We will be looking at eight more races in this weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week highlighted by the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes for three year olds going a mile and a sixteenth. The $400,000 contest is a prelude to both the Grade: 1 Florida Derby and eventually the Kentucky Derby. Irish War Cry and Gunnavera will lead the field of 11.
While at Gulfstream Park we will be looking at three other races including the 2017 Davona Dale and a pair of grass races as well.
Elsewhere, we will also be looking at the 2017 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. The Gotham also has Kentucky Derby ramifications and is also run at a mile and a sixteenth but for $300,000. The streaking El Areeb will spearhead the field of 10.
Additionally, we will be previewing the Santa Ysabel, a $100,000 stakes race at Santa Anita that will feature that freak of nature they call Unique Bella, who will be tackling her hardest assignment to date.
The last race we will be looking at it the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky. Although this race is run on a synthetic racetrack, it is for three year olds only and may have some Kentucky Derby implications.
That said, generally speaking I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on races likes these (due to the surface) but at this point in the year I am trying to keep all Kentucky Derby possibilities on our radar screen.
As we move closer to the big day, I’ll start funneling things down more.
Before moving forward, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for onslaught of well wishes I received when I shared with you the story of my horse when he was at the threshold of making his career debut.
You folks have no idea how much the dozens upon dozens of emails I received (wishing me luck) meant to me…. you folks are the best!
Unfortunately, I must have given myself the kiss of death as shortly after I published the article (or about 24 hours before his debut) “Gerard’s Warrior” came up with a minor issue.
After several phone calls with the trainer and the attending vet, I ordered the (heart-breaking) scratch of “GW”.
Under no circumstances will I run a horse who isn’t 99% ready (is any horse or person 100%?….I know I’m not when I leave the house to go to work).
Anyway, 90% doesn’t cut it in my book. That’s how major injuries (or worse) occur.
Luckily, he is doing better.
In fact, he “jogged” two miles this past Monday morning and galloped a mile on both Tuesday and Wednesday then jogged another two miles on Thursday morning.
Everything “seems” to be ok, but I/we are being cautious with him….so stay tuned.
Lastly, please be aware of the post times of these races as I did them by track and not starting times
Saturday March 4, 2017
Race: 3 (2:20 Pm EST Post)
Genre– chased I’m a Chatterbox, Eskenformoney and Curlin’s Approval (twice) in her last three races. 5-year-old mare by Bernardini meets no such rivals in this spot and her last two efforts (both in Grade: 2 races at Gulfstream) were not only good, but she should great versatility in both as well. Looks miles the best here……..Isabelle– clearly likes this Aqueduct Inner (3 for 6) and she holds a “double speed figure advantage” here (her last two speed figures are better than anyone else’s ever in their careers). 6-year-old mare by Successful Appeal is in career best form right now…. figures close…………I’m on the fence when it comes to Highway Star who on one hand, is a win machine (5 for 8 overall), but on the other hand, ran far and away the worst race of her life in her last while making her debut on the Aqueduct Inner track. Did she just have a bad day that day or does she not like the track? Your call from there………. Honorable Mentions: Annie Rocks has won 4 of her last 6 including pounding optional claimers in her last…. steps up….possible contender.
