The Grade 1 Belmont Stakes: Let’s Hope I’m Wrong Again

What can I tell you that you don’t already know? We’ve had three weeks to pour over the data, watch the replays, debate the “what if” scenarios and stay up late to watch the Social Inclusion midnight press conference. That whole “will he, won’t he, who cares?” narrative was maybe the fifth strangest storyline of the weeks leading up to CALIFORNIA CHROME’s Triple Crown attempt.

It wasn’t like this when Smarty Jones, or even Big Brown, ran. Sure, BYO alcohol policies were more lax and there was just something about the connections of Big Brown that people couldn’t get behind. Turns out there were a lot of things, but we had moved on well before those came to light

Blame Twitter, prescription medications in our water, the lack of violent horse racing video games, but my internal monologue has transitioned from once coherent, linear thoughts to a constant, high-pitched scream. So it’s been hard to focus. But this is still a horse race and I’m still a handicapper. Fortunately, if you’ve followed my posts here or at various other credible, free online media outlets, you know that I am pretty horrible with the picks I give out. And believe me, you guys aren’t missing much. There’s no grift where I give out consistently terrible picks and quietly profit on the “real” bets somewhere else.

Remember last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf? I gave out the exacta and trifecta and if you played it you still lost money. Obviously you are all very smart handicappers, or at least know where to find credible advice. My ROI is negative one million. I’m okay with that and it should make you feel better about disregarding my picks whenever you see them.

You know the drill, there’s CALIFORNIA CHROME and everyone else. I have a hard time separating everyone else and I’m honestly amazed that one of these horses will run second. But there’s another part of the drill. A deep, quiet part of us that slips away to stash a few sips of self-loathing in a bottle. It’s a horse race and there is money to be made. I say, play with conviction. If you like CALIFORNIA CHROME, play him in exacta combinations with no more than two other horses. The deeper you go, the harder it becomes to turn a profit. Find value somewhere else in the multi-race sequences.

The best advice – and this is for any race – is if you liked a horse once, play him back when you like him least. I liked MEDAL COUNT in the Toyota Bluegrass and the Kentucky Derby. How stupid would I feel if he beat me in the Belmont? Also, and facts may prove me wrong again, it seems like wagering on the Belmont does not reward the obvious. So the second choice or flashy newcomer as an upset possibility feels the most unlikely of the potential scenarios.

Find your MEDAL COUNT. That’s really all I can suggest. But also find one other horse that would surprise you the third least if they won. For me, that’s WICKED STRONG, and he moves up the absurd angle ladder because I liked him in a race earlier this year.

$100 BANKROLL PLAYS:

$10 Win CALIFORNIA CHROME (Souvenir factor trumps all)

$25 Exacta: CALIFORNIA CHROME/MEDAL COUNT, WICKED STRONG

$5 Trifecta: MEDAL COUNT, WICKED STRONG/MEDAL COUNT, CALIFORNIA CHROME, WICKED STRONG/MEDAL COUNT, CALIFORNIA CHROME, RIDE ON CURLIN, WICKED STRONG

Originally posted at ThoroFan.

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Triple Crown Threats Since 1978

Summary of past 11 Triple Crown attempts since Affirmed won in 1978.

Previous Eleven Triple Crown Attempts

Year Derby / Preakness Winner Post Time Odds Finish Belmont Winner Post Time Odds Field Size
1979 Spectacular Bid 3/10 3rd Coastal 9/2 8
1981 Pleasant Colony 4/5 3rd Summing 8-1 11
1987 Alysheba 4/5 4th Bet Twice 8-1 9
1989 Sunday Silence 9/10 2nd Easy Goer 3/2 10
1997 Silver Charm Even 2nd Touch Gold 5/2 7
1998 Real Quiet 4/5 2nd Victory Gallop 9/2 11
1999 Charismatic 3/2 3rd Lemon Drop Kid 30-1 12
2002 War Problem 6/5 8th Sarava 70-1 11
2003 Funny Cide Even 3rd Empire Maker 2-1 6
2004 Smarty Jones 2/5 2nd Birdstone 38-1 9
2008 Big Brown 3/10 DNF Da' Tara 38-1 9

Nobody knows for sure how likely California Chrome’s chances are to win the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown. If you believe the hype his chances are pretty damn good and he’s certain to go off at odds on. If you review the table above, you’ll see his task is incredibly daunting. Which would of course make a California Chrome victory on Saturday all the more impressive.

