Year in and year out, Fourth of July weekend in the sport of Horse Racing is always filled with tremendous amounts of big races with big name horses running in them. This year is no different as there are scores of graded stakes races being run throughout the country.
As usual, I’ll touch on some of the bigger races, but will be taking closer looks at two of them in the 2014 Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park, that will feature multiple stakes winner Joint Return, and the 2014 Los Alamitos Derby, where the enormously talented Shared Belief will be trying to continue a comeback from a foot injury that slowed down his 2014 campaign.
Also, and if you’re a betting person, perhaps the best bet all weekend long might be in an allowance race at Belmont on Saturday afternoon. (More on that in the “Little Bets N’ Pieces” section below)
Looking at some of the other big races being run this weekend, I’m going to start at Belmont Park, which will be hosting their Stars n’ Stripes weekend. “Big Sandy” will be running six stakes races (five on Saturday and one Sunday) including two Grade :1’s.
Saturday’s fourth race is the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes where six three year olds will be going a mile and a sixteenth. Of the six, it looks to be a three horse race on paper between Kid Cruz, who possesses powerhouse late run capability, Tiz Dark, who could not have been anymore impressive in breaking his maiden last time out (he won by almost seven lengths, getting a mile and a sixteenth in a fleet 1:41 flat) and unbeaten speedster Captain Serious. My thought process is this; both Tiz Dark and Captain Serious both show good early speed. If they hook each other early, it could set it up perfectly for Kid Cruz.
Skip up to race six at Belmont and you’ll find the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship for three year olds and up going seven panels. This race is fairly wide open and I found five or six (of the nine entered) horses with a good chance to win it starting with Central Banker, who won his last at Churchill Downs while getting the same seven furlong distance in a sizzling 1:21 flat, Clearly Now has been on the board in 12 of 14 career starts including 6 for 6 at seven furlongs, Moonlight Song is a seven year old who hasn’t been worse than second in about a year and a half now, Dads Caps ran his first bad race in quite some time his last time out, so I’m sure he’ll bounce back well, Salutos Amigos had a three race winning streak snapped in his last race but only got beat less than two lengths in the process and Palace, who is batting .500 in his career (9 for 18) and won the Grade:2 True North Handicap in his last while ripping six furlongs in a hot 1:08.1, all figure bang up. Tough race to figure, but gun to my head, I go with Palace.
Race seven is the inaugural running of the $1,250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational, which is a 10 furlong turf race for three year olds. The big attraction in this race is ironically named Toast of New York, who comes from overseas and has won his last three races there by a combined 30 ½ lengths. The biggest question mark for this colt by Thewayyouare (a $4000 stallion) will be the return to turf for the first time since finishing off the board in his career debut last year over it. (All three of the aforementioned wins came on synthetic surfaces).
Other threats in the field of 11 include the speedy Bobby’s Kitten, albeit I doubt he gets the distance, Adelaide who is by Galileo and has never been worse than second in four career starts including a strong second place finish in the prestigious King Edward Stakes at Ascot in his last, French invader Gailo Chop, who sports a 7-5-1-1 lifetime record, and Global View, another Galileo colt that has never been worse than second in 5 grass starts
Race eight is the long in history, $500,000 Suburban Handicap for four year olds and up going 1 ¼ miles. First run in 1884, the Suburban boasts a list of past winners that includes a filly Beldame (1903), Triple Crown winner Assault (1947), Tom Fool (1953), Nashua (1956), Bold Ruler (1958), Kelso (1961 and 1963), stretch running sensation Buckpasser (1967) the great Dr. Fager (1968), Forego (1975), Winter’s Tale (1980 and 1983), Broad Brush (1987), Easy Goer (1989), Skip Away (1997), Mineshaft (2003), Invasor (2006) and Flat Out who won it in 2011 and last year.
As far as this year’s running, 11 are entered and I like Last Gunfighter, who owns a 16-9-3-2 career record and won his prep race (which just so happened to be his 2014 debut as well) for this race by a nose.
