After doing 15 races the past two weeks, (where I won seven of the 15), we keep the ball rolling in this weekend’s Horse Races of the Week as we will be looking at six more races, highlighted by Saturday’s 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The Sam F. Davis is an 8 ½ furlong contest for three year olds that drew a field of nine led by the unbeaten McCraken.
While at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, although I’m not going to break down the race, be sure to watch a Bill Mott trained filly named Elate in the 8th race (Suncoast Stakes). She is a very big, imposing looking filly by Medaglia d’Oro who won her racing debut in New York by over a dozen lengths….she could be a star in the making.
Elsewhere we will be looking at two from Gulfstream Park in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and the Gulfstream Park Handicap (on the dirt). The GP Turf race is about as competitive as it could possibly be and the speedy Sharp Azteca spearheads the GP Handicap.
We also be heading out west to Santa Anita to look at three races, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.
On Saturday we will be taking a look at the Santa Maria, an 8 ½ contest for four year olds and up fillies and mares, where the streaking Vale Dori is expected to be a heavy post time favorite, and the Arcadia Stakes, a one-mile turf event for four years old and up.
On Sunday, we will be looking at one of my favorite races of the year in the seven-furlong San Vincente for three year olds. A field of just five was drawn with Iliad and Battle of Midway leading the charge in that race.
Once again, please pay attention to the starting times as I did these races by racetrack and not by starting times
Saturday February 11, 2017
Race: 10 (4:34 PM EST Post)
Gulfstream Park Turf
Divisidero – was a nervous wreck in the paddock before his last race (Jan 14, Fort Lauderdale Stakes) and then was “parking lot” wide, (meaning he was so wide on the turn that I thought he was in the parking lot) but unleashed a furious late run to finish third, beaten by just one length in that race. I thought it was an outstanding effort considering it was this 5-year-old by Kitten’s Joy’s first race in more than 7 months and logged a “trip” speed figure also, his fourth in a row. “He really ran well last time,” trainer Buff Bradley, said. “He didn’t have the best of trips like the two in front of him. He was wide and on a course like this, it’s tough … the turns are tighter. I’m hoping for a little better trip and with stretching out to a mile and an eighth that will help him as well. He was very good in the paddock, which we worked on,” he added, (in reference to the paddock before the Fort Lauderdale). “But when he got with the pony, he became a little bit washy. We’ll have a different plan with the pony this time, after the post parade. He’ll be with the pony through the post parade and may go to the backside and hang out there by himself.”…this is a very difficult race to figure out; any one of five could win. But I’m thinking with a change in pre-race tactics, a monster work last week (5F- :58.4) and having a race under his belt it should be enough to do the trick in this spot……..tepid choice……Almanaar – has clearly and methodically worked his way into peak form for trainer Chad Brown. “The horse (Almanaar) has really hit his stride now and is training exceptionally well,” Brown said. “I thought his last race was very good and I think the added distance here will help him. I think if there is a stronger pace in front of him it also will help him.” …………..Flatlined – is peaking right now and is another (like Almanaar) who has gotten to that point in textbook style. 3 for 5 over this turf course (while just 2 for 14 everywhere else) and his workout two weeks ago signals to me he should be sitting on another big race……………Honorable Mentions: Beach Patrol will be making his first start since Dec 3 but has been on the board in 9 of 10 career/grass starts. Trainer Chad Brown, who has a nice 1-2 punch in this race with this horse and the second choice, said: “I freshened him up a little bit. He’s been breezing nicely at Palm Meadows. It’s his first start of the year, and it’s a little bit hard to come off a bit of a break into a Grade 1 and face older horses for the first time, but I think he is a really talented horse. I think a mile and an eighth is perfect for him. He’s a really neat horse to be around; he has a lot of class.” ………..At first glance it looks as though Lukes Alley, who won this race last year, appears to be cycling out of form but I am not buying it. This now seven-year-old had legitimate excuses in his last two races (where he was fifth and seventh, respectively) but if you look beyond those races, he’s been a picture of consistency, including 8 wins in 14 career starts. I hate to put him this low because he could easily better this rating.
