Thursday, February 27, 2014

Down to the Wire: Gotham Stakes, Swale Stakes & Palm Beach Stakes

Last weekend, Intense Holiday roared home to just nip Albano in the Risen Star, whilst General A Rod and Wildcat Red dueled their way around Gulfstream, with the latter taking the win and earning valuable points along the way. This week's prep is the Gotham, but @Derbyologist and I also discussed the showdown between Havana and No Nay Never in the Swale, and Kentucky Derby/Oaks Futures. I hope you enjoy and thanks for watching!

3/1/2014: Aqueduct Race 9 -- G3 Gotham Stakes (8.5f, dirt)
An interesting field of eleven lines up here, with the coupled entry of Samraat and Noble Cornerstone likely to be sent off as the favorite. While Samraat most recently was a course and distance winner in the Withers, that was essentially a match race against Uncle Sigh, in which he held the advantage from the get go. He spots the son of Indian Charlie seven pounds this time around and I severely question whether a horse who on paper appears to be a sprinter will be able to replicate that effort his second time routing. Add that to the fact that the initial plan was to skip this race and at what will certainly be a very short price, he's a toss in my book. The aforementioned Uncle Sigh gets the nod this time around. If him and Samraat duel early, like they did in the Withers, he has the pedigree to truly stay 8.5f and can rate if necessary. The only question is how much their hard fought battle in the Withers took out of him. If for some reason, those two don't break away from the field early, look for Deceived to be in the mix. I've been high on this son of Broken Vow since he impressively broke his maiden in his fourth attempt and this guy is as gritty as they come. He's never finished outside the money and his only poor showing was in the Damon Runyon, where he completely blew the break, handing Samraat, who ran the race of his life, the softest of leads. Unlike Samraat and Uncle Sigh, he enters here coming off of an all too easy win in a local allowance, but he runs his best races as a presser, so he'll need to stay in touch with those two early to have a chance. The only other horse I view as a true competitor is Harpoon. He drew the outside stall, which for him is a plus, since he loves running outside in the clear. He has the physical ability to take it to this field, but as is the case with the Tapits, you never know what to expect from this guy and his inability to run between horses could very well force him into a wide trip. If the front two go out too quickly though, prepare to see him flying late.

As far as my bankroll play goes, Samraat at very low odds is a play against and while I think it's Uncle Sigh's race to lose, I opted to play a small double and add a few horses who would offer some value instead of a more costly exacta in which I would feel compelled to add Samraat underneath.

Bankroll Play: $2 Double: Teen Pauline, Centring / Uncle Sigh, Deceived, Harpoon

3/1/2014: Gulfstream Race 9 -- G2 Swale Stakes (7f, dirt)
A field of seven gathers for what has essentially been billed as a duel between G1 Champagne winner Havana and Prix Morny winner No Nay Never. These two, who were among the most impressive juveniles last year, are both making their three-year-old debuts and will be heavily bet in this contest. At short odds though, I can't side with No Nay Never, who although he has been visually impressive in his wins in Europe, the best horses he's beaten are fillies, he's yet to run this far, and he's never ran on dirt. Seven furlongs can be a tricky distance at times and I tend to side with horses who are cutting back from routes at this distance, which is the case for Havana, who most recently finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. It's not reassuring that this race was not the original plan for Havana, who was sidelined from the worktab earlier this year, but Pletcher has been working him hard and often in preparation for this and I expect him to run a big one. The rail should also be a plus, as he has a pretty powerful first few strides out of the gate, which should allow him to snag the lead and run along the rail.

Pick: Havana to win

Weekend Quick Pick: 

3/1/2014: Gulfstream Race 10 -- G3 Palm Beach Stakes (9f, turf): Tipped up as a "Horse to Watch" on here following his third place finish in the Dania Beach, Pleuven, will be making his second start in America and I fully expect him to improve on what was a tough trip third in which he was absolutely flying late. He should relish the added distance.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Horse to Watch: Tribal Waters

Tribal Waters is a three-year-old gelding by leading California sire Tribal Rule out of 2003 California Broodmare of the Year Rio Tejo. Having made his career debut at Golden Gates, Tribal Waters broke poorly and ran greenly early on, spotting the field seven lengths by the 1/4, but he got it together and came on strongly down the stretch.

Replay of Tribal Waters' only career start to date (3/1/2014, Golden Gate Field, Race 8)

Equibase Profile:


Friday, February 21, 2014

Fountain of Youth & Risen Star Stakes + Weekend Quick Picks

Last week, Tamarando backed up his prior form on synthetic when he notched a win in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Kobe's Back finally made good on his big price tag when he took the San Vicente and Tapiture stormed home in the Southwest Stakes. As always, @Derbyologist and I have a video preview of this week's races and another packed week/long video means another unedited version. Thanks for watching and now let's get to this weekend's racing!

