Another enormous weekend on tap (no pun intended) this weekend as I counted 39 stakes races being run around the country. Like usual, I’ll be touching on the major ones but we’ll taking closer looks at both the 2014 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, which will feature 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, and the 2014 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park which will feature superstar filly Untapable, who will taking on males for the first time in her career.
First though, let’s take a look at some of the other major races around the country starting with Saturday and the $200,000 San Diego Handicap for three year olds and up going a mile and a sixteenth at Del-Mar. The standout in the race looks to be Fed Biz. This very handsome, well bred (Giant’s Causeway-Spunoutofcontrol) now 5 year old, will be making his first start since disappointing in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita last November.
Fed Biz is a bit of an enigma. He is clearly a talented individual but has recorded just two wins since September of 2012….Would the real Fed Biz please stand up?..Other horses that look like they might run well include Imperative, who won the $1.5 million Charlestown Classic in April before finishing third in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in his last race, Frac Daddy, who has been either first or second in 11 of 17 career races and pops a big race now and again, the speedy Summer Hit looks like a threat to take them all the way and Handsome Mike, who is just 3 for 28 lifetime but has earned nearly a million bucks in his career.
Over at Saratoga (also on Saturday) is the $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes for three year olds going 6 ½ furlongs. I like Captain Serious even though he’ll be a short price, there is no way I can play against him. This speedster by Successful Appeal won his first three races vs. New York State Breds (including the Mike Lee Stakes by three lengths while getting seven panels in sizzling 1:20.4). He was then put in against open competition and stretched out in distance both for the first time and he performed very well The Mike Hushion trainee battle every step of the way before giving way grudgingly late to the underappreciated Kid Cruz. Kid Cruz, who is entered in the Jim Dandy on Saturday, possesses a strong late run and is better than most people think he is.
Other threats in the Amsterdam might come from C. Zee, who has been on the board in 8 of 9 career starts and won his last race at this distance at Gulfstream Park, Rock Fall will be taking a big class hike but has won his last two races by a combined 12 ½ lengths, and the versatile and talented Noble Moon, who will be making his first start since the Wood memorial back on April 5
Moving over to Sunday, I saw three races, at the three major summer tracks, (Monmouth Park, Saratoga and Del-Mar) which you need to watch.
Del-Mar is running the Bing Crosby Stakes, which is a six furlongs Grade; 1 sprint for $300,000 with he fleet Goldencents spearheading the field of nine.
Goldencents will be making just his second start in 2014 and if he improves off his first race of the season, they won’t beat him on Sunday. His 2014 debut came on June 7 in the Met Mile at Belmont where he stalked a wicked early pace, actually took command of the race at the quarter pole but was reeled in late by probably the top older horse in the country, Palace Malice. In the end, he was beaten just a length and in a final time of 1:33.2…not bad for his first start in seven months you know?
Other contenders in the Bing Crosby include the speedy Pablo Del Monte who was last seen setting the pace in the 2014 Preakness Stakes before faltering and checking in 6th, beaten 14 lengths behind California Chrome, albeit Seeking the Sherif is taking a huge class jump, he should be out there winging it early and has won six of eight career starts including four in a row, Big Macher always fires his best shot and has been on the board in eight of 10 career starts, and Kobe’s Back, who has somewhat disappointed of late but make no mistake, with all the speed in this race and his big closing run, it could set up very well for him.
Over at Monmouth is the $200,000, Grade: 2 Molly Pitcher Stakes for three year olds and up fillies and mares going 8 ½ furlongs. It looks to me like a two horse race between speed demon Natalie Victoria, who has won four of her last five in wire to wire fashion and Majestic River, who has won back to back races both with ease.
Lastly, Saratoga is running the Grade: 3, $200,000 Shuvee Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. A field of seven has been drawn and it looks fairly wide open to me. Some of the contenders include Hot Stones has won two of her last three and there was a time that Unlimited Budget would have towered over this field….but sadly, not anymore. That brings me to Stanwyck, who has recorded three straight thirds in a pair of Grade: 2 races and a Grade: 1 so she is getting a drop in class and Antipathy, who was beaten a neck to both Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar in the Ogden Phipps in her last start…both of these fillies should run bang up again.
Saturday July 26, 2014
Saratoga Race Course
Post Time – 6:01 PM
Jim Dandy Stakes
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
|I. Ortiz, Jr.
1) Tonalist– has won three of five lifetime starts but will always be remembered for thwarting California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid by winning this year’s Belmont Stakes in his last start.
