Last weekend we took baby steps towards the 2018 Kentucky Derby at Gulfstream Park (Mucho Macho Man Stakes) and Santa Anita (Sham Stakes). This weekend our baby steps lead us to the Fair Grounds in Louisiana for a look at the 2018 Lecomte Stakes, a mile and a sixteenth contest for three year olds that carries a $200,000 purse.
While there, the “Ladies” also bear watching as on the same card as the Lecomte is the Silverbulletday Stakes for three year old fillies, also at a mile and a sixteenth but for $150,000.
Just a side note, Wonder Gadot is cross entered in both of those races. I broke down both races with her in them. The decision of which race she will run in will be made by her connections at “game time” (Saturday morning), so please adjust accordingly as the races approach.
This weekend is not just limited to three year olds, as we will also be looking at two other races both for four year olds and up. They include The Ft. Lauderdale on the turf at Gulfstream Park and the La Canada on the dirt at Santa Anita.
Lastly, I will be without my “safety net” Denise (my editor) for a least another few weeks after her having surgery last week. Once again, I apologize in advance for any mistakes you may see.
January 6, 2018- “Back Track”
Mucho Macho Man
Mask is now a blimp on my radar screen as our journey towards the 2018 Kentucky Derby begins to gather momentum. Although he got off with very pedestrian like early fractions, he was much the best in leading all the way for the win. The good looking colt was pulling away late without any encouragement from his rider in a very impressive performance….. I thought Bal Harbour ran very well. He broke poorly and was bumped hard shortly thereafter but rallied well, late to get second….I saw no visible excuses for Dak Attack other than maybe he was “short” on conditioning. He was in a compete, full out drive just north of the quarter pole but was not making up much ground. He finished third, but was almost 10 length behind the winner.
McKinzie- bounced back very well from his rather disappointing effort on the Los Alamitos Derby in this race. He relaxed beautifully off the early pace, took over the race at about the five sixteenths pole and opened up down the lane to win by almost four lengths. He clearly does not like being hit left handed but other than that, this was a very good race to build on…..15-1 shot All Out Blitz ran very well. After carving out all the early fractions he was overhauled by the winner on the far turn but held very well late and was easily second best…..not sure what happened to Shivermetimbers, who was among the vanguard early but shorten stride at the top of the stretch and backed up to fourth.
Although three wide most of the way around, Itsinthepost enjoyed a very good trip. He laid fourth in the early going, took over at the quarter pole and held sway to win by 1 ¼ lengths….. Flamboyant came with an enormous late run to grab second at 7-1, and together they made for a nice exacta ($35.80). Top of the Game was a huge disappointment. He was “up” early but completely stopped running leaving the six furlong marker and checked in last.
Race: 7 (4:15 PM EST Post)
Part of my handicapping process is to go back and watch video replays of prior races. In the case of Wonder Gadot, that wasn’t necessary as I vividly remember her last race. This $325,000 daughter of Medaglia d’Oro took over in the upper stretch of the Demoiselle at Aqueduct on Dec 2 and was striding out sooooooo beautifully down the stretch (especially on her right lead) it was hard to forget. Albeit, in a slow time (and slow early fractions), she won by 3+ conclusive lengths. A winner of three of five career starts, you can once again throw out her BC Juvenile Filly performance as she was checked in mid-stretch, not only causing her to lose valuable momentum, but she had to “alter course” too which cost her even more ground. If you do toss that race, you’ll see she’s won three of four career starts and all by wide margins………..looks best……………..Blonde Bomber– is a stretch running filly who is coming to hand nicely for trainer Stanley Gold. In fact, the 7-2-2-2 record this daughter of Fort Larned sports doesn’t really do her any justice. In her last race, (BC Juvenile Filly) she came from last, circling the field five wide on the turn and was making up ground late to finished a very good third (ahead of Wonder Gadot) at 30-1. Her two prior races/wins at Gulfstream were both very good, her speed figures continue to climb and she’s been working lights out for her 2018 debut….dangerous foe right here……. …..Heavenly Love– showed brief speed in the BC Juvenile filly race but quickly shifted into reverse and was beaten by 25 lengths while checking in 11th of 13. I’m not quite sure what happened that day as her two prior races (breaking her maiden and winning the Garde:1 Alcibiades) were both first rate performances………………Honorable Mentions– America’s Tale– has won her last two races, albeit vs. lesser, both by colossal margins. This filly by Gio Ponti, who has been first or second in five of six lifetime starts, will be taking a big step up in class in this spot however…………Stellar Moon– is by Tapit and experienced some traffic issues in her last. Steps up and stretches out but that last race isn’t as bad as it looks on paper…………She is 30-1 on the morning line and I don’t give her much of a chance here but I will be watching Terra’s Angel, a $7,500 purchase at the Keeneland September sale, closely in this spot. Owner/trainer Terry Eoff named this filly for his late daughter Terra Eoff who had developed cancer that went into remission, but returned in 2016. “The last time it came back a little more aggressive, and the doctors weren’t giving her much time,” Eoff said. “For Christmas, I told her to come out to the barn. I told her ‘I’m going to name this horse after you, and I’m going to give you a little piece of it too.’”…nice story…..hope she runs well for their sake.
