Friday, July 13, 2018

Next Race Up: Indiana Derby

Here are my thoughts on the entries for the Indiana Derby which runs around 8:30 CDT Saturday, July 14th.

Indiana Grand runners/odds.

1. Trigger Warning (8-1): This son of Candy Ride has exactly 2 good starts in his history, but they were his two recent starts. I really liked his 3rd in the Ohio Derby (where he went off at 86-1, but not much else.  Probably will be a player in the bottom of my exacta and might make it into my pick 4.

2. Blame The Rider (6-1): A horse with questionable dirt breeding who has shown his best form on the turf but is being put in against some fairly solid horses this time around….on the dirt. He’s going to have to show something he’s never shown when the track isn’t green. I’ll pass and take my chances getting beat by him.

3. Givemeaminit (20-1): Son of my least favorite sire, Star Guitar, and he’s a pure closer and he’s not run well against the same class.  All three angles in my “handicappper’s toolkit” that I typically fade.  Needs a hot pace and a perfect trip to win. If he gets it, then I’m wrong about him. Pass.

4. Dark Vader (8-1): Trainer Peter Eurton won this Ohio Derby with Core Beliefs by putting him on the exact same path Dark Vader finds himself on here. He has tactical speed and a ton of talent. He’s a son of Tale of Ekati which is a plus in my book and he’s an improving horse that appears to be ready to take the mythical “next step” here. Will be my key horse in all bets.

5. The Money Dance (20-1): Bred in Indiana this will be the sentimental favorite, home-breds always are, but he’s going to need a lot of things to happen in order to win. The two races he has won have been in impressive fashion however but I still think he needs to improve mightily to contend with this group.

6. Axelrod (5-1): Much like Blame the Rider, Axelrod has switched between the dirt and the turf, unlike Blame the Rider, Axelrod has looked MUCH better on the dirt. He’s a fast horse who has outran Solomini in the past, make of that what you will. Axelrod will feature in the bottom of my exotics but I think the post time price will be too cheap to back him for the win.

7. Title Ready (12-1): Stop me if you’ve heard this before, trainer Steve Asmussen has a 3 year old that he thinks highly of but might be a late bloomer. He’s REALLY going to have to bloom in a hurry to jump out in front here and hold on to beat this field. He might run a heady 3rd however so I will include him in my exotics.

8. King Zachary (6-5): The prohibitive post time favorite based mainly on his win in the Gr 3 Matt Winn stakes at Churchill, where he beat similar competition by around 5 lengths. He then ran horribly in the Wood, which we’re being told by the connections to draw a line through. I don’t see it. Yes, he’ll be in my exotics and he’ll certainly be in my Pick 4, but I’m having trouble backing this horse at what is sure to be less than even money.

9. Funny Duck (10-1): It’s starting to look like his win at the Pat Day Mile was a fluke driven primarily by the rain on that day. Although it’s not supposed to, if it rains, you might want to include Funny Duck in just about every bet you make. If it’s dry and the track is fast I think his odds will really inflate. I’ll be taking a piece as my longshot in case there’s some “there” there.

Picks: 4-8-5-7-9

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

BadTwitter: Social Media with Care Folks.

If you're any bit active on Twitter #planebae should not be a new thing. It's hit media everywhere, who are tut-tutting which is unusual when you consider that much of the media's current role is intruding into people's private lives (if it bleeds, it leads) and broadcasting it out everywhere without a thought of the collateral damage.  This is opposed to watchdog, or public interest journalism that the media should be doing mind you, but that's a post for another blog.

As someone who has been online and "social" on blogs, Twitter and (to a much lesser extent) Facebook, Message Boards, Instagram (OK, barely) and Snapchat (hardly at all), this isn't the first time I've seen someone intruded upon to the point that they had to withdraw from all platforms.

It's voyeurism and it needs to stop. It's often done by "actors" of the Internet type who have a very slim CV on IMDb but the ability to add tags and squirrelly things to pictures and post them on line for all to see.

