April 6, 2001

In Defence of Style
Theory is great, but if it can't be rooted in reality, what good is it, huh?

If you open your eyes and step out of the laboratory (or as the British put it, the la-BORE-a-TREE), you notice that horseraces are run on the racetrack, by magnificent flesh-and-blood creatures (with not-as-magnificent flesh-and-blood creatures on their backs).

As such, these magnificent flesh-and-blood creatures have names and habits and their own set of idiosyncrasies that transcend the humdrum of numbers and figures.

Too poetic! Without topicality, it's like lecturing on how baseball behaves like a Markov chain even though the Yankees and the Mets are going mano-a-mano in the first Subway Series in years.

It's been said that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people. Which is why your Ph.D.'s (real or imagined) stick to academic abstracts, achievers seek out The New York Times and cosmetology students turn to People Weekly.

Too fancy! In a word, racing is happening, right now. Don't miss it. Be a fan, otherwise, you won't have a game you can be abstract about.

And as always, we will attempt to try to roll all three types of publications into this one, but probably with more emphasis on the second two than the first, so as to make sense to everyone. No rewrites of spiral-bound abstracts necessary here!

Three-Year-Old Trio: The Illinois Derby
Like tomorrow, when the semifinal round of the Kentucky Derby tournament takes place at Sportsman's, Lone Star and Santa Anita.

We begin with the Illinois Derby at Sportsman's, utilizing our patented inside-out, bottom-to-top rundown:

Saint Damien - Broke through last time, in the slop, which he's bred for. His best efforts have come toward the front, but that doesn't seem like an option this time.

Big Will - Here's another hoping for a little moisture in the air, and especially on the track. He seems capable of closing a little, but he'd probably like to see an even faster pace than what he'll get here.

Distilled - Your most consistent beast in the lineup, and on an undeniable upward swing. But it's hard to see him getting another unmolested trip this time. In that regard, he figures to be a good bet-against; however, that was what was written in this spot about Balto Star, and Distilled is this field's Balto Star.

Private Son - Some versatility forthcoming from this guy, but he'll need to break on through to the next level to take this.

Dream Run - Why was he so close to those burners in the Florida Derby? He should get to relax much better this time, but getting two turns successfully remains a huge question for him.

Weston Field - Your bona fide closer, and this pace should prove delightful to him. Unfortunately for him, the whole front part of the race would need to collapse for him to be seriously involved late.

Fan Club's Mister - Outpaced, which is never good for a horse who wants the front. Even then, his final-time figures don't measure up.

What's Up Dog - Might fit in better with the Greyhounds. Only kidding. It's just hard to see much this time.

Percy Hope - Nice, patient trip he got last time, an encouraging departure from his running-style theretofore. He'll lay off the contested front early, and show 'em what it's all about in the lane.

Me and Thee - Also should rally , and the pace is as good as it was in his lone win. Perhaps there's some room for him to improve.

10. What's Up Dog
9. Fan Club's Mister
8. Big Will
7. Saint Damien
6. Weston Field
5. Private Son
4. Dream Run
3. Distilled
2. Me and Thee
1. Percy Hope

This makes sense. However, the top two are cross-entered in our next event.

Three-Year-Old Trio: The Lone Star Derby
The figures are a little better in Texas than in Illinois, so this race rightly gets stuck in the middle of the trio.

Take a Gamble - Please try not to be seduced by this one's name. It really would be a gamble.

Gift of the Eagle - He might rally some, though his overall numbers are slack and Kenny McPeek's off-the-bench habit isn't too successful.

Halo's Shadow - Seeing as how he's a maiden and has earned about $2,400, a minor award would be like Christmas- or a Bar Mitzvah-type windfall for him.

Percy Hope - See comment from Illinois Derby.

Hoovergetthekeys - Versatile, can either press or rally, and should be much closer than he was last time. That'll give him the jump on the rest. First-run right here.

Solingen - The local hero should be your leader this time, and you'll get a price on him at least, unlike in his last three. Still, he needs to improve.

Me and Thee - See comment from Illinois Derby.

Fifty Stars - Got an absolute setup last out, what with horses falling to their knees and the rail opening up like Charlton Heston parted it for him. No such luck this time, probably.

8. Halo's Shadow
7. Take a Gamble
6. Gift of the Eagle
5. Solingen
4. Fifty Stars
3. Me and Thee
2. Percy Hope
1. Hoovergetthekeys

You can have all the fitness-improving last-out races you want, but they don't exist in a vacuum, Poindexter.

No. It's all relative, and a competitive, tractable quality-type like Hoovergetthekeys would trounce either field, thus relegating Percy Hope and Me and Thee to the place- and show-spots in Texas.

Conversely, mopey runners like Distilled and Dream Run would have to benefit if 'Percy and 'Thee defected southward.

Three-Year-Old Trio: The Santa Anita Derby
As it should be, this race is where the crescendo (in terms of both drama and talent) gets off and climaxes to fever pitch. (Yeah, right. As if the time zones didn't have something to do with it.)

