Friday, January 6, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: San Gabriel Stakes (G2)

Hard to Look Past Ring Weekend in San Gabriel Stakes

By: Reinier Macatangay

Yes, it is 2017 and time for a new set of races to analyze on ThoroFan, starting with the $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes (GII) on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. The turf stakes will be run at 1 1/8 miles.

Unfortunately, the race looks straightforward and points to a clear win by the “class” entry Ring Weekend.

Trained by Graham Motion, the 6-year-old gelded son of Tapit is in good form these days with two wins in six current-year starts. The four losses include a wide assortment of valid excuses which will be discussed.  

First, Ring Weekend’s recent win in the Seabiscuit Handicap (GII) came over Vyjack and Om, two horses who might be favored in this spot. He came from slightly off the pace and mowed them down in a respectable time.

Two races ago in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI), Ring Weekend was simply outfinished by better horses. The key word is “better.” Look at the names in front of him. He had to face Tourist, Tepin, Midnight Storm, Ironicus and Miss Temple City, among others, and Ring Weekend closed decently enough finishing seventh by less than four lengths.

Miss Temple City was Ring Weekend’s rival in the Shadwell Stakes (GI) at Keeneland, and she had an absolute crawl of a time in the race when contesting the sluggish lead and holding off Ironicus and the rest late.

Ring Weekend never had a fair chance to run. A few other closers such as eventual Breeders’ Cup Champion Tourist never had a chance to unleash their kick either, although Ironicus made a strong stretch rally.

As for Ring Weekend’s two Saratoga races, he managed to pick up another Grade II stakes win in September, after failing to reach the board a month earlier in the Fourstardave Handicap (GI).

To make a long story short, Ring Weekend’s schedule was strong last year, and it came backed up with good efforts. The San Gabriel is only an “okay” Grade II, and Ring Weekend can take advantage of the lack of stars.

If searching for a longshot though, this could sound crazy but Syntax (20-1) might be the one to shake the toteboard. Nothing in Syntax’s form indicates he is on Ring Weekend’s level, but he switches to the always-dangerous Phil D’Amato barn for the familiar owner Matthew Schera. These are experienced connections.

D’Amato is a hot trainer and would not place Syntax in a tough race if he did not believe in the horse’s ability. 

Another longshot to consider is Conquest Daddyo, who makes his debut for John Sadler after a so-so career under Mark Casse. The 4-year-old colt only managed to pick up one 2016 win in the ungraded Toronto Cup at Woodbine.

Despite the less than stellar record, young horses are liable to improve and this one gets a new barn and owner.

Wagering dollars will go towards Flamboyant too, and his form earlier last year would win this race. This year, the now 6-year-old gelding seems a little less attractive. He does gain jockey Flavien Prat, a noted whiz in turf racing. 

The San Gabriel is not an exciting betting race. Ring Weekend deserves the attention, but a wide post can derail the horse and there is little value either. Still, it is hard to look past him and winning is key to gambling.

Handigambling ($100):

$40 Win – Ring Weekend
$30 Exactas – Ring Weekend over Syntax, Conquest Daddyo

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