There was the case of Dani Mathers body shaming another lady in the gym which was ironic given her role as a "Playboy Model" and while most stories (rightly) involve advertisers, or data collectors scraping personal data, or hackers stealing it when the community cheers on bad actors acting in the same way they are probably unaware of just how hypocritical they are truly being.

After my initial foray into political-blogging, under the pseudonym "Sedosi Alhambra" I've always posted under my real name.  In a way, I've been lucky, I've never been "Swatted" or "Doxed" which is probably more due to my relatively low readership and lack of importance online than any luck which I may, or may not, possess.  I've chronicled my one time dealing with identity theft but that was more a crime of opportunity rather than celebrity.

Granted, a long time ago I had some weird guy create an entire blog (since deleted) to bash me over a simple mathematical error (instead of just pointing it out in the comments, which made me chuckle) and I once received an e-mail from some  Houstonian saying only "You're a real asshole".  When I asked for clarification he just said that my writing style made him hate me.  Outside of that?

A few minor Twitter scuffles and.....?


And that's how it is for most of us. And that's honestly the way it should be.  We shouldn't have to worry about having a good time, or getting just a little too tipsy, or meeting someone on a plane and having some Z-list celebrity chronicle it for page hits. We shouldn't have to worry about our dumb decisions (provided they're just dumb, and not criminal mind you) being broadcast for all to see.

The problem here is that many people view social media life as real life. They think that some anonymous troll on Twitter or, more likely, a bot speaks for the general public. A general public that, for the most part, either views social media as a lightly-used time-waster or (more likely) nothing at all.

MOST people aren't active on social media, 99.99999% of the American populace doesn't blog, or read blogs, yes, a lot of people go on Facebook but that's mainly to see how their Aunt in Iowa is doing, or to keep up with old friends from High School or College. Or, to post pictures of their kids that most of us don't want to see but reply to with "How cute" or other things. (usually followed by multiple exclamation points to really drive the cuteness home). In short, most people aren't on Social Media to become "Internet famous".

We should probably start ignoring the people who are.  Start with the actor who started #planebae end with the Kardashian/West clan.

Trust me when I tell you your life will be much better for it.

And if, on your next vacation, you're tempted to take a picture of something besides yourself, scenery or good food you've eaten?


Social Media will be all the better for it.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Houston Rockets: 2019 will be 2018 part II

Time to face facts Rockets fans. Despite what almost every one of the Local media columnists are writing, Jenny Dial CreechJerome Solomon, and Brian T Smith as three examples, The chances of Lebron James wearing a Rockets jersey for the 2018-2019 season are slim to none, and slim just left town with today's news that James is opting out of his player option with Cleveland to become and unrestricted free agent.

His most likely landing spot is the Lakers, which makes sense because he's already got a second home in LA, and visions himself a movie mogul and mover and shaker in the NBA when his playing career is done. Few teams have been more willing to let former players take the reigns than have the Lakers.

Sure, some dominoes have to fall. Kawhi Leonard being traded from the Spurs to the Lakers would help, as would Paul George signing a free agent deal with them.  Once that happens it's a fair bet that Lonzo Ball gets dealt away, no way Mr. James wants to be attached to the Lavar clown show. But the odds on money is LA.

What this likely means for the Rockets is that next year is going to be a mirror image of last year. A team that wins a ton of games but whose playoff hopes rely on the health of an aging player (Chris Paul) with a troubling history of soft-tissue injuries. That's assuming Paul doesn't take a discount himself to play with the Lakers and join up with his friend LeBron. Stranger things have happened in the NBA.  At least Daryl Morey didn't show up at LeBron's front door begging this time around.