Gotham Stakes (4:50 PM EST Post)
El Areeb– I’m not sure this handsome gray is getting the respect he deserves. I mean, he has decimated the fields he’s faced in his last four races (winning by a combined 29 ½ lengths) over two different surfaces, at three different distances including three stakes races. Yes, you can question the competition he’s run against, and yes, you can question his breeding which by no means screams 10 furlongs (Kentucky Derby). However, this is the Gotham at 8 ½ furlongs, a distance (and track surface) we know he can handle. When I finally do release my “Countdown to the Triple Crown” list (it’s coming soon), this cat will be higher up than you think………………So Conflated– clearly looms the main threat to the top pick in this spot. Another gray colt (by Eskendraya), he won the California Derby at Golden Gate in his last while experiencing heavy “traffic” at the quarter pole, took a hard bump and had (wrong) lead issues, yet still got up, in deep stretch, to win (his two turn debut). Yes, that race was on synthetics and most of us don’t take synthetic races/wins too seriously when talking Derby horses….heck, I’m the first one to admit that. But it must be noted he ran very well in his two previous races, which were both on the dirt, in California………………True Timber– chased the top pick twice in his last two and got closer to him the second time even after almost falling on his face at the start. What I’m trying to say about this son of Mineshaft is he is clearly improving and he might be “even closer” to the top pick this time than last………….Honorable Mentions: J Boys Echo probably needed his race in the Withers (third behind El Areeb) as that was his first race in about 75 days. $485,000 son of Mineshaft packs a good, late, closing run and there is definitely enough early speed to work to his (tactical) advantage……………..Boy, Chad Brown is being aggressive with Cloud Computing isn’t he? I mean this colt by Maclean’s Music came from behind and won his racing debut (over this track) very nicely. But that was a one turn, sprint vs. maidens and Saturday he has to go two turns against a Grade: 3 field that includes a solid favorite. On the surface, that looks like a daunting task but evidently Brown knows something I don’t……………… Action Everyday– is unbeaten in two (Tampa Bay Downs) races thus far for trainer Todd Pletcher. It looks as though Pletcher is trying to fix that “drifted out late” problem this horse showed in his last race as he adds blinkers for this….might surprise a few people and run a good race.
Sand Springs (2:30 Pm EST Post)
Catch a Glimpse– was a winner of 8 straight from the end of 2015 through the end of 2016 but tailed off form badly at that point. Trainer Mark Casse did the right (logical) thing and gave her 4 months off, so this will be her first start since Nov 5 (BC Filly and Mare Turf). This now 4-year-old by City Zip has trained extremely well of late, she is 1 for 1 over this turf course, 4 for 4 at this distance, and most importantly, has run well off of layoffs before. With what appears to be very little early speed signed up in this race, I would think she could make every pole a winning one…………….Celestine– is a Grade: 1 winner who has never been off the board in 6 tries (including 3 wins) over this surface. In fact, this mare by Scat Daddy has run in three straight Grade: 1 races while this race is ungraded. This in turn plays to one of my favorite angles….a sizable class drop. Another who clearly cycled out of form towards the end of last year, but she might come back running in 2017……………………Ice Festival– is yet another who will be making her first start off a long layoff but, having won 3 of her last 4 towards the end of 2016 and never finishing off the board in 4 tries over this turf course, she looks best of a weak rest.
Race: 7 (3PM EST Post)
The Very One
Suffused– is a head and a nose shy of coming into this riding a 5 race winning streak and in those 5 races this mare has been incredibly consistent running four 95 speed figures and a 97….now that’s consistent. It looks to me that they will all have her to deal with down the lane as this 5 year old chestnut mare packs quite a late kick and there should be enough early pace for her to “run into”……………..Olorda- scored back to back, wire to wire (both Grade: 3 races) wins in her last two starts and was really coming into her own. I say “was” because those two races were in the spring of 2016 and she hasn’t been seen since. Good looking 5 year old from the Chad Brown barn has been working well for her return…………………….I don’t think Earring is “fast” enough to win this but she certainly needs to be respected here. Filly by Dansili (who stands for over $80,000) can adapt to any pace scenario, has been firing bullets in the mornings and that 2017 debut race should set her up perfectly for this…could be “revved up” and be sitting on a big one………….Honorable Mentions: Try Your Luck– is just 3 for 12 in her career and, although never being off the board in 5 tries over this turf course, the fact still remains she is 0 for 5 over it. Filly by Lookin’ at Lucky gets a “mention” here based off the 11 for 12 on the board finishes in her career overall………….. when Paige is right, she can run big but when she’s not……well….anyway, I don’t like playing horses like this but you do get the “third start off a layoff” angle and you get the “win off a layoff, then bounce, then (possibly) run well” angle here also…I know there is a name for that pattern, it’s just eluding me right.
