Buckle your seat belts and make sure your tray tables are in an upright position because between this Saturday and Monday, (President’s Day) we will be looking at least 10 races. Between the two days, any number of those races could be our highlighted “Race of the Week”.
But first things first as this Saturday our highlighted “Race of the Week” is the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots. The 8 ½ furlong, Grade: 2 contest for three year olds drew a full field of 14 plus one AE is led by War of Will.
Two other races on Saturday’s card at Fair Grounds include the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, also a Grade: 2 event run at 8 ½ furlongs, but for three year old fillies, as well as the Mineshaft Stakes for four year olds and up.
The complexion of the Risen Star and Rachel Alexandra changed dramatically mid week when, after seeing both American Pharoah’s little sister, Chasing Yesterday and Kingly, a full brother to $2.2 million Mohaymen, both draw horrible posts, trainer Bob Baffert decided to “keep them both home”.
Other races we will examine include the Royal Delta Stakes, a Grade: 3 contest for four year olds and up and fillies and mares going a mile at Gulfstream Park, a pair of sprints, one for each gender, at Laurel Park in the General George and Barbara Fritchie Stakes and perhaps THE most competitive race of the weekend, the Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita. The seven furlong race drew as strong and as deep of a race you’ll ever find.
Saturday February 16, 2019
Laurel Race Course
Race: 8 (4:00 PM EST Post)
General George Stakes
Home Run Maker comes into this razor sharp off three straight wins vs. lesser. This son of Into Mischief, who hails from the unconscious (26-63= 41%) “Miah” barn, loves this surface (3 for 4 over it, yet 1 for 8 everywhere else) and that Feb 6th work (4F- :47.2) tells me he is holding form…..spring a mild upset in a race that is ridiculously difficult to figure…………………..Still Having Fun was just 3 for 11 in 2018 but it must be noted he was running against the likes of Promises Fulfilled, Patternrecognition, Audible and, most recently, third behind McKenzie in the Grade:1 Malibu last time out at 47-1. Colt by Old Fashioned, who sold for $12,000 but has earned over a half million bucks so far, will meet no such rivals in this spot and will probably be your post time favorite…………………….Uncontested ran a hole in the wind in his Laurel debut shortly before Christmas. This one time Kentucky Derby hopeful beat mid level optionals by five lengths while zipping six furlongs in 1:08 flat. A repeat of that effort would make him tough to beat here………………………Honorable mentions Laki is another surface lover/”horse for the course” type. This eight year old gelding is 7 for 11 on this oval and 0 for 5 everywhere else. His last four races/speed figures suggest he’s a contender in this spot as well……………..I’m not sure what Something Awesome was doing in the Pegasus World Cup in his last. I suppose Stronach had one last spot to fill. Anyway, this veteran son of Awesome Again is still another who fancies this surface (4 for 6) as he’s run some of the best races of his life over it and he drops to a more reasonable spot in this race…………………..It’s Good to Be Us is a $650,000 son of Tapit who has won three of his first four starts at Parx including being 2 for 2 at this distance. Steps up but could be equal to the task. (My Play: .50 triple using the top 5. Cost $30)
Race: 9 (4:30 PM EST Post)
Barbara Fritchie Stakes
Spiced Perfection has methodically improved while winning three of her last four, topped off by springing a mild (5-1) upset in the Grade: 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita last time out. Filly by Smiling Tiger, who has gotten off to a good start at stud, makes her debut for new trainer Peter Miller and, if she can handle Grade: 1 runners, logically she should be able to handle this Grade: 3 field…………………Late Night Pow Wow has very impressive stats. This obscurely bred filly is 10 for 11 lifetime including being 2 for 2 on this oval and 4 for 4 at this distance. She also came home the last furlong in a very strong :11.4 while winning by 6+ in her last. Monster work on Feb 6 tells me she is probably sitting on yet another big effort but she will be swimming in deeper waters than what she’s used to………………………Dawn the Destroyer comes into this sharp as a tack while winning her last two in NY including the $100,000 Interborough at 7/5 last time out. Mare by Speightstown holds a double Brisnet speed figure advantage (her last “two” speed figures are better than anyone else’s last two) as well…….figures close………………..Honorable Mentions: Ms Locust Point beat an allowance field at Parx on New Year’s Day, signaling a possible return to the form she showed in late 2017/early 2018. Filly by Dialed In is 7 for 13 lifetime and 5-4-1-0 at this racetrack……………………Timeless Curls has improved steadily since the summer while winning five of her last six and stepping up in class each and every time. Filly by Curlin draws a good post for her running style and shows a bullet work (5F- :59.4) in preparation for this last week. (My play: $1 triple box using all. Cost $60)
Race: 9 (4:25 PM EST Post)
