Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Weekend Plays 12/26/2014

Kempton Race 4: Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle -- Faugheen
Undefeated thus far in his career, Faugheen has become one of the more exciting runners on the National Hunt scene and although his jumping can be a bit suspect at times, his engine wins him races and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who could compete with him here without showing massive improvement. This play, however, revolves more around Purple Bay, who was most recently seen easily winning in his seasonal reappearance at Wincanton and looks to be value in what doesn't appear to be a vintage field aside from the favorite. He's the second rated horse in the field behind Faugheen and AP McCoy, who has ridden him to a placing on one other occasion, hops back aboard here. If he runs back to his most recent performance, he'll be tough to beat in the race behind Faugheen.
Play: exacta -- Faugheen / Purple Bay 

Kempton Race 5: Grade 1 King George VI Chase -- Silviniaco Conti 
After looking as if he needed the run in his seasonal reappearance, Silviniaco Conti impressed when seen drawing away late in the Betfair Chase, in which several of these reappear. He's the defending champion of this race and despite the ground coming up better this season, I don't believe that hinders him so much as it potentially aids others. His primary contenders perhaps look to be the two who finished in behind him last time out in the likes of Menorah and Dynaste. Menorah has had a fine season with a win and a runner-up finish behind Silviniaco Conti thus far and the better ground should allow him the chance to go closer to the favorite this time around. Dynaste, on the other hand, ran well to finish third in what was his seasonal reappearance and should come on for the run.
Play: exacta -- Silviniaco Conti / Menorah, Dynaste 

Santa Anita Race 4: Maiden Special Weight -- #1 Wabel
Son of Curlin showed some early speed in his debut at Los Alamitos and with him breaking from the rail this time around, he figures to be the pacesetter in a field that lacks early speed, if he breaks well. The potential for a soft lead over this slightly longer trip on top of Baffert's runners doing extremely well in their second career starts makes him the one to beat in this spot. 
Play: #1 Wabel to win (ML 4/1)

Santa Anita Race 6: G1 La Brea -- #3 Thank You Marylou
This three-year-old daughter of Birdstone has really come into her own late this season and is one who thrives over this seven furlong distance. While she was no match for Taris, who wired them in the G2 Raven Run, there appears to be other sources of early speed in here, which only aids her cause. Her third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint was perhaps the best run of her career, so she enters here in top form, as she looms the strongest closer in a field loaded with speed. 
Play: #3 Thank You Marylou to win (ML 6/1)

Santa Anita Race 8: G1 Malibu -- #5 Pimpernel    (scratched)
It took him four tries to break his maiden, but since then he's had success sprinting, although not at this level. This will be an acid test, but he figures to get a good trip just in behind the speed of stablemate Chitu and he showed his potential when defeating Hoppertunity last time out, who came back to win the G1 Clark. He'll probably have to put in a career best effort to win here, but a potentially ideal pace setup over what looks to be his preferred distance makes that a possibility. 
Play: #5 Pimpernel to win (ML 10/1) & exacta box: 2,5 (scratched)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hong Kong - Happy Valley Plays for 12/17/2014

Race 1: #9 Oriental Fantasia 
Son of Holy Roman Emperor has a few things in his favor here, not only is he back over 1650m (he has a record of 5: 0-2-1 at 1600m or further), but he looks to potentially get an uncontested lead here, just as he did two back when he finished second at this level. He has yet to win, so we can't take anything too short, but at the moment he looks a decent enough e/w price and if that holds, he's worth a play.
Play: #9 Oriental Fantasia to win/show 

Race 6: #11 Great Run
A true fan of Happy Valley, Great Run, took advantage of a weak race to win last time out and he'll move up in class here. He's yet to break through at this level, but he looked very fit and well in recent track work to go along with him arriving here in form. Not to mention, he's drawn well and should get a beautiful setup with the potential for a contested pace out front. 
Play: #11 Great Run to win

Race 7: #2 Tour De Force 
This race is interesting from a pace perspective with Domineer, who breaks from the rail, the likely leader with several horses who are capable of pressing him early on. Tour De Force won last time out over 1000m in a Class 2 and he typically runs well at Happy Valley (10: 3-2-2). They'll go at a good tempo here early, which should suit as he can sit in behind the main speed (along with Exciting Dream, who appears the main danger).
Play: #2 Tour De Force to win/show (if odds 8/1 or better, win only if shorter) & 2 - 4 quinella 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hong Kong International Races Selections

Race 1: Beauty Flame
Start off the day with a six horse field where Beauty Flame looks lone speed unless someone here runs differently than their typical style. Perhaps Wonderful Moments can press the leader early, but he barely won when favored last time out and he'll have to carry four more pounds as a result of that performance in what will be his first start of the season. Beauty Flame, on the other hand, hasn't finished worse than second in four starts this season and carries 128 here, just as he did in his most recent win. Rewarding Hero is much better in the weights compared to Beauty Flame this time around and should go close, but the small field and likely slow early pace should hinder his chances. 
Play: Beauty Flame to win

Race 4: Khaya
Flintshire will be the heavy favorite and deservedly so following his runner-up finishes in both the Arc and the Breeders' Cup Turf. And while this field perhaps isn't up to the level of either of those, Flintshire always seems to be in a winning position and yet far he far too often finds one too good. He figures to get a nice run from barrier four, however, and will be tough to beat. I'm going to take him on here though with Khaya, who typically runs over shorter but hasn't disgraced himself when asked to go further. In fact, in races of 2000m or further, he has a record of 3: 0-2-1. He ran well to finish second last time home, beating out the well regarded Divine Calling, and looking every bit like he wanted further than the 1600m he got there. Despite being drawn wide, he should be able to get over and settle in behind leaders Bubble Chic and Curren Mirotic just fine and from there he looks to potentially get the run of the race. Willie Cazals looked to have a perfect prep last start in what's been a fine season thus far. He's twice ran at 2400m and finished second both times. If he can get any sort of luck from the gate, Empoli has the talent and tactical speed necessary to pick up a piece. 
Play: Khaya to win/show & trifecta: 8,10 / 1,8,10 / 1,4,8,10

Race 5: Sterling City
Pace makes the race will ring true here as we have one confirmed frontrunner in Buffering, who is plenty talented and could steal it if he's let go on an uncontested lead. We'll figure someone goes with him out front, however, and the most likely candidate appears to be Spalato, who has raced forwardly before and drew awkwardly in gate 11. If the lead is contested between those two, this field could get strung out rather quickly, which could do a disservice to likely backmarkers Sole Power and Snow Dragon, who have sharp turns of foot but could very well be found with too much to do. This race shape would instead favor a runner who is midpack to forwardly placed, but off the speed. For that reason, I'll side with Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Sterling City, who traveled mighty well in his most recent run, which was a messy race altogether. The other main contenders look to be Aerovelocity and Peniaphobia. Aerovelocity has done nothing wrong in his two runs this season and while he had all the luck in his first run, his luck appeared to have run out in his last start. He does seem to particularly love running along the rail, however, at I'm not sure he'll be able to get over quite that far here. Peniaphobia was impressive when winning while wide throughout last time and at only three-years-old, he looks to be a horse who's on to bigger and better things. He has nice tactical speed, but appears to be much better suited to running well off the pace. Expect him to be rolling home late. 
Play: Sterling City to win & trifecta: 4 / 8,9 / 1,3,5,7,8,9

Race 7: Glorious Days
I'm as big an Able Friend as any and while he looms large here as the one to beat, he'll be a ridiculous price and is worth a small play against given his wide draw. The only horse I could really see having any chance of beating him is last year's winner Glorious Days, who will once again attempt to win his race in his seasonal reappearance. He ran a nicer than it appears on paper sixth behind Just A Way at Tokyo Racecourse back in August and he impressed in a recent barrier trial, so by the looks of it, all systems are go for the defending champ. That being said, Able Friend will be mighty tough and will probably have to find some sort of trouble to lose here, but having drawn widest of them all, he'll likely have to drop back near the rear, which makes a troubled trip more of a possibility. 
Play: Glorious Days to win

Race 8: Designs on Rome
Drawn ideally in the third stall, Hong Kong's Horse of the Year, Designs on Rome looks on tap to get his first win of the season. He ran well under top weight in his first start of the year, before struggling when seemingly pace compromised in his second start. It was in his most recent start that he appeared to perhaps struggled a touch, but with that said, he still finished only one and a half lengths back of the winner. Add to that he had a fantastic recent work in which he finished the final 200m in a speedy 10.9 seconds, per the South China Morning Post, and this son of Holy Roman Emporer who routinely looks well in the mornings appears especially primed for this spot. On paper, his biggest competitor looks to be fellow HK runner Military Attack, but his recent work in company with Born to Win was far from his typical standard and makes me question whether he's peaked too soon. Japanese runner Archimedes intrigues following a runner-up finish behind Just A Way in the G2 Nakayama Kinen last March. He's yet to run since then, which indicates to me that there have been plans to run here for some time and he's made a nice impression when seen ridden quietly in recent local works. 
Play: quinella: 2-9

