Friday, February 27, 2009

The Fountain Of Youth (G2)

Gulfstream Park
The Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)
1 Mile - Three Year Olds - $250,000

This competitive edition of The Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) features plenty of speed. But at the mile distance a speed duel will result in almost certain failure. As such, this is not a race in which I expect pure athleticism to prevail. The most important ingredient will be strategy and a horse’s ability to execute that strategy. A field with this much speed appears to set up for a closer. But everyone knows the situation and they may not be eager to send their horse. In that case the pace may not be too fast for a horse that can stretch its’ speed. Here are the two most likely scenarios.

The first is that the horse that breaks well attempts to extend that advantage immediately. This will force others to chase producing a very fast early pace, resulting in two perhaps three horses on top with daylight between them and the field. They will burn themselves out. The second is that everyone tries to get their horse to settle and they wait for the first move. I’m betting on the first type of race developing.

There are three horses that I think will cause this to happen; Taqarub, Quality Road and Notonthesamepage. These three have shown ability only when they’re on the engine. Perhaps their connections have tried to teach their charges to rate but when the gates open, I say all bets are off concerning their ability to rate and win. If they want to get to the Derby they need purse money, so patience is not an option. Notonthesamepage is the only one of this trio to have run in a race of more than 7 furlongs and he finished poorly in that attempt. It is a tall order for a colt to stretch out for the first time against this field and at this distance. It’s one turn and allows no time for a breather. I give these three little chance of hitting the board.

I’m not a believer in This One’s for Phil. The 3-1 Morning Line favorite drew the favorable outside post and Prado is up again. He obviously loves GP. His last race was one of the most talked about this spring, but I read it as an anomaly. He will have to prove to me he’s real. He’ll have to beat me.

I’m looking for a horse that can run professional fractions and still have a late turn of foot. The horse that best fits that description is Beethoven. He has proven himself up to 1 1/16th and with Calvin Borel up he isn’t likely to waste any ground. I think the race sets up well for him. The front tier should eliminate themselves; the next group will run fast fractions and Beethoven should close well. His pedigree, Sky Mesa -Moonlight Sonata (Carson City) leads me to think he’ll only get better with added distance and I’ll be looking for good things from him in the future.

Capt. Candyman Can will complete my exacta. He has already shown he can stretch his speed. He is a very consistent and classy horse. If the front tier pulls away he has the speed to track them. If he needs to rate he has shown that ability too. Since Pat Day retired there is no one better than Julien Leparoux at measuring distance. In his only two losses Capt. Candayman Can’s running lines note real issues; "tentative over shadows" and "taken up in tight late." I think he’ll probably be a little too involved in the pace to withstand Beethoven’s late run. My concern with him is his work tab. It doesn’t make me extremely confident that his wind is where it needs to be. I think he is on course to ‘peak’ another day. He has experience, class and versatility. He will run a game race.

To fill out the board I like the other son of Candy Ride(ARG) Jack Spratt. He is steadily improving and has the late running style that fits the race. I also like the progression of works since his last race. He has already shown ability on two surfaces and his works suggest dirt will be no different. He showed great improvement and talent in besting Lime Rickey and Beacon Hill Road in his last race and I think he will improve off of that effort. With any proven dirt form at all I may have picked him to pull a big upset.
  • The Picks:
    Win: Beethoven
    Place: Capt. Candyman Can
    Show: Jack Spratt

# Horse Jockey Wt. ML
1***Bee Cee Cee**********C. Valasquez*****120********30-1
2**Theregoesjojo******** K. Desormeaux***116********15-1
3**Notonthesamepage****E. Trujillo*******120********4-1
4**Take the Points*******C. Decarlo********116********10-1
5**Jack Spratt***********R. Douglas*******120********20-1
6**Rocketing Returns****J. Lezcano********116********5-1
7**Beethoven************C. Borel**********122********12-1
8**Break Water Edison***E. Coa***********122********15-1
9**Capt. Candyman Can**J. Leparoux******122********5-1
10*Taqarub**************A. Garcia*********120********6-1
11*Quality Road**********J. Velasquez******114 (L1)****8-1
12**This One’s for Phil****E. Prado**********120*******3-1

