Uncle Mo

Excellent article on the Bloodhorse can be read here.

I have been slow to say it because there is so much positive hype around Uncle Mo, but I agree with the writer in the linked Bloodhorse article that Uncle Mo has already outrun his breeding.  Not only that, but I thought that he was showing some signs of fatigue at the end of his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile romp.

I’ve since gone back and watched the video again several times.  To be honest, I can’t see that same indication in the replays.  Watching him live, I thought I saw him drift a bit and he allowed a couple of horses to close ground on him in the stretch.  But I’m less certain of that when I watch the video replay.

At the time I saw Uncle Mo run live in the Juvenile, I had not yet spent much time looking at his breeding.  So even though I can’t spot the same patterns in the replay, I am certain I was not imagining things to fit a preconceived notion of his inbred distance limitations.

Maybe it was my spider sense.

Of course, just because a horse has already outrun his breeding at a mile and a sixteenth does not mean he cannot win the Derby.  I would submit that Smarty Jones won two legs of the Triple Crown before his distance limitations caught up to him.  Heart can only carry a horse so far.

Further, when the rest of the Derby field is eventually set, and assuming Uncle Mo will be in it, that will be the time to determine if he can go the distance and if the pace will help his chances or hurt them.

In any event I will be paying very careful attention to how he runs in his next race, which is likely to be March 12, in the Tampa Bay Derby.  I hope the race draws a full, competitive field to test Uncle Mo, but I’m optimistic his inclination to go further should show up either way.  One thing is fairly certain, Uncle Mo will not have very many races from which to draw our conclusions by the time the Derby rolls around.  We will have to make the most of the races we get.

Until something new happens, Uncle Mo remains the one to beat.

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Preakness infield will offer bottomless beer mug!

This is great news for Baltimore locals, although I find it a bit confusing.

If I remember correctly they banned the practice of people bringing their own beer because of the issue with all the drunks in the infield.  The following year attendance in the infield drops off by 30%.  I was there that year, it was pathetic.  I think they had ZZ Top playing and it was me and about five other guys standing there watching them.  I’m exaggerating for effect.  But let’s just say it was no problem me getting right up next to the band.

So now Pimlico starts selling this bottomless mug, which is a much easier drunk than having to lug in all the beer you need to get hammered.  Spill your beer?  No problem!  Just get more!  If the beer lines start getting long, there will be angry mobs of people who are just drunk enough to riot, but not as drunk as they wanted to be.

So was it really about the drunks in the infield, or about being able to make money off the drunks in the infield?

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2011 Prep Season – Hold Your Horses!

The Holy Bull will be run this Saturday at Gulfstream Park.  For many, this race marks the start of the Derby Prep season.  And for many, the race brings with it tremendous anticipation.

This year’s Holy Bull will be a bit anticlimactic because the early Derby favorite and an early potential spoiler are both missing from the race.  The early Kentucky Derby favorite is, of course Uncle Mo, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the potential spoiler is Boys At Tosconova, who ran second that day.  Of course, most years the Juvenile winner is the early favorite for the Derby.  And why not, the Juvenile is for 2-year olds and the Derby is for 3-year olds, and for many Derby hopefuls there is not any racing in between the Breeders’ Cup and the Holy Bull.

What makes Uncle Mo special was that he won the Juvenile rather impressively and as a heavy favorite.  Getting the job done as the favorite always makes a strong statement.  Winning easily by four lengths isn’t bad either.

Andy Beyer stops short of calling for a Triple Crown winner in his article in the Post (here).  But he does say that this year’s Triple Crown will be more memorable than last year.

Sadly, that’s not saying much, but I agree with Andy nonetheless.

Gary West of the Star-Telegram is not so cautious with his predictions.  In his recent article he indicates that a sweep is possible.  Read it here.

I’m going on record and saying that I am not in the Uncle Mo camp.  Yet.  He is rumored to be pointed towards the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12th.  I plan on making a more formal statement about his chances after that race.  For now, I’m just indifferent towards him.  Regardless of who else shows up for that race, he will have the chance to hold form as a heavy favorite once again.

There is too much time between the Juvenile and March 12 for me to be ready to give him the Roses, let alone the Triple Crown.  He was clearly the best in November.  If he can beat a solid field in the Tampa Bay Derby, I’ll start getting excited too.  I’d also like to see him win from a bit off the pace rather than running as close to the pace as he did in the Juvenile.

I certainly don’t have anyone better than Uncle Mo to recommend as a Kentucky Derby pick.  He enters his 3-year old season the one to beat.

