Mike Helm's Debut Trainer Guide 2002 is now available. It goes beyond the unthinking monotony of the fat numbers-crunchers by providing specific situations behind a trainer's debut wins. It adds texture to the numbing stats provided by everyone else. For a better understanding of the hows and whys behind debut-trainer patterns, definitely check out Helm's work. It combines the cold, hard facts with the warm touch only the soul of a poet could provide. Click on this link to the Cynthia Publishing Company Handicapping Store.
Of course, don't forget about the newest offering from the illustrious Mark Cramer: the authoritatively titled Hidden Probabilities: Hard-Core Research for X-Rated Horseplayers.
In inimitable Cramer style and packed with unique research, Galileo-inspired thinking and writing (with high-level concepts made easy to grasp, thanks to Cramer's renowned facility with the English language), this new booklet is an ambitious blend of the nearly mechanical, the almost-magical and the fully inspired. That's because our friend Cramer takes 10 time-honored and simple handicapping concepts and pulses them through the kink-o-master machine, coming up with a stunning creation of staggering beauty and elegance that's good enough to eat.
Whoa. That's just plain silly. But you get the idea. Hidden Probabilities: Hard-Core Research for X-Rated Horseplayers is going to be another valuable addition to the handicapping literature, courtesy of someone who knows how to do just that.
We're down to the Sweet 16, and tomorrow they play the first half of their weekend showdown. Who are these fearless handicappers looking for a berth in the Elite Eight? Check out the Cynthia Publishing Horsetalk Forum and look under the subject header Contests -- their identities will become plain. And see how they got where they are by clicking on our current contest page.
They tried to masquerade last Saturday's El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields as a legitimate prep race for the Kentucky Derby, and then the goggles came off...
It sounds funny, but it's true. When jockey David Flores on 8-5 favorite Danthebluegrassman dropped his whip, he resorted to removing his protective eyewear and using it as a coaxing device to keep the horse's mind on running.
It didn't work, and the true ugliness of the race was revealed. Who knows how 'Dan would have responded with a proper prodder, but 7-1 winner Yougottawanna ground out a victory while looking far from inspired in the final yards. The only horse doing any running at the end was the reformed claimer Lusty Latin, and if this race produces any in-the-money finishers in a Triple Crown race, we'll be almost as wrong as we were in trying to convince you that Night Passion represented a sane wager in the El Camino.
Now, for some real hosses. You can't get more real right now than the frontrunning amazon Take Charge Lady, who splashed gate-to-wire to win last Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks by five lengths in the slop. Again, no pressure early, and while she wasn't as stout at the end, it didn't matter. She was allowed a little regression, though she looks like she hasn't taken a deep breath so far in her three-year-old season. And with Belterra's loss today in the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream, Take Charge Lady is the undisputed queen of the three-year-old fillies.
Yes, that includes You, who again outlasted Habibti, most recently in last Saturday's Santa Anita Oaks. Habibti had to rally from way far back, and she came up short once more. It's hard to call You superior to her archrival, since there's literally not much separating them on the racetrack. And, as things stand, it's unlikely either one could muscle past 'Lady in the lane, especially if that one ever escapes to a more early-speed-friendly track than the Fair Grounds. And that's forthcoming, since Fair Grounds closes a week from now.
Which brings us to Repent, who finds Fair Grounds' long homestretch tailor-made to his late-running style. In last Sunday's Louisiana Derby, Repent had a different set of circumstances in front of him -- namely, a much slower pace. New jockey Jerry D. Bailey kept him a lot closer than usual, and it was time for his many fans to say 10 Hail Marys and 15 Our Fathers in the final furlong.
Not that Repent was a slowpoke in the lane. On the contrary, he maintained his usual brilliance late. He seems to be one of these horses who responds to the challenge, at least physically, even if he's preoccupied with other things mentally. In the Louisiana Derby, Repent had a lot on his mind, personally testing the soil over several different lanes in the stretch while seeing just how long he could do it on the wrong lead. For all that, he remembered in the nick of time to put his nose down on the wire ahead of that pesky horse on the inside, and the winning streak was intact.
