Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sam F. Davis Stakes – Handicapping the Race


Tampa Bay Starting Gate During the past 30 editions of the Sam F. Davis Stakes, several horses who have won or placed in the race have continued on to do well either on the Triple Crown trail or in the top mid-summer races. Blue Grass Cat later finished second in both the 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. A year later, Any Given Saturday won the Haskell Invitational (G-1), and the following year, Musket Man was third in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. In 2031, this prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby was removed as a Kentucky Derby Points Qualifier and we’ve seen a loss in quality in the last two fields.

That hasn’t stopped twelve hopefuls from entering this year’s 1 1/16 mile Grade Three event. The field consists of the usual last out maiden winners, optional claimers looking for blacktype and some listed stakes runners. Nine of the twelve colts won or placed in their last start.

The Favorites

AMI'S FLATTER (Flatter - Galloping Ami, by Victory Gallop) made up ground in the one mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream last time out, finishing second by 1 ¾ lengths to the speedy Bluegrass Singer. That one came back to finish third recently in the Holy Bull Stakes (G-2). Ami’s Flatter should excel with distance. He’s a half brother to ARAGORN AMI, who won the Martha Washington Stakes. Ami’s Flatter’s dam is an unraced full sister to stakes winner VICTORIOUS AMI, dam of multiple stakes winner AMI’S HOLIDAY, a winner from 1 1/16 miles to 1 ½ miles. Ami’s Flatter came back to work a post-race bullet and should be ready to take a step forward.


CATALINA RED (Munnings - Lovely Dream, by Freud) has speed on the rail. He showed his love for the Tampa circuit winning both of his starts at the track. The son of Munnings won his maiden while setting a stakes record of 1:09.32 for six furlongs in the Inaugural Stakes, winning by 7 ¼ lengths. Next out, Catalina Red sat slightly off of the pace in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes before beating eventual Hutcheson Stakes runner-up X Y Jet in a track record time of 1:21.40. Catalina Red’s pedigree is speed oriented. His sire’s progeny haven’t won beyond a mile seventy yards. Damsire Freud, a full brother to Giant’s Causeway, offers some stamina, but Catalina Red’s distaff line is primarily sprinter/miler oriented. He’s a half brother to Whisky Bravo, a stakes placed turf sprinter and Catalina Red’s first five dams all own minor blacktype. The Chad Stewart barn is 0-7 in graded stakes.


OCEAN KNIGHT (Curlin - Ocean Goddess, by Stormy Atlantic) Ocean Knight made short work of a herd of maidens running six furlongs at Aqueduct last month in a sharp 1:11.94, while being geared down. Ocean Knight’s sire two-time Horse of the Year Curlin is making his mark as one of the best studs in America. Ocean Knight’s dam is a half sister to the stakes winning sprinter LIBBY'S HALO  and stakes placed Mister Alimony. Conditioned by Kiaran McLaughlin, Ocean Knight had a strong four furlong breeze at Palm Meadows in his last work.


MY JOHNNY BE GOOD (Colonel John - Im So Fine, by Elusive Quality) flashed his love for Tampa in a big way with a 14 length win over optional claimers in a swift 1:09.33 for six furlongs. He’s Crittenden’s stablemate and appears to be better placed here. There’s little blacktype in My Johnny Be Good’s first two generations, but he has hails from the same family as Grade 1 winning sprinter THE LUMBER GUY. The colt worked a pre-race bullet and should improve in his second start off of a layoff.


ROYAL SON (Tiznow - Mama Nadine, by A.P. Indy) won his maiden last out upon disqualification of the winner. The Todd Pletcher trainee has the pedigree of a late-bloomer and should love Classic distances. Royal Son’s dam MAMA NADINE won a stakes race at one mile seventy yards. Royal Son’s second dam COUNTESS DIANA was a Champion Two Year Old Filly. In five of the last nine years, Todd Pletcher has won the Sam Davis Stakes, including last year with VINCEREMOS.

