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  • April 27, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - Contender Pedigrees

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    With the field of Derby contenders mostly set, it's time to check out who has the blue blood necessary to win the race. Last year, my two favorite pedigrees ran 1-2. Lets see who has that same kind of pedigree power this year.

    Animal Kingdom is by turf runner Leroidesanimaux and out of a mare by Acatenango, another turf runner. His pedigree is full of great turf influences like Blushing Groom, Dancing Brave, Lyphard and Northern Dancer. Unfortunately, the Kentucky Derby is run on dirt. Just sayin'.

    Anthony's Cross is by Indian Charlie out of an Unbridled mare. Indian Charlie is generally a speed influence and Unbridled imparts stamina, so this is a nice mixture, which also includes one of my all-time favorite horses, 1983 Belmont Stakes winner Caveat. This really isn't a very flashy pedigree, but I like it and I can see how it could produce a colt who can run a classic distance.

    Archarcharch is a son of Smarty Jones. No, just kidding, he's really a son of Arch out of a Woodman mare. First, a note about the name. Before you complain that it's stupid and not fitting for an important horse, I'd like to introduce you to Pot8os, who resides in the pedigree of nearly every modern thoroughbred. So anyway, Archarcharch has another nice distance pedigree. In addition to Arch (also the sire of last year's Breeders Cup Classic winner Blame), he's got a fine female side including horses like Hollywood Oaks winner Pattern Step as a grandam. This is really one of the best pedigrees in the race.

    The optimistically named Brilliant Speed is a son of Dynaformer (also the sire of Barbaro) out of a Gone West mare. Brilliant Speed frankly has a dynamite pedigree. Dynaformer was produced from years of careful breeding at famed Darby Dan Farm and his female side has produced more than their fair share of outstanding individuals, including 1997 Belmont winner Touch Gold. One of the knocks on Brilliant Speed is that he doesn't have any dirt form, but from a pedigree perspective, I wouldn't be shocked to see him succeed on that surface. Maybe not on Derby day, but some day.

    Comma To The Top is a son of Bwana Charlie out of a Stormy Atlantic mare. It's a pretty speed oriented pedigree, but I want to point out two things. First, Stormy Atlantic himself descends from this amazing Claiborne Farm female family that has produced champion after champion. Second, Comma To The Top is a tail-female line descendant of La Troienne. She's one of the greatest broodmares in history and her pedigree power can jump up generations later in seemingly modest pedigrees like this one or, for example, with a horse like Smarty Jones or last year's Derby winner Super Saver. Dismiss the descendants of La Troienne at your own risk.

    Decisive Moment is by With Distinction out of a Dehere mare. With Distinction was a sprinter and I think Dehere typically gets speedier types, so I don't like this pedigree for the Derby at all. To me, it looks more like a horse who'd like 7 furlongs to a mile.

    Derby Kitten is by turf star Kitten's Joy out of a Menifee mare. The top of this pedigree is pretty "turfy" to me, but the bottom is interesting. Both Menifee and his half-brother, Desert Wine, finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby and there's just a lot of nice stamina influences like Halo & the great mare Alluvial back in the pedigree. I still think he's turf-first, but he should be able to run all day.

    Dialed In is by A.P. Indy's Horse of the Year son Mineshaft out of a Storm Cat mare. Thus, he has my favorite pedigree cross, which is A.P. Indy/Storm Cat, as it doubles up on Secretariat through his two top producing daughters, Weekend Surprise and Terlingua. As if that wasn't enough to love, Dialed In's grandam is 1992 champion juvenile filly Eliza, who herself is a half sister to the fabulous Santa Anita Derby winner Dinard. I love, love, love this pedigree. Way more than I actually like the horse it produced.

    Master Of Hounds may be coming over from Europe for the Derby, but, after looking at this pedigree I have to recommend that he stay on his side of the pond. This is a pedigree absolutely full of turf influences: Kingmambo, Miesque, Sadler's Wells, Lyphard, Northern Dancer, Irish River. I mean, it's a fabulous pedigree, but for the English Derby, not the Kentucky Derby.

