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.