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Dubai World Cup Day produced some outstanding preformances and a few notable flops. In the $6 million feature, INVASOR parlayed his Horse of the Year award into Horse of the World with a strong victory over gritty PREMIUM TAP. The winner, who suffered his only career defeat over the Nad Al Sheba track last year, ran his record to 11 for 12 after outkicking ‘TAP in the late going. The top two fired, but the flop in the race was DISCREET CAT, who didn’t show his usual speed and trailed virtually every step of the way. The super horse tag must now be removed, although he obviously was far from his best.

The day kicked off with SPRING AT LAST easily winning the Godolphin Mile for the Reddam-O’Neill-Gomez team. Both trainer and rider lead the nation in purses but money won in Dubai, although it spends the same, does not count in U.S. statistics. ASIATIC BOY was awesome in winning the UAE Derby for international training superstar Michael de Kock. The winner was in a league by himself but don’t look for him in this year’s Kentucky Derby–he’s a 4-year-old by Northern Hemisphere standards. The Golden Shaheen sprint was won by KELLY’S LANDING over FRIENDLY ISLAND, with local hope HARVARD AVENUE fourth. The flop in the race was THOR’S ECHO, sold privately late last year to Arab interests who were pointing to this race. He’s now bombed in both starts for his new connections–well sold by Pablo Saurez and Royce Jaime. The Sheema Classic went to New Zealander VENGEANCE OF RAIN and Japanese-bred ADMIRE MOON won the Duty Free. The flop in the race was LAVA MAN, who again showed that he is incapable of traveling outside of California and running well. Let’s just hope the trip didn’t sap him for the rest of the year.

In Florida, SCAT DADDY did it again, taking the Florida Derby over NOTIONAL, who ran a solid second in defeat. One to watch is CHELOKEE, who had trouble at the top of the lane and is getting better with each start for last year’s Derby-winning trainer Michael Matz. The flop in the race was STORMELLO, who was making his second cross-country trip to Florida, seemingly taking the most difficult path possible to the Derby. He might now be cooked before ever getting to Louisville.

Locally, FAIRBANKS romped in the featured Tokyo City Cup, going wire-to-wire in fast time. He’s a good colt when he can dictate things his own way on the front end. Apprentice sensation Joseph Talamo won three wins on the card, all on the turf (including a pair down the tricky hillside course). He looks like the real deal and now gets ready to head to New York after his four-day stint in Southern California. Why not stay here? He’s already impressed the locals, and would be catching a circuit with no Gomez, Nakatani or P.Val, let alone a solid bug boy rider.

The card looked incredibly tough today and there were only two winning favorites. But if you would have told me going in that the Pick Six would pay only $3,500, I would have thought you were crazy. Maybe $3,500 for a consolation after it carried over, but not for all six…the Bill Spawr barn is heating up with three wins over the past two days (including one via DQ). Cliff Sise is potent with second-time starters (30% according to DRF stats). He struck on Thursday with LOCHINVAR’S GOLD and today with SOUL WORK.

Thanks to Johnny Bucalo and Barona Casino for hosting me today. I gave a short seminar, we raffled off prizes, and got our hearts broken when Pick 4 “single” HEROI DO BAFRA (8-1 morning line, bet down to 9/2) came up a nose and head short. I talked the other day about winning close finishes as one of the keys to a winning streak. If ‘BAFRA gets there we (and Premium Play purchasers) hit the Pick 4, trifecta and Win bet. Instead, three losing tickets.

Looking forward to seeing MAGNIFICIENCE make her second career start tomorrow in the Santa Paula. Is she as good as her maiden win indicated? We’ll have a better answer after tomorrow’s 3rd race. We questioned here (Mar. 12 blog posting) if Bruce Headley really was the sole owner of this filly. Now it comes out (in a notes column by Brad Free this week in DRF) that Headley might have a partner/partners. Details were sketchy and Headley was less-than-forthcoming about whether those partners were part of ownership before or after the filly made her debut. On the heels of Headley’s $900,000 payment to settle with Jess Jackson, the dubious claim by barn-sharing son Gus from father Bruce of TACTICS (who ran second in Saturday’s 3rd race) and now this? There’s a very foul odor coming from the Headley shedrow.

