Friday, April 8, 2011

And Then There Were Nine

The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby lost some luster with the scratch of San Felipe (G-2) victor Premier Pegasus. It lost more acclaim, as Jaycito’s trainer, Bob BaAnthoneys Cross Photoffert, has stated that the colt has been battling a foot bruise and is also out of the race.

That leaves a field of quasi-accomplished colts. ANTHONY’S CROSS lead in the stretch of the Robert B. Lewis (G-2) and barely hung on for the victory by a flared nostril. Anthony’s Cross appears to be the luke-warm favorite. The son of Indian Charlie will probably find 1 1/8 miles to be his top distance. SilverMedalionPhotoJessicaM

SILVER MEDALLION has proven himself over turf and Tapita. He beat a so-so group in the El Camino Real, proving 1 1/8  miles is within his scope. He’s the best representative of his second crop sire Badge of Silver’s progeny and is bred for the dirt. His sire won the New Orleans Handicap at 1 1/8 miComma To The Top Photo Benoitles and damsire Stalwart was a precocious California juvenile.

After dominating the two year old scene in California late last year, COMMA TO THE TOP has struggled in two stakes attempts this year. He’s really cut out to be a miler, but tries hard every time.

The surprise longshot third place finisher in the Robert B. Lewis, QUAIL HILL faltered in the San Felipe. His last few works have been good and he may rebound for a piece of the Santa Anita Derby. Bench Points Photo Benoit

BENCH POINTS had his four race winning streak snapped in the San Felipe after taking farther off the pace than usual. He has a borderline  pedigree for 1 1/8 miles and will have to contend with a stronger group and longer distance. Having leading rider Raphael Bejarano on his back certainly helps.

INDIAN WINTER had a tough time in the Turf Paradise Derby and was placed second after Twice The Appeal was disqualified. We’ll toss that race. Indian Winter has won against listed winners, but he’s adding distance and going up against stakes caliber foes. His pedigree (Indian Charlie – Backroom Blues, by Dixieland Band) is borderline for the distance and his half siblings are sprinters. He could be talented enough to grab a piece of it, and his team of Hollendorfer and P Val must be respected.

Mr Commons Checking out the allowance winners, here’s what California track expert Steve T. had to say about MR. COMMONS. “Worked seven in a scorching 1:23.80 for John Shirreffs, and he is a trainer that thinks a :50.00 half mile is cooking. This is a special horse who knocked out the fastest time this year in his win on the hill and came right back and won a route on the main track in a very quick time.” This guy is bred to be fast. His second-crop sire Artie Schiller won the Breeders’ Cup Mile. None of his offspring have tried 1 1/8 miles, It’s rare to see the Champion Apalachee so close up in a pedigree, but he’s Mr. Commons’ damsire. Apalachee, a son of the great stamina influence Round Table, was a multiple Group 1 miler in England. As a damsire, he imparted brilliant speed to his daughter’s progeny, giving us the Champion Sprinter Artax, Multiple graded stakes winner Disco Rico, and the blazing fast Texas Glitter.

OFFLEE WILD BOYS is undefeated in allowance company since moving to the barn of Steve Miyadi. His second crop sire Offlee Wild’s babies have won at 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles should be within their scope. Offlee Wild won the Suburban at 1 ¼ miles and Offlee Wild Boys’ damsire Grand Slam is very versatile. Offlee Wild Boys has been working very well and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him finish in the money.MidnightInterlude

Every Derby prep this year has included a last out maiden winner. It’s no different in the Santa Anita Derby. MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE is by  Breeders’ Cup Mile hero War Chant out of a stakes placed New Zealand mare. His pedigree is heavy with turf influences, but he seems to do just fine over the dirt. He’s improved in every start and has the typically fast works of a Baffert trainee.


How the track is playing: Out of nine races at 1 1/8 miles, 22% have wired the field, while the majority, 43%, have sat off the pace. Surprisingly, one run closers have also won 22%, while mid-pack runners are victorious 11% of the time.

Three quarters of the entrants are pace setter/pressers. BENCH POINTS and QUAIL HILL are the only confirmed off the pace runners, not counting JAYCITO. With PREMIER PEGASUS out and JAYCITO doubtful, ANTHONY’S CROSS and SILVER MEDALLION are the class of the race. OFFLEE WILD BOYS and QUAIL HILL are showing improvement and are appealing at long odds. BENCH POINTS attracts a top jock and could rebound. COMMA TO THE TOP likely doesn’t want any part of 1 1/8 miles and INDIAN WINTER and MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE appear up against it. MR. COMMONS is offlee, excuse me, awfully fast, but he’s adding two furlongs and will have to sustain that blazing speed. Is he The Factor part duex?




