This is clearly one of the biggest weekends of the year in the sport of Horse Racing. Up until the last few days, I had no less than 17 races circled as races which loom large and should be looked at. Obviously, that’s too many, so I knocked it down to eight.
I’m not sure which should be our highlighted race of the week as it could be any one of four. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York, the Bluegrass Stakes in Kentucky, the Santa Anita Derby, (all final and major Kentucky Derby prep races) and the Santa Anita Handicap in California, would all qualify, along with several other races this weekend, so I’ll let you decide.
Along with those races each track will also carry a big under card as each has at least one Grade: 1 race as well.
Moreover, starting with Coliseum in January and running right through to 72-1 maiden Bodeexpress finishing second in the Florida Derby last week, I will be skipping a week or two or maybe the next 106 of “my plays”. There has just been way too many horses who don’t figure into my style of handicapping running enormous, out of the blue races. Winning at a 30% clip might be ok for some people, but not for me.
When times like these come about, and it has happened countless times through my almost 40 years, I found it best to back off, regroup and start again when I see my style of handicapping come back.
Since we have so much to go over, I won’t bore you any longer, or with listing every race, let’s just get to work. Lastly, remember with such a wild weekend on tap, the races are broken out by tracks not post times.
Saturday, April 6, 2019
Race: 8 (5:10 PM EST Post)
After losing the first race of her career by a half of a length, Late Night Pow Wow has rattled off an astounding 11 straight wins, including the Grade: 3 Barbara Fritchie in her last. This obscurely bred filly ran seven furlongs in a hot 1:21.4 that day. Don’t worry this will be her first start since (49 days), as she’s been training lights out lately, signaling another big effort is upcoming…………….2018 Champion Female Sprinter Shamrock Rose had every excuse imaginable in the Azeri Stakes on March 16. Filly by First Dude was making her first start of the year, was at a distance that was not her best, and her rider (David Cohen) used the wrong race tactics as she was facing not one, but two, upper echelon older females in training in Elate and Midnight Bisou. With the cut back to her best distance and a rider upgrade (Cohen to Irad Ortiz), I expect a much better performance here………………Grade: 1 winner Spiced Perfection also looms large in this spot as she was charging hard, late and just missed (head) behind Late Night Pow Wow in the Barbara Fritchie. Filly by sneaky good sire Smiling Tiger won three of her last four to end 2018 with a legitimate excuse (turf) in the one loss mixed in there…………………………Honorable Mentions: It looks as though the winter vacation Amy’s Challenge took did her a world of good as she has come back running in 2019. This speedy filly, who is 6 for 10 in her career, annihilated her foes in her first two starts this year and shows a ridiculously fast 4F (:45.3) two weeks ago. Albeit, she will be taking a huge step up in class and stretching out in distance, she figures to come out running again in this spot and be the one to catch late………..I hate to put America’s Tale this far down as this filly might be laying in the weeds, ready to ambush this field. If you draw a line through yet another failed turf race three back, you’ll see she’s won four straight including the Grade: 2 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park in her last. “Speed” rider Paco Lopez gets the leg up on this “speed” filly.
Race: 9 (5:45 PM EST Post)
2018 Two Year Old Filly Champion Jaywalk was one of the bigger disappointments in her 2019 debut. This daughter of Cross Traffic stalked the early pace in the Davona Dale but had very little left in the tank down the lane and checked in fourth, beaten by almost six lengths. I’ll give this immensely talent horse a “mulligan” for that and come right back with her here…………….Restless Rider was one of the better two year old fillies last year. This well bred gray sports a 6-3-3-0 career record, including a Grade: 1 win and very good second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly last November. She has been training very well for her first start since, but I’m pretty sure, with much bigger goals down the road, she won’t be 100% for this test…………Chocolate Kisses was visually impressive coming from last, catapulting past horses with a 5 wide, sweeping move on the turn before roaring down the lane to the Honeybee Stakes at 7.50-1. I’m sure the screaming fast early pace in that race helped quite a bit but still….a repeat performance of that race here should put her among the vanguard at the wire……………Honorable Mentions: Feedback is another who might be ready to ambush this field. I really liked the way this filly by Violence won her first start (by 8 lengths, getting the last sixteenth in :06.3) and her follow up race, the Forward Gal Stakes, as she was pressured every step of the way but was dead game in winning it. Unbeaten speedster figures prominent throughout……………Bell’s the One is unbeaten in four starts while facing much lesser opponents. Good looking filly is 1 for 1 on this oval and shows a strong work last week over it as well…..outside shot……….Lady Kate is a $485,000 daughter of Bernardini who ran very well in both of her career starts. I love the bullet work on this surface last week too……..If you are shopping for a long-shot, take a gander at Bizwhacks, who although it took her eight starts to break her maiden, she ran a sneaky good third behind Chocolate Kisses in her last. Filly by Fed Biz has hit the board in eight of nine starts.
