Saturday, December 16, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Harlan's Holiday Stakes (G3)

Nine Horses Ready for the Holiday

By: Laurie Ross, IMTBreds


The Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes was named in honor of a colt who captured the Florida Derby and Donn stakes at Gulfstream Park and evolved into a successful sire. His sons at stud include Into Mischief, Majesticperfection, and Champion juvenile Shanghai Bobby. 

Nine older horses are set to contest the 2017 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes.


Five of the nine horses entered in the 1 1/16 dirt race are graded stakes winners, but all share the trait of hit or miss when it comes to finding the winners circle.

Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez team up with Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2) hero DESTIN. The pretty gray colt placed in his only start at Gulfstream way back in 2015. Destin has had a good/bad race cycle going since August, and he’s gearing up for a “good” race.  Destin is the 5/2 morning line favorite for the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes.

FEAR THE COWBOY has hit the board at Gulfstream Park in each of the five times he’s stepped foot on the track. He captured the Skip Away Stakes (G3) last march. The Efren Loza, Jr. trainee hit a career-best speed figure of 105 (Brisnet) last time out, with a 13 point jump. Most horses that have a speed figure rise of ten points or higher often regress in their next race. The bay horse has been a steady earner, finishing off the board only three times in his last ten starts. He’s been installed at 7-2 morning line and top jock Javier Castellano, Destin’s regular rider last year, will pilot FEAR THE COWBOY.

The most consistent runner in the field is PAGE MCKENNEY. The Marry Eppler trainer has finished off the board only twice in his last ten outings and followed up with a visit to the winner's circle. The Chestnut gelding placed in his only start at Gulfstream. At 6-1 morning line, he’s an enticing longshot but will most likely enter the starting gate at lower odds.

MR. JORDAN is a Jeckyll/Hyde horse. Which one will show up today? There are no close calls with this guy. When he wins, MR. JORDAN dominates the field. When he loses, a search party is sometimes needed to find him. Conditioned by Eddie Plesa, Jr., the pretty gray horse won his last start by eleven lengths at Calder…er.. Gulfstream Park West, but in his previous three starts at Gulfstream, MR. JORDAN wandered across the finish line sometime after happy hour. He’s never won at Gulfstream but has hit the board in four of eight attempts. His morning line odds are 4-1.

RICHARD THE GREAT is 4-9 at Gulfstream. The sprinter stretched out in his last start, and finished second to Mr. Jordan, beating the third-place horse by a convincing 1 1/4 lengths. Top Florida trainer Stanley Gold is giving the bay gelding a shot in the graded stakes league and the rail position suits RICHARD THE GREAT’s running style. At 10-1 morning line, RICHARD THE GREAT is an interesting longshot.

FLATLINED is a turf horse, but after two bullet works over the Gulfstream dirt, trainer Charles Dickey decided on a surface switch.  The bay gelding won once in seven tries over the dirt. He faced three rivals in a $40K optional claimer that had originally been scheduled for the turf. FLATLINED loves the Gulfstream turf. The dirt? Not so much. His closing running style means that he’ll get a lot of dirt in the face and that, rather than surface switch, is often the reason turf horses work well on dirt, but can’t transfer their form. His morning line odds of 6-1 will likely drift higher come post time.

CONQUEST BIG E, FRAMMENTO, and JOSHUA'S COMPRISE have difficulty handling optional claimers when in top form. They appear overmatched here.

Todd Pletcher has won the Leading Trainer title at Gulfstream Park a dozen times. Sure, Destin could be the automatic win pick, but where’s the fun and money in that?
#3 DESTIN (5-2)

$100 virtual ThoroFan currency.

$2.00 Superfecta box: #5, #3, #7, #1 = $24

$1.00 Trifecta key: #3/#5, #7, #1/#5, #7, #1, #2 = $24
#5/#3, #7, #1/#3, #7, #1 #2 = $24
#7/#3, #5 #7, #1/#3, #5 #7, #1 #2 = $24

$2.00 W/P bet odds 4-1 or higher: #5 = $4

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Handicappers Corner: CashCall Futurity (G1)

Easy Money in the CashCall Futurity

By: Laurie Ross, IMTBreds

The CashCall Futurity is the last Grade One race of the year held for two-year-old colts, and is a 2018 Kentucky Derby qualifier.  Since the race’s inception in 1981, 16 colts who hit the board in the Futurity have also run in the money in at least one of the Triple Crown races.  Six won the Kentucky Derby and three each the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.  2014’s Los Futurity hero Dortmund finished third in the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

In previous years, the Los Alamitos Futurity drew very strong fields. The late, great Shared Belief kept his win streak intact in ’13, and 2014 Dortmund rallied for an edge of your seat performance. 

Brilliance is the name of the game for this year’s select field of five contenders. Four have won a race by three or more lengths. The fourth, Solomini, was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Easy Money
The well-regarded McKinzie galloped to a 5 1/2 debut victory at Santa Anita, getting his final quarter in 24.62 and his last furlong in 12.84. His final time for seven furlongs was 1:22.70. He showed plenty of ability in his final breeze and looked good, taking aim at a rival and closing ground. He appeared ready to take another step forward.

Could Cash In
Runaway Ghost has done just that in his last two starts, beating rivals by a combined 9 1/4 lengths. The son of Ghostzapper has speed and isn’t afraid to use it, but he’ll have to navigate an extra 2 1/2 furlongs.

