Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Let's leave New Jersey out of this..."

Another weekend of handicapping contest action fast approaches, and I'm excitedly gearing up for Sunday's Monmouth-Woodbine Challenge at Monmouth Park.

On the other hand, being a New Jersey resident eliminates me and other Garden Staters from yet another avenue to National Handicapping Championship XIV qualification -- Saturday's TVG NHC Qualifier.

Unlike years past, where TVG sponsored NHC-focused contests even for viewers without wagering accounts, Saturday's event is strictly for TVG account holders. I understand the logic to a degree, but as a subscriber to TVG's television coverage (through Verizon FiOS) I feel a bit short changed, since in some way I am paying for at least a portion of TVG's product.

"...that's what the Constitution
 should have said."
Accordingly, I'd argue that TVG should relax entry standards and let subscribers (specifically, NHC Tour members) to its TV coverage play on Saturday and represent "Team TVG" at NHC XIV.  New Jerseyans' lone barrier to TVG account ownership, anyway, is the State Legislature, by handcuffing residents to the state-run Advanced Deposit Wagering site,

NJ Horseplayer has long beaten up on as a Cold War-era ADW, especially when rivals TVG, and (legally off limits to all New Jerseyans) offer NHC XIV seats left and right.  Compounding the discouragement is a posting on the NHC Tour website, touting the 114 seats to Las Vegas offered through the 2012 TwinSpires Online Handicapping Series.  In other words, I and other NJ-based NHC Tour players are already shut out of 23% of the available seats to Las Vegas.  This is patently unfair.

I am not entirely sure how to go about initiating changes, though as an NHC Tour member I would argue that, for my $50 annual membership fee, the Tour should lobby to include in any NHC-based online tournament Tour members outlawed from using an out-of-state ADW.  I should not be penalized because my legislators have no clue about the NHC Tour.

Meanwhile, as new operators of Monmouth Park, I argue that the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NJTHA) should lobby the Legislature to embrace an open-market strategy and let NJ residents use outside ADWs, going so far as to shut 4NJBets.  Fat chance, in all likelihood, if you can follow the bouncing ball...

In true NJ fashion (insert your own Fred Armisen-as-Governor Paterson joke here), however, the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC) pulls the strings, and I doubt highly would strip the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority and NJSEA's partner Pennwood Racing (itself a convoluted partnership between Penn National and an outfit called Greenwood Racing, which owns PARX and Atlantic City Race Course) of control of its ADW license (see item No. 4 of NJRC's conditional approval of NJTHA assuming control of the racing programs at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park).  That would be political suicide for someone and a loss of politically-appointed or well-connected jobs, I'm sure, though I'm not quite sure why the Horsemen, if they're sincerely in business to turn a profit running NJ's two primary tracks, would concede ADW revenue to NJSEA and two Pennsylvania-based racetrack operators when they should be able to go out on their own and align with any ADW that generates more revenue for NJTHA and improves New Jersey's thoroughbred racing program!

If anyone has an opinion or can enlighten me as misinformed, I'm all ears.

In the meantime, I'm curious to see whether any other NJ-based horseplayers who belong to the NHC Tour are as frustrated about being left out of so many NHC tournament opportunities, apparently on account of shady politics or general indifference.  Since the NJRC hosts its meetings during regular business hours and I cannot attend the next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, June 20 at 1 p.m., at the least I plan on initiating a letter-writing campaign to NJRC chief Frank Zanzuccki, and maybe asking the organizers of Sunday's contest at Monmouth about getting the ear of NJTHA officials, whose responsibility should also include looking out for the interests of all New Jersey-based horseplayers.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Technical Difficulties

I heard my phone buzz just as I was about to enter the parking lot at Monmouth Park on Saturday for the Preakness Day handicapping contest.

Preakness contest recap
Expecting to find the details of where to meet inside the track, instead "contest's cancelled," read the text around 1:30 p.m. from Mr. Flanagan of Red Rock or Bust.  Huh?

