Well, that was quick, wasn’t it?
If you ask me, I say the winter doldrums are already over. Yes, it’s still cold in most parts of the country, but racing action officially heats up this weekend.
I looked ahead, all the way to the Belmont Stakes, and with the exception of the weekend of February 23rd, there is excellent racing every single weekend until the “Test of Champions”. Then just a couple of weeks after that, the Del Mar and Saratoga meets open.
Starting on Saturday, we will be traveling the country with stops at three different tracks with our highlighted race being the 2019 Le Comte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana.
While at the Fair Grounds, we will also be looking at the Silverbulletday Stakes, also a mile and seventy yards contest but for three year old fillies.
Elsewhere, we’ll head east of the Fair Grounds to Gulfstream Park in Florida for a look at the nine furlong, Sunshine Millions Classic for four year olds and up. There are also a pair of turf Stakes races on the Sunshine Millions Classic card; the Sunshine Millions Turf and the Sunshine Millions Turf Filly and Mare. Both are run at a mile and a sixteenth and carry $150,000 purses.
From there, we head west, all the way to Santa Anita for a look at the six furlong Palos Verdes Stakes, a Grade: 2 dash for four year olds and up.
Lastly, let me address my mistake last weekend. Somehow, I put the La Canada break down under the Marshua’s River Stakes and omitted the Marshua’s River Stakes completely.
I was having some computer issues but that’s really not an excuse. I apologize for any confusion it might have caused and, even though I had the winner and exacta in the La Canada, I’m going to scratch those two races and take the losses instead. That mistake won’t happen again.
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Race: 6 (2:15 PM EST Post)
Sunshine Millions Turf
Big Changes had a phenomenal year last year while recording a 7-5-2-0 record. Take note in the two defeats he just missed behind multiple Graded Stakes winner Mr. Misunderstood and a razor sharp right now Great Wide Open. That :48 half mile work last week was 3rd of 145, he has excellent connections (Castellano takes the leg up from Brad Cox) and, with rain in the forecast for Hallandale this weekend, he can handle an off turf course…………………………It’s very rare when I can say a horse cuts back 7 ½ furlongs off his last race but that’s exactly the situation for Archer Road, who made a very strong middle move in the two mile H. Allen Jerkens last time out but weakened shortly thereafter, finishing ninth. This son of Leroidesanimaux cuts back to a more reasonable distance here and all five career wins have come on this very turf course. Albeit his rider is ice cold right now, he still figures bang up……………………..Class and Cash is a speedy, yet tactical, well bred, win machine. This good looking gray son of Exchange Rate (out of an A.P. Indy mare) is batting over .500 on the turf (13 for 27) and has hit the board an astounding 22 times out of those 27 starts as well. Although his recent works are a little slower than I’d like to see, he gets a major jockey upgrade here as 2018 Eclipse Award nominee Irad Ortiz Jr. gets the leg up……………………Honorable Mentions: Driven by Thunder looks overmatched here but there were a few things about him that caught my attention. First off, he was reclaimed by the Pletcher/Repole team two starts back (reclaims always peak my interest), he is 4 for 6 on this turf course and Pletcher reaches out to his “go to” rider Johnny V. in this spot, which totally makes sense being Johnny V. is 3 for 3 aboard this son of Overdriven……. “Ignore Pletcher, leave the track on a stretcher”…………………Second Mate also looks overmatched here but he made an enormous late run vs. lesser late last time out. He too will get a serious rider upgrade and he’ll go first time off the claim for trainer Jorge Abreu, who hits at an eye popping 25% in these types of situations. (My Play: $5.00 exacta box with the top 3 and a .50 cent trifecta box using all 5 horses. Cost: $60.00)
Race: 10 (4:15 PM EST Post)
Sunshine Filly and Mare Millions Turf
Starship Jubilee towers over this field in money won and “back class”. Even though she went down in flames as the 7/10 favorite in her last, her two previous races, which include a Grade: 2 win in Canada then set the pace and held very well late in the Grade: 1 E.P Taylor also in Canada, were both first rate efforts. This mare, who was purchased for $6,500 but has made over $560,000 thus far, is 7 for 14 on this turf course, gets the services of Javier Castellano and that sizzling half mile work last week (4F- :46.2) signals readiness……logical choice…………Although Picara is 0 for 4 on this turf course, she has rounded back into top form in textbook style through her last three races. Trainer Todd Pletcher once again reaches out to Johnny V. and the only question left is, how will she handle what might be an off turf course being she’s never run over one?