He could very well be a special horse that comes around once every few decades. Or not. One of the many things that make horse racing so enthralling is it’s natural unpredictability. While this weekend there will be money won and lost by serious handicappers and casual fans alike, I encourage everyone to step back and savor the anticipation, the excitement, and relish in the unexpected.

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“You Are Looking Live” At WirePlayers Derby Dozen V

Derby weekend is finally upon us. There’s one clear cut favorite and by 6:30pm Saturday we’ll know if he’s the real deal. While California Chrome certainly appears formidable, rule #1 of handicapping is never take a short price on a horse doing something they’ve never done before. To my knowledge, California Chrome has never run in a 20-horse field, never run 10 furlongs, and never shipped outside the State of California. Those aren’t meant to be knocks because all these horses are running in unchartered territory; some just offer more betting value than others.

If you want to see what our panel thinks about Saturday’s big race, look no further than our final Derby Dozen poll. I offer a HUGE thanks to our expert panel (and you can see their ballots here) for guiding us through another fun-filled Derby prep season!

The WirePlayers blog is powered by Liege waffles, Caol Ila, and dreams of 50 cent Pick 4s. But it’s these fine individuals who provide the true horsepower behind the Derby Dozen:
Brian Zipse from Horse Racing Nation
Rob from Amateurcapper
Derek Brown
Geno from EquiSpace
The Turk
Tencentcielo
Tony Bada Bing from Horse Racing Nation
Paul Mazur
Dylan Jarmulowicz
Andrew Mangini
Melissa Nolan

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Registering Some Displeasure

If you’ve followed the exploits of Churchill Downs’ leadership you may think they’re the root of all evil. They raised takeout on bettors (while reportedly paying senior management hefty salaries), they jack up Derby ticket prices to ungodly amounts and won’t even comp seats to owners with horses in stakes races; they let the Fair Grounds turf course go all to hell; they run Miami’s Calder meet concurrent with Gulfstream Park located just across town; they’re feuding with the Las Vegas sports books (by squeezing them out of a few percentage points) which may leave bettors in Vegas SOL on Derby Day; and years ago they sold historic Hollywood Park to a real estate company they knew would eventually raze it and build a strip mall. And now we hear they don’t provide accessible parking to a paralyzed Hall of Fame, Triple Crown winning jockey.

Given this behavior, some may be inclined to boycott betting the Kentucky Derby entirely. However, large pools filled with money bet by rich drunken fools provide tremendous betting opportunities. Sure, higher takeout will grind out losses over time, but payouts on Derby weekend can not only be “day makers” but “year makers” so let’s not cut off our noses to spite our face.

So what is an appropriate way to register ones displeasure? Well, if you find yourself at Churchill Downs this weekend in front of a free buffet and open bar, how about gorging yourself in shrimp cocktail and drinking your weight in Mint Juleps. If by the end of the day you’re feeling sick to your stomach, just look for the nicest rug in the clubhouse on which to spill your guts. Now take that Churchill!

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The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) – I Need a Gala

The 2014 Kentucky Derby trail has been one of the stranger ones in recent memory so it seems fitting that the final running of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland’s Polytrack is a head scratcher.

#3 BOBBY’S KITTEN is a deserving favorite and has yet to run a bad race. He does tend to be very headstong in his races and I have concerns about his ability to rate and close into what looks on paper to be a quick early pace. He’s worth using, but only defensively.

The horse with the most upside from a betting perspective looks to be #14 GALA AWARD. He’s less than a length from being undefeated in three route races. Granted, they have all been on turf and against significantly lower quality competition than BOBBY’S KITTEN. But he appears to be more versatile from a pace perspective and his last two wins have come from outside posts.

His stablemate, #12 VINCEREMOS, appears to be the main threat. His pedigree also suggests that the distance and surface won’t be a problem, even though it’s his first time on Polytrack. He ran well enough in the Tampa Bay Derby to finish second after winning the Sam F. Davis in a gutsy performance. Tampa is a strange surface that not every horse thrives over, so when good horses can consistently run well over it that form is likely to translate to other surfaces.

#11 COASTLINE feels like the wildcard. He’s been trounced by better horses, but those races have come over conventional dirt. His Polytrack races have been superior, though, and Stewart Elliot is riding very well at Keeneland. It’s tough to see this guy winning, but he seems like a horse that will be in the mix at the end.

