Where I was right and wrong: a review of last week's stakes picks

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

February 8th, 2016

I'm glad I referred to Power Alert in the header of my Saturday stakes picks blog last week because he (narrowly) proved to be my only winner of six recommended plays.

Even that Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint selection needs a bit of an asterisk as at least 20 percent of my expected payoff was erased in the 50-odd seconds it took to run the race. Leaving the gate at 7-2, Power Alert was only 5-2 after crossing the finish line.

Saturday was hardly my worst day ever playing the races, but it was one of those afternoons that, upon reflection, I needlessly fell back on my old habit of "stabbing" -- looking for a big score on horses whose qualifications were not as strong as I should have demanded.

Sometimes that works, but not often enough to make a continued habit of it.

I have no regrets picking Stanford in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) or Dorodansa in the Martha Washington. Stanford ran a fine race -- he simply ran into a stablemate, Tommy Macho, who was simply sharper off more recent form. Dorodansa was left at the gate and simply had too much ground to make up with a short stretch also working against her. I chalk up that loss to bad luck.

It was the other three races -- the Suwannee River (G3), San Antonio (G2), and San Marcos (G2) -- that left me shaking my head. Favorites or second favorites won all three.

The Suwannee River was a race I admittedly didn't have my strongest opinion on and should have passed. The two San Antonio favorites, both of whom hadn't won in awhile, ran one-two. Although logical to oppose them on that basis, picking a horse who himself hadn't won since the 2014 San Antonio and wound up trailing throughout in Saturday's renewal was not the brightest idea.

As far as the San Marcos, the winning Flamboyant obviously looked strong paper. However, I had cut ties with him some time last year as he continued to rack up loss after loss. Having missed the 46-1 "wedding" in the January 2 San Gabriel (G2), I wasn't too keen on potentially attending a San Marcos "funeral" at 5-2. However, I'm happy for Flamboyant's resurgence...he and Brice Blanc make a good team.

I suppose the main missed opportunities in other races I passed on were Gulfstream's Grade 1 features. I had early on conceded the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) to The Pizza Man, but perhaps should have been more suspect about him given his unfamiliarity with local conditions and his brief work pattern entering the race. Lukes Alley was a plausible alternative...if you could look past his relatively limited turf record and felt a repeat of his Ft. Lauderdale (G2) performance put him in the mix for Saturday's race. I really didn't, so I passed.

The Donn H. (G1) was the one race, in retrospect, I wish I had played. It was a race I couldn't quite get a handle on, though I did feel Mshawish would be in the frame (but at a much lower price than what he actually went off at). Work commitments prevented me from closely observing the Donn market before post time, and I was literally shocked to see Keen Ice enter the gate at 2-1, Itsaknockout as second choice at 4-1 and Mshawish at an overlaid 9-2. By then it was too late to contemplate pulling the trigger and getting an action bet down. I'm trying to get away from those impulse plays anyway.

After five weekends I've only lost 8 percent of my initial 2016 bankroll. With some fine tuning, that deficit can be erased quickly.

In the words of Tony Kornheiser, I'll try and do better the next time.