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

Friday, August 1, 2014

Down to the Wire: West Virginia Derby + Weekend Quick Picks

This weekend on Down to the Wire we had special guest Ryan Rapko join us to give us a little more insight into how the track at Mountaineer plays in various conditions. In this video, we previewed and gave our picks for two-year-olds on the turf (SAR R3), the Whitney H., WV Governor's Stakes, & WV Derby. If you want to just see the picks, feel free to click the "YouTube" button  in the bottom right hand corner of the video and all of our picks are listed under the description on YouTube. 

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014: Quick Picks:


Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (8.5f, turf): #5 Cordero over #3 Face the Music
Phipps homebred son of Stormy Atlantic Face the Music is bred for turf from top to bottom and out of an unraced half to Point of Entry, he certainly fits in this spot for the formidable duo of Shug McGaughey & Joel Rosario. So far this year, Stormy Atlantic is (38:9-5-0, 23.6%) on debut and with two speedy recent works locally, this one looks well-meant in this spot. My top choice, however is going to be Cordero, a son of Giant's Causeway and half brother to Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Halfbridled  who debuted at Royal Ascot and and finished a distant sixth. Typically. I don't side with Wesley Ward second time starters who lost on debut, but I do recall Ward saying one reason Cordero debuted in England was that he wanted further at the time than he'd be able to get over here and he looked like he was screaming for more ground in his debut. He'll also be first time Lasix.

Race 7: Stakes (8f, turf): #7 Pianist
She may be making her 2014 debut, but Pianist was for the most part very consistent last year despite running into the likes of Laughing and Somali Lemonade. She loves Saratoga (4:1-2-1) and has a nice consistent work pattern entering her first start of the year -- a telling sign for a horse who typically runs well fresh. 

Race 9: G1 Test S. (7f): #10 Red Velvet (scratched) over #4 Thank You Marylou, #5 Southern Honey
In this race, I'm going with the speed of the speed Red Velvet, who although she couldn't quite get enough of a lead in a G2 last out has shown herself to be dangerous when left alone out front, which I expect her to be here. Prior to that run, she had won three-of-four career starts with her lone loss being a runner-up finish over a muddy track in which she was well clear of the third place finisher. Her run two-back was particularly nice, as the second and third place finishers both came back to win and post solid speed figures to boot. This distance strikes me as one that's too short for likely favorite Sweet Reason versus this quality of tried and true sprinters, but Thank You Marylou ran a massive race at this distance at Gulfstream in March and is interesting on the cutback at a big price. A winner of three-straight sprints, Southern Honey also can't be ignored even if you're like me and think that recent form from Churchill Downs isn't necessarily the strongest. 

Race 10: G1 Whitney (9f): #6 Departing over #5 Palace Malice
This isn't particularly the best betting race because even though some would say Palace Malice doesn't represent value, if you're a fan of his and like me think that his best race of the year was going this distance at the Fair Grounds, then he's potentially a single and you move on. The only reason I'm putting Departing on top here is that he's making his third start of the year after being a bit keen to begin with last time out and if he sits just a touch further back here, perhaps he won't hang when he hits the front too early like he did in the Stephen Foster. He does his best running at this distance, typically runs well off a short break, and is both rounding into form and undoubtedly well-meant in this spot. Regardless, he'd need to run back to his Super Derby form to win here and always seems to be one who takes money. He has a chance to pull the mild upset, but the nod here is very tentative and even moreso if his odds dip below 5/1. 

Del Mar

Race 8: G1 Clement Hirsch (8.5f, synthetic): #6 Parranda over #2 Iotapa
Aside from a poor run in the G2 Honey Fox, Parranda has been quite consistent this year and is two-for-three since joining Hollendorfer's barn. With Iotapa, Broken Sword, and to a lesser extent Doinghardtimeagain in this field, there's a decent chance the pace gets a bit chippy up front, which should flatter this daughter of English Channel. Her tactical speed should allow her to settle in a nice position to start and she's definitely out to win if it becomes a battle late, as she showed last out in the G2 Royal Heroine S. This will be her debut on synthetic, but Hollendorfer is one of the best with this surface switch. 

Race 9: Maiden 75k (6.5f, synthetic): #10 Vegas Strip
Son of Harlan's Holiday has had trouble with poor starts in his short career, but a recent speedy gate drill helps alleviate my fears of that happening again just a touch. Compounding his troubles from the gate has been that he battled against three significantly speed favoring tracks in his first three starts, whilst facing decent competition (considering the class level) from the likes of Yard Line, Big Tire, Rprettyboyfloyd, Dublin Up, and The Admiral. The one time he didn't face a speed favoring surface, which was his most recent start, he finished second. A half-sibling of his Passion Tamer broke her maiden over synthetic at Arlington, and he looks to follow suit in what will be his fifth career start.