Last Wednesday, March 26, was the day I played Jim Vs. I’ve already talked a bit about what a great day that was around the track, but haven’t said much about what happened on it, other than the fact that Jim’s picks fared significantly better than my picks. However, getting a few races wrong is no reason not to write a recap of the day — especially since part of the reason I started Blinkers Off was to make myself more thoughtful after the fact about the things I’m getting right versus the things I’m getting wrong. It’s starting to become more than that, but this original goal remains significant.
With that said, let’s dive into last Wednesday’s card!
Race 1: $17,500 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt
In this race, I had Sgt. Green (3) as my first choice, Divine Delivery (1) as my second, and Holy Bomber (3) as a somewhat tepid third choice. Sgt. Green and Divine Delivery were the two horses who I thought had the clearly better chances to win the race. Both were second off the MSW to maiden claiming class drop and third off a lay. Since my choices in the second race were longer prices than my picks here, the only ticket I placed was a $1 Daily Double, 1,3/1,3.
Early on, this race looked like a two-horse race between my top two selections. Divine Delivery set the early fractions, with Sgt. Green stalking close back. This was a new tactic for Divine Delivery, but looked an advantageous one given the inside post. Through the far turn, though, this two-horse race turned into a one-horse race. Divine Delivery added to his lead through the far turn, and then made an absolute mockery of the field down the stretch. He beat second-place Sgt. Green by almost twenty lengths. Sgt. Green had nothing to answer Divine Delivery’s late charge but was still a clear second, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of the third-place Stivers. My third pick, Holy Bomber, did not get that early speed he needed to contend. He stalked a few lengths back early, but like the rest of the field he couldn’t contend with Divine Delivery. He started to fade through the far turn, and finished fifth in the field of six.
Race 2: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt
My theme this race was attempting to beat the Larry Rivelli duo of Gangster Chick (2) and Lewis Meadow (4). Gangster Chick bounced hard the last time she raced as good a race as she had her previous time out, and Lewis Meadow was a once-raced maiden who demolished a $15,000 maiden claimer last time out, but was facing tougher here. I looked to Ib’s Mystery (1), Lady’s Day Off (3), and Reba’s Set (6) as the horses with a shot to do it. In this case, it was my top two selections who I thought had the best chance: Ib’s Mystery because of her bullet work and her shot at inside speed, and Lady’s Day Off because this was her first time dropping in for a tag. The paddock, though, didn’t bode well for Lady’s Day Off; she looked quite nervous there, and was expending more energy than I hoped to see. I didn’t place any new bets this race; I just hung onto the live Daily Double I placed before the first.
The Chalk Brigade went 1-2, and my Daily Double flopped. Gangster Chick set the early speed with Lewis Meadow stalking a couple back, but well clear of the rest of the field. Through the far turn Lewis Meadow kicked, and pulled away to win by 5 1/4 over the pace-setting Gangster Chick. Lewis Meadow is now a perfect 2-2-0-0 career. Gangster Chick was clearly best of the rest; she was 4 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place Lady’s Day Off. After how she looked in the paddock, I was pleasantly surprised that she even managed third. She was in the middle of the pack early, and never really managed to get out of mid-pack, but garnered the show after Ib’s Mystery faded. Ib’s Mystery failed to get the early lead, made up a bit of distance through the far turn, but lost that ground late. Reba’s Set, my third pick, was in the main pack early, raced wide, and lost ground. She was farther back than in her maiden win last out, and did not fire in any way. Reba’s Set faded to last, 15 1/2 lengths behind Lewis Meadow.
Race 3: Allowance Optional Claiming ($50,000), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 three times other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state bred OR N4L OR non-winners in 2014 OR three years old, six furlongs on the dirt
Here, my first choice was Hogy (4), my second was Four Left Feet (1), and my third was River Bear (5). Hogy had been on the lay since October, but that out was in the GI Shadwell “Turf” “Mile”, and he raced in stakes company every time out last year except for a tune-up allowance last March at Hawthorne to start the season. Four Left Feet was coming off a sharp workout, and had two very close seconds at Hawthorne last meet. River Bear was very lightly raced last year, only three times out, but was coming off some great workouts. Betting-wise, I just did $2 across the board on Hogy, since I felt like he was likely to do best, and thought everyone but Chatfield Road (3) had an honest chance to hit the board.
Hogy, as expected, stalked a few lengths back early and made his move through the far turn. Chatfield Road had set the pace, but in the final furlong, Hogy nipped him to take a small lead. However, both of the closers in the field fired. Four Left Feet was charging in along the rail from his place a handful back, and River Bear was flying in on the outside after being a dozen lengths back early. Hogy staved off Four Left Feet by a head, but couldn’t quite repel his other adversary. The nine-year-old River Bear still had it. He got his neck in front just in time, and rewarded his backers with a nice 9-2 price. Chatfield Road, the pacesetter, held on better than I expected; he crossed the wire fourth, just two lengths behind River Bear.
