Aside from the Kentucky Derby, this weekend is the biggest weekend in racing for three year olds…for the males for sure and it’s a big one for the females as well.
We will be looking at …well…a lot with, of course, the highlighted races will be the “big three” as we will focus on the 2017 Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park in California, the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York. All three races are to be run at nine furlongs with both the SA Derby and the Bluegrass Stakes both carrying $1 million purses and the Wood Memorial carrying a $750,000 purse.
Gormley and Illiad will spearhead the SA Derby, McCraken will lead the charge in the Bluegrass and Irish War Cry and Battalion Runner will be among the favorites in the Wood Memorial.
Other races that we will be looking at include the Santa Anita Oaks (Santa Anita), the Commonwealth, Madison and Ashland Stakes’ (Keeneland), the Excelsior, the Carter and the Gazelle at Aqueduct.
We have so much to go over I will keep this part short. Let’s quickly take a look back at what happened last weekend and move right into the blockbuster weekend on hand for Saturday
April 1, 2017- Back-“Track”
At the Fair Grounds, I was not shocked that Honorable Duty won the NO Handicap because he is a nice horse. I was shocked he went off at 8-1…Eagle and Haawakom didn’t not bring their normal late runs while Noble Bird, Mo Tom and International Star all disappointed as well in a strangely run race………….I thought I was a winner turning for home in the Muniz with Kasaqui, but Enterprising came and got me in the shadow of the wire….no big surprises in this race……..In the Fair Grounds Oaks, Farrell was her usual dominant self and, with Unique Bella out the picture for right now, this filly should go into the Kentucky Oaks as the betting favorite….so much the better if she doesn’t though…….In the Lousiana Derby, Girvin proved he was for real with a conclusive come from behind win. I knew Patch would run well and did at 9/2. I’m not sure what happened to Guest Suite but I was very disappointed by his “up the track” finish.
Down at Gulfstream Park, Celestine went wire to wire in the Honey Fox, she should be a force in the older female turf division this year….Salty was very impressive winning the GP Oaks at even money. I did think she was going to be 2nd or 3rd choice in the betting and was a little surprised by her low odds. Regardless this is obviously one nice filly with a very bright future….In the Florida Derby, Gunnevera is starting to remind me of his daddy (has a big late kick but is just left with too much to do late), Always Dreaming looked sensational and is obviously coming to hand quickly for trainer Todd Pletcher, who owns the FD by the way. State of Honor ran gamely to get second, Three Rules led the way early but folded down the stretch…they need to hunt smaller game with him.
Lastly, once again races are broken out by track not by starting times.
Keeneland Race Course
Race: 6 (3:53 PM EST Post)
A.P Indian – was at the threshold of being named champion sprinter last year but simply misfired in the biggest race of the year (BC Sprint). You can not take anything away from this horse who won 4 Graded Stakes last year including a pair of Grade: 1’s. This 7 year old bay gelding by Indian Charlie is 4 for 4 at this distance and an astounding 11 for 18 in his career. He is the best horse in the race but I am on the fence about his “readiness”. On one hand, this is his first start in 5 months and, like a lot of horses, he’s shown a penchant for “needing a race” before performing at his best. But on the other hand, he’s been working very well over a notoriously deep (and quirky) Tampa Bay Downs surface in Florida, so he might have enough fitness in him to get him home here…………….Awesome Slew – chased one of the better horses in training today, Sharp Azteca (yes, he’s still among the elite even after his defeat in Dubai most recently, due to a horribly timed ride by his jockey in that race) and the speedy Stanford three races back. Although he was beaten by 4 ½ by Sharp Azteca, I really like the way he was closing ground late on the outside after being 5 wide on the turn for home in that race. Well bred colt (Awesome Again out of a Seeking the Gold mare) gets a trainer change/upgrade (from Plesa Jr. to Casse) and, albeit he hasn’t won in 7 months, he always fires his best shot…………..Redesdale – is 3 for 3 in his career and has improved in each and every start, topped off by running a 95 speed figure in his last. He will be taking a steep step up in class, but, if this late starting colt by Speightstown improves again in this spot, and I suspect his will, he might surprisingly be among the vanguard at the end……………Honorable Mentions: Limousine Liberal – hasn’t won in a year and showed little in the BC Sprint. But, he is not slow by any stretch, he likes the track, was beaten a dirty nose to the top pick in October of last year and that last work (5F- :58.4) really jumps off the page……………….Fish Trappe Road – chased perhaps the best sprinter in the country (Whitmore) in his last. I thought that was a ridiculous assignment for him being who he was running against and that being his first race in almost 6 months. Gray son of Trappe Shot has been working well of late and this appears to be his best distance…………………… If you are looking for a long-shot, take a gander at Yockey’s Warrior, who is razor sharp right now while coming off three straight wins vs. lesser. He, too, likes this track and his speed figures say he’s not completely out of it.