Race: 10 (6:23PM EST Post)
While looking at this race, I found something very interesting. Vekoma, based off his two wins last year and the first time Lasix using, excellent third to Code of Honor in his 2019 debut (March 2, Fountain of Youth Stakes), clearly looks like the best horse in this race and his 9/5 morning line odds reflect that. Before moving forward, take note he ran 8 ½ furlongs in about 1:44.1 over that “conveyor belt” they call Gulfstream Park. Now move over to track record holder for seven furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs Win Win Win. Note how, just seven days later over a track much deeper and much more tiring than GP, this colt was charging hard, late to get third in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs at the same 8 ½ furlong distance. Yes, he was the beaten favorite but note how his final time was approximately 1:42.1 or 2 full seconds faster that Vekoma’s. That amounts to about a 10 length differential. (Although logical has nothing to do with the three year old division thus far) Logically, if he runs 10 lengths better than Vekoma under more difficult circumstances, wouldn’t it make sense to play Win Win Win on top here? Bottom line, based off that fact alone, I’ll take Win Win Win to win and Vekoma to come second………………….Signalman had a banner year last year. However, he disappointed in his 2019 debut, checking in seventh in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Three straight, strong 5F works since should have him “tighter” for this………………Honorable Mentions: If Somelikeithotbrown can pull the same trick as Anothertwistafate (run just as well on the dirt as the synthetics) he’ll be tough here. This son of Big Brown looked super in winning both 2019 starts at Turfway Park and has hit the board in six of seven career starts……If you are hunting a longshot, take a peek at Sir Winston, who is on the improve, highlighted by making up nine lengths in the last 4 ½ furlongs of the Tampa Bay Derby and finished right behind Win Win Win in the process.
Race: 9 (5:22 PM EST Post)
It’s no secret I like World of Trouble quite a bit. This handsome, super fast son of Kantharos has won 6 of 10 in his career including a “just missed” second in none other than the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last fall. That race is sandwiched around four, mostly large margined wins and his last four speed figures overall (103, a colossal 118, 109 and 107) jump off the page. Although he draws the extreme outside post I expect him to make every pole a winning one…………………..Vino Rosso was at one time a strong Kentucky Derby prospect until Justify came along and the rest, as they say, is (literally) history. This $410,000 son of Curlin took nearly seven months off but made a successful return to the races when stalking the early pace, using a five wide move on the turn and taking down the Stymie Handicap on March 9. Lastly, note he is 3 for 3 at the Big A and just 1 for 7 everywhere else. Can you say “Horse for the Course” angle?…………………..Identity Politics has never been off the board in six career starts including circling the entire field in the prestigious Malibu Stakes and finishing second to one of the top older horses in training today (McKinzie). This $350,000 son of Into Mischief, with his 1-4-1 record, does seem to have a touch of “second-itis” but is an exotics threat nonetheless……………Honorable Mentions: Albeit vs. lesser competition, Honor Up has rattled off three straight wins (four of his last five), but his speed figures and having the guts of a cat burglar both suggest he could be competitive in this spot. The 6-4-2-0 career record on this oval is also an attention getter…………….Should probable long shot Sir Ballentine duplicate his last performance, where he beat mid-level optionals at this distance and on this oval while getting 7F in 1:22 flat, he could be a menace.
