We will be looking at four more races this weekend in our Horse Racing “Races of the Week”, highlighted by the (Cincinnati Casino) Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in Kentucky. The $500,000, Grade: 3 contest is for three year olds at a mile and an eighth. Albeit, I’m not a big fan of Kentucky Derby prep races being run over synthetic surfaces, as this race is, we still need to take note of this race, which drew a field of 12 led by Kitten’s Cat.
While at Turfway we will also be looking at the Bourbonette Stakes, an 8 ½ furlong test for three-year-old fillies.
On Sunday we will travel to New Mexico for a look at the $800,000 Sunland Derby, another race for three year olds only but is run at a mile and a sixteenth. The field of a dozen will be led by the unbeaten Conquest Mo Money.
While at Sunland Park we will also be looking at the Sunland Park Oaks for three-year-old fillies. The 8 ½ furlong contest is New Mexico’s stepping stone race for the prestigious Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Dubai World Cup on Saturday morning also. The $10 million bonanza is part of a tremendous day for racing in Dubai. No need to break the race down here…. simply put, Arrogate is the best horse in the world and he will solidify that fact in this race.
One last side note, and I think I’m going to add this from now on and name it Our Horse Racing Back- “Track” segment, I want to talk a little about last weekend because basically what I saw made me mad.
First off, Twisted Tom ran down O Dionysus at the wire in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park. No issues here, the stretch run was an absolute thriller and I got a beat a “dirty” nose.
Over at Oaklawn in the Azeri Stakes, did you folks see Terra Promessa? What a nightmare…. I mean she broke poorly, was checked hard 2 or 3 times on the first turn and spent the entire run up the back stretch “fighting” jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Ortiz was trying to back her off the pace but she wanted to run). Understandably, she had nothing left for the stretch drive but what bothered me is (after the race) Ortiz Jr., who I respect immensely, said “she didn’t have it today” …. Really? was that the case or if we ask the horse maybe she would have said the same thing about you?
What about the Inside Information at Gulfstream? Curlin’s Approval was so wide, at one point, I thought she was in the parking lot…then I remembered who was riding her and came to terms with her defeat. …kudos to the winner Distinta, who ran past the field down the lane at 11-1, and Wheatfield, who I said if you were looking for a long-shot take a look at her. Sure enough, she came second at 20-1, making a $288 exacta.
In the Essex Stakes, I knew Mor Spirit was sitting on a huge race and he powered down the lane for the win….
The results of the Rebel Stakes were a little upside down also. Obviously Malagacy is more than a sprinter…but how much more? I was not blown away by the speed figure he recorded (91)……. the “bad” Uncontested showed up as he set the pace but faltered down the lane once again……. American Anthem DID NOT handle the surface by any stretch of the imagination……Sonneteer, a maiden, went off at 112-1 and came second……..Untrapped closed well late to be third and bears watching down the road.
Lastly, Vale Dori won her fifth straight in the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. This mare was probably the most (visually) impressive performance I saw all weekend. She broke running and led every step of the way with champion Finest City on her flank all the way around the track.
However, as they passed the eighth pole and when jockey Rafael Bejarano asked her to go…. she went. The 5-year-old mare dropped her head, “leveled out” and exploded through the final 200 or so yards in a race left that me mumbling “wow” as she cruised under the wire.
Saturday March 25, 2017
Race: 9 (5:09 PM EST Post)
The Bourbonette looks like a two horse race between Darkwingsoverdubai and Delphinia and they are almost impossible to separate. I’ll go with Darkwingsoverdubai even though she will be shipping 2,000 miles, stepping up in class and stretching out in distance. The chestnut daughter of Raven’s Pass possesses a strong late run and was visually impressive beating lesser in her last at Golden Gate. In that race, she made a huge, 4 wide run from the three-eighths pole to the wire. She’s been training well and her trainer is sharp as a tack; he wouldn’t send her this far from home unless he knows he has a good filly……..tepid choice……over Delphinia, who broke her maiden on the turf two back and annihilated the field in her last (her synthetics and two turn debuts). This gray filly, by the wickedly fast The Factor, wired a stakes field over this very track in that last race and (after a 49 and a 72 in her first two races) scored a field high 87 speed figure in the process. She is absolutely running holes in the winds in the morning for a hot trainer (Wesley Ward) but, like the top pick, she will be stepping up and stretching out…………….China Grove– chased better fillies at the end of last year and wasn’t embarrassed by them by any stretch. Good looking filly by City Zip came back running in her 2017 debut while coming from behind to win a stakes race at Laurel and has trained okay over the synthetic surface over the past couple of months…looks best of the rest………….Honorable Mentions: Gilded Lily is versatile and is 2 for 2 in her career with both races/wins coming over this racetrack. Well bred filly (by Speightstown, out of an A.P Indy mare) is already proven at this distance and, even though her last was a strangely run race, she needs to be mentioned here. I mean her internal (quarter mile) fractions in her last were all over the place as she went in a pedestrian-like :25 second opening quarter, a quick :23.2 second quarter, a solid :24.2 third quarter but came home in a molasses like :25.4…………Fun – is another who chased better last year and is clearly rounding back into top form. Harlan’s Holiday filly will be making her third start off a layoff here but she does have a few troubling stats, like say the 1 for 7 career record and that one and only time she tried the synthetics, she was beaten a long ways…….….Jenna J – went wire to wire while winning her first two career starts both over this surface but still another who will be stepping up and stretching out…………..just a few other side notes: Northwest Bourbon – is still a maiden but improved 19 speed figure points from her first race to her second and 18 points from her second race to her third. This filly from the Dallas Stewart barn was charging hard, late to grab the place spot in her last and if she improves another 18 or 19 points in this spot, she will be among the vanguard at the wire. Also, there is an angle in the name(s) here (Northwest Bourbon running in the Bourbonette Stakes). Don’t laugh, I know people who play angles like that, as strange as it may seem. …………….it took Awesome Boss seven tries to break her maiden but…boy…did she ever as she ran away from the field in her last…..”Light bulb” angle play?
