I’ll tell you; for being about a week and a half away from Thanksgiving, this weekend’s Horse Racing schedule shows some very competitive races being run around the country. I saw in excess of a dozen races that could draw strong and be very good races. I narrowed it down to five, highlighted by the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot Million on Saturday at Delta Downs in Louisiana. The 8 ½ furlong contest for two year olds is the first major race for those pointing for the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
We will also be looking at two other races at Delta Downs on Saturday; the $400,000 Delta Downs Princess, which is the filly version of the Jackpot and the $250,000 Delta Downs Mile for three year olds and up.
Elsewhere, we will be looking at Laurel’s Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, a $250,000 six furlong sprint for three year olds and up and also the Bob Hope Stakes for two year olds going seven furlongs.
Lastly, as a programming note, I will be back early Thanksgiving morning (Thursday, Nov 24) with a look at the Grade: 1, $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs and the Grade: 2, $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar both being run on Black Friday. You’ll hear from me again on Black Friday morning with a look at about a half dozen more key races running on Saturday.
Saturday, Nov 19, 2016
Race: 6 (3:13 pm Post)
Delta Downs Mile
Fear the Cowboy – chased the fleet Noble Bird (and two other good ones) in his last (Lukas Classic at Churchill) and was beaten by a total of 3 ½ lengths. This four-year-old colt by Cowboy Cal is clearly having the best year of his career (7-3-2-0), he likes this surface (2-1-1-0 over it) and the distance (9-4-3-0) …. looks marginally best over the second pick……………………Rise Up – wired mid-level optional claimers two races back then came back and whipped a $100,000 stakes field at Charlestown in his last. 5-year-old son of Rockport Harbor scored speed figures of 94 and 98 respectively which are far and away the tops in this field, so it’s safe to say he is in razor sharp form right now. Bottom line here is, he’s a huge threat to make every pole a winning one once again in this spot……………. Great Minds – merits serious consideration too as this 5-year-old by Stroll actually beat the top pick back in March and then finished right behind in June. He has been laudably consistent this year (5 of 7 on the board, with 3 wins), has never been off the board in 6 tries at this distance (including 4 four wins) and, most importantly, he is 2 for 2 over this track……. ignore him at your own risk……………. Honorable Mention: Hesinfront– faced tougher last year and has run very well (albeit versus lesser) in his last three races…. maybe, for a share of the purse.
Race: 6 (4:15pm Post)
Delta Downs Princess
I like Golden Mischief to win this race but she is by no means a “lock”. I mean, she comes into this with a three race winning streak as she beat basically the same horses in this race as she did in her last and she won her prior two races by wide margins. Also, the 1 for 1 over this track and the 3 for 6 lifetime mark both make her look like the one to beat…. that’s the good news…. but there are several bad news angles that make me hesitate; like say she is a stretch runner who draws the #1 post which immediately puts her at somewhat of a tactical disadvantage, she will be trying two turns for the first time in her life and, most importantly, it took her a pedestrian like :14.2 to get the last furlong in her last race. Again, she’s the pick but she is a tepid one at that…………………Caroline Test – has good and consistent early speed. I was impressed by her (Grade: 1) Alcibiades race in her last where she led to mid-stretch before weakening and finishing fourth. Good looking filly by First Defence was beaten by less than four lengths in that race and drops to a Grade: 3 race here…. logical contender, even with other speed signed up in this race…………. Dude Fantasy – is a stretch runner by the gargantuan First Dude who is 2 for 2 in her career including winning the $500,000 My Dear Girl at Gulfstream in her last. That Gulfstream surface is a bit quirky and sometimes it’s tough to get a read on horses coming off that track, plus she only beat restricted Florida breds but still…she is proven at this distance, her speed figures are climbing and she will have a good, solid pace to “run into” ……………. Honorable Mentions: Shane’s Girlfriend – walloped maidens in her debut for trainer Doug O’Neill at Santa Anita and has worked well subsequently. Filly by Adios Charlie steps up and stretches out but I know O’Neill, he’s here for “a reason not the season”. ………. Cajun Delta Dawn – looked like she was going to boost her record to 5 for 5 at the quarter pole of the aforementioned My Dear Girl but folded in deep stretch and checked in fourth. That was this filly by Kantharos’ first start at the route distance so you’ll need to take that into consideration as well as she is another who comes off the Gulfstream Park surface…tough to read but could go well……………. Forest Circle – made up six lengths in the last three furlongs in her last, (behind the top pick) which was also her dirt debut (after 3 other starts). The extra distance here should clearly help her but, like the top pick, she was “crawling” home …………..Chanel’s Legacy – has won two of her first three career starts including a $50,000 stakes race at Remington Park in her last….hate to put her this far down as she could easily better this rating.
Race: 7 -4:45 pm Post
Delta Downs Jackpot
1) J Boys Echo – I like what I’ve seen so far from this good looking, $485,000 stretch runner from the Dale Romans barn.