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Beginning today, I will cut the Blog postings down to three days a week. I enjoy writing these updates and have gotten a surprisingly positive response from readers, but my current workload is too heavy to be able to continue on a daily basis. Of course, if anything earth shattering happens on a Thursday or Saturday, I will break the format to post my thoughts. I would, however, like to invite readers to increase their comments and dialogue as a means of filling in for me on the off days.

On Wednesday, Wesley Ward and Martin Pedroza won their third straight baby race when DESTINY DREAMER easily took the opener. They have another one in tomorrow (LEVIN LEVON) who is the quickest one yet, according to assistant trainer Blake Heap. Speaking of Pedroza, he took a nasty header when NOBODYWANTSMUD stumbled badly in the 6th. Pedroza never got a chance to break his fall, instead going head first into the ground in a very scary fall. Pedroza was driven back to the tunnel by ambulance but walked back to the jock’s room while rubbing his neck and moving his head around in an attempt to loosen up the neck and shoulder area. I was shocked when he rode $10,000 claimer EPIC COMMANDER (third-place finish) in the nightcap. We’ve said it before, but these little guys are so tough it’s unbelievable…HONKY TONK BABY made it two straight for Kathy Walsh with a solid win in the 2nd…TALEGA CREEK won for only the second time in his career, running down favorite RUNS IN THE FAMILY in the 5th. He was tagged by Julio Canani, who is excellent off the claim…MEMORIES OF SUE took the 6th in front-running style despite Trevor saying that she could “find no more” in mid-stretch. The call then had her “suddenly back in front” but, in reality, she never lost the lead…HONNETE was correctly moved up by the stewards in the 7th after LE CIRQUE was disqualified and placed third. The call was a no-brainer (I just didn’t understand why the decision took so long) and HONNETE got her just reward. She had traffic trouble into the stretch, angled out, then was pushed out even further when ‘CIRQUE came out and bothered SEVEN STEPS, too. The Drydale-trainee is now two-for-two and looks to have a very promising future…MYSTERIOUS CAT wore down his “outclassed” opponents in the finale. The 9-year-old full horse won for the ninth time in 43 starts and was claimed by Ricardo Zamora. The winning connections appeared almost stunned when the red tag was put on–he seemed claim-proof at this stage of his career…ever notice how many times an impressive maiden claiming winner like SMOKE’N BLOKE runs poorly when dropped way down to face winners? It happens all the time….surprising claim of the day was Jack Carava taking DA SVEDONYA in the 2nd. Perhaps now she will get the long overdue rest she needs.

Leading rider Garrett Gomez rides in Dubai on Saturday, then returns home to fulfill existing engagements before shipping to Keeneland on Apr. 11. Chances are he will stay back East until next year’s Hollywood Park Fall or Santa Anita meet.

I had five top choice winners today and will be offering a 2-for-1 special on my Thursday-Friday Premium Plays. Buy Thursday (after 9:00 a.m. Pacific) and get Friday’s plays sent to your confirmation email address for free.

From Ed Golden’s Stable Notes: Don Pierce, who after hearing Jon Court’s Woolf Award acceptance speech, quipped, “If I could talk like that, I’d still be riding. He ought to run for President.”

