We will be looking at just two more races this weekend in our Horse Races of the Week, highlighted by the inaugural running of the Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos Racecourse in California. The Winter Challenge was a race basically written for California Chrome as prep race for the $12 Pegasus Cup at Gulfstream Park next month.
A field of 12 has been drawn to challenge “Chrome” in this race which is an 8 ½ furlong contest run for $180,000.
We will also be looking at the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park, which drew a short but strong field.
Lastly, as a quick programming note, with Christmas Eve being next Saturday and Christmas Day being next Sunday, I will be passing those two days and will return Monday Dec 26 with looks at 3 or 4 races.
Therefore, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you all very much for your continued support.
Saturday Dec 17,2016
Race: 7 (3:01 PM EST Post)
Harlan’s Holiday Stakes
Stanford– has speed and the rail and those two angles bode very well with this surface. This $550,000 son of Malibu Moon will be making his first start in over six months, but judging by those 4 consecutive bullet works at Palm Beach Downs, he should be rested and ready for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has almost 50% of this seven horse field entered. For the most part, he runs well fresh and he likes this surface….tepid choice…………….the good news for Keen Ice is he, on paper, looks to be the best horse in the race. I mean, of late, he’s been facing the likes of American Pharoah five times, (of course he actually beat AP in the Travers), California Chrome twice and that freak of nature they call Arrogate once. He’ll meet no such rival even close to any of those horses on Saturday. I thought he ran well to finished third behind ‘Chrome and Arrogate in the 2016 BC Classic some seven weeks ago, he has “trips” speed figures up and down the past performance page and is, by far, the leading money earner in this field….the bad news is he is still just 2 for 18 in his career, 0 for 2 over this surface and 0 for 3 at this distance. So let’s see, he’s won just 11% of his races, he running over a surface which may not be his favorite and at a distance that clearly is not right for him? Sorry, but I can’t play him to win even if he does “look” best…………..if you draw a line through Awesome Slew’s one bad race (over the slop), you’ll find a well bred, three year old taking on elders who has a good chance. Yes, he “shifted into reverse” at about the three-eighths pole in the Penn. Derby in his last, but it should be noted he was running hard for the first six or so furlongs. Colt by Awesome Again should give a good account of himself in this spot……………..Honorable Mentions: Madefromlucky– yes, there is a possibility of trainer Todd Pletcher running 1, 2, 3 in this race as this colt also has a good chance. Like the top pick, this son of Lookin’ at Lucky will be coming off a long break but has been training very well at Palm Beach Downs. Half of this colt’s lifetime wins have come over this track (2 for 4 here….2 for 11 everywhere else). Looks best of the rest and could better this rating all at the same time.
Saturday Dec 17, 2016
Los Alamitos Race Course
Race: 9 (7:28 PM EST Post)
Winter Challenge Stakes
|1||1||Howdy (CA)||4/C||L||C Sutherland||118||P Eurton||30/1|
|2||2||Wrightwood (KY)||5/G||L||J L Verenzuela||118||B J Koriner||50/1|
|3||3||Presidentsky (CA)||5/G||L||B Pena||120||J Brocklebank||50/1|
|4||4||Point Piper (KY)||6/H||L||M Gutierrez||124||J Hollendorfer||6/1|
|5||5||Ain’t Misbehavin (CA)||4/G||L||K J Desormeaux||118||V Cerin||20/1|
|6||6||Lucky J Lane (CA)||5/G||L||J Theriot||120||B J Koriner||30/1|
|7||7||Avanti Bello (CA)||4/C||L||D Van Dyke||124||D F O’Neill||10/1|
|8||8||Unusual Meeting (CA)||6/G||L||T J Pereira||118||G Stute||30/1|
|9||9||Papacoolpapacool (KY)||4/G||L||T Baze||120||P D’Amato||20/1|
|10||10||California Chrome (CA)||5/H||L||V Espinoza||126||A Sherman||1/5|
1) California Chrome– really needs no introduction as his popularity is immense and he will probably capture his second consecutive Horse of the Year title in 2016. But I have to tell you, this race borders on laughable.
I mean I get it, the robust chestnut will be making the final start of his illustrious career in the $12 million, Jan 28 Pegasus at Gulfstream Park and powers that be in California, and his connections, are trying to give his hometown fans one last race/look at him….but come on…this race is filled with basically claiming horse who couldn’t warm ‘Chrome up.
I saw that “Los Al” was offering $10,000 to any horse that just finishes the race and I guess that’s why 12 horses entered (When I saw this plan coming together I thought we would be seeing our first “walkover” race since the great Spectacular Bid in 1980).
I also saw there will probably be no place or show betting…I suppose Los Al is trying to limit there losses on what promises to be an enormous minus win pool.
There is no such thing as a sure thing in this, or any other, sport but ‘Chrome comes as close to that as possible in this race. The son of Lucky Pulpit is finishing up yet another superb year in which he’s won 6 of 7 races with the one defeat coming at the hands of Arrogate, who is one special horse, while banking a mind boggling $8.1 million this year.
It should be noted that ‘Chrome scored a 119 speed figure, the highest of his career, so he shows no signs of slowing down and has looked jaw dropping good in his last two works.
Lastly two things….one, 1/5 on the morning line? No way….in a spot like this, he should be opening at 1/9 because being 1/20 at post time would not surprise me and two, there is rain forecasted in the area on Saturday and trainer Art Sherman already said if the track is off, he will scratch….just FYI.
