Journalism wins out today, eight days before Kentucky Derby 128. This time, we'll put the handicapping hints up top, then scatter them toward the end, too. So if you want to read about how the 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition book and materials have already shipped or how Cramer has already posted twice on the C&X Web site, just keep scrolling down, but not too far down. As always, please try to enjoy the entirety of this week's e-newsletter. Plenty of content to go with the promotions, OK?
As many tracks close, others open to take their place.
Gulfstream stopped on Wednesday, Calder began today.
Santa Anita ended Sunday, Hollypark premiered Wednesday.
Keeneland ran its final spring-meet race this afternoon, Churchill picks up the pace less than 24 hours afterwards, tomorrow.
Others that have recently started or will soon start their meets include Great Lakes Downs, Prairie Meadows, Fort Erie, Emerald Downs and Delaware Park.
As the late, great Mel Allen used to say, "How about that?"
Break up the Yankees! While we would like to be able to comment on all 27 openings -- that's an exaggerated count, we think -- we'll have to focus on the biggies, specifically Hollywood, Churchill and Calder -- conveniently, all of them are CDI tracks -- with a brief nod to the great Delaware. However, we will provide track-trend information on all the tracks, courtesy of observations available in the 2002 PARS PLUS book and supplemental materials.
We begin at Hollywood, where the spring-summer meet got underway Wednesday. According to findings published in 2002 PARS PLUS, Hollywood figures to reward the frontrunners who just couldn't hold on at the track across town. Its surface tends to be more forgiving of the leader who start to feel a little bit weary late. (For a precise measure of just how much more early-speed-friendly Hollywood is than the other local tracks, kindly consult the table of WMFs and the How Tracks Behave: Individual Track Capsules section of 2002 PARS PLUS.)
Trainers to look out for early on in the meet include Clifford Sise Jr. and Jerry Dutton, both of whom figure to take the lion's share of those crazy ultra-short sprints for two-year-olds, either straight-maiden or maiden-claiming. Wesley Ward and Caesar Dominguez also are very good with the babies early in the meet, and the latter is particularly adept with second-outs.
On turf, many trainer angles abound, but if recent form holds, "Bombin'" Barry Abrams is one to watch out for in terms of longshots, especially those he just claimed or those who figure to stretch out and lead all the way. While he is awful with the turf-to-dirt move, his nice stats with the reverse suggest exactly where his longshots like to roam.
Churchill is not a good track at all if you prefer your horses to persevere all the way to the wire after securing the lead in upper stretch. That long stretch has something to do with it, perhaps, but the WMFs clearly and beautifully indicate just how horrible Churchill was to the leaders and pressers across-the-distance-board. While tracks are capable of doing an about-face from year to year, it makes for a nice edge to be able to put in a solid, educated guess as to how a track should play early in the meet, well before the trends are confirmed.
Trainer-wise, it's never wrong to assume that frequent Keeneland juvenile specialists Ronny Werner and Steve Asmussen will again be strong on the transfer to Louisville. Asmussen also brings his favorite baby-riding jock, Donnie Meche, and they are to be respected, especially with second-timers.
Speaking of Asmussen, his Fair Grouds nemesis, Tom Amoss, is very good with first-off-the-claim horses at Churchill. Expect a raise in claiming price. Ditto local hero Paul McGee, who also likes to jump 'em up after he halters 'em. Both these guys are bound to spot something sharp, make the purchase and go straight to the winner's circle,
True bomb angle involves trainer Bernie Flint with older first-time-starting maidens, either type. Watch them get involved in the early running right away (always at the six-furlong trip, where they actually can win) and roll all the way to the wire. Check it out!
On a wet main track, expect the horses of Charles Simon and -- who else? -- Dale Romans to be sufficiently equipped to overcome the elements and splash to a victory.
Calder is two-year-old country, and while the juveniles should be fully expected to scamper gate-to-wire early and often, the remainder of the age groups do not figured to be hampered by an unfair surface. Translation: Look for balance in the winning running styles at this track when it's dry; it's not as speed-favoring as perceived.
Back to the Calder two-year-olds, trainer William P. "Bill" White must always be considered a live issue with his babies, and his main riding man is C.Val, Cornelio Velasquez. Kathleen O'Connell prefers to give her young 'uns some time before striking with them, but she is proficient in two-year-old races in which her charges have more than a race or two experience, especially deeper into the calendar.