Friday, February 20, 2009

San Carlos Handicap (G3)

Santa Anita Park
San Carlos H. (G2)
7 Furlongs (All Weather Track) - 4 Year Olds And Up - $150,000

The San Carlos Handicap (G3) drew a contentious field of six. For a sprint, the race has come up short on early speed. This may result in a race where the final quarter is run as fast as the first. Keeping this in mind, because of the small field, we can take a look at how this scenario may play out with each horse.

Star Nicholas drew the rail which has produced 30% of the winners of 7 furlong races at Santa Anita this meet. Unfortunately he does not possess the early speed that would take true advantage of the post position. But, with a preferred late running style and a field of only six, the rail should not compromise his race. He is also an all-weather specialist having cashed a check in 9 of 10 starts on synthetic tracks. The good news stops there. In the San Carlos he will be facing the classiest competition he has yet faced. As with most late running horses he runs best into a hotly contested pace and I don’t think he’ll get that until late when everyone will be finishing. Pass.

I see three very promising signs for Halo Najib. The first is that he ran very well while returning to sprinting in his last race. Since then he has continued to train like a sprinter. His work tab displays some very sharp works. It should also be noted that Bejarano has enough confidence in him that he passed the mount on Past The Point. Halo Najib usually looks to make a late run but won’t make up any ground on the best of these. He was closer than usual in his return race and his works hint at new tactics. So, I won’t be surprised to see him close throughout the running. I don’t usually like a horse second back in sprints, especially one that is not known as a sprinter but he’s showing signs that he’ll improve albeit not enough to win.

Yankee Bravo is the real dark horse in this race. He’s a classy horse that has been away more than nine months. It is a very difficult distance for a return and the field is too talented to expect him to win. I think he’ll need a miracle to win this race. He was, and may continue to be a very nice horse, but I don’t think he’s placed to win this one. Perhaps the connections have something else in mind a little down the road. I’ll pass, but hope he does well.

Past The Point likes to run on the front, that will be a big advantage. He will inherit the lead and if the pace is soft, as noted in the introduction, he should have plenty left to finish. He is cutting back in distance and that extra conditioning will serve him well the last 1/8th. This race will be a handicapper’s favorite; third off a layoff. And, the three works he shows since his last race say he’s still fresh. If the race goes in 46 or slower he’ll be hard, maybe impossible, to catch.

Georgie Boy, the likely favorite, is nine of ten in the money on synthetics. He has won two of three at this distance and three of five at Santa Anita. If that’s not scary enough, he’s also learned to rate. However, he has probably done his best racing while making the pace or sitting just off of it. In my opinion he should revert to that style of running for this race because he is the only horse that can put needed pressure on Past The Point, and still win. If Halo Najib does not change tactics, without Georgie Boy up close Past The Point will find himself comfortably alone on the lead. That will spell disaster for the field. But I think they will continue to try to rate him and that will be his undoing. This will also be his third race back off a layoff. He shows one maintenance drill since his Jan 24th race and that work seemed sub-par. Unless he is up close in this race he is vulnerable.

Mutadda. If Thomas Amoss is shipping a horse across country one should take notice. He’s also been working perfectly up to the race. But, beyond those considerations I don’t find anything to like. Here’s a few of the negatives. A Grade II is a big, difficult step up in class from an overnight stakes at Fairgrounds. Synthetics aren’t a surface he has excelled on. He’s shipping a long distance. And, he’s another horse that wants to run late in a race where all but one horse shows that preference. He’s in over his head. Pass

The Picks:

Win:----Past The Point --Out in front and holds off Georgie Boy by a nose.
Place:--Georgie Boy ------They rate him a little and he comes up a nose short.
Show:--Halo Najib--------I talked myself into it with all the positives.


