Friday, October 21, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Raven Run Stakes (G2)

Lucy N Ethel Ready to Roll in 2016 Raven Run Stakes

By: Nick Costa, Trackside with Trackman

A dozen three-year old fillies are entered for the 18th running of the Grade 2 Raven Run on Saturday. First run in 1999, the Raven Run Stakes, which has been sponsored by Lexus since 2005, is named after a nature sanctuary about a half-hour drive from Keeneland Race Course, the site where the race is held. It is a Grade 2 sprint for 3-year old fillies at 7-furlongs with a purse value of $250,000 and is run during the third week of October as part of the race course's annual Fall Meet. The race attained G3 status in 2002, then earned its current Grade 2 designation in 2006.

Let's take a peek from the rail out.

PP -  Horse/Jockey/Trainer
1 -Covey Trace/Brian Hernandez/William Denzik Jr.--She won her first stakes last start in the G3 Charlestown Oaks where her heart was on display as she displayed firm determination in winning by a neck. F.Y.I, last year's Raven Run winner (Sarah Sis) also exited the C.T.Oaks.

2 - Ma Can Do It/Channing Hill/Dale Romans --As a maiden back in the springtime, she finished 2nd at 50-1 odds in the G2 Black Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico. She recently broke maiden ranks in her 10th start last time out. Too slow to win this.

3 - Grace's Treasure/Jesus Castonon/Michael Ewing--Following a six-week layoff, this girl finished third in the Dogwood Stakes last race, her only start at this distance. That was a nice tightener and should move forward.

4 - Lucy N Ethel/Corey Lanerie/Tom Amoss--After healing from ankle surgery, this speedy Pennsylvania-bred filly returned last month to win the G2 Prioress. She has never been headed and now puts her unbeaten record on the line while traveling an additional furlong.

5 - Southern Girl/Florent Geroux/Larry Jones--Gray filly exits a stakes win and has won 4 of her first 5 starts, which includes beating older runners. Has a nice mid-pack running style and should give a good account of herself.

6 - Bellamentary/Martin Garcia/Philip D'Amato--The only filly in this field that can boast of a runner-up finish to Songbird, which was accomplished two starts back at Santa Anita. May find herself in the early mix at this distance, which she is 2 for 2 at.

7 - Malibu Stacy/Gabriel Saez/George Weaver--Stakes-placed closer will try to rebound from a nondescript turf outing last month. Scored going 7-furlongs at the Spa, but against weaker.

8 - Curlin's Aprroval/Tyler Gaffalione/Martin Wolfson--She's been spotted against older runners three times and has come away victorious each occasion. The only defeat hung on her was against her own age group. Speed figures are on the rise and she owns the best last race figure (BRIS) in the field. Has been away since August, but has trained swiftly. Should be involved early.

9 - Coniah/Joe Bravo/Kiaran McLaughlin--G3 placed runner brings plenty of speed to the table, but seems overmatched and the 7f distance doesn't appear to suit her.

10 - Sophia's Song/Robby Albarado/Todd Pletcher--Her graded stakes debut in the C.T.Oaks last month saw her employ closing tactics and just miss by a neck. Was on the lead before giving way to T.C.A. winner, Irish Jasper, when the two met at Saratoga in August. In the money in all six starts.

11 - Takrees/Ricardo Santana/Kiaran McLaughlin-- First level allowance winner closed from last place with a fierce rally to finish third behind Lucy n Ethel when stepped up in company in the 10-horse G2 Prioress field last race. Has yet to race beyond 6 1/2 furlongs.

12 - Lightstream/Julien Leparoux/ Brian Lynch--Reeled off three consecutive wins to begin her career before the streak was halted in  the G1 Mother Goose with a third-place finish. Contested the G1 Test Stakes at Saratoga where she was denied very late. A 3-time winner at the distance.

All eyes, of course, will be watching Lucy n Ethel to find out if the young filly can keep her unbeaten record intact. She's certainly proven fast early and fast late, but the question is, can she repeat the latter feat traveling into unchartered territory? There are a few others in here that can motor quickly also, but although no opponent has put her away thus far, and probably won't here either, the added pressure she will face in the early stages may leave her vulnerable in the final furlong. I'll bet against the winning streak continuing.

No one likes to play a favorite, well, she is on the morning line and very well could be at post time, but Lightstream gets my call. She exits the best races (Mother Goose and Test) that any of these runners came out of. She’s proven at this distance, including a win in the G3 Beaumont over the Keeneland surface this past spring, has trained fast for this, and should get a strong pace to run at.

