This weekend will be the first of three consecutive weekends where we will either be all, or mostly, focus on Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.
With the $16 million Pegasus World scheduled for next weekend (Jan. 27) and the Holy Bull Stakes, an important stepping stone to the 2018 Kentucky Derby, scheduled for the following weekend (Feb 3), the 2018 Sunshine Million Classic highlights this weekend. The nine furlong test for four year olds and up drew a field of six led by Mr. Jordan.
Additionally, we will be looking at the Sunshine Million Filly and Mare Turf, an 8 ½ furlong contest for four year olds and up fillies and mares, the Sunshine Millions Sprint at six furlongs for four years old and up and the Sunshine Millions Turf for four year olds and up.
January 13, 2018- Back-“Track”
Stronger Than Ever rallied from last at 33-1 to pull off the colossal upset in this race. Nice job by jockey Florent Geroux who timed his move perfectly. On the other hand, I thought “Johnny V” not only had Wonder Gadot too close to the early pace, (she likes to run from further back early on) but I also thought he moved too early when seizing the lead of this race leaving the seven furlong marker. My notion proved true and she began to tire in deep stretch and was overhauled by the winner. Missive who also went off at big odds at post-time, ran well to get third at 23-1. Blonde Bomber and Heavenly Love both disappointed in finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Terra’s Angel, the heartwarming story that I mentioned in my preview, went off at 90-1 and finished sixth of eight. She clearly needs a class drop.
Instilled Regard laid just off the early pace, took over this race at the quarter pole and won as a much the best while drawing away late. At this point, and I know it’s early, but he needs to be added to your Kentucky Derby contenders list. Principe Guilheme did not break especially well, was bumped hard shortly thereafter and was very wide on the second turn. I thought, for the trip he had and for this being just his third career race, he ran very well. Snapper Sinclair put a scare into me as the 28-1 shot actually grabbed the lead briefly leaving the six furlong marker before being run down at the top of the stretch by the top two. He definitely outran his odds in finishing third. I mentioned Zing Zang might run well in my preview and he did. He came from last early (passing seven horses in the last three sixteenths of a mile) to finish fourth in an attention getting performance.
7-10 favorite Heart to Heart completely missed the break (he threw his head right as the gates open). For horses with a ton of speed like this cat, that’s a back breaker. He was forced into an unfamiliar situation (having to come from behind) and was never “comfortable” at any point in the race and finished seventh of eight. With Heart to Heart, the expected front runner, missing the break, Shining Copper found himself on the lead and was allowed to set a very moderate pace. He had “just” enough left in the stretch drive to hold on late and win by a diminishing head. Long-shot One Go All Go (who I never saw coming in the past performances) completely outran his odds (30-1) finishing second, missing by inches of a tremendous upset.
Probably the best race of this young year!…..Mended, who had won an astounding 10 races in a row vs. lesser coming in, took the lead and proved a very stubborn foe late. I underestimated this filly as she absolutely ran her eyeballs out but was overhauled in deep stretch by the class dropping Mopotism. Mopotism, another horse I picked second in my preview but wound up winning, finally wore down Mended to win by a head but was also dealing with La Force on the far outside. LaForce who was charging hard late, down the middle of the racetrack, finished third just a head behind Mended. In other words, just two heads separated the top three finishers in a barn burner of a race. 6/5 favorite Majestic Heat had a good trip and had a clear shot at the early leaders coming down the lane but just was not good enough that particular day. This race is worth watching again!
Saturday, January 20,2018
Race: 4 (1:30 PM EST Post)
Sunshine Millions Classis
Mr. Jordan- towers over this field in several categories including lifetime wins, money won and, most importantly, speed figures. On top of all that, this almost white gelding, who ran terrific in the Harlan’s Holiday (vs. opens) in his last, drops back in against Florida State-Breds in this spot. “He’s coming into the race 110% and we’re anxious to run him,” trainer Ed Plesa said. Although he is 0 for 9 on this surface and 0 for 4 at this distance, he still looks like a very logical choice here………………..Richard the Great– chased Mr. Jordan twice in his last two starts and got a lot closer last time than the time before. This six year old gelding by Distorted Humor clearly looks next best but buyer beware…he also looks setup to “bounce” as high as the sky in this spot…………….Flemish Cap– had improved leaps and bounds since August of 2017, including winning three of his last four races….steps up, but could be a menace……….Honorable Mentions: Catholic Cowboy has the “back class” to be competitive here but his current form leaves much to be desired………….If you are hunting for a long-shot, take at look at Crocodile Charlie, who I believe the stretch out in distance could hit him squarely between the eyes. Of course, having Zayas hop off of him and ride Mr. Jordan is not a good sign, nor is drawing the #1 post but strange things can happen in these short fields.
