Our highlighted race for this weekend is the 2018, $900,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park for three year olds going a mile and a sixteenth. The Rebel drew a field of 11 led by Solomini and Combatant.
While at Oaklawn we will also be looking at the Azeri Stakes, another mile and a sixteenth contest but for four year olds and up fillies and mares as well as the Essex Handicap, still another mile and a sixteenth contest but for four year olds and up.
Elsewhere, we will be traveling to Gulfstream Park for a look at the Inside Information Stakes, an 8 ½-furlong contest for four year olds and up fillies and mares.
Lastly, we head to West to Santa Anita for a pair of Stakes races in the Pasadena Stakes, a mile turf contest for fillies and mares, and the $400,000 Santa Margarita Stakes, a nine furlong race for four year olds and up fillies and mares
Back-“Track”- March 10, 2018
I’m at a total disadvantage publishing my article some 36 hours before post. It was my understanding that the track at Oaklawn would have been anything but a fast track and I broke down the race accordingly. Well, the rains held off and Cosmic Burst, who was the best horse in the race, won easy and catapulted herself right back into the Kentucky Oaks picture. Had I known the rain would hold off, I would have looked at the race differently. Amy’s Challenge seemed to have run off with her rider early, opening up an eight length lead at one point, and understandably tired late and couldn’t hold off the winner. This is one nice filly. Red Ruby had a good trip and was in striking position on the far turn but lost momentum and check in fourth.
Tampa Bay Derby:
19-1 shot Quip looked like a winner right from the get go as he was tugging hard on his rider leaving the first turn. Once he was cut loose, it was all over but the shouting and he sprung the major upset. Flameaway, who went off at an inexplicably 6-1 (I thought he’d be favored) was in a complete, full out drive leaving the five-sixteenths pole and seemed to be “spinning his wheels.” He finally got untracked and was absolutely flying in deep stretch but could only manage to be second. World of Trouble went off as the 8/5 favorite and ran bang up for making taking such a big class hike. He blew the gate, established the lead and weakened slightly in deep stretch but held third. We have to keep an eye on his moving forward. Vino Rossi looked sensational in the post parade, had a great trip, loomed boldly leaving the three eighths pole but flatted out to finish a disappointing fourth.
If McKenzie and Bolt d’Oro are the top two three year old in the land at this point, then Enticed, who manhandled this field, needs to be ranked around third or fourth. I mean this colt laid back off the pace early, came with a bold run down the lane and won with his rider gearing him down in deep stretch and with his ear pricked….super good performance by this horse! Kudos to Old Time Revival, who almost “stole” this race on the front end at 35-1. Betting favorite Free Drop Billy was bumped and forced five wide on the turn for home and could only manage to be third in a rather disappointing effort. Firenze Fire was rank early on, made a “middle move” but flattened out late.
City of Light wore down a stubborn and loose on the lead Bobby Abu Dhabi to score his second consecutive Grade:1 win. He should be a force in the sprint division this year. Nice job by Drayden Van Dyke as the Triple Bend was the fourth race on the card and Van Dyke won the first three. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a rider win the first four races of the day. The rest of the field was spread out with Edward Going Left getting the show dough.
Frank E. Kilroe
8-1 shot Bowie’s Hero, who took the lead at the top of the stretch, looked like he was going to be run down in deep stretch but dug in and held sway to pull off the upset. Next Shares completely outran his 16-1 odds in finishing second. Champion World Approval never really looked comfortable early, was struggling late and could do no better than fifth in a flat and disappointing effort.
Santa Anita Derby
Accelerate stalked the pace, took over leaving the backstretch and won easy. Not much else to say here. The popular and very handsome Mubtaahij set the pace and was clearly (seven lengths) second best. Fear the Cowboy rallied well late to get third.