At Delaware, there are reports of a new surface in place to speed-up the times to a level befitting a racing program that has become an economic and qualitative force in the past two years. If so, all bets are off regarding the track's behavior, which last year was pro-early-speed at the common six-furlong distance and even at the middle-distance routes.
The early angle to beware involves trainer Allen Borosh with his recent claims. When they leap up in class and are paired with perennial frontrunning jock Anthony "Tony" Black, the horses are live, and the prices can be appetizing.
All-time training god Jonathan Sheppard will let his Delpark allowance charges win on the main track after a last-out turf race.
And with the developing young horses, the three-year-olds, trainer Allen Iwinski has formed two distinct patterns. His dropping-in-price claimers will be live but obvious, going off at skimpy odds. However, beware his nonclaiming developers, the straight-maiden and entry-level allowance types, who gun to the lead and stay there all the way at reasonable prices.
Track behaviour for other places:
Emerald: Speed OK, but only up to a certain point.
Fort Erie: Same as Emerald. On turf, however, pretty good to the seemingly universally disadvantaged turf leaders and pressers.
Great Lakes: Better to early speed than the top two.
Prairie Meadows: Mixed bag.
Good luck wherever you play, and we hope you can capitalize on these observations. (By the way, this section was dedicated to the memory of Shnorrer M. Polanski, sycophant, cheerleader and defender of the lame. Rest in peace, Shnorrer M. Hollypark and the nation's biggest mutuel handle currently will just have to try to survive without you, though it's certain you'll take credit for any drop in the wagering there, such influence you wielded. Ah, nice try, but, this time, lights out.)
The good thing about Cramer is that he has something tangible to teach, a hard, measurable skill to impart. This is quite different from the bulk of what's out there today, the stuff in which a reader is expected to perform a precise skill after trying to make sense of some nebulous drivel about an inner reality that, in the end, has very little connection to actual events on Earth, where most of us prefer to reside.
Cramer knows it takes some discernment, subtlety and nuance to succeed at the game, an outlook that's far removed from a lot of the fuzzy-wuzzy experts out there. Success at the races, well, it's closer to the physique and touch of a fencer, not a bowler. But, hey, who knows? We could be wrong! We could be wrong! Perhaps, one day, a million monkeys locked up in a cage with Racing Forms will channel their inner randomness -- er, inner realities -- to beat the races!
Thankfully, that day is far off. "Planet of the Handicapping Apes" will make for good fiction, a certain box-office hit, but, for now, it's not worth reading about. In the meantime, good, solid handicapping and handicapping commentary are always in demand, standing on a timeless plane. (God bless you, Red Smith, Damon Runyon, Mark Cramer.) And with the Derby coming up in about a week, what better time to combine that precise, nuanced handicapping analysis with America's biggest horserace?
Cramer has begun lining up his thoughts about this year's Kentucky Derby, and he has posted them as they happen, thanks to the magic of Internet technology, on the C&X Web site at www.cynthiapublishing.com/candx . Check it out, but first a warning: You need to have a password to get all the way in.
And how do you get a password? Pretty easy. If you're already a subscriber to Cramer's C&X Report, send us an e-mail with your particulars and we'll hook you up, even on the weekend.
Now, if you're not yet a subscriber, your patience is going to pay off. Subscribe now and not only will you receive access to Cramer's up-to-the-minute Derby thoughts on the C&X Web site, you'll receive the May 2002 issue prior to the Derby. Yes, we're shipping that bad agent out on Tuesday, April 30, from sunny Southern California, so subscribe now and get the May issue and access to Cramer's final Derby thoughts and betting line to be posted Thursday or Friday. It's a great combination!
Cramer is always worth reading, and this package of the C&X Report and a timely Derby analysis will give you practical Derby-handicapping lessons and timeless instruction on the delicate art of precision line-making. Don't miss out.
Subscribe now to Mark Cramer's C&X Report and get 12 great issues and pretty much instant access to Cramer's online reports. Information on subscribing and ordering is available at the Cynthia Publishing Company Handicapping Store.
The eagerly awaited 2002 PARS PLUS books and printed supplemental materials have been shipped, as have the par-times updates on diskette for ALL-IN-ONE V5. Fast Capper CD-ROMs, now workable with just about any operating system (hint, hint Mac users) should be ready to roll next week -- thanks for your patience.
