Tag Archives: Daily Racing Form

Rave Reviews? – Animal Kingdom

Back in 2009, I put together a highlight reel of quotes and prognostications about Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird leading up to his upset victory at odds of 50-1. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.

This year’s Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, was not nearly the monumental shock Mine That Bird was, but at post time odds of 20-1, he clearly was not on the radar of many bettors.

With that in mind, I decided to again comb the prediction columns of some of the racing media’s most notable figures to see where they stood on Animal Kingdom prior to the big race.

Like the movie Avatar, Animal Kingdom received mixed reviews, but ended up making all the money. In the end, that’s all that matters.

As usual, I will start the proceedings with my own analysis of Animal Kingdom, so as not to give the impression that I am just taking potshots at everyone else.

#16 – Animal Kingdom
Won the Spiral Stakes
Even connections seem tense
About his dirt form

That is what we call a good, old-fashioned swing and a miss.

But it gets worse. Have a look at this post to my Twitter feed just hours before the race…

“Triumph The Insult Comic Dog’s “No Rules In The Animal Kingdom” came on my shuffle on the way to the track. Choosing to ignore that sign.”

That’s not only a swing and a miss, that’s a swing and a miss from a tee-ball stand, then whacking yourself in the face with the bat on the backswing.

Now, let’s take a look at how some of the other members of the turf writing community saw Animal Kingdom. Just for kicks, I have arranged the analyses in a rough order by how favorably they projected the horse’s performance, from non-factor to win threat.

Let’s start at the bottom…

“Bottom line: Can dismiss.”
– Tom Pedulla, USA Today

“Another complete mystery on dirt.”
– Steven Crist, Daily Racing Form

“Still has considerable upside, but didn’t beat much in the Spiral, and that race was six weeks ago.”
– Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form

“Animal Kingdom is bred to run all day long so the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby isn’t a concern. His pedigree is geared mostly to turf racing, however, so it’s questionable if he’ll take to the dirt at Churchill Downs.”
– Dan Illman, Daily Racing Form

“Brilliant Speed and Animal Kingdom are synthetic/turf horses who may or may not relish the track…Animal Kingdom could be any kind of horse but has trained well and has yet to miss the board.”
– Jason Shandler, Blood-Horse

“Given the dirt question and the fact his major victory came in a Grade 3 race, Animal Kingdom deserves to be 25-1 in a 20-horse field. Animal Kingdom, however, seems to be generating favorable buzz, and he might not offer great value in the win pool. But given his consistency, stamina, and impressive last race, he should at least be an attractive exotic-wager proposition.”
– Marcus Hersh, Daily Racing Form

“Worth using in exotics, for sure.”
– Jay Privman, Daily Racing Form

Exotics Contenders: ANIMAL KINGDOM: In Graham We Trust. The horse looks outstanding in the flesh and should have no trouble with the Derby distance. There’s not a ton to like on past performances to be honest, but there’s an infinite amount of respect for trainer Graham Motion and I love the grassy pedigree on the dam side, so key in past Derby success stories.”
– Jeremy Plonk, ESPN

“I’m certainly going to use him in the trifecta, because people I respect say no horse had a better work than Animal Kingdom at Churchill.”
– Jennie Rees, Louisville Courier-Journal

“Yes, the dirt is a big question mark, and he’s bred for the turf, but he looked good winning the Spiral, and the horse he beat by 6 lengths came back to be beaten a nose in the Blue Grass. He made an impressive early move in the Spiral, so you know he has a turn of foot. And he’s bred to run forever, so you just have to take the chance that he’ll be as effective on dirt. In this kind of year, it’s a chance worth taking if the price is right.”
– Steve Haskin, Blood-Horse

“Trained by the very capable Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom would not be a surprise to hit the board at a big price.”
– Gene Menez, Sports Illustrated

“Love the way he won the Spiral. Watch out if he likes the dirt.”
– Andy Andrews, Kentucky Confidential