To view a Free Sample of Wednesday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 28

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Making decisions in handicapping and betting is what it’s all about in this game. Having opinions, making the right play. Winning streaks almost always happen under two circumstances: the horse player is seeing the ball well and making proper bets; and he is winning the close finishes, when a nose photo can mean the difference in hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Right and Wrong over the past couple of days:

Saturday:

1st race) Wrong about FLETCHERS COVE in the opener. Hated her last race. 2nd) Had to decide between a number of contenders and went with UP THE LIMIT, picking long layoff runner FIVE STAR CHARM second. Wrong again. 3rd) A two-horse race on paper and I flip-flopped the top pair as TURNBOLT beat JACK’S KID. 4th) Had morning line favorite GET FUNKY picked last. He floated way up in price but got the money as my top pick SOUL CITY SLEW got hammered in the wagering and ran third. 5th) LADY LE BELLE looked like a standout, was bet like a standout and narrowly got there. Right on this one, barely. 6th) Had to decide between sharp VALIANT EFFORT, who was unproven on turf but by excellent grass sire Bertrando and LAINIES LION, who hated the dirt last time but had a terrible trip on turf one back (I put him on my Ready-to-Win List after that one). Went the wrong way as ‘LION won easily. 7th) Competitive maiden claimer in which my top pick LARRY’S GIRL was badly overbet and ran second to trial maiden MIMITHEMIDGET. Okay effort but wrong. 8th) Didn’t like FOURTY NINERS SON’s comeback race and wasn’t convinced he would run 12 furlongs. I liked sharp ONE OFF and pace play A. P. XCELLENT, who was the gamble after the scratch of PHAR TO WIN. Wrong and double wrong. 9th) Hated FORGIVABLE BOB after he had walked out of the gate in about six or seven straight races. I even suggested he should be put on the stewards’ list after his last. My pick GOLDEN WAGER ran well but was second best to, you guessed it, appropriately named FORGIVABLE BOB. 10th) MR. LOGAN on top but second best behind front-running HURRY HOME WARREN. Saturday scoreboard: one right, nine wrong. And if you factor in my dislike for HARD SPUN in the Lane’s End at Turfway, make my record 1-10 on the day.

Sunday:

1st) WHERE’S MY HALO or sharp MESA MAGIC in the opener? Right when ‘HALO charged from behind to win going away. 2nd) No clue in a wide-open maiden claimer. KITTEN EXCHANGE won the race but I had no opinion, so I’m going to call this one a draw. 3rd) EPIC POWER, who was returning in seven days after a brutal trip or win machine PHAR TO WIN, who was scratched out of Saturday’s San Luis Rey to run here? Wrong when ‘WIN left ‘POWER in the dust in mid-stretch. 4th) One-horse race after the scratch of One Prized M. D., AWAY DOWN SOUTH romped home at $2.80. 5th) Thought four horses could win this downhill event but never could have come with up longshot winner NO LULLABY. Wrong. 6th race) Spread race in the first leg of the Pick 4. I picked PEACE ACCORD but knew he was badly overbet. I used half a dozen on my ticket and caught MY MAN MURF at $19.60. Call this one a draw. 7th) Loved CITRONNADE as did the rest of the public, who hammered her down to 4/5, and watched her dominate the Santa Ana in front-running style. She is a very good filly for Frankel. “Single” in the Pick 4 means I was right in here. 8th) Loved Bay Area shipper LEMON KISS. She stumbled badly at the start but I was saved when entrymate FOREST HUNTRESS won easily at $6.60. I’m not a fan of coupled entries but I was for this one race. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good. Wrong but right. 9th) Picked winner DRY YOUR EYES ($5.00) but thought she was overbet and used four on my winning Pick 4 ticket. Unfortunately, I got the lowest payoff ($350) when ‘EYES held off STORMING SLEW. Sunday scoreboard: four right, three wrong and a couple of pushes.

Notes: RAGS TO RICHES will not run in the Santa Anita Derby but will be trained up to the Kentucky Oaks, according to Todd Pletcher…Danny Sorenson underwent hip surgery after suffering a training mishap at Hollywood Park on Saturday morning. He has had nothing but bad luck over the past four years with untimely injury after untimely injury…Jon Court was his usual classy self in accepting the Woolf Award on Sunday…good party thrown by Santa Anita at The Derby Restaurant after the races. A bunch of us got to do some fun stuff with HRTV’s Peter Lurie during the party. If I don’t end up on the cutting room floor I might be ready for my SAG card.