So, if you haven't done so yet, it's now a great time to update your Cynthia Publishing par times. And because we like you, we'll extend our limited-time offer so you can save some money and get some terrific bonuses, too. These profuse rewards are our way of thanking you for your patience and support.
This year's pars are cause for celebration. You'll draw on our solid decade of experience in providing the ultimate in par-time information. But that's not all. You'll also leap ahead of the rest by taking your knowledge and application of pars to a spectacular new level no one else can show you. And you'll get all of this at a remarkable discount and with some very special gifts.
Back to the pars. You'll get them in our traditional, time-honored, three-call format for all the racetracks, both dirt and turf, in North America. So if you're accustomed to using the par times as the basis for your handicapping, you're set. You know the value of updating your pars annually.
But if you're hungry for extra handicapping tools, 2002 PARS PLUS has plenty to satisfy your needs. We're excited to be able to provide average daily variants; improved, more-realistic track-class levels; and more-practical intertrack class-level ratings than before. They'll help simplify your handicapping experience. These three tools alone are dynamite in getting quick reads on track-surface speeds and shippers, without needing to go through the entire exercise of comparing pars from one track to the next. In this age of full-card multi-track simulcasting, quick-handicapping is the key, and having handicapping information such as average daily variants, track-class levels and intertrack class-level ratings will slash hours from your handicapping load.
There's more. We're also pleased to be able to provide you with a brand-new way of evaluating how tracks behave for each combination of track, distance and surface. We call it WMF (Winning Move Factor), but you'll call it money. You'll use WMF to confidently eliminate noncontenders and understand how changes as subtle as switching distance or moving from one track to another can boost a horse that looks dull, or help knock off a low-odds horse that looks sharp.
Better yet, WMF is a real eye-opener that translates easily take from track to track. Ever wonder why your pet early-speed plays do better at some tracks than others? With the handy WMF, you won't be left wondering anymore. You'll know. Better yet, you'll be able to temper your enthusiasm for these plays when they take place at tracks whose WMF is disadvantageous to frontrunners. And bet with confidence over surfaces where the WMF is in your favor.
And don't worry - if you're allergic to numbers, there'll be meaningful, practical articles to help explain the numbers to you and how you can use them to help your handicapping.
By themselves, these outstanding information resources and articles would be enough. But why stop there? Perhaps the most exciting aspect of your 2002 PARS PLUS materials are the bold advances we've made in taking the practice and theory of par times to the next level. We have combined many more hours of research plus a savvy for all-important local knowledge to change the way you approach and think about the game. On each coast and everywhere in-between, you'll begin to understand the game like never before, thanks to logical, sensible and thought-provoking inquiries that should have been made long ago but, amazingly enough, appear for the first time only in 2002 PARS PLUS. We're committed to seeing your handicapping is as well-informed as possible.
These developments in 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition truly are cause for a lot of celebration, but the icing on the cake is the price: 2002 PARS PLUS is unchanged at $107 (including shipping and handling; $115.25 for California residents to cover applicable state sales tax). That's right! You get three-call par times for all the tracks in North America, PLUS terrific handicapping tools like average daily variants, track-class levels, intertrack class-level ratings, PLUS the WMFs for every track PLUS eye-opening articles tying it all together PLUS great local-knowledge pointers for a hundred bucks, plus shipping and handling. What an overlay!
It gets even better. In our quest to continually delight you, we'll make the deal even sweeter. We're obviously excited about the 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition and everything inside. But if you place your order for the 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition book now, we'll deliver two extra-special bonuses around May 1 - at no additional charge. They're called "The Quick and Dirty Guide to Trainer Subtleties," one for Southern California trainers and another for their New York Racing Association counterparts. Don't let the crazy title fool you - these excellent guides give you more than just the usual, tired-old stats. You'll get vivid word-pictures and descriptions that actually put you inside the trainers' heads to uncover their winning m.o.'s. In other words, you'll know when a trainer is ready to strike - or not, as the case may be. Valued at $25 apiece, that's a $50 bonus, yours free with your prompt order of the 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition.