Talent-wise, no doubt Repent is the best of the best right now. But it takes a little (just a little) cunning to go along with brute force to get the job done in the Kentucky Derby. Repent has time to get the cunning part down. Maybe. Also distinguishing themselves in valiant defeat were Repent's closest pursuers, Easyfromthegitgo and It'sallinthechase, who both bounced back to their best.
Status quo, then, last weekend, but no definitive, door-slamming performances yet. This weekend?
Yes, so glad you asked about this weekend. There's this big race called the Florida Derby going on tomorrow at Gulfstream. You might have heard of it. Last year's winner, a horse named Monarchos, won the Kentucky Derby.
That's ancient history, and it won't help you out with the handicapping for this year's Florida Derby. As always, the race has drawn a big, competitive field. Let's meet the contestants.
Monthir seems intractable, bad news in a race dominated by Booklet on the front end. He'd have to explode to take this, and that's while going faster earlier, to boot. Barring a major style-change, it ain't gonna happen.
Harlan's Holiday has been working on his tractability, and it is time for him to make good on all his promise (and promises). A tease so far as a three-year-old, he already showed more than enough talent as a two-year-old. Third back from a layoff and another favorable pace setup, he really has no excuses. Completely his race to botch.
Nokoma just equaled his best two-year-old showing, suggesting he can burst forward for this race. Not a rabid closer, but versatile enough, and the best strategy finds him perhaps occupying the role of perfect-trip-sitter. Prominent to the top of the lane, and then...?
Booklet hasn't been a terror in the lane after being unmolested on the lead in each of his last two. His leads keep shrinking, though, and 'Harlan is the one doing tugging. Form, pace and everything point to a downturn for Booklet and an ascendance for 'Harlan, but Booklet has shocked 'em twice now, with longer odds after he proved he could win. Luck runs out today?
Peekskill has the right style for this, but the talent? If anyone can get him to improve the dozen or so lengths he needs, it's unconscious jock Jose Santos, who scored with 60-1 and 21-1 shots in consecutive races on Friday. Unfortunately for Santos, those horses had a chance.
Smooth Jazz qualifies as a Cramer Thoroughbred Cycles swami angle. However, unlike the Jazz horses in that book, Smooth Jazz is very much respected in America, as evidenced by his two career starts, both as the favorite, both as the winner. Now for the 32-bar solo, going long for the first time. Hard to say, and he won't be anywhere near the front the way he's used to.
Puck got way better last time, finishing a hard-luck, bias-bucking second to Nokoma. He learnt to hang in there and rally some in that race, and a much less dramatic move forward this time will put him right there. If Nokoma goes off at 5-1 or lower and this guy keeps creeping up there at 12-1 or so, do you think that's fair? Of course not. Looks like the sleeper. He shoots, he scores! Or, for the more literate, Oberon will be rooting for him.
High Star got yobbed in the photo last time, or so it seemed. Either way, it was a ridiculously slow race, early and late. Supposedly the wiseguys' horse, and, sure, he could win, but it's hard to back him unless he's able to unfurl a nice, long, sustained rally.
D' Coach takes up the chase for Shug, now that Maybry's Boy isn't even in the Swale. Runs the same, same, same race every time, which helps explain his three straight second-place-under-the-wire finishes (DQ'd to third last time). Is always running on at the end, and first Lasix might do the trick. Has the talent -- do the heart and lungs follow with the meds? That is the question.
Personal Reward has improved mightily as a three-year-old, and his overall pattern is that way. Johnny V. doesn't stay, a bad sign.
Blue Burner got better last time, in the Fountain of Youth, and seems headed in the right direction. More than enough pace to set up his rally this time, and wouldn't need much of a push to be in the picture.
On cold dope, Harlan's Holiday appears to be the beneficiary of a bulkier field, perhaps a better pace and a stronger form cycle. Booklet always figures, and if the field concedes him the lead, a la Take Charge Lady, he stick around to the end.
Can a new face bust up the status quo? We'll say yes, fully expecting Puck and D' Coach to hit the board or better in a race lacking a standout. Play those longshots to win; hedgers should save with Booklet and Harlan's Holiday on top.
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