#8 DANCE WITH FATE has received a lot of buzz in social media after the connections said this was the race they were pointing to for months. He’s obviously better over synthetic surfaces, but I just don’t see him as a factor on Saturday.

The longshot that has the most potential to blow up the tote board looks to be #6 COLTIMUS PRIME. There’s not much to like on paper, aside from the fact that his best race was a close second in a 8 1/2-furlong stake over Woodbine’s Polytrack. Connections likely have their eyes on the Queen’s Plate, rather than the Kentucky Derby, so this will be the acid test for this enormous son of Milwaukee Brew. Did I mention he’s huge? Also, jockey Alan Garcia always seems to sneak up and win big races like this. I’m taking a small flyer in case he blows up all my other tickets.

$50 BANKROLL PLAYS:

$10 Win:  GALA AWARD

$5 Win/Place: COLTIMUS PRIME

$5 Exacta: VINCEREMOS, GALA AWARD/BOBBY’S KITTEN, COASTLINE, VINCEREMOS, GALA AWARD

Originally posted at ThoroFan.

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WirePlayers Derby Dozen IV – And Just One More

With the final meaningful prep races occurring this weekend, here’s our penultimate ranking of Kentucky Derby contenders. Off a blistering performance in the Santa Anita Derby, California Chrome is the clear cut favorite garnering 5 first place votes. Tapiture received 2 first place votes and Wicked Strong had one. Interestingly, despite having a measly 9 Derby points, Conquest Titan picked up first place votes from two very loyal souls (one of which is your truly). My theory: Conquest Titan’s lackluster performance at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs can be excused due to quirky racing surfaces that did not suit his running style. After all, Wicked Strong’s breakout performance in the Wood Memorial, after getting trounced at Gulfstream, may be the result of his finally finding a fair track. So, my theory holds, give Conquest Titan a fair track, a contested early pace, and a route of ground to run over and I’m all in. Right now though I’m just hoping he makes it into the race.

If you want an unscientific analysis of this weekend’s Derby prep races, there’s this: the 9 horse field Arkansas Derby has 5 horses on our top 12 (and a 6th Ride On Curlin is just off the list); while the 15 horse Blue Grass Stakes has none. That may or may not mean anything. Oh, here’s the ballots.

The WirePlayers blog is powered by Liege waffles, Caol Ila, and 50 cent Pick 4s. But it’s these fine individuals who provide the true horsepower behind the Derby Dozen:
Brian Zipse from Horse Racing Nation
Rob from Amateurcapper
Derek Brown
Geno from EquiSpace
The Turk
Tencentcielo
Tony Bada Bing from Horse Racing Nation
Paul Mazur
Dylan Jarmulowicz
Andrew Mangini
Melissa Nolan

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Saturday Stakes Action

Saturday offers the best day of stakes racing so far this year. It kicks off early with the Dubai World Cup card from Meydan race course.

Although this year’s edition doesn’t have superstar 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, these are some fantastic betting races with horses shipping in from around the world. You could argue the quality of competition at Meydan is far better than that of the Breeders’ Cup aka World Thoroughbred Championship. The best source for Dubai racing information (past performances, handicapping analysis, live racing feeds) can be found at AmWest Entertainment.

Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby caps a stakes full 14 race card. Morning live favorite Cairo Prince was ranked #1 by our WirePlayers Derby Dozen panel so we’ll get an indication if that honored placement is truly warranted.

The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds features Intense Holiday, #4 on our Derby Dozen.  I wrote a race preview for ThoroFan here; bottom-line – of the four horses expected to take the most money at the windows (Intense Holiday, Vicar’s In Trouble, In Trouble, and Albano), I believe In Trouble has the best chance to win and the best bet based on the morning line odds. In addition, there’s a few longshots in here (King Cyrus, Commanding Curve, Louies Flower) that could make a strong showing at big odds.

Good luck and enjoy the races!

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The Spiral Stakes (G3) – Ranger Danger

Saturday’s Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park is an interesting betting race. Derby fever can cloud the judgement of both owners and bettors, with both groups looking six weeks down the road to the run for the roses. As a result, there are horses that are overmatched but also those that will be overlooked.