Saturday March 17, 2018
Race: 11 (5:07PM EST Post)
Rich Mommy– had a three race win streak snapped in her last after having to go five wide on the turn and being brushed down the lane in the Hurricane Bertie Stakes. After all that, this filly by Algorithms was only beaten by 1 ½ lengths. Although she hasn’t run in 49 days, her trainer is winning at a 25% clip in Graded Stakes races this year and arguably the best rider in the country (Irad Ortiz, who is winning at a 23% clip) gets the leg up. Of course, hitting the board in nine of 10 starts on this oval doesn’t hurt either…………………… She should be able to turn the tables on Jordan’s Henny, who launched an enormous late move, coming from near last and passing eight horses in the last three furlongs at the astronomical odds of 59-1, to win the Hurricane Bertie. However, this daughter of Henny Hughes must prove that was not fluke and I’m not crazy about her rider being 1 for 44 at this meet……………Ivy Bell gets a serious trainer and jockey upgrade since her last race while moving from the William Denzik barn to the Todd Pletcher barn and going front Brian Hernandez to Javier Castellano. If you draw a line through the Open Mind Stakes at Churchill last fall (she clipped heels and lost her rider), you’ll see this filly by Archarcharch has been either first or second in her last seven races in a row. I also noted her BRISNET speed figures are on par with my top pick’s…………………Honorable Mentions: Moonlit Promises took command of the Hurricane Bertie at the top of the stretch in her last but was overhauled in deep stretch and had to settle for fourth in that contest. Filly by Malibu Moon had won three straight at Woodbine going into that race and maybe regular rider Gary Boulanger, who is three for four aboard her, can time his move a little better than Joel Rosario did last time out…………………..Just be Kind – was impressive coming from behind to win a Stakes race at Laurel Park in her last. But it must be noted that this daughter of Sky Mesa was the recipient of a wickedly fast, and subsequent pace meltdown, in that race.
Race: 8 4:55PM EST Post)
Leofric – is four for five on this oval (and 0 for 4 everywhere else) including looking like a winner of the Razorback in mid-stretch of his last only to be run down late. This son of Candy Ride drops in class for red hot (30%) trainer Brad Cox and looks best in a wide open horse race…………………Thirstforlife – chased a streaking The Player in the Mineshaft Handicap in his last and finished just a neck behind the top pick two starts back….major player here……………..I thought Rocking the Boat ran very well in the aforementioned Razorback in his last, which was just his seventh career start. The son of Arch battled every step of the way and held fairly well late, checking in third beaten by less than four lengths. Big work (4F :47 flat) subsequently signals to me he might run big again in this spot……………………Honorable Mentions: I hate putting Blueridge Traveler this far down as he appears to be in peak form right now. This son of To Honor and Serve comes into this on a two race win streak including taking the Maxim Gold Cup in his last at Sam Houston. He has hit the board in eight of 10 career starts and worked well over this track last week…..could better this rating……………Multiplier – was making up ground late in a very quickly run sprint race last time out which was his first start in almost nine months. That race is a perfect one to build off of and could go well in this spot………………….Hedge Fund– is another who came back running off a long layoff in his last….”Ignore Pletcher, leave the track on a stretcher”…………….How Untrapped was the post-time favorite in the Razorback in his last is so far beyond me I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it. That said, trainer Steve Asmussen wins at a 27% clip next time out with beaten favorites. I thought that was an interesting stat.
Race: 9 (5:32 PM EST Post)
Although Farrell is very light in the speed figure department, it must be noted she is a win machine. Filly by Malibu Moon is seven for 12 in her career and five for six at this distance. Throw out the fact that she was beaten by almost 50 lengths in her last in the slop where she went off as the favorite and pull in the fact that her trainer wins at a 31% clip with beaten favorites their next time out……..slight edge in yet another well matched field……………Actress – is a 4YO, stretch running filly by Tapit who always fires her best shot as her six on the board finishes out of eight career races would indicate. She seems to run well under Jose Ortiz (then again, what horse doesn’t?) and her last two races were first rate performances……big threat right here…………………Through 2016 and 2017, Martini Glass has been either first or second in 10 of 12 races, topped off by conclusively winning/upsetting the field in the Royal Delta at GP in her last. Her work pattern resembles an Uzi 9mm as she fires multiple bullets in the mornings….could better this rating……………Honorable Mentions: Streamline – is mind boggling consistent as her 20 on the board finishes out of 21 career starts would indicate. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a horse in training today that boasts that kind of consistency…………………… With Terra Promessa, you get the third start off the layoff angle and a filly who loves this oval (five for nine over it). Albeit she doesn’t seem to be the same filly she was last year, she still merits respect in this spot……………Blue Prize – is another who is ridiculously consistent as she has hit the board in nine of 10 career starts, highlighted by romping in the Fall City Handicap last November at Churchill. She makes her first start since and although she is working well, she may “need one” off the bench