In this race, my failure was not in handicapping, but ticket construction. My timidity screwed me out of some good money. The $6 I put on Hogy got back $4.50. If I had stuck to my opinion and done a $1 exacta box, that same cost for a bet would have been a profitable endeavour instead of a losing one; taking the 3-5 price on Hogy was just fail all around, instead of taking a shot at combining him with the others I liked, and putting myself in line for better exotic payouts. I need to remember not to do that again.
Race 4: $12,500 claiming, three-year-olds or four-year-olds and up who are N3L, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt
Here, my first choice was Manila Warrior (1), my second Legal Deed (3), and my third Medalquest (2). None of these raised any red flags in the paddock; the only major thing in the paddock before this race was the shoe repair on Candy Chant (5), a horse who didn’t particularly interest me even before that happened. Unlike the previous race, I had a strong enough opinion going in that these were the best chances to hit the board that I did multi-horse wagers here: a $1 exacta box 1,2,3, and a $0.50 trifecta box 1,2,3. The horse I was particularly uninterested in was Martyrforthecause (4). He had won his previous time out, down in a $5,000 N2L. He was a bounce risk, and jumping up in class here.
Martyrforthecause didn’t act like he was on a class jump, and didn’t bounce. He shot to the lead, grabbed that rail into the clubhouse turn, and wired the field. Manila Warrior, who I had expected to get the speed along the rail, instead stalked a length or two back — but was never able to overtake the relatively slow pace that Martyrforthecause dictated. Manila Warrior did manage to hold on for second, and stay a neck in front of Medalquest, who was last through the far turn but managed to close well enough to claim third. Legal Deed, my other choice, was never really in it. He was only a few lengths off early. However, he slowly lost ground through the backstretch, and faded badly through the far turn. Legal Deed made up a bit of ground down the stretch but still finished sixth and last, 6 3/4 lengths behind Martyrforthecause.
Race 5: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of 2 since September 26 or N4L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt
In this race, my first choice was Thundering Hoofs (1), my second Rock Hard Legacy (3), and my third Queen of Heat (8). I liked both Thundering Hoofs and Rock Hard Legacy because they showed ability to be early speed or rate a bit early; Queen of Heat ran a more consistently stalking style, but had shown the ability to overcome an outside post to do well. Nothing I saw in the paddock suggested that these picks needed to be altered at race time, so I made a $1 exacta box on these three: 1,3,8.
Thundering Hoofs, Ocean Surge, Rock Hard Legacy, and Queen of Heat all raced up to the front early and tangled for the lead — one, two, three, and four wide. Thundering Hoofs was close to a length back early, but kept that hole on the rail, and fought up past Ocean Surge coming into the far turn to claim the lead for herself. Queen of Heat was caught widest of all through the far turn, but had the most left of anyone chasing Thundering Hoofs for the lead. The outside position did her no favours, but she still managed to finish second, only a length behind Thundering Hoofs on the inside. Rock Hard Legacy, the other speed horse I liked, did not fare quite so well; she dropped out of contention coming into the stretch, and steadily faded to finish 6th beaten 8 lengths.
Race 6: $5,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of 2 since September 26 or N4L, five and a half furlongs on the dirt
In the sixth, my first choice was Lil Susie Too (4), my second was Sing Kitty Sing (1), and my third was Da Nella (7). Lil Susie Too was a longer shot, but had shown the ability to run well first off a lay a couple of times in her career, as well as hit the board a couple of times against males at Fairmount last spring. Sing Kitty Sing, the 1-1 favourite, was second off the lay and second off a class drop after contending in low five-digit claimers last meet. Da Nella I expected to get the early speed, and have enough left to either keep it or at least not fade too far.
Da Nella didn’t quite set the early pace, as expected. Emily’s Sundance did, though Da Nella was close behind. Sing Kitty Sing stalked in third, and maintained that position into the stretch. Da Nella got on equal terms with Emily’s Sundance coming into the stretch, though, and they dueled into the final furlong. By the sixteenth pole, the stalking Sing Kitty Sing had found what she needed. She pulled even with Da Nella and Emily’s Sundance. But, as Da Nella held and Emily’s Sundance faded, Sing Kitty Sing kicked ahead. She had by far the most in the final sixteenth, and crossed the wire 4 1/2 lengths in front of Da Nella, who held second over the closing De Lica. My top choice, Lil Susie Too, did not have such a good race. She got within a couple of lengths early, but couldn’t maintain or improve upon that position. She steadily faded, crossing the wire eighth and last: 17 lengths back.