Davona Dale (4:34 PM EST Post)
Pretty City Dancer– is a Grade: 1 winning, $825,000 daughter of super sire Tapit who probably needed her 2017 debut race (Forward Gal Stakes, Feb 4), where she closed well late but came a half-length short. Gray filly is 5-3-1-1 in her career and won her those three races by daylight…………..Miss Sky Warrior– has won 3 of her first 4 career starts including a pair of graded stakes races in NY last year. This daughter of First Samurai shows an excellent works pattern (and times) for her first start 3 ½ months and I expect her, along with the top pick, to be among the upper echelon three-year-old fillies this year……………Brahms Cat– is a stretch runner by Wildcat Heir who came from last (and some 12 lengths behind), while circling the field, to finish third behind the top pick in her last at seven furlongs. Logical contender with another furlong to work with in this spot………………..Honorable Mentions: Summer Luck– finished right behind the third pick in the Forward Gal after making up ground late also…..consistent, 1 for 1 at this distance and could be coming late once again here……………Yes I’ll Go– they must have named this horse after me when my friends say “hey Gerard, let’s go to a bar”. Anyway, this filly by Yes It’s True probably didn’t care for the wet track in her second career start because her other two career starts were both impressive wins. Steps up in class but don’t be so quick to throw her out………………Modacious- romped in her debut in Philadelphia but experienced traffic issues in her last (and latest) start yet still finished a good, late running second. Daughter of Uncle Mo steps up and stretches out but could go well here…………Aspen Hilltop– is intriguing…to me anyway. Well bred filly broke last in her career debut at Saratoga last year, yet made up 12 ½ lengths to come from behind and win. She hasn’t been seen since but that was an impressive race. She is also a hunch play angle for me as her and her dam both have my dog’s name in their names.
Fountain of Youth (6:05 PM EST Post)
1) Irish War Cry– has enormous upside potential…period…. end of sentence.
This son of Curlin, although unbeaten, is still green. I mean, he still hasn’t learned to change leads correctly and he has a habit of not running a straight line in deep stretch. But once he figures that part out (and he is starting to)….look out!
He has a massive yet graceful stride and when his rider “asks” him, I love the way he drops his head, levels out and motors forward.
Those of you who are worried about him getting hooked in an early duel on Saturday (there is a plethora of early speed in this race), that should be a non-issue.
Yes, he went wire to wire in his last two races, including the Holy Bull, but take a gander at his career debut where he settled nicely early on but turned on the after burners down the lane to win easy.
There is only one thing that bothers me about him.
Going back to that Holy Bull win, I loved 90% of it. I mean, that was his first try around two turns and he came home the final 2 ½ furlongs in a solid :30.1 plus he scored a whopping 97 speed figure. That said, he was pretty much left alone on an unchallenged lead in the race (:24, :47.4, and 1:11.4)….so, to me, as impressive as it was, there is a part of me that says he “stole” that race.
Is he a very good horse? Yes….does he have mega-talent? Yes…but I would like to see one more big effort before I go “all in” on him as far as a Kentucky Derby threat goes….and this would be the spot to do it.
2) Gunnevera– has a potent stretch run and should be coming late here.
This colt’s win in the Delta Downs Jackpot last November was one of the better performances I’d seen all year, coming from last with a strong, sweeping move at the quarter pole and drawing off to win by 5+ lengths.
He came back in 2017 to valiantly chased the top pick in the Holy Bull and, although, he finished 3+ lengths behind him, it must be noted that a) that was his first race in 10 weeks (while it was Irish War Cry’s second start in 2017) and he had a pretty serious traffic issue at the quarter pole (he was checked sharply, losing valuable momentum).
By up and coming sire Dialed In (who appears to be a steal standing for $15,000), this colt should be much tighter in this spot and should get a strong early pace to effectively utilize his late run…..big threat.
3) Practical Joke– won his first three career starts and although almost 8 lengths back, he was third behind two crack two-year-olds in Classic Empire and Not This Time in none other than the BC Juvenile in November last year.
In fact, when I mentioned Gunnevera winning the Delta Downs Jackpot was one of the better performances I’d seen all year, this son of Into Mischief’s race the prestigious Champagne Stakes at Belmont last fall was just as good if not better.
This colt, and the speedy Syndergaard, hooked up in mid-stretch and “slugged it out” down the lane in a race that literally sent chills down my spine. In the end, this colt gamely won the head bob….it was one of those races that I won’t soon forget.
Moving forward, this cat obviously not only has talent but guts as well and, in this sport, like any other, that makes for a lethal combination.
I only have him rated this low because the top two picks probably have a higher fitness level as both have run already this year and this horse will be making his 2017 debut. That said he’s been working lights at Palm Meadows for this.
