Saturday Betfair Hollywood Park, Race 6, Local Post Time 3:04pm PT
The G1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes, 1 and 1/16 Miles, Fillies, 2YO, Synth
By Justin Finch
The Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet has eight two-year-old fillies and almost as many question marks. There have been stronger editions of this race, to be sure, but this edition, the final one, stands tall in the puzzle department, and that provides some extra interest. Let's begin by taking a look at the TimeformUS Pace Projector, keeping in mind that its task, always a tall one, is made even more difficult because of the pair of second-time starters, blinkers coming off of one of the possible frontrunners, and Bob Baffert being in a position to give rider instructions to two riders whose horses have both the speed to be involved early and the restraint not to be.
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The Pace Projector shows Be Proud on a clear but short lead at the opening half. However, Be Proud is trained by Bob Baffert, who is removing the blinkers that Be Proud has worn in all six of her starts. That could be a signal that rating tactics will be employed today. Moreover, she has rated off the pace in the past. Taste Like Candy and Streaming are shown sitting just off the pace. But both of them are second-time starters who debuted with sprint victories. These sorts can be tricky reads from a pace standpoint. Untapable follows in fourth place, with Concave in fifth and Bajan lapped on her in sixth. Then there's a bit of a gap back to Rosalind and Arethusa, confirmed closers who figure to benefit the most if the Pace Projector proves correct in its "fast pace" designation.
Either Rosalind (3-1 on the morning line) or Taste Like Candy (7-2) figures to be the favorite in the Hollywood Starlet. Rosalind comes out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she closed a ton of ground late (into a hollow part of the race) to finish third and earn a TimeformUS speed figure of 86, a strong number in today's context. She is also proven over a synthetic surface, having finished second in a Keeneland Grade 2 while running an 81. Her trainer, Kenneth McPeek, won this race last year and gets a strong TimeformUS Trainer Rating of 95 on synthetic surfaces. If the pace is fast today, as predicted, Rosalind can be expected to be a strong presence late--but at an unexciting price.
To us, Taste Like Candy is the most interesting horse in this race. In her debut, at 5.5F on real dirt at Santa Anita, she put in a scintillating effort. She didn't break alertly. But she established position early. Then she swooped the field with minimal urging and won with consummate style, earning a speed figure of 97, which stands very tall in this field. Her Pedigree Rating for synthetic routes is a respectable 82. She has been training well over this surface. Her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, brings a mountain of strong trainer ratings to this race: a 100 rating when using Rafael Bejarano, a 90 when employing comparable race spacing, a 93 with first synthetic, a 93 when coming off maiden victories, and a 99 in two-year-old stakes, among others.
Winning a Grade 1 synthetic route with a horse whose entire career consists of one 5.5-furlong maiden race on dirt is no small feat. And winning one with a horse who missed some training time in the interim due to a physical problem, as Taste Like Candy did, is even more improbable. And winning one with a horse whose chances may be compromised by a fast pace is more improbable yet. But we think that Taste Like Candy has a big shot in here. If her morning line odds hold, she will be our selection. If they don't, she won't be. Question marks are one thing. Question marks at short odds are quite another.
Arethusa is the third horse who interests us. She was visually impressive while winning a minor stake in her last start. She earned a competitive speed figure of 85. And she figures to benefit if the pace is indeed fast.
Saturday Betfair Hollywood Park, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:05pm PTThe G2 Bayakoa Handicap
, 1 and 1/16 Miles, F&M, 3+, Synth
By Robert Finnegan
The first thing handicappers must assess when analyzing the Grade 2 Bayakoa is the potential vulnerability of morning line favorite Fiftyshadesofhay
. Intuitively, we want to take a shot against this 9-5 morning line favorite. She challenges older fillies for the first time in her career, and she has raced exclusively on dirt as a three-year-old, save for an ill-advised turf effort on New Year's Day. But despite those legitimate question marks, a closer look suggests that Fiftyshadesofhay is a standout in this race and a plausible single in the Pick 6. Prior to her last race, a third-place finish in the slop in the Indiana Oaks as the 2-5 favorite, Fiftyshadesofhay had run off three consecutive 104 TimeformUS speed figures, numbers that would make her very difficult to beat in the Bayakoa.
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The positives don't stop there. Although Fiftyshadesofhay has had a busy year, she has run only twice since June and has posted seven solid works since her October 5th race. She has good tactical speed and showed staying power at ten furlongs in the Grade One Alabama at Saratoga, finishing a good second to Princess of Sylmar. According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, Fiftyshadesofhay figures to be on the lead in a race that should favor horses on or close to the lead.
Although she spent much of her year admiring the speed-producing derriere of the brilliant Beholder, she won't have to face anything like that in today's race. She has handled this surface in the past. Her trainer, Bob Baffert, gets outstanding Trainer Ratings of 92 with dirt-to-synthetic moves and 98 with circuit switches. Barring an unexpected loss in form, Fiftyshadesofhay is strictly the gal to beat.
Of the other contenders, the second choice on the morning line, Warren's Veneda, projects for an ideal inside stalking trip, but she needs to run a career top in her 11th start of the year, and we question whether she will be able to run with the favorite when things heat up at the quarter pole. Broken Sword is another who should get some backing, with a positive jockey switch to Joel Rosario (92 T/J rating with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer). She's coming off a smashing win at Golden Gate Fields, but she had things all her own way on the front end that day and will find the going much tougher on Saturday. It would be a storybook triumph of sorts if the regally bred Charm The Maker won the Bayakoa for Bayakoa's trainer, Ron McAnally. Her race two back, in which she posted a 103 figure, makes her a contender, but we feel that a filly who passed her late in her most recent race has shown more in her recent performances and will be a better price.
And that brings us to two fillies who we think can be a factor at a price in this horse race. Customer Base (6-1 ML) has been sharp in recent performances. She posted a 104 figure in her most recent race, on the grass, a career-best figure. Her trainer, Thomas Proctor, has a superb 94 rating with horses coming back on this sort of rest. This is a filly who ran a 90 figure in her career debut, as a two-year-old, and has never lived up to her early promise. We think it's possible she is finally putting it all together. Her two efforts on this surface were not her best, but it's a small enough sample size, and she does have an excellent Pedigree Rating of 90 for synthetic routes. Given those poor efforts, along with her extreme outside post position, we are confident she will go off at longer odds than her morning line. This one will be coming late.
The other one who makes some sense for minor awards is Curvy Cat (12-1 ML). Almost her entire career has been spent in one-turn races. The one time she tried two turns, she posted a solid 102 speed figure in closing for third place. We think she has a chance to hit the board at long odds.
The Play: Fiftyshadesofhay over Customer Base and Curvy Cat in exactas and trifectas.