Friday, February 26, 2016

Handicapper's Corner - Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)

 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) looks Chalky

 By: Jeffrey Cobb, a/k/a Chalk Eating Weasel

Hello again Thorofans. My race for this week is the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth stakes from Gulfstream Park. The weather should be perfect Saturday, so the track should be fast for this 1 1/16 mile contest.

Speaking of fast, the track last Saturday was extremely speed biased.  If you weren't on or very near the lead you had no chance. If the track is the same this Saturday you can forget about the old pace makes the race saw.

The extreme speed bias will make the race extremely difficult for the speed challenged Fellowship who will break from post 1.  His last effort was the Holy Bull which was won by Mohaymen.  Fellowship managed a reasonable 3rd place finish 6 lengths behind the winner without ever being a real threat to win. So, what has changed for Fellowship in the last 28 days. Well, for one thing, he gets a new rider Jose Lezcano.  However, I don't think that will make much of a difference here. Besides Jose Caraballo in on another Stanley Gold entry, Awesome Banner.  I am guessing that Caraballo probably had a choice and moved to the undefeated and speedy Awesome Banner. I see no reason for Fellowship to show much more on Saturday.

From post position we have a new comer to stakes action in Zulu.  Trained by Todd Pletcher for Stonestreet stables and ridden by John Velazquez.  Zulu won an Optional Claiming 75k race last out and has been working up a storm. In addition, he has shown some early speed.  On the down side, Zulu has yet to run past 7 furlongs, but his late Brisnet pace figure suggests he had plenty left in the tank to go longer. You have to respect anything Pletcher enters in a big race Gulfstream race, and as a 900k purchase, I am sure there are high expectations for Zulu, and the connections are hopeful he can step up to the next level.

Post position 3 is occupied by Golden Ray trained by Juan Rodriguez and ridden by Miguel Vazquez. Golden Ray was beaten by 18, 3.5, and 24 lengths in his last three races. He does not fit here.

Awesome Speed draws PP 4 for Alan Goldberg. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will replace the injured Joel Rosario in the saddle.  Awesome Speed has shown some pretty good if not awesome speed (see what I did there?) in the early going which will be required for contention on Saturday. His last outing was the 100k Mucho Macho Man stakes which he won by 1 ¼ lengths and showing good staying power in the latter part of the race.

The aforementioned Jose Caraballo will go with Awesome Banner (Awesome Again seems to be well represented in this race).  This Stanley Gold's and Jacks or Better Farms 2nd entry in this race. Awesome Banner is a 2 times graded stakes winner already in his 3 race career inning the Hutcheson (G3) and Swale (G2) stakes both with ease. His early speed makes him a contender, but he has yet to go beyond 7 furlongs. I'm not sure if he can get the distance, but this is the next logical step for him.

This finally brings me to the probable favorite Mohaymen, a winner of three grade 2 races including the Holy Bull 28 days ago at Gulfstream. Mohaymen is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and Junior Alvarado will once again make the trip in to ride the Shadwell Stables colt. Mohaymen seems to have it all with good tactical early speed and the stamina for that late kick.  The Holy Bull was run almost like a turf race with a very slow first half mile in :49 flat. The pace in this race figures to be much quicker.

When I try to imagine this race in my head I see Fellowship dawdling in back early and hopelessly left behind on a speed biased track. I see Golden Ray desperately trying to stay with the remainders before finally being out run and out classed by all including Fellowship. 

But this is where it gets tougher. Zulu has room for improvement and I think he will like the distance. He will be battling it out with the Awesome's on the lead who will probably go 3 across into the first turn. I expect Mohaymen will drop in right behind those three and stalk them around the track. Unlike Zulu, I don't think Awesome Banner will appreciate the distance as much as the others and will, at some point fall back leaving it up to Awesome Speed and Zulu to hold off a surging Mohaymen down the stretch.

I hate to be a complete Chalk Eating Weasel, but I think Mohaymen will overcome the others and cross the finish line first.  Since Mohaymen will likely not get even money, I suggest $50.00 exacta bet with Mohaymen on top of Zulu and Awesome Speed.