“He’s coming into the race well,” said Last Gunfighter’s trainer Chad Brown. “He’s training well (and) he was second in the race last year.”
Other contenders for the Suburban include Micromanage, who has run three consecutive strong races in a row and seems to be in career best form, Zivo, who is also trained by Brown and has won five in a row but steps up in company, the gorgeous Romansh, who was beaten less than two lengths to top older horse Palace Malice in his last start, Stormin’ Monarcho, who won his last two races by a combined (almost) 20 lengths and Mylute, Vyjack and Moreno, who were all top three year olds last year and are looking to regain their respective forms.
Race nine is the Belmont Oaks Invitational which is essentially the Belmont Derby Invitational except for fillies and mares and for $250,000 less at a $1 million purse. The Oaks drew a strong field of 11.
While looking thru the past performances I saw several nice fillies. Room Service, who has won three straight and has never been off the board in seven career starts, and French invader Xcellence, who won the Prix Imprudence April 3 before finishing third in two classical races in France (the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Prix de Diane Longines.), spearhead the field and I expect both to take a lot of money at the betting windows.
Yes, those two look like they will both be tough to beat but don’t underestimate the versatile and already Grade: 1 stakes winner My Conquestadory (especially at 12-1), and Flying Jib, who is 3 for 4 in Ireland.
Moving on to Sunday, there are three more major races being run in the Salvador Mile Stakes, The United Nations Handicap (both at Monmouth) and the Queen’s Plate, which is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, up at Woodbine.
The Salvador Mile, which is a $150,000 race for three year olds and up at a flat mile, drew Itsmyluckyday, whose claim to fame is running second in both the 2013 Florida Derby and 2013 Preakness Stakes. If you recall, Itsmyluckyday challenged Verrazano in the 2013 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth but was pulled up in that race after suffering a cracked pelvis bone. The son of the extremely quick Lawyer Ron was put on the shelf for nine months before coming back this year and recording two stakes wins (a three length win in the Best of the Rest Stakes April 26 at Gulfstream and a 1 ¼ length win in the Majestic Light Stakes May 24 at Monmouth). He looks to lay over the Salvador field as well, however I do expect a good race from Code West also.
Two races after the Salvador Mile is the United Nations Handicap, which is a Grade: 1, $500,000 1 3/8ths miles race for four year olds and up on the turf. Let me go ahead and tell you, I don’t know about anyone else, but the United Nations carries a lot of weight with me when it comes to voting for year end (turf) championships. That’s how much respect I have for this race.
This year’s running drew a field of 10 and is yet another wide open race. Of the 10, I spotted four or five with a good chance to win.
They include Side Glance, a now 7-year-old globe trotting horse who has made stops in England, Dubai, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and (once before) the US without much success may I add (he recorded just one win in 2013 and is 0 for 4 in 2014), Charming Kitten who will, believe it or not, be cutting back in distance from his last race and has won 2 of his last 3 races, Twilight Eclipse, who will be looking to get back to his winning ways after stringing up back to back wins earlier this year before an ill advised trip to Dubai, Main Sequence, who finished in another zip code in a $2,000,000 race at Ascot in his last, but may run well in this spot, Kaigun is especially intriguing to me. If you look back at his three races, you’ll find a strong second in the Grade: 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont (so you know he’s ok with the surface) but if you go back to the two prior races to the Manhattan you’ll find a pair of very close finishes to the great Wise Dan. He should a huge threat if he runs back to any of those last 3 races. Last but not least, Lochte should in no way, shape or form be 10-1 on the morning line. Albeit, he did “mail it in” in his last race at Monmouth, but if you look at his form before that race, it was very good.
Lastly, The Queens Plate at Woodbine (an all-weather surface track) which is run at a mile and a quarter for a million bucks for three year olds only. I don’t mean to sound bias but of the 15 horses entered a pair of Americans shippers’ stand out to me on paper.
We Miss Artie is the one to beat for sure as being a) he is undefeated on the all weather surface and b) he won the traditional prep race (The Queens Plate Trial) rather convincingly a couple of weeks ago.
