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.

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