Race: 8 (5:03 PM EST Post)
High Ridge Road – is a few lengths and a nose shy of coming into this riding a 6 race winning streak. This 5 year old mare by Quality Road, from the red hot (30% winning clip in 2017) Linda Rice barn, was very impressive running down the leaders down the lane in the Barbara Fritchie in her last at Laurel and is in career best form right now. She shows 10 on the board finishes out of 11 career races and, although a while back, she has the oh-so-important races/experience over the track…..narrow margin…………..Constellation – is an $800,000 yearling sale by Bellamy Road who has been equally impressive since a trainer change (from Asmussen to Hollendorfer) in her last three races. This four year old chestnut won the Phoenix Stakes at Turfway Park by 5 easy lengths back in November, she came back to upset the field in the LaBrea Stakes on Dec 26 while getting seven panels (Saturday’s distance) in a smoking 1:21.4, before, although coming hard late, falling 1 ¾’s length short of catching a speedy Pretty N’ Cool in her last. She has been working mind-boggling good these past few weeks and it’s interesting to note she is 9-5-2-1 in her career but those 5 wins came on 5 different surfaces, so I suspect another track surface change shouldn’t bother her a bit…..bottom line here is, this filly looks strictly the one to beat in this spot…………..I hate to put Paulassilverlining this far down because she had a tremendous year last year, is a multiple Graded Stakes winner and it could come back to bite me. This 5 year old mare by the wickedly fast Ghostzapper won 5 of 9 races last year and cracked the million dollars in earnings level in her last start, which was a “no doubt about it” win in the Garland of Roses at Aqueduct in December. If you play her, don’t worry about the 4 month layoff, she has run well off layoffs before in her career……………..Honorable Mentions: Ponder Lea – has been on the board in 10 of 11 career starts but, more importantly, finished right behind Constellation in her last after a bad start…..do not be so quick to toss her…………….Wheatfield – is another ultra consistent mare as her 14 on the board finishes out of 18 career races would indicate. In fact, this mare should have her picture in the dictionary under “rounded back into top form” (if there is such a thing). Obscurely bred, this miss exploded late to “just miss” at long odds on the Inside Information at GP in her last…..a repeat performance of that race (which is possible here) puts her in the thick of it.
Race: 9 (5:40 PM EST Post)
Daddy’s Lil Darling – is an absolutely gorgeous filly by Scat Daddy that possesses an enormous/electrifying late run. Her last four races consist of coming from twelfth position (and some 10 lengths back) early in the Grade: 1 Alcibiades (over this very track, Oct 7) to finish second beaten by just a length, she was next to last early in none other than the BC Juvenile Filly race (Nov 5) but finished a respectable fourth, 5 back of the winner (in an oddly run race), then, once again, came from out of nowhere (last early) to pass the entire field but the winner, who just so happened to be star filly Farrell. Throw out her 2017 debut as it was not only her first race in almost 4 months, but it was on the grass as well……..should have good early pace to “run into” in this spot………….Summer Luck – scratches more than a dog with fleas but I think they are finally going to start her in this race. Improving filly by Lookin’ at Lucky, she is clearly getting better as the distances get longer and as her career progresses. You know I like “the stretch runner who closes well, late in races at (the speed favoring) Gulfstream Park” angle and this filly fits that angle to a tee…………….if you recall, I put Elate on my “horses to watch” list a few weeks ago and I’m not taking her off anytime soon. By Medaglia d’Oro (who stands for $150,000), this filly thrashed maidens in her NY debut but ran “short” at Tampa Bay Downs in her next race. The Bill Mott trainee was “bothered at the start” in her last (Honeybee Stakes, Oaklawn Park, March 11) and found herself at the back of the pack early. I thought this filly ran very well (finished third, while making up ground late) considering the circumstances and the fact that she was running in a Grade: 3 race in just her third career start……….Honorable Mention; Pretty City Girl – is a gray $825,000 Tapit filly from the Mark Casse barn who’s last race (which was her first going a route distance) was too bad to be true. Either that or she is strictly a sprinter and wants nothing to do with any races over seven furlongs…..find out more on Saturday afternoon.