It’s not secret I really like Three Rules but I have look at this race with my head, not heart. First off, I think he’s being a bit mismanaged (and I’ll leave it at that). By Gone Astray this colt “owned” Gulfstream Park last year (5 for 5, and won them all by wide margins) but suffered his first defeat, and just the second in his career, in his 2017 debut. He actually took the lead but was run down in deep stretch of the seven-furlong Swale Stakes. But I believe that race, and the monster work (5F- :58.4) he recorded last week, should set him up very well for this…. the question is “Is he good enough to beat these?”. At 12-1 on the morning line, the odds-maker at Gulfstream is saying “no”…………Beasley– has speed and has been improving in each of his subsequent three starts, topped off by chasing the highly regarded Battalion Runner in his last. I thought he ran very well being that was his first start at the route distance and for who he was chasing……….Made You Look– is a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf who sports a 6-3-1-1 record. I always hesitate when grass horses switch to the dirt for the first time (especially in a race like this) but that half mile work at Palm Beach Downs (:47.2) for trainer Todd Pletcher makes me think he can handle the dirt just fine…..no shocker if he runs well in this spot.
Santa Anita Park
Race: 6 (6PM EST Post)
The Santa Ysabel Stakes
Unique Bella obviously gets the call here based off her last three races where she won them all by colossal margins while being “in hand” in all three by jockey Mike Smith. I’ll tell you, this filly by super sire Tapit is one of the more visually impressive horses I’ve seen run in a while as she just seems to “ice skate” over the track. Speed figures continue to climb upward (73, 87, 91 and 99) and the scariest part is I have yet to see Smith ask her for her best. Think about that, she won by almost 9 lengths in her last (Grade:2, Las Virgenes) while scoring a 99 speed figure yet Smith was a like statue in the saddle…. mind-boggling stuff if you ask me. “We’re just trying to continue along a path,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “That path in California leads to (the Santa Ysabel) and then leads to looking forward to running in the Santa Anita Oaks. If we do well there, our point race is the Kentucky Oaks.”….. Even though this will be her toughest test to date……down the road with this beast…………..Abel Tasman– is a grand looking filly by the grand looking Quality Road who packs a strong late run as witnessed in her last race while winning the Grade: 1 Starlet Stakes at Los Al in her final start of 2016. A winner of 3 of 4 in her career, she came roaring down the stretch in the Starlet to win by a length at 12-1. She is training very well for her return to the races but this is certainly no easy comeback race, I mean even her trainer thinks so: “She’s exactly where we want her. She’s training really good and we gave her time off by design,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “She’ll move forward Saturday, but we’re focusing on peaking during the Oaks. Obviously Unique Bella is an extremely talented filly and hard to beat, but we think our filly is going to give a good account of herself.”……………Noted and Quoted– is also a grade: 1 stakes winner (Chandlier Stakes Oct 1) for trainer Bob Baffert. But this filly by The Factor is far too inconsistent to play with any confidence as she either runs big or doesn’t run at all….that said, she still looks best of the rest.
John Battaglia Stakes
Race: 6 (8:40 PM EST Post)
En Hanse– looks to be a synthetics monster as this gray colt by Hansen won his only two synthetic starts by a combined 11 lengths including a stakes race while being ridiculously wide on the turn for home in his last. Big work last week signals to me he is “on his toes” for this…my only concern is he bombed in his one and only try at this distance……………..Hot Dad– is clearly improving of late. Good looking colt by Sidney’s Candy is about 1 ½ lengths short of riding a three race winning streak coming into this. In fact, he probably should have won his last (stakes debut) race if his rider didn’t give him such a bonehead (wide) ride. He will be making his synthetics debut in this spot (all but one of his races have been on the grass) but generally speaking, horses who run well on the grass usually run well on synthetics too…………Star Empire– has only run one bad race in his career (BC Juvenile) and probably needed his 2017 debut (chased the top pick). Bred overseas, this colt is another who is training lights out and I expect a good performance from him albeit he is unproved at anything over seven furlongs………….Honorable Mentions: both of Montu’s races over the synthetics have been very good as he’s won those first two starts over this surface by a combined 11 ¾ lengths. This son of Dialed In will be taking an huge step up in class in this spot however…………Strike Your Light, who is 2 for 4 in his career, Gorgeous Kitten, who won his synthetics debut impressively vs. maidens and It’s Your Nickel, who has a possesses a good late run and is on the improve,…all rate a “punchers chance” here.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2017- Record: 18-39 = 46%
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
**** 1996 Preakness winner Louis Quatorze died of an apparent heart attack in his paddock at Murmur Farm near Darlington, Md.