Race: 11 (5:05 PM EST Post)
Gulfstream Park Handicap
Based off his career thus far, and especially off his last two races, Sharp Azteca is the horse to beat in this spot. He was much the best in leading all the way in a stakes race at Laurel, winning by 5+ lengths, getting seven furlongs in 1:22 flat and scoring a 101 speed figure two races back. Trainer Jorge Navarro then shipped him west to run in the Grade: 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita where he ran hard and well but was beaten a half-length in snappy 1:20.4 (also for seven furlongs) and registered a very strong 106 speed figure. Now he comes back “home”, drops in class slightly and has a big work (6F- 1:11.4) in tow. “This is the best I’ve seen him. He’s matured a lot. He should run pretty good. He’s been training good and he came out of his last race really good,” Navarro said. “We pointed him for this race. We’ll try to keep him a one-turn mile. I think that’s going to be his best distance.”…..agreed Mr. Navarro, being that he is 3 for 3 at one mile………….Tommy Macho – could not have looked any better while demolishing the field in his last (the Hal’s Hope Stakes on Jan. 14) even after tripping and almost falling on his face at about the three eighths pole. 5-year-old by Macho Uno from the “Todd Squad” barn won by almost 6 lengths and scored a very impressive 105 speed figure that day as well. “He’s put together two huge races here going a mile (the Hal’s Hope and the Fred Hooper on Feb 6, 2016) so I think this race makes perfect sense,” Pletcher said. “His win here last year and the way he ran the other day, those types of races put him in the very top of the mile division.”…yes, it does appear he is best at a mile at Gulfstream but I just have the fact that it took this horse close to :26 seconds to complete the last quarter mile in the Hal’s Hope staring me in the face……….Zulu – was a top Kentucky Derby prospect early in 2016 before something went haywire in the Bluegrass Stakes that caused him to go on the shelf for over 8 months. This $900,000 son of Bernardini did come back running as he came from behind nicely to win a quickly run, restricted stakes race in his last on Dec 18. “Zulu is doing really well. We’ve been pointing for this race since the Tamarac, (his last race)” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He seems to be in good form. I think he’s a horse that continues to improve.”……………….Honorable Mentions: Awesome Banner is good looking, fast (but can rate if necessary) and is 6 for 10 over this surface. I’m not worried about the distance (he is 1 for 1 at one mile) but the fact he was beaten by lesser caliber foes in his last is what is troubling me…………….Blofeld’s form dropped like rock after winning this race last year and scoring a 103 speed figure. I mean he was flat awful in three races since. So much so that his owners moved him from Pletcher’s barn to that of George Arnold’s, a competent trainer in his own right. I wonder which Blofeld we will see this time. The really good one or the one that has been beaten by a combined 36 lengths in his last two starts?…………..Squadron A – has won his last two and seems to be in as good of form as he’s been in a while. But the low winning percentage (4 for 31 lifetime including 2 for 12 over this surface) as well as the 0 for 4 at this distance are reasons for concern.
Tampa Bay Downs
Race: 10 (4:45 PM EST Post)
Sam F. Davis Stakes
|1||State of Honor||3/C||L||J R Leparoux||116||M E Casse|
|2||King and His Court||3/G||L||G Boulanger||120||M E Casse|
|3||Fact Finding||3/C||L||J R Velazquez||118||T A Pletcher|
|4||Chance of Luck||3/C||L||R D Allen, Jr.||116||G S Bennett|
|5||Six Gun Salute||3/C||P Morales||116||E G Harty|
|6||Wild Shot||3/C||L||R Albarado||116||G R Arnold, II|
|7||Tapwrit||3/C||L||J L Ortiz||116||T A Pletcher|
|8||McCraken||3/C||L||B J Hernandez, Jr.||122||I R Wilkes|
|9||No Dozing||3/C||L||D Centeno||116||A Delacour|
1) McCraken – with Classic Empire disappointing last weekend, the 2017 Kentucky Derby betting favorite position is this colt’s for the taking.
This unbeaten son of the wickedly fast Ghostzapper was perfect in three strong efforts in 2016. He features a very potent closing run (which should bode well on this oval) and he should also get off a fast early pace to set up that late run in this spot.
But you need to be careful here, I mean could he falter like Classic Empire did last weekend? Absolutely …remember he will be “on the road” for the first time in his life, he is coming off a 2 ½-month layoff and this field is stacked. I wish his speed figures, although good, were a little higher although he has time for that.