And finally, under the category of Where Have You Heard this Before? In a note from my Mar. 18 blog: The flop in the race (not too surprisingly) was Wayne Lukas trained FLYING FIRST CLASS. Like the winner, he was stretching out for the first time but came up emtpy in the lane. The Cal-bred son of Perfect Mandate (who, to my knowledge, has never produced a route winner of note–please correct me if I’m wrong), wants no part of 1 1/4 miles but expect Lukas to push full speed ahead along the Derby trail. I haven’t read any post-race quotes yet but I’m guessing Lukas, despite proclaiming how great the horse was coming into the race, said something like this: He came up short…I didn’t have him cranked up enough…he will improve a ton out of the race…we’ll go ahead and look at the Arkansas Derby (or pick any other prep).

Compare to this note taken from Saturday’s DRF: Trainer D. Wayne Lukas blamed himself for the eighth-place finish of favored Flying First Class in the Rebel, and said he would bring the colt back in the Arkansas Derby. “In hindsight, he was short, very short,” Lukas said. “I did a bad job. I was just asking some people if they thought I could make a living selling used cars. I didn’t do enough with him.” Lukas added, “I’m not wrong on the horse, just wrong on how I handled him.”

Wayne, don’t worry about making a living selling used cars. You could make a living selling ice to the eskimos.

Good night now.

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There is a tidbit from Steve Andersen’s “Santa Anita Notes” column in Saturday’s Daily Racing Form (page 10) about Santa Anita racetrack being fined $300 for not properly reporting that OUR PARTNER raced as a gelding for the first time in the 8th race on Feb. 15. Three hundred dollars?! Is this some kind of joke? Surely a misprint. Will the track be able to open the gates tomorrow and continue doing business as usual after this massive penalty?

We have been harping about the (non)reporting of geldings for some time now. I even gave up two hours of my life to attend a parimutuel commission meeting of the CHRB a couple of months back. Stiffer fines for trainers, we all agreed. Ron Charles, head honcho at Santa Anita, stepped up and volunteered that the track and/or racing office personnel should be slapped hard when these types of mistakes are made. So the Santa Anita stewards reached back with all their might and delivered the blow–a $300 penalty assessed to the track. Magna stockholders are quaking after this severe hit to the bottom line. Let’s just hope Wall Street doesn’t get wind of this.

On Friday, EUROGLIDE was a very impressive first-out winner in the opener for trainer Peter Eurton. The Son of Honor Glide ran to his works and dusted his opponents in 1:09.2. Runner-up TIME TO GET EVEN (by Stephen Got Even) finished full of run and galloped out strongly while obviously wanting more distance.

Aaron Gryder won a pair…eight different trainers went to the winner’s circle…suspicous dropper HOLLY’S GOLD won again for Bill Spawr and no one took her…STORM MATE, under powerful Garrett Gomez handling, got up at the wire to nail unlucky GEM PROOF in the 7th. The latter seemed to pull himself up after making the lead (too soon?) in mid-stretch.

To view a Free Sample of Friday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 23

After 16 previous chances, with 11 runner-up finishes, KING PALM finally broke his maiden for the Maloof Brothers (owners of Palms Resort in Vegas and Sacramento Kings) and trainer Vladimir Cerin. Second in eight straight (I believe) at one point in his career, ‘PALM ended his bridesmaid status by beating four other older maidens in Thursday’s 3rd race. Might he be the type who, finally finding out how to win, comes right back and scores again next time?

The track got back to normal yesterday, playing much more fairly than Wednesday’s speed-biased strip.