Race 9: Star Track
This four-year-old son of Starcraft steps up to 1400m for the first time after twice impressing over 1200m, particularly last time out when he rocketed away from the field with 150m to go, looking every bit like he'd be suited by further. Yes, he does pile on seven pounds as a result of that win, but Purton back aboard seems a positive sign and he figures to get a contested pace out front, which would suit his come from behind running style to a tee. It's tough to split between Star Track and Packing Pins at this stage, but we'll side with what should be the better price on the day. 
Play: Star Track to win

Race 10: Selkirk Star
This John Moore trainee showed some real grit when getting the win in his most recent run, which was his first time being stepped up to 1600m. He carried 130 lbs in that Class 3 affair and will only have to carry 116, the least he's carried since his debut, now that he's running in Class 2 company. He's not drawn well, but will likely drop out the back anyway given his typical running style. The pace looks like it could be slow enough that we'll end up with a bunched up field throughout, and in that case, his fantastic closing kick should come in very handy. 
Play: Selkirk Star to win/show

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Preview: Hong Kong Vase

Defending champion Dominant is one of twelve entrants in what is one of the more diverse races of this meeting. A son of Cacique, Dominant has only won three times since first running in Hong Kong in 2012, but all three of those wins have come over this race's distance of 2400m. At first glance, he doesn't appear to be entering here in good form, but he never runs particularly well to start seasons, so I don't find it to be an issue. Plus, in his most recent run, he traveled really well throughout in what looked to be a true prep run. In a recent work, he looked fantastic, easily one of the best of the week when seen in company with Same World. He may not have done much to this point in the season, but he really looks to be peaking at the right time. 

Also representing the local runners is Willie Cazals, who has ran well in all three of his runs this season without winning. His most recent run looked an ideal prep with him running on well despite perhaps not being asked to run at his full potential. His closing kick is a strong one, which if he gets a clear run from the rear of the field, will come in handy. 

The only other local runner who interests me in this spot is Khaya. A first-up winner this season, Khaya typically runs over shorter distances than this, but has finished in the placings in all three attempts at 2000m or further. In fact, at his only attempt at this distance, he ran well to finish a close third despite missing the start and then finding himself having to rush up near the lead when wide and without cover early on. This will be his fifth run of the season and he enters here in good form after having finished second over 1600m, defeating the well regarded Divine Calling. Depending on the draw, Khaya could well get the box seat run behind likely leaders Bubble Chic and Curren Mirotic.

As for the international shippers, Flintshire most recently ran in the Breeders' Cup Turf, in which he finished second to Main Sequence, who is undefeated since arriving in America. While you can't fault the company he's run in, the second place finishes are starting to add up as the Breeders' Cup Turf became his third runner-up finish in a row. In fact, he hasn't won since July of last year. By all accounts, he's looked fantastic on the grounds at Sha Tin and he holds a clear edge on the ratings over his fellow competitors, but it seems in deep stretch he always finds one too good. On class and form the one to beat, but can't fault those who take a stand against. 

The winner of this race in 2012, Red Cadeaux has once again traveled far and wide this season, but despite him finishing second in the Melbourne Cup (he LOVES Flemington), I don't see him as the same horse this season. He's struggled for the most part of the season and while it'd be great to see him run well, I couldn't have him betting-wise. 

Germany's runner Empoli enters here off a win in the Group 1 Preis Von Europa. While on paper he doesn't appear a win threat here, he's gone relatively close at big prices in high class races in the past, including a fourth in the Dubai Sheema behind Gentildonna. Similarly to Khaya, he could get a nice setup just in behind the speed and is capable of making the frame at a juicy price. 

Lastly, we'll give mention to Curren Mirotic, the Japanese winner of last year's G2 Kinko Sho, which was run over 2000m at Chukyo. He hasn't won since then, but his most recent runner-up finish behind Gold Ship in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen over 2200m at Hanshin was a fantastic result. Nobody was beating Gold Ship that day, but he showed a return to form running as close as he did. Definitely a pace factor, but could sneak in for a piece if they go slow early on. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Preview: Hong Kong Sprint

Yesterday we began our week-long preview of the International races that'll take place in Hong Kong with the Mile and today we'll cover the Sprint. 

Last year, this was the only of the four International races which wasn't won by the home team, as Japan's superstar sprinter Lord Kanaloa won the race for the second straight year. He has since retired and it's left us with a fairly wide open affair. 

Lucky Nine won this race in 2011, but has since finished fifth and seventh. He's had one run coming into this, which is fairly normal for him, but at seven-years-old I wonder if he's still truly competitive as a win threat against younger, up-and-coming horses. He tends to be popular with Hong Kong punters, as he hasn't gone off at double digit win odds since 2012 and I honestly just don't see how a horse who seems to routinely peak later in the season can be used at a short price here. 

Aerovelocity has been a horse on the rise for quite some time now. Last year, he racked up five wins in seven starts and he kicked off this year with a win in the Hong Kong Group 2 Premier Bowl. He garnered quite a bit of praise due to the manner in which he won the race given that he missed the start and absolutely rocketed home late to get up over pacesetter Super Jockey. Visually, it was impressive, but there's no doubt in my mind that he was ultimately aided by missing that start given he had a wide draw, but after jumping out of the gate, was allowed to save ground along the rail the entire way. While he may have had a perfect trip there, he had anything but last time out when he was in extremely tight along the rail late and was steadied. We'll know more after the draw, but the pace initially looks as if it could be fast early, which you'd think would hinder the six-time course and distance winner. 

Perhaps the home team's strongest competitor comes in the form of Peniaphobia, a three-year-old son of Dandy Man who has rocketed up the Hong Kong ranks in the past year. He enters here having won two straight at this distance, the most recent of which was very impressive given he was wide throughout the run. He has a versatile running style, but in this sort of a race especially, you'd hope he'd be held up early instead of trying to get cute up front with Buffering. No three-year-old has ever won this race, but nobody looked better to my eye in recent trackwork either. Big chance. 

Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Sterling City enters here as a bit of an enigma. As well as he won that race, he hasn't found himself in the winner's circle since and on paper looks as if he doesn't enter here in good form. And while he didn't run particularly well in his second up appearance, he definitely looked like he was stiffed in his most recent run. He should run better than we've seen of him recently on this big occasion and depending on where he's drawn, the race shape could set up nicely for him if they go at a good tempo at the start. 

Local runners Smart Volatility and Flagship Shine ran second and third respectively behind Peniaphobia in their most recent start. Flagship Shine had been struggling over further before cutting back to 1200m, but I wonder if this will be a bit on the sharp side and whether 1400m is truly his ideal distance. Smart Volatility hasn't won since February, but has run consistently well this season without winning. Both of these perhaps aren't win threats, but have enough upside to warrant place chances if drawn alright. 

Singapore's star Spalato was undefeated in six starts before losing in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint. He was drawn horribly there and I'd expect an improved effort if he gets any sort of a decent draw this time around and his running style would be suited if they do go quick early as he can sit in behind the leaders and take over when the pace collapses, as he's done in the past. 

Of the other shippers, on paper Sole Power, Horse Racing Ireland's Horse of the Year, looks a top contender. A winner of three Group 1s in England this season, including the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, he looked every bit the best 5f sprinter in Europe over the summer, but after struggling in the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp, I wonder if he's over the top. Distance isn't a concern here as this is a flat six furlongs (compared to the undulating five furlongs he often sees in England) and he was the runner-up here last year, but he'll need to be up to his typical standard in order to make the frame this time around. 

Globetrotter Gordon Lord Byron began his season in Australia before heading to England, Ireland, and France. Now, he finds himself in Hong Kong to cap off what has been a fine season for the six-year-old who won his most recent start in the Group 2 British Champions Sprint Stakes, which was over heavy ground at Ascot. He's run well enough over quicker ground like he'll see here, but I do think he much prefers at bit of cut in the ground over this short of a distance (he often runs over further), so for that reason, I don't see him as a win threat. 

Australia's hope Buffering won his first start of this season over a sub-par Lankan Rupee, but he hasn't done much since and was a soundly beaten fourth most recently. Add to that he's reportedly suffering from a hoof abscess and even if he's perfectly fine on the day of the race, he clearly looks one to avoid betting-wise. His inclusion in the race will be important though, as he'll be the likely pacesetter and should ensure a good tempo out front. 