Race: 10 (6:17 PM EST Post)
1) McCraken– is (arguably) the pro-tem 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite at this point in the season.
This good-looking colt by Ghostzapper is unbeaten in four starts, has a big, long, graceful stride and draws a decent post here.
After posting a 3 for 3 record in 2016, this horse came back running while coming with a 4 wide move on the turn in the Sam F Davis Stakes at TB Downs, yet was pulling away from his rivals in deep stretch.
He sprained an ankle shortly after that and was forced to skip the Holy Bull and Florida Derby, so he winds up here.
So, the question is …how ready/fit is he? Once again, I’m kind on the fence.
On one hand, do NOT let that last work (4F- :49.2) last week fool you. He went the first three eighths in :37 flat, four furlongs in :49.2, out 5 in 1:01.2… if you suck at math like I do, that’s a :12.2 middle eighth and a :12 last eighth, both with the rider like a statue in the saddle…it was impressive to watch…
But on the other hand, he’s had one race in almost 5 months while his rivals here have had several….that, and after what his trainer said on Wednesday, it makes me think twice.
“I want to get a good race into this horse, I think he needs it,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “It doesn’t mean that I have to win it … though I would absolutely love to win the Blue Grass. But I want him to get something out of it and be moving in the right direction.”
Agreed Mr. Wilkes, he needs a good, stiff, two turn race in him right now, that would set him up very well for the Derby…but…gosh….I hate when trainers say talk about losing before that race has even started…..
2) Tapwrit – is a $1.2 million yearling purchase that is starting to pay dividends.
Kudos to trainer Todd Pletcher for bringing this horse along flawlessly, as he’s done nothing but improve since his (ugly) debut back at Saratoga last September.
After the Saratoga debacle, Pletcher brought him to Florida (TB Downs) where he broke his maiden his next time out, and then won a minor stakes races after that.
From there, yes, he chased the top pick around the TB Downs oval in the Sam F. Davis but in a McCraken-less Tampa Bay Derby, this gray colt by Tapit could not have looked any better while roaring past the field at the 5/16ths pole to win going away.
Moreover, I love the upward speed figure pattern through his first five starts as well (36, 76, 85 and 93 and 96)…..bottom line here is this horse has a big chance to “turn the tables” on the top pick.
3) Practical Joke – is a big, handsome colt by Into Mischief who I like very much….especially after showing “testicular fortitude” in winning one of my favorite races of the year (Champagne Stakes) last year.
However, the fact still remains; he still hasn’t proven to me he can “get” more than a mile after finishing third in BC Juvenile and second to Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth in his only two tries at a route distance.
I watched him closely in both of those races and he clearly shortens stride at about the eighth pole on both occasions, signaling to me he doesn’t want 10 furlongs on the first Saturday in May and may not want nine furlongs on April 8.
If he proves me wrong…he proves me wrong….but going into this race, on paper, third best looks as good as it gets for him.
J Boys Echo – looked like a monster winning the Gotham by 3 ½ conclusive lengths and registering an eye-popping 102 speed figure in the process. Yes, he was showing improvement leading up to that race and, hindsight being 20/20, you can see he was sitting on a big one. But a 102 after the previous high in his career was an 80? I don’t know…to me, that seems like he is setup to bounce as high as the sky in this spot…………..It’s Your Nickel – made nothing short of an spectacular, eye catching move on the far turn of the Mike Battaglia in his last and won “laughing.” Yes, I know it was on the synthetics and I don’t like synthetic races leading up to the Derby more than anyone. But listen, he’s run well twice over the dirt surface before, he is improving, he fired a bullet 4F work (:47.2) over this track two weeks ago and two other very good, stamina, building works since…so don’t be so quick to throw him out………….Wild Shot – has finished behind Tapwrit and McCraken both…twice each…but wasn’t completely embarrassed in any of those races.