Turns out, players who made the trek to MP and plunked down their $200 entry fee were beset by technical glitches that wreaked havoc with their betting cards, which apparently would not work at the betting terminals (for readers "outside the know", contest players each get a credit card-like betting card used to track their contest wagers and bankroll).  With no solution at hand, MP officials had no choice but to postpone the contest and issued refunds.  There is no word yet of a makeup date (though, with my luck, it will conflict with a family obligation).

Considering I reside 15 minutes from the track, the cancellation was not a huge deal, though a night of preparation for the 30-plus race card (Monmouth, Belmont and Pimlico races) went out the window.  The glitch was far more inconvenient to folks who drove an hour-plus, like NJ Horseplayer reader John M. from, yes, Furlong, PA.  Contest players take National Handicapping Championship (2 seats were up for grabs) qualifying seriously, so burning Tour players' time is, in essence, a wasted opportunity.

Clearly some situations are beyond peoples' control, but I hope that the Monmouth Park's contest organizers: a) announce, sooner rather than later, a reschedule date so that NHC Tour players (especially those from afar) can set schedules, b) ensure well in advance that the wagering cards work next time, and c) extend additional food or other sorts of credits to at least those who had registered this past Saturday, if not to all contest players who sign up for the next contest or two.  There's no better opportunity than next Sunday, June 3, for the Monmouth-Woodbine Handicapping Challenge.

In the meantime, here's a reminder to enter picks by tomorrow for Survival at the Shore, which shows over 5,000 active players vying for a season-long $2,500 top prize.  Although hugely disappointed that an NHC seat is no longer at stake, I'll be participating and using this free contest to stay fresh with my handicapping, and hope to last longer than my usual June swoon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Survival" at the Shore prize means no more NHC ties

Anyone who frequents might have noticed a number of banner ads touting sign-ups for Monmouth Park's 2012 Survival at the Shore, the free online handicapping contest where, at least since I have been playing (about 3-4 years), the winner gets a coveted seat in the National Handicapping Championship.

Presumably on account of Monmouth Park's recent ownership change (privately held by the NJ Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association) and cut in average daily purses, the widely popular contest (regularly 7,000+ players) appears to be fighting for its own survival a bit, based on the change in prize structure.

The contest rules show that the winner will no longer win the NHC spot, but rather a $2,500 cash prize.

Combined with a $1,000 prize to the second-highest bankroll and $250 each for third-place and most winners, the $4,000 at stake is nothing to scoff at, but clearly a setback for NHC Tour members who use the contest as an opportunity to qualify for the NHC.  Considering my sources put the cost of an NHC seat at roughly $6,500-$7,000, the Survival payouts translate to at least a 50% reduction in payout (in light of NHC qualification for the winner, plus $1,000 for second and $500 for third, or about $8k total in 2011).

Goodbye, caviar dreams!
Again, one cannot argue with a contest that costs nothing to play, but clearly the transition away from an NHC-based prize is surely to ruffle the feathers of NHC regulars to sign up for Survival, namely those in New Jersey (as I have often railed) that, because of legislators' indifference, have no access to the out-of-state ADWs that offer value-added contests (i.e. TwinSpires, DRFBets) for NHC members.  (Note to NTRA/NHC Tour officials -- please wake up and get moving on this front...we need your help.)

Sure, there are plenty of online venues through which to qualify now, such as, and perhaps the majority of Survival contestants are not NHC Tour members and would just rather win cash, but the loss of the Survival NHC seat means that only 8 (of 500) seats to NHC XIV will come out of New Jersey tracks, which in my view is a disservice to NJ-based Tour players.

New Purse Structure for 2013 NHC

Anyone notice the change in purse structure for this year's Championship?

Amid the Triple Crown chaos and other shenanigans, I have been sitting chilly on the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) May 2012 newsletter, where about 3-4 items down HANA notes that the 2013 NHC purse structure has been revised to "reduce the gap between the first-place winner and the rest of the field."

