Saturday, April 25, 2015

Down to the Wire Kentucky Derby Round Table & Sha Tin Plays

This week on Down to the Wire, we were joined by two guests (Matt Dinerman and Rob MacLennan) and we discussed our handicapping strategies with regards to this year's Kentucky Derby.

4/25/2015 Hong Kong Sha Tin plays:

Race 2 (Class 4): Master Mind 
In a race that lacks much speed on paper, one would expect Tones to go forward, as he's recently in a similar situation. Lightly raced in Hong Kong, Master Mind has shown potential at this level, but his greeness and his mental struggles when trying to quicken around other horses has gotten in the way. He adds blinkers for this, with which he's looked much improved in the mornings. It can be expected he'll sit more forwardly than has been typical with the equipment change, which may well see him get the run of the race and if more focused this time around, he's eligible to improve.
Play: Master Mind to win

Race 6 (Class 3): Let Me Do
Packing Pins towers over this field on talent, but last time he was drawn awkwardly, he was wide without cover and he struggled to settle. Drawn wide here, he's worth taking on and we'll try to do just that with the consistent Let Me Do. Although he's not drawn ideally either, he is drawn to the inside of Packing Pins, so if they both go forward in what looks to likely be a slowly run affair to start, it is Let Me Do who should have the tactical advantage over the likely heavy favorite.
Play: Let Me Do to win

Race 7 (HKG2): Teofilo Calva
A progressive looking type, Teofila Calva enters here having finished second three straight races and four of his past five. While typically one would expect several of these to go better than him at this stage, Peniaphobia and Lucky Nine are making their first runs since traveling to and from Dubai and it was recently announced that Gold Fun will go to Royal Ascot, and thus has likely been kept fresh before this run, so the three of them could be vulnerable. Peniaphobia and Gold Fun are likely to go forward, which leaves Teofilo Calva to get the box seat run in behind them. He comes here rounding into good form and the step back up to 1200m suits.
Play: Teofilo Calva e/w

Race 8 (G1): 
Designs On Rome is the likely heavy favorite and deservedly so, but he could be vulnerable in what will be his first race since his trip to Dubai and with the step back in trip. The progressive looking Helene Happy Star was two lengths behind the well regarded Luger when fourth in the Hong Kong Derby last time out. It was his first local start over 2000m and one of the few times he's gotten a good pace to run into. With similar conditions likely here, given speedster Same World is drawn wide, he could take another step forward. Blazing Speed also intrigues in that he enters here going well enough lately and he should appreciate the step up to 2000m. Criterion merits consideration coming off his stellar run in Australia, but how he'll handle the quick turnaround and travel after a race that took place on a testing surface is a concern.
Plays: Helene Happy Star to win
            Helene Happy Star / Designs On Rome, Blazing Speed

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) Preview

The Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) is run over a distance of 2000m (about 1 1/4 miles) and is a race which has often been won by emerging stars on the Japanese circuit. Past winners include Japanese Triple Crown winner and supersire Deep Impact, as well as, fellow Triple Crown winner and two-time Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up Orfevre.

The race, which takes place at Nakayama Racecourse, features fairly tight right-handed turns and an uphill finish.

Pace Scenario:

This year's edition looks to have a good to strong tempo early with likely breakaway leader Spirits Minoru, a winner of three in a row who has led at every sectional of his races to date, surging to the front straight away. Duramente was very keen last time out, but was placed forward early and figures to do the same here from the inside draw and Danon Platina looks to also go forward from the far outside. Them along with Kitasan Black and Komet, both of whom regularly press the pace early, figure to ensure that Spirits Minoru goes at a solid gallop from the start. 

Bright Emblem was a massive eyecatcher in his last outing despite finishing second to Satono Crown. He was well back early and made a long sustained run during which he was forced very wide on the far turn, and yet he still kept on well. He looks very much a progressive type and one who'll relish every bit of this distance. Connections have mentioned him being a bit more in the mix early on this time around and drawn along inside, he figures to get a nice ground saving trip. Perhaps he'll be better suited by further than this, but a tough 2000m could also play straight into his hands.

