Friday, July 22, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Sanford Stakes (G3)

2016 Sanford Stakes Filled With Potential

By: Laurie Ross, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds 

Opening weekend at the Spaaa. It wouldn’t be complete without a stakes race for two year olds. After all, this is where the blue-bloods hang out, both the horses and the people. The prestigious Sanford Stakes (G3) is traditionally held on the first Saturday of the meet at Saratoga.  

First contested in 1913, the six-furlong event has a roll-call that reads like a who’s who of racing legends. The 1914 winner was the filly Regret, who then became the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby. Other major winners include the Champions Tom Fool, Hail To Reason, Secretariat, Affirmed, Forty Niner and Afleet Alex. Famous also-rans include the great Man O’War, who suffered his only defeat in the Sanford Stakes in 1919, Triple Crown hero Omaha, and Champion Juvenile Boston Harbor. 

Five last-out two-year-old colts will vie for the chance to stand in the winner’s circle of the 2016 Sanford Stakes.

Todd Pletcher has six Sanford Stakes trophies on his mantle.  He’s just one race shy from tying for the most wins. The record of seven is owned by John Gaver, Sr., who conditioned the great Tom Fool and many other champions for the Whitney family’s Greentree Stable.

John Velazquez has guided the winner home seven times, more than any other jockey.

This year, the pair team up with the well-bred Bronson (Medaglia d'Oro - Cambiocorsa, by Avenue of Flags).  The pretty gray colt won his debut by 1 ¾ lengths and traveled five furlongs in :59.33, pretty much in hand with brief hand urging near the wire.  Bronson appeared uncomfortable during the race. He ran with his head up and never extended his stride.  Bronson had a slow pre-race four-furlong move in :49.4 over the Saratoga track.

Pedigree notes:  Bronson’s immediate female family is loaded with blacktype earners. Four of his five half-siblings, are turf stakes winners or stakes placed. A couple have placed on dirt, but Bronson is the only one to have won over the surface.  Bronson’s dam Cambiocorsa’s is passing her turfy talent to her offspring. The mare was one of the best turf runners on the Santa Anita downhill turf and captured seven straight starts, including two G3 events.  The gray mare’s full brother was Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint hero California Flag.  

Precociously Bred
Zartera (Tapizar - Catera, by Gone West) captured his 4 ½ furlong debut by an easy two lengths.  Zartera had an easy pre-race three-furlong breeze in :38.4.
This guy is bred to be a win-early sprinter/miler.  First crop sire Tapizar, a son of Tapit, has four winners from ten starters. Recently, Tapizar’s daughter Tap It All was fourth in the 2016 Landaluce Stakes.  

Pedigree notes:  Zartera’s  ¾ sister Areolite (Tapit)  was third in the Churchill Downs Debutante last year.   Their stakes-placed dam Catera is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes sprinter and sire Cuvee, who captured four graded stakes as a two-year-old. Catera’s other half siblings include G2 sprinter Will He Shine (Silver Deputy), and three stakes placed runners. 

Zartera’s sire and dam’s female families trace back directly to Carol’s Christmas through half siblings. So Zartera has 4 3 x Rasmussen Factor (inbred to a rene-de- course or “blue hen”) to Carol’s Christmas.  Carol’s Christmas’ descendants include Champion three-year-old filly Untapable (Tapit), Louisiana Derby hero Pyro (Pulpit), and the graded stakes-winning sires Early Flyer (Gilded Time) Olympio (Naskra),  Paddy O’Prado (El Prado) and, of course, Tapizar.  

Random Walk (Super Saver - Lunargal, by Yes It's True) outclassed maidens at Belmont by 5 ¾ lengths, traveling 5 ½ furlongs in  1:03.66. Trainer Rick Violette, Jr. tightened the colt up with a bullet five-furlong move and a pre-race quick four furlongs in :47.6.

Pedigree notes:  None of Random Walk’s half siblings own blacktype, but they are winners. The second generation of Random Walk’s female family is filled with juvenile stakes winners. His dam Lunargal and her full sister Lunarlady won stakes as two-year-olds. Plus, Lunargal’s half-brothers, Freshman sire Astrology (A.P. Indy), and Lunarpal (Successful Appeal) were G3 juvie stakes winners.  

Flashy & Classy
Bitumen (Mineshaft - Kobla Cat, by Tale of the Cat) galloped away from over-matched maidens at Churchill Downs by 6 ¾ lengths.  The talented colt was timed in 1:09.49 for six furlongs and flew his final 1/8 in 11.75. He owns the highest late-pace speed figure in the field.  Trainer Eddie Kenneally gave Bitumen a pre-race light :48.4 four-furlong work over the Saratoga surface.

Pedigree notes:  Bitumen’s  half-sister Meshell (Elusive Quality) is a stakes winning sprinter. Their dam Kobla Cat is a half-sister to multiple G1 winner and sire Quality Road (Elusive Quality).  

Bay Numbers (Algorithms - Zawzooth, by Unbridled's Song) was not ready for prime time in his debut last month. He didn’t want to go into the gate, then sulked his way around the track, finishing 13 lengths behind the winner.  The Eddie Plesa, Jr. trainee was more amendable in his second start, happily splashing his way to a 6 ¼ length victory in the Monmouth mud.  Bay Numbers final time was a quick :58.30.  

Pedigree notes:  First Crop Sire Algorithms is off to a good start at stud.  Ten of his babies have started, five are winners and two, Recruiting Ready (Strong Hope) and Junket (Notebook) are stakes placed.  Bay Number’s three half siblings to race were indifferent runners. Only one visited the winner’s circle. Their dam was a stakes winning sprinter.  

In four of the last six years, the favorite hasn’t won the Sanford Stakes. In four of the last five editions, the winner settled off of the pace and made his move in the stretch. Last year, the long shot Magna Light wired the field but was DQ’d to second in favor of Pletcher’s Uncle Vinny.

It’s anybody’s guess which colt will sit off of the pace since all except Bronson wired their respective fields.  With only five horses in the contest, it could be anyone’s race.

Random Walk has the only pre-race bullet breeze and a nice work pattern leading up to the Sanford. He’s ready to go.  I like Zartera a lot, but that three-furlong breeze was meant to sharpen the colt’s speed, and he draws post one, so he’ll likely shoot out of the gate and go for the lead.   Bitumen is the only colt in the field with a six-furlong race under his girth. He draws the outside and could sit off of the speed. If you’re a numbers person, you’ll be happy to know that Bitumen owns the highest late-pace figures in the field.   If Bay Numbers is happy, he could also make a race of it. The trainer/jock combo of Plesa & Parco win 38% together.  I don’t like Bronson in here. Maybe he could win on raw talent, but I think he’ll wind up being a nice turf horse.  

It is very difficult to make selections for a baby race without seeing the horses in the paddock or warming up on the track. Whenever possible, view the horses before placing your bets. The favorite or your best pick can become a hot mess. An unconsidered longshot may have the look of a winner. 

Five horse fields aren’t good betting propositions, unless there is a heavy favorite and the rest are double digits. Then the favorite has to lose.  If you absolutely must spend ThoroFan’s hypothetical $100 on the bet because it is burning a hole in your pocket, scatter it in $5 or $10 Win/Place bets on horses with odds of 5-1 or higher. Or create a few exactas with the favorite underneath. Or, skip the betting, spend the $100 on a good meal and enjoy watching the race.

#2 RANDOM WALK (7-5)
#1 ZARTERA (9-2)
#5 BITUMEN (8-5)


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