Lastly we'll give mention to the grey, Snow Dragon, who enters here coming off the biggest win of his career in the G1 Sprinters Stakes. He's typically held up, has a big finishing kick, and should be suited by the pace scenario. He fits in this spot and given he should get the proper setup, he rates a winning chance. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Preview: Hong Kong Mile

This week, our focus turns to the International races in Hong Kong, so we'll preview one race a day here before offering our final selections as normal on Friday, which will have taken into account the draw by that point. 

But, for now, we'll kick off this week with a preview of the Hong Kong Mile, a race which has been dominated by the locally trained horses in recent years. 

As should be no surprise, the home team has a strong group of contenders this time around, led by Able Friend, a five-year-old son of Shamardal who was remarkably consistent last season when tallying a record of 8: 4-3-1, which was highlighted by a win in the HK Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Mile over Designs on Rome, who he'd go on to finished second behind in two subsequent HK Group 1s over further. Able Friend had a small setback which resulted in him getting a slightly later start to the season than was originally planned and it showed in his physical appearance in trackwork videos. But despite the setback, he ran a nice fourth on seasonal reappearance despite carrying top weight and he followed that up with an impressive win in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile, in which he was ridden a touch handier than is typical and looked the winner from start to finish. That slightly handier early placement could be a sign of how he'll be ridden here, especially considering the pace looks like it could be a slow one. It was nice to see that tactical speed from him versus a high class field, not to mention his final sectional of 21.41 was over three tenths faster than anyone in that field, several of whom are entered here. Perhaps more importantly, however, in recent trackwork video and photos, he looks to finally be fully fit and it's now clear visually how much he's really strengthened and matured physically. It's also worth noting that these same connections won the race in 2011 with Able One. The road to the win goes through him. 

According to the markets, Able Friend's biggest competitor comes in the form of fellow locally trained runner Gold Fun -- Hong Kong's Champion miler, who finished second to Glorious Days in this race last season. He's prepped well for this race, having won his seasonal reappearance in the HK Group 3 Celebration Cup over shorter before twice finishing second over a mile behind the likes of Group 1 winner Military Attack and the aforementioned Able Friend. While he may have been handily beaten by Able Friend in his most recent outing, he was carrying five pounds more (128 lbs) than his rival and will be much better off from that standpoint with this race being set weights (126 lbs). The pace here projects to be slow early and he could very well find himself on the lead, but as crazy as it sounds, I don't believe that race shape necessarily suits because he's simply not as quick as Able Friend if it comes down to a sprint to the finish. Add to that he hasn't won in his last five attempts at a mile and this one looks a potential short price to oppose as a win threat. 

Two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon won this race in 2012, but injury forced him to miss last year's edition during what turned out to be a year and a half long layoff. He's ran twice this season and without winning has impressed on both occasions, with perhaps the better of the two runs being his comeback race in the HK Group 2 Sha Tin trophy, in which he was third, just 3/4 lengths behind Military Attack and Gold Fun. The big change with him will come in the form of his jockey, however, as Ryan Moore will get the mount despite Gerald Mosse having ridden him in both his starts this season. He has the talent, but I have concerns based on his two showings this season that at eight-years-old he doesn't quite have the turn of foot needed to win a "sit and sprint" type race. 

Glorious Days is the defending champion of this race. He won it first-up last year and they'll attempt to do the same this time around after not having raced since his sixth place finish in the Yasuda Kinen, which was won by Just A Way. His run there was his best in three attempts and he was up near the lead a furlong out, before fading late while climbing the final hill of the undulating Tokyo Racecourse. The testing ground that day certainly didn't do him any favors either. He was the standout in a recent trial, in which he wasn't asked to do much of anything, but ran on well. 

Secret Sham isn't on par with the best from his country, but he's a likely pace presence here and a consistent enough type over this distance that he could warrant perhaps an each/way look or usage underneath in trifecta plays. His most recent fourth in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile when on equal terms weight-wise with Able Friend and Ambitious Dragon showed his ability. One small step forward could see him making the frame at what could be a big price. 

The overseas shippers are led by Japanese runners Fiero and Grand Prix Boss. Fiero, a handsome son of super sire Deep Impact, narrowly missed in a head bob last time out despite looking to have momentarily lost momentum when herded on the straight, in the G1 Mile Championship at Kyoto just two weeks ago. He's a genuine group quality horse in his native Japan and he only finished outside the placings once in six starts this season. You can draw a line through his one poor finish, which took place in the aforementioned Yasuda Kinen, in which he stumbled at the start and never recovered. On paper, he fits well in this spot, but the quick turnaround after tough loss in a race in which he was clearly very well meant makes me think this was potentially an afterthought.

A two-time Group 1 winner over a mile in Japan, Grand Prix Boss hasn't won this season, although he did look every bit the winner late in the Yasuda Kinen before being nipped at the wire by the world's highest rated racehorse per the Longines World's Best Racehorse rankings: Just A Way. He tried this race back in 2012 and finished last. This will be the final race of his career and although he's very much a hit and miss type, his best effort puts him straight in the mix here -- whether we'll get that effort remains to be seen. 

Us Americans will recognize Trade Storm who at six-years-old is running some of the best races of his career. After two runner-up finishes, the second of which came at the hands of  the then in-form Custom Cut, Trade Storm broke through to win the Woodbine Mile -- the first G1 win of his career. The form of that race was franked when the third, fourth, tenth, and eleventh place finishers won next time out, which was highlighted by Bobby's Kitten's win in the G1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Trade Storm, himself, came back to finish third in the G1 Breeders' Cup Mile behind Karakontie and Anodin, despite momentarily struggling to quicken out of the gate. It appears as if he'd have a bit to find ratings wise with the market leaders here and he's another whose running style would likely not be suited if they do in fact go quite slowly early on. 

Last but not least, we'll give a mention to Roger Charlton's Captain Cat, a runner who gets about as much attention for his unique head carriage as he does his accomplishments. A duel G3 winner this season, he's won five times in his career all of which have been run over a mile. While he is typically held up throughout most of the race, his turn of foot is a devastating one, which could come in handy in a race of this potential slow-fast shape. I do wonder, however, if he's over the top at this point in the season especially considering his race two back was run over very testing ground and he ran fairly flat last time out over the AW at Kempton, a surface over which he typically thrives. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Weekend Picks 12/6/2014

After a nice weekend where we went four for seven with our picks and turned a profit off of win wagers on our choices, we look to continue the winning trend this week with Gulfstream Park's Claiming Crown card which is highlighted by large fields and plenty of nicely priced runners who have solid winning claims. 

Best of luck to all of you with your plays this weekend and enjoy the races! 

Gulfstream Park Race 2: #12 More Front (8/1)  scratched 
Debuted at Gulfstream Park West where he was restless in the gate before breaking a bit tentatively. He ultimately settled in third just off  the speed and looked to have a chance at the victory before flattening out in deep stretch. He figures to improve with a bit of experience under his belt and Clement is great with both second time starts and this sprint to route move. While he'll need a bit of luck out of the gate, he does appear to have some tactical speed that will aid him in finding a spot to settle off the pace, which is where he'll want to be given there's a fair bit of inside speed signed on here. 
Play: #12 More Front to win

Gulfstream Park Race 7: #13 Mongol Bull (6/1)
Won three straight before lighting up the toteboard when flying in the final furlong of his most recent start to just miss at odds of 56 and change in the G3 Woodford, which was won by No Nay Never who flattered that form when finishing second in the G1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Woodford third place finisher Sharp Sensation also came out of that race to win a stakes. Mongol Bull is an undefeated three-for-three at this five furlong distance and with plenty of early speed signed on, he figures to get the ideal pace setup. 
Play: #13 Mongol Bull to win

Gulfstream Park Race 9: #2 North Star Boy (8/1)
We've stayed away from old pal North Star Boy for a while on here since he's on paper appeared to routinely be in over his head, but I must say that although he can be tough to win with, he's ran close in much tougher races than this. Two-back he was only two and a half lengths behind Wise Dan at Saratoga and he hasn't finished further than that behind a winner in his past six races, during which he won once. His most recent race was a flop versus tougher, but he ran well in this spot last year and figures to be well meant again. The price is right to take a stab in a race in which he should be flattered by the pace setup.
Play: #2 North Star Boy to win, exacta box: 2,4,9,11

Gulfstream Park Race 10: #5 Eriugena (10/1)
Son of Shirocco has ran versus tougher this season and enters here in good form having won two back at Churchill Downs and finishing second to Elnaawi at Keeneland last time out. Ramsey/Maker runners are typically well spotted at this meet and this guy, who enters here off a short break, typically runs well fresh. With Cerro drawn on the rail and much of the other speed drawn outside, it's likely he'll get the pace he needs early on, as one of the few true closers in this race. 
Play: #5 Eriugena to win, exacta box: 1,5,9,10

Friday, November 28, 2014

Weekend Picks 11/29/2014

Churchill Downs Race 9: #8 West Coast Belle (4/1)
It's not often you see a daughter of Tapit successfully come from off the pace as a two-year-old and this filly has now done it twice in a row and despite two very different race shapes. The potential for another zippy pace here makes her a contender in what will be her third career start. 

