Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guest Post: A 'Dream' Encounter

--Carly Silver

   Like every other horse racing fan, I rejoiced at the birth of the Chosen One, the Savior of Equine-
kind: Jess's Dream. Born Jan. 22, 2012, the Curlin--Rachel Alexandra colt carries some of the best genetics possible in today's world. The product of two Horses of the Year (to be fair, Curlin earned that honor twice), Jess's Dream also carries the name of his sire and dam's mutual owner, the late Jess Jackson. With all of these high hopes, Jess's Dream has a lot riding on his withers.
Jess's Dream
   During my annual trip to Saratoga last week, I spent much of my trip pounding the racetrack pavement. Moving from the press box to the rail and back again--in between admiring glances at retiring announcer Tom Durkin's brightly-colored attire--I soaked up every dusty molecule of track life. But a Saratoga summer wouldn't be complete without seeing the horses themselves.
   Doing my best to blend in with dark sneakers, jeans, and a Saratoga cap, I made my way to the backstretch. I began in one barn where a kind groom invited me in after I explained I just wanted to admire his horses. A bright chestnut with a slender white blaze contentedly munched his hay, while a stunning gray filly, whose Arabian ancestry showed through in the delicacy of her face and arched neck, submitted to gentle forehead scratches.
   When I wandered a bit more, I found myself at a particularly quiet shed row. Peeping into two freestanding stalls, I saw a pretty bay filly who quirked her ears forward at my approach. The groom at that stable told me quietly whose stable this was. Though I had to strain my ears to hear him, I eventually heard the magic words: "Kiaran McLaughlin."
   For a racing fan, this was like discovering the Holy Grail. McLaughlin has some of the pre-eminent horses in the world in his stable, as well as the most beautifully bred runners this side of Keeneland. Besides Stonestreet Stables of Jackson's widow, Barbara Banke, his other owners include the likes of Darley/Godolphin and Shadwell Stable. But perhaps the most exciting horse in his barn is a Stonestreet 2-year-old--the aforementioned Jess's Dream.
   I knew that Jess's Dream was stabled at Saratoga, but I wasn't sure if His Royal Highness was currently receiving visitors. After all, I was a huge fan of both his mom and dad, but let's be honest, who wasn't? That didn't mean that Jess would grant me an audience. The groom, thankfully, said I could say a quick hello to the colt, but I'd have to remain clear of his teeth. Like most other youngsters, he had a habit of nipping, and the last thing I wanted was to end up on the wrong end of a Thoroughbred's teeth, although getting a bad bite from the son of two champions would definitely be a story to tell in the emergency room.
   Like most other horses in the McLaughlin barn, Jess's Dream had a simple brass nameplate with his name and pedigree on it. Was it my imagination, though, or was his burnished extra brightly? Or maybe it glowed from within from all the potential future Eclipse Awards looming on his horizon. Either way, there was one handsome young man in that stall.
   Keeping the groom's advice in the back of my mind, I avoided Jess's teeth as he flung his head back and forth. I crept within speaking distance, talking in a soothing voice as I looked him up and down. He's an imposing colt, but his brawny good looks don't signify a lack of brains. Jess kept a wary eye on me as I stood nearby.
   "Do you know who you are?" I said quietly. "Your mom and dad were champions, you know. That's a lot of weight to carry. And that's not even counting the ones the handicappers put on you." Jess didn't seem to care, though. Maybe, like his sire, he'd grow up to be a top older horse who could shoulder heavy weights while taking on the best of two different crops. Either way, the statuesque bay exhibited every sign of a horse who knew he's something special.
   At one point, the statuesque bay with a small white star stopped shifting about his stall for a moment or two. He gave me a look that said, "Yes, I'm aware of who my parents are. Thanks for being the umpteenth person to remind me. And just watch me run, coming soon to a track near you!" Though I could tell he hadn't yet filled out completely or matured mentally, his beautiful lines and intelligent eyes indicated that he had the potential to be a stellar individual.
   Smiling, I shuffled off back to the track. I was just another in a long line of humans who would dote on Jess, I was sure, but maybe I could be one of the few to say they met him way back when…before Jess's Dream became a reality.
 
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Haskell: A Day of Summer Fun...and Pretending?

