TimeformUS Weekend Plays from Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream and Oaklawn

Monday, Oaklawn, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:38pm CT
The Smarty Jones Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3YO
By Douglas Salvatore

The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates this year’s edition of the Smarty Jones Stakes will be run at a fast and contested pace.

TimeformUS Pace Projector

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That makes #2 Whyruawesome (12/1 Morning Line) the horse who offers the most value in the field. Whyruawesome owns both the field’s best last-out speed figure (84), and the field’s best Late Pace Rating (71). He projects a ground saving trip and should get a marvelous pace setup. The combination of best last-out speed figure and best Late Pace Rating, in a projected fast paced race, at double digit odds, is a very rare one. Whyruawesome is our key horse.

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In addition to Whyruawesome, #10 Coastline (5/2 Morning Line) is a must-use. He owns the field’s best Spotlight speed figure (89) and he was bet to 8/5 favoritism in the million dollar Delta Jackpot last time out. In that race, Coastline was victimized by a stumble at the start and endured a wide trip. In his three prior starts, Coastline had run speed figures of 86 or better each time. Amazingly, no other horse in today's race has run a speed figure as fast as an 86. If you draw a line through Coastline's last start due to his troubled trip, you'll find him a total standout on speed figures.

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There are a few others in this field with some upside, but this is a race that should be kept simple. Whyruawesome has the best last-out figure and is projected to get the run of the race. Coastline has all the dominant back figures.

Betting Strategy: Win bet on Whyruawesome. Box him in the exacta with Coastline.

Sunday, Santa Anita, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:05pm PT
The G2 La Canada Stakes, 1 and 1/16 Miles, Dirt, 4YO Fillies
By Robert Finnegan

The Grade 2 La Canada has attracted a field of seven four-year-old fillies to run 1 1/16 on the Santa Anita dirt. There have been stronger editions of the La Canada, to be sure, but we feel that this edition is interesting because of the potential vulnerability of Broken Sword, who is the 7-5 favorite on the morning line.

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Through Friday, there have been 14 races run at 1 1/16 at this young Santa Anita meet, and in none of those races was a horse able to come from more than three lengths behind at the opening half to record a victory. Couple that tendency with the fact that the TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates that this race will have a pace that favors horses racing on or near the early lead, and it begins to look as if we have a two-horse race for the win here between the horses the Pace Projector shows contesting the early lead: Broken Sword and Fiftyshadesofhay.

TimeformUS Pace Projector
Broken Sword, who is trained by the red-hot conditioner Jerry Hollendorfer, defeated Fiftyshadesofhay decisively in the Grade 2 Bayakoa six weeks ago, on cushion track at Hollywood Park, after benefiting from an uncontested early lead. The speed figure Broken Sword earned for her wire-to-wire score, a 107, is a better number than any of her opponents has ever run. However, that 107 is inconsistent with her previous efforts--so much so that it raises the possibility of a negative reaction today. Moreover, we do not expect Fiftyshadesofhay to allow Broken Sword an uncontested early lead this time.

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Fiftyshadesofhay received a nightmare trip in the Bayakoa. After breaking awkwardly, she became very rank. Then she was shuffled back to eighth. On the backstretch, she found herself locked in on the rail, where she ate considerable dirt as her rider tried to find her some running room. One could hardly get an even-money shot into a worse position on the backstretch. Still, Fiftyshadesofhay put in a brave wide run when finally free. Today, Mike Smith will be riding her, and we expect her to be breathing down Broken Sword's neck from the time the gate opens.
Fiftyshadesofhay is proven on real dirt, a surface over which she has recorded four speed figures of 103. She is proven at the Grade 2 level. Her Late Pace Rating, an 80, is vastly stronger than Broken Sword's--suggesting the possibility that she can overpower her main rival late, should it come down to that. And her trainer, Bob Baffert, gets TFUS Trainer Ratings of 90 at Santa Anita, 93 with spacing similar to today's, 100 in dirt routes, 93 with synthetic-to-dirt moves, and 99 when employing Mike Smith. Fiftyshadesofhay is our pick to win the La Canada.

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Although Broken Sword is an obvious threat to win this race, we think that the tougher trip that is likely in store for her today, combined with the possibility of a bounce and the fact that this will be the first dirt route of her career (her Pedigree Rating for dirt routes is a middling 67), warrants taking a shot that she will miss the exotics altogether at a short price.
The fillies we plan on using in exotics under Fiftyshadesofhay are Let Faith Arise, the "other" Hollendorfer, who has been training up a storm as she continues her comeback from illness, Ondine, the "other" Baffert, and Rathbaun, who is buttressed by a dirt-route Pedigree Rating of 89 as she makes her dirt debut. 

Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 8, Local Post Time 4pm PT
The G2 Strub Stakes, 1 and 1/16 Miles, Dirt, 4YO
By Robert Finnegan

For those of you who did a double-take when you noticed the 2014 G2 Strub Stakes will be contested at a mile and a sixteenth, we commend you on your knowledge of racing history.  For the second time in the race's 67-year history, the race has been shortened, this time from nine to eight-and-a-half furlongs.  Prior to 1998, the first 50 editions of the Strub were run at 10 furlongs.  We would be remiss if we did not mention the freakish performance of Spectacular Bid, who scorched the earth when winning the 1980 Strub in the otherworldly time of 1:57 and 4/5 seconds, which to this day is the fastest time ever recorded by a horse at a mile and a quarter on the dirt. (When queried recently, head TimeformUS Figuremaker Craig Milkowski posthumously rewarded The Bid with a speed figure of 299).  

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The 2014 Strub features a solid and promising group of four-year-olds who hope to use the race as a launching-pad into Southern California's older horse handicap division, which seems ripe for the picking with local star Game On Dude getting a bit long in the tooth.  The 5-2 morning line favorite #6 Hear The Ghost has so many positive angles that it's difficult to see him not being part of the exacta.  The TimeformUS Pace Projector puts this horse in the garden stalking spot behind three speed horses:

TimeformUS Pace Projector

He'll need to maintain striking distance because it has been nearly impossible for closers to win at 8.5 furlongs during the current Santa Anita meet.  Any of Hear The Ghost's prior four efforts would put him in the mix at the finish of the Strub.  Plus, this is his third race off a layoff and he has been training in a manner that suggests a forward move is in the offing. 

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Jerry Hollendorfer has been hot recently at Santa Anita and sports a strong 88 rating. The only way we see this horse getting beat is if someone gets away from him at the top of the lane.  But who?

Govenor Charlie comes in off a 245 day layoff.  That in and of itself should not disqualify him, as Baffert used a similar move to win the Malibu with Shakin It Up, whom he enters right back in this spot.  Of the two, Govenor Charlie may be more dangerous.  Baffert has a perfect 100 rating with this type of long layoff and Govenor Charlie was well regarded after his impressive March 24th win in a weak Sunland Derby (race rating 96, versus today's rating of 109).  He will need to run a new top on Saturday and we aren't sure the odds will reflect his real chances of winning, as this one could be the steam horse in the win pool. 

The other pace factors are Heir of Storm, who offers little value at his ML odds of 4-1, and Say Ow, who could be a huge price, based on his 20-1 Morning Line and lack of any noticeable recent form.  Say Ow does have a decent dirt pedigree rating of 86 and he may have a chance to dictate the race from his outside post position.   Like Hear The Ghost, this is Say Ow's third race off a layoff and we give him an outside chance to spike the exotics.

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Rookie Sensation is the other outsider with upside potential.  The 6-1 morning line does not represent a major overlay for a horse who has never run on dirt, but we will keep an eye on the tote board and hope for some upward drift in the odds, which we think we'll get.  On the downside, Rookie Sensation will probably have to come from well off the pace and, as mentioned, that may be a tall order in this spot.  That said, Rookie Sensation has a sparkling 94 pedigree rating for this race and his trainer John Shirreffs has solid ratings across the board.  This colt ran extremely well on the Hollywood Cushion Surface (RIP), which as far as synthetic surfaces go, at least somewhat resembles a dirt track.  Rookie Sensation was taken out of his game in his most recent start, the Hollywood Derby, a race that had him inheriting an early lead he probably didn't want, and running farther than what would appear to be his optimum distance.  On Saturday he figures to revert back to the tactics that worked for him in the past and while it's tough to see him passing them all, he does sport the fastest Late Pace Rating (100) in the entire field.  Assuming his hooves can grip the unfamiliar powdery brown surface, look for him to be flying late.

TimeformUS PPs

The Wager:   Hear The Ghost over Say Ow and Rookie Sensation in Exactas (75% Hear The Ghost on Top).  Hear The Ghost in Trifecta keys over Say Ow, Rookie Sensation and Govenor Charlie.

Saturday, Fair Grounds, Race 9, Local Post Time 4:23pm CT
The G3 Lecomte Stakes, 1 mile 70 yards, Dirt, 3YO
By Douglas Salvatore

The Lecomte is a rare Graded Stakes race that includes no prior Graded Stakes-winning horses.

