Countdown to the Cup: Friday Longshots

JUVENILE SPRINT – Merit Man, undefeated winner of the Tim Conway Stakes has the speed, the numbers, and a win over the track, and should be the horse to beat. Bob Baffert is always tough, so you have to give Super Ninety Nine a shot. South Floyd, runner-up in the Tim Conway, has the early speed and is from the dangerous Doug O’Neill barn.

But there are two price horses worth considering. European invader Ceiling Kitty didn’t fare too well in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket, but ran a bang-up race three back to win the group I, five-furlong Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. She also has a maiden score over the synthetic track at Kempton. Her sire is by Red Ransom and her dam is by Tale of the Cat, so there no reason why she shouldn’t handle the dirt.

Another interesting filly is the grade I Spinaway runner-up Sweet Shirley Mae, who broke her maiden going five furlongs in the slop. She’s been on the lead at five furlongs and came from 15 lengths back in the Spinaway. She’ll need more speed backing up to six furlongs, but has class and trainer Wesley Ward is always dangerous with 2-year-old sprinters.

MARATHON – This is a total crap shoot and could be a playground for Fame and Glory, winner of last year’s Ascot Gold Cup and the 2009 Irish Derby. Although he hasn’t been in form recently, the word is that Ballydoyle is very confident he’s going to run a big race. Local horse Worth Repeating looks solid, but should be bet and we’re looking for bigger price horses.

This is where South American-breds shine. Argentinian invader Calidoscopio is a 9-year-old sired by a son of Forty Niner who is making his 40th start, 27 of which he carried 130 pounds or more, including two races carrying 137 and two carrying 136. He’s finished in the money 22 times. He’s already won at 1 7/8 miles and definitely must be respected.

Almudena has run big in group I company in Argentina and Peru and handles dirt and grass with equal ability. She’ll get the distance and is coming off group I placings carrying 132 and 130 pounds in Argentina. She should be tough in here.

Another Argentinian-bred is Romp, making his 54th start, all in the U.S. He’s only won four times, so you have to be a little suspect of him.

Our good old fashioned American longshot is Grassy, who is a proven mile and a half horse and a consistent grade I and II horse. He’s never run on dirt, but his sire, El Prado, is known for siring horses who can run on both dirt and grass at the highest level. If he handles the dirt he has the ability to mow these horses down in the stretch.

FILLY & MARE JUVENILE TURF – Although she’s going to be one of the favorites, we love Spring Venture and feel as if she could be special, with her perfect three-for-three record and scintillating turn of foot.

Sky Lantern, Watsdachances, and Flashy Ways all look strong in here, but will be bet pretty heavily.

Looking for a few fillies to play with Spring Venture in this extremely contentious field, Miss Grillo runner-up Sustained has been training brilliantly and has made a terrific appearance in the morning. But she did not draw well in post 14.

We have a sneaky suspicion the Todd Pletcher-trained Tara From the Cape is going to run a big race, based on her two turf races, a solid half-mile turf work at Santa Anita, and her excellent tactical speed. And John Velazquez certainly doesn’t hurt. She could be a live longshot.

JUVENILE FILLIES – The favorites in this race simply look too strong to play against. Renee’s Queen at 30-1 and has never run on dirt, but is coming off a very sharp six-furlong work over the dirt track and her connections chose this spot over the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Spring in the Air at 15-1 also has never run on dirt, but all four of her starts, on Polytrack and grass, have been excellent, and she looked good winning the Alcibiades Stakes. Trainer Mark Casse, who also has Spring Venture, has been red-hot lately.

FILLY & MARE TURF – American-trained longshots have won this race the last two years, and this year’s renewal is very wide open. The Euros are particularly strong, with the top-class The Fugue, Nahrain, I’m A Dreamer, and Ridasiyna, as well as the Aidan O’Brien-trained Up. Zagora looks solid for the home team, and is attractive at 8-1.

Star Billing, at 30-1, returns to the turf, where she has won or placed in three grade I stakes for John Shirreffs. The daughter of Dynaformer could pick up a piece of it with the right pace scenario.

Marketing Mix is only 9-2 on the morning line, but if she runs back to her last race, the Rodeo Drive, in which she made a spectacular move on the far turn, she is going to be tough.

LADIES CLASSIC – Hmm, take your pick. There are so many top-class fillies in here, the fifth choice is a filly who is coming off back-to-back grade I victories. We’re not even going attempt to pick a longshot. Of the Fab Four – Royal Delta, Awesome Feather, My Miss Aurelia, and Questing – not many people are talking about Questing, despite her other worldly victory in the Alabama Stakes, earning a 106 Beyer figure. Yes, she was beaten a head by My Miss Aurelia in the Cotillion Stakes, but she disliked the deep, slow track, was dropping back in distance from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/16 miles, and was conceding seven pounds to My Miss Aurelia. She has a tendency to run greenly, but has a tremendous amount of talent and raw speed, and could be a little bit of an overlay in here.


All Photos by Steve Haskin.

A morning with Mucho Macho Man -- Waiting his turn with Kathy Ritvo

Mucho Macho Man glides over the track

Mucho Macho Man loves the camera

Macho Man a photographer's delight

Macho Man checks out the backstretch tour tram

Fans get an extra added treat on their tour

Mucho Macho Man gets his pre-race vet exam

 Merit Man could be the favorite in the BC Juvenile Sprint

Watsdachances (outside) and Richard's Kid hook up

Maryland Million Classic winner Not Abroad goes in the Marathon

Juvenile Fillies Turf hopeful Flashy Ways

Hard to believe Pool Play is a 7-year-old battle veteran

Paul Reddams Turf hopeful Cogito

Dondonnell is the top European hope for the BC Juvenile Turf

Watch out for Brown Almighty in the Juvenile Turf

Groupie Doll gets a bath following her gallop.


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