The sheikh’s Derby folly

Sheikh Mohammed’s plan to prepare Midshipman in Dubai for next year’s Kentucky Derby has prompted some free advice from Bill Christine, now an on-line columnist. As Bill notes:

It is not hard to predict that Sheik Mohammed will win the Derby one day, but because he is his own man, has fierce national pride and is walking proof that royalty is not exempt from bullheadedness, he’s determined to pick up the roses with a horse who’s prepped for the race in Dubai.

Read Bill’s historical perspective on the sheikh’s plan for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner by clicking here.

A pick in today’s feature

I wonder if that 5-2 morning line will stand up for Rush Rush in today’s seventh race at Hollywood Park. Rush Rush is second on the line to Dilemma (2-1) but looks like the pick to me, and he could make a pick-three or pick-four single in the middle of cheaper races.

Draw a line through Rush Rush’s race before the layoff, and he has the best recent performance. The gelding switches back to Victor Espinoza, who has been great on the Hollywood Park turf, and he has been working well for trainer Mike Machowski, who is good with comebackers.

Lang Field has a chance to lead all the way but should be caught by Rush Rush and Dilemma, hopefully more the former than the latter.

Best rider so far is a Baze

As Hollywood Park starts its third week today, which jockeys are doing best and worst?

Rafael Bejarano leads the official standings with 14 wins, ahead of Garrett Gomez’s 8 and Michael Baze’s 7.

But I have my own way to rate jockeys. I come up with a number for each rider by adding up the good things he does — wins, long-shot wins, photo-finish wins, stakes wins — and subtracting the bad things — losses aboard betting favorites.

By this system, Michael Baze is off to the best start at Hollywood Park with +9 (just to show you how it works: M. Baze has 7 wins, 2 long-shot wins, 1 photo-finish win, 1 stakes win minus 2 beaten favorites), followed by Bejarano at +8 and Victor Espinoza and Martin Pedroza each at +6.

Gomez is at 0, and the rider who’s really struggling is Joel Rosario at -4. Rosario is 0 for 6 aboard favorites on the main track.

Looking closer:

- Best in main-track sprints so far: M. Baze.
- Best in main-track routes: Bejarano.
- Best on turf: Espinoza.
- Biggest difference: Gomez has been good in two-turn races and turf races, bad in sprints.
- Perfect record: Pedro Arambula has 3 wins, no losing favorites.
- Best speed rider: Pedroza has 3 wire-to-wire wins.
- Best come-from-behinder: Bejarano has rallied 4 winners from the back half of the field.
- Best long-shot rider: Jose Valdivia has 3 winners paying 10-1 or more.

We’ll try to update this stuff every week.

Record day for Leparoux

Jockey Julien Leparoux, familiar to Southern California racing fans, made history at Churchill Downs today. Here are highlights of the news release from Louisville:

Leparoux rode seven winners on the Veterans Day card Tuesday at Churchill Downs to match the single-day record of Hall of Famer Pat Day, who initially set the mark on June 20, 1984.

Leparoux, a 25-year-old native of Senlis, France, also rode six winners from nine mounts at Churchill Downs on June 27, 2007.

Leparoux, who has won three riding titles at Churchill Downs and holds a commanding lead during the 26-day meet that concludes Nov. 29, won on the first seven mounts of his nine rides on the card.

Leparoux’s winning mounts were Diva’s Gold ($6.40) in the first, Yikes ($7.80) in the second, Troutdale ($8.40) in the third, Gerivello ($10.40) in the fourth, Variant ($11) in the fifth, Majestic Feline ($4.40) in the seventh and Runway West ($12) in the eighth.

“I got a little lucky picking up the one mount for Calvin (Borel),” said Leparoux, who took over for Borel on Troutdale because Borel’s mother died Monday night and the rider took off his mounts. “I really wanted to win it for Calvin.

“This was just my lucky day.”

Leparoux, who now has 285 career victories at Churchill Downs where he first rode in the 2005 Fall Meet, finished eighth aboard Rocketinthegate, an 8-1 shot, in the ninth race and came home second aboard 3-1 second choice Sinister in the 10th.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s card, Leparoux had a 31-19 lead over Robby Albarado in the jockey standings.

In the featured $48,000 Veteran’s Day Purse, Gulf Coast Farms’ Distorted Passion rallied from off the pace under Shaun Bridgmohan to score a 2 -length victory over Silent Street.

Distorted Passion, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Distorted Humor, covered the seven furlongs over a fast track in 1:23.87 in winning for the second time in 10 career starts.

Distorted Passion returned mutuels of $5.80, $3.60 and $2.60 as the favorite in the field of nine. Silent Street, ridden by E.T. Baird, paid $4 and $3, while Sheltered, ridden by Robby Albarado, returned $3.60 to show.

2-year-olds show off today

Hollywood Park runs the meet’s first stakes for 2-year-old males today, and it will be interesting to see if the better young horses come out of that race or the maiden sprint an hour earlier.

The stakes is The Real Quiet, a 1 1/16-mile race that finds Gateway to Glory winner Charlie’s Moment in the outside post and the excuse-ridden maiden Mark S the Cooler starting from the rail. When We Met goes for two in a row, and Escalon tries to bounce back from finishing third as the Cal Cup Juvenile favorite.

The straight-maiden race I refered to, the seventh race today, has a bunch of classy-looking colts: Keep Thinking, a $2.4 million son of A.P. Indy making his second start for Sheikh Mohammed; Position A, a $675,000 first-timer for B. Wayne Hughes; Molten Lava, a first-timer for Juddmonte Farms; and fast-working Flat Bold and The Pamplemousse. All could get beaten this time by Jeff Mullins’ swift Gato Go Win, but watch out down the road.