It's hard to fault Morey though, he's working with limited resources in a city that's generally unattractive to many of the league's best players. Houston is hot, humid, has little in the way of actual attractions and is a great place to work, but an increasingly crime-riddled and expensive place to LIVE. It doesn't have the best schools for LeBron's kids, and his wife would most probably be bored out of her mind.

But Morey, for all of his brilliance, has not been able to push this Rockets team over the top. They get close, achingly close, before falling just short.  There was the Dwight Howard mess, then the San Antonio dud, then last year the 0-27 historical run of 3-point shooting futility.  James Harden has proven himself one of the better, regular season players in the NBA, when it comes to the playoffs however he's returning Houston to Choke City more than reviving the Clutch City vibes. He's the Dan Marino of the NBA. Not that Marino is a bad person to be compared to but he never won any championships, which appears to be the fate of Harden unless he changes the results.

He'll have to do so in 2018-2019 with, presumably, almost the same supporting cast.

Whatever voodoo Tillman Fertitta can bring over from Lake Charles to bless Chris Paul's muscles, tendons and ligaments had better be shipped in now. Otherwise we'll be writing the same eulogy for next year's team that we did for this year's:

So close, yet so far away.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

2018 Queen's Plate: One of the Toughest Handicapping Races of the Year.

This Saturday is the 159th running of the Queen's Plate at Woodbine. Not only the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the oldest continually ran race in North America but also one of the toughest races to handicap that you'll find all year.

There are two things that make this race difficult to figure out. First, it's ran on a Tapeta surface, something a lot of horses in America aren't used to, and 2nd, it's limited to Canadian-bred 3 year old horses only.  This means that you get a wide array of horses with varying levels of experience competing.

At times, even past performances and speed figures aren't much help because horses improves, like/hate the synthetic surface their first time on it or just didn't travel well.  Unlike the KY Derby, there's no prep-race season to really fall back on.

There are, however, usually favorites to win, and you can make money if you can either look past them and pick another winner OR, figure out the exotics.

Here's the field with post positions, M/L odds and comments:

1. Boyhood Dream (30-1) - This horse has only won one time at the MCL $30,000 level but he is trained by Mike Maker and that should indicate that you don't totally ignore him.  Compared to many in this race he's run, a lot, but he's not been all that successful doing it.  IF he improves he could compete for the minor awards and wouldn't be a bad idea to throw in on the back half of your exotics. But even massive improvement probably doesn't get him to the level of the other horses.

2. Cooler Mike (30-1) - This horse won his first at 7f but then struggled in two races at this 1 1/16th distance before winning his last race at the same at Woodbine. His Grandpa is Giant's Causeway, which suggests that he should be able to make the distance. His win last time out included beating Neepawa, whose witting at much lower odds down the board. Might be worth a play, definitely worth looking at in the exotics.

3. Inge (30-1) - This colt won his last race of 2017 at 7f but hasn't won since.  He also hasn't finished outside of the top 5 but looks to be a little over matched here. He's a pure speed horse who should find himself up front but has a history of tiring and against horses of the quality he'll be facing I don't think he'll have the stamina to go the distance.  In fact, I'm leaving him out of my exotics because I think he'll find himself way, way back.

4. Strike Me Down (10-1) - In every race their is a "sharp" horse that gets bet down to unusual levels and it's sort-of confusing as to why.  IMO Strike Me Down is that horse for the Queen's Plate.  For one, he's trained by Graham Motion, which always makes bettors happy and two, he's never finished lower than 3rd.  This is an improving horse that might be peaking at just the right time. Two back he ran a game second to top contender Dixie Moon and he won the last time out at the same distance over the same track. Yes, he'll need to improve, but is there anyone better than Motion in this race to get him there?

5. Silent Poet (30-1) - Having Ghostzapper and Sunday Silence as granddads suggest that this hose has the pedigree for the distance but he's never shown the ability to get there in the past. He's won two sprints, and finished 2nd at Woodbine.  I just don't see him getting the distance despite pedigree evidence he can do so.  Not against this field.