Race: 8 (4:40 Pm EST Post)
Send It In – has won 7 (with a second and a third) of his past 10 races with speed figures consistently in or around the mid-90’s, which is a difficult thing to do on the Aqueduct Inner Track. This 5 year old by Big Brown has never tried the 10-furlong distance but his running style suggests he will have no problem with it. Don’t worry that the second choice has beaten him the last two times as the first time was by a neck (so he was just unlucky) and the second time was by a half-length but that was after a bad start……I’m taking him to “turn the tables” in this spot………………..Doyouknowsomething – appears to be rounding back into top form and is as consistent as the day is long over his past nine races. Son of Awesome Again is 1 for 1 at this distance, as I mentioned, owns two wins over the top choice… could snap the 0 for 2017 record here…………………Tu Brutus – is the proverbial “dark horse” in this race. The truth of the matter is, I have no idea how good this son of Scat Daddy is. Looking at his past performances in his home country of Chile, he shows a record of winning 5 of his last 6 starts by huge margins with Daily Racing Form comments like “Much the best” …“Drew Clear” and “Handily”….could be a menace here……….Honorable Mention: Hereditary– is another who seems to be rounding into top form. This now 6 year old by Medaglia d’Oro chased the speedy Stanford in his last and was making up ground late versus that rival. He will be taking a big step up in class (again) in this spot but could run well.
Race: 9 (5:15 Pm EST Post)
Unified– is one of my favorite horses in training today. He’s big, fast and stunning to look at. This $325,000 son of Candy Ride showed me several things while winning his first three starts in 2016 including major speed and the oh-so-important sheer guts and determination. He suffered a minor injury and was shut down in June (his fourth race – Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park), but came back running when he wired the field in the GP Sprint on Feb 25. This colt ripped off rapid early fractions that day and, although clearly exhausted in deep stretch, he dug in and fended off a late run from crack sprinter Mind Your Biscuits, scoring a 101 speed figure in the process…….catch him for all the money………Spartiatis – is razor sharp right now based off his last two come from behind wins. The son of Scat Daddy beat mid-level optionals two back (Jan 21) then came back and easily won the March 1, Grade: 3 Tom Fool. The two lengths he won by doesn’t do justice to how much better he was than the rest of the field that day. With the top pick and two other speedsters in this race, you know he’ll get a good solid early pace to “run into”…..dangerous foe right here…………….Awesome Banner – showed little in his last but cuts back to a (sprint) distance here which he is clearly more comfortable with. Another very handsome colt, he gets yet another trainer change (downgrade) and has been working well for this………………..Honorable Mention: Tommy Macho – pops a big race/ triple digit speed figure now and again, plus he is 1 for 1 over this racetrack. The Todd Pletcher trainee will be cutting back to a distance he’s never tried before so there is some intrigue there, but he is far too inconsistent to back with any confidence.
Race: 10 (5:52 EST Post)
1) Irish War Cry– after a scintillating debut win followed by a minor stakes win (both at Laurel) this chestnut by Curlin absolutely trounced his rivals (which included two year old champion Classic Empire) in the Holy Bull.
That had me thinking this colt was going to “take the ball, run down the field and score a touchdown” with the three year old male division this year… but it was not to be.
Instead, this colt showed speed in his next start (the Fountain of Youth) but spit out the bit and came to a screeching halt to finish seventh, beaten by a colossal margin.
That race, to this day, has me shake my head and say “what the heck happened?”…I mean, like Nick Zito said to me 30 years ago “with great expectations, come great disappointments” and the FOY was one of the biggest disappointing efforts I’ve seen in quite some time.
“It was a real head-scratcher,” trainer Graham Motion said of the Fountain of Youth. “I was a little surprised that (jockey) Joel (Rosario) chose to lay so close to the pace. We’d kind of discussed the thing that I really wanted was to get him to settle. I would have preferred he come back off the pace”.
“I think I would have learned a little bit more about my horse—and I certainly am not blaming Joel for the way he ran because, you know, he really ran an appalling race that day—but, I’d like to think he’s going to settle on Saturday. And if he’s not going to settle, he’s going to have a hard time competing in these races.”
Yes, Mr. Motion you would be correct sir. If this horse is going to be an upper echelon three year old he has to learn to rate off the pace and from what I understand (in the mornings) he is.
In fact, from what I understand, he dropped as many as 6-7 lengths behind workmates in his morning drills yet collared them and passed them down the lane.
A winner of three of four, this horse has a beautiful stride and he looked phenomenal in his most recent work (Fair Hill, April 2- 6F- 1:13.2).
So, albeit not with a lot of confidence, I am going to give him a “mulligan” in the FOY and play him right back in this spot.
