We kick off 2019 with three races, including a pair of long range Kentucky Derby prep races.
At Santa Anita, our highlighted race for this weekend is the Sham Stakes, a one mile test for newly turned three year olds. We’ll also be looking at the San Gabriel Stakes, a nine furlong turf contest for four year olds and up.
Elsewhere, we’ll take a trip to Gulfstream for a look at our other long range Kentucky Derby prep in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at a flat mile.
Although we won’t be breaking the race down, I just wanted to point out that two time Grade: 1 winner Bellafina will make her three year old debut in the Grade:2 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita Sunday. The bay filly worked five furlongs in 1:00.4 at Santa Anita last Sunday which trainer Simon Callaghan said was “perfect.” Bellafina will break from post two in the seven-furlong contest.
Lastly, I’m adding a little something new this year. It won’t be every race but since I’ve had numerous readers ask “how would you play it?” I’m incorporating a “My Play” section.
At the end of each break down I will tell you (barring scratches and track conditions) how I am approaching the race. In some cases, like one this Saturday, I will purely be a spectator/fan.
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Race: 10 (4:41 PM EST Post)
Mucho Macho Man Stakes
It’s the beginning of January. That means this is the time of year where I start piecing together my top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders list and based off his first two races, Code of Honor will be fairly high up that list. I love the ability, guts and versatility this handsome colt has shown thus far. After wiring the field in his debut, this son of Noble Mission broke poorly in the Grade: 1 Champagne at Belmont and quickly found himself last in the field of 10. Leaving the half mile pole this Shug McGaughey trainee launched a two wide bid, passing seven horses, and although he was cutting into what was a big lead, (including being in the five path at the eighth pole) he simply could not reel in a streaking Complexity and had to settle for second. It was a tremendous effort being just his second start and in a Grade: 1 contest. He seems to have bounced back well from a fever he spiked shortly before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (forcing him to scratch) and, although he does show some vulnerability here, I expect a good effort here……………………………After Trophy Chaser broke his maiden by a colossal margin at Gulfstream three starts back, I was a little disappointed by his fifth place finish in the aforementioned Champagne Stakes (behind Code of Honor) his next time out. I considered I may have been overrating him, but that may not necessarily be the case as he did very well in chasing absolute budding superstar Improbable at Churchill Downs in his next (and last) time out. This good looking son of the speedy Twirling Candy gets a slight edge over the others as none of them have ever faced anything close to Improbable, so there is a hidden drop in class here…………………………………..After chasing the talented Vekoma (3rd) in his debut, Mihos was visually impressive breaking his maiden at Aqueduct last time out. This bay colt, who went off at 3/5, won like a 3/5 shot should, as he took control of the race at the three eighths pole and was basically being pulled up by his rider in deep stretch or he would have won by a lot more than the 1 ¼ lengths that the charts show. If he improves off that race, and I’m pretty certain he will, he should be tough in this spot……………………………..Honorable Mentions: Well Defined showed little when clearly overmatched in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last time out. However, if you draw a line through that race you’ll see he returns to not only a more reasonable spot, but back “home” to his favorite surface where he is 4-2-1-1……………………………..The same could be said for Gladiator King, who was overmatched in the Grade: 2 Remsen at Aqueduct two back but if you ignore that race, you’ll see (in succession) he broke his maiden, beat optional claimers then won a restricted Stakes race at Tampa Bay Downs last time out. (My play here: Easy one….. 50 cent, five horse trifecta: cost $30.00)
Santa Anita Park
Race: 7 (6:04PM EST Post)
San Gabriel Stakes