    Midnight Interlude is by Breeders Cup Mile winner War Chant out of a New Zealand-bred Groom Dancer mare. At first glance, this is kind of a turf pedigree, although War Chant's mom was a champion on dirt, but, Midnight Interlude has already had success over Santa Anita's new dirt track, so I guess it shouldn't be much of a concern. Overall, I think it's a decent pedigree. I tend to like horses with Southern Hemisphere blood on their female side, so yeah, he's got potential.

    Mucho Macho Man is a son of Macho Uno out of a Ponche mare. This seems like a typical Florida pedigree to me, which means that it's going to produce tough horses more oriented to speed than stamina. I think that's exactly what you've got with this colt.

    Nehro is another son of Mineshaft, out of an Afleet mare. This is another nice mix of speed and stamina. His female family isn't as nice as Dialed In's distaff side, but he shouldn't have any problems with the Derby distance.

    Pants On Fire is yet another grandson of A.P. Indy, this time through his son Jump Start. He's out of a Cape Town mare. This is an interesting pedigree. Jump Start is a product of my beloved A.P. Indy/Storm Cat cross and then on the dam side he gets some big time quality from Seeking The Gold and Broodmare of the Year Kamar (mother of, among others, the wonderful filly Gorgeous). Not only that, but Pants On Fire descends in tail-female from the great Gallorette. Just a star-studded pedigree.

    Santiva is a son of the courageous champion Giant's Causeway out of half sister to the champion sprinter Safely Kept. I have a few distance concerns about Santiva, but I don't question his heart. I like this pedigree, but I can't fully endorse it for the Derby distance.

    Shackleford is by Forestry out of an Unbridled mare. The Forestry makes me think "speed", but Unbridled says "stamina". Given Shackleford's front-running style, I have to question his ability to stay the Derby distance, but it's certainly not out of the question.

    Soldat is by the speedy War Front out of a Coronado's Quest mare. Ruffian fans: note that Coronado's Quest comes from Ruffian's female family. Anyway, this pedigree has too many sprinters like War Front and Rubiano and even with gritty horses like Forty Niner in there, I can't see Soldat going the distance.

    Stay Thirsty is by Bernardini out of a Storm Bird mare. He's a half brother to Belmont Stakes runner up Andromeda's Hero, so distance shouldn't be an issue. Also interesting is that he descends in tail-female line to Masda, Man O'War's wild older sister. It's always fun to see names like that pop up in a pedigree.

    Toby's Corner is by Bellamy Road out of a Mister Frisky mare. Awwww...it's cool to see Mister Frisky! This really isn't the most distinguished pedigree around, although there are some nice horses like Chief's Crown and Cozzene in there. It feels like a hard knocking kind of horse's pedigree.

    Twice The Appeal is by Successful Appeal out of a Cormorant mare. This is the classic speed on top/stamina on the bottom pedigree. Cormorant is responsible for good distance runners like 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin and Saratoga Dew.

    Twinspired is by Harlan's Holiday out of an El Prado mare. I dunno, I'm just completely uninspired by this pedigree. It's not terrible, it's just not very interesting.

    Uncle Mo is by Indian Charlie out of an Arch mare. Again, we have the speed on top/stamina on the bottom theory in action. A lot has been written about Indian Charlie and his lack of distance runners outside of the mare Fleet Indian, but it doesn't seem impossible to me that, matched with Arch, he could produce a Derby horse. What's probably most interesting about Mo's pedigree is that it's completely free of Mr. Prospector, which is pretty unusual in this day and age.

    Watch Me Go is a son of West Acre (an unraced son of Forty Niner from a top Claiborne Farm female family) out of a Deputy Minister mare. On paper, this is a really nice pedigree, although it's hard to judge what kind of a horse West Acre really was.

    I'd rank my top five pedigrees as:

    1. Dialed In
    2. Pants On Fire
    3. Archarcharch
    4. Brilliant Speed
    5. Stay Thirsty

    Posted by kris at 03:05 PM | Comments (2)     
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    April 20, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - Two Weeks Out

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    Once again last weekend, colts with a chance to be the Kentucky Derby favorite ran up the track as both The Factor and Santiva disappointed in their respective prep races. This weekend, all we've got is the Lexington Stakes and the only entrant with a shot at the Derby is Silver Medallion.

