We focus in on Oaklawn Park in this weekend’s Horse Races of the Week, with our highlighted race being the 2017, $900,000 Rebel Stakes for three-year-old going a mile and a sixteenth. The Grade: 2 contest drew a very competitive field of 11 led by Uncontested and the lightly raced but talented American Anthem.
While at Oaklawn we will be looking at two other stakes races on the card including the $350,000 Azeri Stakes for four-year-old and up fillies and mares, and the Essex Stakes for four-year-old and up.
Elsewhere, we will take a look at the $400,000 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. That race drew the streaking Vale Dori vs. 2016 sprint champion Finest City and 5 others.
Other races include the $200,000 Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Florida. The Inside Information, named after one of my favorite horses over the years, drew a field of eight led by Curlin’s Approval, who is one of the better older females in training at this point in the season.
Lastly we go to Laurel Park for the $100,000 Private Term Stakes for three year olds. There are no real standouts in that race but with this year’s Kentucky Derby looking so wide open, I’m trying to keep my eyes…well…everywhere.
Saturday March 18, 2016
Laurel Race Course
Race: 9 (5:10 PM EST Post)
Private Term Stakes
O Dionysus– could not have looked much better coming with a sweeping, 4 wide run to the lead just outside the quarter pole to win his last over this racetrack. Colt by Bodemeister came with a late run and just missed in the Frank Whiteley two starts back (against High Roller) but more importantly, take look at who he lost by a dirty nose to three starts back…..that’s right, before disappointing since, it was Holy Bull winner Irish War Cry….8-3-3-1 in his career and likes the track……looks best…..The aforementioned High Roller beat the top pick at seven furlongs but it should be noted the top pick got his revenge in their last encounter at one mile. With this race being a mile and sixteenth, the longer distance seems to favor the top pick again. I say that because it looks as though this colt doesn’t want one step over seven furlongs. I mean, he was allowed a ridiculously slow early lead/pace in his last (at 7 furlongs) yet was “fading” in deep stretch….but even with that fact he does look best of the rest…………throw a blanket over the rest and pick one, it’s that wide open. I’ll go with No More Talk who has improved through all three career races so far, topped off by finishing 3 lengths behind the top pick in third but missed second by a half-length. Others who have a shot include Hashtag Alex– who ships in from Parx but has run very well his last 2 times out while Twisted Tom, Dharmaster and Greek Prince have all showed significant improvement lately and all of whom have won their last times out.
Race: 11 (5:39 Pm EST Post)
Inside Information Stakes
Curlin’s Approval– is one of the better females in the country and definitely the best one in the state of Florida as she’s hammered her foes in her last two races, one sprint and one going a route distance. This dark bay filly is 5 for 7 over this track, has been working very well and is in peak form right now……hard to go against………Dearest- is a daughter of Midshipman who, although shows several breaks in her career, continues to improve as she gets older. This filly is 7-5-1-1 in her career including being 4 for 5 over this racetrack and 2 for 2 at this distance. She has been firing bullets in the mornings and she runs well fresh so don’t worry about this being her first starts in over three months…………………..Mia Torri– is another with remarkable numbers. Filly by General Quarters is 7-3-3-1 in her career (never off the board) including being 2 for 2 at GP. She, too, is in career best form right now and has a tactical advantage being she is a late runner and there is a lot of (early) speed in this race……………Honorable Mentions: Distinta– is another late runner who is going very well right now. Chestnut mare by the late Summer Bird is just 3 for 21 in her career but note all three career wins have come here at GP………………..If you want a long-shot in this race, try Wheatfield, who had legitimate excuses in her last two races yet had a terrific year in 2016 including 5 wins from 10 starts…you have to like the 13 on the board finishes out of 17 career starts too.