Another lone-wolf winner

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Ray Nelson had a $24.60 winner in today’s L.A. Newspaper Group consensus, more evidence of the power of the “lone wolf” picks we wrote about this morning.

Ray made Miguel’s Mascot his top pick in the fifth race at Hollywood Park. Our other handicappers left Miguel’s Mascot out of their top threes. The 2-year-old colt won at 11-1 odds on the drop from stakes to the claiming level.

Ray now has hit with two of his 11 lone-wolf picks at the Hollywood Park meet for a $44.40 total return on $2 win bets and a profit of more than 100 percent.

Terry Turrell also is ahead on this kind of selection — when he has a horse on top, and none of the other guys in the LANG consensus has the horse 1-2-3.

Ray’s other such pick today finished off the board. That was Affirminator in the fourth race.

Of Terry’s two, Atka finished third at 13-1 in the fifth and D. Double You was off the board in the seventh.

We can still buy Curlin

Let’s see, I’ve got 34 cents in my pocket. What can you put in?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A sale to buy a minority interest in Horse of the Year Curlin failed to produce an acceptable offer.

The sale was by sealed bid, and the next step is a private sale of the 20 percent stake in North America’s career money winner.

A state judge had ordered the minority share of Curlin be sold to help satisfy a $42 million judgment against the horse’s minority owners, William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham. Prospective buyers had until Wednesday to submit the bid.

The 80 percent majority interest held by winemaker Jess Jackson isn’t affected by the sale.

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Winning bets on lone wolves

There are two good ways to use consensus boxes like the one that appears in L.A. Newspaper Group sports sections. One is to look for a horse that’s picked by all of the handicappers (a true “consensus” selection). Another is to look for a horse that’s picked by one handicapper but not mentioned in the top three by anybody else.

You get the reasoning behind the second approach if you’ve ever worked on a committee, where the brightest ideas always come from one member with a mind of his or her own, while the group as a whole tends to get bogged down in conventional wisdom.

Basically, if one handicapper picks a horse everyone else ignores, it could be because the lone wolf sees something the others overlook.

In our consensus, Terry Turrell and Ray Nelson tend to take unique stands more than Bob Ike and Jerry Antonucci do. And so far at the Hollywood Park meet, both Terry and Ray have done very well with these horses. If you’d bet on the lone-wolf picks of either man, you’d be making a profit.

For obvious reasons, lone-wolf horses win less often than consensus picks. But they can more than make up for the low percentage with high payoffs. Here are Terry’s and Ray’s totals so far.

Turrell: 12 top selections that didn’t appear in anybody else’s top three; 2 winners, paying $22.60 (Rivergrade Boy, Oct. 30) and $21.60 (Friendly Half, Nov. 1). Total: a $20.20 profit (84 percent!) on $2 win bets.

Nelson: 9 top selections that didn’t appear in anybody else’s top three; 1 winner, paying $19.80 (Catastaire, Nov. 5). Total: a $1.80 profit (10 percent) on $2 win bets.

Nelson and Turrell have two lone-wolf picks each on today’s Hollywood Park card:

- Nelson likes Affirminator (No. 4) in the fourth race; Affirminator is 8-1 on the morning line. He also likes Miguel’s Mascot (8) in the fifth; Miguel’s Mascot is 12-1.

- Turrell likes Atka (7) in the fifth; Atka is 6-1. And he likes D. Double You (5) in the seventh, following the scratch of his original top pick Sassou. D. Double You is 5-1.

These might be good horses to, at the very least, throw into your combination bets.

A ‘Copper’-pipe cinch?

He’s no sure thing, but I like Carson’s Copper (No. 1) in today’s third race at Hollywood Park. He looks set to return to his summer form, and early speed and inside posts were strong on the main track last week.

Carson’s Copper is 7-2 on the morning line, and he can be the middle of a modest pick-three. In the second race, I’d use Sognatore (2), Double Mount (3), Blasterman (4), Champagne Squall (6), Job Boss (8) and Lake Meza (9). In the fourth, I’d go with Rochelle’s Jimmy (2), Beach House Luis (5) and Echo West (6).

Good luck today.

Z who’s ranked No. 1?

With the Breeders’ Cup over with, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association has released its final top 10 for 2008, based on media voting, with scoring on the 10-9-8 …. system. Look who’s No. 1, and look how many horses jumped into the top 10 with Breeders’ Cup wins.

1. Zenyatta, 4-year-old filly (11 votes for No. 1), 170 points, 2nd in last poll
2. Curlin, 4-year-old colt (7), 158, 1st
3. Big Brown, 3-year-old colt, 104, 3rd
4. Raven’s Pass, 3-year-old colt, 103, unranked
5. Goldikova, 3-year-old filly, 72, unranked
6. Midnight Lute, 5-year-old horse, 69, unranked
7. Commentator, 7-year-old gelding, 46, 4th
8. Stardom Bound, 2-year-old filly, 36, unranked
9. Conduit, 3-year-old colt, 34, unranked
10. Midshipman, 2-year-old colt, 27, unranked

Others receiving votes: Forever Together 26, Ventura 23, Proud Spell 21, Tiago 18, Cocoa Beach 14, Henrythenavigator 14, Music Note 12, Ginger Punch 11, Indian Blessing 8, Vineyard Haven 8, Go Between 6, Eight Belles 5, Albertus Maximus 2, Kip Deville 2, Square Eddie 1.