As I was looking through this weekend stakes races, I couldn’t help but to notice the stakes action on Friday as well.
In the temporary absence of Songbird, the best older female in the land (Stellar Wind) will be making her 2017 racing debut in the 2017 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park.
I also saw the Fantasy Stakes, an 8 ½ furlong contest for three year old fillies with Kentucky Oaks intentions, just one race earlier.
So, I texted my editor Denise and asked her if it was ok for her to put in extra hours this week. Denise, who will do just about anything I ask, (God bless her soul) said: “let’s do it”
You can go ahead and just call this “bonus coverage” of this weekend’s racing and I will return late Thursday or early Friday with complete and more in-depth coverage of Saturday’s races
Friday, April 14, 2017
Race: 8 (4:42 PM EST)
The 2017 Fantasy Stakes appears to be a two horse race and it is difficult to separate the two……….. Vexatious gets the narrow margin here (over Benner Island) based off her last two races. Good looking filly by super sire Giant’s Causeway, opened 2017 with a solid, late running third place finish vs. a field of “non-winners of one other than” on March 9. But look carefully at that race, she was beaten 5 ½ lengths by not only males, but Kentucky Derby hopefuls Battle of Midway (who was beaten by just a half-length to Gormley in the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday) and Reach the World (who was fourth in the SA Derby). She then comes back just three weeks after that to face the second, possibly third, best three year old filly in the land, Farrell, where she prompted the early pace and finished third (missing second by a “dirty” nose). Bottom line here is, there are no Farrell’s, or males in this race, her speed figures are textbook for an improving horse (59, 67, 75 and 81 through her first four races) and she shows a bullet work last week (4F- :47.4), signaling to me she is holding form…………….Benner Island– is giving me every indication she is sitting on a HUGE race. Filly by the excellent and versatile sire Speightstown, this filly probably needed the Martha Washington (where she finished sixth) as it was her first race in 10 weeks. She came back a month later in the Honeybee, where after being fifth early on, she made a quick move to put herself into contention on the far turn. She took command of the race but was gunned down in deep stretch by the talented It Tiz Well. I’ll go ahead and tell you, the move she made was an eye catching one and she probably wins that race with a better timed ride by the jockey. (Note: she gets a rider change here so evidently the trainer agrees with me). The Brad Cox trainee scored an 85 speed figure that day which was, not only the highest of her career, but also the highest of anyone in this field plus you get the third start off the layoff angle as well….in going with Vexatious, this filly scares the daylights out of me……………Chanel’s Legacy– has won four of nine in her career including two stakes over this very racetrack. (Dixie Belle, Jan 21 and Martha Washington, Feb 11). I’m not quite sure what happened in her next race (Honeybee Stakes, March 11) but she showed little while being trounced by (among others) Benner Island. Gray filly by Dominus bounced back somewhat when she was cut back to six furlongs and earned a second place finish (via DQ) in her last. So, as you can see, her form is a little erratic of late but if she bounces back to the form she showed earlier this year, she will be tough to beat………………….Honorable Mentions: Spooky Woods– has been on the board in five of six career starts but her last two races merit attention as well. Another good looking filly, by the wickedly fast Ghostzapper, she wired maidens at Santa Anita two races back, winning by almost four lengths and getting a mile in 1:36.4. Trained by perhaps the most underrated trainers in the world today, she had the misfortune of facing the likes of Unique Bella and Abel Tasman in the Santa Ysabel in her last. Yes, she was beaten 10+ lengths but I thought that was almost understandable with who she was facing and note she was 4+ lengths clear of the fourth place finisher in that race. (In other words, take those two beasts out of that race and she wins easy)………………..Kell Paso – is about one length away from coming into this race unbeaten at 4 for 4. Filly by Divine Park has never been worse than second in four career starts and she was dead game in her last (second in the Sunland Park Oaks, March 26). She will be stepping up in class quite a bit in this spot, but she does have ability and she is tenacious……………..Ever So Clever – had a very good 2YO year last year which included two wins and finishing within shouting distance of Farrell. There are two ways to look at her in 2017 however. One, with back to back fifth place finishes, she hasn’t comeback the same way this year or two, she is slowly rounding back into form based off the fact this will be her third start off a layoff and the 10 point jump in speed figure points between start #1 and start #2…your call from there.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Race: 9 (5:10 PM EST)
1) With super-filly Songbird’s first race of 2017 several weeks/months away yet, the pro-tem best older female in the country title is champion Stellar Wind’s to lose.
Big, good looking Eclipse Award winner for best three year old filly in 2015, mare by Curlin will be making her first start since her Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup (which was a complete debacle) for trainer John Sadler in this spot. Yes, she was a nervous wreck at the gate in the BC, and yes, she completely missed the break, which basically cost her the race but still, I thought she did well to finish third behind Songbird and Beholder in their epic stretch drive. Moreover, she is 7 for 12 in her career and 5 for 5 at this distance. ”
We gave her a vacation after the Breeders’ Cup, and with Southern California having such a wet January and February, we were going to be pressed to have her ready for the Santa Margarita,” Sadler said. “The Apple Blossom is such a classic and prestigious race.” This chestnut put up back to back “trips” (and almost a third in the BC) to finish the year where no one else in this field has ever registered even one…..bottom line here is she will clearly be an elite horse in 2017, the only question in this spot is fitness level. Does Sadler have her fully “cranked” up? I doubt it ….its a long year….but then again, she may not need to be in order to win this.
2) Terra Promessa– was the victim of bad racing luck (nightmare trip) and a bad ride in her last in the Azeri Stakes over this surface. Another filly by Curlin, she was much the best in registering back to back daylight (stakes) scores in her last two races (again over this racetrack) and is definitely another upper echelon horse/female in training for 2017. The Steve Asmussen trainee shows mind-boggling stats of being 6 for 8 at this distance and 5 for 6 over this racetrack………clearly looks next best, with a good chance of knocking off the top pick.
3) Streamline – was the beneficiary of Terra Promessa’s nightmare race last time as she took full advantage of those issues to get up to win the Azeri in her last. This mare shows 16 on the board finishes out of 17 career races, has never been off the board on this track and never off the board at this distance. Mare by Straightline (Boundary) also shows speed figures that are as consistent as her finishes, so that all matches up….looks best of the rest.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2017- Record: 25-65 = 38%
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%