Friday, April 22, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Elkhorn Stakes (GII)

Searching for a Big Hoss in the Elkhorn Stakes

By: Michael Amo

The Elkhorn Stakes to be run at Keeneland this weekend was first run in 1986 with jockey Frankie Lovato winning aboard the 4-year-old Lieutenant’s Lark. Although thought by some to be a minor turf event has attracted a couple of big name runners like Manila (1986) and Lure (1994). This year’s field has a few recognizable names which make the race an interesting one to watch. With half the field clustered in the low odds it should be a very competitive race with the possibility of reasonable value for the astute play.

Here is the field:

1.       Da Big Horse (Lemon Drop Kid) is working well and likes the 1 ½ mile distance. He will need to improve on his last effort where he finished behind Kaigun by four lengths if he expects to win.

2.       Up With the Birds (Stormy Atlantic) gets jockey John Velasquez back in the hope that he will improve on his Canadian International (GI) race at Woodbine in October.

3.       A Red Tie Day (Indygo Shiner) is a long shot stepping up from a nice performance in an allowance race to this grade 2 event. Ships in from Santa Anita and is in the capable hands of Gary Stevens. Will need more than that to win.

4.       Idolo Porteno- Arg (Jump Start) comes off a reasonable effort on the dirt at Oaklawn Park. He has been working at Keeneland with an apparent eye on this race. Paco Lopez, with an 18% win rate, picks up the mount. With four grade one attempts in South America there may be more to this one than the PPs show.

5.       Royal Albert Hall – GB (Royal Applause) comes to Keeneland with his California jockey, Flavien Prat. He has had a prep work over the Keeneland track. With a recent allowance win, he is up against it here.

6.       Twilight Eclipse  (Purim) has been having performance trouble as of late. Connections are trying a different jockey, Laparoux. Reduced weight may help. But will either be enough?

7.       Kaigun (Northern Afleet) has been running exceptionally well. He has been first or second in his last five graded stakes races. May dictate the pace. Should be in the front group in the early stages; a nice place to be in a 12 furlong race.

8.       St Albans Boys (Giant Causeway) does not work-out since last race. Seems in a difficult spot with these.

The distance of the race will favor an experienced jockey who knows his horse and can rate and time the move of his horse. Contrary to some thought, these 12 furlong races seem to devolve to 6-8 furlong sprints to the wire. This puts Up with Birds (Velasquez) and Kaigun (Bravo) in advantageous positions. Paco Lopez is assigned the Argentinian mount who ran an excellent race on the dirt in the Razorback at Oaklawn Park. He has turf credentials and could have an impact at nice odds.

Here is how the race should finish:
1.       Kaigun (7)
2.       Idolo Porteno (4)
3.       Da Big horse (1)
4.       Up With Birds (2)
5.       Twilight Eclipse (6)

Kaigun is the likely winner with figures that are the best and are showing improvement. Clearly Da Big Horse, Up with Birds and Twilight Eclipse will be competitive. The unknown is Idolo Porteno.

$50 win: Kaigun (7)   [$50]
$4 exacta Box : Kaigun (7), Idolo Porteno (4), Da Big Horse (1) [$24]
$1 Tri-Key: Kaigun (7) over Idolo Orteno (4), Da Big Horse (1), Up with Birds (2), Twilight Eclipse (6) [$24]
$2 tip for the Restroom attendant

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