By Mineshaft, this colt broke poorly in his 6 ½ furlong debut on Oct 2 at Churchill Downs and was towards the back of the pack most of the way around. But he made up 5 lengths and passed 5 horses from the quarter pole to the wire while getting the last sixteenth of a mile in a very good :06.2.
He was sent over to Keeneland, and stretched out two furlongs, for his second career start and responded with a visually impressive 5 ½ lengths drubbing over maidens while boosting his speed figure 14 points (61 to 75).
He’ll be stepping up from maidens to a Grade: 3, $1 million race but, in this case, I’m going to ignore that fact (and several others) and go with what my eyes saw in his last start……springs the upset here…
2) Gunnevera – is the 5/2 morning line favorite and rightfully so.
This colt by Dialed In, who is beginning to look like a bargain standing for $7,500, has won just two of five but in the three defeats he lost to Three Rules (twice) and probable 2016 two year old colt champion Classic Empire.
Sandwiched between those three losses were a very nice maiden win and a 9-1 upset of the Grade: 2 Saratoga Special at Saratoga plus he’ll be coming into this with a pair of bullets works in tow.
Nice colt, but I’m going to try to beat him based on the, again, visual aspect. I mean, I know, he was facing a champion in his last race but I don’t like the way he hung like a cheap suit in deep stretch of that race, which was his first around two turns. Although I highly doubt it, it makes me think there could be a distance limitation lurking.
Whether he wins or not, going into this race he is a “must use” in any exotics betting scenarios.
3) Line Judge – is a speedster who is a neck shy of coming into this unbeaten.
Bay colt was beaten by a neck in his 5 furlong debut but has rattled off three, impressive, wire to wire, easy wins in his last three, including cruising to victory in the traditional prep race for this (Jean Lafitte, Oct 22)….catch him for all the money.
Hot Sean – I think trainer Bob Baffert has brought this $550,000 yearling purchase along perfectly (not sure why I would expect anything less). Anyway, this son of Flatter comes into this with back to back wins (and a just missed second in three careers starts), he ran a hole in the wind in his last two works and his speed figures say he could be “right there” at the end of this one…could better this rating……………….Pat on the Back – has won 3 of 5 vs. NY State Breds over three different surfaces too. Colt by Congrats is slowly improving and can handle the distance. The (literally) million-dollar question is “how will he handle running against open company for the first time”?………………..I’m not sure what caused Our Stormin Norman‘s huge performance/win in his last. Was it the cut back in distance, the switch to the dirt and Keeneland surface or the addition of blinkers? Colt by Blame ran a speed figure almost 30 points higher than he’s ever run before, so which of those three things caused that? Or, was it just a “freak” performance and he bounces over the moon in this spot? Your call from there………………Thirstforlife – is another who shows losses to the likes of Klimt and rising star Not This Time that are sandwiched by two very nice wins. Very well bred chestnut colt has been on the board in 4 of 5 career starts and has run remarkably consistent speed figures (66, 69, 69, 68 and 69)…..outside shot.
Frank J DeFrancis Memorial Dash
X Y Jet – was one of the best, if not the best, sprinter on the East Coast late in 2015 and early into 2016 while scoring four straight quickly run, high speed figured, wide margin sprint wins in Florida. Gray gelding by Kantharos was then sent to Dubai for the Dubai Golden Shaheen, where he ran his lungs out but was beaten by a short neck. He didn’t come out of that race well as he suffered a chipped knee which sidelined him until the October 1 Vosburgh (Grade: 1) at Belmont; which I thought was an aggressive spot for his first race in 6 ½ months. He was up against it that day, as not only was the time off an issue, but the track came up muddy (a surface he doesn’t seem to like) and he got “hooked” early by not one, but two horses. After setting supersonic early fractions, he retreated in the stretch drive and checked in fifth. “We did surgery on him and he was out for three months. He came back in training again and it was another three months, but he’s ready,” said trainer Jorge Navarro. “He went in (fractions of :21.2 and :44) last time, and I watched the races at Belmont for the last two months and there was nothing even close going that fast. He came out of the last race really good. He’s ready.”… With a race now under his belt and sitting on two bullet works (I loved the last one—5F- :58 flat) he should be much tighter for this and should make every pole a winning one………………..Stallwalkin’ Dude – I hate to repeat myself but, as I’ve said before, this veteran gelding is always a threat, especially now that he seems to be in razor sharp form. It appeared this six year old gelding had the Grade: 1 Vosburgh won in deep stretch but was run down late by an absolutely streaking Joking in his last. This good looking son of City Place registered his third “trips” speed figure in his last four races that day as well. “To be able to campaign for as long as he’s been campaigning at this level is very impressive” said trainer and part owner David Jacobson. “It’s one race at a time, and right now it looks like he’s right there at the top of his game and we’re going to take advantage of it.”