Handicapper's Corner - Davona Dale Stakes (G2)

Cathryn Sophia Makes Davona Dale a Tricky Race

by Reinier Macatangay of Lady and The Track

Cue the laugh track. The idea of any filly defeating Cathryn Sophia in the Davona Dale Stakes (GII), scheduled for this Saturday at Gulfstream Park, just seems funny at first thought. It is good practice to analyze the race anyway.
Trained by John Servis, Cathryn Sophia has compiled a 3 for 3 record for Cash Is King LLC. Each of those wins appear impressive and came with a lofty speed figure. 

Cathryn Sophia broke her maiden at PARX, which granted is not a strong racetrack in terms of quality. She won by 12 lengths and earned a 99 BRIS Speed Rating. Then she went to Laurel Park to compete in an ungraded stakes race. Cathryn Sophia went to the lead and took them wire to wire by 16 lengths for a 102 BRIS Speed Rating. 

It is dangerous to assume horses with impressive wins at second-tier tracks can duplicate their form elsewhere. But then again, Cathryn Sophia traveled to Gulfstream Park and won by over five lengths in the Forward Gal (GII). The Forward Gal proved her form translates to a top-tier racetrack and graded stakes competition.

The stakes victory came at the distance of seven furlongs, while the Davona Dale is one mile. However, the configuration of Gulfstream’s dirt track means they only go around one turn when racing at the mile distance.
If Cathryn Sophia loses, factors others than ability (such as disqualification or dumping the jockey) will be at play. 

In an unthinkable scenario, perhaps the rail horse Thrilled steps up for trainer Todd Pletcher. Sure, finishing second in a slow Grade II race at Aqueduct is nothing to brag about, but there is a chance Thrilled matured since last November. Speed figures do not remain stagnant for young horses, giving her a slight chance. 

The filly in the second post position, Dearest, also looks decent enough and enters with a 2 for 2 record. Her career debut win was earned at Gulfstream Park West, while the latter victory came at Gulfstream. 

Two spots right, Lewis Bay starts for trainer Chad Brown and she actually defeated Thrilled in the Aqueduct race. Note the six-length win going seven furlongs at Belmont Park two races ago. 

For a longshot underneath in the trifecta, it might be fun to put Rontos Lily in the third spot. If she goes to the lead, she is toast, but if the jockey lets other speed horses become cooked by Cathryn Sophia and company, Rontos Lily can pick off a few horses for a respectable finish. 

Taking a shot with Rontos Lily seems better than spending money on R Girls a Charmer, who almost certainly needs the lead and will be toasted by whoever challenges her early on. 

Realistically speaking though, this is a tough race to bet and handicappers should shy away from most vertical wagers in a race where the superstar favorite deserves the attention and hype. Cathryn Sophia not only stands as the best or second best female 3-year-old sprinter, she can defeat most colts out there as well. 

Bridgejumpers tend to be interested in these kinds of races, and in that case, placing a show bet on any horse with tactical or closing speed, and not named Cathryn Sophia, might be a wise idea. Remember in 1998, when Gentlemen finish fourth as the 1-20 favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI)? Horse racing is a strange sport. 

Still, there must be more profitable races filled with value out there somewhere. Find them. 

$100 Pretend Wager: $25 Trifecta Backwheel - Cathryn Sophia / Thrilled, Dearest, Lewis Bay, R Girls a Charmer / Rontos Lily

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Handicapper's Corner - Buena Vista Stakes (G2)

Buena Vista Stakes Grade II

By: John Caro

The weather should be excellent for Saturday’s race. The ladies dueling today are well matched for the turf mile and several battled against one another on January 18th in the Megahertz Stakes (G3). Glory (8) set the pace in the previous outing and was caught late in the stretch by Keri Belle (1), Stormy Lucy (10), and Theater Star(12) and three others not entered today. The pace and split times were quick until the ¾ mark and the three closers above rallied to win, place and show within a neck of one another. I expect a similar race today with a similar large field.

I’ll give consideration to those eight that have been in graded stakes company; Keri Belle (1), Prize Exhibit (6), Lupine Belle (7), Glory (8), Her Emmynency (9), Stormy Lucy (10), Paulina’s Love (11), and Theater Star (12), then look at others who may impact the race.