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Mute Rudolph – Seriously?

Article on Bloodhorse Magazine

This falls in the category of “You gotta be kidding me.”

It appears that the owner in this news story does not like TVG announcer Ken Rudolph.

I don’t have a problem with that, even though I personally don’t mind Ken at all.  For someone who came into the announcer job as a beginner, he has shown a lot of interest in the sport and is relatively interesting.

And since most of the TVG announcers bug me to some extent, each in their own way, Ken is in decent company.  But this blog post is not really here to defend Ken as an announcer.  Since I don’t watch much TVG, I may have missed a lot of commentary that would have earned him some detractors as a commentator.

So I would ordinarily defend this owner’s right to name his horse “Mute Rudolph” if he simply didn’t like Ken’s announcing.

That said, the use of Ken’s last name in the horse’s name may be a violation of the naming conventions which you can find here:  Naming rules.  Specifically, see section 6.F.11.

The problem is that in addition to giving the horse a name which seems an intentional jab at Ken Rudolph, the owner also swapped out his usual silks for silks displaying a confederate symbol (white stars on blue cross sashes).  And he failed to get permission from the clerk before doing it, and he paid the silks custodian (who is now suspended) privately to make the last minute change.  And Ken Rudolph is African-American.

This controversy is not as large as a Sarah Palin death panel Facebook post, but it has generated some conversation.  The conversation revolves around whether or not this was a racially motivated act or not.

I don’t know the owner or his character, so I can’t say for sure what was in his head or his heart.  But I will say that if you were trying to publicly paint yourself as a racist jackass, I can’t come up with any better way to do it than what he did.  At a minimum, he should have been aware of how his actions were being perceived.

The penalty assessed to the owner was a $1500 fine and a suspension of his license for the remainder of the meet, which looks to work out to about a five month suspension.  If the act was truly racially motivated, the fine is nowhere near severe enough and the owner probably figures it was worth it.

However, in these situations, the authorities find themselves under a lot of pressure to give the owner the benefit of the doubt.  Doing so, takes the owner out of racist and drops him squarely into stupid.   And this seems a fair penalty for stupid.

Especially since most stupidity goes unpunished.

Horse racing needs good news stories, like Zenyatta winning Horse Of The Year, not this crap.  Aren’t there enough problems in the horse racing business today that we don’t need additional helpings of stupidity, let alone racism?  Seriously.

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Man vs. Machine – E-ponies is top handicapper in Chicago

I don’t often use this blog to self-promote. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done it. At least not as directly as I’m about to.

But something needs to be said. E-ponies.com computer picks are very tough to beat in Chicago.

The Arlington Park meet is a very long meet, running from May through the end of September. Arguably this is a long enough meet that whichever handicapper finished with the best results could claim that the number of races in the meet was a representative sample.

In other words, the results would not be cyclical or just a fluke. And in that meet, E-ponies.com finished ahead of five human handicappers in the Chicago area in total wins and total dollars returned. Joe Kristofek at the Daily Herald keeps the score and publishes the results daily.

The final results for the Arlington meet are tabled below:

Handicapper Paper Wins Total return
Kristufek Herald 216 $1,381.20
Uchman Sun Times 269 $1,539.20
E-ponies computer Tribune 278 $1,543.20
McMannis Arlington Web 262 $1,424.60
Daily Racing Form Daily Racing Form 221 $1,525.20
Handicapper Paper Wins Total return
Kristufek Herald 109 $770.40
Uchman Sun Times 94 $697.60
E-ponies computer Tribune 126 $846.80
Miller Hawthorne 101 $743.60
McMannis Arlington Web 117 $838.80
Daily Racing Form Daily Racing Form 88 $814.80

These results are not at all atypical. Since E-ponies computer picks have been available in the Sun-Times (originally) and then the Tribune (today) the computer has consistently performed at the top of the rankings.

The shorter Hawthorne meet concluded in early January. And again, the computer outperformed all five human handicappers! Results are tabled below:

Though I wrote the program, it still amazes me that it performs so well against humans, including me. I don’t honestly believe that if I were a public handicapper, using just my human intuition and handicapping experience, that I could beat these other local handicappers consistently.