Race: 7 (4:21 PM EST Post)
Terra Promessa– could not have looked any better while wiring the fields in her last two races, both over this surface. It’s really difficult to look past this 4-year-old filly by Curlin as her numbers are staggering. They include winning 6 of 9 lifetime starts, being 5 for 5 over this racetrack and 6 for 7 at this distance. With the exception of Streamline, she has the rare “double speed figure advantage” angle over these as well (her last two speed figures are better than what anyone else in the field has ever run in their lives) ………logical choice………. Even though it appears Terra Promessa looks tons the best in this spot, Power of Snunner is showing me several signs that she is sitting on a huge effort on Saturday. This stretch running, 7-year-old mare (by a $1500 stallion) returned running off a 16-month layoff as she closed well to be second in the Pan Zareta on New Year’s Eve, then came back some 6 weeks later and closed well late again while chasing the top pick. Some of the things that caught my attention include getting the third start off a layoff angle, her speed figure jumped 13 points in her last two starts and this race is at a distance that is right in her wheelhouse (never worse than second in 5 tries). If you want don’t want to take the short price the top pick will probably be at post-time, this mare would your play…………………….Streamline– gets the call for the “show dough” based off her remarkable consistency. Filly by Straight Line (another $1500 stallion) has never been off the board in 6 tries over this track, 7 tries at this distance and shows an incredible 15 on the board finishes out of 16 career starts overall………………..Honorable Mentions– Eskenformoney– has run against quality horses throughout her career (Curlin’s Approval, Lewis Bay, Genre etc.) with moderate success. So, albeit this is a Grade: 2 race, she appears (on paper) to be taking a pretty significant class drop. My only problem with her is she is far too inconsistent to back with any confidence.
Race: 8 (4:57 PM EST Post)
Trainer Bob Baffert is a sorcerer….I mean he, not only has found what looks to be a perfect spot for Mor Spirit, but if looks as though he has him “revved up” and sitting on a big race. This $650,000 four-year-old was put away after an abysmal outing in none other than the Kentucky Derby last year and was brought back some 7 ½ months later for the Dec. 26 Malibu Stakes. This handsome colt finished a respectable fourth that day, a good effort for having that amount of time off and facing such a strong field. He then came back and surged to the lead at the quarter pole of the (Feb 4) San Antonito Handicap but grudgingly gave way to Hoppertunity in deep stretch to get beat a length in a much improved effort off the Malibu; earning a “trip” speed figure in the process. This son of Eskendraya has been burning up the racetrack in the morning since, capped off by logging a super six furlong work last week (1:11.3). If he improves again in this spot, and I suspect he will as this will be the third start off the layoff, he should get the job done……………Domain Rap– looks next best based off his last 5 races. This now 9-year-old gelding hasn’t run a bad race since July of 2016, he chased Gun Runner in last (so I can forgive him for not winning in that spot) and is 8-5-1-1 over this surface with high and steady speed figures as well. Like I said, he looks next best but what’s up with one slow workout since his last race?………………….Honorable Mentions: Dazzling Gem– just missed in his last two tries (both stakes race) at the Fair Grounds. Colt by Misremembered is 2 for 3 over this surface and is in good racing form…………………Shotgun Cowboy– has run bang up in his last 6 straight races including winning his last two over this surface. 5-year-old by Kodiak Kowboy is the “in form” speed and draws the rail…..which is always a dangerous combination………………………Madefromlucky– hasn’t won a horse race since August of 2015 but always tries his best. 5-year-old by Lookin’ at Lucky rarely runs a bad one and could possibly outrun this ranking.
Race: 10 (6:06 PM EST Post)
1) American Anthem– what he’s done so far in just two lifetimes starts makes me dizzy.
By Bodemeister, this handsome colt came from off the pace to win his debut in game style for trainer Bob Baffert on Dec 3, but it was his next (and latest) start that made everyone sit up and take notice.
In that second start, this colt broke running and battled every step of the way on the lead in the Grade: 3 Sham Stakes (Jan 7), his first try around two turns. As they turned for home in that race, this colt fell about a half length behind but he wasn’t through by any stretch.
He dug in and began inching his way back towards the lead, coming up just ahead short to Gormley, who recently disappointed, but is a talented horse none the less.
The guts and talent he showed in that race, while scoring a heavy 94 speed figure, were both brilliant and truth be told, I have no idea how good he really is.
