All posts by SKB

Travers Day Picks and Analysis for All 7 Graded Stakes

Happy Travers Day, everyone! It’s our favorite day of the racing year. Sure, it’s tough to top the two day barrage of the Breeders’ Cup or the pageantry and excitement of the Kentucky Derby, but for three guys who visited Saratoga before we could walk (and have visited since in frames of mind where it was difficult for us to walk), this is our Super Bowl.  While the Travers is the obvious headliner, Saratoga’s recent switch to making this day a “Supercard” has brought the signature day of the meet to whole new stratosphere. 7 (!) straight stakes races anchor the back half of the card and offer opportunity after opportunity for big payouts.  We’ll be chasing some of those payouts and our thoughts and analysis are below.  Good luck everyone.

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Travers Memories–Three Noses on the Line

The peak of the Saratoga meet is undeniably the Travers.  The Midsummer Derby is the crown jewel of each racing season.  Not only does the race draw the best three year olds in training, but it also draws media buzz and crowds unmatched by the other 39 days of racing.  We have been attending the Travers for the past 20 years–after we finally convinced our parents we could navigate the crowds and chaos of the day.  We have made some great memories over those 20 plus years—getting Chris McCarron’s goggles at our first Travers after he guided Deputy Commander to a dramatic victory; assisting Kenny Mayne in hedging his bets prior to the 2009 Travers; and stumbling from Caroline Street to the turn styles the following year in order to reserve space for a friend’s bachelor party.  But in addition to the personal memories, we have also witnessed some unbelievable performances and photo finishes.   This week, we will recap a few of our favorite editions of the Travers from the past 20 plus years.

Our trip down Travers Memory Lane begins with one of the most “dramatic renewals of the Travers” in the race’s storied history; the 1998 Travers.

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Counting Down Our Most Memorable Alabamas

Many consider the Whitney to be the second most prestigious race of the Saratoga meet. But we would disagree. Historically and recently, the Alabama has attracted stars and consistently served as either a launchpad for or confirmation of a legendary career. From Royal Delta and Banshee Breeze formally announcing their dominance to the career best performances of already anointed juvenile fillies champions like Go For Wand and Silverbulletday, the mile and a quarter test for three year old fillies is a race second to only one at Saratoga.

The Alabama has a long storied history, named after William Cottrell of Mobile, Alabama, the race dates back to 1872.  Since 1917 it has been contested at its current distance of a mile and a quarter. Past winners include such giants as Miss Woodford, Beldame, Maskette, and Shuvee. But the race has not rested on past laurels.  A look back at the last 30 contested Alabama’s reveals a who’s who of top fillies. In honor of Saturday’s Alabama, we take a look back at our five favorite/ most memorable editions of the Alabama from our 30 plus years of attending this prestigious race.

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Shark Week–Saratoga Edition: Bert Mulholland

The fourth week of July marks the start of our two favorite summer traditions: Saratoga and Shark Week. So last night, we recovered from an epic opening weekend at the Spa by turning on the Discovery Chanel to watch Shaq standing on the bow of a boat screaming for sharks. And as the Big Aristotle dove into infested waters searching for the mythical Megalodon, our mission became clear—”Shark Week–Saratoga Edition.”

So far our “Shark Week–Saratoga Edition” has focused on fearsome predators who have trolled the Saratoga waters over the past 25 years. But Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, so it follows that our profiling of Saratoga sharks needs to pre-date our own lifetime. With those parameters in mind, today we profile the Big Fish of the Travers, Hall of Fame Trainer, Winbert “Bert” Mullholland.

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Shark Week–Saratoga Edition: Todd Pletcher

The fourth week of July marks the start of our two favorite summer traditions:  Saratoga and Shark Week.  So last night, we recovered from an epic opening weekend at the Spa by turning on the Discovery Chanel to watch Shaq standing on the bow of a boat screaming for sharks.  And as the Big Aristotle dove into infested waters searching for the mythical Megalodon, our mission became clear—”Shark Week–Saratoga Edition.”  

You know you’re a shark when you’re the 4/5 favorite to win every battle.  No matter the day of the week or the competition, dominance is a foregone conclusion.

That’s Todd Pletcher–today’s Saratoga Shark profile.

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Pletcher is an unstoppable force at Saratoga–with the exception of the 2016 season where Chad Brown won the training title by setting a Saratoga record with 40 wins (Todd was second).  But Todd even predicted that loss, pulling the ultimate shark move and “laying low” by calling himself “the underdog” for the 2016 season.

