After being disappointed in eight races last week, we will be looking at seven more races in this week’s Horse Races of the Week highlighted by the 2017 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park in California. The 10 furlong, $750,000 classic drew a field of nine led by Midnight Storm and Shaman Ghost.
I say I was disappointed last week for two reasons. One, I picked just two of the eight races correctly, (very unlike me) so I was disappointed in myself and two, I was very disappointed in Irish War Cry, who was among the vanguard early in the Fountain of Youth, but completely quit running on the turn for home and finished a well beaten seventh.
“Really, he seems fine. I have no issues with him,” trainer Graham Motion said last Sunday morning. “He seemed to cool out fine and he looked good this morning. It’s a real head-scratcher.”
“The one thing I blame myself for perhaps, is not telling (jockey) Joel (Rosario) he should have taken a hold of him and taken him back,” Motion added.
It will be interesting to see how/when/where this colt bounces back.
While at Santa Anita we will also be looking at the Frank E. Kilroe Turf Mile. The Grade: 1 contest marks the turf debut of the strapping Dortmund. We will also be looking at the Triple Bend Stakes, a Grade: 1 race, at seven furlongs for $400,000 and the San Felipe, a major prep race for the Santa Anita Derby for three year olds with Kentucky Derby aspirations.
The San Felipe drew very strong this year (Mastery and Gormley) and will probably be the most anticipated race of the weekend.
Elsewhere, and while on the subject of three year olds, we will be heading south to Tampa Bay Downs to look at the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, an 8 ½ furlong contest for three year olds possibly being pointed for the Kentucky Derby as well.
Lastly, we will also be looking at a pair of races at Oaklawn Park in the Hot Springs Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for four year olds and up, and the Honeybee Stakes, a mile and a sixteenth test for three-year-old fillies that will most likely have Kentucky Oaks ramifications.
Race: 6 (3:39 PM EST Post)
Hot Springs Stakes
Whitmore – is a four year old gelding by the gargantuan Pleasantly Perfect, who was a serious Kentucky Derby contender last year. However, this chestnut never ran a step in that race while finishing 17th. His connections then gave him seven months off and brought him back to beat mid-level optional claimers in NY (in December) and then beat a similar field in mid January over this very surface. Overall, I found several things I like about this horse including the fact he’s never been off the board over this surface, is 3 for 3 at this distance and, most importantly, with the abundance of early speed in here, this race (tactically) plays right into his hands. Moreover, he’s been training very well and I loved the way he “flew” home in that last race (he got the last furlong in :12 seconds flat)……should be “mowing them down” in the stretch……………Ivan Fallunovalot – probably needed his 2017 debut (fourth, beaten four lengths) in his last because he too has lots to like. Veteran gelding is clearly a win machine as he was 4 for 4 last year, 15 for 25 overall in his career, 11 for 17 at this distance, and absolutely loves this track as his 8-5-2-0 record would indicate. Seven year old by Valid Expectations has been training “lights out” recently so he should be on his toes and much “tighter” this time than last…….big threat…………… Storm Advisory – came back running in 2017 when he wired the field in the King Cotton Stakes over this very track on Feb 4. This good looking 5 year old’s speed figures have climbed steadily since September (58) to his last race (103) and he is 2 for 3 over this surface. Monster work last week (4F- :46.1) signals to me there will be no “bounce” in this spot………….. Honorable Mentions: Chief Cicatriz – is unbeaten and, by and large, untested thus far in his 5 race career. Yes, I know he’s been beating up on lesser competition (for the most part) in the middle/southern part of the country and yes, I know his speed figures don’t match up well against most of the others here either. But this gelding by Munnings consistently runs sub :45 second half miles and, albeit it was over four months ago, that Nov. 1 race was wicked fast. Still another who is working well for this……..could easily better this rating…………Gosh, I just love Recount’s tenacity. As I watched this 5 year old gelding by Limehouse’s race replays, there were several races that his “heart” was in plain sight. He chased the third pick in his last race to no avail but, to be fair, that was his first start in almost 3 months so he may have needed it. Another who could outrun this ranking but it’s that 0 for 6 record over this track that troubles me. ……….Holy Boss – chased some crack sprinters throughout his career (Runhappy, A.P Indian and the streaking Joking) and he’s no stranger to “trips” figures either. This 5 year old by Street Boss was very impressive, winning his 2017 debut as he “ran them off their feet” in the D. F. Kenner at the Fair Grounds by almost 6 lengths going coast to coast. Although he likes the track and distance, unlike Storm Advisory, this cat does look setup to bounce as high as the sky in this spot.