    In the meantime, I'm busy compiling my master Derby spreadsheet. Check out our 2010 Kentucky Derby archive for more information about the factors I'm tracking. One note though, I've lowered the Beyer Speed Figure necessary to qualify as a "good" two-year old performance in lieu of winning a stakes race at 2. My gut says that Beyers have been arbitrarily lowered in the last two years, so if a horse runs at least an 85 at two, even if they didn't win a stakes race, I think they've demonstrated sufficient precocity to potentially win the Derby.

    That spreadsheet takes awhile to pull together, so it will be a work in process, but certainly worth checking back on in the two weeks to come. Some very preliminary analysis of the field does certainly show that the horses seem to be evenly matched and so I think it's absolutely critical to try to figure out who you can toss, just to make your wagers affordable.

    Right now, depending on post position, I expect Dialed In to go off as a lukewarm favorite, which is awesome since he's an easy toss for me, at least for the win.

    Posted by kris at 09:06 PM | Comments (8)     
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    April 14, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - Three Weeks to Go

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    I have a blister under one of my toes on my right foot. I basically can't push off on that foot and so it's been a pain to get around this week. Why am I mentioning this in a Kentucky Derby story? Well, Uncle Mo was dealing with this injury during the Wood Memorial:

    Sure, he wasn't lame and it's not a huge deal, but, just like my blister it's annoying. Uncle Mo can't endlessly whine about it, but I think it's foolish for humans to pretend it didn't impact his race.

    Likewise, I do think Uncle Mo was under trained for the Wood Memorial. I think his connections thought he was so brilliant it didn't matter. It did matter for the Wood, but it might not matter for the Kentucky Derby. Here's my theory - Todd Pletcher couldn't win the Derby for years and years because his horses peaked in their prep races. Last year, his Super Saver just ran okay in his final prep, letting him peak for the Derby. Maybe Pletcher learned his lesson and is making sure Mo is ready for the first Saturday in May, not the first Saturday in April.

    Even given the slight injury and the training, Uncle Mo still should have won the Wood, if that was the objective. Watch the race again and you can see how Johnny V. was dying for someone else to take the lead so Mo could stalk. He was so intent on winning with a certain style that he forget to just win. Instead, the race was run like a turf race with everyone gunning it at the end. He basically denied Uncle Mo his tactical advantage of a high cruising speed. The Derby is never run like a turf race.

    So anyway, on to this week. We've got two big prep races, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.

    The Blue Grass is sort of a motley crew of colts, but I actually quite like Santiva. The son of the game Giant's Causeway showed a lot of heart last year winning after being passed in the stretch in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes over the Churchill Downs surface. He's only raced once this year, finishing 2nd in the Risen Star Stakes, but he's eligible to improve off of that. I think he's a real live horse both in the Blue Grass and the Derby.

    The Arkansas Derby has a strong and deep field, but the race is really all about its potential superstar, The Factor. Trained by Bob Baffert, The Factor runs one way - fast from the front. There are some major questions about his ability at a distance, but he did win last out at 8.5 furlongs going away, so it's reasonable to think that 9 furlongs is in his wheelhouse (the 10 furlongs of the Kentucky Derby may be a different story). The Factor doesn't seem like he's bred to go a distance, but two things make me think he could outrun his breeding: first, he doesn't seem super headstrong. Yes, he ran from the front last time out, but he was still kindly waiting for the signal from his jockey. Second, he has this amazingly efficient-looking stride. He just runs so easily that maybe he can run all day. If he wins this race like he won his last one he'll be an exciting Derby favorite.

    Posted by kris at 07:11 AM | Comments (3)     
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    April 13, 2011

    Comical misunderstandings

    [Posted by kris]

    So the same Facebook friend that posted that Press One for English song last year, just posted the comic above.

    She's framing it as "something every patriot should post," but I'm not sure the comic is saying what she think it's saying.