This son of Tapit comes into this off back to back wins (Belmont and Peter Pan before that) and the speed figures in the last two are far above a) anything he’s run before and b) superior to his competitors in this race.
Don’t worry about the seven week break between this race and the Belmont; he won the Peter Pan off an 11 week break and he shows four strong five furlongs works in between. But most importantly, trainer Chistophe Clement doesn’t appear worried about it either.
“I think he’s a nice horse,” said Clement, “They overcome that kind of thing (long breaks in between races). I think he’s fit, but I think he can move up from the race, too.”
“The training is not the excuse”, Clement continued. “He’s got plenty of training going into that race. It’s up to him now. ”
Top jock Joel Rosario climbs aboard for the third time in a row (stat: in the last 14 days Clement put Rosario in the saddle five times and they came away with two wins, one second and one third)
When ask what instructions he’ll have for Rosario on Sunday Clement said:
“I think I’m going to leave it up to Joel, don’t send him, don’t fight him, let him run his race.”…wise words.
He should take his next step in trying to catch pro-tem division leader California Chrome here.
2) Wicked Strong- albeit he’s never run at Saratoga before, this colt by the gorgeous Hard Spun is back on familiar soil in New York.
In fact, he’s never really run a bad race in New York and that should be taken into consideration when looking at this horse.
This stretch runner from the Jimmy Jerkens (good guy by the way) barn, flew by the field down the stretch in the Wood Memorial in April, was the victim of an absolutely horrendous trip in the Kentucky Derby and didn’t exactly get a great trip in the Belmont Stakes either (like 7-8 wide just inside the quarter pole) which, in turn, left Jerkens a little disappointed.
“I was a little disappointed. He ran okay (in the Belmont Stakes), but I didn’t think he ran as good as we thought he would,” Jerkens said. “He was a little lackluster. He spit the bit out down the backside for some reason. I thought he’d be sitting there with a nice pull, but for some reason he spit the bit and (Maragh) had to get after him. He finished okay. All in all, I guess he finished slightly better than the rest of them did.”
Jerkens is adding blinkers for this race and that might be a good idea by listening to both Jerkens and exercise rider Kelvin Pahal
“He might stay a little straighter,” Jerkens said when asked about the addition of the blinkers. “A lot of times, he goes with his head low and cocked to the outside a little bit. He seems to be a little more collected.”
Kelvin Pahal, Wicked Strong’s exercise rider, said the horse is “more focused.”
“He does everything right with the blinkers,” Pahal said. (Stat: Jerkens is 6 for 59 over the past five years when adding blinkers to a horse)
With addition of blinkers and back to back six furlong works of 1:13, this colt appears to be a “must use” in any exotics betting scenarios
3) Kid Cruz– as I said earlier, I believe this horse is better than most people think. Before I go any further, at the time of this writing trainer Linda Rice said she was “60-40” about running this horse in this spot….if not, she will wait for the West Virginia Derby on Aug 2. For now though, I’ll assume he is in.
I’m not exactly sure what happened in the Preakness when he broke behind the field and trailed by a large margin (at one point he was 18 lengths behind) before picking up two horse down the lane to finish a dull 8th, beaten 16 lengths.
However, if you draw a line thru that race and look at his other five races this year, you’ll see this son of Lemon Drop Kid possesses a monster late run and Saturday’s distance is right in his wheelhouse to make an impact in this race.
If he does go in this race I expect a good performance based off his past performances and also by listening to Rice when she said this past week: “The Easy Goer (Stakes) really turned him around. He needed that race, and it was a pretty attractive spot. It helped him and got him back in the game, and he’s really turned the corner since.”
Commanding Curve – anyone remember Ice Box? If you don’t, let me remind you real quick. Ice Box was a Nick Zito trained horse that came into the 2010 Kentucky Derby at almost 12-1. After lagging 19th (of 20) early on, and in 11th position at the top of the stretch, Ice Box uncorked perhaps one of the more amazing late runs I’ve ever seen in all of the 35 Derbies that I’ve seen prior. He wound up finishing second (to Super Saver, see below). I had him in my back pocket for the 2010 Preakness and definitely for the 2010 Belmont Stakes. Well, after the Derby, Ice Box would never finish better than 5th in any of the other major races he would run in again (he did run third in a high priced optional claimer) including running a disappointing 8th in the 2010 Belmont Stakes…When I looked at Commanding Curves past performances, he has the beginnings of “Ice Box-itis” in the sense that he had a torrid stretch run in the Derby to finish second to California Chrome this year but absolutely did not run one step in this year’s Belmont with an enormous drop off in speed figures between the two races. Can he bounce back and run a big one in this race on Saturday?…no doubt, he sure can…but I’m going to shy away from him until he proves to me that Derby stretch run, as amazing as it was, was no fluke. Ulanbator and Legend both finished within shouting distance of Kid Cruz the last time each of them faced him in their respective races…if you like Kid Cruz (as I do) you may want to take a look at either of these two and add them to your “long-shot” horses.