Since my handicapping skills are inferior and I have yet to land myself a spot the last three years in NHC, perhaps I should reserve judgement, but I think this is an awful move.  Cutting the champion's take from a guaranteed $1 million to "50% of the total purse" is the equivalent of Little League sportsmanship trophies -- you're the MVP of those who tried hard, but fell short of being the MVP.

Courtesy of
Great concept for fragile-minded pre-adolescents, but not serious adult horseplayers.

Perhaps my thoughts are askew, but generally I enter contests to win, not finish top 5%.  To cut the champion's take to $750,000 (a beautiful sum, but a 25% reduction from 2012 nonetheless -- based on an estimated $1.5 million purse this year) is ridiculous.  Maybe my opinion will change when I finish second in NHC XIV (wink, wink), but I am still of a firm belief that, from a marketing perspective, it is much more compelling when trying to draw new players into the sport that a cool million is tied to winning the NHC.

Then again, I apparently was in the minority on a lot of items discussed in last year's survey of NHC Tour players pertaining to how the NHC is run, so maybe I need to put my ax grinder aside.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two flaws en route to Las Vegas

At the very least I cost myself a Top 12 (and some NHC Tour points) if not a runner-up finish in Saturday's National Handicapping Championship (NHC) qualifier on because of two (hindsight is always 20/20) awful decisions in the 12-race contest with 138 entrants.

On the one hand I spent little time handicapping in advance, as my two off-the-board finishes in Races 5 and 6 from Churchill would attest, but I did put some effort into the middle of the card (my kids gave me some breathing room), which featured races from locally-based Belmont Park, and Arlington, where my handicapping has been creditable of late.

Contemplating fatal flaws
The first flaw was in the third contest event, Race 7 from Belmont, where I emailed my friend and 100th-place finisher Red Rock or Bust that I liked Renzo Bertoni (6-to-1 morning line) quite a bit and would make this three-year-old maiden my top selection.  Of course, that was until I saw Renzo click down toward 3-to-1 and sought value elsewhere, switching off to a horse that finished mid-pack and watched Renzo win going away.

Missing out on that $14.60 notional win-place payout ultimately cost me the Top 12, NHC Tour points and a refund to enter an upcoming $195 qualifier.  Sitting 0-for-3 with nine contest races to go, however, I was not about to go hunting for bombers (though I had one mapped out already...more on this in a bit).

In Race 5 from Arlington Park, my confidence that 12-to-1 morning-line horse Fearlessly would enjoy a short freshening, cutback from a mile-and-a-sixteenth to 6 furlongs and return to a synthetic surface proved valuable in cashing a combined $34.40 win-place payout to quickly move up to 30th in the standings.  In the next race, the Unbridled Sidney Stakes from Churchill, Smartys Emperoress ran second to Wild About Marie to push my notional bankroll up to $43, or 20th place.

After missing out in the next race, I stayed with Right To Vote in the Peter Pan Stakes even as the odds skyrocketed from a 20-to-1 morning line to 47-to-1 at post, not enthralled with chalky Mark Valeski (bet down to 6-to-5) or anyone else in the field.  Verbatim from my email to Red Rock on Saturday: 
"I'm on the 1 in the Peter Pan; bit of a flyer, but a good effort 1x as a 3YO and good works at KEE suggest (the connections) considered something there perhaps but held off for a winnable spot...we'll see; 40-1 right now doesn't inspire confidence, though"
Right to Vote carved out some serious fractions for a mile-and-an-eighth race but was uncontested on the lead and nearly held on, passed in the stretch by 6-to-5 Mark Valeski but giving me the max $22 play payout to put me in fifth with a $65 bankroll with four races to go...before the wheels fell off the bus.

