Don’t look now, but the road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby has started.
Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Aqueduct, Keeneland and Los Alamitos have already run several races for two year olds who have long range plans for the Derby. Internationally, there have been two races in England run already and one in Japan.
On Sunday, Remington Park in Oklahoma City, OK will run the $400,000 Remington Springboard Mile for two year olds, as this is their long range race to start separating Derby pretenders from the Derby contenders. The eight furlong contest drew a field of eleven led by Epic Dreamer.
On Saturday, we will be looking at three races from Gulfstream Park in Florida headed by the $200,000, nine furlong Fort Lauderdale Stakes on the turf for three year olds and up.
While at Gulfstream we will also be looking at the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, which will feature the gorgeous and mega talented Audible, and the My Charmer Stakes, a mile turf contest for three year olds and up fillies and mares.
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Race: 5 (2:01 PM EST Post)
I still think the incredibly handsome Audible is/was the second most talented three year old in the land in 2018. He started the year off taking down the Grade: 2 Holy Bull and then the Grade: 1 Florida Derby. I thought he ran lights out in the Kentucky Derby as well, as he had multiple traffic issues but still finished less than three lengths behind an eventual Triple Crown winner. This $500,000 son of Into Mischief then went on the shelf for 178 days but came back with a jaw dropping performance in his last at Churchill Downs. As far back as seventh at one point, he made an eye catching, five wide move on the turn to assume command of the race and cruised home two in front, stopping the clock in a sharp 1:22.2 for seven panels. This bay colt has worked well subsequently, is 5 for 7 in his career and, more importantly, he is 2 for 2 on this oval. The only thing that’s left is….are you willing to take what will probably be 1/5 or possibly 1/9 odds at post time? …………………………Village King looks to be about the only threat to Audible in this spot. After winning three of his first five starts in Argentina, this colt has clearly started to adapt to his new surroundings. He has progressively gotten better through his first three races in this country, topped off by a dead game win in the (rained off the turf) Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct last time out. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who trains both Audible and this horse, sends out a solid 1-2 punch in this race……………………..Apostle is a $900,000 son of the “King of the (sales) Ring” Medaglia d’Oro. “MDO,” as he is affectionately called, sired an eye popping seven Grade: 1 winners last year and has sired more $1 million yearlings this year (8) than anyone else. Only two of greatest sires in the history of the sport (Northern Dancer and Storm Cat) had more. Not surprisingly, Apostle ran well in a turf experiment last time out and won his two previous races including one on this surface….looks best of the rest.
Race: 9 (4:05 PM EST Post)
My Charmer Stakes
This race, and the other turf race (the Fort Lauderdale), get a little dicey with rain in the forecast for Saturday at Gulfstream so tread lightly should the turf course come up anything but firm. That said La Moneda, who sports a 9-6-2-0 record on the turf, is the logical choice here. This five year old mare had a four race win streak snapped by a poor ride (wide all the way around and a mistimed late move) in her last. In fact, that ride was so bad it probably cost the jockey the mount, as she gets a serious rider upgrade here (from Alavardo to Johnny V.). Additionally, she can handle some “give” in the ground and she is 4 for 4 at this distance……………………….. Play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” with the rest of the field as they are closely matched. I’ll go with Bellavais who looked sensational beating high level optionals in her first race in almost a year, last time out. This $485,000, well bred (by Tapit out of Grade: 3 Stakes winner La Cloche, by the wickedly fast Ghostzapper) filly zipped a mile (a distance she is 4 for 7 at) in a strong 1:33 flat and she too can handle a little give in the ground…………………….I’m not a big fan of Capla Temptress, who is 0 for 5 this year, but she should appreciate the drop in class and not having to deal with star turf filly Rushing Fall in this spot like she did in two of her last three previous starts………………….Honorable Mentions: If Lafta draws in off the AEs, give her a look. Although this daughter of Kitten’s Joy will be taking a pretty big class hike, she is 2 for 2 at Gulfstream since coming over from France last year………………Cherry Lodge is a gorgeous, $450,000 filly by Bernardini who can pop a big race now and again. She will be stretching out in distance in this spot and with that, I suspect they will rate her off the pace and come with “one run”. If that’s the case, you could hear from her in deep stretch ……………..I’m Betty G has good speed but appears to be cycling out of form. A 22% Tyler Gaffalione, for whom she is 2 for 4 under, gets the leg up….could still be dangerous if left alone on an uncontested lead.