Race: 9 (5:03 PM EST Post)
Principe Guilherme is hard to go against in this spot. This $600,000 son of Tapit has won his first two career starts by colossal margins (a combined 18 lengths) while registering solid speed figures and being visually impressive in both. “Principe Guilherme is out of a Grade 1 (2013 Humana Distaff) winner (Aubby K) and I think he shows some tendencies with her speed,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “We’re just trying to get him to relax and use it effectively with his acceleration and his quickness is obvious.” The smallish, but well made colt drew post 12 for the LeComte and will be piloted by Florent Geroux. “I think the LeComte will be a very good test for him with him drawing (post) twelve,” Asmussen added. “I think that will put a lot of questions of how effective he can be at a two-turn race that obviously has plenty of pace in it.” Bottom line here is, at this point, there is no telling how good he is so I will stick with him until I can figure that part out……………….After being bumped hard in mid-stretch Instilled Regard gave Eclipse Award nominee Solimini and the mega talented McKenzie all they could handle in the Los Alamitos Derby in his last. This $1,050,000 colt by Curlin was beaten by just three quarters of a length in the end. Logically, if you can “hang and bang” with those two horses, you clearly have some talent……contender here off that effort alone…………………..Wonder Gadot– see the comments I made about her in the Silverbulletday preview. Except, as much as I liked her last race, I don’t see her finishing much higher than third in this race……………………Honorable Mentions: Kowboy Karma– has yet to run a bad race though five career starts as his 5-2-2-0 record would indicate. The funny part about him is the one time he ran off the board (fourth in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont last fall) might have been his best race. …………I think 15-1 on the morning line is a bit generous for Zing Zang, who quietly ran a monster race in his first try over this track. Yet another son of Tapit, this colt came roaring off the turn, blew past the field down the lane and drew away to win by almost three lengths in the end………………….Lone Sailor’s- last race was too bad to be true. I think 15-1 on the morning line is generous for him as well……………Prince Lucky– has won three of four to begin his career. Good looking colt by Corinthian steps up and stretches out but has been working well lately.
Race: 11 (5 PM EST Post)
Heart to Heart- has won 13 of 32 career starts and looks to be the “speed of the speed” in here. This now seven year old by English Channel was last seen being caught up in a protracted speed duel in none other than the BC Turf Mile. The well named bay (he has a white heart marking on his forehead) actually surged to the lead in that race on the turn for home but “weakened” in deep stretch. Albeit he wound up tenth, he was only beaten by three lengths. “The heat was on in the kitchen from the get-go. They got the half in :45.3. You’d have to be a super horse to finish (strong) coming off those early fractions,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “The margin wasn’t so bad. He got beat by three lengths for everything. In the grand scheme of things, he ran very, very big to hang on as well as he did.” Lastly, he is four for five at both this distance and on this surface………should make every pole a winning one here………………….Shining Copper– looks to be the top pick’s main problem. This now eight year old gelding came back running off an exactly 13 month layoff for a new trainer (Mike Maker) as he ran third and then wired fields in three Kentucky races since coming back. He too likes this surface and distance……figures bang up here………………..After getting away with slow early fractions, Shakhimat wired the field at 11-1 in the Tropical Turf in his last for master trainer Roger Attfield. Five year old bay gelding is in top form right now and I expect another big effort in this spot………………….Honorable Mentions: If you draw a line through and ignore All Included’s May 27 race at Monmouth, you will see he was “right there” at the finish in all four other races in 2017……Do NOT be so quick to dismiss him………………….If you are hunting for a long-shot in this race, take a look at Team Colors, who grant it has some ugly stats (0 for 7 in 2017, 1 for 11 on the turf). But note he made an enormous late run (after a bad start and being forced “parking lot” wide on the turn for home) to only get beaten by two lengths behind Shining Copper in his last.