Although his death was announced last Monday, he actually passed two days before dual classic winner Charismatic.
The 24-year-old was being called to the gate of his paddock after being out the morning of Feb. 17. As he galloped across the paddock to the gate, he collapsed and died immediately. He has been buried at Murmur Farm.
“Even considering that he was 24, it was heartbreaking,” said Audrey Murray, owner of Murmur Farm. “He was so regal and majestic. When we would show him, he would stand there like he knew he’d won the Preakness”.
“He was a beautiful horse, he had won the Preakness, and earned more than $2 million, so we thought he would be a good horse for Maryland,” Murray said. “We syndicated him and sold 30 shares in two weeks. We kept 10.”
**** Champion Arrogate worked one mile in 1:38 2/5 at Santa Anita Park this past Monday and will make his next start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 25, according to trainer Bob Baffert.
“I just got the call and we’ve got the green light to send him to Dubai as long as he’s doing well,” Baffert said. “(The decision) came down from Prince Khalid (Abdullah).”
Baffert said multiple graded stakes winner Hoppertunity, who finished third in last year’s Dubai World Cup, will be going as well.
“He looked great. I’m really happy the way he’s come out of that race (the Pegasus World Cup, Jan. 28),” Baffert said of Arrogate.
Santa Anita clockers had Arrogate working in fractions of :24 1/5, :36 2/5, :48 flat, and 1:12 flat for six furlongs, galloping out to seven in 1:25 and completing the mile in 1:38 2/5.
“He hasn’t regressed or anything, he looked fantastic. He’s enjoying himself, and he did it the right way. I’m really happy with the way he’s going. He’s just holding his form very well,” Baffert said…That’s not good news for his competition.
**** While in the Bob Baffert barn, grade 1 winner Mastery was also on the work tab.
The son of Candy Ride, who is undefeated in three starts, went six furlongs in 1:15 flat. The handsome colt will make his next start in the San Felipe Stakes March 11.
“He’s doing really well. He’s got a great foundation, and he’s learned to settle,” Baffert said. “I’ve had the chance to teach him a few things. I love the way he’s progressing.”
**** Pro-tem 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite McCraken, perfect in four career starts, will be forced to skip his next race (March 11, Tampa Bay Derby) due to a minor injury, trainer Ian Wilkes announced this past Tuesday.
“He’s got a slight strain in his ankle,” Wilkes explained. “He X-rayed clean, but I don’t want to come back and work him next week [ahead of the Tampa Bay Derby]. I would rather skip that race and take care of the horse.”
Wilkes said he will now point McCraken towards the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 8.
This changes plans for the son of Ghostzapper where Wilkes had mapped out a series of three-races leading up to the Kentucky Derby but is now down to two.
“It is not really a concern, to be honest,” Wilkes said. “Maybe he knows better than me.”
McCraken went a half-mile in:48.4 last week.
“He worked great, galloped out tremendously and I couldn’t ask for more,” Wilkes said. “He was out in [a minute] 13 and change, I was tickled to death. Now we just have to take care of him.”
**** In some of the worse news I’ve ever read:
American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year, will shuttle to Coolmore Australia later this year for the 2017 Southern Hemisphere breeding season, where he will stand for $66,000 (or $50,509 US dollars).
American Pharoah is currently standing his second season at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
“We have been overwhelmed by interest from Australasian breeders in American Pharoah ever since he retired to stud in Kentucky,” said Coolmore Australia’s Tom Magnier. “It’s well recognized that he is a once-in-a-lifetime horse and the opportunity to bring him to Australia is an irresistible one.”
I disagree…. I think it’s resistible. By my calculation, “AP” makes about $25 million per year now so why take such a precious animal and ship him to the other side of world? Why take such an enormous risk? For what? Money? Why? Is $25 million a year not enough?….or is I just plain old ego? I’m just wondering what I’m missing here.