Del Mar Race 1: #2 Zip It Up (5/1)
Son of City Zip closed well to get up for third late in his debut. Dortmund was an impressive winner that day and there don't appear to be any of his level in this field. The switch to turf and stretchout are positives for this guy who's bred for turf top and bottom and shows very little early speed. Add to that, this barn does very well dirt to turf, sprint to route, and second start for maidens and this guy looks very well meant in this spot.

Del Mar Race 3: #1 Big Cazanova (3/1)
Draw a line through the marathon, which was always going to be too far and his trip in the Jockey Club Gold Cup is deceiving because he looked loaded before the far turn and was practically eased. Aside from those, he fits well in this spot, as he's shown an affinity for the Del Mar synthetic and this distance suits him more than his toughest competitors. 

Del Mar Race 4: #9 Bolo (5/2)
True turfer put in a strong outside run to get up to fifth (beaten two and and quarter lengths) despite not getting the necessary pace setup in his debut. Temple City has shown to have a strong crop of juveniles this year and the slight step up in trip he'll get here should suit.

Del Mar Race 6: #7 Bobbi Grace (7/2)
Ran well in US debut when seen finishing third in a stakes won by Her Emmynency despite covering 57 ft (~6.7 lengths) more than the winner and 33ft (~3.8 lengths) more than the runner up. Drawn much better this time around, she figures to have a say in in the finish.

Del Mar Race 8: #3 Flamboyant (6/1)
On class and form, this should be California Chrome's race to lose, but I expect him to be aggressively ridden in this small field over the turf for the first time. He'll take quite a bit of money in this spot and for that reason is worth taking on. California Chrome may have to work a touch to be up on the lead here and if so, it could set up for Flamboyant, who has been consistent since arriving in the US and has the sharpest turn of foot in the field. He's run well against more proven turf horses than these all year long and while first time blinkers is an interesting decision, the price will be right to take a shot.

Del Mar Race 9: Rattataptap (6/1)
Tapit out of a graded stakes winning mare with tons of speedy works on the tab and a trainer who does well with his runners' first start makes it very likely we won't get anywhere near this morning line price on the day, but for the reasons just mentioned, she looks every bit a major contender in this spot. Has a win early pedigree and enters here with a bullet work on the 23rd. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Weekend Picks 11/22/2014

Churchill Downs Race 9: G3 Cardinal H: Royal Fury
While I'm Already Sexy looks lone speed, she may possibly be over the top and this is a bit further than her best distance, as well. Royal Fury is drawn wide, but should be able to move forward and track the leaders. She ran well two back behind Deceptive Vision, who I rate highly, and she simply didn't say the trip last time out. The cutback to nine furlongs and lack of a ton of speed out front should give her a nice setup if she can get any sort of luck out of the gate.
Play: #14 Royal Fury to win

Del Mar Race 8: G3 Red Carpet H.: Hijra
Daughter of Oratorio is lightly raced since arriving in America, but she's been awfully consistent since her arrival, having not finished worse than third in as many Allowance starts. Here looks to be one of her best opportunities to date, as she appears to be lone speed as one of the lightweights in the field even if the distance might be a bit of a stretch.
Play: #3 Hijra to win, exacta box: 3,5,9

Delta Downs Race 6: G3 Delta Downs Princess: Temper Mint Patty
Race looks to have plenty of speed out front which should compromise the two favorites, so I'll instead side with this daughter of Congrats who ships in for Dale Romans. She's done well thus far in New York and most importantly, she's shown both an ability to come off the pace and an affinity for wet tracks. If the track is in fact wet, she'll get a nice sized win/place bet from me.
Play: #3 Temper Mint Patty to win/place (if odds greater than 6/1, win only if shorter)

Delta Downs Race 7: G3 Delta Downs Jackpot: Red Button
Red Button is no new name to this blog, as we originally picked him as an across the board chance in the Frontrunner before he scratched and opted to run over the turf in the Zuma Beach, where he ultimately finished second to now Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Luck of the Kitten. Not only can he come from off the pace, but he accelerates very quickly, which is an asset around the tight turns and short stretch of Delta Downs. 
Play: #7 Red Button to win, exacta: 7 / 1,5,6,10 


Sha Tin Race 2: Master Viking
Put in an eyecatching run in his Hong Kong racing debut when finishing fourth over 1000m. He hit the line well in that run, so the step up in trip here should suit. He's appeared fairly one-paced in trials and in his one run, but he looks to have a good pace to run into if he can settle in midpack and the addition of a strong finishing jockey in Atzeni should allow him to show his best stride late even if he'll ultimately want further than this.  

Sha Tin Race 8: Rewarding Hero
Enters here with good form having closed well into two slow paces before flying home last start when finally getting what was essentially a pace meltdown behind Beauty Flame to run into. There's a chance the pace here could be contested with Secret Sham and potentially Same World going forward along with Gold Fun and perhaps even one or both of Packing Whiz or Rainbow Chic could find themselves in the first five or six early being first time blinkers and given the latter pulled hard in trackwork while wearing said blinkers. Perhaps he won't get the pace meltdown that he got last time out, but I'd be surprised if the early pace here wasn't at least a good one and carrying ten lbs lighter this time around, Rewarding Hero looks to have a an upset chance here.

Sha Tin Race 9: Willie Cazals
Enters here in good form after having put in eyecatching closing runs in both of his starts this season. He steps back up to 2000m here, which should suit and although the pace of this race could be fairly slow early on, I expect the pace to be contested behind Helene Super Star (similar to his most recent run), which should allow for the early backmarkers to have a chance. 

Sha Tin Race 10: Sugar
Finished third when first up last time out despite being hard ridden pretty much from the start, which in my mind suggests the step up in trip should suit at this time, despite him having struggled in his only two prior starts over 1000m. He looked fantastic on trackwork video for what will be his second time up and is another who could benefit from a jockey who's a bit stronger in the saddle, which he'll get here. He's one I'll use e/w and in quinellas with horse to watch Universal Union and High And Mighty.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Weekend Quick Picks, 11/14/2014 - 11/15/2014

11/14/2014 (late night)

Sha Tin (Hong Kong) Race 8 -- #2 Secret Sham
There are four runners who tend to go forward here, but three of them are trained by Tony Cruz and for that reason, I don't anticipate the pace to be as quick early on as it looks at first glance. Secret Sham tends to race in the front half of the field and if he gets a bit of luck out of the gate, could settle in nicely just off the main speed. He was disappointing in his first run this season, but that was against much tougher than these and he's never been one to run well fresh, so perhaps he needed the run. He was the standout in recent trackwork video and any improvement in his second time up rates him a solid each way chance. If the pace is a bit on the slower side, another to consider could be Beauty Flame, who could very well get another soft lead here if his stablemates take back a touch. He finished second in all three of his starts so far this season, the most recent of which came at the hands of Packing Llaregyb, who flattered that form when nicely winning the HKG3 Sa Sa Ladies' Purse last week. Luger looked a potential star last season and he's never finished worse than second in Hong Kong, but he'll be quite a short price here and he may very well need the run after having gained 32 lbs in the offseason. Plus, he's never sat particularly close, which I think is going to be a slight hindrance. Nevertheless, he'll surely improve off of whatever he does here en route to his primary goals later this season.
Plays: #2 Secret Sham win/show (if odds 10/1+), #4 Beauty Flame to win


Cheltenham (GB) Race 4 -- #15 Indian Castle
One runner who really caught my eye last season was Indian Castle due to his remarkable consistency and love of testing ground. Rain is in the forecast and the more the falls the better for this son of Dr Massini, who won over 21f locally on Heavy ground last January. He disappointed at the Festival in March, but I'd expect improvement from him off the break. 
Play: #15 Indian Castle win/place (if odds 10/1+, win only if single digit odds)

Cheltenham (GB) Race 5 -- #7 Fighter Jet
Here marks the seasonal debut of Grand National winner Pineau De Re, who is the class of this field, but all indications have been that he will come on for a run, so we'll let him go here. Instead, we'll side with the Alan King trained Fighter Jet, who holds a fitness edge over some of these and was second (albeit a distant second) in his two most recent runs. He's better situated in the weights here and if blinkers on offers any improvement, he should go close. 
Play: #7 Fighter Jet win/place (if odds 10/1+, win only if single digit odds)