Two more wins for hot young rider Michael Baze, who scored in wire-to-wire style with VIRGINIA CITY in the 2nd and from slightly off the pace with QUIETLY GO in the 5th. Baze, now being handled by Nick Casato, is tied for seventh in the jockey standings while older cousin Tyler is missing from the top 10. Speaking of QUIETLY GO, not many could have anticipated trainer Jorge Alcala moving up this horse off Julio Canani, who had dropped him out of the sky last time to run poorly as the favorite. Alcala came back to double with favorite RAPID SILVER in the finale.

Pick Six carryover of $113,848 into Friday…Wesley Ward and Martin Pedroza combined to win their second straight baby race of the meet when YOUNG JOE ran away from Cal-breds in the opener. Winning from the outside post, ‘JOE ended a 0-for-51 losing streak for posts 9 and 10 in these quarter-mile sprints over the past four seasons…GETBACK TIME proved to be the only true racehorse in the feature, winning for the sixth time in 13 starts (while in the money 11 times). What a claim she has been, taken by Rafael Becerra for $40,000 in her second lifetime start.

Brutal night in college hoops last night. I had Tennessee, Southern Illinois and Texas A&M in my pool. Two one-point losses and a three-point loss make me realize why I prefer betting on horses over sports. At least the torture is over in a minute and change rather than dragging on for two hours. I’ll dive back in tonight with USC (+8 1/2) vs. UNC. I won’t be surprised if the Trojans win straight up.

Quote of the day: Heard on today’s Dennis Prager radio show, “Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.”

To view a Free Sample of Thursday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 22

There was no passing yesterday at Santa Anita, with front-runners absolutely dominating over the sealed-hard main track. Four races won in wire-to-wire style, three others won by runners pressing from second and the last-race winner “closing” all the way from third. I had a good day with five top choice winners and made some money gambling but these speed-biased tracks are my least favorite. BOR-ingggg.

Two winners each for Aaron Gryder and Michael Baze, and trainer Doug O’Neill took down two more as his recent red-hot streak has turned the trainers’ race into an absolute procession, to use Trevor’s term. O’Neill now has 44 winners in 61 days, opening an 18-length margin over nearest competitor Bob Baffert, while also leading the stakes ranks with 10 victories.

Promising 3-year-old RAVEL is injured and off the Derby trail. The silver lining is that it might leave the door open for Todd Pletcher to run the filly RAGS TO RICHES as his replacement in the Santa Anita Derby.

Jockey Update: With Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani getting ready to leave the local scene when Keeneland opens, Jason Lumpkins will ship south to start riding locally this weekend, and 16-year-old apprentice Dylan Williams will start at Santa Anita on Wednesday. The former will be handled by J.R. Pegram and the latter by his father, Jim…Richard Migliore will stay in SoCal and his book will be handled by Scotty McClellan, who also has Alex Solis…Victor Espinoza dominated at Sunland Park on Saturday, winning with three of four mounts, including the WinStar Derby and Oaks. He will have the mounts on COBALT BLUE in the Illinois Derby on Apr. 7 and STORMELLO in the Florida Derby on Mar. 31…Jon Court will receive the George Woolf Award this Sunday at Santa Anita.

Returning from a grueling week on the road–Vegas for the first four days of the NCAA tournament, then two days in Phoenix with racetrack colleagues Kurt Hoover and Mike Superstein, along with our good buddy Brian “Find and Replace” Ferguson. (Ferguson gets a big thank you after showing me the “find and replace” step when editing my handicap, which now allows me to include index numbers, jockeys and weights in my online Graded Handicap without spending the usual 30-40 minutes of retyping. You’re doing a heck of a job, Fergie.) The grueling week started on Wednesday night, arriving late at The Orleans Hotel in order to be ready for first tipoff at 9:15 on Thursday morning. After four days of drinking and gambling (oh yeah, and doing my regular work), it was off to Phoenix on Sunday night for our 19th annual “Stay Hungry” trip, which consists of more drinking and gambling, with a few innings of spring training thrown into the mix before heading off to Turf Paradise for the last half of their Monday card.