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 6-- Allowance Optional Claiming $75,000
This isn't your usual run of the mill Allowance Optional Claimer, being that it's loaded with Kentucky Derby prospects so much so that one could argue this may even be a more talented field than the Fountain of Youth! Matterhorn is one of three sons of Tapit in the field, and probably the most well regarded of that bunch. In his only career start, which was as a two-year-old, he impressively outran Harpoon in a Maiden Special Weight over eight furlongs at Aqueduct, but was off the work tab for quite some time following that victory. They've taken their time bringing him back however, and the fact he's been working with some of Pletchers best workhorses makes me think this colt his very well regarded back home. The jump from a MSW to a graded stakes is a big one, however, and surely he needs the run. Tonalist is another well regarded son of Tapit who after finishing fourth in the aforementioned Matterhorn-Harpoon MSW, came back to break his maiden over one and one eighth miles locally. While he's shown a great ability to close, he has shown very little speed early, which likely may not bode well for him here. The last of the trio of Tapits in here is Constitution and while he's personally my least favorite of the "Tapit crew" because he pulled himself to the front after breaking slowly in his only start, I think he could very well get an easy lead here and if that happens, it could be all over very quickly. Wicked Strong for all intents and purposes did not show up in the Holy Bull and I'm inclined to think he was a bit overhyped, but that being said, I expect him to run much better than he did in his last outing and if he runs back to how he did in the Remsen, he's a candidate to take a minor award.

Pick: Constitution to win & exacta wheel Constitution / Matterhorn & Wicked Strong

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 11-- G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes
The much anticipated Fountain of Youth draws a field of thirteen, which is highlighted by Commissioner, who is from the final crop of A.P. Indy and out of a Touch Gold mare. A half to graded stakes winner and last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Laugh Track, Commissioner's most impressive performance to date was in a local Allowance Optional Claimer in which he defeated Top Billing. He draws the rail here, which could be conflict with his running style, but he's shown an ability to fight his way through horses when needed. The aforementioned Top Billing is a well-bred son of Curlin who after finishing runner-up to Commissioner, came back three weeks later to easily win an Allowance Optional Claimer over Surfing U S A over one and one sixteenth miles. He draws the twelve post, but that isn't much of a problem in my opinion because he was going to drop to the back of the pack regardless. Whether or not he can pass a full field of more talented horses than he's been up against in his career is the bigger issue. We Miss Artie is an intriguing runner in that he has been penned a turf/synthetic horse, which is understandable given his pedigree, but his run over dirt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was better than he's gotten credit for and there was no shame in getting nipped at the wire by Storming Inti in the Kitten's Joy Stakes last time out. Almost Famous is a horse who I have on my radar following his nice performance in the Holy Bull, where he held on to finish fourth after doing the dirty work as the pacesetter and galloping out past the field after doing so. The early pace here looks like it may be on the faster side, however, and that does him no favors. Wildcat Red, a horse who will be heavily played following his win in the G3 Hutcheson, has all the looks of a sprinter and I'd be very surprised if he successfully stretched out in distance here. Another horse who's been thought of as a turf runner, Medal Count closed very quickly to win an Allowance Optional Claimer on the turf last time out. He has consistently worked locally on the dirt this year and his MSW win at Ellis Park was over the dirt after it was moved off the turf.

Pick: Exacta wheel: Commisssioner/ We Miss Artie, Almost Famous, & Medal Count

2/22/2014: Fair Grounds Race 11-- G2 Risen Star Stakes
Perhaps the most wide open of this week's Kentucky Derby preps, the Risen Star features Vicar's in Trouble who looked fantastic when winning the LeComte locally, but he drew the dreaded fourteen post (he'll move inside one spot following the scratch of Bond Holder) and with his front running style, that dramatically affects his chances in my eyes. He'll need a small miracle of a trip in order to make good here even though on paper, he's a standout. Albano is intriguing following his runner- up finish to Vicar's in the LeComte, but drawing the rail was about as bad for him as the far outside is for Vicar's. I see Albano likely being forced to the lead and although I'm quite interested in seeing how he handles possibly having to run faster early than he's been used to, I wouldn't play him on top in that spot. I expect Gold Hawk to improve in this spot, particularly if he goes back to his closing running style with which he was successful in the past. Both Intense Holiday and Rise Up will be overlays in my opinion with the former being more exposed than the others and the latter having found the bulk of his success at "The Bullring" Delta Downs, which has a much shorter stretch run than he'll see here in addition to a more talented field that he won't simply be able to run away from at the start. Hoppertunity, who @Derbyologist has spoke highly of for months,  is interesting coming off of his MSW win at Santa Anita, but may be in a bit over his head here. Being that I'm against the favorites in this race, however, I'm going to take a bit of a flier with Son of a Preacher. This son of Pulpit out of Canadian Champion 3yo Filly Kimchi has only four races to his name, one of which was this season in the Smarty Jones Stakes, in which he closed to finish fourth and nearly pipped Coastline for third on what was clearly a speed favoring track. That was an improved effort off of his runner-up finish to Gold Hawk in an Allowance Optional Claimer last December. Plain and simple, he looks to be a horse on the rise and at long odds, I'll take that over horses who've shown me time and time again that they can't get it done at this level.