--Drew Rauso

   Back in my very first post, the opening line was a quote about how little informed people my age are about the sport of racing. The line was, “I like that one’s name; he’s my favorite.” Today, a week before the William Hill Haskell Invitational, a similarly uninformed conversation was struck up between yours truly and several other excited 20-somethings.
    “You have to go! It’s so much fun; we dress classy and then drink all afternoon." Now, being in the same age bracket as these lovely friends of mine, I have grown accustomed to the word “classy” being thrown around like a Frisbee at a summer party. However, as many as my friends and all the other countless young Haskell-goers will soon see, the classiest event they’ll be going to is work the next morning.
   Here in the heart of central New Jersey, the Haskell spells summer just as much as the beach; everyone from Long Branch to Middletown and in between marks their calendars every year to attend the $1 million race. Unfortunately, the race takes a backseat to the afternoon of drinking, socializing and eating. In taking a closer look, though, is that such a bad thing?
   The race attracts upwards of 45,000+ people, and at $5 a head for a grandstand ticket and $8 for the clubhouse, Monmouth Park will take in a considerable amount of cash next weekend. When all those tickets are paid for, do the businessmen of the sport really care if they’re watching the race or not? In their eyes, couldn’t it be said that they have already won, getting the money out of the spectators’ pockets and into the cash flow of the park.
   While 50,000 people isn’t even close to what the Triple Crown races attract, the well-known park in Oceanport handles the crowd well, with games and activities abounding. This year, in what may be seen as a direct grab to attract more young people, Monmouth Park has teamed up with Lily Pulitzer and Tommy Bahama. The “Best Dressed” couple will receive a $200 gift card to both stores, and I can only describe it as a marketing ploy toward the many 20-year-olds who would love to get $200 for looking “fresh.”

The Great Gatsby
www.media-feed.com
   This part of the Haskell, the part where young people like dressing up to go a horse race and appear (dare-I-say) classy, is where the pretending comes in to play. In much the same way that a country music artist arrives at PNC Arts Center to thousands of ripped jeans, cowboy boots and hats, there is a facade at the track. This veil, with which seemingly more and more central Jerseyans like to cover reality, has a southern twang to it. While understanding that racing and the south do not go hand-in-hand, it just doesn’t feel right to be in pastel shorts, bowties and oversized hats north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but maybe that’s just me. At the same time, if that is the point-of-entry racing needs to attract young people, then so be it. Run with the dress-up advertisement as a throwback; everybody loves a Gatsby party, right?
   Let the racegoers get drawn to the track for reasons other than racing, if that is what works (and after my conversations, it is) and let the grandeur of the sport in person work its magic. There is no use in trying to market the race, while as some people would say it is extremely important, without the title of Triple Crown hanging overhead, the vast majority just won’t find it captivating. But that is alright! Let them be convinced otherwise AT THE TRACK, not before they get there. Even to the casual fan, there are recognizable names that ran in the Triple Crown races, so the level of pedigree will be acknowledged. Wildcat Red, Social Inclusion and Bayern are some of the horses that I personally remember seeing over the last couple months.

Bayern
www.SportsNetwork.com
   While it may be a hard pill to swallow, maybe the best way to advertise racing is not to advertise it all. Put on more “Best Dressed” promotions, or other seemingly silly contests so that people feel like they can be a part of something all afternoon. The Haskell hat, now a local tradition, is another great marketing tool. It can never be said enough, but everyone loves free stuff. Then, once the crowds are at the track, let the animals speak for themselves. In terms of a marketing gambit, trying to convince young people that the Haskell is a very important race not named Kentucky, Preakness nor Belmont is an incredibly difficult task.
   The lure of the track is unavoidable; don’t hinder its magic by over-advertising. Let the day speak for itself, and fans will come to watch, drink, hang out and spend money. Heck, I know I will.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Race Fit for a Queen?