Thanks to announcer Luke Kruytbosch (one of the nicest and most patient guys on the planet) and track GM Dave Johnson for their hospitality. And to trainers Eric Kruljac, Troy Bainum and Dan McFarlane for putting us on a few winners. On Tuesday, we hung out at Sixshooters, a sports bar that takes in a number of racetrack simulcast feeds. It is roomy and well-lighted, with good food and plenty of betting windows. Yes, in Arizona, you can bet from the bar. There are 54 OTB outlets (many in bars and restaurants) spread throughout the state, and Sixshooters has replaced McDuffy’s as our new favorite. We played the races all day, met a few characters in the process and left with substantially more than we came with, so a great day overall.

Finally, Laura de Seroux announced that she will retire from training at the end of the month. Funny, I thought she had retired a long time ago.

To view a Free Sample of Wednesday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 21

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Back to reality on Wednesday…the Blog will resume then.

To view a Free Sample of Sunday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 18

Yesterday was another important day on the Kentucky Derby trail. Locally, COBALT BLUE stretched out after only one comeback sprint win to wire the San Felipe field, stopping the clock in 1:42.46 after getting away with comfortable early splits. Owned by Merv Griffin, the son of Golden Missile acts like he will run all day and now gives trainer Doug O’Neill four live shooters at this stage of the game. AIR COMMANDER ran second but was under a hard drive on the far turn and never looked like catching the winner through the final 1/4-mile. He’s a one-paced grinder with no acceleration–not my kind of Derby hopeful.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, juvenile champion STREET SENSE and ANY GIVEN SATURDAY put on a show, with ‘SENSE winning the head bob in a track record time of 1:43.11. Super comeback win by ‘SENSE, who rode the rail the way he did on Breeders’ Cup day, and super try in defeat by ‘SATURDAY. These two are very legitmate Derby horses.

At Oaklawn, CURLIN showed that he’s the real deal, winning the Rebel easily while making only his second lifetime start. Purchased for a reported $3 million after his romping maiden win, CURLIN handled the added distance and stronger competition with aplomb for new trainer Steve Asmussen. He’s playing catch up but is a major talent. The flop in the race (not too surprisingly) was Wayne Lukas trained FLYING FIRST CLASS. Like the winner, he was stretching out for the first time but came up emtpy in the lane. The Cal-bred son of Perfect Mandate (who, to my knowledge, has never produced a route winner of note–please correct me if I’m wrong), wants no part of 1 1/4 miles but expect Lukas to push full speed ahead along the Derby trail. I haven’t read any post-race quotes yet but I’m guessing Lukas, despite proclaiming how great the horse was coming into the race, said something like this: He came up short…I didn’t have him cranked up enough…he will improve a ton out of the race…we’ll go ahead and look at the Arkansas Derby (or pick any other prep).

RIVER’S PRAYER ran them off their feet in winning the Irish O’Brien, Santa Anita’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day feature. She almost always fires fresh and is now two-for-two coming down the hill. Give her some time to recover, however, because she was one tired filly coming back to the winner’s circle.

My March Madness hoops selection got home yesterday (given out on the Thoroughbred Los Angeles radio show (weekends at 9:00 a.m. Pacific on KLAA 830 AM) when Virginia Commonwealth covered the spread (vs. Pittsburgh) in an overtime loss. Disclaimer: Basketball selections are made for entertainment purposes only…illegal sports gambling is strongly discouraged. Wink, wink.

I scratched into 10th race winner JUSTINPLAY ($47.40) yesterday. I was just guessing but he had trained as well as anything after OH I TRIPPED came out.

To view a Free Sample of Saturday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 17

To view a Free Sample of Friday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 16

To view a Free Sample of Thursday’s Premium Plays, click on the link below: Premium Plays for Mar. 15

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