1-----Star Nicholas-----M. Baze----------114-----12-1
2-----Halo Najib--------R.Bejarano-----114-----5-1
3-----Yankee Bravo-----A. Solis----------116-----15-1
4-----Past The Point----J. Rosario-------115-----4-1
5-----Georgie Boy-------G. Gomez--------120----3-5
6-----Mutadda----------J. Talamo-------115-----6-1

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Sam F. Davis S. (G3)

Tampa Bay Downs
Sam F. Davis S. (G3)
1 1/16 Miles - 3 Year Olds - Purse: $225,000

Tampa Bay Downs’ Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G3) have become increasingly popular and important Kentucky Derby preps in recent years. This year’s edition of the Sam F. Davis boasts a big field and a good betting race. Lurking in the starting gate are more than a few colts that are Derby hopefuls. Probably the most anticipated performance will be that of the undefeated Free Country trained by Kenny McPeek.

There is no particular post bias for 1 1/16th at Tampa. However, there is a strong bias favoring horses that lay off the pace or close quickly. Approximately 50% of the races at this distance have been won by late running horses and I expect that scenario to hold true in this race as well.

Musket Man, Sumo, A.P Cardinal, Atomic Rain, and even Free Country have shown early speed and a desire to be close to the pace. However, the connections know it will be difficult to win this race on the front end so I don’t expect a mad dash for the front. Top Seed, who prefers a pressing style has run some very fast fractions at some slow tracks. He drew the outside post and that may force him to be hustled to gain position early. He is stretching out for the first time and if he’s rushed early he may be hard to rate. He could find himself on or vying for the lead with Musket Man and Sumo. There will be plenty of pace to run at.

The favorite Free Country has only two races on his resume a sprint and a route. In the sprint he came from far off the pace, while in his route victory he sat a length off the pace. That versatility usually indicates intelligence, both assets of a very good horse. But impressive as those races are, I don’t think those performances stamp him an unbeatable favorite. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a lightly raced three year-old. But as a handicapper one has to decide when a horse is vulnerable or if he is just superior. Based on just his two races, one a maiden, I don’t believe Free Country is unbeatable and I’m going to take a stance against him. I think the connections will run a race similar to his route victory . Desormeaux will have him forwardly placed just a length or two off the leaders. Unless he truly is a superior horse, I think that will be a little too involved for him to win. At 3-1 or less at post time, he’s going to have to beat me.

Atomic Rain has been a one dimensional horse; to win he also needs to be close. While he may inherit the lead somewhere I think he’ll flatten out in the stretch. I don’t think a horse can learn a new way to run in one race. I like that Breen worked him over the track and I think that will pay a dividend. I just don’t think this race can be won with his style of running. But, once again I expect him to hang on for place money.

The horse I think will win is Cliffy’s Future. He has a perfect running style for Tampa. He has shown the ability to finish well in races with both quick and average fractions. It does not appear that they have found his bottom yet and he sports some very nice and increasing speed figures. He has more race experience than most and that is a big plus. Pascacio Lopez is a very good, hungry young jockey that may have found a horse talented enough to highlight his skills. The only thing I do not like is he shipped south rather late. That always worries me.

To round out the trifecta I’m going to a horse I haven’t mentioned yet, General Quarters. I love his pedigree, (Sky Mesa – Ecology by Unbridled’s Song) for the distance. I think he’ll be even better when they go further. He has run well over the track, placing in two overnight stakes and shows a nice work on the 7th. His only attempt over a route of ground was on the grass and I’m going to throw that out. I have every expectation that he will improve in his first route on dirt. I believe he’ll beat the rest to the wire, snatching the show money away from A.P Cardinal.