So let's recap. It's time to update your par times, not to mention get such improved supplemental tools as average daily variants, track-class levels, intertrack class-level ratings and WMFs for all North American tracks. It's also time to tie it all together with fascinating, provocative and thought-provoking articles on the very latest par-time handicapping techniques based on local knowledge of the various tracks. And if you order now, you receive all these outstanding handicapping resources for $107 ($115.25 for California residents) - PLUS you get two more extra-special bonuses ("The Quick and Dirty Guide to Trainer Subtleties" for Southern California and New York) FREE! How can you lose?
If you're an ALL-IN-ONE, Easy Capper or Fast Capper user and want to upgrade to the 2002 par times, no problem. Order by April 30 and for $107 ($115.25 for California residents) you get the 2002 par-times update for your software, the printed supplemental material from the 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition book AND your two "The Quick and Dirty Guide to Trainer Subtleties" bonuses at no extra charge.
To order by phone with a major credit card, call (323) 876-7325. Or fax your order information to (323) 874-1591. Or visit our brand-new Web site at www.cynthiapublishing.com and click on any link alongside announcing the 2002 PARS PLUS Special 10th Anniversary Edition. Or if you like to do business the old-fashioned way, please mail your payment to Cynthia Publishing Company, 11314 Ventura Blvd. #524, Studio City, CA 91604. P.S. Remember, this very special offer is good only for orders placed by April 30, so don't delay. We appreciate your business. (And if you need more information, please enjoy the additional information at the Cynthia Publishing Company Handicapping Store.)
Mike Helm has done it again.
Last time, we introduced his Freshman Sires of 2002. Now is the moment to unveil his most recent edition of Debut Sires
The 2002 edition contains the latest and greatest updated winning first-time-starter sire profiles. More descriptive and effective than plain old numbers, Helm's Debut Sires lists the exact conditions under which a sire's debutantes raced to win. Not all of a sire's first-time starters and alike, and Debut Sires will help you distinguish the live issues from the duds. It gives you a nice edge on the stats freaks -- your pedigree plays will become much more effective, thanks to the texture and depth Helm offers. You'll begin to understand and appreciate this often tricky aspect of handicapping.
That's the first edge Helm provides. The other is his Freshman Sires of 2002. It tells you who'll be the hot new studs dominating juvenile racing this year. It's like putting yourself 12 months ahead of fellow handicappers, who won't know this information until next year. Get it now!
Helm previews numerous sires whose first crop to race will be coming in 2002. He reviews each sire's racing career with an eye toward predicting in which situations their progeny should succeed. Best of all, since these sires have yet to compile any statistics, they go ignored by 99.9 percent of the betting public, which means you'll be able to cash in on some juicy prices.
A terrific complement to Freshman Sires of 2002 is Helm's Debut Trainer Guide 2002. 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. For more on Debut Trainers and Freshman Sires, please 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.
Week 3 is in the books, and there have been yet more terrific showings already after six days of play.
The nice things about this contest is that it combines the Kentucky Derby prep races into the calculations. It's like tournaments with "mandatory" races. There are two opportunities to score, and you'll find all the details on our contest page.
Oh, yeah. Best wishes for a good contest, and we'll be rooting for you.
Just when you begin burying Baffert, Prince Salman comes along, casually buys War Emblem and Bobby B. gets a reprieve; he'll saddle a Derby starter this year.
Just when you thought D. Wayne Lukas wouldn't be making the trip to the paddock and saddling ring for the feature race on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, he uses a familiar Keeneland springboard to catapult him and a late-developing three-year-old into the Derby fray.
With those two miracles having been dispensed, Nick Zito is probably out of luck.
Lukas did it the hard way, taking Proud Citizen fresh from his trouncing in the Santa Anita Derby and crossing his fingers that favorites Ethan Man and Easyfromthegitgo wouldn't show up.
It worked. When Patient Pat Day failed to move Ethan Man into contention right away, the lead was Proud Citizen's for the taking, and that was ballgame.
Jockey Mike Smith knew what to do, letting Proud Citizen ramble on the front end before relaxing him into a mild challenge in upper stretch. Proud Citizen had something left, and won impressively.
It was enough to get Lukas and Proud Citizen into the Derby field, and the comparisons with 1999 Derby shocker Charismatic began popping up even before the final winner's circle photos had been snapped.
However, Proud Citizen may have been more opportunistic than Charismatic. Charismatic learned how to box-on in his Lexington win; all Proud Citizen did in his was confirm that he's super on the lonely lead.
And so the rivalry begins anew. Proud Citizen, meet War Emblem. Wayne, you know Bob, don't you? Oh, yeah. Let the frontrunning war begin!
