JUVENILE FILLIES – Not sure what to make of Sweet Reason’s 1:46 4/5 work/non work, but as she is one of the favorites we’ll have to look elsewhere, even though she’s been very impressive in all her races.
There are a number of seemingly evenly matched fillies in here, but we’re here to find the potential value plays and longshots, so we’ll head straight to 15-1 Concave. After winning her first two starts on grass and Polytrack, she finished a solid third in the Del Mar Debutante, only to come out of the race with an infection that forced her to miss the Chandelier Stakes. Sent to Santa Anita following Del Mar, she has rattled off three brilliant works – a half in :46 1/5, five-eighths in :59 1/5, and five-eighths in :59 2/5. The daughter of Colonel John is sharp and fresh, and if she handles the dirt in the Juvenile Fillies as well as she handled it in her last three works, she could be a live longshot.
The other price horse who has caught the eye is unbeaten Untapable, but she is 5-1 on the morning line, so she really can’t be considered a longshot. Loved her race in the 1 1/16-mile Pocahontas, in which she defeated good fillies in Stonetastic and Rosalind coming off only one 5 1/2-furlong maiden race in a snappy 1:04 1/5, and looks to be improving for Steve Asmussen.
FILLY & MARE TURF – Every horse in this field has the credentials to win, but there is one who likely will be forgotten, as evidenced by her 20-1 morning line odds, and that is the ultra consistent Lady of Shamrock, whose only victory since Aug. 2012 came on a disqualification. But she did win four of seven last year, including back-to-back grade I scores in the American Oaks and Del Mar. Although she could do no better than fifth in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf, she closed from 11th and was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths.
This year, she encountered a terrible start in the Santa Ana Stakes and still finished second, beaten only a length, to leading Filly & Mare Turf contender Tiz Flirtatious, who is 7-2 on the morning line. In the Santa Barbara, she finished second after being forced to steady and was placed first a disqualification of the winner.
She came from 11 lengths back to finish third in the grade I Gamely before shipping to New York, where she was victimized by a tortoise-like pace (:50 and 1:13 4/5) set by the victorious Starformer. Still, she was flying at the end to finish second, coming home her final quarter in :22 2/5 in her first trip outside California.
In the John Mabee at Del Mar, wearing blinkers for the first time, she had no shot after being forced to race in second due to the absurdly slow pace of :52 4/5 and 1:17 4/5, but still hung on to be second to Tiz Flirtatious. In her last start, the grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes, she raced evenly throughout to finish fifth, but came home her last quarter in :22 1/5. She is coming off solid works of five-, six-, and seven-furlongs and seems to fit the mold of recent winners of this race.
FILLY & MARE SPRINT – So, which Groupie Doll are we going to see, the monster from last year or the consistent, but not as brilliant filly from this year. Unlike last year, Groupie Doll got a late start and trainer Buff Bradley says she’s coming up to the race even better than last year, as difficult as that is to believe. If that’s the case then Groupie Doll has it over this field.
But we won’t know until she does, and until then, when looking for a price, we have to look at Teddy’s Promise, who is on a roll, finishing in the money in her last seven starts, including four stakes victories. She’s run some big races sprinting at Santa Anita and there is no reason why she won’t again.
Check the odds on Book Review, who is consistent, fast, and possesses a strong closing kick. If she’s about 8-1 or higher, she could be an enticing overlay.
Our big angle at a price is Dance Card, making her second start sprinting after coming off a long layoff. This was a two-turn filly last year who romped in the grade I Gazelle and an overnight stakes before being sidelined. In her return, she finished third in the 6 1/2 –furlong Gallant Bloom Handicap and should move forward off that effort, having that sprint under her. Her only other seven-furlong race came in her career debut when she ran second to Book Review. She’s coming off a bullet breeze over the Oklahoma training track and could be picking up horses late.
TURF SPRINT -- Most everyone will be rooting for Mizdirection to repeat, and she will take a lot of beating. Looking back at the last several runnings of this race at Santa Anita, we’ve seen some heavy duty closing kicks in the final furlong, and that’s where we are looking again.
Unbridled’s Note, who was second last year is the logical horse to knock off Mizdirection, but we’re not quite sure what breaking from post 14 means, not being familiar with this course. But this horse’s four turf sprints in his career, all at Santa Anita, have been bang-up efforts, and he’s had half the starts this year as last year, so he’s a fresher horse.
Caracortado was our pick two years ago, and although he’s had only one start this year, we have to put a few bucks on him. It’s hard not to like this 6-year-old gelding, and whether he has the same kick now we have no idea, but at 8-1 he’s still worth a play.
But our main longshot pick is the late-closing Havelock at 10-1. This horse is ultra consistent sprinting on grass. His only blemishes were a 14th-place finish in this race two years ago when forced to check while making his run and losing all chance, and two poor efforts in group I races in Europe this year. He rebounded off those races to win the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland with a powerful late run.
