Raise your hands if you think I’m out of my mind saying that Micromanage has a shot in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at a monster price? OK, hands down.
I can’t help it, those old-fashioned-type stayers get to me in this modern world dominated by speed.
There are a number of good horses entered in the Gold Cup, but no world beaters. The 3-year-olds look to have an edge over the older horses on paper, but they’re not exceptional so far, and history has shown it takes an exceptional 3-year-old to beat good older horses. And speaking of the older horses, the two speed horses – Moreno and Big Cazanova – drew posts 11 and 12 respectively, which are not good posts going 1 1/4 miles at Belmont, where they break basically on the turn and one slow step can cost you dearly.
So, with those two on the far outside and Micromanage breaking from the rail, the son of Medaglia d’Oro should have an early advantage and could turn this into a stayer’s race, galloping along most likely just off the lead without expending much energy getting there. Moreno and Big Cazanova will have to be rushed out of the gate to get the lead and will be eyeballing each others right from the get-go.
Micromanage is one horse who has the bottom, and plenty of it, and is not going to get tired. His jockey Luis Saez just has to make sure he doesn’t get hung wide into and around the far turn, like he did in the Suburban Handicap when he lost all chance by losing way too much ground on that big sweeping turn.
Although Micromanage’s career has been mostly mediocre, it wasn’t until blinkers were added and he was stretched out in distance that he began to show significant improvement, starting with a 4 1/4-length score in the grade III Skip Away Stakes at 1 3/16 miles at Gulfstream, earning his first triple-digit Beyer number.
Although he was third in the 1 1/4-mile Drosselmeyer Stakes at Belmont, he lost valuable ground on the turn and was caught behind a 1:13 4/5 three-quarters. He managed to come home in :24 2/5 and :23 4/5, but was unable to catch the leading pair.
He then ran an exceptional race in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II), this time taking the lead turning for home, but he carried himself very wide and then kept drifting out through the stretch and was nailed right on the wire by Norumbega, earning another triple-digit Beyer. That one he cost himself.
The Suburban fiasco was mentioned earlier. He stretched way out in the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga, chased the early pace, then drew off at will to win by 8 1/2 lengths, earning a third triple-digit Beyer.
In his last start, the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup, he was crying to run early, but was trapped between horses almost the entire race, and by the time he got clear, the two in front of him were long gone and he could only manage a third.
Todd Pletcher worked him twice on the grass, apparently with the 1 1/2-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in mind, but changed his mind and entered him in the Gold Cup.
Another reason I like this colt is I was very impressed with his career debut, a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga, which he won by five lengths in 1:23 flat. I thought, with his pedigree, he looked to have classic potential, but after two poor efforts, he was given six months off, returning with an allowance victory in the slop at Monmouth, a second in the Easy Goer Stakes, an easy victory in the Long Branch Stakes, and a third in the Haskell Invitational.
Is this a stab? Yes, of course it is. But this looks to be a race in which it’s more fun to take a stab on a proven older graded stakes winner than guess if Moreno is going to break sharply and try to figure who looks best among the 3-year-olds, Wicked Strong, Tonalist, or V.E. Day. Good luck separating them.
If you don’t think Micromanage is fast enough to win this race, that’s fine. He may not be. But he still would have a pretty good shot to get a piece of it and be part of the exotics.
Speaking of longshots, I wouldn’t dismiss the chances of Stephanoatsee at a huge price and the hard-knocking Prayer for Relief. Stephanoatsee, a son of A.P. Indy – Oatsee, was closing fast in the Woodward Stakes to finish fifth, beaten a nose by Zivo for fourth, while being beaten three lengths for all the money. And that was after breaking from the outside post and getting off a step slowly, breaking to the outside. This horse has been an underachiever, but he’s picked up his game after being sent to Nick Zito and looks as if he will relish the 1 1/4 miles. Again, we’re talking big bombs in a race that can often have unpredictable results.
Finally, Prayer for Relief, who was third at 25-1 in the Suburban, fourth at 48-1 in the Whitney, and third, beaten two lengths, at 24-1 in the Woodward, really passed the eye test in the Woodward. I love they way he was closing in that race, and he looks as if he could be ready to hit the top of his cycle on Saturday. He’s earned nearly $2 million and is very dangerous under Johnny Velazquez. His only three bad races were at Churchill Downs. In all his other races he's made his presence felt against top company. The more I watch his Woodward, the more I feel he's going to run a big race Saturday.
So, there you go. Three huge longshots, and you can take your pick which one you like the best…if any of them. But at least the feeling here is that you’re going to at least get a run for your money from all three of these horses, who will love the 1 1/4 miles, even if for the exotics.
I will key on Micromanage with savers on Stephanoatsee and Prayer for Relief.