Friday, December 2, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Bayakoa Handicap (G2)

Eight Chances to Win the Bayakoa Stakes

By: Laurie Ross, IMTBreds


A field of eight fillies and mares will travel 1 1/16 miles around the Del Mar oval in the 2016 Bayakoa Handicap (G2) on Saturday.  The race is named in honor of the two-time Champion Older Mare. She was based in California and trained by Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. 

The favorite’s role in the Bayakoa Handicap may fall to Vale Dori, who has won or placed in eight of nine career starts. Two races back in the Zenyatta Stakes, Val Dori was best of the rest behind the epic battle between Stellar Wind and Beholder. Val Dori can be forgiven for finishing a dozen lengths behind the pair. Next time out the Bob Baffert trainee demolished optional claimers by ten lengths at Santa Anita. 

Autumn Flower enters the Bayakoa with a two-race win streak under her girth, including a nose victory over Desert Madam in her last start. Dan Hendricks’ charge is stepping up in class, but this isn’t an overly accomplished field and she fits here. Should a speed duel develop, it will benefit Autumn Flower, who likes to bloom from the back of the pack.

Desert Madam has also won or placed in eight of nine career starts. She finished a hard luck second, beaten a neck and nose, respectively in her last two starts. Previously, the daughter of Desert Code won three straight races. Like Autumn Flower, Desert Madam will be taking on stakes company for the first time.

Gloryzapper was part of a torrid early pace in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The speedy miss previously won the LA Woman (G3) at 6 ½ furlongs. The two turns are a concern for the Philip D’Amato filly. Both times that Gloryzapper tried 1 1/16 miles, she placed second. The dark bay prefers to be on the front end, which could hinder her chances in a race loaded with speed.

If things get too hot on the front end, Show Stealer may live up to her name. Art Sherman’s trainee made up ground from sixth place in her previous start, to just miss out on second place, beaten a neck by Gloryzapper. That was back in July, and Show Stealer should be fresh off the layoff. 

Wild at Heart ran into traffic trouble last time out and placed an uncharacteristic eighth in the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (G3). Previously, she came up the rail to just miss catching Gloryzapper by a half-length in the L.A. Woman Stakes. Richard Mandella’s filly has some back class. She was third in the Santa Anita Oaks last April. 

Moyo Honey hasn’t seen the winner’s circle since April and placed well behind Val Dori, Gloryzapper and Show Stealer in her last two races. Barbara Beatrice has a good/bad race cycle going. She’s making her third start off a layoff and her second consecutive dirt start, but is iffy against lesser company. 

Gloryzapper, Val Dori and Desert Madam may mix it up on the front end. Gloryzapper has the early speed, so the other two may sit off her flank. Unless Gloryzapper can slow it down some, she will likely start to fade right around the far turn. Val Dori and Desert Madam may wind up softened up by the pace, which could open the race up in the late stages for Show Stealer, Autumn Flower or Wild at Heart. 

Let’s go for the price horse on top. It makes things interesting. 

#5 VALE DORI (ARG) (7-5)

In a closely matched field of only eight horses, we could be looking at a chalky payout.  I would bet conservatively with a win/place on Autumn Flower, Show Stealer, Wild at Heart or even Desert Madam if their odds are 4-1 or higher.

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