I also like Matador a little bit. Although his prep race for this was quite lower in company that We Miss Artie, Matador won in hand by six lengths under nothing more than a hand gallop. Other threats include Tower of Texas, who finished within shouting distance of We Miss Artie in the Queens Plate Trial and Majestic Sunset, who almost took that same Queens Plate Trial field wire to wire in his last.
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Post: 4:51 EST
For Fillies Three Years Old
One and One Sixteenth Miles.
|1||1||Pixie Dust||3/F||L||A Cintron||116||J L Lawrence||10/1|
|2||2||Lady Paradime||3/F||L||V R Carrasco||116||K J Breen||9/2|
|3||3||Honey’s Ryan||3/F||L||K D Clark||116||K W Marshall||12/1|
|4||4||Joint Return||3/F||L||K Carmouche||120||J C Servis||5/2|
|5||5||Aibhilin||3/F||L||E Rivera||116||C A Lynch||15/1|
|6||6||Image of Anna||3/F||L||D Centeno||116||R A Violette||9/2|
|7||7||Vero Amore||3/F||L||F Pennington||116||R E Reid, Jr.||5/1|
|8||8||Fortune Pearl||3/F||L||T McCarthy||116||H G Motion||7/2|
1) Joint Return- this stretch running filly by Include is 5 for 8 lifetime and has won 2 of her last 3 outings.
Looking at those last three starts, I go back to the April 12 Calder Oaks first. In that race this filly was seventh and some 15 lengths behind after the first quarter mile. But her and jockey Kendrick Carmouche calmly weaved their way thru traffic to put themselves in striking distance, albeit four wide, at the top of the stretch then promptly took command of that race in mid stretch….in the end , she won by almost 2 lengths “going away”.
Next up was the May 14 Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico, which turned out to be a nightmare of a race for her.
Starting with Camouche losing an iron early in the race, she was forced a ridiculous 6 wide on the turn for home and she was running over a track labeled “good” that I’m not sure she liked…even thru all that, this dark bay filly, obviously behind early, was closing the gap late and finished a respectable fourth.
“He lost his stirrup and she made up nine or ten lengths down the back side, so her second quarter was extremely fast” trainer John Servis said last week.
In her last race (the June 4 Our Mims Stakes over this very track), her luck was much better and her talent was back on display as once again after trailing in the early stages, she uncorked a huge run from about the 3/8ths pole to the wire and scored a 1 ¼ length win.
“I will always try to take advantage of getting a race over the track,” said her trainer John Servis. “The Our Mims worked out pretty good for us. If I did not use the race, and it was a little quick back, I would be sitting on six weeks between races and the Oaks would be her first time over the track, so the Our Mims helped us in a lot of ways. It got a race into her before the Oaks and she got a race over the track. ”
She shows a nice 4 furlong work between the Our Mims and this race (:48.4) to keep her on her toes and she looks best on paper.
2) Fortune Pearl- is a good looking filly by Mineshaft who has been improving steadily of late.
She is another who came from far back to beat mid -priced optional claimers two starts back, before finishing a very good third in the aforementioned Black Eyed Susan in her last start.
She has recorded four published workouts (all at Delaware) since the Black Eyed Susan which leads me to believe she is sitting on a big race.
With an abundance of early speed in this race, like the top choice, this race appears to set up well for her late run.
“The Delaware Oaks has been the target race since the Black-Eyed Susan,” said trainer H. Graham Motion “She ran a big race in the Black-Eyed Susan and she has trained at Delaware with this race in mind. I thought it was important for her to be there training on the surface every day. I think that could help her chances. She has been a little bit of a surprise and she has been working well, so we are pretty excited about her.”
3) Vero Amore- her last race was too bad to be true as she didn’t run a step in the June 7 Acorn at Belmont (12th, beaten 27 lengths).
This filly, also by Mineshaft, has been fairly consistent in her career (9-2-3-1) and I expect a bounce back effort especially coming off that nice four furlong work last week (:47.2).