by Christina Bossinakis
    Neatly nestled between a pair of the iconic race meetings at Royal Ascot and Saratoga, the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto is an event I always look forward to. Maybe it’s because I am a native Canadian or it could be that I enjoy the pomp and circumstance that the 1 1/4-mile race draws. Or maybe it has something to do with the presence of royalty (that doesn’t happen every year, but it is always exciting when it does). However, I think one of the biggest reasons I enjoy the Queen’s Plate so is that I grew up enjoying Canadian racing during a time when Canadians really didn’t receive a steady diet of American racing on TV outside of the American Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup.
   First held in 1860, the Queen’s Plate holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously run race in North America. Yes, that makes it older than its American counterpart, the Kentucky Derby, which was first run in 1875. Canadians are intensely proud of their marquee race and its long and storied history. I attended my first Queen’s Plate in 1989, the year that The Queen Mother was in attendance, and Kinghaven Farms’ With Approval won. The classy grey went on to take the next two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown–the Prince of Wales S. at Fort Erie and Breeders’ S. In fact, I was actually in attendance at Woodbine to witness Canada crown With Approval as its eighth Triple Crown winner (the third since the three races were actually called the ‘Triple Crown’). What a moment. That whole experience helped stoke my passion for racing and is a big reason why I remain a fan of Canadian racing today.
Northern Dancer
   As a Canadian living in the U.S. for many years now, I have heard my fair share of Canadian jokes. I’ve been referred to as a Canuck, a hoser and everything in between. People often think I must say, ‘Ay’ (for the record, I do not) and I am chided for my Canadian accent (like the way I might say ‘out and about’ or ‘dollar’). As a result, I never really get overly worked up when my American counterparts poke fun at the Queen’s Plate, suggesting it is not a legitimate Classic. That is until a recent exchange with somebody whose opinion I admire and point of view I value tremendously. The argument was that the race is not a ‘true’ Classic, because restricted races could not be considered Classics. I reacted as any Canadian worth their salt would in a similar situation. My back went up, way up. I have to admit, I became very defensive because the Queen’s Plate and its champions have always been something that I have been very staunchly proud.
   ‘What about Northern Dancer?’ I thought. He won the Plate in 1964, the same season he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and later went on to become one of the greatest sires of all time. I instantly thought a bevy of champion fillies that have also won it, including Flaming Page (1962, 2nd in Kentucky Oaks; dam of Euro Triple Crown and champion sire Nijinsky II & Epsom Derby hero The Minstrel); and La Lorgnette (1985; dam of G1SW Hawk Wing). We can’t forget Canadian Triple Crown heroine Dance Smartly, a juvenile champion in Canada, and who added a 3yo filly title in both Canada and the U.S. following a win in the BC Distaff. In turn, she produced Dancethruthedawn (won in 2001), who went on to take Saratoga’s Go For Wand. Past winners also include New Providence (Canadian Triple Crown hero in ‘59); Victoria Park (1960; HOTY in Canada; 2nd in Blue Grass & Preakness; 3rd in Ky Derby); the aforementioned With Approval (Canadian HOTY in 1989; winner of the GII Bowling Green, 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Arlington Million & Sword Dancer); and Alydeed (1992; winner of the GI Carter and runner-up in the Preakness). And who can forget 1997 winner Awesome Again, who went on to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Whitney before embarking on a successful career at stud in the U.S.