2) Wild Shot – faced both Classic Empire and McCraken in his last two starts and was by no means embarrassed by either one of them, including battling McCraken every step of the way down the lane in his last before yielding way grudgingly late.
Speeder by Trappe Shot will, most likely, be upfront again in this spot and could prove tough to run down (again).
3) No Dozing – is much better than his last two races indicate (bumped hard at the start in one and very wide in the other).
He has a very nice stride and a good turn of foot that he can use at any point in the race but generally unleashes it at the quarter pole.
Colt by Union Rags won his first two races then chased Empire Classic (beaten just 4 lengths) and was making up ground late vs. another elite three-year-old in Mo Town in his last 2 races. Working well for this and he is clearly improving as the distances get longer.
Honorable Mentions: Fact Finding– (as I said last week): is clearly one talented animal, as he has won all three of his starts thus far by a combined margin of almost 14 lengths, including his last where he won “laughing”. To put this guy this far down on the list, it MUST be a tough field as he could easily win this race. That said, just two things bother me. One, what’s with just three races in five months? That’s definitely not his trainer’s MO, and two, as impressive as he has been, he still hasn’t cracked 80 in the speed figure department.…both are causes for concern……Do not underestimate State of Honor, who I thought ran terrific in his US debut in his last while battling the talented, and recent Swale Stakes winner, Sonic Mule (what kind of name is that anyway?) every step of the way down the stretch in his last. A repeat of that effort puts him among the vanguard here…………..Tapwrit – is a $1.2 million colt by super sire Tapit from the Todd Pletcher barn who “splashed” his way to a coast to coast win the Pulpit Stakes in his last. That was the second consecutive win in three tries for this horse and his speed figures are heading in the right direction.
Santa Anita Park
Race: 4 (5 PM EST Post)
Santa Maria Stakes
Vale Dori – has won her last three races by a combined (almost) 16 lengths while being the odds on favorite in all three. Argentinean bred mare is obviously sharp as a tack right now, is 6 for 11 lifetime including being 2 for 3 over this surface and she gets the services of Mike Smith on Saturday….looks tough to beat………….Sheer Pleasure – finished third to 2016 female sprint champion Finest City in her last, which also just so happened to be her first start in 8 months. That fact, combined with the fact that 3 of her 4 career wins have comes over this track, gives her a chance to spring the upset on the top pick. Mare by Birdonthewire should be much “tighter” in this her second start off the layoff……………………… Show Stealer – chased the top choice in her last two but got closer the second time around. Was it the moisture on the track the second time or is she getting better? Tough call right there… being 3 for 20 life-time is a bit of a turn off too………….Honorable Mention: Midnight Toast– has improved leaps and bounds from last year. Filly by Midnight Lute broke her maiden, then trounced mid-level optionals in her last two starts and her speed figures have risen dramatically as well. Steps up but if she improves again, and she just might, she might go well.
Race: 5 (5:30 PM EST Post)
You can completely ignore Ring Weekend’s last race as it was a turf race that was rained off the turf and run over a sloppy main track, a surface he clearly dislikes. If you do that and go back and look at his previous four races, this 5-year-old by Tapit has run bang up in all four. They include a pair of Grade: 2 come from behind wins and close up finishes in a pair of Grade: 1’s with one being the BC Turf Mile. He registered “trips” speed figures in all four as well, topped off by a whopping 107 in November…. He looks marginally best over Conquest Enforcer who is 5 for 8 lifetime in his career and is now 2 for 2 in the US. Colt by Into Mischief wired the field in last (over this turf course) after facing pace pressure for most of the way around the track yet had enough left late to win by 1 ¼ lengths; getting a mile in a hot 1:33.3. “He took that pressure on a fresh turf course that had gotten a lot of rain, and it showed a lot of heart,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “Usually, early in the meet, the track plays fair, which made the way he did it even more impressive.”…agreed Mr. D’Amato and you all know by now I love horses who have guts……. obviously a big threat in this spot……………. What a View– rattled off four straight dominant wins last year over this turf course that cannot be ignored. He seemed to “tail off” a bit late in the year but trainer Ken Black did the right thing and gave him a little time off. It appears to be exactly what he need because in his last start, he led to deep stretch in the California Cup Classic but was gunned down by none other than Ashleyluvssugar, getting a nine furlongs in a very quick 1:46.2. Bottom line here is if this horse improves with this being his second start off a layoff, he could be a menace. Of course, the 5 for 7 over this turf course is an attention getter also………………Honorable Mention: Bolo– cycled out of form in the middle of the year last year and was given the rest of the year off. Good looking 5-year-old by Temple City has been working well in the mornings for his first start since July and he is 3 for 4 over this turf course…. So you may not want to completely discount him.