    The fact that people fought to guarantee our right to not stand for the Pledge, burn the flag, etc. is no reason to stand up. If you merely stand out of respect for their sacrifice, isn't it kinda making that sacrifice meaningless?

    What kills me is that the same people who post comics like this are the same people who would get pissed off about overly politically correct things. They reject that we should temper ourselves in the name of not offending someone. Yet, at the same time, they think we shouldn't exercise our freedoms out of respect for people who fought to protect those freedoms. It makes no sense.

    You should stand or not stand for the Pledge or burn or revere the flag based on your beliefs, not what makes other people happy. I may not always agree with your choices, but I certainly agree that being an American always gives you the right to be an asshole.

    Posted by kris at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)     
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    April 10, 2011

    A week in song

    [Posted by kris]

    Doesn't it seem like everyone writes songs about Mondays, Fridays and the weekend? No one writes songs about the middle of the week. We want to hear about the best and worst of times, not about how Wednesday's such a good time because of all of the good reality television on that night.

    Anyway, I did some digging and threw together this playlist for the week ahead - Tuesdays, Wednesday & Thursdays included :)

    Posted by kris at 07:28 PM | Comments (9)     
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    April 08, 2011

    Partying, partying, yeah!

    [Posted by kris]

    (made by my friend Jamie)

    Posted by kris at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)     
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    April 07, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - Four Weeks to Go

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    This weekend, the Kentucky Derby trail really heats up with big races in New York and California and, uh, a lesser race in Chicago.

    In New York, Derby favorite Uncle Mo races in the Wood Memorial against nine seriously overmatched foes. In California, Premier Pegasus, Jaycito, Anthony's Cross & Silver Medallion race in the Santa Anita Derby. At Chicago's Hawthorne, Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go will likely be favored in the Illinois Derby.

    Team Mo has been getting a lot of push back for Uncle Mo's easy Kentucky Derby prep schedule. While his race in the ungraded Timely Writer Stakes really was nothing more than a paid workout, you can hardly fault them for running in the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Wood Memorial. They said back in November this was the race they were pointing to and it's certainly not their fault that no one is willing to face him, even with the lure of a $200,000 second place purse.

    Like Zenyatta, I feel like the Uncle Mo naysayers are just being negative to be negative or because they want to be proven "right". At this point - they'll get to be "right" if Mo doesn't win the Triple Crown. Given how hard that is, they'll probably get their wish. But what a sucky person you must be to root against the incredible.

    Anyway, people are suddenly saying that Mo is overrated and he hasn't run against anyone. There were seven Grade 1 races for two-year olds in North America in 2010. Uncle Mo won two of those races and defeated 3 of the 4 colts who won the other Grade 1s. He took on all comers and no one could get within 5 lengths of him.

    Critics are getting their panties in a bunch over one race. I don't get it. This horse has done everything asked of him so far and he's done it in such a manner as to suggest the sky's the limit. He might flop on Saturday or in the Kentucky Derby itself, but why not let him fail before you bury him. Ugh.

    So anyway, my picks for this weekend are Uncle Mo in the Wood. I expect a spectacular performance from him. I like Premier Pegasus a lot, but I don't think there's a ton of pace in the Santa Anita Derby and I have a gut feeling that Comma To The Top will take this race, but Premier Pegasus will still run well. In the Illinois Derby, I like Sour, but it's pretty much just because I think the son of Lemon Drop Kid is so cleverly named.


    Posted by kris at 07:21 AM | Comments (13)     
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    April 03, 2011

    Waiting for Superman

    [Posted by kris]

    I made the mistake of watching "Waiting for Superman" yesterday. It wasn't a mistake because it was a bad movie, but rather, it was a mistake because by the end I was sobbing like a baby.

    The documentary is basically an indictment of the American public educational system, with the main villains being the teachers unions who protect bad teachers at the expense of both the students they teach and the really good teachers who are continually brought back to the mediocre pack.

    It turns the idea that teachers can't be expected to improve the performance of disadvantaged children on its head, and instead of blaming the neighborhoods for the schools, blames the schools for some of the deterioration of the neighborhoods.