This suggestion leaves me searching for answers. Why is it that my computer program can be so consistently competitive against humans? The disadvantages to my computer program against a human handicapper are substantial:

  • Cannot evaluate track conditions
  • Is not familiar with local horse connections and their trends
  • Has no human network of insider information
  • Horses with no previous starts or limited racing history are a big challenge for the computer.
  • There must be some offsetting advantages to the computer as a handicapping expert. A couple of possible handicapping advantages come to mind:

  • Treats each race as a unique moment in time, as opposed to being swayed by information about the horse or his connections from previous experience.
  • Conducts a dispassionate analysis for each race.
  • Those are all of the advantages that I can think of, which tells me that some of the things listed as advantages to human handicappers are actually probably not as advantageous as my human intuition leads me to believe.

    Perhaps our human opinions are actually biases that run counter to successful handicapping!

    Perhaps a dispassionate analysis is a better approach after all!

    In case anyone is wondering why I am not reporting results for other racing circuits, the answer is that there is no one keeping the score there like the Daily Herald does in the Chicago circuit. I do know that the first year E-ponies.com computer picks were carried in the LA Times, they were profitable for the entire meet. In other words, anyone who had played a $2 win bet on every one of E-ponies top choices would have made money over the course of the entire meet. I have not bothered to keep such close account since the opening meet. But if I find another situation of a newspaper or reputable source keeping the score in one of the circuits where E-ponies picks are available, I will report the results here or on the E-ponies.com handicapping forum.

    Keep in mind that E-ponies picks for Chicago are free every day online. We will keep you posted on results of future meets in the Chicago circuit, or anywhere we can find someone willing to keep the score.

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    Horse of the Year – Eclipse Award

    No matter who wins this year’s Horse of the Year honors, the results are guaranteed to set off a storm of second-guessing, bickering and accusations.  The primary reason – in a year of lackluster performances, the three at the top are remarkably difficult to separate.

    The three year-olds were consistently inconsistent.  Lookin At Lucky had some moments of brilliance and tons of bad racing luck.  The Derby winner turned out to be a one-trick pony.  I suspect that if Afleet Express had made it to the Breeders’ Cup Classic he would be part of this discussion.  But he didn’t so he isn’t.

    The three at the top are, of course, Zenyatta, Goldikova and Blame.

    The folks in Zenyatta’s camp, I have to assume are pulling in the body of her work over her brilliant career.  They would have to be.  In fact, a good number of them may feel like she is due this recognition because she got the shaft last year when Rachel Alexandra got the nod over her.  And since that snub, Zenyatta has remained spectacular while Rachel Alexandra has become spectacularly beatable.  While, I’m not trashing Zenyatta’s performance in 2010, I think if you don’t at least take into consideration some of these factors, her dossier may not be strong enough to give her the nod this year.

    I’ll also go on record as saying I was one of many that thought Zenyatta should have won HOY last year.  And I also admit that I’m one of those people that has a hard time not taking it into consideration for the honor this year.  Her performance in both Breeders’ Cup Classic races was breathtaking.  I don’t know anyone who does not agree with that statement.

    But pity and payback make lousy cases for an Eclipse Award.  Right?  Well, what about pity and payback as a tie breaker?  Maybe I could go there, if all other things were relatively equal.

    I don’t think things are relatively equal with respect to Blame.  I am definitely not in the Blame camp.  I acknowledge he had a very good year, and he’s a heck of a horse.  And he did beat Zenyatta in the Classic.  By a head.  But I would not call the year he had dominant.  It sure looks good because everyone else looked pretty shaky.  He was a tepid favorite in the Classic and turned in a good effort there.  Many of the Zenyatta deniers thought Blame was much better than her.  They were wrong.

    The only thing that separated Blame and Zenyatta was a poor ride by Mike Smith.  Although this may come across as sour grapes, because everyone knows racing luck is part of the game, at least Mike Smith agreed the ride cost her the race.

    Goldikova is much harder to dismiss than Blame.  Five wins in six G1 races with full, competitive fields, culminating in a three-peat in the BC Mile is a monster year.  Truly remarkable.  Turns out her 6:5 morning line odds in the Mile were not even close to estimating her dominance in that race.  Utterly amazing race and amazing year.

    But the Mile is the Mile and the Classic is the Classic.  All other things being equal, if you ask me which is a more significant accomplishment, a three-peat in a BC race other than the Classic, or missing a repeat in the Classic by a head – as a female horse.  I’d have to say that those two are virtually tied.

    From there I can, with a clear conscience, say that Zenyatta should be HOY based on the purely emotional, totally subjective, and irrelevant tie-breakers of her snub last year, the poorly timed ride by Mike Smith, and the fact that she retired having only been beaten once by a total of one head in 20 lifetime starts.

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    The Blog is Baaaaaack!