I mean, after just two lifetime starts you have to figure there is still LOTS of room for improvement and if he does improve off the Sham, and I absolutely think he will, they will all be running for second place. Moreover, I’m not that concerned this is his first race in almost 2 ½ months, Baffert (who has owned this race over the past several years) has him buzzing around the track in the mornings…..he looks fit and fresh coming into this.
Jockey Mike Smith must not get hooked up in a protracted early speed duel in this spot and I would imagine Smith’s strategy will be to take him back early. I’m not too concerned about that either as he showed he can rate just fine (see his debut race).
“American Anthem is a bigger version of Bodemeister.” Baffert said. “Actually, that’s caused him to pick up a lot of added pressure. We’re excited about him and he’s trained really well for this race. Hopefully, he’ll run well. But, we still need racing luck.”
“To run as well as he did first time around two turns, I thought was incredible,” said jockey Mike Smith, who rode American Anthem in the Sham and will have the mount in the Rebel. “He just gives you that feeling, even by just looking at him, that he has a lot of upside to him. Even watching him breeze, that race really seemed to shoot him forward.”
2) Uncontested– has big, long, nasty (in a good way), quick stride and a ton of early speed, but which Uncontested will show up on Saturday?
I mean there seems to be two of them….the one who looks like a world beater and one that shows good speed, then spits out the bit and finishes up the track. No wonder why he listed at an insane 10-1 on the morning line. (Before the odds came out I was thinking 3 or 4 to 1).
Through four career starts there is an obvious pattern going on with this son Tiz Wonderful. He buries a field of maidens then comes back and bounces in his next race (first try around two turns). He gets about 6 weeks off and comes back to bury the field in the Smarty Jones then comes back and bounces as high as the moon in the Southwest his last time out.
If the world beater one shows up….readers? …we have a horse race on our hands, but if the other one shows up…..well….
Judging by his nothing short of spectacular works of late (that last one was ridiculously good—5F- :58.4), I’m expecting the good version of this horse to show up on Saturday.
Owner Harry Rosenblum was “surprised” about how little that work took out of him. “Channing (Hill) said he wasn’t winded at all pulling up,” Rosenblum said. “He was instructed to go slow early and finish and it was like a walk in the park. This colt continues to amaze me. I’ve been in this business for 34 years and I’ve never been this impressed with a horse.”
Again, if the “good” Uncontested shows up in this spot, he is probably one of the biggest overlays I’ve seen in years!
3) Petrov– has now run second his last three times out but don’t let that fool you, this son of Flatter is improve leaps and bounds with each passing race and there is no doubt in my mind we haven’t seen the best of him yet. (which is exactly the way it’s supposed to be this time of year, I mean you need to be at your best on the first Saturday in May right?)
He chased the “good” Uncontested two start back and I love they way, although hopelessly beaten, this horse never stopped trying coming down the lane in that race.
In his last start (Southwest), he made what I thought was a winning move at the five sixteenths pole but was run down in deep stretch by, a streaking and we still don’t know good he is, One Liner.
I love the speed figure ascension too. (4 starts- 76, 81, 86 and 94).
With the plethora of early speed in here, this race might play right into the hands of Untrapped, who has a pretty good late run and has never been worse than second in now 4 career starts, including finishing second in the Le Comte and the Risen Star Stakes in his last two…………….I can not believe I have to put Royal Mo this far down and I hope it doesn’t come back to bite me. Here is another horse who is improving in leaps and bounds and won very impressively his last two times out, including wiring the field in the Robert B. Lewis (Grade:3). He’ll ship outside of California for the first time but he is heading in the right direction, owns a 4-2-2-0 record and could be a menace throughout…………………It’s a good thing trainer Todd Pletcher said that Malagacy “will probably be better off sprinting down the road but we figured we’d take a shot here and see for sure” because if he didn’t, I would have him higher up in the ranks. I mean, how could I not? This chestnut by Shackleford won at first asking by a colossal margin and followed that up by decimating an optionals NW1X field. Yes, they were both sprinting and yes, they were both against much lesser caliber foes….. but still………………………..Lookin at Lee– has been taken back …way back….off the early pace in his last three races and, although coming with heroic late runs, he’s come up short all three times. This horse definitely has some ability but, to me, he is screaming “more distance please!” so I’m not sure 8 ½ furlongs will be his best game…. but 10 furlongs in a few weeks might be a different story…..