Long Shots Worth a Look

DIVINING ROD (Tapit - Precious Kitten, by Catienus) won his debut in an off the turf mile contest at Laurel. Next time out against Crittenden, Divining Rod was stuck on the inside and wasn’t able to get a clear run until late. His dam is a multiple Grade 1 winner on the lawn and a full sister to Champion Turf Horse and sire KITTEN’S JOY. A half sister to Precious Kitten bore Champion Two Year Old Filly DREAMING OF ANNA, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G-1) over dirt and the Summer Stakes (G-3) over turf. By the hot sire Tapit, Divining Rod could develop into a versatile, top-class runner.


COOMER (Midshipman - Dixie Satin, by Dynaformer) picked a tough place to make his first start of the year. He won impressively against $50,000 claimers last November at Churchill going 1 1/16 miles. He has a speed over stamina pedigree and there’s some minor blacktype in the second generation of his distaff line. Coomer breezed a pre-race five furlong bullet. I always respect entries from the Maker barn and Leparoux stays on the colt. Could be something here.


CRITTENDEN (Distorted Humor - Calla Lily, by Pulpit) won his last two races at Tampa, including a 2 ¼ length score over Divining Rod last time out. What’s not to like? The Eoin Harty conditioned colt was trounced 17 lengths in his only dirt start. This colt’s future appears to be on the turf, but naturally, when one has an aspiring three year old at this time of year, it never hurts to take a shot in a Derby prep. He’s a half brother to the G-2 stakes placed turf runner Side Road. Crittenden’s dam is multiple stakes placed over the lawn and was unplaced in three starts on dirt. She’s a half sister to Arlington Million (G-1) hero HARDEST CORE. Yes, Crittenden worked a second to last bullet on the dirt, however, a controlled work on dirt cannot emulate race conditions.


BANDAGES (Any Given Saturday - Beauty Is, by Personal Flag) is Catalina Red’s less accomplished stablemate. He won his maiden at Tampa and has two five furlong works under his girth. Four of his six half siblings own blacktype, including the multiple stakes veterans WAYZATA BAY and YOURNOTTHEBOSSOFME. Bandages should enjoy the distance, but his late pace speed figures are poor.


BROTHER BOBO (Kantharos - Private Prom Party, by Private Terms) was a distant sixth when stretching out to a mile against stakes company in the Mucho Macho Man. Freshman sire Kantharos is getting offspring who are showing distance limitations past a mile. Brother Bobo is a half brother to the talented stakes winning sprinter RIBO BOBO and stakes placed sprinter Private Money Game. The trainer/jockey combo of Servis and Saez are 0-10.


G FIVE (Flashy Bull - Fly Don't Drive, by Harlan's Holiday) can’t beat optional claimers at Gulfstream or Gulfstream West. Despite this race being at Tampa, there’s a solid field in the Sam Davis and G Five is outclassed on paper. G Five’s dam is a half to a multiple Grade 3 sprinter and another half sister bore Del Mar Oaks heroine SUMMER SOIREE. G Five hasn’t shown much speed and this seems to be an odd place for the Pletcher trainee.


BEARS PERSONALITY (Awesome Again - Yearly Attitude, by Event of the Year) will be tackling dirt for the first time in his five race career. He needed time to get his act together at Woodbine, but he won his last two starts. There is one blacktype earner in his first three distaff generations. Bears Personality has average to good works at Palm Meadows, but his late pace speed figures are poor. He likes to be up near the pace and will be forced to go wide from his outside post.


Only two of the last ten winners of the Sam Davis Stakes won over the track last time out. Front runners and pace pressers have had the most success in the race. The rail is winning at 17% this meet.




#5 DIVINING ROD – longshot play

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Kentucky Derby Trail – Sham Stakes

KENTUCKY DERBY TRAIL The Sham Stakes (G-3) was named in honor of the 1973 underdog who chased Secretariat through the Triple Crown and ultimately had his heart broken in the Belmont Stakes. The well-bred colt finished second to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby, despite bashing his head against the starting gate so hard he lost two teeth. Sham’s time under the wire was a sub 2:00 and faster than Monarchos' winning time in 2001. In any other year, Sham would have been a Triple Crown winner. Sham was a superstar in his own right, equaling the track record for 1 1/8 miles in the Santa Anita Derby.