Todd’s response in 2017? Equaling Brown’s feat from the year before, capturing the training title with a record 40 wins.  Pletcher has won 13 training titles at the Spa, including 7 of the last 8, and, of course, is circling the competition this year.

Fresh from an education with the Coach, D. Wayne Lukas, Pletcher burst onto the scene in the early 2000’s with the help of super filly Ashado.  While post-Cigar Saratoga belonged to Bailey/Mott, it was not long before the tides shifted and Pletcher/Velazquez became the most feared shark pack.

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An example from our fellow Thorobro, best demonstrates Todd Pletcher’s status as the top shark for Saratoga horseman.  A few years ago, before our colleague left for the track, his Mom asked if he would take $5 and bet it for her.  He agreed, entirely expecting to book whatever bet she made, given that her two handicapping criteria are: (i) horse’s name; and (ii) does the horse have any connection, no matter how remote, to Ireland.  She picked out a horse in a maiden race with a completely nondescript name, and with no ostensible connection to the Emerald Isle.  Confused, he asked:   “Why did you pick that horse?”  She replied: “It’s got Pletcher and Velazquez, those guys don’t lose.”  He placed the bet, the horse won, and his mom made $3 on her $5 win bet.  That’s Todd Pletcher–a shark in the Saratoga training waters.

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Shark Week: Saratoga Edition–Fourstardave

The fourth week of July marks the start of our two favorite summer traditions:  Saratoga and Shark Week.  So last night, we recovered from an epic opening weekend at the Spa by turning on the Discovery Chanel to watch Shaq standing on the bow of a boat screaming for sharks.  And as the Big Aristotle dove into infested waters searching for the mythical Megalodon, our mission became clear—”Shark Week–Saratoga Edition.”  

In honor of Shark Week, we will profile the Sharks of Saratoga, legendary horses, jockeys and trainers who loomed large meet after meet and devoured all competition in their paths. We start with the Great White shark of Saratoga, a/k/a the Sultan of Saratoga, Fourstardave.

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Super Saratoga Saturday Stakes Preview

Saturday’s at Saratoga are sacred. But in recent years, NYRA’s race carding has added another “S” adjective to Sacred Saratoga Saturdays—Super.  Tomorrow’s Saturday card is no different.  It features two of the most legendary stakes races of the meet—the Sanford and the Diana.  Here is some race history and our thoughts on the 2018 editions.

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Belmont Stakes Picks and Analysis–Triple Crown Edition

It is horse racing’s equivalent of Game 7—Belmont Stakes Day with a Triple Crown bid on the line. Since NYRA introduced the Super Card format a few years back, every Belmont year represents an incredible day of racing. But there is no equivalent to when the mini-Breeders’ Cup aligns with a Triple Crown chance.

After a 37 year drought, Justify seeks to become the second TC winner in just three years.  As fans, we will be rooting hard for Justify. As handicappers, however, given Justify’s profile–a limited foundation, three races in five weeks (including a very demanding last effort), and culminating with a mile and a half challenge–we will likely be playing against him. A huge pay day awaits if Justify’s limited foundation catches up with him.

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Kentucky Derby Thoughts and Analysis

Happy Kentucky Derby Day, everyone!  The Derby offers a great day of racing and also an annual opportunity for the sport to showcase itself to the general public.  Beyond the main event, Churchill has assembled an extremely competitive card.  Add to the fact that the track conditions are a bit of mystery due to the weather, and we have a formidable challenge in trying to navigate these races.  But that will not stop us from trying.  And the good news–with deep competitive fields we can rationalize playing plenty of horses over 20-1! Some quick thoughts and analysis on today’s stakes.  Good luck!

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Kentucky Oaks Pick 4 and Stakes Analysis

It’s our favorite day of the year—Happy Oaks Day everyone! The KY Oaks has held a special place in Thorobros lore for the past nine years. We have endured some of our worst beats and greatest scores on this day.  The 2018 edition is even more special as a Thorobro-in-law trains our top pick for the Oaks, My Miss Lilly.  Below are our thoughts on the stakes races and more detailed analysis on our personal favorite sequence, the late Pick 4 ending with the Oaks. Good luck everyone.

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Race 5: The Eight Belles kicks off stakes action. Not a very exciting race from a betting perspective. We will key the 7, Hold Her Tight, for value. Jones always does well with 3YO fillies, she should sit a nice stalking trip on the outside and has a 7f win. The favorites, however, 1, 3 and 6 all make sense with the 3, Mia Mischief, being our top choice of that group.