Race: 10 (5:55 PM EST Post)
You know you’re in for a fight trying to figure out who is going to win a race when the morning line favorite is 4-1.
1) Kitten’s Cat- is the most accomplished horse in the race based off his speed figures, which are clearly higher and more consistent that anyone else’s and the fact he is a two time stakes winner.
But the (in this case) $500,000 question is: “will he handle the synthetic surface?” I’m not sure any of us know that for sure but, since synthetic surfaces are kind to turf runners (all 7 of his races have been on the turf) I have to figure he will be just fine over it.
Kitten’s Joy colt draws a good post and, although I’m not a big fan of his rider, he should be able to work out a good “stalking” trip.
“His best races have been when he’s been outside,” trainer Joe Sharp said. “He’s gotten more mature and more confident with every race, so I think he would run well from anywhere, but we think he’s a little better drawing outside. If I had been able to pick a post I’d have picked the 8, so we’re very happy with it. And being the favorite in a $500,000 race never feels bad.”…….another tepid choice because I loathe the lose one, win one, lose one, win one pattern he’s shown through-out his career.
2) Parlor – is a neck shy of being unbeaten in three career starts.
The Eddie Kenneally colt is another who never raced on anything but the turf, but has shown an affinity for longer distance races. So I think nine furlongs in this spot will be right in his “wheelhouse.”
3) Soglio – is still another trying the synthetics for the first time but has yet to run a bad race, including finishing a very good second in a stakes race at Santa Anita, through 6 career starts (6-1-2-2).
Honorable Mentions: Giant Payday – is a very well bred (Giant’s Causeway out of a Seeking the Gold mare) chestnut colt who has run very well in three turf starts. Yet another who will be making his synthetics debut but note he finished right behind the top pick last time out……could better his rating……………En Hanse – is 2 for 3 over the Turfway Park synthetics, highlighted by running a very good second to It’s Your Nickel in the John Battaglia in his last. Gray colt by Hansen shows a big work coming into this but hasn’t shown me he can get a route distance…..yet……..Just a few side notes: After an abysmal 2017 debut chasing McCraken in the Sam F Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, King and His Court returns to what is clearly his best surface and should be “tighter” with a race under his belt…..long-shot possibility? ………………Fast and Accurate is a completely different racehorse since they started administering Lasix ………..Blueridge Traveler is a “from out of clouds” late runner and if you know me, you know I love these types of runners. He’ll be at a distinct tactical disadvantage though due to his post position, but if there is a quick early pace (and I suspect there might be), he might be charging hard, late at “big balloons” (odds) here.
Sunday- March 26, 2017
Race: 7 (5:18 PM EST Post)
Sunland Park Oaks
Like Kitten’s Cat in the Spiral, Noted and Quoted is the most accomplished horse in this race judging by speed figures, money won (she has almost 2 ½ times more money won than her nearest competitor) and the fact she is a Grade: 1 winner, while other than What What What (and she got creamed in hers), no-one else in this field has even attempted any graded stakes level. The versatile running style she possesses should neutralize the post-position draw and you have to know by now that, even with this being her first start since setting the pace in none other than the Nov 5 BC Juvenile filly, Baffert will have her ready even though her works aren’t exactly scorching……. looks best…………Kell Paso – won her first two starts in quickly run sprint races. Filly by Divine Park then lost a thrilling stretch duel to Mopotism (nice filly) in her last after her rider lost his stick at the top of the stretch. I like her works and I love the ascending speed figures through her first three races (40, 63, 79)…………………….Ghalia – is a speedy, $600,000 daughter of Medaglia d’Oro who is 2 for 2 while going “coast to coast” in both her careers so far for trainer Todd Pletcher. Even though her speed figures say she is a contender, the closing fractions in both of those wins/races (both sprints) are lacking. Therefore, the stretch out in distance (and step up in class) doesn’t look like it will be to her benefit…………………Honorable Mentions: What What What – ran into a very special filly and was understandably beaten 18 lengths in her last. But if you take a “closer look” you’ll see she has hit the board in 10 of 12 career starts, highlighted by winning 3 of her 5 previous races albeit vs. lesser. This filly, by Archarcharch, has done nothing but improve since last summer and has the speed to get in a good, tactical position early…..could better this rating………..McKenzie Honey – seems to be at a career apex right now after winning back to back minor stakes races. I’m just not sure, even in her best form, that she can beat these…………………Soft Cheese – battled every step and every inch of her debut race at Oaklawn and won by a very game neck. If she, and her speed figure (72), improve off of that initial effort, and I suspect they will, she could be a menace.