If he rates kindly, he’ll be very tough to beat…if he doesn’t, well then we will probably see a replay of the FOY and I doubt he boards a plane to Kentucky in a few weeks….truth be told, I’m not sure which horse we will see.
“Obviously, he’s going to have to step up and be competitive on Saturday otherwise he doesn’t belong doing this—and I’m not going to force it to happen,” Motion added….agreed (again) Mr. Motion.
Bottom line here is this is a “do or die” race for him.
2) Battalion Runner– as I mentioned last week before he scratched out of a race, this colt is vaunted for only having three career starts.
This $700,000 son of Unbridled’s Song thrashed maidens two starts back while registering a 98 speed figure and came back 34 days later to whip an optional $75,000 claimer field, scoring a 91 figure but did so impressively.
It will be over 2 months since that last start, which seems exactly what trainer Todd Pletcher wants: “We feel like he’s consistently run well fresh, and we’ve been training all along with either running in the Florida Derby or the following weekend in mind, so hopefully we have him fit enough and ready enough to run his best,” said Pletcher.
3) Cloud Computing – missed a significant amount of time with a chip in his ankle but finally made his racing debut on Feb 11, where he came from behind nicely to defeat maidens.
He then stalked the early pace in the Gotham in his second start and ran hard and well to finish second.
I don’t know about you but, to run second in the Grade: 3 Gotham (and scoring a 96 speed figure) in just your second career start, that caught my attention.
Well those two things and when a superior trainer like Chad Brown says he is “very excited” about this horse, you have to take notice.
“He was jumping out of his skin after his maiden win. We had some reservations (about running the Gotham), but we wanted to learn what we had, so we were forced to play the hand we were dealt. We knew he was extremely talented.”
These lightly raced horse, which seems to be coming more and more the norm (Pletcher does this on a normal basis with Derby horses), it’s hard to tell what or how much talent they have.
I expect a good effort out of him but even with a big effort, how do you buck tradition, and history for that matter, and send him into that “rodeo” they call the Kentucky Derby?
“He deserves the chance to buck history, and (due to his breeding) we know he has tremendous stamina,” Brown said. “Right now he seems to be dragging us to the Derby.”…dragging you to the Derby? Those are some strong words readers.
Honorable Mention: Irish War Cry is definitely not the only colt trying to redeem himself. This is where Mo Town comes into play as he too will be trying to bounce back off a horrendous effort. Colt by Uncle Mo ran maidens off their feet in September and came back two months later to win the Remsen Stakes (over this very racetrack) convincingly. But the wheels came off for him as well as he showed very little, getting beat by a country mile in his 2017 debut (Risen Star, Feb 25). Jockey John Velazquez said he “didn’t handle the Louisiana Downs track at all” in the Risen Star and that is a viable excuse. But make no mistake; he is back on the track where he ran his best race so there should be no excuses on Saturday. “He is proven over the Aqueduct racetrack, so that was the biggest decision maker (to run in the Wood Memorial),” said Anthony Dutrow. “We’ve been training him the same way and he’s been responding to it, so I just kept things the way they’ve been.”…well, if that’s the case, then we should see a big race from him…right?
Race: 11 (6:25 PM EST Post)
Miss Sky Warrior– finished second in her racing debut but rattled off four straight wins since, over three different racetracks including a pair of Grade: 2 races and a Grade: 3. Filly by First Samurai is 2 for 2 over this surface and continues to train forwardly. “She seemed to like the track, so that’s why we’re coming back. Things are going well, so why change things?” said trainer Kelly Breen. She is ultra consistent in the speed figure department also as through 5 starts she scored a 78, 79, 78 , 80 and 80….can’t get much more consistent than that…..logical choice in this spot…………..Yorkiepoo Princess – has a laughable name but there is no laughing at what she’s accomplished recently. Filly by up and coming (or is he here already?) sire Kantharos has won three straight (all stakes races) and 4 of her last 5. Distance will be no problem as she’s won at a route distance, and over this surface before……..threat….. Lockdown – has improved in every race in her three race career thus far for trainer Bill Mott. There was a noticeable improvement since Mott added Lasix too. Good looking filly by First Defence easily won the Busanda Stakes over the inner track at Aqueduct in her last and if she continues to improve, and I suspect she might, she could be a menace and better this rating……………Honorable Mentions: Full House – beat maidens by a colossal margin two back, then finished within shouting distance of Yorkiepoo Princess in her last……filly by Discreetly Mine is no easy throw out in this spot……….if you are shopping for a long-shot in this race go no further than North End. Yes, she is coming out of a State Bred maiden race (so she is taking a huge step up in class) but she owns strong late running ability and her last speed figure ties the top pick’s (last two) speed figures…………….Take a good look at Aspen Hilltop too. She is a $350,000 Bernardini filly who came from last (and some 12 lengths back) to win her debut at ‘Toga last August. She then received some 7 months off but was pulled up in the Davona Dale after a rival fell in front of her. If she runs back to her debut race, she could surprise a few people in this spot. I’ll be throwing her in a few exotics plays off of that angle…well that… and I’m playing her as a hunch angle too as she and her dam both have my dog’s name in their names.
