to the Derby, and therefore the series? Maybe so. Would that encourage better breeding, better for stamina? Undoubtedly. Or, should that read “Decidedly” (winner of the 1962 Derby)?
***
In the chart linked below I listed every shooter I could find that entered the Preakness and/or Belmont, and those who skipped 1 or 2 jewels. So there are 3 lists, and within, I list those who won and placed in the top 4 by name and by circumstance. I used data from www.kentuckyderby.com  www.belmontstakes.com and www.drf.com to put these together. I used data going back to 1940 but did the math for all races going back to 1957. I could not locate data for several races (mainly the Preakness) prior to 1957. I’d welcome input on this to make this study more legitimate.
https://idealisticstats.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/coburnfile.xls

 

The critical stats: Of 273 horses who didn’t run in the Derby (nearly 5 per race), but ran the other two legs, 60 got into the top 4, and 15 won the Preakness. This includes 29 horses who would go on to run in the Belmont, where 14 placed in the top 4, and 3 won (Celtic Ash, Jaipur, Touch Gold). Of those who skipped just the Preakness, there were 111 of those horses (2 per race). 46 got into the top 4 in the Belmont, and 10 won out. The Belmont had 244 new shooters over the 58 races researched (4 per race), with 69 in the top 4, and 17 winners. Including the double entries (the 29), there were 928 new shooters in the Preakness and Belmont in the 116 races, a total of 8 per race. 187 earned a check (40%), and 39 won a race,(33% wins)
In 7 of those years, 2 new shooters won 2 jewels.
For a stat that would give Coburn ease, here’s this: in 2001, new shooters went 0-for-11 in placing in the top 4 in the Preakness or Belmont. In 1995 there were 15 new shooters, all failed to win out. The most new shooters in one year: 21, in 1983, with winners Caveat and Deputed Testimony. The most with a Triple Crown actually on the line: 19, as Da’Tara won in 2008 as a new shooter himself.
The fewest in any year: 3, in 1988. This might have been reactionary as the Triple Crown financial bonus was in its 2nd year of operation, and I do think it left its impact during its 19 year run. Coastal was one of just 4 new shooters in 1979, winning the Belmont that year, for a strike rate of 25%, best year of the study. Along those lines, 7 new shooters of a possible 8 filled the top 4 in the Preakness and Belmont in 1982.
With a Triple Crown on the line, Tonalist became the 8th new shooter since 1957 to win the Belmont and not race in the other 2 jewels. The other 7: Cavan, Stage Door Johnny, Coastal, Summing, Sarava, and Da’Tara. Among other Belmont upsets involving new shooters: Lemon Drop Kid, Empire Maker and Birdstone skipped the Preakness, and Touch Gold skipped the Derby
There’s more to study here but I’ll leave it for you to read and reminisce.

2014 Belmont Stakes prediction

In my heart of hearts, I do want to see a Triple Crown superhorse It will be something somehat beneficial for the sport, tho horse racing can really improve when the calendar of races outside the Derby Trail and the Breeders Cup gani larger importance.
Let’s go horse by horse for the Belmont:

MEDAL COUNT: Winner of the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland. Ran 3 consecutive lifetime tops in the Fountain Of Youth, Transylvania and Blue Grass Stakes, then a near pair-up in the Kentucky Derby. Actually it’s a triple up…running 94 to 97 the last 3 races, above an 89 in the Fountain Of Youth. This horse is outclassed outside of pace progression. My odds: worse than 14-1. No shot.

 
CALIFORNIA CHROME shares rank of best class.No surprise, winnning the Santa Anita Derby and 2/3 of the Triple Crown. He has 2 wins from an inside post…same trips as he had in the KY Derby and Belmont. I can’t factor him as an absolute lock because there are other horses that fit into better categories but he obviously must be factored. 7-1. Value pick.
 
MATTERHORN won a 75k maiden race in first start, was 4th in the Peter Pan with a new lifetime best far beyond his lone 2YO start. This is one horse whom I ranked as having strong pedigree that matches the chef-de-race idea for winners at Belmont. Sire is Tapit, who had won the Laurel Futurity and the Wood Memorial in 2003. Dam is multiple stakes winner Winter Garden. ROI angle: Joe Bravo has paired up in 42 races with Todd Pletcher in last 60 days, with 42% wins, 63% in the money, for return of + 4.14. 13-1. Dark horse.
 
COMMANDING CURVE hasn’t won anything outside of his maiden win in his 4th lifetime start. Forged lifetime best of 98 in the Lousiana Derby, and 101 in the Kentucky Derby in last two race. Could represent a bounce today. Odds: Worse than 14-1. No shot.

RIDE ON CURLIN lacks class of field…winning simply a 50k allowance in 3YO debut, but has contended in 4 Graded races since. This is the one horse in the field who is only now progressing past his 2YO best. His first race, back in July of 2013, was a 30k maiden win, with a dazzling 102 Brisnet. Only in the Preakness did he do any better, a 103. This indicates he can do even better today. Last 4 races have ranged from 96 to 103. Sure, he’s a closer but he’ll truly find his stride today. 4-1. Contender.

 
MATUSZAK also has just won his first race at the maiden level and managed to compete in some minor stakes events at mid-major tracks. He is also a deep closer, dependent on one big run and I feel he will get that run. Should he get the right trip, his stretch kick will dominate this field. Best work tab of the field too: 5 works at Belmont, 2 of those with a bullet. 3-1. Contender.

SAMRAAT after winning first 5 lifetime was second in the Wood Memorial, 5th in the KY Derby. I don’t see a single variable that mentions him at all. Worse than 14-1. No shot.

COMMISSIONER won just twice but nothing of any class. 2nd in the Peter Pan on this track. Best jockey/trainer win % combo of the field (Castellano, 22%; Pletcher, 27%). Ilke that he spiked to a 102 Brisnet in the Peter Pan, tho he can bounce from that. Also, both of his wins are from a middle post, right where he is now. 6-1. Value horse.

 
WICKED STRONG won the Wood Memorial, 4th in the KY Derby. This is the other horse who has won at Grade 1. ROI angle: James Jerkens has saddled 27% winners out of 44 races, 55% in the money, for return of +2.12. Odds: 11-1. Dark horse.

GENERAL A ROD won the Gulfstream Park Derby, ungraded back on New Year’s Day, no wins since, tho had competed well at the Florida tracks. None of my variables rank him with any edge here today. Worse than 14-1. No shot.

TONALIST may be seen as the big threat to Chrome’s Triple Crown shot. 4th in his maiden debut with an 85, then maiden breaker of 93, 2nd in an optional claimer at 75k, also with a 93, then a big win in the Peter Pan with a 107 score. Best average winning distance from pedigree (Tapit out of Pulpit, and Settling Mist out of Derby/Preakness winner Pleasant Colony). The 107 is the best Belmont performance of the field. Having forged that lifetime best, he can bounce but cannot be ruled out. Also shows the best trip among this field coming in. Odds: 6-1. Contender.

So, with some controversy, here’s my top 5:
6 Matuszak
5 Ride On Curlin
11 Tonalist
8 Commissioner
2 California Chrome.

Busy day for me today….handicapping the races at Pimlico and major races at Belmont today for www.theracingbiz.com 4th leg of a contest series. I’ve already received 2 entries to a grand prize drawing where the top 2 winners receive prizes tied into Maryland Millions Day in October. Also, I’m still in the Survival At The Shore contest at Monmouth Park, plus the meet-long contest at Emerald Downs.