Bankroll Play: $2 win, $4 place, $6 show on Son of a Preacher

Weekend Quick Picks:

2/22/2014: Lingfield Race 4-- Winter Derby Trial Stakes: Grandeur
I don't typically put overseas picks in my quick picks, but I had to make an exception for one of my favorites in Grandeur, who you may remember from his past victories in the Twilight Derby and Hollywood Turf Cup. Although he'll be giving weight away to all of his rivals here, he should be head and shoulders better than these and the booking of Ryan Moore, who won on him at Goodwood and rode him to a nicer than it appears on paper seventh in the G1 Hong Kong Cup, is encouraging. The only question will be how he handles the polytrack, as he's solely run on turf to this point, but he has a half brother and sister who have both won on polytrack, which gives me hope that the surface switch won't be an issue.

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 3-- Allowance Optional Claiming $25,000: Kingston Jamaica
One of the few Galileos in America, Kingston Jamaica will be making his debut on this side of the pond. Although he only has one win in five starts, he was outclassed in his most recent start, where he finished third behind Trading Leather (who went on to finish second behind Novellist and Declaration of War in his next two starts) and a then in-form Lines of Battle. He won't face horses that are nearly as tough as those here and we know how good these Euro turf runners can be with first time Lasix.

2/22/2014: Gulfstream Park Race 10-- G3 Canadian Turf Stakes: North Star Boy
Since arriving in America, North Star Boy has only finished out of the money once and that was in a salty allowance race that included the likes of Frac Daddy and Pick of the Litter. He seems to have found a home at Gulfstream, however, where he was just edged for the win in a starter stakes in December before closing late to finish a distant second behind multiple stakes winner Longhunter. The ever consistent North Star Boy's numbers fit here and at a massive price, he's worth taking a small shot across the board.

2/22/2014: Fair Grounds Race 9-- G3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes: Shanon Nicole
After six starts on turf, of which she won  once and was thrice a runner up, she dominated in a local off the turf NW1 allowance optional claimer over one mile seventy. Her running style should work well in this race and although I slightly question if she'll be able to replicate that performance again on the dirt, there are also questions about the favorites and I have a feeling Shanon Nicole's price will drift up from the 5/1 ML.

2/22/2014: Fair Grounds Race 10-- G3 Fair Grounds Handicap: Unitarian
Few horses enter here with better form than Unitarian, who has only finished outside of the money once since breaking his maiden last July. It may have taken him eight starts to break his maiden, but he's really come into his own since, including having started this year undefeated in two runs, the first of which included now G1 winner Lochte and Cozy Kitten, who was running a big one in the G2 Mac Diarmida before being completely blocked while making a big move down the rail.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kentucky Derby Contenders Analysis and Updates

It may only be February, but the Road to the Kentucky Derby is in full swing and with the first round of major preps nearly behind us, I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss who I view as some of the top contenders. While I won't rank my Kentucky Derby contenders this far out, I'll put them in three groups based upon how I view their development at this point. 

Leading Contenders

Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile - Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull) 
Impressive in his four career starts, three of which were in graded stakes. His only loss came at the hands of Honor Code in the G1 Remsen, by the slightest of margins. Regardless, he looked to be the better of the two in that one, as he had a wider trip than the winner, was carrying more weight, and was still gamely fighting on up to the wire. He's clearly the most accomplished of the true contenders at this point and he showed exactly what he's made of when winning the Holy Bull Stakes in dominant fashion.
What to Watch For: His pedigree and build are borderline for that of a true router, so it'll be important to see how he comes home in his next prep, the Florida Derby, which will be over nine furlongs. I wouldn't be terribly put off if he doesn't win that race as long as he's not staggering home, however, because he will have had two months in between preps and may very well need the run. It's also important to note he has never ran behind another horse in any of his races to date, so a solid finish despite running between and behind others would be a major plus. 
Last Result: 1st in G2 Holy Bull Stakes, Expected Next Start: Florida Derby