Solomini is the class of the field, with a major caveat. The lightly raced son of Curlin is still figuring things out. During his races and breezes, he’s getting by on natural talent but doesn’t show the inclination to pass other horses. He was out-worked in his final two breezes by two unraced stablemates.

Instilled Regard captured his third start by 4 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita, but the son of Arch traveled 1 1/16 miles in a pokey 1:45.76, getting his final quarter in 25.31, and his final 1/16 in 6.44. Instilled Regard has breezed strongly, but regular jock Mike Smith, who piloted the colt in all three starts, sticks with McKinzie.

For Him won a $50K maiden claimer at a mile over the Del Mar dirt in his third start. He followed up with a fourth-place finish in the Zuma Beach Stakes over the Santa Anita turf. The son of hot new sire Violence has shown the ability to lead or press the pace, but his late pace speed figures are poor. He recorded three sharp pre-race three-furlong breezes, but the distance and competition may prove too much.

Unless the post-time longshot surprises, the payouts won’t be worth the bet.
#5 MCKINZIE (6-5)
#3 SOLOMINI (7-5)


Friday, December 1, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Cigar Mile (G1)

Cigar Mile: A Chance for Redemption for Some

By: Michael Amo, ThoroFan Chairman

The Cigar Mile Handicap (GI) will be run as the last and 10th race on Aqueduct’s Saturday’s card. The race has some intriguing points to consider. The handicap condition provides challenging weight spreads. High weight, Sharp Azteca (125), and low weights, Beasley, Vulcan’s Forge and Summer Revolution (114), show the 11-pound spread. As expected the high weights, Practical Joke (120), Mind Your Biscuits (122) and Sharp Azteca (125) are the morning line favorites. A win for any of these three will mean redemption from last and could put them in contention for Eclipse Award consideration.

The Cigar Mile, the cornerstone of the Aqueduct fall meet and the last Grade 1 race of the year in New York, will be accompanied by a trio of graded stakes: $250,000 Remsen (GII) for 2-year-olds, $250,000 Demoiselle (GII) for 2-year-old fillies, and $200,000 Go For Wand (GIII) for fillies and mares at a mile.

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile contenders Sharp Azteca and Practical Joke are back on the East coast for a return engagement in a field of 10 for the 29th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack. They will be joined by Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender, Mind Your Biscuits.

Yet, there are a few others in the field who may have something to say about the outcome. A main consideration may be track bias. The week ended with the Aqueduct dirt surface favoring horse near or on the lead at the top of the stretch. If that holds throughout Saturday we could have an upset. Here is the field:

Mind Your Biscuits (Posse) is classy and on the improve. But may be at the wrong distance for his best effort. Also, jockey Rosario gave up the mount to ride Practical Joke for Chad Brown. His off the pace running style may be a problem, as well.

Seymourdini (Bernardini) is trying grade one level for the first time. Yet, past performances show him winning 3 of the last 4 by double digit lengths with his last, the Bold Ruler, showing his versatility. Top jockey, Jose Ortiz, stays with him. Could surprise.

Just Call Kenny (JumpStart) ships in from lesser ovals and seems to be off the form shown earlier in the year. Not fast enough to compete.

Tom’s Ready (More Than Ready) ran respectably last out in the Bold Ruler Handicap over a close-favoring-track. Will be running late with new jockey, Mike Smith. Should be in exotics.

Americanize (Concord Point) is another taking a big step up and maybe running for a small share of the purse. However, early speed may make for an interesting ending. Not sure where he will be at the end.

Sharp Azteca (Freud) is very dangerous, although he is conceding weight to others. Will be out running for the lead. New jockey Castellano will have to learn how to save energy for a demanding stretch run. If he can, he will be the one to beat.

Vulcan’s Forge (Giant’s Causeway) is in light, but is not fast enough for these.

Practical Joke (Into Mischief) is always in the mix and should benefit most from a fierce early pace. The Breeders’ Cup Mile was his first attempt against older horses. May need more maturing to win. Rosario’s confidence in him coupled with the success when he rides for Chad Brown gives him a sold chance.

Summer Revolution (Summer Bird) showed great promise in 2016. However, with 10 months off and only one race on the return, it is unlikely that he is ready.

Beasley (Shackleford) has the right running style to do well. His performance in the Bold Ruler Handicap was one of his better. May surprise in the exotics.

As mentioned, there will likely be a 3-horse dual for the lead which should set up for an honest pace. Seymourdini announced in the Bold Ruler he can off the pace. Expect him to back off and let the other two run. With Americanize backing up as stretch approaches Seymourdini will give it a try. Coming after these two will be Practical Joke, Mind Your Biscuits and Tom’s Ready.

Here is how they should finish:
     1.    Seymourdini (# 2)
     2.    Tom’s Ready (# 4)
     3.    Practical Joke (# 8)
     4.    Sharp Azteca (# 6)

$20 win on --- Seymourdini ($2)  ($20)
$20 place on --- Seymourdini (#2) ($20)
$6 Exacta Box --- Seymourdini (#2), Tom’s Ready (#4) and Practical Joke (#8) ($36)
$1 Trifecta Box ---- Seymourdini (#2), Tom’s Ready (#4), Practical Joke (#8) and Sharp Azteca (#6) ($24)