    Did you miss us?  Good.  We figured that absence would make the heart grow fonder.  Wondering what we have coming up here on the blog?  Mostly the same stuff that was here before.

    • Opinion
    • Guest Bloggers!
    • Just in time for Derby Prep season – Derby Prep blog posts

    So bookmark it.  We are here to stay this time.


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    Woolley Gives MNR the Bird

    By Ralph the Cat

    The Bird should arrive at MNR around noon on Friday. Woolley gave the Bird his final work at Churchill Downs Monday morning, an impressive 4f work in 48.4. The gelding galloped out 5F in a titillating 1:01.4 with Jamie Theriot up. Jamie Theriot, a likely backup to Mike Smith, didnt say much more than “hes fantastic” after dismounting from the gelding Monday morning. The gelding figures to put in his 5th and final work over MNRs surface early next week. This will be MNRs first Kentucky Derby Winner to run in the Grade II West Virginia Derby. The race is set for Saturday August 1st, with an early post time. But a cake walk will be unlikely, the locals think Mike Smith is too patient for MNRs egg-shaped oval…

    -Ralph the Cat

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    Kentucky Derby: Wide Open?

    By Ralph the Cat

    Those who think the Derby can only be won by 4 of the 20 entries are sniffing paint again.  Well, it was a group of 5 contenders, but just moments ago I Want Revenge was scratched, so now the experts have it narrowed down to 4 contenders.  However, I cant help but think the race is as wide open as any Derby I’ve ever witnessed.  Before I Want Revenge scratched today we had 8 horses coming into the Derby off either a GI or GII victory.  Not to mention we still have 5 horses that are coming into the Derby off a second place finish in either a G1 or G11, including names like Dunkirk, Hold Me Back, Chocolate Candy and Desert Party.  Never have we seen so many horses come into the Derby at their best.  Last year we had so many horses run big in one of their preps only to flop in their next prep.  Searching for a horse that could settle and make a run in last years Derby included who?  Colonel John who was coming off the synthetic surfaces or maybe Dennis of Cork shipping in from Hawthorne?… I mean com’on, gimme a break.  This year we’re loaded with horses that can settle and make a big run, the list is literally to big to attempt to list, the only horses that cant are maybe 3 or 4 horses that are listed at 50-1.  

    I Want Revenge seemed too tough to beat, but now that he’s scratched I’m shooting for some connections that want revenge.  Friesan Fire, who will probably go off as the second choice has the early speed and post position to find a nice spot to settle in, not to mention the horse loves the off track and has one of the best trainers in the world.  Friesan Fire has won 3 straight Graded stakes, and figures on capturing his 4th straight in about 5 hours from now.  Who runs second?… well, all but 3 are alive.  You have horses that some claim to have “no chance” like Advice who is 30-1 and closed from last to first to win the Lexington.  West Side Bernie, who finished only a length behind I Want Revenge, but sits at 30-1 this morning or Mr. Hot Stuff, another 30-1 shot who only finished 2 lengths behind Pioneer of the Nile.  Not to mention the 2 Saeed Bin Suroor runners who dominated Nad Al Sheba.  Then the more logical horses from Musket Man to Papa Clem to General Quarters to Dunkirk to Pioneer of the Nile.  Ya sure, 4 contenders.  One thing I want you to think about today, will you ever get 3-1 on Friesan Fire again?  Good luck today, and I mean that.       

    -Ralph the Cat

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    My Biggest Wager of All

    by Ralph the Cat

    So, the experts say horse racing is dying, last year they decided the breed was dying too.  Well, since I’m no expert, I figured I’d waste a few minutes of my life suggesting a few things for next year, because if I’m wrong, who the hell cares.  By the way, the only time an “expert” in horse racing sticks his chin out is when they suggest something that can never really be proven.  Well, when I’m right about what I’m going to suggest, I want you to refer to me as an expert for the rest of my life.  When I die, I want you to mark on my tombstone, Ralph the “Expert”, rather than Ralph the “cat”.  Because 50 years later I don’t want them digging my corpse up because they think someone accidentally buried a cat in my family plot. 

     So anyways, here’s the deal, since horse racing is dying, and synthetic tracks aren’t safer then dirt according to the experts.  I just want to predict 2 things.  First, breakdown ratios over synthetics will be at a lower rate then over dirt across the nation.  Number 2, the boldest one of the two, Handle will be up across the nation.  So there it is.  What will we say if I’m right?  Horse racing is growing? its rebounding?  I don’t know, we’ll leave that to the experts.  Everyone else has the world of horse racing figured out, I just live in it.

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