#4 TAMARANDO seems to have gotten the most buzz leading up to the race. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer rarely ships out of California, but when he does it’s worth taking notice. TAMARANDO is clearly a very good horse, especially on Synthetic surfaces. In his two losses since December, only California Chrome, Shared Belief and Candy Boy have finished in front of him.

TAMARANDO will be pace compromised on Saturday, likely leaving him too much to do late in the race. If buzz equates to odds, TAMARANDO is likely to offer little value. Instead, I’ll go with the horse that appears, on paper at least, to be lone speed and that is #8 SOLITARY RANGER.

Maybe SOLITARY RANGER is a turf horse and maybe he can’t get the Derby distance of 10 furlongs. Neither of those really concerns me, since we’re talking about his chances on Saturday, over a Synthetic surface he’s won on at a distance that appears to be within his scope. You have to like that he’s gotten better and faster as the distances have increased, and his only bad race was over a complete bog at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Futurity. Some very good horses were compromised by the track condition that day.

In winning the local prep, The John Battaglia Memorial, SOLITARY RANGER took the lead, set a quick early pace and never looked back. He was overlooked that day at nearly 10-1. He won’t go off anywhere near that on Saturday, but at 4-1 or better he would offer great value. He is lone speed and should not have to work very hard to keep the lead. One could argue that Saturday will be a class test, but the horse is proven and when trainer Wayne Catalano and jockey Florent Geroux team up they win at a 27 percent clip.

The winner of the Breeders’ Futurity, #11 WE MISS ARTIE, is likely to take a fair bit of money. Any other year, John Velasquez travelling to ride at Turfway would be a huge positive, but Todd Pletcher has been relatively quiet on the Derby trail this year and Johnny V is quickly becoming a man with dwindling options. His win in the Breeders’ Futurity feels like a fluke, and he seems like a horse worth using sparingly.

#3 POKER PLAYER seems like the only other logical horse that could win. He’s another that comes from well out of it, but you have to respect that he made up seven lengths in the stretch run of the Battaglia in his first race since November. Maybe the 21 day turnaround will be too quick, but he was the favorite in the Battaglia and a move forward makes him very live. His speed figures are significantly faster than almost everyone else in the field and if you toss his lackluster performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – the only race he’s run without Lasix – he’s consistently in the mix at the wire.

$50 BANKROLL PLAYS:

$20 Win SOLITARY RANGER

$5 Trifecta: SOLITARY RANGER, POKER PLAYER/SOLITARY RANGER, POKER PLAYER/TAMARANDO, SOLITARY RANGER, POKER PLAYER, WE MISS ARTIE

Originally posted at ThoroFan. 

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WirePlayers Derby Dozen Volume III

mckayla-not-impressed

Chris “off the grid” Hernandez and McKayla Maroney are not impressed with this year’s Derby contenders. Maybe the Grade 1 Derby preps in the coming weeks will brighten spirits and tell us what we really have. There just might be a few sleepers out there. The Wood Memorial, and Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Santa Anita Derbies should all be exciting affairs. Oh yes, I forgot the Blue Grass. And I know Derek is chomping at the bit for this weekend’s Spiral Stakes to see how Solitary Ranger fares. As for me, I’m just wondering if Cairo Prince will be at the top of our list 3 weeks hence; my bet is “no.”

As always, thanks to our wonderful panel of voters; you can see their ballots here! They always submit brilliant comments from which I select a smattering to present to you. My selections are somewhat arbitrary and without much forethought; very similar to how I build my Pick 4 tickets come to think of it.

The WirePlayers blog is powered by Liege waffles, Caol Ila, and 50 cent Pick 4s. But it’s these fine individuals who provide the true horsepower behind the Derby Dozen:
Brian Zipse from Horse Racing Nation
Rob from Amateurcapper
Derek Brown
Geno from EquiSpace
The Turk
Tencentcielo
Tony Bada Bing from Horse Racing Nation
Paul Mazur
Dylan Jarmulowicz
Andrew Mangini
Melissa Nolan

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Master of the Obvious

The true meaning of True Detective

Television critics, journalists, bloggers, and avid fans of HBO’s popular and celebrated “True Detective” series are trying to figure out what the show was really all about. Prior to last week’s series finale many of the show’s fans engaged in wild speculation and outlandish theories (even leading to some nasty arguments in the blogosphere) about who was behind the killings. Part of the enjoyment of “who done it” detective stories is to think along with the actors and try to solve the mystery yourself prior the big reveal and denouement.