Race 7: Allowance ($29,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,800 once OR non-winners of a state-bred race other than maiden, claiming or starter OR N2L, 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt
Here, my first choice was My Moment (1), my second was Lakotadreamcatcher (10), and my third was I O Cashel (8). Worth mentioning as well is Lewderhoo (11), who I considered mentioning as a choice – though set her aside since I didn’t think she had a chance to win the race outright. I did, however, place her in second and third rungs of exotics on this race. She has a huge case of second-itis: her last four times out in allowance company, she had never won, but has three seconds and a third.
For this race, I got to place $50 worth of wagers courtesy of Xpressbet, as part of Jim Vs. (Thank you!) This was utterly bizarre to me, because I’m such a dollar-or-two sort of bettor. Putting $50 on a single race felt absurdly high-rolling, and I don’t know if I was right to spread it around the way I did. However, I took a stab, built around my choices as well as my lower-rung pick: $11 to win and $21 to place on My Moment, a $1 exacta of 1,8,10/1,8,10,11, and finally a $0.50 trifecta of 1,8,10/1,8,10,11/1,8,10,11.
Except for Lewderhoo, I could not have gotten more incorrect about this race if I tried.
Pistols Drawn won the race. I thought she was a vulnerable favourite – she was coming off a career high speed figure which was a big jump from her previous race. The last time she did that she bounced hard; I wanted nothing to do with her in this race. That was at my peril. She was second off the lay, and probably added some strength and stamina over the winter lay between her two-year-old and three-year-old seasons. About the only thing I got right was Lewderhoo — she was back early, as usual, but closed well enough to catch everyone but the winner. Long shot Wave of the Wand came in for the show. I looked at her when I was handicapping, and appreciated her versatility, but thought she would just be too slow for this field. She faded some after closely stalking My Moment early, but had enough in the tank to hang on for the show.
I knew My Moment, in her first shot in a route, was a risky pick. However, she was coming off a nice work, was second off the lay, and was a speed horse on the inside at Hawthorne. She shot to the lead as expected, and had was right up there for about six furlongs. This was the race I watched from the press box; for once I could see the backstretch, and it was exciting to see her where I wanted early. However, she faded out badly after that, and crossed the wire a distant second-to-last. My second choice, Lakotadreamcatcher, just didn’t fire. She was far back early, never made up any ground, and only passed the tiring My Moment late.
I O Cashel? I don’t even know what to say about her, other than that her start was one of the most bizarre things I had ever seen in a horse race. The bell went off, the gates sprung open, and all the horses but her started racing. I O Cashel (8) just stood there. She stood in the gate, looked around a bit, but completely refused the start. Stephanie Slinger finally got her going, and she ran the course under her own power. However, she was never anywhere near the field. I’ve seen horses break a few steps slow, or a split second slow, but this was the first time I had ever seen a horse just stand in the gate. It was particularly bizarre since it wasn’t I O Cashel’s first time on the track, or even first time off a lay. She is a five-year-old, with nineteen races under her belt, most recently just three weeks before this one.
Race 8: $4,000 claiming, four-year-olds and up, non-winners of 2 in 2013-14 OR non-winners of 1 since May 26, five and a half furlongs on the dirt.
Part of me just wanted to make a big joke of this race. There was a horse in the field named Justheguytodoit (3), and I had thoughts around 3am the night before the races of getting on the track feed and claiming that this particular longshot was just the guy to do it. However, this was approximately as cheesy as looking at the bartender right after the 2012 Kentucky Derby, holding up my empty mint julep glass, and proclaiming I’ll Have Another (something i actually did). More to the point, I noticed he was running very well in his races at Fairmount, but had run terribly (18-1-2-0) in his career at Hawthorne, including three straight well-beaten sixths over the Hawthorne dirt last meet. The only reason I had to pick him would have been to crack a bad pun. I may flutter a buck or two on a name play a few times per season, but I’m not presenting a pick to others for no other reason than that. Instead, as my picks I went with three serious choices: the inside stalker Come On Man (1), the speedster No Bull Jess (8), and the the likely inside speed Todi Bee (2). I didn’t end up betting this nightcap, though, since I was hanging out upstairs and didn’t make it down to the windows.
One and two for most of the race were Rapid Warrior (1A) and his entry-mate Come On Man. I noticed Rapid Warrior was another speedster, decent enough for this field, but thought the outside post would hurt his ability to get the early speed. That didn’t bear out. Todi Bee stalked in third early but started fading a bit as the stretch approached. Come On Man didn’t fade, but he did get overtaken by two horses who had more left late. Who had the most? Justheguytodoit was just the guy to do it. Over half a dozen lengths back early, he made up ground through the far turn, kicked well down the stretch, and crossed the wire half a length ahead of the deeper closer Jimmy Got Even.
No Bull Jess, my second pick and the 2-1 favourite, didn’t get that early speed or good stalking place he generally likes to get. He was in the middle of the pack early, and never fired enough to make up good ground. He checked in 6th, beaten 5 lengths. Todi Bee, my third choice, stalked early but faded to 7th, 8 lengths behind Justheguytodoit.