Race 6: The La Troienne boasts a very logical favorite in Abel Tasman. She is the most likely winner, although there is also some uncertainty with how fillies come back as four year olds. Her workouts certainly do not suggest that to be the case (although it is interesting they have all been “handled”), but at even money, we will try to beat her. We like the 8, Martini Glass best alone with the 2 and 4.

Race 7: Our in-house turf sprint expert is all over the 1, Delectation here. He is turning back, gets Lasix, and should have plenty of pace to run at. We also like the 3, 7, 10, and 11.

Race 8- The Alysheba

2017 Kentucky Derby hero Always Dreaming returns to Churchill and gets a favorable pace set up. Still, he will likely be overbet and has not won since the Derby.  Backyard Heaven is a must use. Huge step up in class but he could get first run at Always Dreaming. Hopportunity is a hard knocking veteran and should not be left off your tickets. We think Good Samaritan may want more ground, but second off the layoff for Mott is dangerous.

If it rains,  Hawaakom is a great value play.

A’s:   4, 1

B’s: 5, 7

9th Race – OC75k/N1X $71k (7 furlongs)

The two, Electric Forest, and the three, C P Quality, are both coming out of maiden breaking scores on the Bluegrass and Arkansas Derby undercards, respectively. C P Quality scored on a track with some moisture in it, which might come in handy today. Both rated effectively and then closed to win the races going away. Both have top flight jockeys, and should get a good set up.

Our B team is the five, Maho Bay, who could be controlling speed. Particularly if the track is playing to speed, this horse could be tough to pass. The ten, Sworn Silence, picks up JJ Castellano, and seems to be in good form, second off the layoff after running a career best race in his most recent. Note that his lifetime worst effort came on an off track, so downgrade if the track is less than fast.

A’s: 2,3

B’s: 5,10

Race 10—The Edgewood

Look, Rushing Fall is the real deal. She must be on all tickets and we will toy with the idea of singling her. However, this is not an ideal post for her and without a lot of speed in the race we could see her rushing to the lead and sitting right behind the 4. Does that extra ground and early rush leave her vulnerable late? We think so, in which case this becomes a race to spread deep.

Of the other runners, we like Toinette best. She is an improving horse who stepped up going long last out. Daddy Is a Legend is second off a layoff and had all sorts of trouble last out before closing strong against the favorite. Beyond Blame is another who should like the distance and could get first run on the lead group. Cox is very good at CD and this horse will be the longer odds of the uncoupled entry. For bombers, we would consider using Kabella and Beach Walz underneath.

A’s: 2, 6, 7, 11

B’s: 1, 8, 9

11th Race – Kentucky Oaks (G1) (1 1/8 milles)

Our A team is led by the eleven, My Miss Lilly.  The horse has continued to improve as the distances have lengthened, and projects to get some pace to run at.  She may get first run at the tiring leaders.  She has a win over a sloppy track in her career debut.  Midnight Bisou is a California invader who is two noses short of being undefeated.  The best race of her life is on a track with some moisture in it, and she figures to get a nice spot from which to launch her rally.  Eskimo Kisses, the thirteen, is a hard trying horse that has been compromised by some wide trips in her most recent starts.  She is drawn wide again, but with Churchill pro Corey Lanerie in the irons, she may be able to work out a ground saving trip and rally down the long CD stretch if they go fast up front – and there seems to be a lot of speed in this race.

Our Bs are led by the likely favorite, Monomoy Girl.  There is not much to criticize about Monomoy Girl, although she has a difficult post and with her running style, risks getting hung wide while contesting a fast pace.  She is also an unknown quantity on a wet track.  Those two factors led to her demotion to the Bs.  Coach Rocks shows up for Dale Romans, who is always dangerous on this weekend.  She should sit right off the pace up front, and hopefully will have some gas left in the tank to finish.  Chocolate Martini is the winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks, and she has overcome two less than ideal trips to win her last two starts.  She gets an upgrade to JJ Castellano, and has beaten some other members of this field recently.  Wonder Gadot is a hard trying horse that has been in the trifecta in 8 of her 9 lifetime starts.  We expect the same today.

One final note – we are interested to watch Rayya, as her performance might shed some light on just how Mendelssohn might perform tomorrow in the Derby.

A’s: 10, 11, 13

B’s: 2, 4, 5, 14

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