6. Real Dude (50-1) - This horse has pedigree, and that's it. He's only ran twice, and came in off-the-board and 3rd. Against much worse company than this. It's possible that trainer Sid Attard and owner Frank Stronach know something we don't but they're going to have to prove me wrong here. 

7. Dixie Moon (4-1) - One of the two fillies in the race that are in with a huge chance at pulling off the win. She's got three stakes races under her belt and a tough 2nd in a 4th. She's beaten the other filly in the race (Wonder Gadot) twice. She's a daughter of Curlin which bodes well for the distance, and her speed. I like this horse a LOT here. She's also never lost at 1  1/16ths or longer.

8. Alternative Route (20-1) - This is an improving son of Tiznow who won his best race on the synthetic track at Turfway Park. He's got the speed and distance in his pedigree to compete here but will need to improve significantly to pull off the win. But he's been targeted for this race by his trainer so I'm expecting to see his best on Saturday.  Definitely a play in my exotics and probably my long-shot play for the win.

9. Say the Word (20-1) - The only reason that I can see to back this horse is that he's one of the two in the race trained by Graham Motion.  Outside of that? He's a tough, grinding style of horse with a propensity to finish in the top 5, but rarely in the top spot. He'll be in the lower portion of my exotics but not much else. It would require a BIG jump for him to win this against these.

10. Telekinesis (5-2) - Trainer Mark Casse has three horses in this race and this is his best shot at winning. He's ran 4 lifetime, winning two, and never finishing out of the top three. He's a son of Ghostzapper which is a popular stud in Canada. He's got the tactical speed to stay on the lead but I do worry that a hot pace in this race might sink his stamina.  I'll use him in my exotics, but he's not my pick to win.

11. Wonder Gadot (3-1) - This daughter of Medaglia D'Oro has ran eleven times and won twice.  But in her non-winning starts she's finished either 2nd or 3rd behind some of the top fillies in the world 7 times.  Her lone stinker race was the 2017 Breeder's Cup Juvenile Filly, where she ran 6th.  She's also lost twice to Dixie Moon.  But, despite that, I like her here. The hot pace is going to help and she has back-class that is unmatched against this field.  This is my key horse in the race and will be all over my tickets.

12. Pawnbroker (50-1) - Pawnbroker is a horse that's in this race solely because of the unique restrictions for the Queen's Plate. He's a maiden (never won) who only has one start at the MSW level going 6f where he finished 4th against much lesser competition. If there was a bet for the horse that would finish dead last I would pick Pawnbroker. That doesn't mean that this son of Gio Ponti won't eventually develop into a solid horse, but he's up against it here.

13. Marriage Counselor (50-1) - Here's the BEST case that I can make for Marriage Counselor. In his five lifetime races his finish has been 12th - 6th - 3rd - 3rd - 1st.  The last race was a MSW at Woodbine at the same distance, as with Pawnbroker however it was against much less than he'll face here. All of his pedigree screams sprinter.  But I don't think he's got enough tactical speed to challenge for the lead against this group.

14. Neepawa (15-1) - This is a half-brother to Justify out of Scat Daddy but the similarities end there. He's a decent horse whose best days might be alter on running mile races in Class II or III Graded stakes. I just can't see him being too much of a factor here as a horse that is a pure, late closer. Maybe he can climb up and mess up my tri or superfecta but if that happens then I'll tip my cap to Florent Geroux. (who is one of the top riders at Woodbine, that should be mentioned)  Just not enough horse under him this time around.

15. Aheadbyacentury (15-1) - This is the Canadian 2-year old champion which means that he's running against the Coronation curse. Since that race he's never won, but has finished no lower than 5th in all 5 of his other starts. The problem is, he's also been beaten a couple of times solidly by other horses in this field.  Bottom half of the exotics type because if you leave him out and he messes you up, you'll regret it.  There are too many horses in this field to leave off for him to be one of them.