Race: 10 (6:02 Pm Est Post)
Solomini– has faced the mega talented Bolt d’Oro, 2YO Champion Good Magic and the supremely talented McKinzie in his last three races and has held his own all three times. He will meet no such rivals in this spot and is a logical choice…….Don’t worry that this will be his first start in over three months, he’s been running a hole in the wind in the mornings and Baffert always sends them out ready to fire off the layoff………………………Sporting Chance– is a Grade: 1 winner who absolutely needed his 2018 debut when he was third in the Southwest. This $575,000 son of Tiznow experienced “trouble” not once, but twice during the running of that race. He should be “tighter” for this race and (with normal improvement) looms a threat, especially with a cleaner trip…………………Combatant– chased the talented Greyvitos, the equally as talented but recently deceased Mourinho and then was second in the aforementioned Southwest in his last….clearly looks best of the rest…………………..Honorable Mentions: Title Ready– appears to have flourished from age two to three as this colt by More Than Ready ran the best race of his life in his 2018 debut on Feb 1. He was visually impressive drawing off in deep stretch vs. a “non-winners of one other than” race, and scored a speed figure that is right up there with the other contenders in this race as well………….I am very intrigued by Magnum Moon, who will be getting an acid class test in this spot. So far, this son of Malibu Moon, from the Todd Pletcher Barn, rattled off two consecutive impressive wins vs. lesser. I really like his win at TBD in his last as he was on cruise control the whole way around. He has been working well in the mornings since. From what I’m seeing, he could easily better this rating……………..If you are hunting a long-shot in this race, take a look at Zing Zang. I’m going to throw out his last race as he may not have cared for the off track. This stretch running son of Tapit’s two prior races were “sneaky” good and he may bounce back and surprise a few people in this spot
Santa Anita Park
Race: 8 (6:30 PM EST Post)
It certainly looks like trainer Bob Baffert holds all the cards in this race as he enters a formidable 1-2 punch in Ax Man and the cleverly named Heck Yeah. I’m going to fly a little blind in taking Ax Man on top as he shows no published works on the grass. I’m not worried about him having to go further than he’s ever gone before as Baffert hits at an astonishing 38% when stretching horses from sprint to routes. I will also draw a line through his San Vicente effort as he got caught up in a sizzling and protracted speed duel and understandably weakened to finish a well beaten fourth as his debut still stands out in my mind. That said, I understand this horse will only run (70% chance of rain at Santa Anita on Saturday) should the race be moved to the main track…………………..Heck Yeah– is unbeaten in three turf tries at distances from 5 ½ furlong to 8 ½ furlongs. This speedy, dark bay colt by Acclamation will be stepping up in class but should relish the slight cut back in distance here…………….. Pubilius Syrus– has won three of his last four turf stars including back to back stakes wins in his last two. This distance will be no problem for him and he is 3 for 3 over this turf course……looms a major threat here…………………..Honorable Mentions: La La Land– should improve off his U.S. debut where he came with a very strong, four wide move to finish third vs. high priced optionals in his last. This colt is definitely improving with each and every start for trainer Phil D’Amato and could better this rating with the right pace scenario………………………..River Boyne– is another who is clearly getting better since arriving from overseas. He will be staking a class hike in this pot but last race/win was very impressive.
Race: 9 (7pm EST Post)
Santa Margarita Stakes
I’m not a big fan of Mopotism or her 3 for 16 career record but she does look good in this spot. This Uncle Mo filly ran down her main rival (Mended) at one mile two starts back so the extra furlong they will be going in this spot only helps her. That race is sandwiched by this filly chasing perhaps the most electrifying horse in training today Unique Bella …twice. With Unique Bella on the sidelines (see Little Bets N’ Pieces), this race should be hers to lose………………Mended has been remarkable while winning 13 of 27 races. She had a looooong winning streak snapped by the top pick in her last and is the speed of the speed in here. She will be at a tactical disadvantage having to go an extra furlong that what she is used to and the 0 for 4 record over this oval is staring me the face as well………………..Majestic Heat– was very impressive in winning back to back start to end 2017. However, I’m not sure she has come back the same way in 2108 as she is 0 for 3 at three different distances thus far and is another sporting an “oh for” over this surface…………………….Honorable Mentions: La Force- finished right behind my top two picks two starts back and squeezed a win in since. Off that effort tow starts back, she is a contender here……………….Bishop’s Pond– is two for two on fats surfaces including thrashing a Stakes field at Laurel last time out…………..Turkish Tabby– has been first or second in seven of nine career starts. Although eight of those races were on the synthetics a look at her racing debut tells me she can handle the dirt surface just fine.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2018- Record- 20-52 = 38%
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
**** Ron Franklin, the regular rider of the perhaps the greatest horse I ever saw, Spectacular Bid, died on March 7. He was 58 and had been battling lung cancer.
