TimeformUS Weekend Plays from Oaklawn and Santa Anita

Saturday, Oaklawn, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:38pm CT
The Fifth Season Stakes, Dirt, 1 and 1/16 Miles, 4+
By Douglas Salvatore

The opening weekend feature at Oaklawn Park has attracted a large and deep field. Indeed, nine of the 13 entrants have earned in excess of a quarter-million dollars in their racing careers.

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Course specialist Cyber Secret is very much the horse to beat and we see no reason to oppose him. At last year's Oaklawn Park meet, he was a perfect 4-for-4, culminating with wins in the Razorback Handicap at 7/1 odds, and a blowout victory in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Park Handicap at odds of 6/1.

In his most recent start, Cyber Secret established a Turfway Park track record with a brilliant performance that registered a fantastic 119 TimeformUS speed figure. Going into that race, he was a winner of six of 11 career starts on dirt, but was a combined zero for five on turf and synthetic surfaces.

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Such a brilliant performance (on a surface he wasn't previously effective on) sure caught our attention. However, while we can't oppose Cyber Secret, we also can't fully endorse him. He's returning on just 21 days rest, and is conceding a lot of weight to a lot of pretty darn good horses. Moreover, this race is just a prep for much richer handicap races like the Razorback and the Oaklwan Park Handicap. Old school trainers like Lynn Whiting have been known to not exactly "go for the Jugular" in these types of races, because easy victories only lead to stiffer weight imposts in the more important handicaps to follow.

The two horses we intend to box Cyber Secret with are Stachys and Stealcase.

Stealcase is the preference of the two. He was really coming around during his three-year-old season and ran an excellent 115 speed figure in the Ack Ack at Churchill Downs. That performance is sandwiched in between two very unflattering showings in the Indiana Derby and the Clark Handicap--two races where he was victimized by extremely slow paces. Stealcase made an encouraging return from a 350-day layoff in a Turf Allowance race at Churchill Downs last time out. Now he returns to his ideal surface and should be a huge factor if he's able to recapture his three-year-old form. His stretch running style won't hurt in this race, as it is a large field and the pace will be more than honest.

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Stachys is another closer that we like. He owns the field's best Late Rating of 106 and, like Stealcase, he also gets in at just 115 pounds under the handicap conditions. He should get the run of the race from a good inside post position. This Candy Ride gelding was second, beaten just a neck, by Win Willy in the 2011 edition of The Fifth Season. We expect him to outrun his odds and he should offer excellent exotic value.

Betting Strategy:  Box Cyber Secret, Stealcase, and Stachys in the Exacta and Trifecta.

In the event that Cyber Secret scratches, bet Stealcase to win and box him with Stachys in the exacta.


Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:00pm PT
The G2 San Pasqual Stakes, Dirt, 1 and 1/16 Miles, 4+
By Robert Finnegan

The G2 San Pasqual has featured some notable winners during its near 80-year history, including Native Diver (1966), Precisionist (1986), and more recently Silver Charm (1999), and Congaree (2003).  The 2014 running of the event is unlikely to add a horse of such stature to its list of winners, nor does it appear to offer the handicapper the opportunity for a huge score, with only seven moderately talented horses in Southern California's depleted handicap ranks chasing the $120,000 first-place check.  Here is a summary of the field from the rail out:

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Blingo: Lightly-raced five-year-old closer coming in off a career-best 109 TimeformUS speed figure in upsetting an overnight stakes at Belmont Park.  In the masterful hands of trainer John Shirreffs (90 TimeformUS Trainer Rating at Santa Anita, 91 rating off this type of layoff) and has the fastest Late Rating (96) in a race that should feature an honest tempo. May offer value.

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Blueskiesandrainbows: A hard-knocking and versatile son of noted turf sire English Channel. The 55 TimeformUS Pedigree Rating can be discarded, as this horse has proven himself a capable dirt performer and we think his distance breeding could be the deciding factor if this race turns into a dogfight between the speed types in the final furlong.  Note the recent bullet workout. The horse to beat, but that doesn't mean he's a good bet.

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Majestic City: Another speed presence who figures to latch onto Blueskiesandrainbows early and try to wear him down.  Seems a tall order from a tactical standpoint.

Spud Spivens:  There are layoffs and then there are Layoffs.  We will take a wait-and-see approach with a horse who hasn't entered the starting gate in 18 months.

Majestic Harbor:  A rather middling six year old (4-18 lifetime) coming in off a seven month rest. Figures to get a good stalking trip and is not completely hopeless, but there are no obvious angles to support his chances in this spot.  Not the worst stab at double-digit odds, based on the freshening and the projected good trip.

Rousing Sermon: hard-knocking horse, may face a tricky three-deep stalking trip.  Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Rafael Bejarano have a perfect 100-rating when teaming up.  Certainly logical, but we wonder how sharp the horse will be after a long campaign in 2013 and the lack of any recent time off.

Drill: Another horse who has been campaigned steadily and usually comes up short at this level. Hasn't found the winner's circle in his last 10 starts.

Overall we think Blueskiesandrainbows rates a slight edge, but he is likely to take a beating at the windows.  We like the potential upside of Blingo, and think he warrants a play at odds of 8-1 or higher.

The Wager:  Blingo to win. Exacta box of Blingo and Blueskiesandrainbows. Use horses in 1/3 slots in trifecta with *all* in the two-slot.

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