After all three of the horses I considered in Race 10 from Churchill failed to finish first or second (7-to-5 chalk won...a plus when you're near the top of any contest leaderboard and did not have that horse) my second fatal flaw came in Race 4 from Hollywood Park.  My 2 comments (post-race) to Red Rock:
"S***, people will have that...Rosario at 15-1" and "I glanced at that 12, but didn't have the cojones, figuring the outside might clearly helped"
In handicapping the 12-horse $20k maiden claimer at 5.5 furlongs from Hollywood, I landed on Satchmo's Muse, 15-to-1 on the morning line but bet down and ridden by Ramon Guce, a top rider from Los Alamitos and one I thought would benefit from his short-track riding experience on a horse with a bullet work and one troubled effort to its credit.  The 12 horse, J Louie, had two prior runs -- nothing impressive, but a huge rider upgrade to Joel Rosario (from Agapito Delgadillo, another Los Al stalwart).

Remembering something once heard to not select horses based solely on jockeys, I dismissed J Louie, stuck way outside, only to watch Rosario ride J Louie to an easy victory at 15-to-1.  The decision cost me (and countless others who did not have the horse) $49.40 of combined win-place earnings.

Game, set and match.

Sitting in 14th place at that point, good enough for the $195 refund and potential NHC Tour points, I was faced with the decision of trying to preserve my spot or make a run at a Top 2 finish with three contest races to go, and went with the latter, figuring I was in the event to win and not to get a refund.  If memory serves, I was still within $19 of second place (kudos to contestant Jim LaMattina, who pretty much had the event wrapped up at that point with a $121 bankroll) and figured "why not take a shot."  However, I tossed aside two logical favorites (eventual winners) in the next two races in trying to score at a price, and came up empty in similar fashion in the contest finale to finish 19th.

Overall, as primarily a weekend handicapping contest player I am not crushed by Saturday's outcome in the event, having won a feeder tournament days prior and finishing in the top 15% on Saturday, but clearly need to improve my contest end game.  The last-second switch on the Renzo horse early in the contest is fixable (i.e. avoid casting aside my handicapped selection in favor of chasing a bigger price early in contests), especially as I head into the Preakness Day Handicapping Contest at Monmouth Park this Saturday -- a live-money event for two NHC seats.

Dismissing a top rider on a big long-shot, however, is one that will require more discipline, as I typically eschew the logic of picking horses based on riders.  I will avoid horses based on riders (i.e. an apprentice jockey on a shorter-priced horse), but typically not the other way around.

We'll see how this translates to the Monmouth Park contest on Saturday.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Entered NHC Qualifier

Staring at a 10-mile training run in advance of the Super Hero Half-Marathon next Sunday, and needing to prepare the house for Mother's Day hosting tomorrow, I'm regretfully missing opening day at Monmouth Park in favor of the home-based online NHC qualifier at, where I picked up a "free spin" of sorts as noted on Wednesday.

Entry ($195) for a spot at upwards of 4 seats in the National Handicapping Championship is up for grabs.

The 12-race contest card kicks off a little before 3 p.m. ET with Race 5 from Churchill and concludes with Race 6 from Hollywood, where (sarcasm) assuredly the 8-horse field of maidens will scratch down to 5, making it impossible for anyone to make up late ground.  Otherwise, the card comprises some difficult and deep races from Belmont, Arlington and Churchill Downs, though I have yet to break much down yet and will handicap on the spot.

I'll try to post some thoughts and, hopefully, a happy recap tonight, and otherwise wish a Happy Mother's Day to anyone out there in the NJ Horseplayer circles!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Conviction Pays Dividends

There is much rejoicing in the NJ Horseplayer camp tonight on the heels of a maiden-breaking first-place finish in the twilight NHC Preliminary Feeder tournament on Wednesday.

Beating the 75-player field puts me in an upcoming $195 play-in tournament (players can either pay this entry fee in full, or finish in the top 10% of such $20-entry fee "feeders"), where at least three NHC Tour members will have a shot at a berth in National Handicapping Championship XIV in Vegas.