    The heroes are the education reformers who try to break the power of the union to stifle reform, mostly by starting charter schools that aren't bound by union rules on tenure, school day length, etc.

    The documentary was made by the same folks who made "An Inconvenient Truth", so while it's extremely emotionally effective, it's not exactly balanced. The focus is on high-performing charter schools, which, according to the statistics presented in the film, is still only 1 in 5 schools.

    I know a lot of people have a problem with the way that the teachers unions are depicted in the film, but I don't. Sure, they're never given a chance to say what they would do to improve schools, but we all know what the answer is by now anyway: smaller class sizes and more teacher pay. Seriously, that's all they've got. You'll never hear anything about more teacher accountability because even though teachers have the most important job in the world and should make so much money and garner so much respect, you can't possibly ever evaluate them in any way because they can't really do anything if the kids they're working with aren't very smart.

    It's very important to realize that teachers unions represent teachers. That's their job. They don't represent kids or the concept of "education".

    The filmmakers point out near the start how American students lag behind the rest of the world except in one category: confidence. We may be dumb, but by god, we're awesome. It's the "special snowflake" syndrome. Sometimes I think teachers feel the same way. They think they're all amazing educators only hampered by the "raw material" they have to work with because their union contract basically prohibits anyone from telling them anything different.

    But enough about the teachers. Watch the movie and what you'll remember are the kids. The documentary follows five kids and their struggles with bad schools. The one that got to me the most was Daisy, a little girl from L.A. who dreams of being a doctor or a vet. She's obviously very bright and has parents that care about her future, even though neither of them ever graduated from high school. The filmmakers devastatingly map out Daisy's future, though, showing the terrible middle school and high school she'll have to attend: a high school where only 3% of the kids graduate with the necessary requirements to attend a California public university.

    Because of the movie itself, I think Daisy and the other four kids will probably be okay after all, but then you start thinking about all of the other Daisies out there and you just start crying again.

    I don't know why local school boards sign contacts with teachers unions that basically tie their hands and prevent any real reform. Maybe they don't care or maybe they're owned by the unions or maybe they're intimidated. Whatever it is, they're not doing their job either. I can only hope that some of the recent discussions about public employee unions will change that and that school boards will realize that teachers aren't untouchable and that teachers unions will realize that they're hurting most of their members by focusing on protecting their worst members.

    My fear, however, is that the attacks of public unions simply means that those unions will feel more defensive and feel like they need to close ranks just in order to survive. They'll feel like they can't give in even a little because a little might lead to a lot and a lot will lead to the end of teachers unions as we know them.

    So instead, we'll probably do nothing and kids will have to hope that if they didn't win the life lottery of being born into relative privilege that they'll win the secondary lottery to get into a decent school.

    Posted by kris at 09:29 AM | Comments (3)     
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    April 01, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - 5 Weeks To Go

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    With the Kentucky Derby just five weeks away, it's time for the major contenders to run their final prep races. Sunday's Florida Derby is probably the best prep to date and features:

    1. Soldat, 122, Garcia, McLaughlin, K, 9-5
    2. To Honor and Serve, 122, Gomez, Mott, W, 4-1
    3. Arch Traveler, 122, Lezcano, Jerkens, J, 20-1
    4. Bowman's Causeway, 122, Lopez, Biancone, P, 20-1
    5. Shackleford, 122, Castanon, Romans, D, 20-1
    6. Stay Thirsty, 122, R. A. Dominguez, Pletcher, T, 8-1
    7. Dialed In, 122, Leparoux, R Zito, N, 8-1
    8. Flashpoint, 122, Velasquez, Dutrow, R., 6-1

    Soldat and Dialed In have both won major races in Florida this winter, while Stay Thirsty won the Gotham Stakes in New York. To Honor And Serve was one of the best two-year olds last year and Flashpoint was the spectacular, front-running winner of the Hutchenson Stakes.

    My guess is that Soldat will rate off of Flashpoint and while the others might make a run, he'll still have enough left to stagger home in the stretch. Dialed In will close just enough to set himself up as a sucker bet in the Kentucky Derby.

    Posted by kris at 07:27 AM | Comments (8)     
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