16. Rose's Vision (12-1) - In his last two races he's ran both ahead, and way behind, Aheadbyacentury but he's also lost to Telekinesis and Dixie Moon. Seems to get stronger as the races get longer so stamina shouldn't be an issue.  Tactical speed might however as this horse might find himself too far out of touch. His worst race was the GIII Marine Stakes at Woodbine where he ran 6th, against a fairly pedestrian field.  This one is going to take some money due to finishing 2nd in the Plate Trial, but I'm taking a stand against.

And, that's your field.  My level of preference is as follows:

11 - 8 - 7 - 10

Betting this race I'm planning the following:

$10 Win - 11
$5 Win - 8

$1 Exa Box: 7-8-10-11 ($12 Total bet)

$0.10 Supr: 7,8,11 with 7,8,10,11 with 7,8,10,15,16 with 4,7,8,10,15,16 ($14.80 Total Bet)

As you can see I'm keying on the 11, and then going as wide as I think could lock in a profit on the bottom half.  I toyed with putting in the 2 in 3rd or 4th but that just drove the price up too high for profitable comfort.

Good luck to you however you choose to wager.

Monday, June 11, 2018

2018 World Cup: You should watch, even though the United States will be at home watching too.

As I write this we're about 5 days away from the world gathering in Russia to determine which nation is best at kicking a ball around the pitch inside three pipes and no one except the goalie can use their hands.

Despite the United States Men's National Team not making the big show (there have been plenty of theories about that so I'll leave it be) the countries who are sending teams promise to put on a spectacular show of athleticism and drama. Most of the big players are there (hi Italy!) and there will be plenty of Star Power.  There will also (sadly) be a ton of flops and bad calls, and boorish behavior. Football is a gentlemen's game played by hooligans so they say.  You'll see that on display here. Sadly.

If you haven't seen this article comparing world cup teams to college football teams you should. It's eerily accurate.

As the game play goes, I have some thoughts, and some possible places to put your hard-earned money on the futures markets should you decide to play.

Odds to win the 2018 World CUP

Brazil                            9/2 - Pass. Supremely talented, won't get over the hump here.
Germany                      19/4 - Pass. Winning back to back almost never happens
Spain                            6/1 - Too old, not enough young talent to compete with top teams.
France                          13/2 - No way, did you see their friendly against the USMNT?
Argentina                      19/2 - I like them here. Messi is worth it.
Belgium                        12/1 - Another play I kind of like. Supremely talented.
England                        18/1 - Nope. You'll just be disappointed. Trust me.
Uruguay                        25/1 - I like the odds, I don't like their recent form
Portugal                        28/1 - Wouldn't hurt to take a shot on Ronaldo alone.
Croatia                          33/1 - Solid, should advance, struggles against top teams.
Colombia                      40/1 - I can make a strong case here.
Russia                          50/1 - Cute, but no.
Poland                          80/1 - Might advance, lose in the quarters.
Denmark                      100/1 - Won't happen. Too many injuries
Mexico                         100/1 - My dark horse selection here.
Switzerland                  100/1 - Fun story, won't win.
Sweden                        150/1 - Fee above
Senegal                        150/1 - One of the more exciting teams in terms of talent
Egypt                            150/1 - Mo Salah. But that's it.
Iceland                          200/1 - Overbet. Pass
Serbia                           200/1 - Tough out for anyone. Not a championship contender
Japan                           200/1 - Tough, disciplined, lacking enough talent to truly challenge.
Nigeria                         200/1 - So much talent, so poorly coached.
Peru                             200/1 - Happy to be here.
Costa Rica                   300/1 - Has a history of advancing, then losing in quarters.
Australia                      300/1 - The Socceroos fans are better than their team.
Iran                              500/1 - About 3 notches below the best.
Morocco                      500/1 - Might scare a country in the group play.
South Korea                500/1 - Happy to be here
Tunisia                         500/1 - No way.
Panama                        1000/1 - Uh uh.