Race: 11 (5:06 PM EST Post)
Fort Lauderdale Stakes
Qurbaan came from overseas and sprung a 13-1 upset in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga in September. Five year old chestnut by broad spectrum sire Speightstown then launched a strong move leaving the half mile pole in the Grade: 1 Shadwell Mile in his last and, even though he hung like a cheap suit in deep stretch, he still managed to grab the “show dough”. He should relish the drop in class, the stretch out in distance and (hopefully) the firm turf course in this spot………tepid pick in a tough one to figure out………………I’m not quite sure what happened to Glorious Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last time out. The seven year old gelding showed speed for the first quarter mile but quickly shifted into reverse and backed all the way up to last before being eased late. His three previous races (all wins) were all top notch, highlighted by winning the Grade: 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga two starts back. He has good speed, draws the rail, drops in class and cuts back in distance…certainly one or all of those factors should help him rebound in this spot…………………..After winning his last two “on the engine”, Blacktype is razor sharp right now. This French bred speedy seven year old won a Grade: 2 last time out and can handle a soft turf course…..figures prominent throughout……………….Honorable Mentions: Albeit Projected in 0 for 6 this year, he always gives a good account of himself. This bay gelding has either won or finished less than two lengths behind the winner in each of his last seven straight races. That, readers, is consistency…………………………Mr Havercamp is 7 for 11 in his career. Although he might be a little better on the synthetic surface, he did win a Grade: 2 in Canada three starts back and then ran a strong second in a Grade: 1 two starts back, both on the turf. Also, that last work at Palm Meadows (4F- :47 flat, dogs up) just jumps off the page…………………………..I’m not quite sure what to make of Almanaar. Is it possible he may not have cared for turf courses labeled “good” in his last two, including being beaten by just 3 ¼ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last time out? Or is his form just erratic right now? I’ll go with the former and attack him like this….. If it’s a firm turf course come post time, I’ll move him up…if not, I’m going to leave him here…………………………Like Projected, Inspector Lynley is as consistent as the day is long. Five year old by Lemon Drop Kid rarely runs a bad race as his five on the board finishes in six races this year record would indicate………………..Zulu Alpha is peaking in form right now as he is just a neck shy of coming into this with a four race win streak in tow. My problem with him is even at peak form, I’m not sure he is good enough to beat these………………….Divisidero completely outran his odds (43-1) in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last time out when he finished fourth but was beaten by less than one length. Stretch runner by Kitten’s Joy likes this surface too, but he just doesn’t “win” often enough for me.
Sunday, December 16, 2018
Race: 11 (8:52PM EST Post)
Epic Dreamer has speed and the rail, which is always a dangerous combination. Although this colt by Orb hasn’t run in 51 days and will be trying this surface for the first time, he sports one of the most impressive work lines I’ve seen all year. Note the monster work over the deep surface of Palm Meadows on Nov 23 (5F- :58.3). Then note how he comes back a week later and rips a :47.4 half mile also at Palm Meadows, then comes to Remington Park and scorches a :47.1 half mile. Bottom line here is, he looks “revved up” for this and that last work also signals to me he will handle the RP surface just fine……close call in a fairly wide open horse race………………………It looks as though Dunph didn’t care for the sloppy track, or the wide trip, when checking in ninth, being beaten by 14 lengths in his last. Gelding by Temple City was super impressive winning his first two (dry track) starts, distance will be no problem and shows a strong work last week. I’m inclined to give him a “mulligan” for that last race and expect a good/bounce back performance here……………I think it’s a little out of control that trainer Steve Asmussen entered almost half (5) of this field (11). If they all start, and I doubt they will, the best of the bunch appears to be Long Range Toddy. This handsome colt by Take Charge Indy dead heated for fourth in his debut before pounding maidens in his second try, winning by almost six while coming home the last quarter in a decent :25 seconds flat. From there, he went off at over 10-1 and upset the field in the $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes in his last. Although he cut back in distance for that race, I loved the