Although Lone Sailor was 1 for 10 in 2018 and just 2 for 15 in his career, he totally outran his 91-1 odds in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last time out. This bay colt was last and almost 20 lengths out of it early, but catapulted past eight horses, and made up some 14 lengths, to finish sixth behind the streaking City of Light. He’ll be making his first start since (3 ½ months) but the bullet (best of 61) 5F work of :59.3 last week states he might be ready…………………….Quip was on a lot of people’s Kentucky Derby list last year and he might be the most talented runner in this field. Although he’s been working well at Payson Park recently, has run well off of layoffs before, and this is his best distance, he’ll have to overcome an almost nine month layoff here and the dreaded #13 post position. Those factors might be asking juuuust a little too much from this son of Distorted Humor…………………….Flameaway is another who was Kentucky Derby material last year after very good second place finishes in the Tampa Bay Derby and Bluegrass Stakes. After running only one good race (second in the Jim Dandy) in four tries from that point, he was put away for the year. Although he might “need one” here, this $400,000 son of Scat Daddy is versatile and clearly has ability……………………Honorable Mentions: Harlan Punch has won two of his last three vs. lesser but does have a fitness edge over the top three. Third start off the layoff angle fits here too……….After a ridiculously wide trip, Silver Dust finished right behind Harlan Punch last time out. This $510,000 son of Tapit had won his two prior races to that and he appears to be slowly improving…..upset chance here. (My play: .50 triple using all. Cost $30.00)
Race: 11 (5:29 PM EST Post)
Rachel Alexandra Stakes
Needs Supervision has won three of her first four career starts, highlighted by winning the Silverbulletday on this oval in her 2019 debut last time out. Bay filly by Paynter has improved in each subsequent start and should only be “tighter” for her second start of the year in this spot……………………………… Positive Spirit is another who has improved through each of her first four starts, culminating in winning the Grade: 2 Demoiselle Stake at Aqueduct by a colossal margin. Good looking filly by Pioneerof the Nile poses a big threat here …………………Serengeti Empress showed little at 4-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly race in her last after winning her two prior races by a combined 33 lengths. Filly by Alternation drops back into a more reasonable spot for her 2019 debut but judging from her works and trainers comments: “I expect her to make a good showing, but at the same time, this is our first race back and it’s not our end all race. It’s important to understand that she’ll improve off this race. Goal (Kentucky Oaks) is a couple of months down the road” trainer Thomas Amoss said, she may not be fully cranked up for this………Honorable Mentions: Oxy Lady finished less than three lengths behind Chasing Yesterday who would be a solid favorite in this race should she have run. No worries about her handling the track as she’s been training extremely well since arriving here right around the beginning of the year….could better this rating……………..Bell’s the One is unbeaten in three career starts and her speed figures say she could be a contender here. Filly by the speedy Majesticperfection will be stepping up in class big time here and will have to go 2 ½ lengths further than she’s ever gone before but from what I’ve seen in her first three races, she might be able to handle both. (My play: .50 triple using all. Cost $30)
Race: 12 (7:02 PM EST Post)
Risen Star Stakes
After running well in all four turf starts to begin his career, trainer Mark Casse switched surfaces with War of Will last November and this colt, who is bred to run to the South Pole and back without stopping, broke his maiden by five lengths. Casse then gave him two months off and this son of War Front came back to pulverize the LeComte Stakes field on Jan 19. He won by four but it must be noted this good looking bay was very wide on both turns so he could possibly have won by more………………………..In taking War of Will, Country House is pretty scary. This Lookin’ at Lucky colt, from the loaded for the Kentucky Derby Bill Mott barn, completely missed the break in his last but launched a very impressive, three wide run leaving the three eighths pole and left his foes in his wake down the lane. Yes, it was a field of maidens and yes, it was on that conveyor belt they call Gulfstream Park but still, it was visually impressive to watch. I am shocked at the 20-1 morning line odds………thought maybe he’d open at 6 or 8 to 1…………….. Limonite is about 2 ½ lengths away from coming in this race unbeaten. Although it was 2 ½ months ago, I loved his Kentucky Jockey Club effort, where he came from last (of 14), circled the field four wide and was still charging hard, late in deep stretch to only be beaten by two lengths to (at this point in the season) upper echelon three year old Signalman…threat with a fast pace and repeat of that effort……………….Honorable Mentions: Plus Que Parfait had a nightmare trip in the LeComte (stumbled at the start, bumped hard shortly thereafter and six wide on the turn) but was only 6+ length behind my top pick….should be closer with a better trip this time………… I wouldn’t be so quick to throw out Henley’s Joy just because he’s making his first dirt start here. He is a two time Stakes winner and his works suggest he’ll handle the change in surface just fine………….. Couple of side notes: I’m not completely giving up on Roiland, who has gone off at high odds in his last three races, just yet. This horse packs a solid stretch run and could surprise a few people in this spot with the right pace scenario………………Hog Street Hustle has run well in four of five tries including finishing second to my top pick in the LeComte last time out at 12-1. (My Play: $20 win on War of Will, $5 exacta box using the top 3 and .50 triple using the top 5. Cost $80)
Race: 11 (5:12 PM EST Post)
Royal Delta Stakes