“Watch out for Animal Kingdom, especially now that John Velazquez is aboard. After all his bad luck with horses going out of the race, this is one man who is hungry for a Derby win.”
– Deirdre Biles, Blood-Horse

“Animal Kingdom is a beast of a horse who caught our eye last fall. He is long and lanky with a humongous quickening stride.”
– Bruno DeJulio, The Rail Blog – New York Times

“Roared mightily through Spiral field. Worked well on Churchill dirt. Trust in Motion and love the price.”
– John Scheinman, Kentucky Confidential

“Animal Kingdom is capable of a sustained drive for second.”
– Frank Angst, Thoroughbred Times

“I’ve got many questions about Animal Kingdom’s ability to transfer his form onto dirt, but the bottom line is that he’s improved as a 3-year-old, has the pedigree for the distance and seems adaptable to any kind of pace based on his limited starts. If he’s anywhere as good on dirt as he’s been on synthetic, he’ll be a factor in the Derby and that’s a leap of faith I’m willing to make.”
– Chris Rossi, Hello Race Fans

“Animal Kingdom will win the Kentucky Derby. I know this because I didn’t write a feature about him.”
– Claire Novak, Everything (this particular quote in ESPN)

Congratulations to everyone that cashed tickets on Animal Kingdom. To everyone else, the Preakness Stakes is only a couple weeks away. There is always time for redemption.

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Four Pinnacle jockeys fail breathalyzer, suspended

The Daily Racing Form reports four jockeys at Pinnacle Race Course have been suspended for ten calendar days after failing a breathalyzer test prior to Sunday’s card.

Tommy Molina, Federico Mata, Jeffrey Skerrett, and Wade Rini all registered at least a blood alcohol content of 0.05 per cent, according to Michigan stewards Bob Coberley, Daryl Parker and Richard Garrison. Parker said the tolerance level for riding is less than the 0.08 per cent limit for impaired driving. All of the riders were detained during the remainder of the card while they were given hearings that led to suspensions of 10 calendar days each, which began on Sunday.

Coberley said that Molina had been arrested at some point after Saturday’s card for driving under the influence, and that required his testing, which prompted the entire room to be tested

– C.A Shoemaker, Daily Racing Form

The article states the tests were conducted before Sunday’s races, which led to Pinnacle’s first race being delayed 20 minutes as horsemen worked to find new riders. Molina was scheduled for seven mounts on Sunday. Mata and Rini were booked to ride nine races, while Skerrett had six mounts.

Molina, Mata and Skerrett are currently Pinnacle’s three leading riders by wins. Rini is ranked 18th.

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Rave Reviews?

Alright, everyone who picked Mine That Bird to win the Kentucky Derby for a reason other than his name, number, silks color or Canadian background, raise your hand.

Liars.

You and I both know we wouldn’t have touted Mine That Bird to our worst enemy.

He was a Polytrack horse, and a Canadian one at that. He got butchered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finishing last by a mile. His only significant win was a Grade 3 at Woodbine – AT TWO. He couldn’t even muster up the athletic capabilities to hit the board in an ungraded stakes race at Sunland Park. Mine That Bird would have been a hard sell for a show wager in the Lone Star Derby, much less the highest-profile three-year old race in the world.

But here we are.

Looking through the sea of pre-race predictions, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who put Mine That Bird in their top 15 out of the pre-scratch field of 20, much less in a spot of serious contention. I’ve seen more optimistic forecasts in a Chrysler exec’s stock portfolio. 

As a testament to just how out of left field this outcome was, I have compiled some of the more colorful predictions of Mine That Bird’s Derby chances from some of the biggest names and publications in Turf Writing. The results weren’t optimistic.

Because I’m a good sport, I’ll start with my own fearless prediction…

#8 – Mine That Bird
Made bank in Loonies
No graded starts in ’09
Avoid at all costs

Consider the foot firmly planted in the mouth.