Candy Boy (Candy Ride - She's an Eleven, by In Excess)
Always in the mix, this son of Candy Ride lost to Tap it Rich before breaking his maiden over the synthetic track at Hollywood Park. He finished a very nice second to Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity after being the first to make a run at the pacesetter Brother Solider and backed that performance up with a win in the Robert B Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, which was on the dirt.
What to Watch For: Candy Ride is a prolific synthetic and turf sire, so it will be important to see if Candy Boy can have back to back strong performances on the dirt. Additionally, this is the time of year during which Candy Rides have historically been strong, but they are all too often surpassed by the more progressive colts as the Kentucky Derby approaches. He doesn't need to do much more, but a solid finish in the Santa Anita Derby, particularly because that will come after a two month layoff, will be a good sign.
Last Result: 1st in G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Expected Next Start: Santa Anita Derby

Noble Moon (Malibu Moon - Mambo Bell, by Kingmambo)
A winner in two of his three starts, this son of Malibu Moon (who also sired last year's Kentucky Derby winner Orb) has one of the more interesting and balanced pedigrees of the bunch. After breaking his maiden in his first attempt, he ran a deceivingly good third behind Cairo Prince in the Nashua after being bumped at the start, which forced him to rally from the back of a field of twelve. The plan was for him to next run in the Remsen, but he was forced to scratch after breaking out in hives and instead he made his next start in the G2 Jerome, which he won. It wasn't the flashiest of victories over a relatively weak field, but surely he needed the run. He missed some time with niggling injury issues since, but is said to be galloping at the moment.
What to Watch For: If he is really going to run in the Gotham, he needs to start working this week. Having ran last month, it shouldn't take much to get him back to top fitness, but he'll absolutely need to be on his A-game if he's going to compete in the loaded Gotham, which may include Uncle Sigh, Surfing U S A, and Harpoon. Distance shouldn't be an issue, but he is bred to be a late developer, so watch for continued development, and perhaps a breakout performance, in his upcoming races.
Last Result: 1st in G2 Jerome Stakes, Expected Next Start: Gotham 

Vicar's In Trouble (Into Mischief - Vibrant, by Vicar)
One of the speedier horses in the bunch, Vicar's In Trouble has found new life since arriving at the Fair Grounds, where he is undefeated, has won his two starts by a combined total of just under twenty lengths, and has logged some of the higher speed figures of the bunch.
What to Watch For: The biggest question for this son of Into Mischief is whether or not he will continue to be able to stay the distance. Last year, two Into Mischiefs: Goldencents and Vyjack both shined at this time of the year, but were unable to effectively stretch out to ten furlongs. The upside for this colt is that he ran greenly at times in the LeComte, as he swerved coming down the straight and looked to switch back to his left lead, so there is a possibility for improvement.
Last Result: 1st in G3 LeComte Stakes, Expected Next Start: Risen Star 

Samraat (Noble Causeway - Little Indian Girl, by Indian Charlie)
Undefeated in four starts, Samraat has done nothing wrong to this point. He demolished the field when he won by over sixteen in the Damon Runyon, although Deceived blowing the break certainly helped him quite a bit there. His win in what was essentially a match race versus Uncle Sigh in the G3 Withers was mighty impressive, however, in that he showed an ability to rate just off the pace.
What to Watch For: While I severely doubt his ability to stay for more than nine furlongs, it will be just as important to see how he can hang in a race that has a fair amount of early speed. He's made his mark by feasting off of easy leads and him and Uncle Sigh weren't exactly flying early on in the Withers. His distance limitations may very well be exposed should he have to work harder early on.
Last Result: 1st in G3 Withers Stakes, Expected Next Start: Undecided, but will be one prep (Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby, or Wood Memorial most likely)

Shared Belief (Candy Ride - Common Hope, by Storm Cat)
Two-year-old champion Shared Belief marked himself a major contender when he blew away a talented field that included stakes winners Tamarando and Bond Holder at Hollywood Park. Not only is he undefeated in three starts, but is one of the few who has posted triple digit Beyer speed figures along the way. All of his wins, however, have come on synthetic surfaces.
What to Watch For: The obvious question is whether or not he will successfully transition to dirt, although given his build and stride, I tend to think he will even though Candy Ride isn't known as a dirt sire. The bigger question, however, will be his ability to get back on track after being off the worktab since the start of the year. He was initially supposed to run in the Robert B Lewis, but plans have since changed and although he has resumed training, it will be vital that he records works soon if he wants any chance at making it to the Kentucky Derby.
Last Result: 1st in G1 CashCall Futurity, Expected Next Start: Undecided (San Felipe, perhaps?)

