Picks and Ponderings: 2016 Falls City Handicap and River City Handicap Preview

Every year, Picks and Ponderings does a Thanksgiving Handicapping Feast.  This year, it gets underway with a pair of graded stakes at Churchill: the Falls City and the River City.

Both races drew some familar local faces.  The River City, a turf route for open company, drew The Pizza Man…and a very intriguing Illinois-bred on the also-eligible list.  The Falls City drew a tightly matched group of distaffers…including a three-year-old ready to make a splash against older, and an Illinois-bred returning to her best game.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Thursday’s graded stakes at Churchill, and let me know in the comments what you think!

Picks and Ponderings: 2016 Commonwealth Turf Preview

This Saturday’s feature at Churchill Downs is the Grade III Commonwealth Turf Stakes.  It is one of the last chances for the sophomore turf set to run against their own age group…and one of the last chances for live stakes-quality turf racing in the midwest before winter sets in.

The race drew a competitive field of eleven.  I don’t see a lot of pace — and I do see a big price who may just take the race from flag fall to “that’s all”.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Commonwealth Turf, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Kentucky Derby Day!

The Derby is upon is, and I’ve got picks and analysis!

Over at Picks and Ponderings, I join Paul Mazur and Chris Hernandez to discuss every horse in the field: our picks, our tosses, and everyone in between.

For more detailed analysis with an eye to pace, read my piece at ShapperDaCapper.

My picks have been published in a few different places.  My top three in each race are published at Picks and Ponderings, along with Paul’s.  My top picks in all of tomorrow’s stakes races will be at Hello Race Fans! on Saturday morning, along with those of a cast of other handicappers.  Also, over at Danonymous Racing, my Kentucky Derby top three are online, along with those of many others.

(Speaking of Danonymous Racing, remember — there’s also still time to contribute and play the ‘Cappers for Causes contest!)

Happy Derby Day!

Picks and Ponderings: 2016 Kentucky Oaks Preview

Coming up this Saturday, the three-year-old fillies get the spotlight in the Kentucky Oaks.

What people thought for months would be a straightforward affair became far more complex with the defection of the champion, Songbird.  Though not seeing her will be a disappointment…those who like to wager will get a minefield of a race, the sort of race in which if you are right, you will be well compensated for your correct opinion.

And, my selection should be a pretty solid price.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Kentucky Oaks, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Pace and the 2016 Kentucky Derby

Though the Kentucky Derby won’t be drawn until Wednesday, it’s not too early to start looking at the likely pace scenario.

With twenty horses in the field, all three-year-olds young enough to still develop, it will not be cut-and-dried.  But, we have enough information to identify which horses will likely play certain roles, and which ones have suggested enough versatility to be wild cards.

Head over to ShapperDaCapper, and read my analysis of interesting pace horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby!

an early showdown!

Last year, nestled between the Golden Rod Stakes (GII) and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII), Churchill Downs carded an allowance-optional.  It was an N1X for two-year-olds, going a one-turn mile on the dirt.

Dortmund came.  Dortmund saw.  Dortmund conquered.  Dortmund proved a force on the Derby trail.

This year, Churchill carded the same sort of race again: a top-shelf N1X allowance-optional, a mile over the dirt, between the Golden Rod and the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Though only seven horses saw the starter in that race on November 28, a pair from that group were on my radar before the race.

Both remain there going forward.

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Stageplay: another promising juvenile Curlin baby

Stageplay (Stage Stop, by Valid Expectations) was no secret going into her maiden race.  The two-year-old grey had a solid string of works going into her October 10 unveiling.  She went off favoured in a field of ten for a maiden special weight going six and a half furlongs on the Keeneland dirt.  She proved ready.  Stageplay stalked in the second flight, made a sweeping move around the turn, ran down longtime leader Carina Mia, and won by three widening lengths.

Today, Stageplay became the third stakes winner from Curlin’s fourth crop — winning a race named after the filly who defeated her sire in the Belmont.