Race: 9 (6:29 (EST Post)
Sunland Park Derby
Conquest Mo Money – is unbeaten in three starts and looked especially good winning his last two. This colt by Uncle Mo pulverized a stakes field two back (Jan 29) and the two lengths he won his next/last start by does not do justice as to how much better he was than the rest of the field that day…….hard to go against in this spot…………….Bronze Age – is a $600,000 colt by Mineshaft who showed little in his first two (sprint) career starts. Trainer Bob Baffert then stretched him to a mile distance in his third start and…presto…. he opens up a 4 length lead at the top of the stretch and wins by 1 1/2, registering a field high and towering 93 speed figure. If he duplicates that race here, he could be long gone. I just didn’t like the way he was shortening stride in deep stretch of that last (mile) race and am concerned about the extra furlong on top of that in this spot………………………Irap – is still a maiden but has run second to the likes of Kentucky Derby hopeful Royal Mo, perhaps the best three year old in the land (Mastery) and yes, to the top pick in his last. It should be noted that even though the top pick was clearly better in that last race, this $300,000 colt by Tiznow was just two lengths back…………Honorable Mentions: I’m not sure why the connections of Kimbear have been banging their heads against the wall running the horse on the grass with little success. This good looking colt is clearly better on the dirt and packs a good closing run. In fact, this son of Temple City could easily outrun this rating………………. Like Bronze Age, as soon as Hedge Fund was moved from sprinting to a route race, he looked like a different horse for trainer Todd Pletcher. Colt by Super Saver was “pulling away” late while whipping maidens and improved his speed figure a colossal 32 points in the process. No argument here if you want him in your exotics plays………..no one was more disappointed in Hence’s performance in the Southwest in his last than I was. After his mindboggling maiden win two starts back, I thought for sure he would run well (at 24-1) in that race but he came up empty late, split the field and was beaten by 13 lengths. This son of Street Boss from the Steve Asmussen barn definitely has ability and his speed figure continue to climb, so don’t be so quick to throw him out. In fact, you might want to give him a “mulligan?”
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2017- Record: 22-51 = 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
**** A minor injury has delayed the return of two-time champion Songbird for the 2017 racing season, according to Fox Hill Farm’s Victoria Keith.
According to Keith, the racing assistant for owner Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, the 4-year-old super star had some filling in her leg after kicking a wall in her stall “a couple weeks ago,” which altered her training schedule.
“We were already taking things slow, but when she kicked the wall in her stall, it backed up her training a bit,” Keith said. “But she’ll be breezing soon—hopefully very soon.”
Keith said once the filly begins going through timed workouts, she could return to racing in two to three months.
“Once they start breezing, it usually means a couple months to get ready,” said Keith. “The most important thing is that she’s 100%, runs well, and stays healthy.”……amen Ms. Keith.
**** Undefeated Grade: 1 winner Mastery, injured following a blowout win in the recent San Felipe Stakes, will stand at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky upon his retirement, according to a press release issued by the farm this past week.
Following his 7-length win in the San Felipe, jockey Mike Smith quickly pulled him up and subsequent X-rays revealed a condylar fracture in his left front leg.
“He’ll stay here (at his barn at Santa Anita) for at least a month,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “We’ll just wait. It takes like 90 days for that to heal up, and then we’ll decide (if he’ll race again). Right now our main concern is to make sure he’s comfortable and happy.”
Owner Everett Dobson said: “It’s possible for horses to come back from a condylar fracture, but he’ll have to be 100% to go back into training. He’s a very exciting stallion prospect; he showed brilliance on the track. If he does retire, he’d retire undefeated, and by a very hot sire with a very good pedigree, so that’s the positive side. We look forward to him standing at Claiborne Farm upon retirement, whenever that may be. Given their tradition and reputation in the marketplace for making top stallions, we felt it was a great fit for Mastery.”
“Clearly, his pedigree and race record make him an exciting stallion prospect,” said Claiborne’s Bernie Sams. “He’s in good hands and has a bright future no matter what”.