Friday, September 30, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Frontrunner Stakes (G1)

Klimt to Paint Winning Performance in FrontRunner

By: Reinier Macatangay, Lady and the Track

 For those interested in risqué artwork, Klimt is the name of a famous painter who had quite an imagination. The name also belongs to a promising 2-year-old colt named Klimt, who is on the rise for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Kaleem Shah. He starts in the 1 1/16-mile $300,000 FrontRunner Stakes (GI), on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

Currently, Klimt owns three wins out of four career starts. The sole loss came while making his career debut, and a horse’s first career start is easily forgiven.

The son of Quality Road improved next time out, breaking his maiden in a short sprint by over five lengths after pressing the leader through the initial stages. He used the same tactics to win his next start in the Best Pal Stakes (GII) at Del Mar, although neither speed figure appears fast on paper.

The Best Pal featured slow opening fractions of 23 1/5 and 46 flat, which possibly influenced the final speed figure. When horses go slow early on, it is hard to make up the difference late, so the final time is more likely to end up slow. Speed figures are based on final time, whether on Daily Racing Form, BRIS or TimeformUS.

In any case, young horses improve as they go on, so taking their first few speed figures as their full potential realized is a poor way to handicap 2-year-old races. Essentially, 2-year-old horses are still babies.

Klimt went off at relatively modest odds of 5-2 in the Del Mar Futurity (GI) for his fourth start. Despite hailing from the Baffert barn with just one loss, bettors were not hyped over Klimt and made Straight Fire the favorite instead.

Supporters were rewarded though when Klimt stalked a swift pace set by Straight Fire and eventually reeled him in after the turn. Klimt displayed an ability to reach a new level at Del Mar, and might only get better.

Of course, Klimt is the “boring” choice, so bettors might want to look elsewhere for value in this field of promising horses. Starting from the rail, Gormley broke his maiden by over four lengths and could step up in his second career start. The bottom half of Gormley’s pedigree is turf orientated, but he ran fine on dirt.

Next to Gormley, Plum Dandy makes his third career start, and ran great breaking his maiden locally in a one-mile race after dueling from the inside. The speed figure makes little difference after only two starts.

Plum Dandy lost his career debut by 24 lengths to Straight Fire at Del Mar, but this only proves the point of first races working as a learning experience for horses. The stretch out to a route distance also helped.

Down the list in post four, Midnight Pleasure makes his third start as well, and he pressed Straight Fire through the first quarter of the Del Mar Futurity, only to slowly fade. Trainer Shelbe Ruis fares well with 2-year-old horses, and it would be unwise to discount the notion he could move forward enough to contend in this spot.

In post five, Straight Fire will certainly attract a ton of wagering support, if only because media personality Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing owns him in partnership with other groups. This horse set a quick pace and faded in the Futurity. To win here, the jockey may want to use more patience by sitting off the flank of the pacesetter.

Jockey Kent Desormeaux loses the ride on Straight Fire to Flavien Prat, and rides the hopeless Vibe instead.

Overall, Klimt holds enough positives to stay on board. Sure, it does not require a lot of thinking to choose Klimt, but not every race out there offers a clever choice. The horses described above have a chance, but Klimt should be able to handle two turns effectively and take home the FrontRunner for Baffert and Shah.


$35 Exacta - Klimt / Gormley
$35 Exacta - Klimt / Midnight Pleasure
$20 Exacta - Klimt / Straight Fire
$10 Exacta - Klimt / Plum Dandy


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