Here is what the rest of the Turf Writing community had to say about the Kentucky Derby winner in their pre-race analysis. Just to keep it fair, I limited my search to professional writers and handicappers. These are the people who get paid for their opinions, so one would speculate they would be held in a higher regard. Just imagine seeing some of these clips in a stallion ad if Mine That Bird hadn’t been gelded.

“Save your money”
– Tom Pedulla, USA Today 

Best quality: “Photographs well”
– Jay Cronley, ESPN 

“Highest Beyer speed figure (81) isn’t even close to making him a contender. Has shown some speed in the past, but it probably won’t last for long.”
– Jason Shandler, Blood Horse

“Off career-best Beyers, he’s got about 23 lengths to make up. Hey, no problem.”
– Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form

Fair odds: “399-1”
– Ed DeRosa, Thoroughbred Times

Odds to finish last: “7-1,” the lowest odds in the field. (By the way, actual last-place finisher Flying Private was set at 9-1)
– Bodog.com 

“We can’t see it, even with Calvin Borel in the irons.”
– BrisNet Editorial

“Too slow to be a factor.”
– Justin Dew, KentuckyDerby.com 

“Mind That Bird (sic) has simply run much too slow in all eight races to think that he can compete against this type of opposition.”
– “The Wizard,” BrisNet 

ESPN’s Jeremy Plonk listed Mine That Bird among his “Toss-outs,” but was more optimistic about his chances than most…

“Canada’s champion last year was last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has not improved enough this spring to make you think he can cash a check Saturday. But he’s a hard-trying horse and probably will out-finish one or two horses that will surprise you.”

So what’s the moral of the story? Never underestimate the longshot? Nope. Be nice to everyone because you never know who is going to hit it big? ‘Fraid not. Never EVER give Calvin Borel a clean look at the rail? Tempting, but no.

The lesson here is the betting machines have an “all” button for a reason.

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Pinnacle’s second phase could face obstacles

Blueprints of Pinnacle Race Course's finished product were displayed around the track.

Drawings of Pinnacle Race Course's finished product were displayed around the track during its inaugural season.

As anyone who has seen or read about Pinnacle Race Course will attest to, the facility is still a work in progress.

The Pinnacle that launched on opening day and hosted the inaugural meet was Phase One of a two, or possibly three, part project expected to be completed by 2010. As it stands, the pavilion, barns, and the track itself figure to be the only permanent fixtures currently in place.

For a look at the architectural renderings of the finished track, click here. The drawings are presented in a slideshow format, so stick around for a few moments to see them all.

Tom Schramm described the track’s future plans in an article for the Daily Racing Form.

Long-term plans – collectively known as Phase 2 – include the construction of a permanent clubhouse, a turf track inside the one-mile dirt strip, and a retail mall on the outlying property. Other plans will increase the number of barns to aid a chronic shortage of horses in the first season. Due to the ailing economy and tight credit markets, some of the plans will likely be delayed.

“There will still be a Phase 2; how quickly it progresses will be decided over the next months,” said Pinnacle general manager Alan Plever. “I know for sure we’re going to add some barns for next year. We only had 580 stalls and that worked to our detriment.”

– Tom Schram, Daily Racing Form
October 31, 2008

With this in mind, I would like to put you in charge of the decision making at Pinnacle Race Course for a moment. 

Assuming that Phase Two will not be fully completed by the start of the 2009 meet, which of the proposed additions or expansions would you push to the front of the line to have ready by next year’s opening day? Which ones do you think can be shuffled to the back burner to be finished when the time and money are there? Finally, is it more important to make decisions that will appeal to the patrons on the frontside or the horsemen on the backside?

As you may have already noticed, I have also posed the first question in the form of a poll in the upper right hand corner of the page. Please be sure to give that a look and please leave a comment giving the reasoning for your decision as well.

For the moment, I will abstain from giving my opinion on the matter so as not to sway the voting in any direction. However, I will certainly share my thoughts in the near future.

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