Saudi Arabia                1000/1 - I'm not sure I'd like that for their chances to advance.

My money is going on Belgium and Mexico, although I could also make a strong case for Argentina, and Portugal IF their stars play up to the top of their form.  I think there's enough talent on all teams that some of the favorites might get scares in group play, and there will always be the one team that enters with tital aspirations, then botches it and goes home early (England).

As I said earlier, I honestly think Mexico has a legitimate chance to win the whole thing and I wouldn't sleep on them. They face a TOUGH test to open in Germany however, so they'll have to keep their wits about them should they get beaten badly.

I also like Colombia.

In my heart I'm rooting for Spain.  I ALWAYS root for Spain even if the US is there. Now I just don't have to pretend to be a USMNT fan this time around.

2018 Belmont Stakes: Justify'd.

In the end, none of the other horses were faster than Justify.

And it wasn't all that close.

Yes, there has been the usual carping that comes from touts who were pimping Hofburg (and getting dupes to pay them for their picks) that Restoring Hope somehow intentionally ran as a "blocker", as if a horse has never blown a turn before, and yes there are STILL people saying that they're "not sure how good Justify really is" if you can believe that.

But what I saw on Saturday afternoon was a 3-year old colt that was head and shoulders above the other 3-year olds in the race.  Justify is now a Triple Crown winner, and we are already forgetting just how hard the Triple Crown is to win.

We're also seeing just how silly the entire Triple Crown "hype" is.

Because the best races of the day weren't the 11th at Belmont, they were on the undercard.

Take the Metropolitan Handicap (the Met Mile), where Mind Your Biscuits and Bee Jersey both ran spectacular races with Bee Jersey just getting the wire by a nose.  Or the Manhattan handicap, where Spring Quality blazed down the stretch to take the win. Or even the 1 1/2 Mile Brooklyn, where the old grinder Hoppertunity proved himself to be the best of the older dirt horses at a distance. 

Great races all.  Mostly ignored by a general public who gets force fed a steady diet of "Triple Crown" to the exclusion of all other things.  Even the three tracks where the Triple Crown is ran aren't all that important any longer.

Churchill is quaint, it's got history, and really only one good racing weekend in it.  Meanwhile Keeneland has great racing all the time, a series of important blood-stock sales, and is easily the most important track in Kentucky.

Pimlico?  They barely feature live horse racing there at all anymore outside of a brief meet for the Preakness.  Laurel Park (the Maryland Jockey Club) is Maryland's most important track.

And I'm not sure anyone would argue with a straight face that Belmont is a more prominent track than Aqueduct in the NYRA stable, It's probably even lower in quality overall than Saratoga in the late Summer.  And the Travers is usually a more important race than the Belmont, except in years such as this one, when a Triple Crown is in play.

Santa Anita has fare more meaningful races throughout the year than any of the Triple Crown tracks, and the most important track in horse racing right now in America is Gulfstream Park.

So much of the best horse racing this calendar year is yet to come. The Haskell, The Bing Crosby, The Whitney, Royal Ascot, The entire Saratoga meet including the Travers, and then there's the Breeder's Cup. The Arlington Million and the Beverley D.

And that just scratches the surface. Del Mar has a spectacular summer card, as does Monmouth, Arlington Park and Kentucky Downs.

It's great racing, exciting racing, racing that's much better than 3 year old males running a compact schedule into distances they'll probably never travel again.

Yes, none of these have the allure that the Triple Crown does with the general public, but they are in many cases much better races, with much better odds and much higher profit potential.

But they'll get ignored.  And that's a shame.

Because Justify was a great horse and the industry should use him to market the rest of the races, to show that there are great races, with top horses during times when NBC decides to not show up.

Justify was spectacular, a beautiful animal that was much the best against a small subset of horses. Hopefully we get to see him run again against some of the others.

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