Honey’s Ryan is a length short of being unbeaten in her four race career. She finished third (beaten a length) in her debut before promptly rattling off three straight wire to wire wins dating back to last year. In order, she won a Maiden Special Weight (by 7), a $50,000 stakes race at Remington Park (by 6) towards the end of 2013 and a non-winners of three lifetime to start off this year. This speedster should be showing the way early, but the question is….how far will or can she take them? Image of Anna is a speedy More Than Ready filly who appears to pose big problems for Honey’s Ryan early in this race and the other way around too. Three of her last four races (she didn’t fair too well in the Black Eyed Susan either) were all solid front running races while recording two wins and a close second…… Either Honorable Mention is a threat to take them all the way provided one can shake loose from the other.
Saturday July 5, 2014
Los Alamitos Race Course
The Los Alamitos Derby
For Three Year Olds
One and One Eighth Miles
|1||1||Eddie’s First||3/C||L||E Trujillo||122||D F O’Neill||20/1|
|2||2||Tonito M.||3/C||L||V Espinoza||122||J Hollendorfer||20/1|
|3||3||Can the Man||3/C||L||M Garcia||122||B Baffert||6/1|
|4||4||Friendswith K Mill||3/C||L||T Baze||122||D F O’Neill||10/1|
|5||5||Shared Belief||3/G||L||M E Smith||122||J Hollendorfer||4/5|
|6||6||Top Fortitude||3/C||L||K Stra||122||R K Owens||10/1|
|7||7||Candy Boy||3/C||L||J Talamo||122||J W Sadler||5/2|
1) Shared Belief- two year old champion male of 2013 seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle while being on the sidelines with a severe quarter crack, and with all the hoopla surrounding California Chrome….but make no mistake, this horse is very good.
Like very good to the tune of being unbeaten in his career and to this point, untested as well. He’s 4 for 4 all told and has won those four races by a combined (almost) 25 lengths.
This rather small is size gelding by Candy Ride shows nothing short of devastating acceleration that he can use at any point during a race (beginning, middle or end) but usually waits until just north of the quarter pole to start rolling. (If you’ve never seen him run before, you’re in for a treat).
Coming off his first race this year (May 26 where he manhandled an allowance field, winning by 4 ¼ while getting 6 furlongs in a smoking 1:09.3), he shows five strong and steady works with his last three (June 17- 6F- 1:14, June 24- 7F- 1:27.3 and this past Sunday getting 4 furlongs in :48.3) especially good.
I only see two issues for him going into this race, first and foremost, he’ll be trying dirt for the first time in his career (all four of those colossal wins came on all weather tracks) and second, he’s stretching out 2 ½ furlongs off his allowance comeback race win in May.
“He’s doing fine,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “(The Sunday work) was an easy blowout. He’s going to arrive at Los Alamitos (Wednesday) and will gallop over the track Thursday.”
This horse also gets a rider swtich to Mike Smith.
“He’s a big money jockey and he’s wanted a chance to ride this horse,” said Hollendorfer when asked about the switch to Smith.
“This is a jump from six furlongs to a mile and an eighth,” Hollendorfer said this week. “It’s not a perfect scenario. You have to make a choice, and that’s the decision I made.”
“It’s a bit of a gamble to run on the dirt, but I’m willing to take the chance,” Hollendorfer said when questioned about it. “Knock on wood, we won’t have a problem.”
Provided he takes to the dirt…down the road for this horse Saturday evening
2) Candy Boy- was given a little breather by trainer John Servis after his Kentucky Derby debacle (finished 13th, beaten 12 lengths after having to slam on the brakes several times throughout the race).
If you look at his past performances they don’t look all that impressive, (a third to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby before the Kentucky Derby) but don’t let them fool you….this colt by Candy Ride still has a world of ability and could give Shared Belief all he can handle.
3) Can The Man- has the Santa Anita backstretch buzzing off a) that wire to wire score in the Grade: 3 Affirmed Stakes of an eight month layoff and b) the way he’s been running a hole in the wind during morning workouts.