Keri Belle won last out by a nose against Stormy Lucy, followed shortly by Theater Star. Stormy Lucy has the more consistent record to either beat her competition with middle speed or close at a fast clip. Desormeaux is aboard for a fourth round and has either won or lost by no greater than a neck in the last three tries, winning the Matriarch at Del Mar. I’ll make Stormy Lucy the top contender of the three. Keri Belle was steady throughout her last race and Solis played the pace well to prevail with steady increasing speed to the end. Keri has been shown to have middle speed, go wide to close and can be dangerous if some can’t maintain their speed/pace. Van Dyke made a great move with Theater Star to split horses with a truly fast closing pace. The problem for me is Theater Star is not consistent. I see her better suited to a longer race.

Pauline’s Love looks to have prepped well for this race, won last out, has had a 50 day rest and Stevens has been aboard for both wins, at this distance, since coming to Baltas’ barn. With Stevens aboard I believe he will be able to judge how the pace is moving and will adjust. We could find him on the lead like back in April. Besides, I’m partial to a jock who has done so well for so long.

Glory is a beaten favorite from the last race and Smith has done well with this Tapit girl. The front running style gives hope but I don’t think the others are going to give the lead up lightly. Chocolatier (5), Pauline’s Love, and Her Emmynency (9) may press Glory we’ll see a fast closing finish.

Her Emmynency has my vote for top contender in today’s race. She was last seen winning the QEII(G1) at Keeneland while pressing the leader from the outside in solid fractions going 1 & 1/8 miles. Her speed to the mile was excellent for this company and she had plenty in the tank, while her works have been supper. The trainer is winning at SA at 19%. The post position is winning at 17%. The single drawback is Talamo’s turf record. Hopefully, he overcomes it.

The remaining ladies do not show enough consistency and speed to win. However, there are two who show enough to be bomber prices in the bottom of exotics. Chocolatier (5) and Stylish in Black (2) along with the AE’s must be considered. Stylish in Black has had a long rest and the works since December are regular and improving. Chocolatier’s best pace may show up and impact everyone.

Let’s bet…..$100 or less
$5 win $8 place $10 show on 9  -  $23
$1 Exacta Key 9 with 2,5,6,8,10,11 -  $6
$1 Exacta Key 8,10,11 with 2,5,9  -  $9
$1 Trifecta Key   9 w 10,11 w 10,11,8,1,2,5  -  $10
$1 Trifecta Key.  10,11 w 9,10,11 w 9,10,11,8,1,2,5. -  $20
$0.20 Superfecta  9 w 10,11 w 10,11,8,1,2,5 w all  -  $18
If the 11 stays at 8-1 or better
$1 Exacta Key 11 w 9,10,2,5. -  $4
$1 Trifecta Key 11 w 9,10 w 9,10,8,1,2,5. -  $10

Good fortune….

Handicappper's Corner - Old Meets New in the Risen Star

Old Meets New in the Risen Star

by Paul Mazur of Picks & Ponderings

The feature of the Fair Grounds card for February 20th is the $400,000 G2 Risen Star Stakes.  A 50-20-10-5 dispersal of Kentucky Derby points is at stake, meaning that (based on past trends) the top two finishers have spots in the Kentucky Derby gate should they want them.  

The race honors Risen Star, a son of Secretariat out of Ribbon mare His Majesty that won the Louisiana Derby, Lexington, Preakness, and Belmont in his sophomore campaign in 1988.  His Belmont saw him win in 2:26 2/5, a tick faster than the most recent Triple Crown winner - American Pharoah.  

Perhaps time may only matter in jail (you never know if the surface was a speedway), but Risen Star's work from New Orleans to New York made him that year's champion three-year-old.  

The stakes that bears his name started as the Louisiana Derby Trial in 1973, and made the name change to Risen Star in 1989.  The final local prep to the Louisiana Derby, it has yet to yield a Kentucky Derby winner but has produced two Preakness winners: Master Derby (1975) and Risen Star (1988). Veterans Ford, a New Orleans-based car dealer, is sponsoring this year's Risen Star.