Race: 8 (4:38 PM Est Post)
It Tiz Well – I’m sure trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is here “for a reason, not the season” with this filly by Arch. I mean this filly has yet to run a bad race in her career through four starts and I really liked her last three races in particular. This nice looking lass buried maidens on Dec 18, 2016, then finished a very good second to that freak of nature they call Unique Bella on Jan 8 before manhandling high level optional claimers in her last at 3/5. I’m going to go against Handicapping 101 (never bet a horse who is being asked to do something for the first time) with this filly and take her to win even though she will be trying two turns for the first time in her life…………Chanel’s Legacy – clearly looks like the one to beat in this spot as she has improved dramatically in her last three races. Gray filly by Dominus has come from behind to win back to back stakes races “by daylight” in her last two starts, her speed figures are climbing at a textbook rate and those last two races were also both over this surface; obviously signaling to me she loves the track……..no surprise if she is standing in the winner circle after this race………………as I mentioned in my “Little Bets N’ Pieces” segment several weeks ago, Elate appears to be an enormously talented filly. By Medaglia d’Oro, this filly broke her maiden at first asking by a colossal margin in NY for trainer Bill Mott back in November. She was then given some 10 weeks off and came back in a minor stakes race at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11, where she promptly went down in flames as the 3/10 favorite. Don’t hold that against her though, because, as in typical Mott style, there was no way she was “fully cranked up” for that race plus it was over a notoriously deep and tiring Tampa Bay Downs surface. I expect a much better performance on Saturday from this filly………………..Honorable Mentions: My Sweet Stella – chased the second pick twice her last two times out but I liked the way she passed horses both times down the lane. In fact, the way she did signals to me the extra distance she will be going on Saturday should only help her chances……………I’m trying to figure out what caused Someday Soon to improve a whopping 32 speed figure points from her previous race (53) to her last (85). Was it the drop in class from a Grade: 2 to a mid level optional claimer field? Was it because that 85 was her first time over the Oaklawn Park surface and she took to it like a duck to water? Has she simply improved from last year to this year? Or was that a freak performance and she will bounce to the moon and back in this spot? Your guess is as good as mine but, I will just tell you this, if she repeats that 85 speed figure race on Saturday, she will better this rating…………..Lovely Bernadette – has ability and may have needed her 2017 debut race….don’t be so quick to toss her………..Tapa Tapa Tapa– is a very well bred filly who won her last (defeating Elate) in what was her dirt debut race (she’s had 5 prior starts, none on the dirt). Evidently, she liked it as she ran the best race of her life. Still another with an outside shot in a race that was a nightmare trying to figure out.
Tampa Bay Downs
Race: 11 (5:27 PM EST Post)
Tampa Bay Derby
Tapwrit – is a $1.2 million son of super-sire Tapit from the Todd Pletcher barn who has improved leaps and bounds in his career that started so disappointing way back in September. This gray colt was last, beaten over 18 lengths in his debut (36 speed figure) but came back a little more than a month later to break his maiden at GP West (76 speed figure). He then won a minor stakes race at Gulfstream Park (78 speed figure) before uncorking his best race yet when, albeit he finished second, he was closing ground on the far outside behind pro-tem 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite McCraken (91 speed figure) in the Sam F. Davis in his last. (He only lost by 1 ¼ lengths). The plethora of early speed in here will only enhance his (come from behind) chances and, if he continues to improve (and is suspect he will), he should be “coming” under a ride down the lane on Saturday……………….Wild Shot – will not be 4 to 1, 7 to 1 or 42-1 in this spot like he’s been in his last 3 races, that’s for sure, especially coming off his effort in the Sam Davis, which was his first start in 10 weeks. Colt by Trappe Shot was four wide all the way around in that race and surged to the lead at the quarter pole before his fitness level (or lack thereof) reared its ugly head as he dropped back and checked in fourth beaten by just 3 1/2 lengths. I love the steady improvement he’s made throughout his career (speed figures: 64, 65, 81, 84 and 90) and it absolutely, positively must be noted he chased Classic Empire and McCraken (twice) in his last 3 and was not embarrassed by either of those colts by any stretch. “We didn’t get a bad trip last time (Sam Davis), but we didn’t get the trip we wanted. We’re prefer to be in that first flight,” trainer George Arnold said. “He hadn’t been out since November, so we were hoping things would break a little bit better our way. But at the time we were thinking, we got beat three lengths by the Derby favorite. So when we evaluated the race that way … you think, ‘That’s