Santa Anita Park
Race: 6 (5:30pm EST Post)
Santa Anita Oaks
If you recall last week, I said either Farrell or Abel Tasman were the second best three-year-old fillies in the land (behind Unique Bella). Well, Farrell did her part by registering a dominating win last weekend, so can Abel Tasman “answer” that in this spot? I believe she can and will. Nice looking bay filly by Quality Road had won three straight including the Grade: 1 Starlet towards the end of last year but had the misfortune of facing Unique Bella in her 2017 debut on March 4. Let me tell you, this filly ran her lungs out in that race. She was taken back off the pace but made a quick move at the top of the stretch and loomed boldly right off the flank of Unique Bella but (understandably) just could not get past her. In the end, she was beaten less than three lengths behind that monster…as I said, she ran lights out especially being that was her first start almost 4 months. She has worked very well 3 times since that race and her speed figures are trending upwards beautifully (52, 61, 82, 84 and 94 through her first 5 starts)……It Tiz Well– appears to be Abel Tasman’s main rival based off her past performances. Filly by Arch has won three of her last four including shipping half way across the country to take the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn in her last (which was also her two-turn debut). This filly is 5-3-1-1 in her career and clearly looks next best………………..Majestic Quality– is still a maiden after eight races and is 0 for 3 over this surface. However, it must be noted she was making up ground late vs. Farrell in the Grade: 2 Rachel Alexandra in her last after a ridiculously wide trip. In fact, after such a brutal trip, in the end, she was only 3 ½ lengths behind that start filly…..threat off that effort alone…………Honorable Mentions: Paradise Woods came from behind to smash maidens in a quick final time in her last while getting the last half furlong in a fleet :06 seconds flat. Filly by Union Rags is trained by, not only one of my favorite trainers in the world, but also a deadly one, she will be stepping up in class big time and stretching out three furlongs but, at this point in her career, there is no telling how good she is or could possibly be……Princess Karen and Mopotism have both won two of their last three and both chased Unique Bella recently. Either/or could go well in this spot.
Race: 8 (6:30 PM EST Post)
Santa Anita Derby
1) Iliad– broke his maiden back in December in a sizzling final time (6F- 1:08.1), then came back to wallop his rivals in the Feb 12 San Vincente also in a quick time (7F- 1:21.3).
Those two races put him on the map but it was his next (and last) race (March 11, San Felipe) that really caught my attention.
I thought he ran huge (finishing second) in that race being it was his first try at a route distance and he was facing probably the best three year old in the country (Mastery).
“If Mastery was in the race, he’d be the favorite, so because Iliad ran second, he’s the logical favorite, and I think he’s a legitimate favorite,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “In this scenario, if you had two horses who had to have the lead, it might be a tough spot for me, but they’re all individuals and all have their own way of going”.
The handsome son of the wickedly fast Ghostzapper shows high and consistent speed figures and has been working very well since the Saan Felipe…tepid choice in far and away the most difficult race of the entire weekend to figure out. One that sees 13 entrants with seven trained by either Bob Baffert or Doug O’Neill….talk about “emptying your barn for one race”
2) American Anthem– it didn’t take jockey Mike Smith to tell me he “didn’t handle the Oaklawn surface” and that he was “slipping and sliding all over the place” upon dismount of his last (March 18, Rebel Stakes), heck, I saw that after the first half mile.
I didn’t know he threw a shoe during the running of the race which I’m sure didn’t help.
Now this handsome son of Bodemeister returns the scene of his best race, that being the (sloppy) Jan 7 Sham Stakes where he rocketed through quick early fraction but dug and battled Gormley down the length of the stretch only to lose by a head on the wire.