Sunday July 27, 2014
Distance: 1 1/8th miles
Post Time: 5:44pm est
For three year olds
|4||Irish You Well||J. Lezcano
|5||Just Call Kenny||J. Bravo
|6||Social Inclusion||E. Prado
|8||Wildcat Red||L. Saez
|9||Medal Count||R. Albarado
1) Untapable– really needs no introduction as she is clearly the best three year old filly in the land….the question is, is she the best three year old in the land ..period…male or female? We’ll find out Sunday as this filly by Tapit takes on males, a strong bunch at that, for the first time.
After not only winning but absolutely destroying her competition in her last four races (she won the Grade: 3 Rachel Alexandra, the Grade: 2 Fair Ground Oaks, the Grade: 1 Kentucky Oaks and the Grade; 1 Mother Goose by a combined 32 lengths), her connections, owner Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen, decided to up the ante and run in this race.
Untapable has been at Saratoga these last few weeks and has been working right along with a combination of 4 and 5 furlong works since her almost 10 length romp in the Mother Goose back on June 28.
The superstar filly draws post position #7 and is listed as the 2-1 morning line favorite.
“I think it’s an excellent draw considering the field,” Asmussen said of the post position. “With the performance she gave in the Kentucky Oaks (won by 4 1/2 easy lengths) and how she’s trained since, we felt that this was the right time to give the Haskell a chance. We’ve had a great year with her so far. We’re very pleased that she could continue to give more of the same as far as just being a nice, talented filly that’s doing extremely well.”
Rosie Napravnik (returning from injury) gets back on top of this filly and, of course, these two ladies are very familiar with one another as Napravnik has rode her in six of her eight career starts and won five of them.
“Rosie and Untapable have had a lot of success together,” Asmussen said. “They get along very well”
It’s always risky asking a horse to do something they’ve never done before and especially in the major races, but this filly is very impressive both visually and on paper. She is hard to bet against in this spot…if Rachel Alexandra could do it….why can’t this filly?
2) Albano– gets the call to finish second to the big filly almost by default (keep reading).
This colt by Istan (a $3,500 stallion) showed promise early in his career and appears, on paper, to only be getting better.
Trained by Larry Jones, this horse won two of his first four starts but his real coming out party was when he showed a tremendous amount of heart and courage while running his lungs out in the Risen Star Stakes only to get beat a nose (to Intense Holiday).
After the Risen Star, he had a nightmare trip in the Louisiana Derby (bumped so hard, he was moved up via disqualification) and was forced four wide on both turns of that race.
Jones then gave this horse 2 ½ months off and brought him back in the Pegasus Stakes (a traditional prep race for the Haskell) here on June 15, where he ran his best race to date in winning by 6 ½ and running the highest speed figure of his career.
An improving horse, running over a track he obviously loves and, unlike several in here, has proven he can handle the distance, makes for a strong threat to me.
3) Wildcat Red– if you draw a line thru the Kentucky Derby, where he bobbled at the start, was bumped hard shortly thereafter, steadied at about the 3/8ths pole and shuffled back again late in the race, you’ll find a speedy horse who has never been worse than second in eight lifetime starts (8-5-3-0).
Trainer Jose Garoffalo gave his colt by D’Wildcat seven weeks off after the Derby and this guy responded in a big way as he won the Quality Road Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 10 lengths.
The good looking bay, who has been here for a few dayss now, worked a speed sharpening three furlongs in :36.3 (out in :48.4) last Sunday and looks primed to run another big race.
“He looks a lot better on this track (Monmouth) than he did at Churchill,” Garoffalo said. “The track is going to fit him. He is getting a good hold of this track.”
My only concern is that the nine furlongs in this race is at the threshold of this horses distance limitations. I believe, by looking at his past performances and visually watching him, that 1 1/16ths miles is about as far as this horse wants to go…..that last 1/16th troubles me a bit but I’m hoping his tenacity will get him thru it.