Flowery, flowery. But when you look at the cast for this race, the fourth- and fifth-place finishers would wax anything going on in Illinois or Texas.

Hence the Grade I status. Here we go:

Point Given - What can you say? Baffert won't have to crank him all the way for this (see Silver Charm and Real Quiet, '97 and '98 editions of this race) to prepare him for the one race that matters. He's run the same race four times in a row -- remarkable when you consider that the last of those came in his first as a 3 and after some time off, while the others were accomplished as a "mere" two-year-old.

I Love Silver - Busted out of the blocks last time, when the pace demanded it. Still, he'll obviously need to step forward yet again to topple you-know-who.

Crafty C.T. - Your leader, and maybe a clear lead, at that. He's fast enough through the entire trip, but has only known races in which his throatlatch is free and open -- his rivals will not be so sparing in applying the clamps in here.

Startac - Got a fast, setup pace up north last time, and still regressed. This is no Turf Paradise Derby field, either.

Scorpion - Hard to see anything positive when Crafty C.T. has dibs on the solo flight the Scorpion so desperately needs.

Early Flyer - No reason to believe he won't get two turns, and his last-out route debut wasn't exactly stress-free. He has one rallying-type effort that would compete fairly well in here, and maybe he can bounce-back this trip.

Palmeiro - Doesn't possess a rally of his own doing, and could be farther back than he wants to be. Can you smell the hype? Or maybe he'll follow in the footsteps of his namesake and get better with age, though not necessarily after age 30. Maybe 3 1/2 or 4.

Cherokee Kim - Next! Oops. He rounds out the field. Last in, last home.

8. Cherokee Kim
7. Scorpion
6. Startac
5. Palmeiro
4. Crafty C.T.
3. I Love Silver
2. Early Flyer
1. Point Given

This race melds the top finishers of the San Felipe and the San Rafael, historically the two feeder races to the Santa Anita Derby. Obviously, the San Felipe was the stronger race, since Point Given headed it.

However, some of the horses who finished behind Crafty C.T. in the San Felipe could turn the tables, if that one gets more pressure than he's used to and last time's unfortunate trips even-out in here.

And then there are the weather gods, who are scheming to hurl down some precip on partly sunny Southern California on Saturday. It's a 2-5 shot, according to the meteorological handicappers, that that indeed is their unholy plan. None of the entrants have had to deal with anything but fast and dry!

If so, Early Flyer has to move up some, in the event Bob and Gary have it worked out such that Point Given won't be asked for everything. After all, Early Flyer comes from a daddy and a mommy who are decent in producing slop-able offspring, and Tyler "The Natural" Baze won't be costing him anything in the off, either.

Summing this one up, Early Flyer looks like the one who'll make the race pay.

Next time: Trio II: Wood, Blue Grass, Arkansas.

Wrapping Up
Congratulations to Tom K. and his winning of the Saturday Division of the March Madness! edition of the Big-Prize Handicapping Contest.

The following are his post-tournament quotes, as posted on the Horse Talk message board:

"What determines the races I play? First, I attempt to know the tracks I play very thoroughly. The allinone program really helps in this regard. I review the win models, winning profiles and post positions bias reports. In looking for a playable race, I'm really looking for a legitamate favorite. A horse who can run to the pars for the particular race, has the ability, form and condition. Many favorites are vulnerable in that they lack one or more of the aforementioned.

"What make one strong favorite 'more equal' than some of the others? I use the autocompute mode of allinone to provide me with a sample of possible plays. Next, I utilize the 'select pacelines' option and verify that the program has not been 'overly optimistic' in its paceline selections. This will eliminate several horses. Next, I will review the trainer/jockey combinations for especially profitable ROI's with favorites or simply attempt to locate a combination which has no equal in a particular race. These are rare, but can be found. This eliminates more horses. Finally, I will favor horses with inside (1,2,3) or outside (11,12) post positions in sprints. In routes going into a turn I will favor the inside to middle post positions, depending on what may be winning at the particular track. Allinone has a post position impact value (PPIV) which can be utilized to locate post position biases. I hope this has been of help. Thank you once again to Cynthia Publishing for sponsoring these very creative and challenging contests! Good luck to all future contestants!

Congratulations also to Bill H., who stretched Tom K. the entire distance before settling for the runner-up spot in a tie with Wes L.

Bill H., also on Horse Talk, wrote: "What a fun contest for me since I'm always trying to beat the favorite. Gosh if I can keep hitting at an 80% clip guess I'll have to rethink my game-(just kidding). As part of my looking for a legitimate favorite I keyed in on MSW 2nd time starters that had run to par at both the pace and final call. Next I looked for horses that had at least a 3-4 length advantage at the pace call-especially if a presser. Thanks for the opportunity to play in your contest and all the great help over the years."

Now there's some chatroom dialogue worth re-posting.

But why let these guys get away scot-free? You yourself can cash in on the April Foolishness Edition of the Big-Prize Contest. Do it now, and enjoy the feeling of winning cool stuff for your superior handicapping.

Enjoy your racing week. See you next time with your winning blend of ideas, events and personalities.

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