Longshot play:
Southern Girl should receive a nice trip in behind the front flight and get first crack to take over from the tiring speed. Whether she can hold off my top choice remains to be seen, but with a strong late kick of her own, she has to be afforded a solid chance, especially at nice odds. She's displayed consistency, with 4 wins in 5 starts. This is her first try in graded stakes company and there may be more upside to this gal seeing she is lightly-raced. She has shown steady progression in each start that another move forward could get it done here.

About Nick Costa 
Nick became instantly hooked on horseracing when his father first took him to the racetrack when he was 5 years old. As a racing fan, he attended several Kentucky Derby's and Breeders' Cups, while also traveling to several major and minor tracks throughout the United States and Canada. Back in the year 2000, Nick became a licensed owner and is currently still involved with the sport in that honored capacity. In 2010, Nick added another dimension when he began to try his hand at writing about horse racing by previewing and recapping major events for different racing outlets. You can view much of Nick’s writing contributions on his blog, Trackside withTrackman at Horse Racing Nation.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Canadian International (G1)

Idaho, Dartmouth Invade 2016 Canadian International

By: Reinier Macatangay, Lady and the Track

Without a doubt, the $1 million Canadian International (GI), scheduled for Sunday at the 1 1/2-mile distance at Woodbine, has been friendly to invaders. Foreigners own a six-race win streak in this event, with the last American-based winner coming in 2009 (Champs Elysees). Four overseas-based horses are entered this time.

Subsequently, the streak will likely continue this weekend. Out of the four invaders, Idaho and Dartmouth look most probable to keep the European domination going. For one, both of them are using Lasix, which helps.

But, there are other reasons to side with Idaho and Dartmouth.

In Idaho’s case, he has the familiar Aiden O’Brien as his trainer, and Americans know O’Brien is successful at bringing horses to this continent and winning major turf races. When analyzing overseas horses, siding with a trainer with past success is important because the horse needs to acclimate to the new place. The trainer can help.

Idaho’s form is not terrible either. He owns a Group 2 win this year in Great Britain. Idaho also finished runner-up to Harzand more than once, and Harzand rates as one of the top 3-year-old runners in Europe, if not the best.

Furthermore, Idaho’s only “clunker” came in the St. Leger on Sept. 10, but O’Brien can turn form around quickly. Remember when Magician ran a poor race overseas and came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) a few years ago? Whether through Lasix or other methods, Europeans sometimes wake up when they come to North America.

As for Dartmouth, he raced against good company overseas as well. Fans are familiar with the name Highland Reel, who defeated Flintshire in Hong Kong last December. Dartmouth defeated Highland Reel in the Hardwicke Stakes (GII) at Ascot. Add the Lasix, and Dartmouth should be a prime contender in this spot too.

The other two Europeans do not offer as much appeal, although they deserve small consideration.

Erupt is owned by Flaxman Holdings, a group that is familiar to Americans. When he competed against Highland Reel and Dartmouth in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (GI) though, he lost by over four lengths.

In dirt racing, four lengths is not a lot of ground to make up.

When it comes to turf racing, four lengths can signify a thorough beatdown because the flow of grass races encourages a clustered finish (slow and bunched early, fast late).

Protectionist starts from the outside, and he shows a three-race winning streak. The wins were earned in Germany though, and it is hard to trust a German Group I event as equal to a Group I in Great Britain or France.

Before the streak, Protectionist had trouble picking up wins in Australia, a racing circuit which arguably also falls somewhere below the Group I racing standard in Great Britain and France.

Beyond the invaders, the competition appears more questionable.

Danish Dynaformer likes this racetrack, but his sole 2016 win came against the washed up Hardest Core. The Pizza Man defeated him by over three lengths in the local Northern Dancer (GI) too, which is not a good sign either.

World Approval is a pace presence at best. He should fade down the lane.

The Pizza Man needed a 53-second half mile to take down the Northern Dancer. It is unlikely to see the same fractions here, although if the half did go in 53 again, better horses are around to close the gap.

Wake Forest did a decent job closing into the soft Northern Dancer pace, when he started three lengths off the lead and lost by a neck. At least Javier Castellano hops on board. The overall class just remains questionable.

Taghleeb is a Grade II or Grade III type at best.

Bettors only need Idaho and Dartmouth, two opposite locations on the North American map, for horizontal wagers. Hopefully, bettors waste their money on The Pizza Man and ignore the two main European contenders.

One of them will deliver.