Sunday- February 12, 2017
Santa Anita Park
Race: 4 (5 PM EST Post)
Iliad-certainly caught my attention after his last (which also was his second) career start. This colt, by the wickedly fast Ghostzapper, showed some speed in his racing debut but quickly “shifted into reverse” and wound up ninth, more than a dozen lengths behind the winner. His trainer at that time, Bob Baffert, spun him right around and ran him back just 15 days later where he stalked a very fast early pace, took the lead just inside the quarter pole and spurted away to win by 3 ½ lengths, stopping the clock in a lighting 1:08.1 for six furlongs and registering a 92 speed figure in the process. That 92 was an eye popping 34-point improvement from his debut. A race like that screams “sprinter” to me but his pedigree is telling me he might be able to stretch out in distance effectively. Lastly, he is probably “on his toes” and might be sitting on another big effort after ripping a half work in a bullet :47 3/5, fastest of 71 works at the distance that day……………Battle of Midway– is a $410,000 filly from the deadly Jerry Hollendorfer barn. By Smart Strike, this guy dueled for the early lead in his career debut on Jan 21, then simply left his opponents in his wake as he drew away at every pole, through sizzling fractions, in winning by 3+ lengths and stopping the clock is a quick 1:09 flat. He scored an 88 speed figure that day and if he improves off his racing debut, like so many horses do, he will be tough to beat in this spot……………………………Aquamarine– is a $240,000 Gemologist colt who was also impressive in his debut for trainer Bob Baffert. Similar to the top pick, this cat stalked quick early fractions in his (muddy) debut, took over the lead in deep stretch and won by almost 2, scoring an 81 speed figure. A monster half mile work (4F- :46.4) on Jan 28 and a very good, stamina building work Feb 2 (6F- 1:13.3) should have this colt ready to fire a big shot………. Honorable Mention: I doubt Law Abidin Citizen will make an impact on this race but he did run his best race to date while drawing off late to break his maiden in his fifth career start in his last. Colt by Twirling Candy is a little light in the speed figure department but he’s been on the board in all 3 starts over this track thus far.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2017- Record: 13-27 = 48%
2016- Record: 91-229 = 40%
2015- Record: 67-180 = 37%
2014- Record: 29-73 = 40%
2013 -Record: 20-59= 34%
2012: Record: 24-73= 33%
2011- Record: N/A
2010- Record: 24-74= 33%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Roman Ruler died Jan. 25 at Haras Vacación in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the farm announced via Facebook. He was 15.
The son of Fusaichi Pegasus started his stud career in 2006 at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Kentucky and shuttled to Haras Vacación starting in 2008.
He sired 50 career stakes winners, including 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, grade 1 winners Artemis Agrotera, Homeboykris, as well as three Mexican champions.
“He put his heart in it when he ran, as his progeny do and will no doubt continue to do,” the farm wrote in a statement. “He was an unforgetable stallion and racehorse… We are honored to have had him with us.”
**** To follow up on a story I published a few weeks ago, a methamphetamine overdose combined with some heart issues caused the Dec. 14 death of retired jockey Garrett Gomez, according to an autopsy report from the Pima County (Az.) medical examiner.
The medical examiner determined that an accidental methamphetamine overdose was the primary cause of death with cardiomyopathy—heart disease—contributing to his death. Besides methamphetamine, other drugs also were found in Gomez’s system included cocaine, morphine, and marijuana.
**** With rain due again Feb. 6, there were 247 recorded workouts at Santa Anita Park Feb. 5, and among them were many top-level horses preparing for their next stakes start:
* Champion female sprinter Finest City went four furlongs for trainer Ian Kruljac in :50 1/5.
“She looked fabulous, went easy, just cruising,” Kruljac said. “The Santa Margarita (G1, $400,000 at 1 1/8 miles March 18) looks pretty enticing.”