Santa Anita Park
Race: 8 (7PM EST Post)
La Canada Stakes
After going 5 for 14 on the turf, trainer Richard Mandella, who I love for his training ability and his amazing sense of humor, switched Majestic Heat onto the dirt. The six year old mare responded with a three length, come from behind win in a restricted stakes race and then came back (and from behind again) and won the Grade: 2 Bayakoa, beating champion Champagne Room in the process. Although she will be making her Santa Anita dirt debut here, she does like to win as her 7 for 16 lifetime record would indicate…….narrow margin…………………Although Mopotism is just 2 for 14 in her career, it MUST be noted that she has faced Eclipse Award nominee Elate, Grade: 1 winner It Tiz Well (twice), the Amazonian and mega talented Unique Bella, probable champions Forever Unbridled and Abel Tasman (twice) and still another Eclipse Award nominee in Paradise Woods……get my drift here? In case you don’t, this filly by Uncle Mo will meet no such rival(s) in this spot and which in turn means she will be taking an enormous drop in class in this spot…..and is there a bigger advocate for “class droppers” than me?…bottom line here is this filly looms large in this spot………………Mended- has won an eye popping 10 races in a row vs. lesser and 13 out of 26 in her career overall. Although this “Cinderella” mare has handled steps up in class time and time again, the waters get real deep in this spot…..plus I’m not digging the 0 for 3 record on this oval either. “I never knew what was coming when I got her,” trainer John Martin said, who claimed this horse for $12,500 some 53 weeks ago. “But every time I run her, she gets better.”…..It will make for a great story if she wins………………….Honorable Mentions: Union Strike won a Grade:1 race 16 months ago but has done very little since….threat if she ever regains that Grade: 1 form…………………….Sandy’s Surprise– won the $300,000 Zia Park Oaks in her last at 5/2 and she hasn’t been worse than second in three career tries on this racetrack. Those facts, plus she is 1 for 1 at this distance makes her a long-shot possibility here.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2018- Record- 2-3 = 67%
2017- Record: 92-235 = 39%
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
**** You can probably go ahead and add Ax Man to your 2018 Kentucky Derby watch list.
Ax Man, by Misremembered out of the blue hen mare Shameless, (making him a half brother to two time champion Indian Blessing) won his career debut at Santa Anita by almost 10 lengths New Year’s Day.
“We knew he was pretty talented,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He had been working pretty well. The work right before his debut he worked with McKinzie and they worked heads up together (five furlongs in :59.1 Dec. 27 at Santa Anita), so that was really encouraging. At Hill ‘n’ Dale growing up, he was always a standout as a foal. He was a nice looking horse and is probably the best one Shameful has had since Indian Blessing.”
“He exploded out of there and handled it pretty well. It didn’t take a lot out of him and he came back well. You could tell after the race that he wasn’t tired. That is a good sign. It means he will be able to stretch out. The San Vicente (Feb. 10) is the most logical spot right now because I can’t see an allowance race coming between now and then.”
Ax Man’s dam Shameful has proven to be a blue hen producer with eight winners from eight foals to race and is scheduled to be bred to Tapit in 2018
**** A pulled muscle will keep Bolt d’Oro out of the Feb 10. San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. The race was supposed to be the initial start for the talented colt on his way to the Kentucky Derby.
Although a nuclear scan revealed there is nothing wrong with his horse, owner-trainer Mick Ruis Sr. has decided to bypass the race as a precautionary measure.
Ruis became concerned last week when he noticed that the colt was a “little body sore.” That prompted him to postpone his first scheduled workout since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and order the test.
“He was jogging good, but when you have a horse that is worth $15-20 million you want to make sure he is ok, so I nuke scanned him Wednesday and everything came back good,” Ruis said.
“We’re ready again to go forward. We never missed a day of training. When they get a little sore like that, I think he might have gotten cast in the stall. I was not going to take any chances with him and start pressing on him right now without taking a nuke scan. It came back perfectly good. He will start galloping again in two days and then we will probably breeze him in about 10 days.” Ruis added.
“My first preference would be to run in the San Felipe and then the (April 7) Santa Anita Derby, because I would love to stay here and run where we’ve been stabled, and it looks like we are going do that, for sure”.
“I’d love to get a race in beforehand, but I don’t think that’s going to work time wise,” Ruis added.
**** Unique Bella worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track last Saturday morning in 49.3 in preparation for her next start in the Grade:2 , $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 10.
“She worked great,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer. “She’s really learning how to relax. She was standing out there by herself, no pony, nothing, just relaxed, then went off slow and finished great this is going to help her in her races.”….agreed Mr. Ward. If you can figure out a way to get to relax early and come from behind…..God help her competition.
**** 2017 Cotillion Stakes winner It Tiz Well, who was kept out the BC Distaff due to a sore foot, has now been diagnosed with a chip in her ankle joint.
Owner Tom Stull has not decided what her future might hold, though he admitted thinking about breeding the filly to Tapit this year.
“She has a few issues,” Stull said. “We’ll see if she races again. She might have to be a broodmare. We’ll get a couple more evaluations.”
**** Ron Paolucci of Loooch Racing Stables has reached a deal to “lease” one of his spots in the Jan. 27 Pegasus World Cup to Ivan Rodriguez, owner of recent Cigar Mile winner Sharp Azteca.
When Paolucci was asked why he decided to partner up with Rodriguez, he responded: “I have sixteen million reasons,” Paolucci said “I try to compete at the highest level, but I don’t always have the highest money to be able to compete at that level. When you get an opportunity like that or a second chance (he is also entering War Story), you take it. It’s a race you want to win. Everybody’s watching the race.”
Sharp Azteca breezed five furlongs in 1:00.1 for trainer Jorge Navarro at Gulfstream Park West Sunday morning with under Javier Castellano.