TimeformUS Pace Projector

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The 3/1 Morning Line favorite is the undefeated Gold Hawk. By Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, out of the 2000 Champion two-year-old filly Carressing, this $450,000 yearling purchase certainly has a fancy pedigree that gets attention.

The most impressive thing about Gold Hawk so far has been his ability to rally from mid-pack and win by clear margins against moderate competition. His speed figures have been nothing to get excited about, but he certainly has the look of a dependable grinder who you can trust to see out a route distance no matter the type of pace scenario.

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Gold Hawk's Trainer Steve Asmussen has an excellent 92 Trainer Rating, however that rating falls off a cliff and is just a 62 with horses going from Allowance races into Stakes Company.

Trainer Ratings

We think Gold Hawk isn't an attractive betting option on the win end, but he certainly is the kind of horse we want to use underneath on exotic tickets, even as an expected post time favorite.

Normally, we like to gravitate to horses who own the best recent speed figures when they also offer generous value. In this case, the field’s top last-out speed figure of 89 belongs to Roman Unbridled (8/1 Morning Line).

Unfortunately, that 89 speed figure was achieved while isolated on a loose early lead, while setting a slow pace (as indicated by the blue colored fractions below).

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The Pace Projector indicates there's no chance he'll get a similar trip today, so that 89 figure (which was a new career top for Roman Unbridled) was not a representative figure from a trip-handicapping perspective.

Vicar's In Trouble (9/2 Morning Line) owns the field’s second best last-out figure of 88. However, he did it while sprinting on an easy pace against mediocre competition. Indeed, the TimeformUS Race Rating for Vicar's In Trouble's last race was just 69 (the Lecomte is an 87). Moreover, if you click the result chart, you'll notice that five of the horses he beat last time out have run weaker speed figures in their subsequent starts. This wasn't a case of the Race Ratings getting it wrong with a field of inexperienced maidens--this was simply a case of Vicar's In Trouble beating an absolutely abysmal maiden field.

TimeformUS Result Chart

It is with hair-pulling frustration that we make Albano (7/2 Morning Line) our selection. Trainer Larry Jones is one of the best in the game, and he owns a 100 Trainer Rating (the maximum) at Fair Grounds. Albano is a perfect two-for-two so far this meet. He won his most recent start over a quality horse in Be Well, who came back and posted an 89 Speed figure in his next start.

TimeformUS PPs

The Pace Projector indicates that Albano should be on the lead in this race, and he will be tough catch if that is the case. His Pedigree Rating is only a 71, however, he's by an obscure sire in Istan, who was just 1-for-5 lifetime sprinting on dirt, but 5-for-8 lifetime routing on the main track. Albano's dam, Pocho's Dream Girl, was also a much more successful router than a sprinter. She banked just 26k sprinting, and a cool 306k routing. We don't anticipate the added distance will be a problem for the tractable Albano.

Betting Strategy: Win bet on Albano. Use Gold Hawk as the underneath key in exotic wagers.

Saturday, Gulfstream, Race 10, Local Post Time 5:03pm ET
The Florida Sunshine Millions Classic, 1 and 1/8 miles, Dirt, 4+
By Douglas Salvatore

This years Sunshine Million Classic is a case of a monumental mismatch on recent form. The 2/5 Morning Line favorite Mucho Macho Man holds all the advantages.

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His Spotlight Speed Figure is a ridiculous 24 points faster than the rest of his opposition.

TimeformUS Preview Page

The Pace Projector indicates he should be on the pace in a race that favors horses on or near the early lead.

TimeformUS Pace Projector

The Race Ratings indicate that Mucho Macho Man has obviously faced much tougher competition in his recent races. All indications are that he's training well, and if he runs to his recent form, this will be a blowout.

TimeformUS Race Ratings

We must mention that Mucho Macho Man was eased in this race last year as a 2/5 post time favorite. That was over a sloppy racetrack, and he has demonstrated a total disdain for a sloppy racetrack throughout his career.

The simple reality is that he will be scratched if the track turns up sloppy. In fact, prior to his win in the Awesome Again two starts back, we selected Mucho Macho Man to win the Woodward Stakes, a race where he was assigned morning line odds of 9/2. However, he was scratched from that race because of a sloppy track and hasn't been beat since.

Simply put, this is a terrible betting race. Not only should Mucho Macho Man win easily, but any horse who makes a serious early bid at him will pay for it and likely ended up blowing a deserved second place finish.

Of course, as racing fans, we will still watch this race.

And, just for laughs, we recommend that you watch this video.

Betting Strategy: Single Mucho Macho Man in all multi-win exotics such as the Pick 3 and Pick 4.

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