Cheltenham (GB) Race 7 -- #5 Chezzy
Five-year-old daughter of Chevalier was an impressive winner on debut at Carlisle before struggling locally in October when unable to recover after the saddle slipped. The ground will be a bit of a question, but the top contenders also haven't run over ground this soft, so I'd rather side with a prospect who's shown a flash of talent at what is likely to be a bigger price. 
Play: #5 Chezzy win/place

Churchill Downs Race 9 -- #11 Lady Lara
The speed of this race is drawn wide with Courageous Julie, Kiss Moon, Spring Included, and perhaps Miss Frost all potentially vying for position up front. I anticipate a fast pace, as a result, and will therefore look for someone who will be held up early on. In August, Lady Lara ran quite nicely when a close third behind the likes of Custom Cut and Trade Storm and she followed up that effort with a win over seven furlongs at Newbury. Moving to the US hasn't seemed to affect her in the slightest, as her American debut was an eyecatching one as she won despite a pace that didn't suit. That was over a downgraded surface, which perhaps better suited her than others, but precipitation (potentially snow!) is in the forecast. So long as this race remains on the turf, look for Lady Lara to thrive with first time Lasix and a nice pace setup. 
Play: #11 Lady Lara to win (9/2)

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 2014 -- Horses to Watch

-- Bronze Star (Tapit - Dashing Debby, by Medaglia d'Oro)
After effectively throwing away any chance of the win late in his debut, Bronze Star finished second to the ultra impressive Punctuate in his second start. Even nicer, however, was when he made all to break his maiden in his first attempt routing. Yes, he has a bit of "Tapit silliness" to him, but nothing too crazy and the talent and pedigree are there being by Tapit x El Prado line, which has been a very successful cross that includes the likes of G1 Hollywood Starlet winner Laragh and multiple stakes winner White Rose. It also doesn't hurt that he's owned by Fox Hill Farms, who have had an eye for talented Tapit progeny in recent years including Normandy Invasion, Coup De Grace, and Cassatt. If he can mature a touch in the coming months, this $500,000 yearling purchase from 2013 Keeneland September could have a say in the west coast Kentucky Derby preps next year.

-- Little Rooster (Vale of York - Tantalize, by Machiavellian)
This juvenile filly only has one run to her name, but it was a winning one over Good to Firm ground at Naas over Coolmore charge Toogoodtobetrue. She's began working consistently at Keeneland for Team Valor and Wayne Catalano and is one to keep an eye when she makes her US debut.

-- Aqalim (Raven's Pass - Aviacion, by Know Heights)**
I accidentally stumbled across this guy after his debut thanks to a TVG editing snafu, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. This strapping son of Raven's Pass really impressed me in that debut run and followed that up with showing a sharp turn of foot and nice maturity when getting up late to win his second start. He rounded out the year with a solid third place finish in the Grade 2 Wetherby's Private Banking Champion Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Aintree, when beaten by two older and more seasoned runners. He is entered in a listed race at Cheltenham on November 16 and whether he runs there or not, I expect him to continue to come on with more age and experience under his belt. (profile:

-- I'm Venezuelan (War Chant - Attico, by Atticus)
This gelded two-year-old son of War Chant out of multiple stakes winner Attico is a half sibling to the stakes placed Perfecta. He was heavily backed on debut and made all when seen winning by eight and a half lengths over dirt. He followed that up with second and third place finishes in dirt sprint stakes before being stretched out to a mile and switching to the turf in the Juvenile Turf S. at Gulfstream Park West. While he was soundly beaten by Firespike, of whom I'm a big fan, he ran a very strong race to finish second, however, despite running greenly early on and being steadied multiple times (replay:

-- Universal Union (Perfectly Ready - Bedrock, by Pins)** 
This relative newcomer to Hong Kong showed his potential when seen finishing third behind Teofilo Calva, who has since impressed. He finished second in his first run this season despite losing focus at a critical moment. He's won and finished a very close second in Class 3 races since despite still struggling with maintaining focus at times. He looks to be one who's moving up the ranks in Hong Kong and if he ever should get the addition of blinkers, he could be a star. (profile and race replays:

-- One Lucky Dane (Lookin At Lucky - Echo Harbor, by Boston Harbor)
After running third in the key 'Om Maiden Special Weight' at Del Mar, One Lucky Dane was outlasted by Conquest Hiosilver before breaking his maiden by nine and a half lengths over a mile at Santa Anita. His sixth place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was by far the eyecatching performance of that race for mine. Not only was he four wide going into the first turn while up near a quick pace early on, but was forced to steady after Upstart, who was pulling hard on his outside, got to a position they were both vying for before him. Following steadying, One Lucky Dane was taken back several lengths and ridden along the rail to save ground. Coming around the far turn, he again made a run before being forced to again steady thanks to Upstart midstretch. He still gathered himself and continued on to pass Souper Colossal late, showing remarkable maturity for a juvenile. Below are some images of his trip that I took, which can be used as a guide to what I felt were some of the key moments of his BC Juvenile trip

** Designates an international runner

Friday, November 7, 2014

Weekend Quick Picks 11/8/2014

Down to the Wire will be taking a short break for the holidays, but we'll back back with our weekly previews beginning in January with the Jerome Stakes, which is the first Kentucky Derby prep of 2015. In the meantime, I'll still be previewing a few select races on here each week and, as always, best of luck with your plays.

Gulfstream Park West Race 8 -- #4 East Hall (3/1)
A nice stakes at Gulfstream Park West for this time of the year features fourth place finisher in the Wood Memorial Schivarelli, who won an Allowance race at Keeneland last time out in what was a nice, but not so flashy return to the races and it doesn't help that the only horse to win out of that race did so in a claimer. He also tired late on in the Wood Memorial (admittedly a much tougher race than this), but it's difficult not to question his ability at this distance, as a result. Wildcat Red has struggled as of late and the pace presences of Schivarelli and potentially I'm Steppin' It Up likely compromises his chances. East Hall, on the other hand, has really come into his own in recent months. I saw him in the flesh at Indiana Grand and his win there made an impression on me. He looked fit and well there and that win, combined with the likelihood he'll get a healthy pace to run into makes him the choice. One note is that his record at this track isn't the best, but that was early on in his career and something I'm not overly concerned about given the form with which he enters here.

Gulfstream Park West Race 9 -- #1 Firespike (5/1)
I've been a fan of this runner since his debut and this certainly seems like a nice spot for him to succeed given that he's switching back to the turf, over which he has had three solid performances and he won't be facing the quality here that he did in the G1 Breeders' Futurity. Maker wins at a 23% clip with the dirt to turf move.

Del Mar Race 8 -- #2 Home School (6/1)
An intriguing race over the turf at Del Mar looks to provide for a good betting opportunity. Final Step has been on or within a head of the lead in his last three starts and he figures to be in a similar position here, whereas Home School could get a beauty of a run along the rail just in behind. The latter seems to be very well meant in this spot, as trainer Leandro Mora does very well second off the claim and going sprint to route. That's not to mention Home School was only narrowly beaten by the consistent Home Run Kitten when making a similar sprint to route move last spring. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Breeders' Cup Playbook

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf:
Hootenanny is the morning line favorite  and although I expect Luck of the Kitten will actually go off favored here, they both figure in the same way for me, that being as pace presences. Both of these two are headstrong and quick, and to top if off they're drawn near each other, which makes the possibility of a speed duel a real one. Even if that doesn't formulate, though, the pace should be a healthy one and for that reason, I'm looking for runners who'll settle well off the pace early on. I've had Aktabantay penned in this spot for a while. He's one who clearly wants firmer ground, as well as a slightly longer trip and although he can be one to lose focus at times, the blinkers seemed to help as he stayed on well late against much tougher last time out. The probable race shape should suit him as well as Danny Boy, who although drawn poorly, I'd expect to drop out the back early and make one run late. He may be left with too much to do, but at those odds and coming off of a solid run in the G3 Bourbon last time out, he's worth using in my book. As far as a few of the more well fancied Euros in the betting go, Commemorative is an honest enough type, but I don't believe the pace will suit his typical running style and I'm not going to play a 2yo at single digits in essentially what will be a discipline test being that he's drawn between the two main speeds. War Envoy is presumably taking a bit of steam due to his connections, but he's the most exposed of the shippers in here and even if he did win somehow, he'll surely be an underlay in the betting, so I'll pass. 
Choices: #9 Aktabantay (12/1) (scratched), #14 Danny Boy (20/1)