“True Detective” followed a duo of Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division homicide detectives as they desperately tried to solve a particularly gruesome and sadistic murder. Early indications are that it’s the work of a serial killer, but as they delve deeper into the case it appears this may be the work of larger cult with membership ties to some of the most powerful political forces in the state of Louisiana. There are allusions to widespread corruption, obstruction of justice, abuse of power and ruthless victimization of the poor by the elite and politically connected.

For the most part, this is all pretty standard fare, even somewhat cliched by today’s standards. Viewers were no doubt attracted to the masterful performances by high-profile “movie actors” Woody Harrleson and Matthew McConaughey; the beautiful and somewhat artful cinematography; and the plot’s unique telling of the story through flashbacks as detectives (now former detectives) are interviewed about the case by contemporary detectives apparently working through a cold case file.

This creates a dynamic in which viewers have to piece together what really happened between what Harrelson (as Detective Marty Hart) and McConaughey (as Detective Rust Cohle) tell their interrogators. This back and forth interview, then flashback technique makes the show more interesting yet also harder to understand. It’s obvious early on that Hart and Cohle are not telling everything they know which leads some to believe that either or both of them may somehow be mixed up in the conspiracy.

Yet the final episode played out fairly perfunctory; an obscure clue led them straight to the house of killer Errol Childress, and after a struggle nearly costing Hart and Cohle their lives, the killer was fatally subdued. There was no surprise reveal or profound unveiling of what it all meant (despite oblique references throughout the show to Caracosa, a fictional city named in an Ambrose Bierce short story and later used more extensively in a collection of horror stories entitled “The King in Yellow” by Robert Chambers). There was an expectation that this widespread conspiracy (and all its conspirators) would be uncovered and all those loose strands would be pulled together all nice and tight.

Instead, Hart and Cohle pontificated about how messed up the world is and expressed regret (Cohle in partiular) at how most of the bad guys got away. The end.

Without profound commentary on the meaning of life and mysteries of the universe, this led some to believe screenwriter Nick Pizzolatto wrote what was essentially a glorfied buddy cop movie: Cohle and Hart are an updated Crockett and Tubbs or Riggs and Murtagh – how disappointing. But that’s not the case.

The meaning of “True Detective” was starring us in the face all along and tipped in its title. The show wasn’t called True Detectives but True Detective – singular. And that true detective was Ruston Cohle played by McConaughey. Pizzolatto essentially made a contemporary film noir – the style of a mid-century crime thriller characterized by whisky-swilling antiheroes, femmes fatales, and most importantly, a bleak perspective on the nature of man and society. Society is corrupt, we never know the powers that be pulling the strings to manipulate the game (whatever that game may be) for their own benefit, all the while maintaining an appearance of virtue.

It’s important to know that before writing this screenplay Pizzolatto taught fiction and literature at UNC Chapel Hill and penned a critically acclaimed novel entitled “Galveston;” itself a modern noir. Obviously Pizzolatto is familiar with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, arguably the two greatest practitioners of the noir style. Clearly, the clues to the meaning of “True Detective” lies not in the “King In Yellow” but in “Galveston” which deftly described the down and out residing in the hard-boiled landscapes of east Texas and southern Louisiana, not the supernatural.

In 1950, Chandler wrote about the difference between a standard detective story and noir (which he referred to as “Black Mask type” stories) in the introduction to a collection of short stories entitled “Trouble Is My Business”:

“The emotional basis of the standard detective story was and had always been that murder will out and justice will be done. Its technical basis was the relative insignificance of everything except the final denouement. What led up to that was more or less passage work. The denouement would justify everything. The technical basis of the Black Mask type of story on the other hand was that the scene outranked the plot, in the sense that a good plot was one which made good scenes. The ideal mystery was one you would read if the end was missing.”

Essentially, the end is missing to True Detective, because the end wasn’t the point; it was the story, the elucidation of character, not necessarily explaining with tidy neatness how a particular caper was solved. And the elucidation of a society where murders can be committed for so long without truly being solved and therefore, a society without any sense of absolute or true justice (and hence it’s not called “True Justice” either).

Writing in the Atlantic in 1994, Raymond Chandler’s essay “The Simple Art of Murder” clearly explains the “realist” detective story (which we now call noir) versus the classic or standard detective story (think Sherlock Holmes).

