JC / Railbird

Handicapping

Niche Work

Dave Hill spends Kentucky Derby weekend with Las Vegas horseplayer Alan Denkenson and things take a poignant turn when the bets don’t come in:

“I’ve been having a bad year. I’m starting to entertain the possibility that I could really go broke,” Dink says, without a hint of sentimentality. “Then again, if I don’t go broke there’s a 50 percent chance that I’m going to turn 75 and be making $4 bets in the sportsbook like these other guys. I mean what else am I going to do? Waz can go into stocks, into finance. I can’t do anything else. I’m 62 years old and this is all I know.”

Derby Profiles

Four to read this Kentucky Oaks day: The New York Times catches up with Stonestreet Farm’s Barbara Banke, co-owner of Carpe Diem. The Wall Street Journal talks to Kerry Thomas, whose study of racehorse psychology adds a rich dimension to Kentucky Derby handicapping. (His profiles of this year’s field are available on Brisnet.) Bloomberg meets Tapit, the $300,000 sire. So sweet: Dortmund’s backstory will make you say “Aw!”

Mike Welsch’s observations on the 2015 Kentucky Derby field are now up on DRF (subscription only). I’m on the Dortmund bandwagon, and so was pleased to read the noted works-watcher’s comments on the Big Brown colt: “[H]e really seems to be flourishing since his arrival in Kentucky.” Fantastic.

His final Derby work, completed at Santa Anita, was powerful:

For such a big 3-year-old, he accelerates with ease:

Dortmund is a huge horse, 17 hands tall. (The same as … Zenyatta.) There’s thinking among handicappers that he is too big to adjust as the Derby chaotically unfolds. Baffert disagrees vehemently. “He’s quick, he’s an athlete,” the trainer says. “And he’s got an incredible stride.” Some experts have compared Dortmund to Point Given, who was also huge, but Baffert says, “[Point Given] took a while to get going. That’s not Dortmund.”

Needing time to gear up is so not Dortmund’s style that he’s expected to be up front in the Kentucky Derby, per TimeformUS’s pace projector:

TimeformUS pace projector for the 2015 Kentucky Derby showing Dortmund, #8, on the lead

Pletcher Baby ROI

Everyone knows that trainer Todd Pletcher is dominant is Saratoga juvenile races, but he’s profitable, too, in certain scenarios: His five-year win stat for first-time starters in dirt sprint maiden special weights is 32%, with an ROI of $2.57. In the same conditions, restricted to state-breds, he’s 46%, with an ROI of $3.25. “Perhaps the time to take down a Pletcher juvenile firster is in maiden special weight turf routes,” writes Dan Illman, who pulled the preceding numbers from DRF Formulator. Good luck getting a big price in any circumstance, though: The longest juvenile shot Pletcher has won at Saratoga with in the past five years is Interactif, in the 2009 With Anticipation. He was 16-1 at post time. The only other Pletcher winner with double-digit odds was Lawn Man, in a 2012 six-furlong MSW. He was 10-1 going into the gate.

Odds and Ends

Dick Jerardi doesn’t care where a single comes in a bet sequence: “The way I look at it, there are two possibilities: I am going to be right or I am going to be wrong. When that is determined is irrelevant.”

Can you be the best ever if you need a rabbit?

Breeders’ Cup Turf Trends: It’s all about the finish.

As much as I’d like to think Excelebration will be the second-favorite to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (and available at 3-1 or better), raceday betting will probably look more like the current ante-post odds.

Appreciating Frankie Dettori, “global proponent of la dolce vita.”

2012 Breeders’ Cup Links

11/2/12: Mike Welsch’s Breeders’ Cup Clocker Saturday report card

10/31/12: Official programs with full PPs for Friday (PDF) and Saturday (PDF) / Hello Race Fans cheat sheets for the Ladies’ Classic and Classic / Mike Welsch’s Breeders’ Cup Clocker Friday report card

10/30/12: Breeders’ Cup entries, with morning line / Breeders’ Cup stats site / Breeders’ Cup Challenge race replays

10/24/12: Breeders’ Cup pre-entries (PDF) / BC Friday pre-entry PPs (PDF) / BC Saturday pre-entry PPs (PDF) / Steven Crist’s pre-entry cheat sheet

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