Progressive Types

Conquest Titan (Birdstone - Miner's Secret, by Mineshaft)
I'm typically not a fan of three-year-olds who have ran more than five times and haven't yet won a graded stakes race for fear that they're just not good enough to compete, but a change in running style and a pedigree that points towards late development is enough to maintain my interest in this well-bred son of Birdstone. After moderate success as a two-year-old, his running style was switched to that of a deep closer and he immediately won an Allowance Optional Claimer over next time winner General a Rod at Churchill Downs. He most recently finished a distant second to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull after impressively coming through the field to get a piece.
What to Watch For: He's bred to be a Classic distance runner, so he should have no issues staying. He should continue to log solid finishes and his speed figures should raise the further he has to run. Plenty of horses were able to close at Gulfstream on the day of the Holy Bull, so it will also be important to note whether or not he will be able to complete the same sweeping run from the back next time out.
Last Result: 2nd in G2 Holy Bull Stakes, Expected Next Start: Fountain of Youth

Top Billing (Curlin - Parade Queen, by A.P. Indy)
He's won two out of three, with his only loss coming to the highly regarded Commissioner and is definitely the "buzz horse" following his impressive Allowance Optional Claiming win over Surfing U S A on the Holy Bull undercard. His pedigree screams Derby runner, but as was mentioned with Conquest Titan, it's again worth stating that many runners were able to close at Gulfstream that day, contrary to popular belief. Regardless, the patience he showed and the ease with which he was able to pass his competitors was eye catching.
What to Watch For: Unlike most of the others on this list, Top Billing has yet to compete in stakes company, so we'll have to see whether or not he can truly compete at this level in his next outing. It's also worth noting that was his third career start and horses tend to improve in the third start of a form cycle, so whether or not he can back up that effort next time out will be important.
Last Result: 1st in Allowance Optional Claimer, Expected Next Start: Fountain of Youth

Almost Famous (Unbridled's Song - Wild Gams, by Forest Wildcat)
Another horse who's bred to run ten furlongs, Almost Famous wasn't on my radar until watching him run in the Holy Bull. He had been headstrong in his three starts prior, so it was no surprise to see him on the lead in the Holy Bull and with Cairo Prince and Coup de Grace breathing down his neck, it was also not surprising he was unable to hold that lead, even moreso if the track was slightly favoring horses coming from off the pace. All in all, I like that he didn't fold after losing the lead and it's worth noting he galloped out past everyone (although in fairness, Cairo Prince was likely eased, so his short gallop out was deceiving).
What to Watch For: He's one who seems as if he'd relish a longer trip, but an inability to rate could be his downfall. It's just too hard for a horse who absolutely needs the lead to be successful consistently. If they're able to get him to rate off the pace, that's a major plus. It will also be important to keep a close eye on his works to ensure they're on a regular schedule because Unbridled Song's historically have troubles staying sound.
Last Result: 4th in G2 Holy Bull, Expected Next Start: Fountain of Youth

Albano (Istan - Pocho's Dream Girl, by Fortunate Prospect)
Having never finished outside of the top three, Albano has proven himself as one of the more consistent horses of this group. After finishing third in a twelve horse field Maiden Special Weight at Churchill Downs, he won two straight, one of which was a stakes at Fair Grounds. He most recently finished a distant second to Vicar's In Trouble in the LeComte, but his gallop out was eye catching to say the least. He's a half to multiple graded stakes winner Mark Valeski. 
What to Watch For: A horse who strikes me as one who will have no problems staying the distance, his main issue is in the speed department. He's bred to mature late, which gives hope for improvement, but he needs to find a bit more speed in order to avoid being just a plodder.
Last Result: 2nd in G3 LeComte, Expected Next Start: Risen Star

Uncle Sigh (Indian Charlie - Cradlesong, by Pine Bluff)
He dueled and narrowly went down to Samraat in the Withers, but he did the dirty work in that race and often it's tougher to be the "hunted" in these match race types. Of those two, I prefer this son of Indian Charlie, who appears on paper to have a much better chance of getting the distance. His one win was a blowout victory in a Maiden Special Weight, but it's the grit and fight he's shown in his two runner-up finishes that should bode well for him going forward.
What to Watch For: Another one who's shown a need for the lead, it will be important to see how he handles a race with an abundance of early speed and if he is able to learn to rate.
Last Result: 2nd in G3 Withers, Expected Next Start: Gotham

Chelios (Distorted Humor - Grat, by A.P. Indy)
After closing to finish second to Cherubim, Chelios immediately went to the front, set fast fractions, and never looked back to break his maiden in his second start over six and one half furlongs at Santa Anita. He made a major statement that day and what's even more interesting is that his pedigree suggests this half to Old Time Hockey wants no part of running in sprints. He should relish stretching out and mature late, which makes that speedy and dominating of a performance all the more impressive. It's also worth noting that his sire Distorted Humor is one of the few horses who has sired a winner of all three Triple Crown Races in Funny Cide (Kentucky Derby & Preakness) & Drosselmeyer (Belmont Stakes).
What to Watch For: We have to be realistic, he has only ran in Maiden Special Weights to date, so although he was very impressive, it wasn't like he was running against a tough field by any means. That being said, he doesn't have much time to waste, he needs win his upcoming races if he wants to be in the gate for the Derby.
Last Result: 1st in Maiden Special Weight, Expected Next Start: Undecided (Maybe an Allowance?)