#7 QUAIL HILL - longshot

#1 OFFLEE WILD BOYS - longshot


With less than a month until the Kentucky Derby, the prep races are in full swing across the nation. Florida and Louisiana have completed their series for three year olds, while Santa Anita and New York conclude their major preps this weekend. Even Illinois gets into the act with their Derby. Arkansas will have a full field in their Derby next weekend and Keeneland will conduct their premiere event, the Blue Grass Stakes (G-1). The last chance for Derby earnings will be the Lexington Stakes, scheduled for April 23, just two weeks before the big dance.

Uncle Mo 3 Photo Coglianese
Uncle Mo
   Returning to this weekends graded stakes, all eyes will be on UNCLE MO in the Wood Memorial. On paper, he appears to dominate a very weak field of allowance and listed stakes competitors. We’ve seen other contests where the overwhelming favorite wasn’t supposed to loose, and there is always the slim possibility of that here, otherwise, the NYRA would just hand Uncle Mo’s owner Mike Repole a check and the trophy while the horses sit in the barn. Uncle Mo will try to remove the Wood Memorial jinx. The last two winners were injured before running in the Kentucky Derby, and since 1977, only two horses have pulled off the Wood Memorial/Kentucky Derby double, Pleasant Colony and Fusaichi Pegasus.
So, barring an unfortunate incident to Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial, who is the best of the rest?
Two horses, PREACHINTOTHEDEVIL and SON OF POSSE had their tails handed to them in the Vinery Spiral Stakes at Turfway. Preachintothedevil fits comfortably with state-breds, but he was beaten by Toby’s Corner in the Whirlaway. He could improve second off the layoff and before the Spiral, never finished out of the money.
Son Of Posse may find this distance a challenge. There’s stamina in his distaff line, but his forwardly placed running style guarantees he’ll have to run every step of the way. Pass.
NORMAN ASBJORNSONhas been double digit odds in his last three starts. He won twice and finished best of the rest in the Gotham against Stay Thirsty. His speed figures are improving and he has a chance to repeat here.

Whirlaway hero TOBY'S CORNERwas rank in the Gotham and regressed off of the triple digit speed figure he earned in the Whirlaway. Hopefully, he’ll be more settled this time around. He’s beaten almost half the field in previous races, and he’s working well.
STARSHIP CAESAR had no response in the Gotham after an inside trip. Breaking from the 1 post in the Wood, he’ll likely get the same trip. Pass.

Arthurs Tale Photo Jessica M
Arthur's Tale
 ISN’T HE PERFECT won for the first time in four starts this year against a soft allowance field, including Full Of Scoundrels after showing nothing in the Gotham. Pass. Ditto for FULL OF SCOUNDRELS. His speed figures improved in his first two races and if he were running against an allowance field going shorter, he might be worth a play.

So far, ARTHUR’S TALE has been a disappointment over the dirt. He was defeated by over 12 lengths the two times he took on listed stakes  winners, but found his comfort level last time out against optional claimers. He cost $750K at the Fasig Tipton Select Sale in 2009, and he’s well bred, by Bernardini out of a gorgeous Grade 2 turf router by Harlin. Skip the Wood, try him on turf.

 The requite last out maiden winner is DUCA. By Empire Maker out of Tempus Fugit (by Alphabet Soup) and with Quiet American as his second damsire, Duca is bred to run all day. His dam won her maiden in April of her three year old year, going 1 1/8 miles over the dirt. She went on to win three listed stakes and competed in several graded events without success. Duca has been on the Iron Maidens Kiddie List since he sold for $350K at the Fasig Tipton Select Sale in 2009. He could turn into a nice three year old later in the year, but he just won his maiden, is going against winners at a new track and distance. Lukas should point for the Belmont. Pass.

How the track is playing: Like practically every other major track in the nation, Aqueduct is speed favoring. Seven races have been held at 1 1/8 miles this meet and 100% of them have been won by horses on or near the lead. Yawn.

If things go as planned, UNCLE MO should comfortably win here and go into the Derby with little more than two paid work outs. The real race is for second and third. NORMAN ASBJORNSON and DUCA are confirmed front runners. If both of them can sit back and let UNCLE MO do his thing, they might be around at the end. Both have router pedigrees and the right running style to be effective. SON OF POSSE will probably be up near the lead along with PREACHINTOTHEDEVIL. The later has enough class to hang around for a piece of the pie. TOBY’S CORNER should come flying at the end, but his running style works against him. Here’s our superfecta pick.