…………………..Mrs. Ramona G is another who is peaking out in form right now. Gray filly by Kantharos, from the “Miah” barn, is 4 for 6 on the weeds and comes into this riding a three race win streak. Steps up but could be a menace……………………………Honorable Mentions: Southern Sis is yet another in good form right now as she has either won or has been “right there” on the wire in her last four races. Another daughter of Kantharos, this mare is 2 for 3 on this turf course and was making up ground late vs. Picara at 7 ½ furlongs….logically merits attention with the stretch out in distance in this spot…………Madame Uno is 3 for 5 on this turf course and just 1 for 7 everywhere else, so it’s safe to say she likes this surface and you get the “horse for the Course” angle. This daughter of the hulking First Dude will be making her first start in over seven months but she hasn’t run badly off of layoffs in the past…………………………Florida Fuego shows only two turf races but both were very good, third place finishes with both vs. open company. A red hot Jaramillo gets the leg up…. (My Play: $20 win on Starship Jubilee, .50 trifecta box with the top 5 horses. Cost: $80.00)
Race: 11(4:47 PM EST Post)
Sunshine Millions Classic
Although beaten by a country mile to the mega talented World of Trouble last time out, it must be noted that Noble Drama made a very impressive late run, coming from near last to get second, over a sloppy track. This gelding’s prior two races show a close up second behind Mr. Jordan (after a ridiculously wide run on the turn) and a game win over that same rival three back. He stretches out to a more suitable distance in this spot and, trust me, there are no World(s) of Trouble(s) in this field……………After valiantly winning his last, the gorgeous, almost all white Mr. Jordan is still getting it done at seven years old. Still another offspring of Kantharos, he figures to go off as your post time favorite, but I’m going to try to beat him in this spot based off the fact he is a strong 9 for 17 everywhere else in his career, yet a very ugly 1 for 17 on this oval…………………………..The regally bred Souper Tapit (by Tapit out of Grade:1 Mother Goose Stakes winner Zo Impressive) hit the board in all seven races last year but won just once. The now five year old chestnut ran a hole in the wind in his last while pulverizing mid level optionals which begs the question… did he run so huge last time out because he took his Gulfstream Park debut very well? Or was that a “freak” performance and he bounces over the moon in this spot? Your call from there…………………Honorable Mentions: Forevamo was just starting to get good towards the end of last year but has been put away since. If he picks up where he left off, we’ll be ok but my thinking is he is going to “need one”……………………..Dalmore, who either runs big or doesn’t run at all, has trained very well at Gulfstream Park for his Gulfstream Park debut and does have some back class to run well here. (My Play: .50 trifecta box, all 5 horses. Cost $30.00)
Race: 11 (6:20 PM EST Post)
Although Liora was allowed an easy lead in the sloppy tracked, Grade: 2 Golden Rod last time out, she was dead game in fending off upper echelon two (now three) year old filly Restless Rider the entire length of the stretch for the win. This $175,000 daughter of Candy Ride broke her maiden by a colossal margin prior to that and this distance hits her right between the eyes as she is 2 for 2 at 8 ½ furlongs. Of course, dropping from a Grade: 2 into a Grade: 3 won’t hurt her chances either…narrow margin in a very competitive horse race………………….Albeit Needs Supervision will be making her first start in 56 days, she merits respect in this spot. Good looking daughter of Paynter is just a half length away from coming into this race unbeaten in three starts. She looked really good drawing away from $75,000, NW1X optionals last time out, stopping the clock in a very strong 1:36.3 for one mile over a sloppy track. Moreover, you get the “first time Lasix” angle and kudos to her trainer for putting together a “textbook” work pattern for this race, including sizzling 6Fs in 1:10.4 two weeks ago…………………..Grandaria was visually impressive blowing the doors off of maidens two starts back, then came from near last with a brazen, six wide rally at the quarter pole to beat $50,000 optional NW1X in her last. This $170,000 daughter of Curlin must be considered here………………….Honorable Mentions: Although through slow early fractions and registering a slow final time, I liked the way Cowgirls Like Us took pace pressure for the first half mile, yet was drawing away late in her last race. That win was her third straight Stakes win. I also like the versatility she has shown through those three races as she is tactical enough for any pace scenario. Steps up in class big time here but could be a menace…………………..Mandy Blue is unbeaten in two starts, one on the turf and one on the dirt, for a 23% Brad Cox. Filly by the late Smart Strike is no easy throw out here. (My Play: .50 trifecta box, all 5, cost $30.00)