Race: 7 (3PM EST Post)
Sunshine Millions Turf
After being overmatched in three prior races (Arlington Million, Kentucky Turf Cup and Canadian International), Enterprising returned to GP and was placed back in against Florida State Breds on Nov 11. The seven year old responded with a strong, late rally to get up for the win in the Sunshine Millions Turf Preview, the logical prep race for this. He beat several of his main rivals in this race that day, so I look for more of the same here……………….Although Galleon Mast was beaten fair and square by Enterprising in the aforementioned SM Turf Preview, he looms a major threat here. This gray gelding has never been off the board in 12 tries over this turf course and was 10-5-3-2 overall last year. If you look up “consistency” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of this son of Mizzen Mast………………….Our Way– actually defeated Enterprising in this race last year and ran well in three subsequent starts since. Although this five year old gelding has been working well for “Bond….(H.) James Bond” at the notoriously deep Payson Park Training Center, be advised this will be his first start in over five months, so he might “need one”…………Honorable Mentions: Spring Up– has shown a marked improvement since moving from California to Florida and changing trainers (Sadler to Rivelli). His races and speed figures have improved dramatically since, including winning four of seven starts on the GP turf course and running either a 90 or 91 speed figure in five straight races. That, readers, is consistent………………..Charlie Mops– is laudably consistent as his 15 on the board finishes out of 18 career starts would indicate and he finished right behind the top two in the SM Preview on Nov 11. He’ll be stepping back up in class but don’t be so quick to completely dismiss him.
Race: 10 (4:30 PM EST Post)
Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf
Starship Jubilee– ran very well at Woodbine in four races this past summer (4-2-0-1, including both wins being in Grade: 2 company), all vs. much better than what she will be facing in this race. Also, note how six of her eight career wins have come over this turf course. I “did not” like her last race (she set a slow early pace but was still run down late) but she may have “needed it” being it was her first start in 10 weeks but I “do” like that monster work last week (4F- :46.1) as it signals readiness to me………………..Daddy’s Boo– has enormous early speed and is a win machine (15 for 25 lifetime). This seven year old gray mare had legitimate excuses in her last (abysmal) race as she was facing Grade: 3 competition at a distance that is well beyond her scope……she drops to a more realistic spot and cuts back a whopping 3 ½ furlongs….big threat to “take ‘em all the way”……………………..I found just one bad race out of Bonita’s last 12 races. Mare by Bluegrass Cat ran very well in her last (on the dirt, while she clearly prefers the turf) and won her two prior races to that. This stretch runner is consistent and returns to the “weeds”…looks best of the rest……………….Honorable Mentions: If Graceful Heart improves again as she did in start one to start two (and I suspect she might being this is her third start off the layoff), she could be a menace in this spot. Although this $400,000 daughter of Bodemeister has been running against mid-level optionals in those first two starts, her speed figure (and last four races) pattern suggest she’s a contender……………………Bitacora– looks to be a good claim for my friends at Paradise Farms as she ran fourth, beaten by just three lengths off a four month layoff in her last. Filly by Dominus (Smart Strike) has run very well vs. similar, and on this turf course, last summer….could surprise a few people in this spot.
