Sunday, Santa Anita, Race 5, Local Post Time 2:30pm PT
The G2 San Vicente Stakes, 7 Furlongs, Dirt, 3YO
By Jason Perlmutter
The Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita features a field of six colts who have raced a combined 15 times in their burgeoning careers. This is the time of year when three-year-old thoroughbreds explode with regularity to career-top performances. In light of that, we will look for horses with disappointing recent form who appear primed to move forward. Let's analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each entry, from the rail out:
1. Grazen's Hope -- Debuted with a speed figure of 93, which is fairly competitive in here, and then won handily stretching to a mile in his last. Projects for a good tracking trip in a race that the Pace Projector projects to favor horses on or near the lead. But his races up at Golden Gate were rated significantly lower than today's race on our Race Ratings, and we're inclined to think he gets run off his feet in this spot.
2. Rprettyboyfloyd -- A maiden who lacks early speed and appears at a pace disadvantage, but otherwise has a few things going for him. Has closed resolutely in both career starts, in races with strong Race Ratings (last race rated a 99; today's race rates a 95). His debut was contested on a mildly speed-favoring surface (see Race Rating box color-coded in pink). His speed figure in his last race was a 99, which makes him the second-fastest horse in the field. We're inclined to think he takes a step back from that number off relatively short rest.
3. Papa Turf -- Converted into a closer in his last two starts, with decent results. Strong candidate to hit the board, but we don't love his chances of winning. Simply not that fast. It has taken him five career starts to reach a top of 93, and we prefer other late runners who will offer more value.
4. Roger Rocket -- Had an eventful debut race, closing to win and posting a modest 81 speed figure. Note that the race fell apart for him and the track appeared to favor late-running types. Still, it was a good learning experience, and he figures to move forward. Will try to beat him based on expected low odds due to high-profile connections.
5. Cherubim -- Figures to get an uncontested lead. There's just not a lot of speed in this field for a SoCal sprint. Hard to knock his last race, as he dueled and won decisively at 20-1. His supporters will be hoping to avoid a wedding-funeral scenario with this one, but note that the race he exits has a strong Race Rating of 97, that his Pedigree Rating of 92 indicates he should handle the additional furlong, and that his 103 speed figure is tops in the field. Not to mention, he gets a full 50 days of rest. They will have to catch him late.
6. Kobe's Back -- Comes in fresh and tries dirt for the first time. Sadler and Rosario have a strong 93 trainer/jockey rating, and we think this one will be full of run late. Note the bullet workouts he has been firing. Given the low odds on this horse in his first two career starts, no doubt representative of insider support, and given his much-discussed gate problems, we're inclined to think he hasn't shown his best on the racetrack. We think that will change on Sunday. We also think it's a tad premature to call this horse a "plodder," since he has only three races under his belt and did manage to cover the first half-mile of the Hollywood Prevue in a solid 46.49 seconds. That type of speed will put him some ten lengths behind expected leader Cherubim, but the seven-furlong distance of today's race should give him ample time to launch a menacing rally.
Normally we would just take Cherubim and be done with it, but these are world class jockeys, and they will anticipate the obvious pace advantage for Cherubim. Accordingly, might do just enough to soften him up for a late runner. Therefore, we will take a stab here with Kobe's Back. The bullets indicate he is loaded for bear here, and we expect him to be flying in the late stages. He represents fair value in the 4-1 range. Two races back he lost to monster Shared Belief, when the slow internal fractions of the race did not favor his closing style. Then, in his last race, he ran against Grade 1 competition on a speed-favoring surface and folded early. We're expecting a much-improved effort today. Kobe's Back is the pick.
The Wager: Kobe's Back to win. Exacta Box Kobe's Back / Cherubim.
Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:24pm PT
The G2 Santa Maria Stakes, 1 and 1/16 miles, Dirt, F&M, 4YO+
By Robert Finnegan
The Grade 2 Santa Maria has attracted a field of seven fillies and mares to run 1 1/16 on the Santa Anita main track. Both of the favorites on the morning line, Fiftyshadesofhay and Ondine, are trained by Bob Baffert.
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According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the pace of the Santa Maria will favor horses who race on or near the early lead, and the early leader will be Ondine, with Golden Production in second and Fiftyshadesofhay in third.
We are not going to pretend that we love this race from a betting standpoint, but if the morning line holds up, our interest will go to the John Sadler-trained mare Iotapa. In her most recent effort, Iotapa returned from a six-month layoff to finish second in the Grade 2 Santa Monica at seven furlongs. In that race, Iotapa broke last from the inside, settled in the clear, and then went three-wide around the turn while the eventual winner was cutting the corner.
Iotapa earned a speed figure of 100 for that effort, five points off her lifetime top. She draws the rail again today, this time for a two-turn race, and figures to be in line for a ground-saving stalking trip, as the pace Projector shows her in fourth early. She is proven around two turns. Her pace figures and final-time figure from her sprint comeback (79 91 96 102) bode well for a horse stretching out in distance. She is still relatively lightly raced. She has proven herself at a level above this one--with her second to Beholder in the Santa Anita Oaks. At morning line odds of 7-2, Iotapa is our selection.
As far as exotics are concerned, we dislike Let Faith Arise, who figures to take money (7-2 on the morning line) off her second-place finish in the La Canada, a race in which she received a very favorable trip on her way to her strong speed figure of 107.
We are not overly fond of Golden Production or Stanwyck either. These two mares exit the same minor stake--a race that earned a Race Rating that is a cut below the best in here.
Ondine ran crazy-fast pace figures (150 146 131) in the La Canada and is an obvious threat on the lead today, but she will need to avoid bouncing off of that huge performance, which earned her a lifetime-top speed figure of 112.
Fiftyshadesofhay was pinballed at the start of the La Canada, which cost her position, though it did keep her well off the hot pace. She earned a speed figure of 104 for that performance and is an obvious contender today.
The play: Iotapa to win, and exacta boxes of Iotapa with Fiftyshadesofhay and Iotapa with Ondine.
Saturday, Golden Gate, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:15pm PT
The G3 El Camino Real Derby, 1 and 1/8 miles, Synth, 3YO
By Robert Finnegan
Eight three-year-old colts will be chasing Kentucky Derby points in this Derby prep to be run at nine furlongs over Golden Gate's Tapeta synthetic surface, and what is most striking about this race is the utter lack of early speed in it. There is nary a confirmed frontrunner signed up. Indeed, according to our running style designations (see above the running lines, to the left), by habitual running style, this race is composed of one tracker, four mid-pack runners, one closer, and two plodders.
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The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates the pace will favor horses who race on or near the early lead, and it projects three horses to be contesting the pace at the opening half: I'll Wrap It Up, Enterprising, and Infosec. They are followed, in close order, by Dance With Fate and Icy Ride. Tamarando, Puppy Manners, and Craftsman follow them.
Let's go over the field in post position order. The morning line odds will appear in parentheses.
Craftsman (8-1): Ran a fast race in Ireland, earning a 93 speed figure. This will be his first race on a synthetic surface. However, his Pedigree Rating for synthetic routes, though based on a short sample, is a lofty 98. The biggest knock on Craftsman is that his only race in the United States was painfully dull. His speed figure, an 82, was mediocre, and the visual impression he left was lackluster. He will add blinkers today for Simon Callaghan, and at nice odds, one can make a case for looking past his American debut.
Puppy Manners (8-1): Plodder had the fast pace (see red color-coding) in his favor in a minor stake at Golden Gate and could do no better than fourth, losing to two horses who are in this race today. His speed figures are improving, but with the pace likely working against his style today, we have a hard time seeing him doing more than rounding out the trifecta or the superfecta.
Infosec (10-1): He's one of the two horses in here who just beat Puppy Manners, and he did it while racing closer to the fast pace and losing some ground racing wide on the far turn. His speed figures are improving every start. He's a candidate to try for a theft in this seemingly paceless race. We like his probable odds. Our main knock on him is that he had dead aim last time and looked as if he left it all on the racetrack--we tend to doubt that he will have more to give 28 days later. But we will look for him down the road. And let's give a nod to his venerable trainer for moving this horse up after claiming him from Bob Baffert (something one does not see all that often).
Tamarando (3-1): Admirable colt who always fires. Race Ratings indicate he exits the strongest race. Has strong speed figures, top-of-the-line trainer, and Russell Baze. But also figures to have his work cut out for him overcoming the likely slow pace. Strong contender.
Enterprising (5-2): Ran a strong 89 speed figure in the race he shares with Puppy Manners and Infosec. His proximity to the fast pace notwithstanding, he had a pretty trip in that race--saving ground early and finding a seam in the lane. Switches back to heady Gary Stevens for this and goes for estimable trainer Tom Proctor. Enterprising is another who might be asked to attempt a theft today. Strong contender.
Icy Ride (10-1): Baffert usually means business when he ships to Golden Gate, but this one will need to improve.
I'll Wrap It Up (10-1): Another who might attempt a theft. One could make a case for him based on his being a synthetic specialist who ran a 90 on cushion track and who is getting back on synthetic today, but we're not going to make such a case. Instead, we will hold a grudge based on the way he came up empty in his most recent race (a race in which he encountered trouble but only after he had been outrun).
Dance With Fate (7-2): Peter Eurton-trained colt ships up to Golden Gate after winning a bottom-level allowance on grass at Santa Anita. Has back class, having run 2nd in two Grade 1s last year. Handles synthetic just fine. Trouble at the start of his last two races obscures the fact that he has some early foot. Was supremely impressive in winning his most recent race. He earned a speed figure of only 81, but from a visual perspective, it was a commanding performance--one that left not a hint of doubt about who was best. If Dance With Fate can take even a small step forward today, as he makes his second start off the brief layoff, he is going to be a handful. He is our selection.
The play: Dance With Fate to win. Exotics over and under Enterprising and Tamarando.
Check this blog later this weekend for previews of Sunday's San Vicente and Monday's Southwest Stakes