$100 Handigambling:

$30 Win - Idaho
$35 Exacta Box - Idaho, Dartmouth

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)

Five Go for the Gold in Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes

 By Robert Marks, They're in the Gate (and on Twitter @theyreinthegate)

On Saturday, October 8th, 2016 NYRA has dubbed Belmont Park Racing Day as "Super Saturday. The day includes multiple Graded Stakes including the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup for 3-year-olds and up. The winner gets an automatic entry into the Breeder's Cup Classic. The field has scratched down to a small 5 horse field.
Here are the participants listed by Post Position, Horse, Age, Odds, Weight, Jockey and Trainer
5 H
Javier Castellano
Todd Pletcher
4 C
Jose Ortiz Jr.
Kiernan McLaughlin
5 H
Johnny Velazquez
Bob Baffert

Joel Rosairo
Kiernan McLaughlin
Mike Smith
Jimmy Jerkens

Here's who we like as far as horses to consider:
Mubtaahij -The 8-5 morning line odds might go off as the favorite so watch the board. He seems ready to pop a big one. He always runs hard and I expect McLaughlin to have him ready. Comes off a 2nd place in the Woodward Stakes at the Spa. The 1 1/4 distance will be no problem for this horse with much distance pedigree.  

Effinex - A Veteran who likes the Belmont Dirt and has run this distance 7 times. Always love hearing the race call of this horse.

Watershed - The other entry for McLaughlin deserves a long look, especially if he stays at 10-1 or higher. With 9 races under his belt, 3 in Graded Stakes races, I think he can stick around for a in the money showing. Biggest weakness will be distance.

Wagering/Betting Handigambling Bankroll: Here is our $82 worth of betting for the race

We feel confident with Mubtaahij and recommend using him in all your exotic bets.

$25 Win/Place: Mubtaahij (2) ($50 total)
EXACTA: $2 Key Exacta (10 Bets for total cost of $20)
2,6  / 2,6,5,1
Trifecta ($1 Box for $12 Total)

As always, watch the Board and if at the track watch how the horses look in the Paddock and adjust your bets accordingly. Good Luck!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Flower Bowl Invitational (G1)

Six Fillies  Vie in 2016 Flower Bowl 

Michael Amo,  Chairman of ThoroFan

The Flower Bowl Invitational (GI) with its small field could be one of the most exciting races on the Saturday Belmont Park card. The French sensation, Sea Calisi, who stormed home in the Beverly D (GI) at Arlington Park has everyone talking about her Breeders’ Cup debut in the Filly and Mare Turf.  
Beverly D. Stakes

Yet as with Flintshire in the Joe Hirsch she doesn’t need to win; a good performance would be an acceptable prep for the Breeders’ Cup. Lady Eli who returned to the races in Saratoga after more than a year off showed in the Ballston Spa that she is ready for the big leagues, again. 

 Ballston Spa Stakes  

Interesting both are trained by Chad Brown. Yet the rest of the field must be respected. Here is the field: 
1.   Ame Bleue (GB) (Dubawi (IRE) makes her USA debut for trainer Abdre Fabre. Distance should not be a problem; however her best running has come while running “right-hand”. She will have to adapt to the left going. Yet, her second in the Darley Prix Jean Romanet (GI) announces she must be considered a serious contender. 

2. Strike Charmer (Smart Strike) was a surprise longshot winner of Ballston Spa Stakes (GII) in Saratoga over Lady Eli and Sentiero Italia. She set the stakes record with that win. Positive jockey move to Castellano will help at this level, but not likely enough to win. 

 3. Itsonlyactingdad (Giant’s Causeway) likes Belmont track when finishing second last year (behind Lady Eli) in a grade one race and this year in an allowance race. Switch to Velazquez for Pletcher may have a message. 

4. Sentiero Italia (Medaglia d’Oro) had solid performances in Saratoga and the 2 for 3 at Belmont suggests a liking for the track. Distance seems to be her weakness. 

5. Lady Eli (Divine Pack) her undefeated record through July 2015 separated her from the rest. After recuperating she turned in a super performance in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga losing by ¾ of a length to long shot Strike Charmer. Brown was likely testing her and she passed. 

 6. Sea Calisi (Fr) (Youmzain-IRE) this group one experienced filly has shown her prowess in three starts on Lasix in USA. Her last win in the Beverly D as the heavy favorite among fourteen others earned her an automatic spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Winning here doesn’t offer more. Just needs one good outing in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup in four weeks. 

