Friday, June 10, 2005

The Ultimate Test

Prepping for the G-2 Peter Pan, Reverberate cruises to an allowance win at Belmont on May 8:

This year’s Triple Crown winds up with substantially less drama than the previous determination- where a nation’s heart was broken as Smarty Jones was defeated at 2-5 in his bid for immortality by Birdstone. The Belmont Stakes, the longest major race in America, had ground down another potential for the age's champion.

The favorite this year, Afleet Alex, has no Triple Crown to shoot for. I liked him from the start- picking him to win the Derby. I liked Afleet Alex to win the Preakness as well- but I got off him when his odds shortened considerably. He romped home after almost falling to his knees in one of the gutsiest stretch runs in Pimlico history.

Afleet Alex will be about even money here- which means while I think he is the best three year old, I don’t believe the risk-return exists to justify putting him on my ticket. He is a good little horse, but he is no Smarty Jones or Silver Charm or Sunday Silence. Frankly, there are a lot of bad horseplaying angles too: a brutal campaign, a suspect jockey who loses the Derby on the best horse then almost falls over in the Preakness, and a questionable breeding for distance.

I still do not think much of the second choice, and Kentucky Derby winner, Giacomo. He was a fluke. But Giacomo did prove in the Preakness that he can run a little and stay a little. I think he has a better chance to be in the mix again.

This handicapper hit last year’s Belmont after tossing out the overwhelming favorite and betting a bunch of long shot exacta combinations chasing a 70-1 score. This feels very similar: an over-bet favorite and a second choice than cannot win. So I going back to that strategy again.

Accordingly, I like both Reverberate and Southern Africa. Reverberate ran a big Beyer in the Peter Pan- and is a definite horse for the course. He has some tactical speed. So he ought to get a preferred trip around this course- and that might just pay dividends over the last two grueling furlongs.

Southern Africa is the only horse in race, besides the big two, that can claim to have won a graded stake- albeit somewhere in Texas. The Beyer’s don’t suggest he can run with Afleet Alex- and let’s face it; the buildings get awful big for any Texan when you cross the Hudson River. But he is improving, his numbers are only a few behind Giacomo- and if Afleet Alex does not fire, he ought to be right in this. Regardless, he is fresh- and at 12-1, I’ll take a chance he’ll be one horse the extra ground helps- rather than hurts.

So let’s take both Reverberate and Southern Africa on top. Beneath both we will wheel both horses again, Giacomo, Chekhov and Andromeda’s Hero- that is a total of eight exacta combinationss. Also, I’ll weight the bet double with all the Reverberate on top combinations. That is to say, for every dollar on a Southern Africa exacta combo, I'll put two dollars on a Reverberate pairing.