not that bad’…. “The horse has trained very good. He still has to prove himself. He has not won a two-turn race yet. He has run well in them. He just hasn’t won one. We feel we’ve been in the right company. We went from a Maiden race to a Grade 1 and got beat by the horse that won the Breeders’ Cup … and we beat Gunnevera, who came back and has thrust himself in the top group of 3-year-olds,” Arnold added….figures bang up in this spot………….State of Honor – I love the way this colt by To Honor and Serve dug in and battled hard when both McCraken and Tapwrit came to him at the three sixteenths pole in the aforementioned Sam Davis. Handsome colt finished third to those two that day but he was doing as best as he could and ran the best race of his life at the same time. Listen, an improving horse with determination is always a threat…………….Honorable Mentions: No Dozing – had a very nice two year old season last year but showed absolutely zero in the Sam Davis, his 2017 debut. Did he not progress physically from 2 to 3 years old or did he just need that race and will bounce back with a big effort in this spot? Your call from there…………….Sonic Mule – has never officially finished off the board through eight lifetime starts, including winning half of them. I’m just not sure he is good enough here……Beasley – has run very well in all three career starts including chasing (and finishing a close second to) the highly regarded Battalion Runner in his last…….. a few other side notes: The Money Monster – is unbeaten in two starts. Although his speed figure aren’t saying much, I’m always leery of these types of horses because it’s tough to tell exactly how good they are………..Basha – has yet to run a bad race in four career outings……and lastly, can someone please tell me what the hell Zion Valley is doing in this race? I mean he is 0 for 6 in his career and can’t beat $16,000 maiden claimers at Tampa Bay Downs….go figure…….
Santa Anita Park
Race: 5 (5:30 PM EST Post)
San Felipe Stakes
Mastery– is unbeaten and basically untested through his first three career starts, highlighted by burying the Los Alamitos Futurity field in his last on Dec 10 (his first try around two turns). Do not worry about this being his first race in 91 days as trainer Bob Baffert has been putting a series of long, hard, stamina building works into him for the last 2 months or so. This gorgeous son of Candy Ride, who seems to just glide over the racetrack, looks like he’s ready to fire a big race. “We’ll know more Saturday, but even before he broke his maiden, he (Baffert) was telling us he had a chance to be a very special horse,” owner Everett Dobson said. “The San Felipe is a very important race. He needs the competition more than anything and we’re anxious to see where he stands.”….me too Mr. Dobson……………..Gormley– is a very serious threat to win this horse race based on the facts that he is a) already a Grade: 1 stakes winner over the track and b) that work last week (Feb 27- 6F- 1:11 flat…with ears pricked as if to say “ok, what’s next?”) was one of the best works I’ve ever (visually) seen in my life. Not only is this horse mega-talent and extremely quick but I love the will to win he displayed in the Sham Stakes on Jan 7. If you recall, he battled for the lead every step on/near the lead in that race and, although clearly beginning to tire in deep stretch, this colt dug in and refused to lose. That said, my only problem with him is he’s seems to be a “need the lead” type horse in order to run his best. Case in point, he missed the break in the BC Juvenile last Nov. and you could clearly see he was “uncomfortable” (rank) behind horses before he quit running and finished up the track. The obvious bottom line here is he MUST break well………………….Iliad’s last two races were nothing short of sensational. Going back to Dec. 18 this colt, by the wickedly fast Ghostzapper, hammered maidens in winning by 3+ going away lengths and stopped the clock in a hot 1:08.1 for six furlongs. As I watched him cruise under the line that day I said he myself “looks like a good sprinter”. But then this good looking ridgling came back and stalked the pace in the Grade:2 San Vincente before roaring to the lead down the lane to win by 3+ lengths again, stopping the clock in a screaming 1:21.3 for seven furlongs. Once again, as I watched him cruise under the line I said to myself “Ok, maybe not just a good sprinter”. He registered 92 and 96 speed figures respectively (which puts him in the mix in this race) and, if he runs well on Saturday, it’s time to start taking this colt A LOT more seriously. “This is an exciting time to have a horse like this,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “Coming off that win, going two turns for the first time, are we going to move forward? He acts so special in the morning, so those horses get you jacked up for race day.”………………..Honorable Mention: Ann Arbor Eddie– has done just about everything asked from him thus far including winning 3 of 5 races, over 4 different tracks/surfaces at 5 different distances. I don’t know he is quite fast enough to contend vs these but I do like the 2 for 2 record over this surface and the 1 for 1 at this distance…gelding by Square Eddie probably hits the board here if one of the top 3 stubs their toes sort of speak.
