Trips, Takes and Replays

We all saw the Blue Grass, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby last Saturday. As usual the trips horses received impacted the outcomes. We all see things differently and have differing takes on races and trips. Replays are so crucial to today’s game. I thought it would be a good idea to review some of the trips and see where we agree, disagree, and if we can upgrade or downgrade anyone.

Let’s start with the Wood Memorial. I thought Mo Donegal had an excellent trip. Contrary to most opinions I thought second place finisher Early Voting ran as good if not better. There are a lot of factors that go into a trip and the evaluation of it. First off Early Voting was spotting some seasoning to Mo Donegal. He also had to clear other speed in the race. On paper the race appeared to have a fair share of early lick. Even with Morello breaking slow, he was more of a stalker so as I saw it Early Voting even being fresh, and inexperienced was able to clear and set the pace. He dug in down the stretch when I felt he was entitled to tire a bit and Mo Donegal, who was more experienced and running his race with his style over a track he liked was able to get up. I’ll take Early Voting coming out of that one as the horse more likely to improve and go forward. If he is not on the Derby, he just be another Cloud Computing type for trainer Chad Brown and be a Preakness major contender. Mo Donegal ran well, I am not discounting that, I just think Early Voting ran as good or better despite finishing second.

In the Blue Grass I thought Zandon had by far the worst of it. I have read where some people think Smile Happy had a bad trip, even to the point they felt it could have changed the final result. I disagree entirely with that take. Trips can be so much of an edge. These were my notes in Zandon in TRACKING TRIPS at Past the Wire:
RACE 9- #4 Zandon should win this in my opinion. I think an off or weird track or bad trip or ride are the only stumbling blocks. On a level playing field I don’t think they beat him today. Coming off that huge Remsen where he was pinned on the rail and fouled off only a maiden sprint win, followed by the bad trip at the Fair Grounds, he should be set for a big race here. I believe he has a lot of talent and believe it or not I won’t be surprised if he is right on or even setting the pace. Prat is a patient rider so he may take back and I can live with that too, as long as we don’t have a ridiculous Keeneland “true” speed bias. A false one is no problem. This might be my biggest bet of the year. I am hoping he goes off second choice to Smile Happy and somehow Smile Happy gets over-bet. That said I won’t be shocked at all if Zandon goes favored at post time. He should be.
I liked him a lot in part based on the last two trips. On Saturday he was well back early, between horses, an uncomfortable place to be, rallied inside and between horses which is also not the most comfortable place for a horse light on experience. When clear he exploded. I think he had every right to flatten a little, but he didn’t. I thought Smile Happy was a little wide, but mostly in the clear and had every chance to seal the deal.

At Santa Anita is where I think many of us will agree. I think it is hard to argue Taiba did not have the most interesting trip. First off, he was coming off only one maiden sprint win where he was on the lead. In the Santa Anita Derby not only was he able to stretch out to a mile and an eighth, but he was able to do it sitting off two more seasoned horses and changing the way he ran first out. That is definitely not something easy to do. Had he out sprinted the field off the six-furlong race and went gate to wire that would not have been nearly as impressive as doing it the way he did it. Taiba has a world of talent and showed it on Saturday. Messier enjoyed a perfect shot and could not closed the deal. I think his trip showed he might not be as good as some of us thought he was.

Troubled trips and horses getting checked and blocked is easy to spot and often appears in the trip notes. That is not where you will find the edges others don’t. Evaluating trips on what works and is important to you is. I like to look at several factors, running styles, pace and previous experience being some of them. All that came into play for me watching the three-year-old stakes on Saturday.

I think it is important to identify what works for you and what types of trips you like to bet back. It may differ for a lot of us and that is fine. We can’t all like the same horse or trip. You don’t have to agree with any of my takes. It is yours that will be important evaluating horses down the road.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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