Chicago Style, who is 6 for 11 in his career, came with a brazen, five wide run leaving the three eighths pole to run down the leaders in deep stretch to take the Grade: 2 Hollywood Turf Cup at 9/5 in his last. Judging by his multiple layoff lines, it’s pretty obvious this six year old gelding by Kitten’s Joy has had his share of problems. But with that you get the third start off the layoff angle in this spot. Don’t worry that he is 0 for 2 on this surface as he had pretty good excuses in both races and he was close to the winners both times…looks marginally best in very well matched field………………….In taking Chicago Style, Liam the Charmer scares the daylights out of me as he looks to be sitting a big, bounce back race. This well bred (by Smart Strike out of a Giant’s Causeway mare), gelding probably didn’t care for the competition (Breeders’ Cup Turf) or the condition of the turf course (good) in his last. If you ignore that last race you’ll see he comes into this winning back to back races, including the Grade: 2 John Henry Stakes while getting 10 furlongs in an excellent 1:58 flat. Monster work (5F- :59.2) last week signals readiness as well….big threat right here and a “must use” in any exotics betting scenario……………………..I’m not quite sure what to make of Next Shares as his inconsistencies are a bit troubling. Going back four races he showed nothing in the Del Mar Mile, comes back and beats a fairly weak field in a restricted Stakes race at Kentucky Downs, pulls off a 32-1 upset in the Grade: 1 Shadwell Mile, then shows next to nothing in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. I wonder which Next Shares we will get come Saturday? Would the real Next Shares please stand up?………………………….Honorable Mentions: Big Score doesn’t win very often as his 3 for 16 career record would indicate but he always seem to finish his races strong as he’s been on the board in 10 of those 16 races. This stretch runner by Mr. Big has finished within four lengths or less of the leader 8 times in his past 10 races and I expect more of the same in this spot…………………Flamboyant is 1 for 14 over the past two years but he might have hinted a return to form off his hard charging, third place finish over the synthetics at Golden Gate last time out. (My Play: Once again, 50 cent, 5 horse trifecta: cost $30.00)
Race: 9 (7:04PM EST)
I know it was only one (maiden) race but it was good enough to vault the highly touted Coliseum into the upper echelon of my top 20 Derby list. This absolute gorgeous, strapping, gray colt, hails from the powerhouse connections of Bob Baffert and the Godolphin Stables, was the galloping winner of his lopsided debut. The impeccably bred (by Tapit out of two time Grade: 1 winner Game Face, by Menifee) won by almost seven lengths, stopping the clock in 1:23 and change for seven furlongs and recording a 91 speed figure all while being taken “in hand” in deep stretch. Albeit still green, he has a very nice, fluid stride….one that will only get better with racing. It will be interesting to see how he handles a) the stretch out in distance and b) being rated off the early pace this time. Lastly, back to back 1:12 and change six furlong works signals another big effort upcoming and I cannot wait……………………Gunmetal Gray was beaten by a dozen lengths by probable Two Year Old Champion Male, Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last time out but it must be noted he did pass seven horses in the last 4 ½ furlongs of that race. By Exchange Rate, whose prodigy have been known to struggle a bit at longer distances, this horse also chased Game Winner in the Grade: 1 American Pharoah two starts back. No one else in this field has had the “pleasure” of doing that and, other than possibly Coliseum, he’ll face no such rival here…so logically he looks next best…………………………………..Savagery finished second to the talented Mucho Gusto two starts back before (and I’m not sure what Florent Geroux was thinking) running with that beast they call Improbable for the first six furlongs in the Los Alamitos Futurity. After such suicidal race tactics, he understandably weakened in the drive and finished fifth. Good looking colt seems to have improved quite a bit since the summer and may land a piece of the purse here………………..Honorable Mentions: Gray Magician is still another gray colt who took to a trainer change and a stretch out in distance very nicely as he waltzed home an almost 10 length winner in his last…..could be a menace with another improvement in this spot. (My Play: None…I’m not taking 1/5 on Coliseum and there is no how, no way I bet against him either. I’ll just sit back and enjoy watching what appears to be a really, really nice colt.)
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2019- Record: 0-0 = 0%
2018- Record: 107-261= 41%
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%