Awesome Again
   So after patting myself on the back for coming up with the list of top notch horses that were competitive at the highest level, both in Canada and in the States, I quickly realized several factors. First, the most recent of this group to win the Plate was Awesome Again in 1997. One can argue that Wild Desert, the 2005 Plate winner, later placed in both the GI Clark and GI Suburban and should be considered among the top horses who were able to extend their form south of the border. However, I have to admit, I just didn’t think of him. Though he was conditioned by one of the best American trainers of all time, Bobby Frankel, he was neither a graded winner nor a champion. Upon further investigation, the second issue I found enlightening although not surprising was that every one of the horses that I felt stood out, in my mind at least, were bred or campaigned by a handful of breeding/racing titans in the Canadian Thoroughbred industry; Winfields Farm (5); Kinghaven Farms (2); Sam-Son Farm (2) and Frank Stronach (1). I can already feel I will become assaulted by those of you who feel I left out such top-class performers like Kennedy Road (1971); L’Enjouleur (1975); Steady Growth (1979); Key to the Moon (1984); Golden Choice (1986); Izvestia (1990); Peteski (1993) and Wando (2003) (by the way, several of these horses were also bred/campaigned by those industry leaders . All lovely horses, to be sure. However, my point is, how many of those would people from outside of Canada, and who don’t particularly follow the Canadian racing scene, even recognize?
   In the last 25 years, we have seen many of the influential breeding/racing operations scale back or disappear entirely (although Sam-Son did win the Plate in 2009 with Eye of the Leopard). The argument becomes how many of the winners in the last 10 or 15 years have gone on to race at the highest level, and have an impact, outside of Canada? While some might argue that is not a big deal in itself, I counter that it is significant since it has become quite commonplace for horses to ship across the border to compete in the big races in our neighbor’s backyard.
   One of my favorite racetracks in North America, Woodbine has done a fantastic job promoting and developing races like the Woodbine Mile and Canadian International into events that not only draw runners from south of the border, but from across the pond as well. It’s hard to dismiss the fact that the influx of top-grade runners strengthens the Canadian industry. Well, why not take it a step further and open the Queen’s Plate (and in fact, the entire Canadian Triple Crown) to runners bred outside of Canada?
   I can hear the cries of disdain and the accusations of treason already. I understand that the Queen’s Plate is Canada’s big prize, meant to reward Canadians for all their efforts in owning, breeding, riding and training racehorses. However, opening it to foreign breds would not only mean a boost in the level of competition domestically, but it would also bolster the significance of the Canadian bred outside of the country. Canada’s Sovereign Awards (equivalent to Eclipse Awards in the U.S.) can only be bestowed upon a horse that has raced in Canada no less than three times (as a 3yo; 2 times at two); well why can’t participation in the Triple Crown races be structured similarly? The increased interest from owners and trainers outside of Canada would not only make the Queen’s Plate itself more competitive, but it would also serve to draw stronger fields to the Triple Crown’s traditional prep races. Competitive fields would in turn generate greater betting handle on domestic races, which in this day and age is no small thing. And for those that might argue that opening up the races to outside runners would be taking money away from Canadians, there could be an additional nomination fee levied on horses bred outside of the country and that could be added to the purse. Ultimately, stronger participation would mean the race could become eligible to garner graded status, which would prove be of even greater significance to a horses’ stud career upon his or her retirement.
   I want to be clear, the goal is not to take something away from Canadians or dilute Canada’s historic race(s). Rather, the hope is that the Queen’s Plate could be structured into a format that would leave no room to doubt that it is anything but a veritable Classic.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Guest Post: The Last Resort

--Mark Cramer

   If you can't get reservations for the seaside Deauville meets, as a last resort you can go up the Normandy coast to Dieppe. It's a resort town for the claiming ranks of vacationers--a stony beach, but a magnificent palisade and a castle towering amidst rolling green hills above the beach.
   A half-hour walk inland from the beach is the Dieppe race course, also a last resort, for some horses that have not been able to make it at the Paris tracks or at Deauville. The conditions for the ninth and final race were “for horses that were not among the top-five finishers in their last five races, excepting small tracks that do not offer national pari-mutuel wagering.”  
   I have become a lover of such country tracks. Often big-time stables come slumming, expecting to pick up an easy win, only to be thwarted by the hillbillies of the Thoroughbred world.  
   A few years ago, I bicycled 100 kilometers from outside of Paris to Dieppe, not even knowing there was a race course there. The road leading into town passed along the empty backstretch, and I resolved to return on a racing day, which I did this past Tuesday.
   Also arriving in Dieppe was the Irish filly Cocktail Queen, daughter of Motivator (none other than the sire of Treve, winner of the 2013 Arc de Triomphe). Cocktail Queen had just finished fifth in a field of seven in a Group 3 race at Ascot for a purse of £60,000. She was now racing for a €20,000 purse.

Outdoor café culture at the Dieppe race course.

   She got beat by Storm River (Stormy River {Fr}), a French-bred gelding coming from a claiming race with a €23,000 purse. Dieppe is a place where scores are settled. Winning gentleman rider Florent Guy is often involved in such small track retribution against aristocratic invaders, with 24% wins and 59% in the money, incredible stats considering the large average field size in France.
   I bet on a similar pattern in the third race, for women amateur riders. The favorite had once been in the G1 French Derby and was now slumming for a purse of €15,000. Among the riders, only two had respectable win percentages: the rider of the favorite, with 10% wins, and the rider of the horse I backed, Madmoiselle Barbara Guenet, with 32% winners. Because of this jockey stat, I found myself betting on a claimer against a former stakes contender. My claimer won at 8-1.
   The anti-aristocrat bet does not always win at places like Dieppe and AndrĂ© Fabre broke the pattern in the 6th race by winning with a colt named Fauve (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}) at 4/1. It was a poet's victory, with "Fabre" and "fauve" forming a near perfect alliteration in French pronunciation.
   The arts were also alive in the walking ring, where a local painter stood in a kiosk before his easel and did a painting of the horses. The winning rider of the seventh race was to be awarded the work of art. Raphael Marchelli won the race, but was later fined by the jockey club for "abusive use of the whip-nine lashes." The fine was €75, but he got to keep the painting. 