Bay colt by Into Mischief, who is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden by Martin Garcia (who incidentally are 4-2-1 the last eight times they’ve paired up), has been tearing up the track in the morning including three works since that Affirmed Stakes win (June 21- 5F- :58.4, June 28- 6F- 1:12 flat and this past Tuesday 4F- :47.2)
Lastly, remember that last win was off an eight month layoff, so logically he should improve off that effort….which, in turn, is a scary thought.
Top Fortitude- has really only run one bad race out of four in his career and that came after a five month layoff, so he kind of had an excuse. He won the Laz Barrera Stakes at Santa Anita on May 10 before shipping east to Belmont and running a very good second to runaway winner Bayern in the Woody Stephens on June 7. This colt has decent speed figures and returns back “home”. He’ll be trying a route distance for the first time but the way he finished in the Woody Stephens makes me think the stretch out in distance should only help. Tonito M. his last race (the Woody Stephens at Belmont) was too bad to be true. I mean, he was 6 for 7 in Puerto Rico late last year and early this year, before coming to Santa Anita and finishing right behind Top Fortitude in the Laz Barrera. From there, he probably got on the same plane as Top Fortitude and ran in the Woody Stephens at Belmont as well but he got absolutely buried (8th, beaten a dozen lengths)…already proven at Saturday’s distance, he might rebound big time.
2014 Record: 14-35 = 40%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome will be making an appearance at Del Mar in August said trainer Art Sherman, but he won’t be in a race.
California Chrome is turned out at Harris Farms in California, where he was born and raised. He is scheduled to remain there until around Aug. 1, before shipping back to Sherman’s base at Los Alamitos.
California Chrome has been invited to be paraded before the public Aug. 24 at Del Mar on Pacific Classic Day, Sherman said.
“They’ve been asking me, and I think we’ll do that,” he said.
No definite plans have been made for his next start according to Sherman (but there is a chance he could start in the Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 27.)
California Chrome was hand-walked in a paddock at Harris Farms the first week he was there. Since last Friday, California Chrome has been turned out in a paddock on his own.
“They’ve let him be a horse,” Sherman said…that’s good to hear…that’s exactly what he needed.
**** Those of you who know me know I don’t do this a lot…..perhaps once or twice a year….. But (if you’re a bettor) go ahead and play Hidden Vow in the last race at Belmont on Saturday. Long story short, from what I’ve seen (and heard) this horse is peaking out and sitting on a huge race. He stakes bound and running against a non-winners of 2 field….should be a slam dunk.
**** 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver was represented by his first winner as a freshman sire when I Spent It came from behind early in his racing debut to record a three-quarter-length victory in a five-furlong maiden special weight race at Belmont Park last Wednesday.
**** 2013 and 2013 Horse of the Year Wise Dan is progressing nicely in his comeback from colic surgery in May.
Last Tuesday the flashy chestnut galloped twice around the Keeneland training track which in turn prompted trainer Charles Lopresti to give an update.
“We’re trying to go as easy as we can, but it’s not going to be too much longer before he’s going to have a little breeze,” LoPresti said. “Man, he’s strong. Every day, we’re just picking it up a little more. I’m trying to get him as fit as I can without really pressing on him too much.”
Wise Dan underwent emergency colic surgery May 16 at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and had been recovering at LoPresti’s Farm near Lexington. He moved back to training and Lopresti’s barn at Keeneland on June 23.
“I’m just going to try to get as much easy galloping into him as I can, then I’ll probably go an easy half-mile down here, and then away he goes,” said LoPresti, who will ship his summer horses to Saratoga on July 12.
When asked if Lopresti had picked out a race for his champion, Lopresit said: “There’s a very good chance (of making the Fourstardave, Aug 9),” LoPresti said. “If I can get a little breeze into him here and then breeze him about three times up there, we’ll be in good shape.”
LoPresti then added that the Aug 30 Bernard Baruch Handicap would be a plan B.