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Picks and Ponderings: Stephen Foster Day Preview

American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown.  He will make an appearance at Churchill on Saturday evening, but it will hardly be interesting or useful to handicap that part of the day.  Odds are 1/20 that he will look shiny, and that people will cheer a lot.

However, there are four graded stakes races Saturday night at Churchill Downs, including a pair of Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In races for the Classic and Distaff divisions.  We tackle the sequence at Picks and Ponderings.  I take a look at the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) for the handicap division, as well as the Matt Winn Stakes (GIII) for three-year-olds on dirt.  Paul Mazur turns his attention to the Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) for the older distaffers, and the Regret Stakes (GIII) for three-year-old grass fillies.  The races will comprise an all-stakes Pick 4.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, read our previews of the stakes on Stephen Foster day, and let us know what you think!

Picks and Ponderings: Welcome Back, Work All Week and The Pizza Man!

Last year was a banner year for a pair of Midwest Thoroughbreds homebreds, The Pizza Man and Work All Week.  The Pizza Man handled rises in class with aplomb, dethroning Dandino in the American St. Leger.  Work All Week became only the second Illinois-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race, winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on his way to an Eclipse Award for Champion Sprinter.

Saturday’s Churchill Downs card features the six-year-old debuts of both of these horses.

Work All Week returns in the Grade III Aristides Stakes, facing six foes in an attempt to keep his dirt record unsullied.  Paul Mazur takes a detailed look at the Aristides.  The Pizza Man comes back in the Opening Verse Stakes, dialing back to 1 1/16 miles for the first time since last year’s Black Tie Affair Handicap against Illinois-breds almost a year ago.  I provide my selections and analysis for the Opening Verse.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, and get ready for the return of two tough and consistent Illinois-breds!

Kentucky Derby Day!

Two weeks ago, I went to the Kentucky Derby with Candice.

Despite my pleas to detour for just a little while at Stonestreet, we ended up at Churchill Downs bright and early.
Despite my pleas to detour for just a little while at Stonestreet, we ended up at Churchill Downs bright and early.

It was my first trip to the Derby (though not my first to Churchill Downs), and my first to any Triple Crown race.  It was a bit different than I expected, mainly because I am so used to being a railbird, and yet general admission tickets did not cover access to the apron.  We could get to the paddock or the infield.  From the paddock, we could see the horses before the races, but would have to watch the races on the screen.  From the infield, we would be in the midst of a huge party…but only be able to see the horses when they ran by our section of rail, assuming we were lucky enough to get a rail spot.

We spent the day in the paddock.

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Kentucky Derby Day: all the information!

After months of preps and excitement, the Kentucky Derby is finally here!

Good luck on Derby day!  If you have any questions about my picks or analysis, tweet me at @rogueclown.  I will be at Churchill today, but on Twitter as usual!

Picks and Ponderings: Kentucky Derby Day Stakes

Other than the Kentucky Derby, Saturday’s card at Churchill Downs includes two more Grade I events: the Humana Distaff and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.  As is our modus operandi at Picks and Ponderings, Paul Mazur and I split up the races: he took on the Woodford Reserve, and I looked at the Humana Distaff.

The Humana Distaff originally drew a field of eight, though it looks to be down to seven with the defection of Sweet Whiskey to Friday’s La Troienne instead.  Sweet Whiskey looked to be lone speed, and now the sprint has become a paceless affair.  Judy the Beauty looks that much tougher, but there are a few very nice long shots to use underneath.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, and get ready for Saturday’s Grade I action at Churchill!

in-depth Kentucky Derby analysis

Derby fever has set in…and has even caused Chicago Railbird to fly (at least figuratively) south to Kentucky for the weekend!

In the first of my two columns at ShapperDaCapper this week, I take a deep dive into the Kentucky Derby.  I split the horses into tiers, explain why I like the horses I like, and explain why I am not enamoured with a few horse likely to go off at shorter prices.

Head on over to ShapperDaCapper, and read my in-depth analysis of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby!