TimeformUS Saturday Plays from Santa Anita, Tampa Bay and Aqueduct

Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 7, Local Post Time 3:30pm PT
The G1 Las Virgenes Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3YOF
By Jason Perlmutter

The G1 Las Virgenes represents the first significant Kentucky Oaks prep of the year for Southern California's new generation of three-year-old fillies.  That said, a mile at Santa Anita is a far cry from nine furlongs at Churchill Downs and we will put a premium on the fillies with tactical speed over those with distance breeding.  Contradicting our convictions is the Pace Projector for this race, which suggests two prime contenders (#2 Fashion Plate and #7 Taste Like Candy) will compromise each other on the front end.  What is a handicapper to do when faced with mixed signals such as these?

TimeformUS Pace Projector

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Fashion Plate is likely to be the longer price of the two.  Unlike Taste Like Candy, Fashion Plate has never been around two turns, but there is good reason to believe that she may enjoy the stretch-out.  Her sire Old Fashioned was a brilliant and precocious sprinter who was able to stubbornly carry his speed around short two-turn routes (second in the nine-furlong Arkansas Derby) and we expect Fashion Plate (84 Pedigree Rating) to make things difficult for Taste Like Candy in the Las Virgenes.  In fact, it's possible Taste Like Candy will be asked to rate behind the speed.  We will play Fashion Plate at her 4-1 ML odds to win the battle on the front end.  But it doesn't mean she'll win the war.  Taste Like Candy hasn't done much wrong, but we wonder if she may be coming back too soon off a huge 101 TimeformUS speed figure four weeks ago, and she has come up short in the lane in her last two races.

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The beneficiary of the potential throw-down on the front end is likely to be 2-1 ML favorite Streaming (#8).  Streaming's top speed figure of 87 makes her the fourth-fastest filly on paper, so why is it that we fancy her chances on Saturday?  In this case, we think the 87 represents an ideal opportunity for her to move forward.  In her last start, she had a poor break and still bullied her way into contention from an outside post position before easily putting away Taste Like Candy in the final eighth of a mile.  On Saturday, she figures to get a good stalking trip behind the leaders, according to the Pace Projector.  Considering the professionalism she has shown in her two starts combined with the eight weeks of rest trainer Bob Baffert  (92 Trainer Rating with this length of layoff) has given her since her win in the Starlet, she figures to be a tough customer in this race.

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Looking at some of the others, Artemis rates a strong look on figures alone (coming off a 98 in a maiden breaker) for the hot Hollendorfer barn.  She appears the main threat to Streaming. 

Based on her running style and pedigree, Arethusa has better things in her future at longer distances.  She seems a longshot to pass them all, but she has been coming along nicely with her speed figure progression and, like Streaming, gets eight weeks of rest going into this race.  She's the type of horse who should fit beautifully in the 3/4 hole of supers and there's an outside chance she can crack the exacta if things get too nutty on the front end.

As for the rest of the field, Saintly Joan isn't talented enough, and there's no real reason to think Euro shipper Earthfight can jump up on the dirt.  Stakes winning Turf horse Sushi Empire, on the other hand, does have a 92 Pedigree Rating for this race and will be a price.  

Streaming is the selection.  However, if Streaming gets bet down below 8-5, it's probably best to find other opportunities in the card, such as the Arcadia, where the TimeformUS data points to #1 Procurement (12-1 ML).

The Wager:   Streaming to win.  Exacta Streaming over Arethusa.  Supers - Streaming on top with Arethusa in the 3/4 holes and wheel Artemis, Fashion Plate and Sushi Empire in the other positions.

Saturday, Tampa Bay, Race 9, Local Post Time 4:25pm ET
The G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, 1 and 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3YO
By Douglas Salvatore

A field of eight is assembled for the Sam Davis, and three horses very clearly standout from the rest. The three standouts are Harpoon, Noble Cornerstone, and Cousin Stephen.

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The TimeformUS Preview Page paints a pretty picture for Harpoon (4/1 morning line). He owns the field’s best Spotlight Speed Figure, and the Pace Projector shows him isolated on a loose early lead in a race that favors horses on or near the early lead.

TimeformUS Preview Page

TimeformUS Pace Projector

Harpoon's trainer is Todd Pletcher, and he owns a 100 Trainer Rating overall and a 100 Rating at Tampa Bay Downs. This $500,000 yearling buy seems all set for a breakthrough performance.

The aforementioned main dangers to Harpoon are Noble Cornerstone and Cousin Stephen. Noble Cornerstone figures to get a very good trip, positioned second early in a race where the Pace Projector indicates a slow early pace. He's demonstrated tactical versatility in his two starts, and his two speed figures of 88 are very competitive with this group. Trainer Wesley Ward has a 94 overall Trainer Rating and he's won at 44% at Tampa Bay Downs from a limited sample.

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The final contender is Cousin Stephen. He owns the field’s best last-out speed figure, and goes for trainer Chad Brown, who has a 100 overall Trainer Rating.

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The rest of the horses in this field lack appeal for a wide variety of reasons.

Betting Strategy: Box Harpoon, Noble Cornerstone, and Cousin Stephen in exactas and trifectas.

Saturday, Aqueduct, Race 9, Local Post Time 4:20pm ET
The G3 Withers Stakes, 1 and 1/16 miles, Inner Dirt, 3YO
By Douglas Salvatore

This is not exactly the strongest edition of the Withers Stakes. The 7/5 Morning Line favorite, Samraat, is a New York bred who has never faced open competition at any point in his career. The 9/5 second-choice on the morning line is Uncle Sigh, who dominated a New York Bred maiden special weight race at odds of 2/5 last time out, and has also never faced open competition before.

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How weak is this edition of the Withers? Well, the automated TimeformUS Power Picks algorithm selects the maiden, Scotland, as the second choice. And frankly, he is clearly the value of this race at his 8/1 morning line price.

The Pace Projector tells an interesting story:

TimeformUS Pace Projector

Uncle Sigh is projected on an early lead, with Samraat perched off of him, in a pace scenario that favors horses on or near the early lead. However, two strong favorites often hook up and take the fight to one another, refusing to yield the other the tactical advantage.

Let's hope that happens and take our shot with the maiden Scotland. Scotland owns competitive speed figure and has finished second and third in his last two races—events that received similar Race Ratings to the Withers. Scotland’s Trainer, Tony Dutrow, has an excellent 93 Trainer Rating and scores a 100 Rating (the maximum) with Second time Routers. Tony Dutrow must have a very high opinion of Scotland, as he's someone who very rarely overmatches his horses.

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Betting Strategy: Win bet on Scotland. Box him in the exacta with Uncle Sigh and Samraat. 

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