California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit - Love the Chase, by Not For Love)
Two straight dominating wins have thrust this son of Lucky Pulpit into the limelight, the most recent of which was over Tamarando in the eight and one half furlong California Cup Derby at Santa Anita. Prior to that, he won by over six lengths in the King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood Park and he notched very high speed figures for both of those victories.
What to Watch For: This one appears to be an inconsistent sort, but when he fires WATCH OUT! The biggest thing to watch for him will be whether or not he can sustain his success on dirt. One huge run switching from the synthetic to dirt is one thing. Running consistently well over the dirt is a whole different ballgame.
Last Result: 1st in California Cup Derby, Expected Next Start: San Felipe Stakes

Raw Talent

Bobby's Kitten (Kitten's Joy - Celestial Woods, by Forestry)
If you watched the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, it was impossible not to take notice of Bobby's Kitten, who set blistering fractions before being passed by Outstrip and Giovanni Boldini late. How he held on for third in that race after the pace he set is still mind boggling to me. Prior to that, he had run three times, two of which he won easily. The talent is there, he's proven to be able to hang against top class rivals, has tons of speed, and being by Kitten's Joy, distance is not an issue. Add to that he will be taking arguably an easier route to the Derby, as he'll be avoiding the premier dirt preps and the fact that he is definitely Ken Ramsey's number one and you better believe that if he has the points, he'll be in the Derby.
What to Watch For: Kitten's Joy is the top turf sire in America by far and although he's not known to sire dirt runners, it's not unheard of (see multiple graded stakes winner Csaba). His ability on dirt will be a question that won't be answered until the Derby, itself though as he won't run on it beforehand. For him, we'll be watching for a solid prep on turf before it's all on the line in the Blue Grass. He'll likely need to finish top two there and we'd love to see him show an ability to harness in a bit of that early speed instead of flying out of the gate guns blazing.
Last Result: 3rd in G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Expected Next Start: Palm Beach Stakes

Giovanni Boldini (War Front - Dancing Trieste, by Old Trieste)
The Aidan O'Brien trained runner up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf was bred in West Virginia. He's won twice in Europe, both of which were on synthetic tracks and his only losses both came on turf and were at the hands of two seriously talented two-year-olds: Toormore and Outstrip. He will most likely be O'Brien's main charge at the UAE Derby at Meydan
What to Watch For: If he does in fact run in Dubai, he is definitely the one to watch, but it's how he exits that race which will be of utmost importance. While I'm not the biggest fan of the UAE Derby route to the Kentucky Derby, he does have some dirt influences in his pedigree and has proven class. If he wins in Dubai and exits that race well, he could be a dangerous sleeper.
Last Result: 2nd in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Expected Next Start: Undecided (Maybe UAE Derby?)

Friday, February 14, 2014

El Camino Real, San Vicente, and Southwest Stakes Preview and Weekend Quick Picks

Last week, we saw the emergence of a serious Kentucky Derby contender in Candy Boy, a son of Candy Ride, who backed up the big impression he made in the CashCall Futurity with an impressive off the pace win over Chitu in the Robert B Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. On top of that, we also saw Bayern's fifteen length win in an Allowance yesterday (although it was over a short field made up of crazies), who consequently stamped himself as a major player in the upcoming Derby preps out west. As always, @Derbyologist and I have a video preview of this week's Kentucky Derby preps and you get the fun unedited version this week! Now, on to this weekend's races. 