Winners of the two-turn mile event haven’t had much impact on the Kentucky Derby. Since the Grade Three race was first contested in 2001, only two colts have hit the board in both races; Empire Maker finished second in both races and in 2005, Giacomo was third in the Sham before a successful trip in the Derby.

A field of eight colts will contest this year’s edition of the one mile Sham Stakes, the first step onto the 2015 Kentucky Derby Trail for California hopefuls. Derby points will be awarded and the contest is carded as the sixth race.

The kings of California racing, Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer, are noticeably absent. Instead, Peter Miller, the Wesley Ward of California, sends out three prospects, including the likely favorite, Calculator.


The Favorite:

CALCULATOR (In Summation - Back to Basics, by Alphabet Soup) has been a model of consistency and class while chasing American Pharoah in the Del Mar Futurity and Frontrunner Stakes, both G-1 events. Calculator’s unraced dam is a half to the stakes veteran turf sprinter ATTICUS KRISTY, his full sister stakes winner FIERY DANCER and to Lexington Stakes hero DISTORTED REALITY. This is the distaff family of Preakness champ SHACKLEFORD and his Grade 1 winning sister LADY JOANNE. Calculator was scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to a foot injury. However, he’s back in action and worked a pre-race bullet. Despite being a maiden, Calculator is the most accomplished colt in the field.


Surface Switch:

Two colts will try to add their names to the Derby Trail, but first, they must pass the basic test of wanting to run over dirt.

Only two other colts in the race own blacktype placings, both stablemates of Calculator. Neither colt earned their stakes earnings over dirt.

ROCK SHANDY (Lemon Drop Kid - Panthera, by Storm Cat) has made all three starts over the lawn, yet his pedigree is diversified to handle just about any surface. He’s a half to the stakes winning turf mare ANEGADA (by Arch). Rock Shandy dam is a half sister to Hollywood Derby hero and sire BRAHMS, and stakes winner OLYMPIC. Panthera is also a half sister to the hardy, popular La Reina, who won the Tempted Stakes (G-3) at a mile over dirt and was nosed out for the win by eventual Champion Ashado in the 1 1/8 mile Demoiselle as a two year old. Rock Shandy hails from one of the classiest female families around. His second dam QUEENA was 1991 Champion Older Mare. Her half sister TOO CHIC was also a Grade 1 winner. She and her daughters have produced G-1 winner CHIC SHRINE, multiple graded stakes veterans AL KHALI, SERRA LAKE, SOARING EMPIRE, HUNGRY ISLAND, EL PADRINO, SOMALI LEMONADE, and RASTA FARIAN. Rock Shandy fourth dam Remedia is a blue hen.


PAPACOOLPAPACOOL (Temple City - Sainttwok, by Saint Ballado) was part of the blanket finish in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf, finishing third, a bare neck behind the winner. Papacoolpapacool is a half to juvenile stakes placed Dehaven. The gelding’s first crop sire Temple City gets winners over all surfaces and most of Papacoolpapacool’s half siblings are winners over dirt and or mud. There’s some minor blacktype in the third generation of Papacoolpapacool’s pedigree, but overall, this is a modest breeding.


Surface Switch Part Duex:

ST. JOE BAY (Saint Anddan - Dream Ride, by Honor Glide) outclassed maiden claimers by ten lengths over the Santa Anita dirt before switching to Del Mar’s Polytrack to finish third in the Bob Hope Stakes (G-3). He next finished fourth in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G-3) over the lawn, beaten only two lengths for the whole enchilada and nosed out for third by his stablemate Rock Shandy. St. Joe Bay’s dam is a half sister to the multiple stakes winner sprinter OUTFLANKER. Other than that, there’s no blacktype in the immediate distaff line. St. Joe Bay’s third dam is three-time Champion mare SUSAN’S GIRL. St. Joe Bay has Rasmussen Factor inbreeding (inbred to a blue hen within the first five generations) to WEEKEND SURPRISE through her sons A.P. INDY, the sire of SAINT ANDDAN and A.P. Indy’s half brother HONOR GRADES, sire of HONOR GLIDE. So why is this important to the handicapper? Rasmussen Factor occurs in roughly 4% of the racing population, yet 11% of the stakes winners are inbred to blue hens. Approximately 10% of Grade 1 winners carry this type of inbreeding.