There are three such tournaments the next three Saturdays, though May 19 is out because of the live contest at Monmouth and May 26 may prove difficult, being Memorial Day weekend.  We'll see about May 12.

(Image by Larry McManus)
Conviction is the key takeaway from Wednesday's tournament, especially after finding myself $50 notional dollars behind the leader after Belmont Race 6 bomber Drink with Pride scored at 26-to-1 to pay the contest-max $42 win plus $17.40 place.  At least I had place runner Red Leader in that race, giving me two scores through three of eight contest races.  (The contest comprised four races each from Belmont and Arlington and, as always, notional $2 win-place wagers.)

Although there were only five contest races remaining, some logical long-shots were worth considering, notably Gabrilicious in Race 7 from Belmont.  It was too soon to start prospecting bomber odds, but I considered Gabrilicious quite an overlay hovering 15-to-1 as the field neared the starting gate.

My first-glance selection, My Trickster, was below the 6-to-1 morning line and therefore less appealing, and upon further consideration it was a bit disconcerting to find trainer Richard Dutrow putting a young horse who showed promise directly into a cheap claimer.  So, we hit the switch two minutes before post in favor of our close second choice, who seemed dismissed by investors despite two decent but recent troubled trips at Gulfstream.  The move paid huge dividends, with Gabrilicious holding off Ashcroft Silver to net us $45.20 ($31.80 to win, $13.40 to place) and catapult us to fifth place with a notional $54.60 of winnings.

After picking second-place finisher World Premier in Belmont Race 9 to score another $4.70, my $59.30 of notional winnings was still good for sixth (the top seven in the feeders earn $195 contest entries for use at a later date) with two races remaining.  A defeat in the next race, Arlington 7, set us back one spot in the standings, posing several options heading into the finale.

Far too often in these kinds of online contests I have either been near the lead, only to be burned when I go short but someone's desperation bomber long-shot miraculously wins to knock me from the top flight of the standings -- case in point, last Wednesday's feeder, when my pick ran second to a 50-to-1 shot -- or, shoe on the other foot, I switch from my first choice to reach for a big price.  Then again, this is likely the shared lament for all handicapping contest players.

Mistie Royale, 12-to-1 on the morning line, perfectly fit the NJ Horseplayer mantra of "playable long-shots" in an $25k claimer at a mile on the Arlington turf (Race 8). Typically, I stay away from maiden-breakers going up the ladder to winners for the first time, but this 3-year-old ran well enough in two $35k maiden claimers at Gulfstream at 7.5 furlongs and a mile-and-a-sixteenth, and the rest of the 11-horse field comprised a lot of Hawthorne shippers (no disrespect) and I expected my backup selection, Deluxe Air (6-to-1 morning line) to be an underlay, considering the horse was in-the-money in six of eight tries at Arlington.  With that in mind, I gave Deluxe Air plus morning-line favorite Carousel one last look, considering I thought Carousel was best in the field, but ultimately stuck to my guns, even as Mistie Royale slipped to 7-to-1.

Clearly such conviction paid off, as jockey Tim Thornton (seen in this video replay) led Mistie Royale sharply out of the gate toward the rail and stalked the early leaders in a nice ground-saving trip. Once clear coming into the home stretch, and simply hand-ridden to that point, Thornton passed the early leaders and gave Mistie Royale a tap before racing home to a nearly 2-length victory, netting us $22.60 ($16.60 win, $6.60 place) to run my bankroll to a contest-winning $81.90.  (Deluxe Air finished second-to-last and faded badly, while Carousel finished second.)