“The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities, in which hotels and apartment houses and celebrated restaurants are owned by men who made their money out of brothels, in which a screen star can be the fingerman for a mob, and the nice man down the hall is a boss of the numbers racket; a world where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket, where the mayor of your town may have condoned murder as an instrument of moneymaking, where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practising; a world where you may witness a hold-up in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone, because the hold-up men may have friends with long guns, or the police may not like your testimony, and in any case the shyster for the defense will be allowed to abuse and vilify you in open court, before a jury of selected morons, without any but the most perfunctory interference from a political judge.

“It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization. All this still is not quite enough.

“In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.”

As the Coen Brothers famously spoofed the noir detectives of Hamett and particularly Chandler in the opening to “The Big Lebowski”, with Sam Elliott describing this iconic character, “sometimes there’s a man . . .”, all the noir writers had a fairly clear idea that for society to have a chance there must be a hero – a true detective – one who perseveres through sheer will of determination, guts, and craft. That my friends is what “True Detective” was about; an incorruptible hero in the midst of a corrupt society. Rust Cohle was the iconic true detective, period.

Though Cohle wasn’t perfect, and the mid-century noir detectives always had their murky backstories and were certainly not choir boys, they lived by their own code and sense of honor and decency; a standard by which the larger society fell woefully short.  As for the buddy cop theory; the character of Marty Hart was not Cohle’s buddy. His purpose served to show a clear dichotomy between the true detective and the hack detective; between the clear-headed Cohle and the hypocrisy of “family man” Hart; between who we believe ourselves to be and who we really are.

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Upon Further Review, WirePlayers Derby Dozen Volume II

What does the WirePlayers Derby Dozen have in common with the stews at Gulfstream? We took down Cairo Prince and put Top Billing on top despite him finishing well behind Wildcat Red in the Fountain of Youth. We did ‘em one better, both the 1st and 2nd place finishers of the Fountain of Youth didn’t crack our top 12. Of course, if you believe in the speed bias this all makes perfect sense. What make less sense is why Havana was unceremoniously dropped from this weekend’s Kentucky Derby Futures Pool #3. I figured he’d take some money in the Future Pool while having faint chance of winning the Derby – just what you want if you’re playing to the ‘field’.

Side note, five of the eleven entrants in Saturday’s Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct garnered votes from Derby Dozen panelists; the race results may indicate who’s on point. Enjoy the dozen:

The WirePlayers blog is powered by Liege waffles, Ardbeg, and 50 cent Pick 4s. But it’s these fine individuals who provide the true brain power behind the Derby Dozen (ballots):
Brian Zipse from Horse Racing Nation
Rob from Amateurcapper
Derek Brown
Geno from EquiSpace
The Turk
Tencentcielo
Tony Bada Bing from Horse Racing Nation
Paul Mazur
Dylan Jarmulowicz
Andrew Mangini
Melissa Nolan

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Strong Contenders Face Off in Southwest Stakes

Monday’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park features arguably the strongest field of Kentucky Derby prep races held so far this year.

How can I tell: the 11 horse field contains 7 horses earning votes in Volume I of the WirePlayers Derby Dozen (STRONG MANDATE, TAPITURE, TANZANITE CAT, KENDALL’S BOY, RIDE ON CURLIN, BOURBONIZE, and LOUIE’S FLOWER).

The 2-1 morning line favorite #7 STRONG MANDATE earned solid support from the Derby Dozen panel with one first place vote and a 4th place overall ranking. His game 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after overcoming a wide post and re-rallying in the stretch showed he has heart and can handle adversity. That will serve him well if he makes the Kentucky Derby.

From a betting standpoint there’s a couple long shots in here that made my personal Derby Dozen list: #4 LOUIE’S FLOWER (12-1) and #11 BOURBONIZE (15-1). They have potential to outrun their odds and make a statement. If the track is wet I like their chances even more.

Enjoy the races and good luck!

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WirePlayers Derby Dozen Volume I

Now that the season of Vanderpump Rules has wrapped and my faith in mankind has reached new depths, I’ll direct my focus to the WirePlayers Derby Dozen. The Kentucky Derby prep season is underway with a plethora of potential contenders and it’s the sworn and solemn duty of our crack panel to make sense of the chaos with our tri-week polls.

