Saturday, February 4, 2012

Graded Stakes All Around The Town

Today the quest for a starting berth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby continues with graded stakes races around the country. At Aqueduct, Count Fleet hero Alpha is the even-money favorite to secure the Withers (G-3), which is the next step in New York’s series of Triple Crown prep races. In sunny Florida, eleven colts will vie at Tampa in the Sam F. Davis (G-3). You can read the analysis of the Sam F. Davis here. On the other side of the country, CashCall Futurity victor Liaison renews his rivalry with Rousing Sermon and faces six other colts in California’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G-2).


Alpha Photo coglineseCount Fleet Stakes hero ALPHA (Bernardini—Munnaya, by Nijinsky) returns in the Withers Stakes on Saturday. He faces previously conquered foes and allowance class runners hoping to earn an elusive spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The son of Bernardini has the class and pedigree to tower over his opponents, but there are some newcomers who can give him a challenge.

The light went on for TIGER WALK (Tale of thetigerwalkPhotoSagamorefarm Cat - Majestic Trail, by Kris S.) in his last two starts, beating lesser rivals at Laurel by a combined 6 ¼ lengths. His works have picked up and now he’s ready for a class test. Tiger Walk should improve with distance. His unraced is a half-sister to Norfolk Stakes hero Supremo and to a German stakes winner. His third dam is top mare Andover Way, dam of the international stallion Dynaformer and she is a grand dam of the G1 winner Offlee Wild. Tiger Walk’s fourth and fifth dams are blue hens.

A colt with that is starting to put it all together is HAKAMA (First Samurai - Check, by Unbridled). Like Tiger Walk, Hakama won his maiden and came back to score over a group of allowance runners. Offspring of First Samurai are miler types, but Hakama receives some stamina attributes from his damsire, Kentucky Derby hero Unbridled. The Claiborne bred colt has a quality distaff family. His unraced dam is a half-sister to four stakes winners, three of whom are Grade 3 winners. Two other half siblings are Grade 3 stakes placed. Hakama will attempt to take them wire to wire.

swag-daddy PhotoCoglianeseOne of the only sons of Scat Daddy to take to the dirt, SWAG DADDY (Scat Daddy - Mrs. Filio, by Eastern Echo) has won three of his last four starts in state-bred company. Swag Daddy has a miler-type pedigree. He should handle two turns but could be suspect at 1 1/8 miles or farther. He’s a half-brother to two stakes placed runners. Swag Daddy’s second dam is a stakes winner and his third dam Mrs. Warren is a multiple Grade 1 winner, so there’s some back class in his pedigree. Swag Daddy has a versatile running style and experience over the Aqueduct track.

Florida invader KING KID (Lemon Drop Kid - Very Very, by Royal Academy) was third behind Reveron in the Gulfstream Park Derby in only his second start. Reveron is entered in today’s Sam F. Davis Stakes (G-3) at Tampa. This is a colt with a slow maturing pedigree who should love distance. King Kid has strong turf attributes, so if he underperforms here, he may head to the turf. King Kid’s dam won her maiden going 1 1/16 miles over the dirt, but eventually found her niche as a turf miler. An allowance class mare, she won a listed stakes near the end of her five year career. King Kid is a young, developing colt, but he is up against more experienced rivals.

HOW DO I WIN (Corinthian - Silver Crown, by Distorted Humor) received a 6 ¼ length drubbing from Alpha in the Count Fleet Stakes and comes back for more in the Withers. 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. How Do I Win does his best running on or near the lead, but his distance capabilities are currently suspect.

SPEIGHTSCITY (Speightstown - My AmericanSpeightscity photo Cindy Dulay Girl, by Quiet American) was ten lengths behind Alpha in the Count Fleet Stakes. So far, the son of Speightstown appears to be in the allowance/optional claiming class, as all of his stakes tries have resulted in off the board finishes. 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 has been working well, but unless something untoward happens, he’ll be no match for Alpha.


Track bias: Aqueduct’s inner track is known for its speed favoring surface. 62% of the races this meet have been won on the lead with 50% of the runners wiring the field.

It’s hard to pick against ALPHA. He has gate issues and still appears to be a bit immature, but he’s clearly talented. He faces a couple of newcomers that could turn the tables, notably TIGER WALK and HAKAMA. SWAG DADDY could be classy enough to jump up for a piece of the pie. I’m not convinced that KING KID is ready for this type of competition yet. HOW DO I WIN and SPEIGHTSCITY weren’t in ALPHA’s zip code in the Count Fleet.




#3 SWAG DADDY – longshot pick



The majority of the field in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G-2) faced each other in the CashCall Futurity in December. LIAISON came out on top by a neck in the 1 1/16 mile foray while ROUSING SERMON was a swiftly closing second. Liaison and Rousing Sermon will be meeting for the third time in their careers. So far, Liaison has narrowly beaten his rival in both contests. Fast forward two months to Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis, where Liaison and Rousing Sermon will face six other rivals. While both colts will likely go to the post at low odds, this is by no means a match race.

