The Derby

So here we are again, looking at a racing form trying to figure out who will win the most exciting two minutes in sports. Here's my quick strategy. first, I throw out horses who don't have enough winnings or have ever posted a 100 Beyer speed figure. Marginal horses sometimes come out of nowehere to win this thing, but I will not be betting on them. It's just not a good strategy. We'll break down the ones who make it past the first cut. So, going through the form, I throw out the following horses:

Action This Day, Song of the Sword, Friends Lake, Master David, St. Averil (since scratched), Borrego, Birdstone, Tapit, and Pro Prado.

OK, I can't throw out Tapit even though he's never posted a speed figure of 100, so I'll keep him on my board under advisement. I have to like the odds. So let's break down each horse.

9-5-0-3 $575,000 100

Barely makes the list, he faded badly in two of the three mile-plus races he's run. The record is nice, nine races and finishing in the money eight times, but he finished third when he went up against two of the heavier hitters in the race, The Cliff's Edge and Lionheart. There's no reason to suspect that was a fluke.

5-3-2-0 $500,000 110

Yes, he's finished second in two rides this year, once to Imperialism and once to the Cliff's Edge. but itwas by a grand total of a half length combined. He's a front-runner, which makes me incredibly nervous, and in both of his rides, Smith guided Lionheart well to the outside. So why is he the jockey for the Derby? I think the horse is capable, but Smith's got something to prove. The price is good though, so consider for any combination plays.

8-2-3-2 $438,000 101

Minister Eric has beaten absolutely no one. The record is nice, but with only one graded stakes on the resume, I've got to pass.

15-5-4-1 $437,600 104

At first glance, the record isn't too impressive. However, since changing trainers and jockeys, Imperialism's been one of the best 3-year-olds out there. In three races, Imperialism has three speed figures in triple digits, two wins and a show, and a demonstrated ability to close. A terrific value play.

8-4-2-1 $835,200 111

The owner of the second highest speed figure in the group, but it seemingly came out of nowhere. Aside from the brilliant Blue Grass ride, he's only cracked 100 one other time. Is it just peaking at the right time? Well, he's certainly trained for it, racing in seven events at least a mile long. A money horse in two Grade One stakes this year, I'd be all over this horse if the price was right, which it isn't. I like the Cliff's Edge as an underdog, but at 4-1? I don't see it.

7-5-0-0 $450,600 113

Here's the highest speed figure. 113? Are you kidding me? Oh, and he responded by getting his ass kicked in the Florida Derby, a race over a month ago and also his last race. This is a very lightly run horse, and after the Florida debacle, I'm suprised they didn't try running again. Bailey, the jockey for the past two years, has jumped to Wimbledon, since withdrawn. So we're looking at a horse who could either win the whole thing or finish near the bottom.

6-6-0-0 $878,000 108

Has the look of a legitimate favorite. Undefeated in six races, winner of almost one million dollars so far, and owner of some nice speed figures, this horse doesn't look like a fraud. However, the best race he was in was a Grade Two stakes, the Arkansas Derby, so there is a question of competition. The numbers look good, but Smarty Jones is yet to run up against a filed anywhere near this talented. A risky bet due to the odds, but I may play it anyway.

10-3-4-1 $559,000 103

An Irish horse, but has been in America all year, even winning Santa Anita. He's 1-1 versus Imperialism, who I love, but I just can't get a read on this horse, it's just too risky to bet.

10-3-2-3 $445,800 107

The best of the marginal horses in the race, Pollard's Vision could win if everythign goes exactly right. i don't see that happening, but in a field of 18 horses, anything is possible. somebopdy's getting a perfect ride, the question is who?

4-3-0-0 $550,00 98

I'm reluctant to ever bet a horse in the Derby that's never scored a 100 speed figure, but I might make an exception here. First off, the horse drinks Guiness, and that's reason enough to bet it. But he's yet to have a clean ride in a big race, yet he keeps winning. Yes, he lacks the big speed figure, but he also lacks any losses save one. All in all, I just can't bring myself to bet Tapit, but he could definitely win this thing.