Honorable Mentions: (and there are several)
Social Inclusion is so talented it’s almost scary to me and it breaks my heart to see the mistakes his connections have made with him. After winning his for two starts by a combined 17 ½ lengths, his connections throw him into a two turn, Grade: 1 race 1,500 miles from him home base (Gulfstream Park to Aqueduct) in the Wood Memorial where he sets the pace and yields late to Wicked Strong (and Samraat). This freak of nature then comes third in the Preakness (another race he didn’t belong in) and then with his confidence completely shot, they put him in the Woody Stephens Stakes (at seven furlongs) where even though he ran well, he was dusted by Bayern. Through it all, I’m surprised he has a record as good as it is (5-2-0-3)…it’s all because of his talent level and not by the decision his connections are making. I simply don’t like the spots they put him in nor how they work him in the mornings either (July 16- 4F- :45.3) and several weeks ago (one week before the Woody Stephens) they sent him three furlongs in :33.2…come on, is that necessary?…anyway, his talent should, once again, take him far in this race and I expect another good showing. Irish You Well is in career best form and Stevie Wonder can see this colt by Broken Vow loves this surface. He is 2 for 2 over it including running the best race in his career (The Long Branch Stakes) and the third best career race over it winning by 7 ½ lengths. Yet another who shouldn’t have a problem with the distance, shows a nice five furlong work (1:00 on July 19) and could run well at long odds. Bayern comes off a smashing 7 ½ length romp in the aforementioned Woody Stephens Stakes on June 7. This colt by Offlee Wild ran the seven furlongs in a hot 1:20.3. That being said, like several other in here, he hasn’t proven to me he can win at anything over a mile….for right now, I question his distance abilities especially after listening to trainer Bob Baffert speak the other day when he said: “The Haskell is basically an addition to the (Triple Crown) classics,” said Baffert, who has sent out six Haskell winners. “It’s so important, and it’s very exciting. I really enjoy when I have a horse that’s good enough to run in the Haskell. From here, we will be going into the King’s Bishop (a seven furlong race at Saratoga)”. Good enough to run here??….and pointing to a prestiguos sprint race right after this? That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement to me. Medal Count is a bit of an enigma but truth be told, the race he ran in the Belmont Stakes basically went unnoticed with all the hoopla surrounding California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid…I’m here to remind you this colt by the great Dynaformer was third, beaten just one length in the Belmont and finished ahead of ‘Chrome. “I’ve only had a handful of horses in my career that get better the more you do with them,” trainer Dale Romans said. “Shackleford and Kitten’s Joy were like that, and so is Medal Count. The more you train him, the better he gets. The more you race him, the better he gets.” If he is getting better, and he very well might be, then he can easily better this rating. Just Call Kenny has never been worse than second on four career starts and finished right behind Irish You Well in the Long Branch Stakes.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2014 Record: 16-39 = 41%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces:
**** 2014 Blue Grass Stakes winner Dance With Fate was euthanized on Thursday morning after suffering a severe stifle injury during a training accident at Del Mar earlier that morning, trainer Peter Eurton announced.
“Words can’t express what we’re feeling right now,” Eurton wrote. “With an extremely heavy heart, we report Dance With Fate was unable to survive his injuries.”
The colt evidently struck the outside rail while galloping and ruptured ligaments in the stifle area early Thursday morning. Eurton consulted with top veterinarian Wayne McIlwraith on potential treatments but it was decided it would be a long and painful process for him
Eurton , who was in his barn and did not witness the incident, was told that Dance With Fate’s bridle came off and that the horse was loose when the accident occurred. (Exercise rider Joe Duran was hospitalized and was undergoing a precautionary MRI at a local hospital.)
**** Keeneland Racetrack is in the middle of uninstalling of the synthetic (Polytrack) surface and switching back to the dirt surface in a project that is expected to be finished by the end of August.
The surface material is a blend of 19,000 tons of sand, silt, and clay. It will be installed in three two-inch layers to complete the six inches of racing surface.
The track renovation began May 19 with workers removing 16,000 tons of Polytrack
**** War Chant, who is best remember for using a furious stretch run to win the 2000 Breeders Cup Turf Mile, will permanently move to Yarradale Stud in western Australia, the farm said last Tuesday
War Chant, 17, has stood at Three Chimneys Farm in Ky., and has shuttled to Yarradale for the past three years.
Yarradale owner Ron Sayers made an offer to Three Chimneys earlier in July and will keep the stud in Australia.
Yarradale has set his 2015 stud fee at Aust$16,000 (about $15,000 in U.S. dollars) and War Chant stood for $7,500 this year at Three Chimneys.