PIONEEROF THE WEST (Pioneerof the Nile - Del Mar Cat, by Forestry) was second over the dirt before winning his maiden on Polytrack. Next out, he bombed in the Eddie Logan on the lawn and he’s turning around in 15 days. The colt is modestly bred with no blacktype winners in his first two generations. Corey Nakatani has had the most success with this colt and will be back on board.


Trying to Step Up:

The remainder of the Sham Stakes is filled with last out maiden winners or colts who were unplaced in other stake races. Six of the last ten Sham Stakes heroes were last out maiden or allowance winners.

ROCKINATTEN (High Cotton - Suite Ten, by Rock Hard Ten) added blinkers and stretched out for his maiden win at Calder…uh, Gulfstream Park West, in his last start. After bolting to an 8 ¾ length victory, the colt was sold and relocated to the barn of Doug O’Neil. There’s no blacktype in his immediate distaff family, however, Rockinatten’s second dam is a half sister to the veteran handicap horse STUDENT COUNCIL.


UNBLUNTED (Sharp Humor - Bright Orange, by Bright Launch) won his maiden at Santa Anita but in his first try against winners over Tapeta in the Gold Rush Stakes, the colt was wide and finished fifth. Like many others in here Unblunted is non-descript. His dam is a half to a minor stakes winner, but overall, Unblunted has a modest distaff line.


HERO TEN ALL (Rock Hard Ten - Silky Smooth, by Mr. Greeley) won his maiden at second asking when stretching out to a mile at Los Al. His dam is a multiple stakes winning turf sprinter/miler and she’s a half sister to Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes hero SHANIKO, who set a new track record for 1 1/8 miles in that Grade 2 event. Hero Ten All’s second dam is a stakes winning half sister to the dam of Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine SHARED ACCOUNT.


Since the inception of the Sham Stakes, all winners have finished fourth or better in their prep race. Nine of the last ten winners won their last start.

There is a very strong speed bias at Santa Anita this meet. 67% of the pace setters have won. No mid-pack runners or closers have been successful. The horse to beat is Calculator.

CALCULATOR is the horse to beat – he has the class, running style and is facing a much softer field. Today could be the day that he finally steps foot in the winner’s circle. ROCKINATTEN is the second favorite, but I’m wary of this guy. His final time in Florida was average and the field of $42K maidens was very suspect. Additionally, O’Neil only wins 6% first time out with his barn. St. Joe Bay breaks from post #1 and should be right there in the mix. HERO TEN ALL has the wrong running style, but he’ll be picking them up late and can ruin somebody’s trifecta. Throw out that last by Pioneerof the West and his speed figures aren’t all that bad. ST. JOE BAY breaks from post #1 and has the running style to be dangerous. If PAPACOOLPAPACOOL handles the dirt, he could surprise them all!


#8 HERO TEN ALL (4-1)


#2 Pioneerof the West – longshot pick (12-1)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

El Kabeir vs. the Rest in Jerome Stakes

KENTUCKY DERBY TRAIL The Jerome Stakes kicks off is the first New York prep race for colts aiming to enter the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby. The Withers, Gotham and Wood Memorial make up the quadrumvirate.

Eight colts will take on the morning line favorite, El Kabeir, who was last seen winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Read his pedigree profile.