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile: 
I really tried to find someone who I felt confident could beat Goldencents, but that didn't entirely work out, so instead I'll try to find a bit of value underneath (and box it just in case), although I'll play the race itself lightly. (Of course, pay attention to the probable payouts to ensure you'll make a profit on the day). Vicar's In Trouble isn't the flashiest type and I didn't like his race in the Indiana Derby (I was there and really thought he should've won). Regardless, he's remarkably consistent and has a big chance of hitting the board if he can pull the same move he did in the Risen Star going when turning for home. 
Play: Exacta box: #1 Goldencents (6/5) / #3 Vicar's In Trouble (12/1)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf:
Sunset Glow is taking quite a bit of steam and while I understand how people view her talent level, she figures to struggle with a probable fast pace early and I'll instead look elsewhere. Osaila is a filly I've been a fan of overseas and class-wise, she's just better than these. A Group 3 winner in England, she finished no more than one and a quarter lengths behind perhaps the two most well regarded juvenile fillies in Cursory Glance and Found. Her most recent win was what I viewed as a perfect prep run. Quality Rocks was a runner-up behind Rainha Da Bateria last time out and in my opinion ran just as good of a race as the winner being that she chased a very fast early pace that burned several others. She'll be second time turf  and second time Mott. I'm not sure she can sit further off the pace here, but she's worth taking a gamble on at a big price. 
Choices: #2 Osaila (5/1), #10 Quality Rocks (20/1)

Breeders' Cup Distaff: 
She may have ran a bad one without excuse last time out, but Close Hatches looks to be the lone speed of this one and I'm more than willing to excuse her for that poor run given her class and due to the likelihood of her receiving a soft lead. Plus, we'll get a much better price than anticipated due to that clunker and the praise that Untapable is receiving despite looking quite tired when weaving down the stretch last time out. 
Choice: #11 Close Hatches (3/1)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies: No Bet

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf: 
Dayatthespa figures to get a soft lead here and anything near her best should be plenty good enough in a race where I have queries about nearly all of the top contenders. Dank will be a heavy favorite, and deservedly so, but coming off of the long layoff, I couldn't play her to win. That being said, I'm not leaving her off of my multi-race wagers. There just won't be the value there for a win/place/show wager, but she'll likely track Dayatthespa and could get a beautiful run if the former falters. Irish Mission has impressed in her two most recent stars and she ran on well in her most recent start despite a troubled trip. Her tactical speed and good form warrant a play on her at a big price. The pace setup likely won't work in her favor, but Stephanie's Kitten enters here in the form of her career and will be coming on late. She's a must-use in multi-race wagers, but similarly to Dank, we won't play her standalone in this race.
Choice: #4 Dayatthespa (8/1), #8 Irish Mission (20/1)

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint:
As has been the theme to this point, "pace makes the race" and here we have another potential lone speed in Stonetastic. The tricky seven furlong distance shouldn't be a query for her given that she used to run over further and in her limited tries sprinting, it took an all and out speed duel to defeat her and she still held well to get third in that one. A bullet work last weekend only adds to the appeal. 
Choice: #3 Stonetastic (8/1)

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint: 
Everything about this race screams FAST EARLY to me particularly with the likes of Reneesgotzip, No Nay Never, Something Extra, and Bobby's Kitten in the field. Home Run Kitten, who is 2-for-2 over course and distance, caught my eye in a big way last time out when tackling a G3 going down the hill after putting in several solid runs routing on the turf this season. His turn of foot is something special and he'll most certainly get the pace setup, not to mention he's drawn well. If he gets any sort of a clear run, he figures to go very close. Bobby's Kitten is cutting back from the mile distance and has always shown talent despite his nature. He relaxed the best I've ever seen him in his most recent run, however, and is worth taking a shot on at a likely nice price. If his head doesn't get in his own way, he could be the first one to take a crack at the early speed. 
Choices: #6 Bobby's Kitten (10/1), #10 Home Run Kitten (12/1)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: 
American Pharoah may not be in the field, but the Breeders' Cup Juvenile still figures to be plenty fast early on with most of the main speed drawn out wide. I've been high on Calculator since the Del Mar Futurity, in which he was seen running wide and off the pace aka exactly where you did not want to be on that day at Del Mar. He appeared to have closed the gap to American Pharoah in the Frontrunner and a ground saving trip plus a pace to close into could see this maiden taking the win. Texas Red is another who would benefit from a fast pace upfront in his second start on the dirt. Not sure what to make of The Great War routing, but the dirt shouldn't be an issue given his pedigree and he is first-time Lasix. I expect him to be relatively ignored in the betting given this is a dirt race, so he's one to use if his morning line price holds on the chance he puts in a big performance first time dirt. 
Choices: #1 Calculator (15/1), #4 The Great War (12/1), #7 Texas Red (20/1)

Breeders' Cup Turf:
Without much true speed in this race, Telescope and Brown Panther figure to go forward, which should give them a tactical advantage at this distance. Telescope is slightly preferred at this distance, but there are still queries on whether or not he'll take to the tight turns of Santa Anita. Brown Panther figures to be relatively ignored in the betting after running off in his last race, but that's not typical of him and his ability to carry his speed over a distance of ground could see him getting a nice run in a race that lacks a true speed horse up front. I can understand why Flintshire appeals to some, but his season was undoubtedly pointed towards the Arc and I'd be surprised if he didn't regress off that effort and that's on top of him being tough to win with in the first place.
Choices: #1 Telescope (4/1), #4 Brown Panther (8/1)

Breeders' Cup Sprint:
Rich Tapestry figures to get the run of the race with the main speed drawn just to his inside. He should be able to slot in behind them and allow the wider drawn speed to press forward. He made a big impression when winning in his debut on American soil and the fact of the matter is that he has on several occasions ran against far better sprinters than these, including Lord Kanaloa and Lucky Nine. He's impressed in video of every work I've seen of his over the Santa Anita dirt and taking all of that into account, he's my best bet of the meet. 
Choice: #6 Rich Tapestry (5/1)

Breeders' Cup Mile:
Toronado really should just win this race. He was impressive on debut, and his form via Kingman and Charm Spirit is rock solid. I've waited over a year for him to race in the states, as he was expected to make the trip last year before a poor work at home resulted in a change in plans, and in what will be his ideal conditions, we should see the best of him. 
Choice: #5 Toronado

Breeders' Cup Classic:
He impressed me in a big way when seen winning the Haskell and I've had him penned for this race ever since. For once, Bayern will be running against the big boys on his home turf (instead of having to ship east) and if the track favors speed in any way, shape, or form it benefits him more than anyone else. Moreno's most recent work was poor in my opinion and that only firms my opinion on Bayern, who is the only other real speed in the race. I've long said Bayern is plenty fast, but doesn't NEED the lead. He's shown no tendency of being headstrong in the slightest and if Moreno gets out front out of the gate, who's to say Bayern can't range up on him at the quarter pole? If he does, I think a clearly below peak Moreno could very well spit the bit and it's smooth sailing out front from there. In case something cooky happens out front pace wise, however, we'll also use Tonalist, who looks to have returned to his best when seen winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, in multi-race wagers.
Choice: #7 Bayern (6/1), #11 Tonalist (5/1)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Down to the Wire + Weekend Quick Picks

This week on Down to the Wire we discussed the Raven Run, which will be run on Saturday at Keeneland and has drawn a very competitive field, as well as, the two feature races from Woodbine on Sunday: the E.P. Taylor and Canadian International. For in depth analysis of those races, you can watch the video below (my for those races are also listed below).

Weekend Picks: 


Ascot Race 1 -- Group 2 Champions Long Distance Cup
While Leading Light's form puts him ahead of this group, the heavy going is a serious concern for him in my eyes and for that reason I'll take a stand against him at a short price. Forgotten Rules looked a good thing when blowing them away after being well backed in his bumper debut at Punchestown and in a race that will be a true stamina test, he's the one to be on as he looks good for even further than this distance.

Ascot Race 3 -- Group 1 Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes
Under good conditions, this is a competitive field, but I have distance concerns over testing ground for nearly every runner in here other than Silk Sari, who has won well going further. The ground is the obvious query for her, as she's never been tested under these conditions and her half siblings haven't exactly been wet track lovers. That being said, Dalakhani's influence may make the different on that front, and against a questionable group at this distance under these conditions, she stands out to me. 

Ascot Race 4 -- Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
It's hard to knock the form of Charm Spirit in this race after having won three straight, the most recent of which being over the likes of Toronado. The ground is not a concern and although he finished behind Night of Thunder in the 2000 Guineas, that form was reversed in their most recent start and over testing ground, Charm Spirit holds an even bigger advantage over his fellow market leader, in my opinion. While Night of Thunder doesn't appear to have progressed much since his Classic win, Charm Spirit is the later developer who appears to hold the edge at this point in time. At a bigger price, Captain Cat intrigues as a place chance over more testing ground than he's ever faced given that he narrowly missed over further than this earlier in the season. 