Jala Jala has been a win machine in Mexico (13 for 23 lifetime) but has also duplicated that form at Gulfstream….twice. Chestnut mare by Point Determined was visually impressive kicking away from males at the six furlong marker while winning her last in hand by almost 5 lengths……narrowest of margins over Blamed, who clearly is a huge threat here. Filly by, you guessed it, Blame probably didn’t care for the sloppy track and probably needed that last race (fifth, beaten by 10+) as she was coming off a two month layoff as well. Irad Ortiz Jr. taking the leg up on this filly, who is 9-6-2-0 lifetime, won’t hurt her chances either………………………I’m not sure if Tequilita is just getting better or the wet tracks in her last two helped her out. Regardless, this well bred (by Union Rags out of Grade: 2 winner Sangrita), Grade: 3 last time out winner merits a look in this spot……………….Honorable Mentions: Although Another Broad will be making her first start in more than two months, she is giving me every indication she could run well in this spot. New trainer Todd Pletcher has been working her fast and often at Palm Beach Downs and “JCC” will be in the irons……………Coming off a sloppy tracked, restricted Stakes win at Tampa Bay Downs in her last, Silver Bay looks the best of the rest. (My play: $1 triple box using all. Cost $60)
Santa Anita Park
Race: 9 (7 PM EST Post)
Santa Monica Stakes
Trainer Bob Baffert entered a formidable 1-2 punch in this race in Dream Tree and Eclipse Award finalist for Champion Female Sprinter Marley’s Freedom…..Dream Tree rattled off five straight impressive wins before inexplicably mailing it in last time out. I’m going to give this $750,000 daughter of Uncle Mo a “mulligan” for that race and come right back with her here………….Marley’s Freedom was a multiple Graded Stakes winner on both Coasts last year, winning at distances from 6 furlongs to one mile. I loved her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint effort (fourth, beaten by just a half length) and that race was sandwiched by five other wins. Monster work last week (5F- :58.4) signals she is ready to pick up where she left off in 2018………………………Selcourt is a speedy, $800,000 mare by Tiz Wonderful who won this race last year and sports a 7-4-2-1 record on this oval. I expect her to come out running and she may prove difficult to catch in this spot even though she is showing a slight down tick in form………………………..Honorable Mentions: Escape Clause boasts a 19 for 28 career record with most of that beating up on far lesser foes at small time tracks. That said, this $3,800 mare, who has earned almost $425,000 in her career, proved she belongs here with her tour de force win of the Grade: 3 La Canada last time out…..could conceivably better this rating………………I wonder which Paradise Woods will show up on Saturday for new trainer John Shirreffs? The one who has won two Grade: 1’s in blow out fashion or the one who shows brief speed and retreats after the first half mile? It’s really, really difficult to get a read on this temperamental mare. (My play: pass…not seeing much value in this race)
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2019- Record: 10-26 = 38% (My Plays: -$452.36)
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
**** Kentucky Wildcat, who made an eye catching move around the far turn to finish second in Saturday’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, was pulled up and vanned off the racetrack after the finish.
Evidently, the colt suffered a “non life threatening injury to his right foreleg.” He is expected to undergo surgery to repair the condylar fracture in Ocala in the next several days, but is no longer on the Kentucky Derby trail.
**** Australian super mare Winx will be going after her 30th consecutive victory in Saturday’s Group: 2 Apollo Stakes at Royal Randwick. The Chris Waller trained daughter of Street Cry is expected to make four more starts before her retirement, culminating in the Group: 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes in April.
**** When NYRA releases it stakes schedule for Saratoga and the Belmont Park fall meet, they will include the unveiling of two new turf stakes for 3 year olds and two new Turf Stakes for 3 year old fillies that will join the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks in becoming the “Turf Trinity” for males and “Turf Tiara” for fillies.
For males the “Turf Trinity” will be made up of three $1 million races at the same distances as the dirt Triple Crown for 3 year olds of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
Following the $1 million Belmont Derby at 1 1/4 miles July 6 at Belmont, the $1 million Saratoga Derby will be contested Sunday, Aug. 4 at 1 3/16 miles at Saratoga. The series will conclude with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park Saturday, Sept. 7 at 1 1/2 miles.
“The Turf Trinity is designed to emulate the American dirt classics,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, in a statement. “The three race, $3,000,000 series complements the schedule with no overlap of the American Triple Crown races while also providing international runners an opportunity to race against 3 year olds later into the summer.”
For fillies, the “Triple Tiara” starts with the $750,000 Belmont Oaks July 6 at Belmont at 1 1/4 miles, then the $750,000 Saratoga Oaks Friday, Aug. 2 at 1 3/16 miles, and the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks Sept. 7 at a 1 3/8 miles at Belmont.
“The Turf Tiara, a three race $2,250,000 series, will shadow the colt division, providing a well defined pattern of races highlighting future turf stars while serving as a test of their speed, versatility and endurance,” Panza said.