Race: 11 (5PM EST Post)
Sunshine Millions Sprint
X Y Jet– came back running off a 13+ month layoff when he wired the field in the Mr. Prospector while getting six furlongs in 1:09.2 in his last. Subsequent works since signal to me he will improve second time off the layoff (as opposed to bouncing) plus this speedster gets a tactical advantage in drawing the rail here……catch and beat him for all the “jack”………………..Mo Cash– appears to be X Y Jet’s main rival here. This son of Adios Charlie has never been worse than second in four tries over this oval, you get the third start off the layoff angle and, most importantly, he fired a monster work (3F- :34.3) for this last week……..dangerous foe right here…………………..Bold Envoy– wired an optional claimer field impressively in his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher. This gelding will be making just his fourth career start here but between that last race and his debut (won by a pole in a visually impressive performance) he is showing signs of having some talent……find out more about him in this spot………………Honorable Mentions: Quijote– is in the dreaded “good race, bad race” routine. Albeit, he is far too inconsistent for me to play with any conviction, he is “due” for a good race.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2018- Record- 2-7 = 29%
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
**** Must be nice to be Bob Baffert….
We know that Grade: 1 winners Collected and West Coast are heading toward the Jan. 27 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
This week, we learned Baffert will be sending two of his other top horses to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup on March 31.
Mubtaahij, along with stablemate Hoppertunity, are both pointing for the $10 million race at Meydan.
“That’s the goal for Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity, for sure,” Baffert said after he watched Mubtaahij cruise a half-mile work in :50 3/5 last Thursday at Santa Anita. “He went nice. I freshened him up a little bit, but he looked pretty good today.”
**** Champion and multiple Grade: 1 Stakes winner Lady Eli has been retired from racing and will be bred to War Front in 2018, owners Sol Kumin and Jay Hanley announced last Tuesday.
“We have been wrestling with the very difficult decision of whether to race or retire Lady Eli since we scratched her from the Keeneland November sale days after she was injured in the Filly & Mare Turf,” Kumin and Hanley said in a joint statement.
“As her stewards we—with Chad’s guidance at every turn—have tried to shepherd Lady Eli through her racing career with the utmost respect, compassion, and love for her as a living being first, and secondarily as a racehorse. It is in this spirit that we have ultimately chosen to retire Lady Eli from racing and allow her to gracefully—and safely—begin her career as a broodmare. We can’t begin to put into words how deeply she has affected us, our families, and our friends.”
**** Dreaming of Anna, the 2006 champion 2-year-old filly, died of a ruptured aorta Jan. 9 at Woodspring Farm near Versailles, Ky. She was 14.
The daughter of Rahy recorded 10 wins from 17 career starts and earned more than $2 million racing from ages 2 to 4. Trained by Wayne Catalano, all told she won nine stakes races, including six graded stakes. In her championship year, she won the Summer Stakes at Woodbine before scoring a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs.
“She was my first Breeders’ Cup winner and she was very special to us and the family,” Catalano said. “We won the Breeders’ Cup on (owner) Mr. Calabrese’s birthday. She was a very nice filly, she was special.
**** Faversham, a full brother to two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, finished second in his debut, a six-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita Park this past Monday.
“You know, (Faversham) didn’t have the speed to be a sprinter,” said trainer Art Sherman, who also trained California Chrome. “And that’s just like his brother, he ran second the first time I ran him. But you know, you stretch him out, he’ll be running. I was really happy with the race.
“Of course, California Chrome developed into a big strong horse after his 3-year-old year, but (Faversham) looks a lot like him in coloring and mannerisms. So we’re looking forward to see him develop a lot stronger as the year goes by.”
**** Miss Sky Warrior, a three-time Grade: 2 winner and one of the betting favorites for the 2017 Kentucky Oaks, has been retired from racing.
Trained by Kelly Breen for owners Al and Arlene London, Miss Sky Warrior won five of 10 starts and earned $687,340.
She came out of her eighth disappointing, place finish in the Oaks with an injury that put her on the sidelines for five months. She returned to training and made three starts toward the end of the 2017 but was not the same filly
“It took five months to bring her back and she was training very well, but she just wasn’t the same,” Al London said. “We didn’t know if she could come back at all. We thought she could return to the top level, but she just couldn’t finish. She’s too good a horse and we have too much respect for her.”
After the Oaks she was fourth in Belmont Park’s Turnback the Alarm Handicap, third in the Comely Stakes, and sixth in Gulfstream’s Tropical Park Oaks on the turf.
Miss Sky Warrior has been shipped to the Glencrest Farm in Central Kentucky, where she was raised, and will be bred American Pharoah in the spring.