Greatest Challenge:

The only colt in the field with blacktype is Nasa (Smarty Jones - Shootforthestars, by Seattle Slew). The bay colt galloped to a 2 ½ length victory in the restricted Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes, a race his sire won. Like the popular 2004 Kentucky Derby champ, Nasa races for the same connections as his sire. Nasa has a quality pedigree. He’s a full brother to the G-1 winning sprinter CENTRALINTELIGENCE; a ¾ brother to My Elusive Star and a half to General Consensus and Golden Rainbow, all stakes placed. Nasa’s unraced dam is a half sister to Super Derby (G-2) champ FANTASTICAT. Their dam LOTTA DANCING (by Alydar) is a graded stakes winner and third dam LOTKA (by Danzig) was a multiple graded stakes winner from a mile to 1 ½ miles. Like El Kabeir, Nasa has won each of his victories on the lead.


Allowance Winners:

Three Jerome Stake’s entrants won at the allowance level last time out.

Mini Cosmo (Unbridled Energy - Eyedontblink, by El Corredor) won his debut, but was nosed out for third by Nasa in his next start. Mini Cosmo came back to beat allowance foes at PARX by 1 ½ lengths. Mini Cosmo has no blacktype earners in his first three generations.


Now We Are Free (First Samurai - Ice Cool Kitty, by Tomorrows Cat) enters with a two-race win streak under his girth. After besting maiden claimers by 1 ½ lengths at 1 1/16 miles, the Michelle Nevin trainee beat allowance foes by a head. Now We Are Free’s dam is a multiple stakes winner from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. There isn’t much blacktype in his family, however, the colt is inbred to the good mare Sand Buggy through full brothers DIXIELAND BAND, First Samurai’s damsire and NORTHROP, Now We Are Free’s third damsire.


Ackeret (Mach Ride - Lady Zieg, by Touch Gold) sandwiched a loss in a listed stakes between his maiden and allowance victories. All three starts were at six furlongs. Ackeret’s dam is a half sister to the turf stakes veteran CLASSIC CAMPAIGN and Ackeret’s second dam is a G-3 stakes veteran over the lawn. Ackert’s owners won the 2013 Jerome with VYJACK.


Getting another chance:

Todd Pletcher sends out two charges who disappointed in the Remsen Stakes, where they finished last and second to last.

Ostrolenka (Musket Man - Pumpkin's Pride, by Louis Quatorze) raced four and five wide in the Remsen and gave up by the half, fading to 32 lengths behind Leave the Light On. He owns victories at the state-bred level. Ostrolenka is a half brother to multiple stakes placed miler Great Gracie Dane (by Royal Academy). We have to go back a few generations to find the class in his distaff line. Third dam is Champion Filly and blue hen QUEEN EMPRESS. She’s the fifth dam of Champion Older Mare JEWEL PRINCESS.

Royal Burgh (Street Sense - Amazed by Grace, by Bowman's Band) for another try for a graded stakes win. After winning his maiden by a neck, Royal Burgh bobbled at the start of the Remsen and was never in the game, finishing 28 lengths behind Leave the Light On. There’s little blacktype in Royal Burgh’s female family, although his dam is a stakes winning sprinter and placed in a grade three race.


Bringing up the field:

General Bellamy (Bellamy Road - Sweet Again, by Awesome Again) found the third time is the charm, winning his maiden by 3 ½ lengths going a mile at Aqueduct. The colt’s dam is an unraced daughter of Alabama Stakes (G-1) winner SWEET SYMPHONY. Bill Mott trained the G-1 winner and also trains her grandson.

Tencendur (Warrior's Reward - Still Secret, by Hennessy) is still a maiden. The son of the top ten Freshman Sire is a half brother to the multiple restricted stakes winner MOTHER RUSSIA.


There are no world beaters here and it looks like a good opportunity for El Kabeir to pick up an easy check and more points towards the Kentucky Derby. However, there’s a lot of speed in here. Nasa, Ostrolenka, Now We Are Free and possibly Mini Cosmo could all vie for the lead.

Nasa may give the graded stakes winner his toughest challenge. Roya Burgh could rebound and Ackeret could get a nice stalking trip.