One colt worth a hard look is Liaison’s stablemateSKYKINGDOM SKY KINGDOM (Empire Maker - Sky Beam, by Kingmambo). The Bob Baffert trainee has a classy pedigree screaming for distance. Sky Kingdom’s dam is a half-sister to stakes winner Mambo In Seattle. His third dam is the blue hen Weekend Surprise, who is the dam of A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, and three other stakes winners. Additionally, she’s also the grand-dam of the top grass horse Court Vision. Sky Kingdom was fourth in the CashCall, but clearly relished the switch to dirt when he came back to beat allowance class foes here last month. Sky Kingdom fired a bullet five furlongs in his latest work.

Empire WayAnother colt who should enjoy the surface switch is EMPIRE WAY (Empire Maker - Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy). This full brother to Breeders’ Cup Distaff heroine Royal Delta was tossed into the Prevue Stakes barely a week after winning his maiden. Empire Way come back in the CashCall and finished the race with good energy, only 2 ¾ lengths behind the leaders, despite a six wide trip around the final turn. Like Sky Kingdom, Empire Way will improve with maturity and distance.

Last out maiden winner GROOVIN' SOLO (Bob and John - Squall Linda, by Summer Squall) seeks a rematch in the RB Lewis Stakes. The half-brother to Norfolk Stakes (G1) winner Street Hero and Hollywood Futurity champ Premier Pegasus was pulled up in the CashCall after the reins broke. Trainer Myung Kwon Cho puts the blinkers back on Groovin’ Solo because he feels the colt is too distracted by the horses around him. The trainer is successful with adding blinkers 40% of the time. Groovin Solo has been working best of the rest at Santa Anita, as he’s posted two bullet works within the last month.

A possible longshot worth some consideration isISNT-HE-CLEVER the Arizona invader ISN'T HE CLEVER (Smarty Jones - Sharp Minister, by Deputy Minister). The gelding has won three of his four lifetime starts and has improving speed figures. By Kentucky Derby hero Smarty Jones, Isn’t He Clever has a deceptively nice pedigree. He’s a half-brother to the English Group 3 miler Dijeerr and multiple stakes winner Sharp Writer. Isn’t He Clever’s dam was unplaced in two starts, but she’s a full sister to the multiple graded stakes turf router Flag Down and a half-sister is stakes placed. Isn’t He Clever will attempt to stretch his speed in the RB Lewis. His pedigree indicates that he should handle the distance.

ILLHAVEANOTHER2After a disastrous run in the Hopeful Stakes (G-1) over a sloppy track, I'LL HAVE ANOTHER (Flower Alley - Arch's Gal Edith, by Arch) returns to sunny California, gets a second chance over dirt and adds some distance. He’s an unusually precocious son of Flower Alley and has a pedigree that screams two turns. I’ll Have Another’s dam won her one and only start at six furlongs over the dirt and his two half siblings won their maidens within two starts, so I’ll Have Another’s win-early nature is typical for his immediate distaff family. His first few distaff generations are light on black type, but G1 winning sprinter Into Mischief is part of the family. Trained by Doug O’Neil, I’ll have Another has been training well at Hollywood, but he hasn’t raced in five months.

CHIPS ALL IN (North Light (IRE) - Maria'sChipsAllIn Mirage, by Maria's Mon) is the only son of North Light to win over the dirt. The winner of the Eddie Logan Stakes over the turf in his last start, Chips All In takes a class hike to see if he belongs on the Triple Crown Trail. While his dam was a stakes winning sprinter, Chips All In’s damsire Maria’s Mon sired two Kentucky Derby heroes and the progeny of North Light are mostly long winded runners like their sire.


Track Bias: 80% of the races this meet have been won by horses on or pressing the pace. One run closers take 14% of the races.

It’s hard to pick against LIAISON, who is on a three race win streak and his nemesis ROUSING SERMON, who was breathing hard down Liaison’s neck in their last meeting. The two sons of Empire Maker, SKY KINGDOM and EMPIRE WAY, could have a say in the race outcome, but their best races are ahead of them and they should be more effective at 1 1/8 miles and farther. They’re worth adding to exotics. ISN’T HE CLEVER is an intriguing newcomer and should handle the added distance. His trainer wins with 30% shippers, so we know he’s not here just to admire the scenery. GROOVIN SOLO deserves another shot at the big time. His pedigree isn’t as precocious as his half-brothers, but hopefully he shares their talent. CHIPS ALL IN is a head away from being undefeated. He has the right running style and if he hits the front, he may forget to stop.




#3 GROOVIN SOLO – longshot pick