2/15/2014: Golden Gate Fields Race 8-- G3 El Camino Real Derby
An intriguing field of eight has formed for this official Kentucky Derby prep run over one and one eighth miles on the synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields. The lukewarm morning line favorite Enterprising is my selection in this race. This son of Elusive Quality out of an A.P. Indy mare has won two of his four starts, including the Eddie Logan Stakes on the turf at Santa Anita, and he most recently finished second to the undefeated Exit Stage Left over a mile and a sixteenth locally. In a race that on paper appears devoid of much early speed, Enterprising figures to be near the front. His pedigree suggests he should have no issues at the distance (unlike several others in this field) and Gary Stevens, who rode him to victory in the Eddie Logan, will be making the trip up north to ride him, which is an encouraging sign. G1 winner Tamarando also stands a big chance. This son of Bertrando is the class of the field and one of the more consistent runners in this year's three-year-old crop. Aside from his first race, Tamarando has never finished outside the top three in eight races, three of which were G1s. I, personally, view Enterprising as more of a progressive colt who is on the improve versus the more exposed Tamarando, but there's no denying Tamarando's ability, particularly on his preferred surface, even if the pace setup doesn't appear to be in his favor. The last of the favorites is Dance With Fate, as son of Two Step Salsa, who caught my eye as a two-year-old at Del Mar. He most recently won over a mile on the turf at Santa Anita, in a race that garnered quite a bit of social media attention, but arguably his most impressive performances (including his runner-up finish in the G1 Del Mar Futurity, which was won by Tamarando) were in sprints and I'm not convinced he'll be able to stay this far. One of the more intriguing runners is Infosec. The third place finisher in the aforementioned local prep won by Exit Stage Left, Infosec had a wider trip than Enterprising, who finished second. He won two straight sprints on synthetic prior to that run and his speed figures have improved with every race he's ran. Not to mention, I think his running style should suit well here, as he has shown an ability to run closer to the pace than many of the others in this field. As far as the others are concerned, I'll Wrap It Up had a no chance trip when sent off at short odds against Dance With Fate last time out and is eligible to improve. Icy Ride is still a maiden who looks to be massively outclassed here. Craftsman will get blinkers in his second start on this side of the pond, but based on his prior form, he strikes me as a horse who prefers soft/heavy footing, which he certainly won't get on the all-weather in sunny Southern California. The field is rounded out by the awesomely named Puppy Manners, a son of Kitten's Joy, who although appears to be outclassed here, could give us a barometer for Bobby's Kitten's potential on synthetic, as he is also out of a Forestry mare.

Bankroll Play: Exactas-- Enterprising / Tamarando, Infosec and Infosec / Enterprising, Tamarando

2/16/2014: Santa Anita Race 5-- G2 San Vicente
This seven furlong race draws a field of six despite not carrying any Kentucky Derby points. The Sadler trained Kobe's Back will certainly be the favorite after having "tough luck" in all three of his starts, the most recently of which were the G3 Hollywood Prevue and G1 CashCall Futurity, in which he finished second and tenth respectively. He has a history of troubled starts and I just can't get behind a horse who makes trouble for himself, especially at short odds. My choice instead will be Cherubim, a lightly raced son of Henny Hughes who broke his maiden over a horse I love in Chelios and was given a huge speed figure in doing so. He's worked well locally, has shown to have an affinity for the track, may very well be handed an easy lead, and Mike Smith retains the mount. Another horse here I'd like to mention is Rprettyboyfloyd, who most recently finished a closing second in Chelios' maiden breaker and garnered much attention on social media after doing so. Don't be fooled, however, Chelios set monster fractions in that gate-to-wire victory, whereas Rprettyboyfloyd closed from near the back of the pack, so he should've been set up perfectly from a pace perspective. IF HE WERE GOOD ENOUGH, HE WOULD HAVE WON THAT RACE. Phew....rant over.

Pick: Cherubim to win

2/17/2014: Oaklawn Park Race 9-- G3 Southwest Stakes
The much anticipated return of Strong Mandate is in this official Kentucky Derby prep over one and one sixteenth miles at Oaklawn Park.This son of Tiznow won the G1 Hopeful in impressive fashion before finishing a very nice third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after setting quick fractions early on. There appears to be quite a bit of early speed on paper in this field, however, so unless he shows a newfound ability to rate, he could be in a bit of trouble, despite being the classiest horse in the field. Tapiture, who most recently won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, is another who fits on paper, but he only had to fixate on one horse and run him down in that race, anytime he's had to deal with "multiple targets," he's struggled, which doesn't bode well for him in a race where he will likely be sitting behind several "early speed" horses. It's also worth noting both him and Strong Mandate haven't raced since November, so they will likely need the run. I will side with Louies Flower, a son of Flower Alley, who enters here after having won three straight at Remington Park, including Remington Springboard Mile. He appears to be a horse on the improve and more importantly has shown an ability to rate when necessary, which will be important in this speed filled contest.

Pick: Louies Flower to win/place

Weekend Quick Picks:

2/15/2014: Santa Anita Race 3-- Allowance: #2 Rangi finished a game second over the same conditions in January after setting RIDICULOUSLY FAST fractions. Should take this easily if they can harness in his early speed a bit. Victor Espinoza retains the mount.

2/15/2014: Santa Anita Race 6-- Maiden Special Weight: #6 Simon Kenton is a son of Empire Maker who sports some quick local works, including a few nice longer works (six/seven furlongs), and will be making his first start in a field loaded with horses who have lost multiple times at this level.

2/15/2014: Santa Anita Race 7-- Sweet Life Stakes: #4 Famous Alice is a daughter of Kitten's Joy of whom @Derbyologist and I think highly. Although he'll be sad to see they've kept her on the turf, I fully expect her to take a step forward in this a race where she will surely sit on a much softer early pace than she saw last time out, where she ran a game second to fellow competitor On the Backstreets over the same course and distance.