Horses coming on to the track. The receiving barn in the background has typical
Normandy spires.

   When I first wheeled past an empty Dieppe race course a few years ago, the French renaissance of small rural tracks had only just begun. Most small tracks offered only local wagering that was not tied into the national French PMU. This afternoon's Dieppe racing was simulcast across the nation.
   The locals showed up in good numbers for the racing, with encouragement from the regional newspaper, Paris Normandie Dieppe Bray, which published a four-page spread on the day's races, including abbreviated past performances.
   There'll be racing on July 14th to celebrate the French national holiday. After the racing, you can stroll down to the beach along a side street with a vibrant display of colorful Normandy brick architecture, then watch the sunset and see the fireworks.
   My plan is to visit all 250 French race tracks. Dieppe was my 23rd.  Each of these smaller rural tracks is different.
   What was distinct about Dieppe? The artist with his easel in the walking ring, the grassy apron, the rolling green hills behind the backstretch, the typical Normandy spires of the receiving barn, and the mile-and-a-half circumference more in the form of a triangle than an oval, with three turns to get around, with the jockeys vying for the outside rail in the stretch drive.

Jockeys vie for the outer rail in the stretch.

   But French rural tracks have one thing in common. There's an intimacy that allows the racing fan to chat with the jockeys and trainers, get a close look at the horses, and even voice opinions directly to the management.
 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Live Queen's Plate Longshot

--Brian DiDonato

   I don’t think I’ve ever picked a Queen’s Plate winner. I did talk my father off last year’s 16-1 upsetter Midnight Aria, however. He wasn’t very happy. So consider that a disclaimer before I state my case for a horse who I think is an extremely live longshot in Sunday's feature...
   Three of the last four Queen’s Plates have been won by the pacesetter: Big Red Mike (2010, 5-1), Strait of Dover (2012, 7-2) and Midnight Aria (2013, 16-1). Despite an average of 13 horses in those three renewals, North America’s longest-running race seems to differ significantly in terms of dynamics from the U.S. equivalent. The nature of the Kentucky Derby makes it close to impossible to go box to wire, but the Queen’s Plate seems to feature the opposite phenomenon in recent years. Maybe it’s the different surfaces the two races are contested over, or maybe I’m just being fooled by randomness, but I expect this recent trend to continue in 2014.
   Heart to Heart, who’s 30-1 on the morning line but will likely go off at about half that price at post time, was a decent, if not standout 2-year-old last term while trained by Mike Stidham. He was beaten a nose in the six-panel Vandal S. here last August while finishing ahead of two other Queen’s Plate runners, and finished off his juvenile campaign with a fourth-place run in the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity in which a number of these horses competed. That final 2013 effort wasn’t bad considering he was a bit headstrong early and was being asked to carry his speed over a distance that’s probably a bit too far for most 2-year-olds.
   Subsequently transferred to Brian Lynch, Heart to Heart resurfaced in a grassy one-mile Keeneland allowance in April, and couldn’t have been much more impressive setting quick splits before drawing off to win by 6 1/4 lengths. He earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort--tied with Lexie Lou’s Woodbine Oaks win for the fastest race by any horse in the Queen’s Plate. Jessica’s Star, second in that allowance, has won three times since then, including last Saturday’s GIII Iowa Derby.
   Heart to Heart was a very close sixth last time in the Marine S., but I think you can toss that effort. His rider took a hard hold of him early despite what looked like a significant pace edge, and he just wasn’t quite as effective. Now Eurico Rosa da Silva, winner of the 2009 and 2010 Queen’s Plates climbs aboard, and there’s no way he won’t send Heart to Heart.
   The distance might prove too far, but the aforementioned Strait of Dover was also by English Channel (who could obviously run all day himself), and I’ll take my chances in the stretch if Heart to Heart can get to that point without much pressure.