Winning any tournament is a good feeling, but certainly tempered, being that Wednesday's was merely a feeder to an NHC qualifying tournament, rather than a direct qualifier.  Besting a field 3x the size of Wednesday's, and having to finish in the top 3 or 4 is a Herculean task, but certainly instills a higher level of confidence for NJ Horseplayer heading into a $195 contest, in terms of sticking with a playable long-shot thesis and identifying undervalued runners who make sense in terms of beating favorites and second choices.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Quick Derby takes

Well, we failed to cash any tickets on Saturday, but our two primary picks -- Creative Cause and Went the Day Well -- were at least there in the homestretch, with Cause appearing to be second for a split second before flattening in the stretch and Went the Day Well closing with interest after a horrible start to grab fourth.  Congrats to the connections of I'll Have Another and to Bodemeister for running a great race.

As typically we focus on the NHC-based handicapping contest circuit and not on race picking (save for the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup days), our attention will again turn to our core (in)competency in trying to win contests and get to the National Handicapping Championship.  There's also now a ton of ground to make up in the Public Handicapper's 2012 contest, where the leader hit three of four races and already is $80 to the plus side (we're down $8) in the contest that runs through the 2012 Breeders Cup.

The next key event for us is the Preakness Day Handicapping Contest at Monmouth Park.

Anyway, some final two cents, at least from the NJ Horseplayer camp, to put a bow on Derby 2012:

  • Pace scenario was probably even better than we hoped, with a first half mile run in 45.1 -- speaks volumes for the quality of horse in Bodemeister, who (if not spent) should relish a fast Pimlico 
  • Third- and fourth-place finishers came off synthetic surface preps, suggesting that surface is not at all a detriment to Kentucky Derby outcomes, as we observed last week
  • Mario Gutierrez was part Moses parting the Red Sea and part lucky; great job keeping I'll Have Another out of trouble and getting him behind the top flight from Post 19, but he seemed to be running with no one around him down the backstretch...perfect trip off the top flight of speed
  • Dullahan also ran pretty impressively -- included him in the 3rd and 4th spot of my superfecta ticket, and think he could be a force come the Belmont Stakes
  • Union Rags can be a force heading toward Breeders Cup, even if trainer Michael Matz threw jockey Julien Leparoux under the bus for an awful start of our the gate; we noted the concern last week with the inner-field draw, but the horse was still determined late and can rebound against a rational-size field (i.e. anything but a 20-horse Kentucky Derby)
  • NBC is a nightmare to watch as a racing fan in terms of the celebrity interviews and such; great presentation by the color commentators on the actual race breakdowns, but Costas and pitching the Olympics was obnoxious; give Laffit Pincay III the reins to run the show

Friday, May 4, 2012

Derby Pick: Creative Cause

Creative Cause cost its owners $135k, but can only cost me $91 tomorrow on Derby Day.

After much deliberation, and despite Public Handicapper odds of 6-to-1 (down from 12-to-1 morning line), I'm sticking with Creative Cause as my Derby selection, although I was extremely close to making longer-shot Went the Day Well (20-to-1 morning line and 19-to-1 on my top choice.

Giving Creative Cause the edge
over Went the Day Well
The way I see it, Trinniberg will ruin the day for most of the early speed horses -- (in no particular order) Bodemeister, Daddy Long Legs, Take Charge Indy, Hansen and I'll Have Another -- and posts 7 through 12 have more closer types willing to settle back in the field, leaving room for Creative Cause and Went the Day Well to comfortably stalk.  I'm hoping for a 22 first quarter and sub 46 half mile; if not, I'm cooked.  As I will typically favor horses in the Derby that have faced some adversity before (i.e. steadied, off slowly), I just consider these two good fits at square prices.

Otherwise, I think Union Rags will run well and finish among the top 4, based on the Breeders Cup Juvenile effort last November and the extremely wide trip that day. In my view, he's the best of this three-year-old crop, but I'd rather have seen him start wider than have to run into the pack on the first straightaway.