Franklin burst on the racing scene in 1978, just two years after he first arrived at the track as a 16-year-old high school dropout. He won 262 races and purse earnings of more than $1.7 million on his way to being voted outstanding apprentice jockey.
Franklin was aboard Spectacular Bid when he won five straight races in the beginning of 1979 before waltzing home in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, setting up one of the most infamous Belmont Stakes in history.
After (arguably) Spectacular Bid stepped on a pin the morning of the race, and Franklin, who clearly choked in one of the worst big race rides I had even seen, (he chased the fast pace of hopeless longshot Gallant Best) Spectacular Bid faded to third in the Belmont.
That ride (understandably) costed Franklin the mount on Spectacular Bid who would go on to race 13 more times, winning 12 and finishing second once.
Though he continued to ride through 1992 and won a handful of graded stakes, Franklin never again attain the heights he did in 1978 and 1979.
Franklin made his final start in 1992 at Fairmount Park and completed his career with 1,403 victories and over $14 million in purse earnings from 9,242 starts.
**** Grade 1 winner Masochistic has been retired following his eighth-place performance in the Sensational Star Stakes at Santa Anita Park last Sunday.
After setting a fast early pace, Masochistic was eased in the stretch by jockey Victor Espinoza and finished 18 3/4 lengths behind the winner, Tough Sunday.
“He’s 100% sound and he’s going to have a career as a trail horse. He’s had enough and he’s telling us that,” co-owner Will Shamlian said. “He’s too good of a horse, and we’re going to do right by him. He’s given us the message and we’re going to listen. We’re going to find him a good home.”
The 8-year-old gelding retires with an 8-3-0 record from 18 starts and $860,895 in earnings.
“He’s been so much fun. I come out in the morning for every breeze, and I wish that could go on forever,” Shamlian said. “I never thought I’d have a horse as good as he was, and I’m never going to have a horse as good as him again.”
**** Mourinho, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, sustained a shattered sesamoid during a workout at Santa Anita last Monday and was euthanized.
“He took a bad step at the wire,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who was inspecting horses at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales 2-year-olds in training sale in Florida and was notified of the catastrophic injury by his assistant, Jimmy Barnes.
“It’s very sad,” Baffert said. “He was a neat horse. His stall is right outside my office. I would see him every day. You get attached to them and something like that happens; it’s just tough. You never know what’s going to happen.”
**** Darley stallion Elusive Quality, sire of such grade 1 winners as Smarty Jones, Raven’s Pass, and Quality Road has been euthanized due to the infirmities of old age the farm announced March 14. He was 25.
Pensioned from stud duties in June of 2017, the son of Gone West was a multiple graded stakes winner under the care of trainer Bill Mott and raced in the colors of Sheikh Mohammed before retiring to Gainsborough Farm in 1999.
**** A slight illness and some poor weather in Southern California has forced 2017 champion female sprinter Unique Bella‘s connections to alter their plans.
The daughter of Tapit is now scheduled to make her first start outside of California in the $700,000 Apple Blossom Stakes April 13 at Oaklawn Park.
Don Alberto Stable and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer were targeting this weekend’s Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita Park for the Amazonian filly but she came down with a cough, had to go through a round of antibiotics, then missed training with an off track at Santa Anita over the weekend.
“She had a cough, we lost training, then the weather came up and we couldn’t even gallop her,” said Don Alberto racing manager Fernando Diaz-Valdes. “Everything came up bad, and you have to be prepared for things like this. We have the whole year to run, so there’s no need to rush. You’re going to see her gallop soon, and she’ll start to prepare for the Apple Blossom.”
**** Multiple Graded Stakes winner Avery Island has been injured and will be shipped to Lexington Tuesday to be further evaluated by Dr. Larry Bramlage at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, owner Godolphin Stables said this past Monday. The colt came back lame after working Friday, but initial x-rays ruled out any structural damage.
“It’s very disappointing for all of us here at Godolphin, and plans are on hold until we know more about the injury,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’s done something to himself. But we will wait until we hear from Dr. Bramlage before deciding the next move.”