Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sham and Count Fleet Stakes Previews

The journey to the Triple Crown races kicks off in New York and California today. In New York, the Count Fleet stakes features a half brother to last year’s Preakness winner Shackleford. California’s Sham Stakes stars the Breeders’ Cup Sprint hero Secret Circle and marks the stakes debut of the son of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine. The Sham Stakes also includes siblings to graded stakes winners Etched and Pyro.

Secret CircleThe undefeated hero of the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint will attempt to stretch his speed in today’s Sham Stakes. SECRET CIRCLE (Eddington - Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band) has a miler’s pedigree. The majority of his sire’s progeny are best up to 1 1/16 miles. Secret Circle’s dam was in the money 11 of 21 starts and won listed stakes from five furlongs on the dirt to 1 1/16 miles over the turf. One of Ragtime Hope’s half-sisters was also a listed stakes winner and two of her half-sisters sisters have produced stakes winning colts.

LONGVIEW DRIVE (Pulpit - Wild Vision, by Wild Again), a full brother to Forego Stakes (G-1) hero Pyro beat up on inferior competition in Northern California before finishing a distant third in the Delta Jackpot (G-3). Longview Drive adds blinkers and the Hollendorfer barn is 23% with that angle.

The lightly raced but very well bred OUT OF BOUNDS (Discreet Cat - Unbridled Elaine, byOUTOFBOUNDS10 Unbridled's Song) should find the added furlong of the Sham Stakes to his liking. His 3/4 brother Etched is a multiple graded stakes winner, and set a new stakes record in the 1 1/8 mile Meadowlands Cup (G-2). Out of Bounds’ dam is BC Distaff heroine Unbridled Elaine. She’s a half-sister to Ashland Stakes (G1) winner Glitterwoman, who is the dam of Suburban Stakes hero Political Force.

Three first crop sires, Scat Daddy, Hard Spun and Discreet Cat, are represented in the Sham Stakes.

HANDSOMEMIKEHANDSOME MIKE (Scat Daddy - Classic Strike, by Smart Strike) faltered in the final stages of the CashCall Futurity after setting the pace. His first crop sire Scat Daddy is making a name for himself as a sire of turf/synthetic runners, but he does have five offspring who have been successful over the dirt. Handsome Mike should appreciate the cut back in distance, but the dirt surface is questionable and his front running style may work against him.

HIERRO (Hard Spun - Brief Bliss, by Navarone)Hierro photo Tom Keyser won his maiden by over five lengths at Churchill and has been training steadily at Santa Anita. He’s a half-brother to the multiple stakes winning turf miler Cherokee Triangle and stakes placed Sam’s Bliss. Hierro’s dam placed in the Arlington Washington Lassie.

SENOR RAIN (El Nino - Make My Marq, bySENORRAIN Marquetry) has an obscure pedigree. His unraced dam is a half-sister to a stakes placed runner, but this distaff family is made up of hardy bread-and-butter types. Senor Rain held on for third in the Real Quiet Stakes after dueling on the front end. The recently gelded chestnut owns a win over the Santa Anita dirt and takes the blinkers off after a disastrous experiment over the turf in the Generous Stakes.


Track Bias: Five races have been contested at a mile during this meet. 80% were won by horses on the lead or pressing the pace, with 40% going wire-to-wire.

SECRET CIRCLE could be this year’s version of The Factor. He can set ridiculous early fractions, running his competition into the ground and keep on going. He’s adding two furlongs, but if his speed can be tempered, this is his race to lose. All but one of the entrants, OUT OF BOUNDS, likes to run on or near the pace. HANDSOME MIKE owns enough speed to run with SECRET CIRCLE early, but dirt may not be his preferred surface and the last two times he was pressured on the lead HANDSOME MIKE folded like a bad poker play. LONGVIEW DRIVE hasn’t finished out of the money in five lifetime starts. He’s battle tested and owns a win past a mile. HIERRO and OUT OF BOUNDS are well bred colts trying to find their way on the Derby Trail. HIERRO worked a bullet in his second to OUT OF BOUNDS last move. owns the best pedigree in the field. He’ll prefer going longer and may not be as quick as some of his counterparts, but this is a good starting point. SENIOR RAIN faded late in the Real Quiet Stakes behind eventual CashCall winner Liaison and the Peter Miller barn gets 30% winners with the turf to dirt angle.




#5 LONGVIEW DRIVE – longshot pick


countfleetThe Count Fleet Gotham and Wood Memorial are Triple Crown prep races held in New York. Saturday, the Count Fleet Stakes kicks off the beginning of the New York Preps. Unfortunately, the race rarely produces a Triple Crown contender. Since the inaugural running of the Count Fleet in 1975, only three horses have succeeded in a Triple Crown Race. Summing placed in the 1981 Count Fleet and won the Belmont Stakes. Prairie Bayou the 1992 Count Fleet victor, placed in the Kentucky Derby behind Sea Hero, and then won the Preakness. The last colt to star in the Triple Crown was 2004 Count Fleet hero Smarty Jones, undefeated winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Ironically, the following year, Scrappy T. won the Count Fleet and forced Afleet Alex to his knees in the Preakness. Despite the mishap, Afleet Alex still won the race while Scrappy T. finished second.

This year’s edition of the Count Fleet Stakes includes a half-brother to a Preakness winner and a couple of colts who look to rebound after disappointing runs in their respective Breeders’ Cup races.