2) Point Piper– finished second in the Grade: 3 Native Diver Stakes in his last.
This soon to be 7 year old chased Tamarkuz in the BC Mile and the fleet Anchor Down in his last two races and ran the race of his life in winning a stakes race at Emerald Down prior to that….looks best of the rest.
3) Avanti Bello– has been on the board in 8 of 11 races this year, capped off by a very nice come from behind win vs. mid-level optional claimers in his last.
Good looking four year old by Include’s speed figures have climbed steadily through his last five races and he appears to be in peak form right now…..its just that 0 for 4 record over this surface that is troubling me.
Honorable Mention: Papcoolpapcool– has run well in his last four races (all on the turf). If $2,200 yearling purchase, who has won $233,000, can duplicate any of those last four in this spot (and on the dirt) he could surprise a few people at what will probably be some big odds too.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2016- Record: 88-219 = 40%
2015- Record: 67-180 = 37%
2014- Record: 29-73 = 40%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Dolphus, the half-brother to 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, blew away an optional claimer/allowance field by 9 1/2 lengths in the fourth race last Saturday over a sloppy Gulfstream surface
The son of Lookin At Lucky, a main-track-only entrant only, drew into the field when the race, originally scheduled for 7 1/2 furlongs on turf, was moved to the sloppy main track at seven-furlongs.
“I feel he finally applied himself for the first time in a while. Having said that, he ran his race,” trainer Joe Sharp said. “I think he liked the firm going of the sealed, sloppy track. Hopefully he can duplicate it back-to-back and the light bulb has gone off.”
“In the morning he’s the most straightforward, focused, great workhorse. He’s great to train, he’s a good eater, (and) he does everything right,” Sharp added. “After the last couple of races, the owner and I were left scratching our heads, because we know he’s better than that. Obviously, with his pedigree, gelding him wasn’t an option. So we tried the blinkers and he worked well in them. We dotted our I’s and crossed our T’s in the elimination process of things that could and couldn’t be that were keeping him from putting out his best efforts.”
When asked about the colt’s future for now Sharp said he’ll savor the victory by a horse he’s always regarded as special.
“I’ve known he’s the nicest horse I’ve had my hands on to this point, I thought,” Sharp said. “We had thought that. As a 2-year-old and 3-year-old we thought he was, but we’ve been kind of waiting for him to show it. I’m glad to see what made us all believers.'”
**** Ashford Stud in Kentucky has confirmed that the talented 3-year-old colt Stradivari, who suffered a career-ending injury while training at Saratoga this summer, was euthanized after taking a turn for the worse following surgery to repair a fracture in his right foreleg.
The son of Medaglia d’Oro was best known for his good looks and for running fourth in the 2016 Preakness Stakes and fifth in the 2016 Belmont Stakes. Those two finishes came after breaking his maiden and winning an allowance race both by colossal margins.
**** 2016 Breeders Cup and Travers winner Arrogate ripped a five-furlong bullet in :58 2/5 at Santa Anita Park Dec. 13, fastest of 77 moves that day.
Trainer Bob Baffert said the 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song could possibly make his first start of 2017 in the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual Stakes Jan. 1 at Santa Anita, using that as a prep for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park.
However, Juddmonte, who owns the wickedly fast colt, would have to purchase another owner’s spot in the starting gate for the Pegasus since they currently do not have one.
“After that (today’s bullet work), that Jan. 1 race (the San Pasqual) might be an option, here at Santa Anita,” Baffert said. “The Pegasus is still there. If I wanted to prep him, I could run him there and then run him in the Pegasus.
“With what he did today, I don’t know if I can sit on him that long. After today, he’s pretty ready.”
“He’s been a handful, so we just let him go and there were some horses who broke off a sixteenth of a mile in front of him,” he said. “He was galloping right along and he ended up catching up to them. I didn’t think he was going that fast”.
“He was pretty impressive… he looks like he’s getting stronger.”
Despite the bullet, Baffert said the effort took nothing out of Arrogate, who was still a handful back at the barn.
“He just reminded me today how good he really is. When he came back, he was just full of himself, it was like nothing for him,” he said.
“He could probably run Saturday. He’s so impressive. After retiring American Pharoah I never dreamt I would be dealing with another horse of his caliber, but this horse is just getting stronger and better every day.”
**** The speedy Lady Shipman, an Eclipse Award finalist in 2015 for champion female sprinter, has been retired to Taylor Made Farm and will be bred to Uncle Mo in 2017.
The daughter of Midshipman won an astounding 11 stakes and set multiple track records, but most recently finished fourth in the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes at Santa Anita Nov. 5— her first loss against her own sex in over a year.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said she was “sound but had a little issue that was probably going to need a lot of time off” so owner Randall Lowe made the decision to retire her with plans to sell her in foal next November.
“Lady Shipman retires as one of the greatest American female turf sprinters ever,” said Duncan Taylor, President and CEO of Taylor Made Farm. “She is an outstanding broodmare prospect. The plan is to breed her and sell her in-foal next November.”
**** Two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Garrett Gomez, 44, has died, according to his daughter Shelby Gomez.
Shelby Gomez declined to give details Dec. 14 on the death of her father…. more on this as it unfolds.