Our initial poll of the year coincides with Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #2 (Pool #1 in November was kind of a joke so we’ll just pretend like that didn’t happen). A knowledgeable person might peruse our rankings and comments and derive actionable information; there probably isn’t any but you never know. What I can say is the field is as wide open as ever. We had 11 voting panelists and 48 different horses received votes. The picture may get worse before it gets better, but I encourage you to join us on our 3-month journey as we zero in on bona fide Derby contenders. The list:

The WirePlayers blog is powered by Liege waffles, Ardbeg, and 50 cent Pick 4s. But it’s these fine individuals who provide the true brain power behind the Derby Dozen (ballots):
Brian Zipse from Horse Racing Nation
Rob from Amateurcapper
Derek Brown
Geno from EquiSpace
The Turk
Tencentcielo
Tony Bada Bing from A Leg Up
Paul Mazur
Dylan Jarmulowicz
Andrew Mangini
Melissa Nolan

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It Gets Bettor

Originally posted on Medium

For a sport that increasingly promotes its complexity, horse racing should claim something this simple as a marketing slogan.

Look, I love the process of handicapping races, but the approach to cashing tickets is as simple or as elaborate as each of us makes it. For what it’s worth, the people who win by picking colors or birthdays seem just as happy as those who spend hours pouring over data and running every conceivable race scenario through our brains.

Complexity in anything can be a turn off. That’s why most of us don’t get involved in threesomes or options trading. If something can’t be explained in five steps or less a lot of people lose interest. Profitability through Simplicity. That’s something that would resonate with whoever racing is trying to reach, right? Seriously asking, because I’m not well versed in the habits of those demographic groups.

It would be akin to saying “Hey, at any given time you can make money just by giving us a couple bucks in return for a piece of paper with the number five on it.” Or, “Like the color brown? Boy are you gonna dig our place, you crazy simpleton.” Rather than tout how much someone can do at the betting windows, why not embrace how little effort it takes to make money?

I realize there could be sensitivities to the blatant rip off (in name only) of the It Gets Better, campaign. But I feel like the unwritten statute of limitations has to be nearing expiration and would allow for respectful use of a similar slogan. At least give us a shot to make the campaign work.

Racing has done some creative campaigns in the past, and I’ll never understand why they didn’t stick with “Who do you like today?” It was brilliant in its simplicity and captured the social aspect of racing perfectly.

Growing up in New York City, young mind enriched by stories of abductions, poisoned Halloween candy and stranger danger, talking money with that old, I’m guessing Greek, fella at Aqueduct in January took some getting used to, yet it was perfectly normal. “Who do you like today?” would have still worked in 2014, because aren’t we pretty much using Twitter to ask and answer the same question?

So lets snag and trademark this bad boy before some casino (legitimate threat) or riverboat Pachinko buffet (equally legitimate threat) does. We’ve got enough to kick ourselves about, lets not add missing this slogan to the list.

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LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds

It’s early in the Derby prep season, but Saturday’s LeComte Stakes at the Fair Grounds may have a future star. My race preview at the ThoroFan is here.

Bottomline: GOLD HAWK is a beast that seems ready to roll. Of all the contenders he looks set for a serious Derby campaign. Yet this is a step up so I’m not sleeping on #3 GOT SHADES, #5 SMARTY’S ECHO, #6 ALBANO, and #7 VICAR’S IN TROUBLE. #9 PLUG CATCHER may get overlooked and if the odds approach 10-1, he offers betting value.

Might also try playing some rolling Daily Doubles starting with the Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap in Race 6. High weight DADDY NOSE BEST is the one to beat, but there are several contenders in here at big morning line odds. #2 SLIP AND DRIVE (15-1), #7 POTOMAC RIVER (10-1), and #8 ZENJI (15-1) are particularly attractive and note that ZENJI gets a 10 pound weight break and getting 1st time Lasix.

The Silverbulletday Stakes in race 7 holds little betting appeal and may be a two-horse race between #2 UNBRIDLED FOREVER (7/5) and #6 DIVINE BEAUTY (8/5).

Race 8 is the Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap on the turf. I’ll pair up #1 TWIRL (12-1) , #6 STARSTRUCK (3-1), #8 GRANDMA’S RULES (8-1), #10 CHANNEL LADY (7/2), and #12 EDEN PRARIE (9/2) with GOLD HAWK in the LeComte.

Good luck!

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