The Picks:
Win: Cliffy’s Future
Place: Atomic Rain
Show: General Quarters

The Field:

PP Horse Jockey Trainer Wt. ML
1---Medaglia d'Onore----Centeno D------Sanders J--116---20-1
2---General Quarters-----Lopez J---------Miller M---116---8-1
3---Player's List------------Cox A-----------Rice W-----122---50-1
4---Mitchell Park----------Gonzalez L----Lerman R--116---20-1
5---Atomic Rain-----------Velazquez J---Breen K-----116---7-2
6---Cliffy's Future---------Lopez P--------Miller D-----116---10-1
7---Free Country--------Desormeaux K--McPeek K---116---3-1
8---A. P. Cardinal---------Bravo J-----McLaughlin K-116---8-1
9---Musket Man-----------Lezcano J-----Ryan D-------120---9-2
10--Sumo-------------------Douglas R-----Motion G----116---12-1
11--Top Seed---------------Allen R-------Trombetta M-118---6-1

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Las Virgenes Stakes (GI)

Las Virgenes Stakes (GI) - 300k - 1Mile - Santa Anita – Fillies, 3 Years Old

Race fans won’t have to wait until the Robert B. Lewis Stakes to see a horse that has the first Saturday in May circled on the calendar. Stardom Bound, the reigning two year old champion filly and $5.7 million IEAH purchase enters the gate two races earlier in the Las Virgenes.

Sometimes, while making selections we consider variables that seem pertinent but really aren’t. In this race we know IEAH is considering running Stardom Bound in the Derby. Knowing May 2 is a long way off it may be assumed that she won’t be cranked up in her first start of the season; over 100 days since her last race. That would, perhaps, make her vulnerable. However, that is handicapping intentions. While reasonable assumptions can be made in many situations I think it’s best to avoid falling into the trap of handicapping intentions as though they are written. The fact is that she is the best horse in the race. Having been transferred to the temporary care of Bobby Frankel, she has shown a steady work tab and exhibits no signs of rust. Can she lose? – Anything can happen in racing but I wouldn’t bet against her. Stardom Bound will add to her already considerable stardom with a win in the Las Virgenes (GI).

The pace will come from the very inside and outside posts, Navigator and Pinkarella, respectively. Pinkarella steps up from maiden ranks directly to a Grade I. In my opinion, that’s an unreasonable jump, especially into a field of graded veterans. I expect her to wilt quickly under the glare of this bunch. And when she does Navigator will be left alone on a comfortable lead. In that situation I expect Navigator to finish well. She has shown steady improvement in each of her races for Ron Ellis. She also has speed and likes to use it; so the one post should benefit her. She shows a series of quick stamina building works with a bullet on Jan. 31, so if she gets comfortable on the lead she will be very dangerous. I like her to fill the exacta.

Each of these fillies deserved careful consideration. They make up a very good field and I wouldn’t be surprised by any of them picking up a check (except for the aforementioned Pinkarella). But, to round out my trifecta I went to the Claiborne Farm, Christopher Clement entry of Haka. Of the remaining field I think she has the most upside. I don’t believe they have gotten to the bottom of her yet. I base this opinion on the steady progress she has shown, and the fact that she continues to display a steady work schedule three races into this cycle. She looks like a filly that is learning lessons each and every race and I expect her to exhibit her best Saturday. I’m also counting on that performance to be good enough for Haka to pick up the show money.

The Picks:
Win: Stardom Bound
Place: Navigator
Show: Haka

The Field:

# Horse--------------Jockey-------Trainer---------- Weight------ ML

1- Navigator----------V.Espinoza-------R. Ellis------------116---- 6-1
2- African Skies (GB) -J.Talamo----- P. Biancone-------116-----30-1
3- Century Park------T.Baze-----------B.Baffert-----------118--- 20-1
4- Nan-----------------C. Nakatani-----C.Dollase----------116---- 20-1
5- Stardom Bound----M.Smith-------R. Frankel---------122-----3-5
6- Haka--------------R.Bejarano-------C.Clement---------116---- 10-1
7- Saucy Evening-----G.Gomez------- G.Motion----------118---- 8-1
8- Toro Bonito-------- J.Velazquez----B. Baffert---------116---- 15-1
9- Pinkarella---------J.Rosario---------D.O’Neil----------116---- 8-1