This is a solid field of fillies and mares looking for another Black-type win and a $300,000 prize. This is sufficient motivation for all. However, the real prize is the $1,200,000 prize for winning the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. For all except Sea Calisi(Fr) a win gets them into that Breeders’ Cup race. Therefore, leaning to others to win is reasonable. With little speed form in the race, deep closers like Ame Bleue (GB), Itsonlyactingdad and Sea Calisi will be at a slight disadvantage. The tactical running style of Strike Charmer, Sentiero Italia and Lady Eli should set them up for an exciting finish. With Strike Charmer out-classed and Sentiero Italia distance-challenge this puts Lady Eli in the best position to win. 

 1. Lady Eli (#5)
 2. Sea Calisi (Fr) (#6) 
 3. Ame Bleue (GB) (#1) 
4. Strike Charmer (#2) 

$10 Exacta Box (1,5,6) ---$60 $20
Exacta Key (5/1,6) ---$40

Good luck, but keep the day job.

Handicapper's Corner: Juddmonte Spinter Stakes (G1)

Chatting about the 2016 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes

By: Nicolle Neulist, Blinkers Off

Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (GI), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, post time 5:45pm EDT

This year marks the 61st running of the Spinster Stakes, a nine-furlong, weight-for-age test of filly and mare routers.  It has always been run on the main track: dirt, except for 2006-2013 when it was run on polytrack.  The race has been a rich source of filly and mare champions; twenty horses in the history of this race have won it on their way to a championship. Before the Breeders' Cup era, such stars included Doubledogdare (1956), Bowl of Flowers (1961), and Gallant Bloom (1969).  

During the Breeders' Cup era, the Spinster has produced four horses who went on to win the Distaff in the same year: Princess Rooney (1994), Sacahuista (1987), Bayakoa (1989, 1990), and Inside Information (1995).  Two horses have won the Spinster and the Distaff in different years: Paseana (1993 Spinster, 1992 Distaff) and Azeri (2004 Spinster, 2002 Distaff).

This year's Spinster, again sponsored by Juddmonte, offers a $500,000 purse as well as a Win And You're In berth to the Breeders' Cup Distaff for the winner.  The race drew a field of just five.  I’m a Chatterbox and Paid Up Subscriber formed the exacta of the GI Delaware Handicap earlier this year, and Engaginglee also achieved a grade I placing in the La Troienne earlier this year at Churchill Downs.  Miss Pink Diva and Genre, both trying Grade I company for the first time, complete the field.

Unfortunately, this year's edition of the Spinster is not the best betting race.  The race drew a field of five horses...and though I’m a Chatterbox will likely go off the heavy favourite, she deserves it, and she has proven everything she needs to prove in order to be the goods here.  A five-horse field can be a bit unpredictable.  Speed can be good, and I’m a Chatterbox has it, but so do Genre and Miss Pink Diva.  It makes sense to look for a horse who has speed, but also ratability.  I’m a Chatterbox is not only the fastest horse in the field, but also has that running style.  She also has form at a mile and an eighth, and two exacta finishes in three tries at Keeneland.  Her only off-the-board finish in Lexington came in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (GI) last year; this field is nowhere near that level.  Her three bullets since the Personal Ensign suggests she is coming into this in good form, too.  In short -- opposing I’m a Chatterbox here just seems cute for cute's sake.  In multi-race bets, single her and move on.

Underneath, Genre and Paid Up Subscriber have the most appeal.  Genre already has a "second to I’m a Chatterbox" medal from the Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park earlier this year.  The Obeah was the same mile and an eighth distance as the Spinster.  Since then, she has started three times.  Though Genre has been facing a bit softer company than this, she has made good account of herself.  She won the Molly Pitcher (GIII) in the slop two back, and proved her stamina in winning the ten-furlong Lady Jacqueline last out.  Genre has been highly consistent in her career, finishing in the exacta in nine of her eleven starts.  And, her running style fits nicely, as she has speed, gameness, and a stalking gear.

Among the late runners, Paid Up Subscriber appeals a bit more than Engaginglee.  Paid Up Subscriber can sit up a bit closer to the pace, an advantage here.  Though Engaginglee did win in a short field last out, that came in the mud.  Engaginglee is a slop monster, and may not be quite as effective against these better horses on a dry track.  Whereas, Paid Up Subscriber drops here from a much tougher Grade I last out, and has shown herself to be adaptable enough to be effective in a short field.  Turning the tables on I’m a Chatterbox would be too much to ask, but given her class and speed, it would be a surprise to see Paid Up Subscriber miss the board.

#3 I’m a Chatterbox
#5 Genre
#2 Paid Up Subscriber