Santa Anita Park
Race: 9 (7:30 PM EST Post)
Santa Margarita Stakes
Like Curlin’s Approval in the Inside Information, Vale Dori is also one of the elite females currently in training based off her now last four races, where she was a “no doubt about it” winner is all four. This Bob Baffert trained mare shows an interesting speed figure pattern in her last 5 races (91, 95, 91, 95 and 91)…..good looking mare is versatile (so she can adapt to any pace scenario), has been training well (signaling to me she is holding form) and is 3 for 4 over this surface………………As I mentioned earlier Finest City was the 2016 female sprint champion largely because she won the F&M BC Sprint last November at seven furlongs……nine furlongs, and he fact that she’s never been asked to run this far, is a totally different ballgame however…..and what does handicapping 101 say? “never bet a horse who is being asked to do something they’ve never done before”. 5-year-old mare by City Zip clearly looks next best, I’m just not sure she can handle the (streaking) top pick….at nine furlongs……seven furlongs maybe…….but nine?……I don’t know…………Show Stealer– has rounded back into form after taking a 5 month break from the races as she has finished within shouting distance of the top pick twice in the last two races. 5 year old mare by Eskendraya likes the track and should hit the board once again in this spot………………..Honorable Mentions: Wild at Heart is an interesting proposition and could quietly be sitting on an enormous race. I mean, she had legitimate excuses in her two subpar races (out of her last 6) while the other 4 races were all very good……….DO NOT underestimate her and, although I have her as an HM, she will be included in my exotics plays in this race for sure……….Perfect Pic– is another who could be sitting on a big one as she is clearly rounding back into top form. Good looking filly by Candy Ride has good speed (she will probably be the pace setter here) and I won’t be surprise if she is still “hanging and banging” in deep stretch.
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%
Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** It’s good to see jockey Gary Stevens back in the saddle again…. literally.
54-year-old Hall of Famer rode his first horse since he underwent hip replacement surgery Dec. 21 aboard Oopper Wallah in the six-furlong claiming race at Santa Anita last Thursday.
“It felt great, but I’m a little winded right now,” Stevens said who just came up a half-length short behind favored A. P. Zona
“He put me right in the race and I had to ride him there and I thought he might get up.” Stevens said he felt “nothing” in his artificial hip after the race.
“I’ve tested it pretty good (during morning workouts),” said Stevens, who also returned to riding after knee replacement surgery in 2014. “It really is (rewarding). It was a lot of hard work. I didn’t know (if I would be able to come back).
“You never know, but about the third week after the surgery, there was no doubt. After the surgery it was just instant relief.”
Stevens has won 5,083 North American races and more than $250 million in purses during his career.
**** More bad news…..
It’s official…….Two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome will shuttle to Oussama Aboughazale’s Sumaya Stud near Santiago, Chile, for the next three seasons, according to announcements March 16 from Taylor Made Farm and Sumaya Stud.
“California Chrome has generated a lot of interest from the Southern Hemisphere, so we agreed to explore the option of shuttling,” said Duncan Taylor, president of Taylor Made Farms, where the big chestnut stands now. “We are very happy to partner with Sumaya Stud, and feel extremely comfortable that it’s a great situation for California Chrome. This was a decision that was not taken lightly”.
“Ben (Taylor) and I flew down to see several potential farms and did an extensive amount of due diligence, evaluating whether or not there was a situation that met a very high set of standards established by our entire advisory team and our shareholders. Ultimately, the health and safety of California Chrome, quality of facilities, experience of staff, and reputation of the farm were all paramount.”
“I think Chile has become the center of Thoroughbred breeding in South America,” Taylor added. “There are four to five billionaires who own the best mares and will breed a lot of mares to him. This business is a lot more global than it used to be, and we believe this deal gives the horse the best chance to hit.”