Race 11: Veterans Ford G2 Risen Star Stakes, three-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 5:21pm CST

A lot of handicappers talk about flattering races.  That the performance of horse X flatters race Y, that if so-and-so does well, the race looks better.  It goes the other way too, and the key race (or anti-key race) if one can spot it before the others can be a fruitful angle.  A lot of this talk emerged when Destin, who was fourth in the G3 Lecomte behind MO TOM, TOM's READY, and UNCLE WALTER, won the Davis in a snappy clock time.  So Destin supposedly flattered the LeComte and by this reasoning the 1-2-3 of the LeComte are going to prevail yet again.  

To this observer, flattery will get you nowhere.  The argument glosses over the idea that these are maturing horses who grow in spurts.  It also glosses over that the 1-2-3 finishers had great pedigrees for a mile and seventy, but whose distance limitations grow as the races extend.  With the familiar foes having questions, the new shooters start to appeal.  But the highest profile on them is AIROFORCE, who splashed to a G2 triumph on Thanksgiving weekend in the Kentucky Jockey Club.  But can he transfer his work to dry dirt?  He has every chance based on breeding but at 5/2 morning line presents a price that doesn't inspire.

While the field of fourteen guarantees a pace that's honest, perhaps this is the time to take an off-the-pace type.  In a field where the 1-2-3 of the local prior prep may find the distance wanting, perhaps this is the time to take a new shooter.  GUN RUNNER appeals more, as he was fourth in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club and set the pace that AIROFORCE rallied into.  

The flammable Florent Geroux has the assigned mount for Steve Asmussen. GUN RUNNER, two back, when the pace was more moderate,  ran evenly and made a sustained rally, finishing in front of a then-unknown Rafting.  GUN RUNNER could be keen first off the layoff and repeat his KJC where he does too much early.  But the better tactic is to try to make one rally, pull back, and let someone like BISTRAYA or IT'S ALL RELEVANT do the dirty work.  

Whatever the case, perhaps GUN RUNNER can move forward and surprise.  The big question in this race is if AIROFORCE can extend his turf and sloppy dirt form to a fast, dry track.  If he can he'll be intriguing to follow on the Kentucky Derby trail.  His work on grass is fine enough, with a win in the G3 Bourbon and a neck defeat in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf speaking for that.   There should be enough pace to help AIROFORCE, and his breeding indicates dry dirt isn't an issue.  The big question remains, but asking big questions at small prices isn't a great idea and while he could win he's defensively used in this space.  

Everyone's favorite race to flatter, the LeComte, sees the third place finisher TOM'S READY get a mention here.  Even though he's finished behind stablemate MO TOM three times already, perhaps he'll get better as the distances increase.  He's better bred for a mile and a sixteenth on paper than his stablemate, but perhaps (like in the LeComte) the future is now for MO TOM. Three seconds in the last four starts might point to a stuck in neutral type, or someone who needs the clearest trip from the outside stall and has had obstacles along the way.  He deserves a chance at the longer distance.

#6 GUN RUNNER (6/1)
#10 AIROFORCE (5/2)
#8 TOM'S READY (8/1)

Longshot: This race is sponsored by a car dealer.  What if the owner of a car dealership won the race?  That's what owner Frank Mancari is, and the locals who follow along at Picks & Ponderings will note his ads plastered over the Hawthorne feed for his dealership in Oak Lawn, about six miles south of Hawthorne.

Mancari is also a horse owner - having owned multiple G3 winning turf marathoner Free Fighter back in the day.  He's here with #13 CANDY MY BOY (15/1), who has gotten no respect at the windows (which is good) and a lemon of a post in thirteen (which is not so good).  

The Roger Brueggemann trainee went gate to wire two back to graduate in his first start around two turns and then pulled the same coast-to-coast maneuver to clear the first-level allowance condition.  While he's gotten slower paces and things his way, he showed he doesn't need the lead as three back at Churchill (while still a maiden), he closed off quicker splits to get on the podium.  Shaun Bridgmohan may have to work out a trip from the outside post for CANDY MY BOY.  But in a race where the favorites aren't locks, a price play could be the way to go.  

Passing on the Handigambling.