Race: 10 (6:00PM EST Post)
You can make an argument that Tacitus might be the best bred horse in training today. This gray colt, who has big, beautiful stride, is by super sire Tapit out of 5 time Grade: 1 winner Close Hatches, appears to be getting good at just the right time. Although a fast early pace help him considerably, he rallied from some 10-11 lengths behind at first call of the Tampa Bay Derby but came “over the top” to win going away. The Bill Mott trainee is visually begging for more distance and he’ll get just that in this spot, all he needs is a pace to run into….gets the call in a very difficult race to figure………………..Haikal is a neck shy of being 4 for 4 in his career. He is another who was aided by a wickedly fast pace when coming from way out to win the Gotham last time out. This son of Daaher’s, will be trying two turns for the first time, has speed figures that are climbing steadily (79, 85, 84 and 95) signaling improvement as the distances get longer. That stat is backed up by regular rider Rajiv Maragh: “I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t improve at two turns,” said Maragh, “The great thing about him is that we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He hasn’t hit his ceiling. So he just might be a superstar horse who gets better each time.”………………………I hate to put Tax this far down, I really do. This colt by Arch was dead game in winning the Withers on this oval last time out and all reports indicate he has looked sensational in the mornings. Trainer Danny Gargan, who has a really cute dog that he takes everywhere, is beaming with confidence: “He’s been training phenomenal. He couldn’t work any better. He’s really good right now. I just hope we get a clean trip.”……………….Honorable Mentions: Outshine is a $625,000 son of Malibu Moon who finished right behind Tacticus in the Tampa Bay Derby after whipping $75,000 optionals previously. Still another with rising speed figures and you get the third start off the layoff angle………………Hoffa’s Union looked like a world beater when breaking his maiden by 15 ½ lengths and scoring a 95 speed figure in his racing debut at Laurel. Gelding by Union Rags could be any kind…………..Just a few other side notes: Final Jeopardy improved dramatically when stretched out in distance in his last………Overdeliver won his debut and then gamely chased Win Win Win in a track record setting performance……..Joevia is your long shot in this spot. By Shanghai Bobby, he finished a neck behind Haikal two back at 18-1 then gamely chased the streaking Alwaysmining at Laurel in his last……Unfortunately Not That Brady, after rattling off four strong races in a row, looks like a complete throw out in this spot. The son of Big Brown out of the heart warming story of Lisa’s Booby Trap, was basically pulled up in the stretch of the Gotham and was beaten by a no exaggeration 75 lengths. Rumors continue to swirl he bled through Lasix in that race and is nursing a quarter crack as well. That’s too bad, the story behind is dam is a special one.
Santa Anita Park
Race: 3 (4:00PM EST Post)
Santa Anita Oaks
Bellafina is a gorgeous, $800,000 daughter of Quality Road who is 5 for 7 in her career and 3 for 3 on this oval. As I said two weeks ago before she scratched out of the Sunland Park Oaks, she looked terrific in winning her first start of the year while in nothing more than an in hand gallop. She came back, stretched out in distance and although the finish was closer than her connections would have wanted, it was understandable. After ripping a half mile in :46.1 over a heavy track labeled “good”, she had every right to tire towards the end…..narrow margin is a super, duper competitive horse race……………….Chasing Yesterday broke poorly and was extremely wide her entire journey but was still able to win the aforementioned Sunland Park Oaks conclusively. This Grade: 1 winning, half sister of the great American Pharoah wheels back on two weeks rest in this spot so fitness won’t be an issue nor will the distance as she is 2 for 2 at 8 ½ furlongs……………………Flor de La Mar is a $500,000, Amazonian filly by Tiznow who couldn’t have looked any better in winning at first asking. Throw out the NW1X race last time out when she went down in flames as the 3/5 favorite as she never looked comfortable on the sloppy track. You could see she was struggling mightily leaving the half mile pole. Mega talented filly is being asked a lot of in this spot, but Baffert doesn’t put them where they don’t belong.