Beruf, a son of Harbinger, has won three from five races and another who appears to relish 2000m. Supposing they go at a good tempo out front from the start, he figures to be flying late. His dam Les Clefs d'Or, a full sister of the first Japanese bred overseas Group 1 winner and influential stallion Stay Gold, finished second in the 2000m G2 Sapporo Kinen in 2006 and his half brother Courage d'Or twice finished second in 2100m dirt stakes. 

A winner of two from three starts, Real Steel, is a versatile runner with some tactical speed, which could serve him well in this spot. He's incredibly well-bred too. From the family of Breeders' Cup winner and champion racemare Miesque, his second dam is Monevassia -- a full sister to Kingmambo -- making his dam a half sister to European champion two-year-old filly Rumplestiltskin. Real Steel is a son of the great Deep Impact and his full brother Langley won an 1800m stakes at Nakayama in January and has won over 2400m, as well. Of the favorites, he also appears to be one of the most well placed, as far as the draw is concerned. 

Several other runners have the talent to win, but will also have major obstacles to overcome. Duramente appeared the one to take forward from his most recent start, but he got very keen there and being drawn inside, I question his ability to stay composed throughout when potentially buried inside. His dam won over further than 2000m, but his two full siblings have done their best work over 1800m or less. Satono Crown is one of two unbeaten runners here, but I thought Bright Emblem was easily the one I'd take from that race and even though he's drawn midpack, he'll need a bit of luck to avoid being caught wide early -- or he may have to lay further back than he did last time. Both Kitasan Black and Danon Platina have shown bundles of talent to this point, but the race shape looks likely to severely hinder their chances.

Choices (and morning line prices in Japan):

1. #1 Bright Emblem (9.8)

2. #10 Beruf (16.7)

3. #5 Real Steel (3.7)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

4/5 Randwick (Australia B) Plays

Randwick Race 2: #5 Hi World
Moody trainee should relish the heavy ground at what is a suitable distance for him. He'll need a bit of luck from the gate in order to avoid being caught out wide without cover early, but should he get it, he'll be the right price to take a chance in this class test knowing there aren't any questions about how he'll get over the ground.

Play: #5 Hi World to win

Randwick R6: #7 English
English ran huge for us in the Golden Slipper. She's the class of this field, still lightly raced enough that improvement is within her reach (especially over this longer trip), and based on her breeding she should be fine over the wet surface. The race looks to set up well for both her and Odyssey Moon, who although he's yet to run over a heavy surface, has never finished outside the top three on soft ground and is bred to absolutely adore wet tracks. He ran a blinder in the Golden Slipper, looking every bit like he was heading in the right direction and would relish this trip.

Play: Exacta box with #4 Odyssey Moon and #7 English

Randwick R7: #3 Mongolian Khan
We went with him last time out when he struggled when he overraced a touch up just off a quick tempo when stepping down in trip. He steps back up to 2400m here though and the testing surface only helps as he's not only 4-from-4 over soft ground, but he is, in my opinion, the best stayer of this group.

Play: #3 Mongolian Khan to win

Randwick R8: #2 Terravista 
The well-regarded Terravista has gone well over wet tracks in the past, having won 2-from-4 over soft, as well as, his only attempt over heavy ground. He ran well enough behind Brazen Beau and Chautauqua in a race where he was found to have suffered mild heat stress. He tends to go well second up, as is the case here, over what is his ideal trip (he's undefeated in three starts over course and distance).

Play: #2 Terravista to win

Randwick R9: #8 Puccini
He doesn't enter here with the nicest of recent form, but there are some positives about the Kiwi galloper in this spot. Not only is he better suited to 1600m then the 2000m he ran two starts back, but he looks like he can get a nice run from midfield from his gate. The testing ground definitely suits and while he'll have a bit to find, we're taking the risk he finds his form over these more suitable circumstances at a massive price.

Play: #8 Puccini win/show