JUVENILE – Mexikoma turned in one of the most impressive 2-year-old races we’ve seen all year when breaking his maiden by 14 3/4 lengths at Delaware going a mile. It was impressive enough for Team Valor to purchase him, and he’s made an excellent impression at Santa Anita. He’s a beautiful moving horse, and being by Birdstone, out of a Toccet mare, he will run all day. We just like this horse, and although he has a tough task coming out a maiden race and facing graded stakes winners, he still looks intriguing at 12-1 with Alan Garcia up for the first time. Also, watch out for this colt on next year’s Derby trail.
The other price horse worth a serious look is Diamond Bachelor, who will be making his dirt debut. While that poses major questions, it is very possible that the son of War Front will like the dirt even better than the grass. His early speed does not appear favorable in a race with quality speed, but he should be able to take back a bit with Havana and Strong Mandate breaking from his outside.
TURF – There actually are no real longshots that stand out, with the presence of The Fugue, Point of Entry, Indy Point, Big Blue Kitten, Real Solution, and Little Mike. That doesn’t leave much room for price horses.
Vagabond Shoes could be an interesting overlay at 15-1, coming off three big efforts in stakes, including seconds to Indy Point and Jernaimo. This horse has run big in group races in France and Germany and is top quality.
At 20-1 is Twilight Eclipse, who was a world-record holder at 1 ½ miles, winning the Pan American Handicap, and ran a big race to be second to Big Blue Kitten in the Sword Dancer. He’s an up and downer, but his ups make him dangerous.
As we said, however, there are way too many good horses in her to fall in love with a longshot.
SPRINT – This is not the strongest running of the Sprint, and while we’re not crazy about drawing the rail, we really like Justin Phillip to mow then down in the stretch. This is a tough, hard-knocking 5-year-old who always runs hard and is as fast as ever. That’s not exactly a longshot pick, so how about boxing him with Gentlemen’s Bet, who whipped the speedy Delaunay in the Iowa Sprint Handicap before getting caught up in a wicked speed duel and finishing third behind Justin Phillip in the grade I A.G. Vanderbilt. In his last start, the Phoenix Stakes, it was his first start on Polytrack and he was all but eliminated at the start after getting bumped soundly. He still made a good run to finish fourth, beaten 1 3/4 lengths.
If you’re looking for a third horse for the trifecta, Bob Baffert has Secret Circle sharp after an 18-month layoff. In his first start back he won an allowance race in 1:07 4/5. That’s an amazing achievement coming off such a long layoff.
But Justin Phillip is the lick here.
MILE – Forget this one. Despite the presence of some fast classy milers, Wise Dan has it all over this field. We said months ago last year’s Mile winner would never lose another race at a mile on the grass and despite his defeat at Keeneland, we still believe that. At even money, he actually could be the overlay of the Breeders’ Cup, so how about a Wise Dan/all/all trifecta wheel?
CLASSIC – This is one tough race to figure and we keep changing our mind, so we’re just going to go by what we’ve seen in the morning. Palace Malice looks terrific, as does Mucho Macho Man and Fort Larned. And Game On Dude’s and Paynter’s last works were powerful. Will Take Charge and Moreno also have been doing well.
With the unfortunate injury to Ron the Greek, that leaves stablemate Flat Out as Bill Mott’s only Classic starter and this remarkable 7-year-old looks as good as anyone we’ve seen out here. His gallops have been eye-catching, his coat has a summer shine to it, and his energy level has been strong. He’s been a pleasure to watch. We like the fact that he was beaten in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, as were the last three winners of the Classic – Blame, Drosselmeyer, and Fort Larned. The last two were beaten in the Gold Cup by Flat Out and then turned the tables on him in the Classic. Now, at 12-1, it’s his turn. Even though no horse 6-years-old or older has ever won the Classic, we still expect a big performance from this warrior.
In a race this perplexing and wide-open, we try to look for something different. We have always been convinced Aidan O’Brien is going to win the Classic one of these years to reward his perseverance, and this could be the year.
Declaration of War was originally meant to be a Kentucky Derby horse, but after a setback while trained by Todd Pletcher, he was sent to Ireland. He was targeted for the Classic last year, but it was just too much too soon for the then 3-year-old. This year he has developed into major force from a mile to 1 1/4 miles. He’s tough, durable, and fast, and not only is he by red-hot sire War Front, his dam is a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags. He’s three-for-three on synthetic surfaces and four of his seven victories have some on left-handed courses. And he gets Lasix for the first time.
About 10 days before the breeders’ Cup he was sent to Southwell Racecorse in England to work out over the fibersand course, which is the closest synthetic surface to dirt. He worked with a pair of group I winners and handled them pretty easily.
A big question is jockey Joseph O’Brien, who has no experience on dirt, but did become the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup two years ago when he won the Turf aboard St. Nicholas Abbey at the age of 18.
So taking all that into consideration, Declaration of War is a horse we’re definitely going to put a wager on.
Just as a side note for all Thoro-Graph pundits, one horse who has proven to be as fast as the others on a given day and who is on an excellent pattern is Last Gunfighter, who will be one of the longest prices in the field. Make of that what you wish; just thought it was worth a mention.