way he withstood pace pressure on the lead, spurted away from the field at the three sixteenths pole, yet had enough left to fend off the late runners in deep stretch. I also like the ascending speed figures through all three career races, it signals to me he is getting better…………………………Honorable Mentions: Bankit used a brazen, four wide, sweeping run to lead, then drew off late in manhandling a NY State Bred field at Belmont in his last. Good looking colt improved his record to 5-2-2-0 with that win. It’s tough to get a read on whether this is a step up in class, a lateral move or a slight step down but no matter how you slice it, he figures bang up……………….Tone Broke seems to be coming to hand for, you guessed it, trainer Steve Asmussen as he was visually impressive in his last two races. Colt by Broken Vow broke his maiden by a colossal margin two back, and then came with a four wide rally to beat high level optionals last time out. Lastly, note the :24.3 seconds it took him to negotiate the last two furlongs, it’s among the fastest in this field…………………………………..Marquee Prince chased budding super star Improbable last time out when understandably being beaten by 10 lengths. His obviously meets no such rival (or monster) here and his previous two wins/races were good…………………….Six Shooter is improving with each subsequent race and has won two of his last three, highlighted by beating first level allowance foes while getting a mile in a good 1:36.4 last time out. That said, He’ll be stepping up in class big time here and the last quarter mile in his last race was run in a very pedestrian :26.3.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2018- Record: 105-251= 42%
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
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** North America’s richest race, the Pegasus World Cup, field is beginning to take shape.
The connections of Breeders’ Cup Classic third place finisher Gunnevera committed their stretch runner to the Jan 26 race.
In addition to Gunnevera, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, Seeking the Soul, Bravazo and True Timber are also confirmed.
Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith’s Coolmore have purchased a spot for a horse “to be determined”.
2018 Florida Derby winner Audible, assuming he runs well and comes out of the Harlan Holiday Stakes on Saturday, is also being pointed to the Pegasus World Cup.
At this writing, 2018 Cigar Mile winner Patternrecognition is “under consideration” for the Pegasus.
**** Keros, a half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, broke his maiden by 10 lengths on Saturday night at Turfway Park.
The four year old by First Samurai, who was ridden by Malcolm Franklin and is trained by Tommy Drury, covered six furlongs in 1:10.2.
Keros was making his first start since being gelded and his third start overall. Campaigned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, like Blame, Keros has earned $15,342.
**** After recording a four furlong work in :47 seconds flat on Monday morning, it appears two time Grade:1 winner Bellafina will make an early return to the races for her three year old debut.
“She did it really easily. We weren’t necessarily looking to go quite as quick as she did, but she did it super easily and was just feeling good,” trainer Simon Callaghan said of the bullet work of 87. “It definitely was a very good work.”
The effort marked Bellafina’s third half-mile move at Santa Anita since finishing a disappointing fourth as the favorite in the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. Before Monday’s workout, the daughter of Quality Road went in :50 flat Nov. 24 and :49 2/5 Dec. 2.
“She’s doing really well,” Callaghan added. “We gave her sort of a down period after the Breeders’ Cup for a couple of weeks. She’s been mentally very good. We brought her back galloping and based on this morning’s work I think it’s likely we’ll bring her back in the (Jan 6 ) Santa Ynez Stakes.”
***** It looks as though super mare Winx will be back in training for 2019.
Trainer Chris Waller said on Twitter Tuesday the winner of 29 consecutive races, including an unprecedented four straight Cox Plates, is coming back off a rest and that a campaign for next spring (fall in Australia) is “likely.”
She’ll be 8 years old in 2019.
“Winx has enjoyed her spell and commenced some light pre training at the farm a few weeks ago,” said Waller. “She has progressed well since returning, is bright and looks in excellent condition so I look forward to her return to our stables this week”.
“I plan to meet with the ownership group and (jockey) Hugh Bowman next week to discuss her immediate future.”
Winx is currently tied in the “World’s Best Racehorse Rankings” with Cracksman.
In her career, she was won an incredible 33 out of 39 starts.