Race: 12 (6:49 PM EST Post)
This race came up very strong this year….. I’ll gingerly take War of Will. This good looking colt by War Front faced much better on the turf last year and held his own quite well, including in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (close up fifth). He then proved his mettle on the dirt when hammering maidens on Nov 24. What I found even more interesting is he hammered those maidens some 30 minutes after my second place pick Plus Que Parfait just missed catching Signalman as both horses ran on the same track and on the same card with Plus One Parfait’s final time being just 1/5th of a second faster…..narrow margin here……………….. In taking War of Will, Plus Que Parfait scares the daylights out of me. This chestnut ridgling rallied from near last to just miss catching (at this point in the year) Kentucky Derby contender and close up, third place Breeders’ Cup Juvenile finisher Signalman in his last. On paper, and with the possible exception of my top pick, he meets no such rivals in this race……………………….……………..I have no idea why Roiland is 12-1 on the morning line. Handsome colt by Successful Appeal was a neck shy of coming into the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes unbeaten last time out. He completely missed the break in that race and was 12th early on but unleashed a very nice late run, passing nine horses late, to get fifth (behind Plus Que Parfait and Signalman). Trainer Tom Amoss has won this race four times, he gets “blinkers on” (signaling to me he might be forwardly placed here) and shows a monster work (5F- :59.2) two weeks ago. I was figuring he would open at 5 or 6 to 1…………………………………Honorable Mentions: Tight Ten showed zilch in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but his two prior races were close up, second place finishes in a pair of Graded Stakes races. Colt by Tapit would be tough if he were to run back to either of those efforts here………………… I hate to put Mr. Money this far down as he completely outran his 41-1 odds in the aforementioned Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. After being among the vanguard early, he finished fourth that day. He’s been off since but he shows a good series of works coming into this and his trainer Bret Calhoun hits at a 21% clip when bringing horse back from between 46-90 day layoffs……………………After smoking maidens and gamely beating mid-level optionals to improve his record to 2 for 2 on this oval, Tackett deserves a mention and could conceivably better this rating………………………Manny Wah’s last three races consist of a three length win, chasing that beast they call Improbable (fourth) and being beaten by just one length in his Fair Ground (Stakes) debut in his last. (My Play: Tough race, $5.00 exacta box using the top 3, Cost: $30.00)
Santa Anita Park
Race: 9 (7:00 PM EST Post)
Palos Verdes Stakes
2017 Sprint Champion Roy H, who will most likely wear that crown again for 2018 based off his back to back Grade: 1 wins to end the year, makes his 2019 debut here. The now seven year old son of More Than Ready, who is not the only crack sprinter running this weekend (see X Y Jet in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Park), is 4 for 6 on this oval and has been training well at San Luis Rey Downs in preparation for this. His connections said they will “follow a similar path” to his probable championship year last year so I’m not sure he is 100% “cranked up.”….past that, he is very tough to go against…………………The stretch running Kanthaka is 3 for 5 on this oval and had not one, but two legitimate excuses last time out (overmatched in the Grade: 1 Malibu Stakes and was making his first start in that race in 7 ½ months at the same time). The son of Jimmy Creed should be tighter for this with that race under his belt and has also trained forwardly since…….looks next best………………….Awesome Anywhere is 4 for 5 on this oval vs. lesser foes. Steps up but this chestnut gelding ran lights out in his last race in October. “Big Money Mike” takes the leg up from Jerry Hollendorfer and he should come out running here………………………..Honorable Mentions: St. Joe Bay always gives a good account of himself on this oval as his 12-3-5-2 record would indicate………………Distinctive B has finished right behind St Joe Bay and Roy H in the recent past, signaling to me that when he’s right, he can contend. (My Play: .50 cent trifecta box, all 5 horses Cost : $30.00)
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2019- Record: 0-5 = 0% (My Plays: -$90.00)
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%
Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Probable Two Year Old Champion Filly Jaywalk had her first published work since winning the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly race on Nov 2.