…obviously a threat to win this but two things trouble me. One, he was fourth in this race last year, which drew much weaker than this years renewal (which brings up the “maybe he doesn’t like the surface” question) and two, as much as I like this cat, the fact still remains he’s had issues winning back to back races and he comes into this off a win in the Grade: 3 Bold Ruler………….Weekend Hideaway – is having the best year of his career in terms of money won and the speed figures plus he finished right behind Stallwalkin’ Dude in the Vosburgh, beating the top choice in the process. It was interesting to note that the Vosburgh was run on a muddy track and this six year old by Speightstown clearly relishes a wet track (7-4-1-1 over them). But on Saturday (and if the weather holds) he’ll not only be back on a fast track, but also a track that he’s never run over before….I can’t see him getting more than the “show dough” in this spot………….Honorable Mentions: Ivan Fallunovalot – yeah, Gerard will be “falling over a lot” too with his birthday and New Years Eve just around the corner. Anyway, this horse can run, readers, and his stats are eye catching. Another six year old gelding, this horse has won 14 of 23 lifetime, 10 of 15 at this distance and is 3 for 3 this year. His “stalking” running style gives him a clear tactical advantage and his speed figures say he can be close at the end. A ridiculously fast work (3F- :33.4) on Nov 13 signals to me he is ready…..”He has quarter cracks quite often. His feet are not good so it’s a constant battle with him. That’s why he was off so long,” said trainer WL Howard. “Once we got ready to roll again, there’s not that many kinds of races around there where we’re at, so we headed off this way. He comes back good. He knows his job and he tends to business. He doesn’t get worried about much. He’s pretty relaxed and on race day he knows what he’s doing.”……..toss him at your own risk………………….If you draw a line through Life in Shambles (I wonder if they named this horse after me) turf experiment two starts back, you’ll find a five year old gray son of Broken Vow that is in career best form right now. He’s rattling off three straight wins (with a “trip” speed figure mixed in there) and a very strong second vs. a top level claimer field in his last four races…..bottom line here is, he is no “easy throw out”.
Bob Hope Stakes
Mastery– created quite a buzz on the backstretch, and rightfully so, after this $425,000 son of Candy Ride thrashed his competition in his racing debut on Oct 22. From the Bob Baffert barn, he ran to his pre-race works and odds (3/10) while zooming six furlongs in 1:09.3 and winning by 4 ¼ lengths. Good looking sucker scored a 93 speed figure that day, which is far superior to anyone in here. Moreover, he gets a rider change/upgrade to Mike Smith and I think it’s also interesting that Baffert take the blinkers off this time…. regardless of all that, he certainly has my attention and he could be a good one………………..trainer Peter Miller is running the daylights out of California Diamond isn’t he?. This will be this colt’s eighth start since June 17 but he’s won five and finished second twice (7-5-2-0). Colt by Harbor the Gold has been beating up on (mostly) Cal Breds but is 1 for 1 at this distance and looks next best. Interesting to note both career defeats came over this racetrack though……………………Ann Arbor Eddie– came from behind nicely to win by 4 ½ “going away” lengths in his career debut for trainer Doug O’Neill. Son of Square Eddie has worked well subsequently and should pick up the “show dough” …………Honorable Mention: Oopper Wallah– took command at the quarter pole in his debut on Aug 26 and won a knockdown, drag out, stride for stride stretch duel and was very game in doing so. Chestnut colt by Congrats came back and finished fifth in a quickly run turf mile race in his next/last out on Oct 10 but it should be noted that a) it was a turf race, b) he lost a three-way photo for third and c) he improved off his debut on surface he may not have exactly cared for…. bottom line here is he won’t surprise me at all if he outruns this rating
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2016- Record: 82-202 = 41%
2015- Record: 67-180 = 37%
2014- Record: 29-73 = 40%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** European superstar Frankel will have his stud fee held steady at £125,000 ($157,500) for 2017, according to Nov. 11 announcement by Banstead Manor Stud.
The son of Galileo, who was first horse to win successive Cartier Horse of the Year titles in 2011 and 2012, has gotten off to a remarkably strong start at stud.
“Few horses have made such a global impact as Frankel,” said Banstead Manor stud director Simon Mockridge. “His sublime racing career, physique, and pedigree provided the catalyst for the outstanding worldwide support he received since retirement. To date he has yielded five group winners and 18 individual winners–a truly explosive start and one that augurs well for the future. This success has been further cemented in the commercial markets with a global average of £560,000 ($705,000).”
**** 2015 champion sprinter Runhappy has been retired from racing and will enter stud at Claiborne Farm in 2017, where his first-season fee is set at $25,000.
“The decision to retire Runhappy was both difficult and easy,” said owner Jim McIngvale. “On one hand, we wish he could run forever. This is by far the most incredible horse we’ve ever owned, and he’s brought so much joy to our family and his fans.
“But on the other hand, we’ve always pledged to do what’s best for the health and happiness of Runhappy. For that reason, we put our strong emotional attachments aside and decided to retire him from racing. Now we’re filled with gratitude and enthusiasm watching Runhappy move into the same stall occupied by Secretariat, Unbridled, Easy Goer, and Bold Ruler to begin his stud career at the world-renowned Claiborne Farm.”