Ascot Race 5 -- Group 1 Champions Stakes 
Cirrus Des Aigles is clearly your most likely winner and even moreso with him getting his ideal conditions, but Pether's Moon is incredibly intriguing to me for e/w value as he currently sits at a big price. Not only did he win in testing conditions in Turkey, but he's good for further than this and enters here in solid form having won two straight and three of his last four. He's only finished outside the top three once in four attempts at Ascot, as well. Surely this consistent fellow is overpriced here. 

Keeneland Race 9 -- G3 Raven Run S
1. #4 Pirate's Trove (8/1) -- looks to get an ideal pace setup in first dirt attempt, dirt breeding, has won all three starts to date
2. #6 Divided Attention (6/1) -- classy juvenile came back in a big way in delayed 3yo debut at Saratoga, visually impressive when drawing away off a wide move in that one
3. #10 La Madrina (8/1) -- Tapit 1/2 to Verrazano has always shown promise, surely well meant in this spot


Woodbine Race 6 -- G1 Canadian International
#4 Brown Panther (2/1) -- Classier and more versatile of the two Euro raiders, any rain only helps his cause as he's the one true stayer in the field, Lasix & Ryan Moore for Hillstar means this runner may actually drift a bit oddswise, defeated Hillstar at Chester this season

Woodbine Race 10 -- G1 E.P. Taylor
1. #6 Deceptive Vision (2/1) -- Extremely impressive when seen winning the local prep even if she had everything go her way, solid season locally could be topped off with a win here
2. #1 Eyeful (20/1) -- Form is a bit muddied up, but she wants good ground, further, and enters here in good form

Friday, October 3, 2014

Down to the Wire + Weekend Quick Picks

This week on Down to the Wire we previewed the G1 Champagne for juveniles at Belmont, in addition to the G2 Indiana Derby and the G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, which features two defending Breeders' Cup winners in Secret Circle and Goldencents. 

Weekend Quick Picks:


Flemington (AUS B) Race 7: Turnbull Stakes -- #8 Puissance De Lune
Darren Weir's popular grey seems to be rounding into form at the right time, as was most recently shown in his third place finish behind Dissident over 1600m last time out. He was one of the eye-catchers in that run and fourth start off the layoff, in addition to the stretch out to 2000m, puts him right in the mix here.  
Others to consider: #17 Stipulate, #4 Hawkspur

Randwick (AUS A) Race 8: Coolmore Flight Stakes -- #7 Lady Sharapova
Form has been a bit muddy this year with her perhaps disappointing in her last two starts after winning first time up. Her most recent start was ran at a very slow pace, however, which is completely counter to her style, so I'm willing to forgive that effort. While I respect the chances of the market leaders Winx and First Seal, neither of them appears to be a worldbeater, at least at this stage, so I'm willing to take them on in this short field of relatively unexposed fillies. This distance should certainly be right up Lady Sharapova's alley based on her pedigree and if they go at a quicker tempo then she experienced last out, she looks a nice chance to make the frame at a big price. 


Keeneland Race 7: G1 First Lady -- #1 Flimbi
Impressive daughter of Mizzen Mast cuts back to a mile, which should better suit her. She came up empty over slightly further last out, but a short break should have her ready to fire here in a race in which the pace setup should suit. 
Others to consider: #9 Centre Court, #8 Somali Lemonade

Sha Tin Race 7: The Celebration Cup -- #10 Secret Sham
This race features a few of Hong Kong's stars including Designs on Rome, Gold Fun, and California Memory, but with all of them being first up here and carrying quite a bit of weight, I'll side with Secret Sham who enters here as one of the lightweights and should be well placed early on, particularly if the pace is fairly slow. Moreira gets the mount for this Moore trainee, who is better suited to this distance than several of the others who are just beginning their campaigns. 


Longchamp Race 5: Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe -- Tapestry
Throw out her last race, which was over a mile -- a distance she does not thrive over, and this daughter of Galileo fits right in here. She's drawn beautifully and gets Ryan Moore back aboard, who guided her to victory over the highly regarded Taghrooda two back. She was a late supplement for the race, which indicates to me that they surely think she has a decent chance back home and, of course, she receives the much talked about three-year-old filly weight allowance. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Super Saturday Picks

This week on Down to the Wire we previewed the Joe Hirsh Turf, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Awesome Again, and Oklahoma Derby, so if you want to hear more in-depth analysis of those races, feel free to watch below. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014 (Super Saturday!) Picks and Plays:  

Belmont R4: G2 Kelso -- #4 River Rocks (M/L 5/1)
While Itsmyluckyday got the win for us last time out in the Woodward, his workmanlike performance on what was labeled by Timeform as a speed biased track didn't necessarily impress. Here he runs into a sharp four-year-old by the name of River Rocks, who has won three straight -- two in wire to wire fashion -- and while I don't typically bet sprinters stretching out to a route, he appears to be the lone speed here. Bradester also looms a threat coming off of his win over an in-form Carve in the Ack Ack. 
Plays: #4 River Rocks to win
Double (starting with race 4): #4 River Rocks and #5 Bradester with #4 Stanwyck

Belmont R7: G1 Flower Bowl -- #9 Stephanie's Kitten (M/L 5/2)
She may have come up just short, but there was no shame in Stephanie's Kitten's performances in her past two outings where she finished a neck behind Somali Lemonade after closing into a slow early pace and was runner-up to Euro Charline after putting in an impressive closing run down the stretch. This may be a Grade 1, but this field is not of the quality she faced in the Beverly D. on Arlington Million day, so a repeat of her last run should be enough to get it done here. 
Plays: #9 Stephanie's Kitten to win
$0.50 Pick 4: 1,6,7,9 / 1,2,6 / 1 / 8,9,10 --> $18.00

Santa Anita R6: G1 Frontrunner -- #5 Red Button (M/L 20/1) SCRATCHED 
Given his breeding (Distorted Humor-Skipping Around, by Skip Trial), Red Button should appreciate this stretchout to a route more than many in this field and as a half brother to multiple graded stakes winner Sugar Shake, who twice won in routes at Santa Anita, this move could be just what the doctor ordered. He hasn't been one to show much early zip in his races and each of his three runs have come on tracks labeled by Timeform as speed favoring, so if the newly resurfaced Santa Anita dirt track is playing fair, I'd expect him to have a much improved performance. He enters here boasting a few quick local works and Glatt has had success with this synthetic to dirt move. 
Plays: #5 Red Button win/place/show ladder (example: $2 to win, $4 to place, $6 to show)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Keeneland 2014 September Sale Session One Highlights (Hip 001 - 190)

  • Hip 19: Hard Spun x Layreebelle, by Tale of the Cat: He may only have four crops of racing age,  but Hard Spun has already made his mark having sired the likes of G1 winners Questing and Wicked Strong and he looks to have another well bred one here out of unraced Tale of the Cat mare Layreebelle, whose two to race (Spellbound and Kid Cruz) are both graded stakes winners. 
  • Hip 29: Curlin x Leslie's Lady, by Tricky Creek: Undoubtedly one of the the stars of the sale is this filly, who is not only by productive sire Curlin, but is a half sibling to multiple graded stakes winner and Eclipse Champion Beholder, as well as, graded stakes winner and successful young sire Into Mischief.
  • Hip 47: Uncle Mo x Lotta Dancing, by Alydar: From the first crop of Champion Two-Year-Old and multiple graded stakes winner Uncle Mo comes this colt out of productive Alydar mare Lotta Dancing, who aside from being a graded stakes winner in her own right, is an unblemished eight winners from her eight to race. Among Lotta Dancing's progeny are unraced Seattle Slew mare Shootforthestars, who has produced nine winners, including G1 winner Centralinteligence. 
  • Hip 68: War Front x Meridiana, by Lomitas: By popular sire War Front comes this colt out of German-bred Meridiana, winner of the Italian Oaks in 2003. She has since produced four winners of her five to race including multiple stakes winner and G2-placed Chamois. 
  • Hip 86: Fastnet Rock x Misty For Me, by Galileo: Australian star stallion Fastnet Rock meets Irish 1000 Guineas winner Misty For Me (a full sister to stakes placed Twirl) in what combines to make a superstar pedigree, highlighted by a reverse of the successful Galileo/Danehill cross. 
  • Hip 105: Bernardini x Mushka, Empire Maker: This well-bred Bernardini filly is out of multiple graded stakes winner and 2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic runner-up Mushka.
  • Hip 108: Smart Strike x My Miss Storm Cat, by Sea of Secrets: Colt is a full brother to Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old filly My Miss Aurelia, who won her first six starts (three of which were G1s), including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Dam My Miss Storm Cat has produced two winners from three to race. 
  • Hip 118: City Zip x No Dress Code, by Distorted Humor: A full brother to multiple graded stakes winner Reneesgotzip.
  • Hip 143: Tapit x Peeping Fawn, Danehill: Peeping Fawn, European Champion Three-Year-Old filly and half sister to Group 1 winner Thewayyouare, meets top American sire Tapit in a blockbuster mating. Peeping Fawn has has two to race, both of whom were winners, including Sir John Hawkins, who finished third behind War Command in last year's Coventry.
  • Hip 160: Tapit x Pretty 'n Smart, by Beau Genius: Graded staked placed Pretty 'n Smart has been a productive broodmare having produced six winner from as many to race. By top American sire Tapit, this colt is a half sibling to multiple graded stakes winner Heart Ashley and popular undefeated stakes winner Indianapolis.
  • Hip 184: Galileo x Ramruma by Diesis: The successful Galileo/Sharpen Up line cross that gave us St. Leger winner Sixties Icon is featured here in a filly out of Oaks winner and European Champion Three-Year-Old filly Ramruma. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Down to the Wire: Super Derby + Weekend Quick Picks

This week on Down to the Wire we discussed the Super Derby, Iroquois Stakes, Pocahontas Stakes, and the Dueling Grounds Derby, all of which feature competitive fields. 