* Midnight Storm, getting ready for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap March 11, went six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 for Phil D’Amato, who called it a “good” work.
* Sheer Pleasure, pointing to the Feb. 11 Santa Maria Stakes, worked five furlongs for D’Amato in 1:01 3/5, while stablemate Big Hit, who is heading for the Feb. 12 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, went five furlongs in 1:00 3/5.
* Pro-tem three-year-old west coast male division leader Mastery worked five furlongs for trainer Bob Baffert in 1:00 1/5. Mastery is nominated to the San Vicente, but Baffert said the colt would make his next start in either the $900,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 18 or the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita March 11.
*American Anthem, still another from Baffert’s barn, worked five furlongs in 1:02 3/5.
* Multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Masochistic, heading for the grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes at seven furlongs March 11, went six furlongs in a bullet 1:12 2/5 for trainer Ron Ellis.
* Sprinter Kobe’s Back, also set for the Triple Bend, went five furlongs in 1:01 flat for Peter Eurton.
**** Littleprincessemma, dam of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2015 Kentucky broodmare of the year, delivered a bay colt by Pioneerof the Nile (making him a full brother “AP”) around 1:40 a.m. eastern time yesterday (Thursday).
Mare and foal are both doing well, according Summer Wind Farms who own the mare. Summer Winds is directly across the street from Old Friends Retirement home.
The first foal out of Littleprincessemma was by Maimonides and named XiXiXi who won a few races. She next delivered American Pharoah from her first mating to Pioneerof the Nile. Her third foal is another by Pioneerof the Nile, American Cleopatra, who is currently in training with Bob Baffert and is on schedule for a late March or early April return to the races.
Littleprincessemma also has a Pioneerof the Nile 2-year-old colt named Irish Pharaoh, and in 2016 foaled a Tapit filly named Chasing Yesterday.
**** Two year old colt champion Classic Empire, who finished a well beaten third to Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull last Saturday, has a foot abscess that was discovered this past Tuesday according to trainer Mark Casse.
Casse said that while Classic Empire appeared in good shape Sunday after the race, the colt was noticeably off Monday morning and “couldn’t walk at all” by that afternoon. X-rays on the foot came back clean and by Tuesday morning, the abscess began to drain.
“One thing about this horse is he is very tough. He never gave us any indication, but it’s one thing when you’re walking and you’re jogging at a slow pace. It’s another when you’re running at 40 miles per hour,” Casse said Thursday. “This is not something that just popped up. It had to have been brewing. I wonder if that’s why he didn’t run better”.
“(Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said he felt okay running but even in the post parade … he said he was just a bundle of nerves. So honestly, it’s a great relief. We knew that his race was too bad to be true. You start grasping at straws to come up with some reason why he ran so bad. Then we got the answer.”
Casse said all options are still on the table for Classic Empire’s next start, including the March 4 $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
“Given what we know now, it puts the Fountain of Youth back in the picture,” said Casse. “I honestly found it hard to believe that he wouldn’t like the track. He broke his maiden on a muddy track at Churchill Downs, he won on a fast track at Churchill, he won at Keeneland, and won at Santa Anita Park, so he’s not a horse that needs to take his track with him. It all makes a lot more sense now. I know I feel a lot better.”
Casse added Classic Empire could return to the track by Sunday.
**** Speaking of the Mark Casse barn, Eclipse Award-winner Tepin is already back training after suffering a mild bout of colic Feb. 5 that caused her to miss her planned seasonal debut in this Saturday’s South Endeavour Stakes. Casse said the two-time champion turf female could possibly return to the work-tab this weekend.
****Three-time champion Royal Delta passed away at age nine earlier this week due to complications from foaling a filly by Galileo at Coolmore Ireland. The surviving bay filly is reported to be doing well.
“This is a terrible loss for all,” said owner Benjamin Leon, “However, we would like to thank the Coolmore team for the outstanding job done through the years, especially to James Mockridge who dealt with Royal Delta on a daily basis. ”
Royal Delta won back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic in 2011 and 2012 and was an Eclipse Award winner at ages 3, 4, and 5. The daughter of Empire Maker won 12 races from 22 starts—including six grade 1 victories and 10 graded stakes—and retired with earnings of more than $4.8 million.