The John Servis trainee went four furlongs in an easy :50 4/5 at Palm Meadows last Friday morning.
Servis caught the gray daughter of Cross Traffic in splits of :13 3/5, :26 1/5, and :38 3/5, and galloped out to five furlongs in 1:03.
“She went a nice, easy half. It was perfect,” Servis said. “She galloped out super, so she didn’t lose much (fitness). Everything went very good.”
Servis said he is targeting the $200,000 Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies going one mile March 2 at Gulfstream as Jaywalk’s 2019 debut.
**** With the Pegasus World Cup coming up next weekend, some of the contenders put finals works in for the $9 million, Grade: 1:
* Florida Derby winner Audible went five furlongs in 1:00.4 at Palm Beach Downs. The Todd Pletcher trainee worked in company with stablemate Impact Player.
“Audible’s training really well,” said Pletcher. “I’ve been pleased with all of his works, particularly this morning. It was a good, solid five-eighths with a strong gallop-out that we were looking for. All indications are he’s in good form and coming up to the race very well.”
After finishing a disappointing second as the 1/5 favorite in Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, the gorgeous bay seems to be in good form.
“Unfortunately, before the race, the skies opened and we got a downpour into a harrowed track. They tried to seal it after that but it was too late. I think, more than anything, he didn’t like the condition of the track. He didn’t fire his best shot. He came out of it well and has trained better than ever coming into the Pegasus. It served its purpose in terms of conditioning.” Pletcher added. “I think a mile and an eighth is ideal for him”.
* At Gulfstream Park West, Gunnevera went six furlongs work in 1:15.4 under regular rider Irad Ortiz.
“He worked really good,” said Ortiz. “He’s doing everything right. Hopefully, he comes back to racing the way he is right now.”
* Grade: 1 winner Seeking the Soul went five furlongs in a bullet (best of 77) 1:00 flat at the Fair Grounds for trainer Dallas Stewart.
“Just a strong, basic work for him,” Stewart said. “That’s him. He’s doing great.
*Horse of the Year finalist Accelerate worked seven furlongs in a bullet 1:27.1
“I got him in 1:27, out a mile in 1:40 4/5, so it was a good long-distance work,” trainer John Sadler said. “On this track, it’s not super-fast. He’ll come back next week with more of a blowout type work, like five-eighths or something like that. But I’m glad we got this one in today because of the weather. It’s going to rain tomorrow and we’ve got a lot of rain next week.”
* In other Pegasus news, Grade: 1 winner McKinzie is “very doubtful” for the race according to trainer Bob Baffert.
Owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman had not paid the $500,000 fee necessary to earn a berth in the race even though only 11 starters are confirmed for the race, yet the race can include as many as 12.
“McKinzie is doing really well and he will get even better,” Baffert said. “You can tell that he’s changing. It’s just that we didn’t want to take any chances of taking a step backwards. I’ve gone down to Gulfstream for that race before and I know how demanding the race is. The payment is $500,000, so you have to at least run third for it to be a push.”
Baffert said the only way he would change his mind and try to get McKinzie into the race were if “something dramatic” happened to the body of the field.
“With horses as good as Accelerate and City of Light, someone like that would have to defect for us to change our minds,” he said. “If we were talking about Arrogate, American Pharoah or Justify we’d go. But this horse is different. He is a very nice horse, but he is still developing. I think that if we do right by him he’s going to wind up being the best older horse in the country and I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves this early in the year”.
Baffert said he has no particular plans for McKinzie, but mentioned the Santa Anita Handicap or the Metropolitan Mile as possibilities.
“The Met (Mile) would be a great race for him,” Baffert added.