Race: 8 (7PM EST Post)
Triple Bend Handicap
Masochistic- it’s no secret in like this horse and the titanic amount of early speed he possesses. I love watching him break like a rocket and quickly assume the early lead like he does so frequently. In fact, this big bay gelding broke running and set a wickedly fast early pace in the BC Sprint last year but was run down in deep stretch by Drefong. This now 7-year-old was disqualified from that effort after testing positive for small amounts of the legal steroid stanozolol. “The medication was administered on the recommendation of my veterinarian for the therapeutic purposes of recovering from bleeding and weight loss stemming from his Aug. 27 race at Del Mar,” trainer Ron Ellis said afterwards. He won his two prior starts prior to the BC Sprint; registering huge speed figures in the process. Bottom line here is he meets no Drefong’s in this race and he should make every pole a winning one………………..Silent Bird– has won 5 of 6 career races and shows a very steady upward trend in his speed figures topped off by running back to back 97’s in his last two. 5 year old by Summer Bird is 4 for 4 over this surface and 2 for 2 at this distance…closes…looks next best…………………..Kobe’s Back– is an enormously popular late running gray who has won 3 of his last 5 races. The problem with that is all 3 of those wins came last year and this will be his first race in about 9 months. That said, he has run well off of layoffs before but, unless someone runs with the top pick early, I don’t see how this guy is going to “reel in” Masochistic down the lane. ……………….Honorable Mentions: Denman’s Call– is still another late runner who was making up ground late (albeit vs. lesser) in his last two races. This gelding by Northern Afleet will have to step his game up in order to contend here but with this being his third start off the layoff, he is showing me several signs that he could quietly be sitting a big race.
Race: 9 (7:30 PM EST Post)
Frank E. Kilroe (turf) Mile
Dortmund- is clearly the best horse in this race but the (in this case) $400,000 question is: “How will he handle the grass”? With no published works, what do we have to go by? Also, this will be his first start since the BC Mile last November so does new trainer Art Sherman have him ready? It’s darn near impossible to answer either of those questions, so you are going to need some…how do I say this….”testicular fortitude” to bet this guy in this spot. “I think this will be an easier race for him than running seven-eighths in the (grade 1) Triple Bend (on the same day),” Sherman said. “Seven-eighths of a mile is a very demanding type of race and he hasn’t run in almost six months. Breeding-wise, I always wondered why they never tried the grass with him.”…………………Ring Weekend– broke slowly, was wide on the turn for home and wound up disappointing in his last at low odds. I think he bounces back and runs better in this spot. That said, he is giving me signals that he might be cycling out of form….so tread lightly if you play him………………..Bolo- came back running off a 6 month layoff when he ran past several of the same foes down the lane that he is facing Saturday in his last. 5 year old by Temple City is 5-4-1-0 over this turf course and 3 for 5 at this distance…..the question here is does he “bounce” off of such an catastrophic effort off the bench in his last? He’s not really “tipping his hand” whether he will or won’t here so you should probably tread carefully with him too…………Honorable Mentions: What a View– just missed in his last two, is 8-5-2-0 over this turf course and you get the third start off the layoff angle….could better this rating……………………Bal a Bali– showed little in his last 2 races last year and was given a vacation. Brazilian import makes his first start since June in this spot but has been working lights out for trainer Richard Mandella. This now 7-year-old is capable of firing off the bench and is an astounding 13 for 21 on the grass in his career………..Conquest Enforcer– has speed and finished right behind Bolo in his last. Good looking colt by Into Mischief is 5 for 9 in his career and will be making his second start off a layoff.….may go well.