The presence of War Emblem and Baffert and Proud Citizen and Lukas is but one intriguing story line beginning to be spun for Kentucky Derby 128. If War Emblem gets the lead, does Lukas instruct Proud Citizen's jockey to put pressure on him every step of the way, a la Woody Stephens' death-pact with Day and Forty Niner against Winning Colors in the 1988 Preakness?
It seems doubtful either horse will want any trip other than the frontrunning one, and that's never a good thing in the Derby. Duelers win six-furlong $10,000 claimers every day; however, they're a rare occurrence in the Run for the Roses.
Who'll sit the trip, then, according to the preferred parlance? Came Home seems like a perfect candidate to overhaul the top two nearing the turn, getting first run on the laggards. The same goes for Medaglia d'Oro and Buddha. Imagine those three seeking position and the edge in upper stretch of the Derby. Who rates the edge?
Probably Came Home. Came Home was a hard-fighting two-year-old and was brilliant in the two starts before the curious Santa Anita Derby. You saw the hard-fighting, lightly raced Medaglia d'Oro and Buddha go mano a mano in the Wood. Do they have the foundation to replicate that grueling drive again? That is the question for both of them. Came Home at least has the right answer.
Unfortunately, even if Came Home shakes loose, he's got the painfully long Churchill stretch to endure. If he outlasts his pedigree, that's not the same as outlasting a phalanx of chugging late-runners. You know who they are.
And that is where we will hit the pause button, to resume next week.
Mayakovsky could have avoided this, but if he wins, does that mean the Santa Anita Derby in reality was a key race?
Mayakovsky followed up his big Gotham score with a big letdown in the Santa Anita Derby. But with Proud Citizen having emerged from that race with a win against second-level three-year-olds, will a Mayakovsky victory mean that Came Home was the most competitive of a better-than-looked group, the Teletimer be damned!
There is plenty of sorting to do. In the Derby Trial, Mayakovsky looks like he has every right to bounce back, especially on the return to a single turn and a distance at which he threw his most impressive start.
The price was going to be short to begin with, but a mutuel coupling with Lukas's Shah Jehan means even lower odds. Both horses make sense.
The upset candidate who will try to go with them early is Sky Terrace, who showed big, big talent as a two-year-old and earlier this year before recently coming back from a layoff. This horse is talented enough to do it, especially if things fall in the right place for him.
Clergy will take action, but he'll need to improve appreciably. Stephentown seems best as a frontrunner. Cashel Castle is unbeaten but the trainer is jinxed with first-routers, though one could argue that this one-turn mile probably isn't the typical first-route situation. Cashel Castle's versatility bodes well for him, obviously. Governor Hickel should rally, but will it be enough? The rest are of no consequence, it seems.
The problem in backing tearaway frontrunners in here lies in the race dynamics (skewed toward early speed) and the way these one-turn miles at Churchill typically run (toward the closers).
At short odds, Mayakovsky and Shah Jehan seem to have too much to overcome. Sky Terrace is more palatable, if for the sole reason that his price will be much more generous as he tries to clear the same obstacles as the top two.
Mayakovsky still represents strong contention, though the price vis-a-vis the question marks doubtless will relegate her to overbet status. Sky Terrace to win, then, and a saver with Cashel Castle on top.
Best wishes for a profitable weekend.
This is a flat-mile around two turns for three-year-olds and up. It's a Grade III, $300,000 race, and though only one member of the field, Hal's Hope, has a recent Graded stakes win.
This race has all the warning signs of a crazy outcome in the making. The inaugural running of this race, when Lone Star was barely past a twinkling in the Texas Racing Commission's eye, resulted in the great Skip Away getting beat out of the exacta in 1997.
Favored Hal's Hope seems too wed to the up-front trip, and his recent tries at the classic and middle distances suggest he won't be able to control the splits the way he did against the more-sluggish handicap stars he dominated. He'll need to rally here, and that is hardly his optimal way of going.
There are plenty of other hopes outside of 'Hal, and the duo likeliest to do the most damage at a great price, consists of Unrullah Bull for trainer Cole Norman, and Oak Hall. Either seems capable of finishing fast against a bunch of horses who may be gasping at the end.
This time we'll do the stealing and remind you as they do in the Chicagoland area: Be cool! Stay hip! Be decisive!
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