So what am I left with? When it comes down to it, there are four horses I want to bet: Lionheart, Imperialism, Read the Footnotes, and Smarty Jones. An exacta box with all four horses would cost about $16, but seeing that most of them are fairly long odds, it's a worthwhile play. so it's a four-horse box for me. but you actually want a pick, so here it goes. I pluck an order from these four, mindful that Tapit or the Cliff's Edge could ruin me...


posted by Poseur 4/30/2004 11:39:00 PM


US Soccer--lightning strikes

Eddie Pope scored in the last minute of stoppage time to lead the United States to a 1-0 win against Mexico at the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday in a friendly exhibition match.

I tuned in in time to see the second half, so I got to see it happen. Mexico wasn't getting any good chances, the US was almost getting good chances. It looked like it would end as a draw. Then there was a free kick in the last minute of extra time. The US made a great stunt with two men over the ball. I was fooled-- I thought Landon Donovan was going to kick it, but another player made the strike to the center of the goalie box. After a header and save, the ball dropped just in front of Eddie Pope, who drilled the easy shot into the net. The goalkeeper didn't blow it--he made the save on the first ball. The fullbacks are supposed to box out the attackers and scoop up the rebound. They didn't and Mexico goes home with a loss, not a draw.

It was just a friendly match and neither nation played it's best squad, but the US has an amazing streak against Mexico now, and that's got to be giving them fits. And playing a whole game without a shot on goal doesn't help.
posted by uberschuck 4/29/2004 12:02:00 AM


I will analyze the draft in a few days, but I want to digest it first. However, the rule of thumb is that teams are built in the late rounds. Look at some of the bargains snapped up in the fifth round:

Ball had 30.5 sacks and 43.5 tackles behind the line. He's a sack machine, but he dropped because he's not that strong. He's only the most productive end in UCLA history.

He dropped because he's inconsistent, but that didn't hurt Roy Williams, and Morant's the same size and strength. He's 6-4 and runs a sub-4.5 40, so he's got the raw tools. And in his inconsistency, he caught more balls for more yards than Roy Williams. And he returns kicks.

I'll just quote his negatives: "needs to develop better muscle tone and add needed strength … Shows explosion out of the snap, but his poor hand usage prevents him from getting proper leverage on the defender (needs to do a better job of punching, grabbing and holding blocks, as he needs to better mirror the defender) … Sets with a high leg base and is a bit of a waist-bender, causing him to struggle when redirecting to block in-line" Ummm.. isn't this stuff what coaches are for?

Considered to be the best special teams player in the draft, he's also a huge big play player. Here's his stats in 23 starts from, "175 tackles (102 solos), 12 sacks for minus-86 yards, 27½ stops for losses of 102 yards, 12 quarterback pressures, six forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and three blocked kicks." Not bad, huh? He's not that fast and slipped because of that. He's also a huge hitter, which I love.

Jesus, he was only the best defensive player in college football, I doubt he could help a team. Dropped because of low Wonderlic scores and bad weight lifting during the combine, this guy can only play football better than anyone else at the college level.

Another incredibly productive player, who fell because he's not consistent. OK, maybe to the third round, but the fifth? Are you kidding me?

He went where he should have, in the late fifth round, but are you telling me you wouldn't want this guy on your bench running the other team's offense in practice? This guy would be a perfect backup: capabale, knows his role, very low ego.

One of the best backs in the country, we don't know how he'll play against a good defense with a good o-line. He was asemi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award, and in this running back light draft, getting a guy like Turner in the 5th round is robbery.

I love Tony Bua, the best defensive player you've never heard of. He was a wrecking ball for the Hogs, and he's a classic tweener: too slow for safety, too small for linebacker, but you need to find a place for a guy who just makes plays. Here's his numbers from, "Started 38 of 47 games for Arkansas, recording 403 tackles (245 solos) with six sacks for minus-55 yards, 24 stops for losses of 93 yards, six interceptions for 30 yards in returns, 13 pass deflections, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries." You have to see this guy. Miami's been successful with undersized players (Zach Thomas, anyone?), so I love this pick.

The fifth round, some serious talent came off the board at virtually no risk to the team making the pick. These are the kind of picks which win Super Bowls.
posted by Poseur 4/26/2004 02:13:00 PM

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