Race: 10 (8 PM EST Post)
Santa Anita Handicap
1) Midnight Storm– has won 5 of his last 6 “coast to coast” on both the grass and dirt combined.
In fact, his only loss of late was in none other than the BC (Dirt) Mile.
This 6-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile has now posted 6 straight “trips” and is clearly one of the leading older male in the country right now.
“Since the (Native Diver, where he won by 7+ lengths), the confidence he’s trained with has been special, his gallop outs have always been very strong, which I use as a good indicator of distance limitations,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “He always gallops out in his breezes in sub-1:40 for a mile and that’s a very good indication. I’ve been very impressed with that, and in his last breeze, there was company in front of him and he sat off them and blew them away.”
“It’s fun to have a versatile horse who has a grade 1 win on turf and hopefully now a grade 1 win on dirt”.
Should take them all the way again in this spot with the only hitch being the one and only time he tried 10 furlongs, he was beaten 36 ½ lengths.
2) Shaman Ghost– quietly ran a remarkable race while chasing superstar Arrogate in the inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus Invitational in his last in Florida.
This 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper ran a strong 112 speed figure that day and was clearly second best.
He’ll be making his Santa Anita debut so there is no telling if he will like the track or not but he’s won over four different surfaces through his career so you have to assume he will handle the track.
3) Imperative– seems to have responded to the recent trainer change as he won the Poseidon Stakes on the Pegasus undercard in his last.
In fact, this veteran gelding has won 2 of his last 3with a legitimate excuse in his one defeat (wet track) and scored back to back 103 speed figures as well in those two wins.
That 1 for 14 career record over this ractrack makes me cringe but he seems to be in good form right now…
Honorable Mention: Twentytwentyvision– prefers the grass but has never been off the board on the dirt in 5 lifetime starts. 6-year-old gelding by Pollard’s Vision always gives a good account of himself as his 15 of 16 career on the board finishes would indicate… Outside chance.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2017- Record: 20-47 = 43%
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
**** NBC Sports has confirmed they will broadcast the 2017 Dubai World Cup from Meydan Racecourse later this month, following an agreement with Racecourse Media Group.
The live three-hour NBC Sports Network broadcast will include four group 1 races, culminating with the Dubai World Cup.
Superstar Arrogate will spearhead the field with other “Americans” Gun Runner, Hoppertunity, Keen Ice, Neolithic and Imperative all also likely to run
Live coverage will run from 9.30am to 12.30pm ET on March 25.
Other American based runners on the card include Mind Your Biscuits and St Joe Bay ($2million Dubai Golden Shaheen) – the first race of the NBC program.
The broadcast will also show the Dubai Turf and Dubai Sheema Classic.
“We are excited to bring to the US audience live coverage of the Dubai World Cup, which the millions of Americans who watch our Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup telecasts will be sure to enjoy,” said Gary Quinn, Vice-President of Programming for NBC Sports.
**** Trainer Jose Pinchin, who was very happy with the way Three Rules exited the Fountain of Youth last week, said he “doubted” that he would send the colt to the Kentucky Derby.
“Right now, I’d say the Kentucky Derby is probably not on our radar, that the Preakness is more likely our next long-term goal,” Pinchin said.
“We still might consider running him back in the Florida Derby, but I won’t know for sure until I get together and talk with the owners later this week. All in all, I thought he ran a very good race in the Fountain of Youth, especially considering he had to do all of the dirty work on the lead.”
**** Champagne Room, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2016, had surgery to remove an ankle chip this past Wednesday and will require at least 90 days off before returning to training.
Phil Bongiovanni, who co-owns Champagne Room under the name Gulliver Racing, said Wednesday night that the surgery was successful, but filly’s ownership partners have not decided yet on whether she will race again. The other option under consideration would be to breed Champagne Room this year and sell her in foal.
“She came out of the surgery great. She’s eating well and everything was fine with the surgery,” Bongiovanni said of the operation to remove a small chip from Champagne Room’s right front ankle. “We’ve talked about whether we want to breed her right now or keep her in training. With the 90 days off, plus another three or four months, we’re looking at (a return) in November already.”