Picks for Saturday, August 6, 2014:

--Kentucky Downs Race 9: Dueling Grounds Derby -- #2 Can'thelpbelieving (M/L 9/2)
Son of Duke of Marmalade has ran in both of the three-year-old turf races that I've marked as key races and has improved by leaps and bounds in that time span. He's one who wants the distance in a race where stamina looks to be the overriding factor. 

--Monmouth Race 7: Jersey Girl Handicap -- #4 Sweet Henrietta (M/L 6/1)
Won her first time going a mile and she'll stretch out a touch further here. She should appreciate the stretchout, does her best running late, and a likely quick early pace only further helps her case.

--Arlington Race 8: G3 Arlington Washington Futurity -- #8 Mr. Lightning Boy (M/L 15/1)
Came from off the pace to win on debut before never really looking comfortable when stretching out on the dirt in his second start. The slight cutback and return to synthetic should help, as will the addition of blinkers for a barn that is sharp with this type. 

-- Los Alamitos Race 8: Los Alamitos Mile Stakes -- #8 Sky Kingdom (M/L 5/1)
Won in first asking off a 307 day layoff going slightly further locally in July before chasing Irish Surf around a biased Del Mar synthetic surface. Espinoza hops off to ride favorite Masochistic, but third start off the layoff, I like this guy to sit a nice stalking trip behind what could be plenty of speed out front early.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Down to the Wire: Woodward Stakes Edition + Saratoga Quick Picks

This week on Down to the Wire, we cover the featured G1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, as well as, the G1 Forego and the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes over a mile on the all weather at Del Mar. 

Saratoga -- Saturday, August 30, 2014:

Race 1: MSW, 8.5f (turf) -- #3 Firespike (M/L 5/2)
A son of Flower Alley, Firespike looked well on his way to easily winning on debut before he spooked late and crashed hard into the rail, costing himself the victory. He returned in a loaded race locally in which he finished third behind Strong Coffee and one of my favorite two-year-olds this year Face the Music, a son of Stormy Atlantic who came back to win at second asking. Add in that Firespike runs for the formidable duo of Maker-Castellano and he surely looks the one to beat this time around. At longer odds, Sierra Delta is bred to be a turf router, but Lukas two-year-old runners usually need a run. If either of them get into the field, Royal Squeeze and King of New York both merit respect following solid debuts in the same local MSW, although I do prefer the former who had a rougher trip in that debut effort.

Race 2: MSW, 7f  -- #2 Escalate (M/L 10/1)
Considering Asmussen's success with two-year-olds, particularly first time starters, I'm a bit perplexed by the morning line (not that I'll complain if we get anywhere near that price), but this $200k yearling purchase from the KEE September sale is by Eskendereya, who although it's still early on has been decent enough as a debut sire (12% win on debut). He's bred to win early and is a half to dirt sprinter Silver Heart. Another to consider is Two Week's Off, who chased impressive winner Requite around the track on debut.

Race 5: G2 Ben Baruch, 8.5f (turf) -- #1 Bio Pro (M/L 5/1)
Here marks the return of Wise Dan following a serious health scare. If he's anywhere near his best, he rolls over these, but even before his surgery, I questioned whether he had lost a step. Regardless, this is a tough spot for him to make his comeback effort, as he'll face a full field with two speed horses drawn wide. He's struggled this year with being headstrong and coming off the layoff, I have a feeling he'll pull early once again. For that reason, I'm siding with Bio Pro who hasn't finished outside the top three this year and ran a nice one to finish second behind Big Blue Kitten last out. He has the tactical speed to establish a nice position early, which will be key given the likely pace scenario here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Down to the Wire: Arlington Million Edition

This week on Down to the Wire we have special guest Ryan Dickey join us as we discuss the big stakes from Arlington Park, which is highlighted by the Arlington Million, as well as the G1 Alabama at Saratoga. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014: Arlington Park

Race 5: Hatoof S. (Division 1) -- #5 V V Goodnight
This race is an interesting one as Mizzen Miss appears to potentially be the lone speed for a trainer who does well with this sprint-route move, but she seems to have relished cutting back to five furlongs and I couldn't take her on top at a short price, but if she can get the distance, she's a major threat here. Instead, I've sided with V V Goodnight, a daughter of Midnight Lute who enters here with all sorts of trip notes. She won two straight earlier this season before having three straight races with issues at the start and despite that, she finished strongly in each of those. This distance is right up her alley and she should be flying late for the red hot Tom Proctor. 
*Others to consider: #9 Mizzen Miss, #10 Zubi Zubi Zu

Race 7: American St. Leger S. -- #11 Suntracer
In this race, I'm going with Mr. Reliable in Suntracer, who although he can be tough to win with, always runs his race and finds himself in contention late more often than not. Second in this race last year, he enters here off what I considered a nice effort in the G3 Stars and Stripes in which he was flying late despite an agonizingly slow pace set by The Pizza Man. Defending champion Dandino enters here with deceiving form as his two most recent results are poor, but the come against the best company in this division as is highlighted by the first and third place finishers in his most recent race both coming straight back to win at Glorious Goodwood. He clearly needed the run last out and if he's anywhere near himself, he'll be mighty tough. Eye of the Storm is interesting for Aidan O'Brien, but I'm never a fan of the quick turnaround for Euros shipping out here, so I'll have to pass. 
*Others to consider: #2 Dandino

Race 8: G1 Secretariat S. -- #6 Adelaide
Aidan O'Brien sends Adelaide back for more in America after finishing second (by a neck) in the Belmont Derby despite entering that race on short rest. O'Brien has also entered Belisarius, surely as a pacemaker, so there's no questioning Adelaide is VERY well meant in this spot. At a big price, I'm tempted to use Highball, who closed nicely despite some trip troubles last time out, but I couldn't put you off of singling Adelaide either.
**Others to consider: #2 Highball

Race 9: G1 Beverly D. S -- #1 Just the Judge
Irish Classic winner Just the Judge enters here off two straight good efforts behind Thistle Bird, who was in the form of her life prior to her recent retirement, Firm ground isn't an issue, although a bit of cut in the ground certainly wouldn't hurt. Also keep an eye on the weights (especially with the older European runners), Just the Judge carried 136 lbs in her most recent effort and this weekend, she'll carry only 123 lbs. Alterite interests me despite her poor first showing in her only start this year, she never finished out of the top three in three US G1's prior to that start and she'll be improved for the run off what was over a seven month layoff. Tannery is a horse who I've been a fan of for quite some time and at what will likely be a big price, I'll include her knowing she loves this distance and should get a nice pace setup despite a poor showing last time out. Euro Charline could factor in here and although I prefer others before her, the added distance should benefit this Group 1 placed three-year-old and having Ryan Moore aboard never hurts. 
**Others to consider: #9 Alterite, #6 Tannery, #2 Euro Charline

Race 10: G1 Arlington Million -- #2 Smoking Sun
I found it tough to choose between Smoking Sun and Real Solution, who are both clearly well meant in this spot and exit strong last time out efforts, but ultimately I sided with the son of Smart Strike based off the company he's kept recently. After winning a Group 2 in France to start off his year, he struggled going further over soft ground versus the likes of Cirrus Des Aigles and Arc winner Treve, but he rebounded back nicely from that when finishing a strong second in a Group 1 in Singapore behind Dan Excel (formerly Dunboyne Express), who himself is a Group 1 winner in Hong Kong. Real Solution appears to be trending upward following a good performance in the G1 Man 'O War followed by a nice win in the G1 Manhattan and his form has recently been franked by both Kaigun and Seek Again. 
**Others to consider: #6 Real Solution