For anyone interested, here's how I'm investing $91 tomorrow in wagers involving the Derby...feel free to use the same, or find a charity to donate the money to instead of at the track:

  • Race 9: $1 Pick 3: 1, 7, 8 with 2, 3, 6 with 8, 13 = $18
  • Derby: $4 Exacta Box: 4, 8, 13 = $24
  • Derby: $1 Trifecta Box: 4, 6, 8, 13 = $24
  • Derby: 50-cent Superfecta: 4, 8, 13 over 4, 8, 13 over 4, 5, 8, 13, 14 over 4, 5, 8, 10, 14 = $25
Meanwhile, I'm playing a $1 exacta box in Race 10 in the Turf Classic, maybe even a much more interesting race, filled with top-flight grass runners.  The combination is 2, 3 and 6, but (as picked on think 30-to-1 bomber Boxeur des Rues has a tremendous shot and could go off at even loftier odds.  

Boxeur is much more lightly raced than the rest of the field, but comes off a difficult Santa Anita Handicap in March and can handle both the turf and what I expect will be a fast early pace.  Even though it was an optional claimer, I think Boxeur's first effort off a layoff this year proved the horse can settle behind fast early speed and have enough left in the tank to bust out a late kick toward the wire.  And trainer Doug O'Neill scored on a similar angle (albeit in a lesser field) with a 27-to-1 winner Friday.  We'll see. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Synthetic-sizing" the Derby Data

Unable to catch a nap with the earlier May sunrise and still in the haze on a 530 a.m. NYC bus commute, I started doping out Kentucky Derby past performances (traditional DRF...none of this track-comments nonsense that can distract from my less-than-stellar brand of handicapping) and got through the first 15 entrants in the 20-horse field, jotting some terse notes along the way.

Mmm...Nothing like the
smell of recycled material
in the morning
Next to the 13 horse, Went the Day Well (20-to-1 morning line), I penned: "Connections the only thing preventing a 50-to-1 morning line."  See, John Velazquez is aboard for Graham Motion on a horse with a meager 92 top Beyer, but the combination has won 28% in a 58-race sample since 2011 as noted by DRF, and...wait a second...had last year's Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who paid $43.80 to win.

See, without any studying, I was already an idiot en route to missing the winner in the 2012 Run for the Roses, also considering my hair-brained logic that a back-to-back win would be impossible for just about anyone.  Oh, wait, there's that Calvin Borel guy...oops.

Instead, over lunch, NJ Horseplayer did some unscientific research on synthetic form translating to the Kentucky Derby, only to find that since Turfway Park became the first U.S. thoroughbred track to install a synthetic surface in 2005, five horses coming out of preps run on synthetic just before the Derby have finished in the top three (year, name, Kentucky Derby finish and site of prior prep race).
  • 2011: Animal Kingdom (1st, Turfway Park)
  • 2010: Paddy O'Prado (3rd, Keeneland)
  • 2009: Pioneer of the Nile (2nd, Santa Anita; synthetic until 2010, if memory serves)
  • 2008: No top-three synthetic finishers
  • 2007: Street Sense (1st, Keeneland), Hard Spun (2nd, Turfway)
    • The last year NJ Horseplayer hit a Derby, exacta and trifecta
(There were no Turfway Park prep-runners in the race prior to the Derby in 2005; a bunch of Keenleand runners, but Keeneland did not install synthetic until the summer of 2006.)

Perhaps some other more-credible, or accurate, source out there -- i.e. DRF, Equibase -- has already written about synthetic data, but in simple terms, a 33% in-the-money clip on horses coming off of preps on synthetic (with two Derby champions) is noteworthy in considering Kentucky Derby wagers.

So, before making bold predictions, and guiding the NJ Horseplayer community on shoe-in bests against (i.e. pick against anything we recommend), we're going to take another look at the likes of Went the Day Well and Daddy Nose Best (another at 15-to-1), which have lines across their numbers (i.e. throwaways) on our Derby past performances at present.

(Note to self: scribble in the margins of the PP in pencil, not pen.)