2/15/2014: Santa Anita Race 8-- G2 Santa Maria Stakes: #1 Iotapa is as consistent as they come, having finished in the top three in every start of her career, over half of which have been in graded stakes. She finished second in the G2 Santa Monica after a six month break last time out and will be flying late.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Robert B. Lewis Stakes Preview

A bit of a tough week at the office last week, as our choice Classic Giacnroll didn't stay in touch with the dueling Uncle Sigh and Samraat early and ended up finishing fourth. Our other choice Harpoon finished second in the Sam F. Davis and although he ran a bit greenly at times, he appears to be progressing albeit maybe not as quickly as he needs in order to truly contend for the Kentucky Derby. One bright spot was Deceived, one of our horses to follow, who easily won an eight furlong allowance optional claiming race for NY breds by eight and one quarter lengths. Now, on to this week's races. 

2/8/2013: Santa Anita Race 8: G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
In what is a very competitive field, I expect Midnight Hawk to go off as the favorite and deservedly so. Undefeated in two starts, this Baffert trained son of Midnight Lute was much the best in his debut at Hollywood Park and he backed up that effort with a win over Kristo in the Sham at Santa Anita. While he's definitely speedy and will figure into the early pace, this trip may be about as far as he can realistically stay and his inability to rate is worrisome, especially considering he's not the only horse with early speed in this race. Diamond Bachelor is one of the more seasoned horses in this field, having raced four times as a two-year-old. He's twice won on the turf at Del Mar and he finished second on the turf at Santa Anita before a disappointing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he was far behind early in a trip that is counter to his typical running style. That being said, expect him to be much closer to the front early here. By all accounts he's looked fantastic working over the dirt at Santa Anita and if he can settle behind Midnight Hawk, he has a big chance. Also making his three-year-old debut is Candy Boy, who most recently finished second to Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity. He made the first run at pace setter Brother Soldier there, but when it was all said and done, he was dusted by Shared Belief. His one run on the dirt was a second behind Tap It Rich in another race where he just wasn't good enough. Chitu has easily won his starts to date, but he's a sprinter and I by no means expect him to be able to wire this field. Cool Samurai, a son of First Samurai out of an Unbridled's Song mare, finished a solid second behind Wicked Strong in his debut before breaking his maiden locally over eight furlongs. He benefited from a duel between Rough Passage and The Admiral in that race and still barely got past The Admiral at the wire, who if we're being honest, isn't that good. Bare in mind though, he came home much more quickly than Midnight Hawk and Kristo did in the Sham. He'll face much tougher here, but if Midnight Hawk, Chitu, and Diamond Bachelor make the pace honest, look for him to be the one to pick up the pieces in what will be his third career start.


Win: Cool Samurai, Place: Diamond Bachelor, Show: Candy Boy

Bankroll Play: 

$5 win, $10 place on Cool Samurai

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dubai Carnival Picks for Thursday, February 6, 2014

UAE 1000 Guineas (Race 4):
This will be our second time seeing Godolphin runner Wedding Ring during the Carnival, who won in her first time out off a three month layoff last month. She closed well into a fairly pedestrian pace and should benefit from what will assuredly be quicker early fractions this time around. I'll also be watching out for Letterfromamerica, a daughter of Ghostzapper who impressed when finishing third in Wedding Ring's last outing. She was the pacesetter that day and held on gamely to get a piece in what was her first start since July. Expect her to further improve here.

Pick: Wedding Ring to win, Letterfromamerica e/w

Al Maktoum Challenge R2 (Race 6):
A son of Distorted Humor out of a winning A.P. Indy mare, Artigiano, who finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in 2012, is set to make his debut on the Tapeta. The surface switch is a non-issue, given his pedigree (which actually looks to be that of a dirt runner more than a turf runner to me). This will be his second race off the long layoff and his form was flattered when the two horses who beat him last time out, Mushreq and Gabrial, both came back firing. The former ran gamely to lose by just a neck to Mujaarib and the latter came back to win by a head. Artigiano was a bit keen last time out, but being his first run off such a long break that's to be expected. I expect him to settle better this time around and although drawing a wide post hurts, he should be ready to fire here. Defending champion Hunter's Light obviously has a chance, as he certainly loves Meydan, but he did flounder a bit towards the end of this meet last year and it's tough to side with him considering he will be a very short price.

Pick: Artigiano e/w

Cespa Mile Handicap (Race 7):
There are plenty of wide open races on today's racecard, but this doesn't appear to be one of them. Favorite El Estruendoso looks to be the clear standout. He ran a big race to miss by just a head to Gabrial last month and both drawing the inside post and the slight cutback in distance should only further help him in what will be his third start off the layoff.

Pick: El Estruendoso to win