Friday, June 30, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Princess Rooney Stakes (G2)

Curlin's Approval Horse for Course in Princess Rooney

By: Jeffrey Cobb, S. FL ThoroFan Member

On Saturday, July 1st the Summit of Speed will be held at Gulfstream Park.  The Summit of Speed was once a Summertime staple of Calder Race Course. Now that CRC is out of the horse racing business, the Summit has moved 5 miles east.

The weather Saturday is predicted to be partly cloudy with a chance of a passing morning shower.  If the forecast is true, the track should be dry and fast by race time.  Of course, this is South Florida, and it is officially Summer, so rain at any time is always possible. The good news is that GP does a good job of keeping their eye on the radar and sealing the track before any serious rain occurs.

The track at the 7-furlong distance plays fair with respect to post position. Like most North American tracks, it tends to favor speed; however, given the right pace scenario, closers do have a chance.

Here is the field.

PP 1 Money Or Love (30-1): a 5 year old mare trained by Anthony Russo and ridden by Ramsey Zimmerman. Money Or Love ran poorly last out in the 100k Ginger Punch, but that race was on turf and 8.5 furlongs. At 0 for 6 on grass, I'm guessing that is not Money Or Love's surface. The race before was 7f on the main track was the100k state bred Musical Romance.  Money Or Love took the prize in that race.  Overall Money Or Love appears to be a little too slow for others in the field might be able to get a piece of a vertical exotic so use underneath in supers and trifectas.

PP 2 Birdatthewire (6-1): Thomas Procter, trainer and Van Dyke Drayden in the saddle. Bird is shipping in from Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa. The Bird recovered from a slow start at Churchill in November to get up for 2nd in the Grade 2 Chilukki stakes is 2 for 5 at the distance and always in the money in 4 tries at GP with two wins including a 3rd place finish in last year’s edition of the Princess Rooney. Birdatthewire is one of those teaser horsedswho always seems to be a little late at the wire. Contender for a minor prize, nothing more.

PP 3 Dearest (4-1): Gilberto Zerpa, trainer and Emisael Jaramillo the jockey. There is a lot to like about Dearest. She won the G3 Sugar Swirl two back and finished 3rd a half-length behind Distinta (4) and Wheatfield (5) last out. Dearest likes to win (8-5-1-2), likes GP (6-4-0-2), and the distance (3-2-0-1). Jaramillo is a good fit for the filly. Downside is her last race was a step slower than her usual. However, Dearest has been freshened and Zerpa is 27% off > 90 days rest. In addition, Jaramillo wins for Zerpa at a 50% rate in the last 60 days (10 times out and 5 wins). If can regain her previous form, she will be right there at the wire.

PP 4 Distinta (8-1): Trained by Victor Barboza, Jr. and ridden by Edgard Zayas. Distinta beat Dearest (3) and Wheatfield (5) last out, yet her ML odds are twice those of Dearest. Let me tell you why. Dearest is 5 wins in 8 tries and Distinta is 4 wins in 22 tries. Distinta's Brisnet speed figures are, on average not good enough to win this race and usually only good enough for a minor prize. A mare who likes to finish 2nd. Maybe use underneath.

PP 5 Wheatfield (20-1): Trained by Nick Zito and piloted by C. J. McMahon. Wheatfield has been struggling lately. Coming down from Belmont, she's been keeping pretty good company but has been unable to find the winner's circle this year. Wheatfield finished 2nd in 1 try at GP and has not won in 3 tries at the distance.  I think I will look elsewhere.

PP 6 Patriotic Diamond (12-1): Trained by Patrick (the pit viper) Biancone and ridden by Cornelio Velasquez. PD is has not yet cleared on winners of 1 other than.... yet is lined at only 12-1. Explain that to me. 12-1 is too short. Next.

PP 7 Curlin's Approval (9-2): Trained by Martin Wolfson and ridden by Luis Saez.  There was a time when this would be Marty Wolfson's day and he might have 2 or 3 entries in this race and a couple of others.  At one time Wolfson was a premier South Florida trainer, but he has been quiet the last couple of years. Curlin's Approval has had good results at GP (8-5-1-0) and the distance (5-2-0-0). Saez is a very capable rider who can get his mount home if he's got the horse. Curlin's Approval has won a couple of nice races here, but her last two indicate that she may be cycling down. She's had a bit of a rest and good recent works suggesting she may be ready to return to her strong form. I think, 9-2 may be a little light, but if the public goes where I think the will, I could be taking a long hard look at Curlin's Approval.

PP 8 Lightstream (7-2): Trained by Brian Lynch and ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. The morning line makes Lightstream the favorite; however, I am not a fan of horses shipping into hot and humid South Florida in the Summer. Lightstream has won at GP, but that was her maiden win.  If Brisnet speed figures are to be believed, it was also her best and she has yet to run back to that maiden figure.  In spite of that failure, Lightstream still has a couple of graded stakes wins and must be regarded as a contender.  I think we can take a stand against this one for the top prize. Lightstream will likely be less than 7-2 at post time, and will make it easier to play against her. Will look at her in the walking ring and post parade to see how she's adapting to the climate.

PP 9 More Than a Party (20-1): Trained by Edwin T. Broome and ridden by Luca Panici. This one seems to be a little slower that the rest, so I am going to move on.

PP10 Concealedwithakiss (15-1): Trained by Luis Duco and ridden by Marcos Neneses. Annette will like this one because of the name. I think again, this one doesn't have what it takes to win here. So again, moving along.

PP11 Kinsley Kisses (6-1): Trained by Todd A. Pletcher and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. Now I have the Annette exacta for this race. Did anybody notice that Todd had removed his “Evil Todd” goatee at the Belmont? And, has anybody noticed that Tyler Gaffalione is 44% when riding for Pletcher, most of which have come at GP? Anybody notice that KK is 2 for 2 at GP? KK is another GP maiden breaker and has won every non-stakes race she has competed in. Oh wait, this is a stakes race. Ok in stakes races she likes to finish 2nd and 3rd a lot, so why should this one be any different.  Bet you thought I was going to drink the Todd Kool-Aid here, didn't ya? Use underneath, not on top.

Bottomline: The 2017 edition of the Princess Rooney has turned out to be a highly competitive race in which it is difficult, in most cases to separate the contenders from the pretenders. No real strong opinion on this race, and my opinion could change between now and Saturday. But as of now, this is how I see it. 

I am looking for Marty Wolfson to relive some of his old South Florida glory. Castellano and Pletcher involved on different entries will suck up most of the weekend warrior money.  Wolfson has always been good off the layoff and Curlin's Approval (7) has the ability to win here if she gains regain her good form.  The recent workouts give me reason to think she will. I will look for Dearest (3) and Kinsley Kisses (11) to fill out the exacta and trifecta.  Because this is such a competitive race, you might want to spread out a little in the exotics.  A price horse here would not be a shocker and the payoff could be good.

Good luck to everyone.

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