Bonus Pick: I really like Main Sequence in Monmouth's GI United Nations S. He has some very good European form and Graham Motion does extremely well with foreign imports making their first Stateside starts.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Belmont Derby Horse-by-Horse Analysis

--Brian DiDonato

#1 Toast of New York (3-1) - Enters this as the buzz horse off a decisive 2 1/2-length win in the G2 UAE Derby in March (video), but I’m very much against him here. For starters, I’m not sure he beat much at Meydan. He’s also completely unproven on turf, with all three of his wins having come on synthetic surfaces. The bay certainly doesn’t have Bobby’s Kitten speed, but he’s rail drawn and tactical--there’s a good chance he could get taken out of his game having to chase a type of speed he's never seen before. Potentially being fresh off the break won't help matters. At a short price, he can beat me.

#2 Sheldon (30-1) - Trainer Jimmy Toner is red hot, but can’t imagine this recent maiden winner making much of an impact on the steep class hike.

#3 Bobby’s Kitten (6-1) - Clearly this aforementioned speedster has serious ability, but I just can’t envision him seeing out 10 panels—especially against a field of this caliber. He rated effectively last time in the Penn Mile (video), but he was tugging pretty hard, and two more furlongs just can’t possibly be better for him.

#4 Adelaide (7-2) - This is the type of European I look for--he seems like a major stand-out. The bay is lightly raced with plenty of upside, and is already a convincing Group 3 winner over heavy ground going this distance in the G3 Gallinule S. (video). He had a less-than-perfect trip last time in Royal Ascot's G2 King Edward VII S. (video), but did well enough to be second going an additional quarter mile. According to DRF Formulator, trainer Aidan O'Brien is nine-for-35 (26%) with a $3.21 ROI in North America over the past five years with horses running on Lasix--hard to argue with that stat.

#5 Flamboyant (15-1) - Thought his winning Stateside debut in Santa Anita's La Puente S. (video) was visually impressive (and looks even better after the runner-up took his next two), but didn't like how he let Gala Award battle back in the Pennine Ridge. Not sold on him at this distance, but wouldn't be shocked if he won or ran well.

#6 Dance With Fate (10-1) - Definitely appears better on turf or synthetic. His GI Blue Grass S. win was nice (video), even if he got a solid pace set-up. Has some distance questions to answer, but he was running on pretty well in the GI Kentucky Derby. Definitely one of the better U.S.-based chances.

#7 Gailo Chop (5-1) - One of the harder reads in the race for me. He beat a horse in the G3 Prix la Force (video) who came back to beat Adelaide, but he did get a perfect drafting trip to do it. Then he seemed to get away with an easy lead last out in the Prix Noailles (video). He may run into a similar problem like that of Toast of New York--he's not as fast as Bobby's Kitten, but the race won't be run slow up front like he's accustomed to and he might get dragged into running too fast early. I also don't like that he's not getting Lasix. Play against at 5-1, but could see reevaluating if he gets lost on the tote.

#8 Pornichet (10-1) - I'm a big fan of the "other Euro" angle, and this is the horse who fits the bill. He wasn't beaten much when third in the G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (video) and, most interestingly, is now trained by legendary Australian conditioner Gai Waterhouse after a private purchase. Distance is, again, the big question, but previous conditioner Nicolas Clement was already considering the bay for this event, and Waterhouse purchased him as a G1 Melbourne Cup prospect, so the consensus among some very capable horsepeople seems to be that he'll handle the trip just fine.

#9 Mr Speaker (15-1) - Was on the verge of tossing this runner when I remembered my new rule to give every Shug McGaughey horse going 10 furlongs or more an extra look--according to Formulator, he's a gaudy 34% with a $3.29 ROI in that category over the past five seasons. Mr Speaker's form was very good before the Pennine Ridge, in which he pretty much stopped after finding himself on the lead. I'm just going to toss his last and give him another shot at a much bigger price than what he would have been had he run to his 95-100 odds last time.

#10 Global View (12-1) - Closed very quickly to win the GII American Turf S. two back (video), but that race came against a much weaker field. Was no match for Bobby's Kitten last time in the Penn Mile, and while as a Galileo he should appreciate the trip, there's no way he'll appreciate it more than the other Galileo (Adelaide).

#11 Gala Award (10-1) - Was a deserving winner of the Pennine Ridge (video), and he also beat Mr Speaker (who rallied from very far back) earlier this year in the GIII Palm Beach S. The 11 post is by no means a death sentence at 10 panels, but it does put him in an awkward position tactically. Can see him getting a wide trip out in no man's land, and not sure he's good enough to overcome such a disadvantage. Figures to take money as well considering his connections.