II VILLANO (Pollard's Vision - Do the Wekiva, byIlVillano photo Barbara Weidi Wekiva Springs) has been a brilliant front running sprinter. He’s won his last three races by a combined 17 ¼ lengths, two of which were listed stakes. Il Villano‘s pedigree indicates that he should handle the additional distance. His sire is best known for producing the top filly Blind Luck, who won against top company up to 1 ¼ miles. Il Villano’s damsire won graded stakes from six furlongs to 1 ¼ miles, including the Gulfstream Park and Suburban Handicaps. Il Villano‘s distaff family is modest. He’s the only colt and stakes winner produced by his dam. She was winless in six tries, but is a half-sister to two stakes placed runners. The pretty gray colt threw a bullet in his last work, but the Crowell barn is 0 for 4 with the sprint to route angle.

HOW DO I WIN (Corinthian - Silver Crown, by Distorted Humor) freaked in the mud against maiden claimers, then came back to dominate allowance foes next time out. The runners up in that race came back to win. How do I Win’s first crop sire was a top sprinter and his offspring are sprinter/milers. So far, he is represented by one winner past a mile. The pretty gray colt’s dam Silver Crown is a multiple stakes winning sprinter. She’s a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Powerful Punch and stakes winner Silvery topping. The second dam Silvery Topping was also a multiple stakes winner. The Pletcher stable hits with 19% winners trying a route for the first time.

After getting the summer off to mature, WHISTLEBLOWER (Grand Slam - She's a Tattletale, by Tale of the Cat) rewarded the McPeek barn with an easy win coming from off of the pace over the Aqueduct dirt. He has a miler pedigree and should handle the stretch out. Whistleblower’s unraced dam is a half-sister to Grade 3 sprinter Mining Burrah and a half-sister produced Louisiana Derby victor Wimbledon. The McPeek barn hits with 16% of their sprinters stretching out.

Stephanoatsee Photo TomKeyserSTEPHANOATSEE (A.P. Indy - Oatsee, by Unbridled) is a classically bred half-brother to last year’s Preakness hero Shackleford. Last seen competing in the Remsen (G-2), Stephanoatsee sat near the back of the pack and facing a wall of horses in front of him, was forced five wide on the final turn. He passed tired horses in the stretch and finished 4 ½ lengths behind the winner. The Graham Motion trainee turned in a bullet breeze in his second to last work.

ALPHA (Bernardini—Munnaya, by Nijinsky)Alpha Photo coglinese disappointed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after acting up in the gate. He’s a half-brother to French stakes winner Mystic Melody and to Lavender Sky, who placed in four stakes races over the lawn in California. Their dam is an English stakes router and she’s a half to two French stakes winners. This family produced Champion Fantastic Light, Multiple G1 winner Turbulent Decent, KY Oaks heroine Seaside Attraction, the top sire Cape Town and many other top runners. Alpha recorded a last out bullet for the Count Fleet Stakes.

Speightscity photo Cindy DulaySPEIGHTSCITY (Speightstown - My American Girl, by Quiet American) showed brilliance winning his maiden in a rarely carded 1 1/8 mile contest for two year olds this summer at Saratoga, but performed below par against graded stakes rivals in subsequent starts. He came back with a win against lesser horses at today’s distance in his last race. Speightscity has a speed over stamina pedigree. His sire, a Champion Sprinter, produces mainly sprinter/milers, but his sons, the aforementioned Shackleford and 2009 Count Fleet victor Haynesfield, are two who have been victorious past 1 1/16 miles. Speightscity’s damsire lends endurance. Speightscity’s half-sister won a listed sprint and his dam is multiple stakes placed. Her half sibling produced True North (G-2) winner Anew. The second dam is a G3 stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles. Speightscity fired a bullet in his last breeze.

SHKSPEARE SHALIYAH (Shakespeare - TrickyShkspeareShaliyah PhotoCoglianese Mistress, by Clever Trick) experiments with dirt after a disappointing effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He has strong dirt attributes through his distaff line, but none of his first crop sire’s offspring have been victorious over dirt. Shkspeare Shaliyah has two stakes placed half-sisters, both of whom were successful over dirt and turf. Their dam is a half to stakes placed Barney’s Mistress, the dam of multiple turf stakes winner Deputiformer. The Shivmangal barn is successful with 22% horses going from turf to dirt.


Track bias: Aqueduct has a noted speed bias, especially near the rail. However this week, late pace runners and stalkers won six of the ten races carded at today’s distance.

It’s anyone’s guess if the two confirmed speed horses, II VILLANO and HOW DO I WIN, will engage in a duel from the outset. Since they break from the first two post positions, one would think that they would be the pace setters for the race. Both own victories at Aqueduct, but II VILLANO appears the faster of the two. Unfortunately, his barn is 0 for 4 stretching out while the powerful Pletcher stable is 19% with that angle. The speed up front could set it up for an off the pace runner. SPEIGHTSCITY figures to sit behind the top two and can get first run, with ALPHA in close pursuit. STEPHANOATSEE recorded the fastest late pace figure in his last race. He owns a classy pedigree and the farther the better for him, but his grinding, one paced style may work against him over a speed favoring track. WHISTLEBLOWER and SHKSPEARE SHALIYAH own consistently improving speed figures.




#3 WHISTLEBLOWER – longshot pick