Race: 8 (6:30PM EST Post)
Santa Anita Derby
Although Two Year Old Colt Champion Game Winner suffered his first career defeat in the Rebel last time out, it must be noted he ran a huge race. Colt by Candy Ride was making his first start in 4 ½ months and looked hopelessly beaten on the turn for home and into the lane. In fact, he hung slightly at the sixteenth pole but then turned on the afterburners only to come up a whisker short on the wire. Two strong subsequent works since, including a bullet 6F move 5 days ago, should have him cranked most of the way up for this…………………The vaunted Instagrand, a $1.2 million purchase won his first two starts by colossal margins but was put away for eight months, chased a wickedly fast pace in the Gotham in his comeback race March 9. All things considered (the race tactics employed by Castellano and his first race off a long layoff) I though he ran very well to get the “show dough” in that spot. That race, and back to back bullet 5F works, should have him tighter for this…………..You KNOW this is good horse race when I have to put Roadster in the third slot. This $525,000 son of Quality Road could not have looked any better while beating NW1x other than’s in his first start back in almost six months due to a leg injury. I loved the way he was moving down the lane and the fact he got the last quarter mile in an excellent :24.2. His speed figures are strong and consistent and Big Money Mike gets the leg up………………….Honorable Mention: Nolo Contesto is a talented and improving son of the late Pioneerof the Nile. But the fact still remains, other than an awkward start, he was beaten fair and square by Roadster last time out.
Race: 10 (7:30PM EST Post)
Santa Anita Handicap
McKinzie is the very handsome colt by Street Sense who is clearly one of the better older males in training today even with a tough beat to the late Battle of Midway in his last. Bay colt is 5 for 8 in his career, 5-3-2-0 on this surface and I love the work pattern coming into this. The only concern is the 10 furlongs as that might be his Achilles heel. Past that, he looks much the best here………………..Gift Box is razor sharp right now. This six year old by Twirling Candy is about a head away from coming into this riding a four race wins streak, topped off by winning the traditional prep race for this, the San Antonio Handicap….clearly the main threat to McKinzie here……………….I’ll be keeping an eye on Campaign, who is a $675,000 son of Curlin, as he ran huge in his first start for new trainer John Sadler last time out………………….Honorable Mention: Prime Attraction has shown improved early speed in his last two starts and could be a long shot menace if left alone on an uncontested lead in this spot.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2019- Record: 19-64 = 30% (My Plays: -$2,314.14)
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
**** Another one bites the dust:
Portland Meadows, owned by The Stronach Group, will be closing their doors for good in June.
A report indicates the 63-acre property will become an “urban logistics facility.”
Opened in 1946, Portland Meadows offered both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse Racing. It was the first track to offer night racing and also hosted concerts for major acts.
The Stronach Group acquired the property in 2011.
**** Monomoy Girl is recovering from a mild case of colic that is expected to sideline her for about three weeks and will prevent her from making her eagerly awaited 4 year old debut May 3 in the $500,000 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Monomoy Girl is at WinStar Farm near Versailles, KY., and will be re-evaluated next week to determine when she can resume training.
Trainer Brad Cox hopes to have her back in his barn by May 1.
“It’s unfortunate,” Cox said. “The timing is not good, but it is what it is and we have to put the horse first.”
Cox added the $700,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park June 8 may be a “possibility” for her season debut because she has not lost much fitness in the last week, but added that he will not decide on her next start until “she puts in a good (five-furlong) workout.”
**** 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify will shuttle to Coolmore Australia for the 2019 Southern Hemisphere breeding season, where he will stand for a private fee.
Justify will stand alongside fellow Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
“Justify (a son of Scat Daddy) was a phenomenal racehorse who re-wrote the history books through his achievements on the track. It is an absolute privilege to stand him at Coolmore Australia alongside our other Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who has already been so well supported by Australasian breeders” said Coolmore Australia Principal, Tom Magnier.
“Scat Daddy was an incredible sire who has made an instant impact as a sire of sires and we look forward to standing his best son in Jerry’s Plains.”
**** Lady Pauline, a half sister to Lady Aurelia, will make her racing debut Friday at Keeneland in a 4 1/2-furlong sprint. The filly will break from post 9 with Johnny V. in the irons.