Play: Win on #4 Adelaide at 3-1+. Exacta key box 4 w/ #6 Dance With Fate, #8 Pornichet and #9 Mr Speaker. Will use those four in pick threes and doubles (and an imaginary all-stakes pick four). 

Belmont Oaks Horse-by-Horse Analysis

--Brian DiDonato

#1 Gold Espony (10-1) - Seems like a true 1 1/4-mile horse--has pretty much run exclusively at or close to the distance. Really liked her win three back in the Prix Rose de Mai (video), in which her final time was some :04 2/5 quicker than Belmont Derby contender Gailo Chop over the same course and distance on the same card. Not sure how much stock you can put in French final times, but it's certainly noteworthy. Was game to subsequently annex the G3 Prix Penelope (video), but didn't run a step in the G1 Prix Saint-Alary. Maybe she bled? Gets Lasix for strong connections--major chance, especially if she's sent right to the front in a field that isn't filled with true speed.

#2 Room Service (3-1) - Her last two races look good on paper, but she might be a little dressed up. The early pace of the GI Ashland S. (video) was off-the-charts fast, and the GI American Oaks featured a three-way pace battle up front that set the table for closers (video). Don't see her getting the same set-up here, and she won't be much of a price.

#3 My Conquestadory (12-1) - Was vastly overrated after her win in the GI Alcibiades S. last fall (video), but she ran better than I expected when fourth in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Resurfaced in Woodbine's GIII Selene S. in May, and was out-nosed despite setting glacial fractions (video). She'll have to run a whole lot better here to compete, and think she'll prove best as a late-running miler.

#4 Summer Solo (30-1) - She's a nice filly, but this is a very tall task.

#5 Flying Jib (5-1) - One of my favorite types of Euros to bet against--she's almost certainly going to find this trip too far. Sire Oasis Dream was an excellent sprinter who finished 10th in the 2003 BC Mile in his only route attempt; dam Jibboom was a nice Frankel runner, but she never won beyond 1 1/16 miles and was probably best at about seven furlongs.

#6 Rosalind (12-1) - Got the same set-up in the Ashland as Room Service. Can excuse her GI Kentucky Oaks fourth (though she didn't run terribly all things considered). Dropped her rider when ambitiously spotted in Royal Ascot's G1 Coronation S. June 20, so certainly doesn't come into this optimally. Always seems to have a following, and still not sure how good she is.

#7 Xcellence (5-2) - Morning-line favorite seems to be getting plenty of buzz on twitter off two thirds in Group 1 company. Handled more ground in the Prix de Diane last time (video), but she's done nothing to suggest she's some sort of world beater. For as profitable as it can be to bet Europeans in American grass races, the shorter-priced runners are rarely the ones you want. Doesn't get Lasix, and won't be getting much of my money--maybe just on some back-up tickets.

#8 Wonderfully (12-1) - It's impossible to know what to do with this horse. She's been a complete non-factor in two races this year. Maybe Lasix will help, but her 2013 form was decent enough that it doesn't seem particularly likely that bleeding is the issue. Using sparingly by default.

#9 Minorette (12-1) - Has run sneaky-well in both of her Stateside races. Was simply too far back in a front-end dominated one-mile allowance at Keeneland Apr. 6, but still flew home to be third. Runner-up A Little Bit Sassy returned to annex the Edgewood S. before getting DQ'd in the GIII Regret S. Chad Brown trainee made a wide, premature move in the Wonder Again S. (video) before getting reeled in by Sea Queen. Could be poised for another step forward, and more ground shouldn't be a problem if she gets a better trip.

#10 Recepta (20-1) - Don't expect her to find the improvement she needs with the added ground.

#11 Sea Queen (10-1) - First inclination was to take a negative view considering what a perfect trip she had in the Wonder Again, but it's not like the rest of her form isn't solid. Going to include, but again, sort of by default since I'm against the favorites.

Play: Win on #1 Gold Espony at 8-1+ or #9 Minorette at 12-1+. Chad Brown 1,9 exacta box. Additional exacta box 1,9,11; and smaller exacta box 1,8,9,11. Will likely cover Xcellence in some horizontal wagers.