This horse has been working like a superstar since his return to California and, to be honest, in taking Iliad, this horse scares me to death.
3) Gormley– is clearly a “need the lead” type of horse to be most effective. But like Irish War Cry in the Wood Memorial, this gorgeous colt needs to harness some of that God gives speed/talent and trainer John Shirreffs (of Zenyatta fame) has been working on that.
Once again, like Irish War Cry, this horse has been making progress towards that goal in the mornings. His last work (April 2- 6F- 1:14) is far, far better than it looks on paper. From what I understand he started that work some 6 or 7 lengths behind his workmate, but closed in quickly when “asked” and pulled away under very little urging from his rider.
That was the EXACT type of work I would want to see heading into this race and the Kentucky Derby.
Listen, the talent level to win this type of race is clearly there (he’s already won a Grade :1 race), the question is, can they “adjust” him and his running style to fit what it will take to do so?
Shirreffs “feels strongly” he will be successful.
“Gormley hasn’t developed a style yet,” Shirreffs said. “That’s the big thing. In the mornings, he’s shown he has a late kick. He’s won on or close to the lead, but I don’t think that’s his best style.”
The quicker you get that figured out Mr. Shirreffs, the better you and your horse will be.
Royal Mo– ended last year (broke his maiden) and started this year (wired the field in the Robert B Lewis Stakes) in fine fashion but he, too, disappointed in the Rebel. The $300,000 son of Uncle Mo showed early brief speed but faltered to finish next to last (right next to American Anthem). Like AA, he now returns to his favorite surface and, again like AA, I expect a big bounce back performance on Saturday from him…………..Just a few other sides notes about this race: Reach the World, who just gobbles up ground with a much longer than average stride, and Battle of Midway, who is a $410,000 yearling purchase that likes this track, finished within a neck of each other last month. Both have talent but since they are both so lightly raced it’s hard to tell how deep that talent runs…………….If you’re looking for a long-shot, keep an eye on Kimbear, who I’m glad his connections finally realized the dirt surface is far and away his best. In addition, although he is just 1 for 6 in his career, those last two works were scorching fast (March 25- 5F- :58.2 and April 1- 5F- :59.2). I found it VERY interesting as I watched those works that he went that fast in both of them. I mean, visually he looked like he was out for a stroll in the park….is it possible this cat is putting all together at the right time?……………….Term of Art– has been beaten a long way by several of the same rivals he’ll have to face again this Saturday…..put I just can’t help but to notice he has improved greatly over his last three races and, like Kimbear, could be sitting on an enormous race at enormous odds…………..So Conflated– also returns “home” after showing absolutely nothing in New York in his last. Gray colt by Eskendraya ran well in all three previous (California races) and is still another who could bounce back on Saturday….like I said, toughest race to figure out all weekend long.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2017- Record: 22-55 = 40%
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
**** The Pegasus World Cup Invitational will return to Gulfstream Park for its second running in 2018, carrying a record $16-million purse and further solidifying its status as the world’s richest Thoroughbred horse race, The Stronach Group announced Wednesday.
The race will be held Jan. 27, 2018, and is open to twelve domestic and international owners who will put in $1 million each for a spot in the starting gate. The additional $4 million USD will be contributed by The Stronach Group.
“The 2017 Pegasus World Cup Invitational surpassed our expectations and we believe took the sport of Thoroughbred racing to an exciting new level”, said Belinda Stronach, Chairman and President, The Stronach Group. “Our company is committed to building on the momentum that was inspired by our Founder and Honorary Chairman, Frank Stronach. In 2018, we will bring an even bigger, more modern and unforgettable entertainment experience to a global audience.”
**** Congratulations to Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan who, on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course, rode his 3,000th career winner.
The 37-year-old Spanish Town, Jamaica native earned the milestone win when guided Brad Cox-trained Inveniam Viam to victory in the opening race.
Bridgmohan, who earned his first win in August of 1997 at Calder Race Course, has ridden the likes of Pyro, Noble Bird, Room Service, J. B.’s Thunder, Majesticperfection, Kodiak Kowboy, Peeping Tom, Evening Attire, Volponi, Midnight Lute, Giant Oak and Student Council.
In 1998, Bridgmohan won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey.
“This one feels really good,” Bridgmohan said. “Especially to do it for a trainer I’ve had a really great meet with. To get to that point means a lot. The day started off good and hopefully it carries through.”