Supporting Cast May Overshadow Stars in Gotham and Swale

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman")

 

The road to the Kentucky Derby will take a few more twists and turns this Saturday, with the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) marking a rematch between Withers Stakes (gr. III) 1-2 finishers Samraat and Uncle Sigh, and Gulfstream’s Swale Stakes (gr. II) featuring the return of Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Havana. But could the box-office stars be overshadowed by the supporting cast? To answer that question, let’s take a quick look at the two races…

Gotham Stakes

In this day and age, with match races nearly as extinct as dinosaurs, it was exciting to watch the show put on by Samraat and Uncle Sigh in the February 1st Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. No one who saw the race will ever forget the remarkable battle between the two New York-bred colts, who left their rivals behind at the start and were never separated by more than a length from start to finish. Samraat emerged on top by a length that day, and—on paper—should have the edge over Uncle Sigh again on Saturday. However, while Uncle Sigh has been pointing toward the Gotham ever since his defeat in the Withers, Samraat's appearance in this race came as a bit of a surprise. Immediately after the Withers, trainer Richard Violette, Jr. made plans for Samraat to skip the Gotham and target the Wood Memorial (gr. I) in April. But after seeing how well the colt has trained during the last few weeks, a last-minute decision was made to go ahead and run Samraat in the Gotham. While it's good to know that Samraat is training well, I have a personal handicapping rule-of-thumb to be wary of horses that get entered in races they hadn’t originally targeted, as such plans seem to disappoint more often than not. And since Samraat's edge over Uncle Sigh appears to be tenuous, I have to side with Uncle Sigh in the rematch.

But even though I like Uncle Sigh to defeat Samraat, I actually prefer Harpoon to beat them both. The Todd Pletcher-trainee underwent a rather odd journey in the February 1st Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs. After a very alert start, he was content to settle in fourth place while racing toward the inside, a position he retained until the far turn, where he suddenly dropped back several lengths and appeared to be beaten. But upon being guided to the far outside at the top of the stretch, Harpoon came back to life, roaring past horses like he was going to win by a mile. Unfortunately, it was at that inopportune moment that he drifted in, and rival Matador drifted out, resulting in some bumping that caused Harpoon to lose his momentum. He regained it in time to make the finish a close one, but fell a nose short of catching his stablemate, Vinceremos. From a speed figure perspective, the Sam F. Davis was not a fast race, and it must be noted that Harpoon was rallying into slow final fractions. But I think Harpoon has a lot of upside, and with Samraat, Uncle Sigh, and Miracle Wood Stakes winner Extrasexyhippzster all likely to battle for the early lead, I think Harpoon will take advantage and pass them all in the homestretch.

Swale Stakes

There’s little doubt that Havana deserves to be the favorite in the Swale, thanks to his high-profile connections and strong race record. The speedy son of Dunkirk did miss some training time this winter, but he has come back quickly with five workouts since February 1st. He may not be one-hundred percent fit in his first start of the year, and he may face early pressure while breaking from the rail, but his talent alone should be enough to get him a top-three finish. The seven-furlong distance should also play in his favor.

But while most of the attention may be focused on Havana, I believe that No Nay Never will give him a real run for the money. The Wesley Ward-trainee went unbeaten in three starts as a two-year-old, beginning with an impressive maiden win sprinting 4-1/2 furlongs at Keeneland. He then embarked on a journey to Europe and won the group II Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and the group I Darley Prix Morny at Deauville, defeating future group I winners Vorda and Rizeena in the latter. The Swale will mark his debut on dirt, and his pedigree is slanted toward success on the turf—both legitimate concerns—but No Nay Never seems to be training exceptionally well on the dirt at Gulfstream, having breezed five furlongs in :58.94 on February 15th. He has also drawn gate three, which will give his jockey the advantage of following Havana and adapting to whatever pace scenario presents itself.

Who do you like?

95 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Rusty Weisner

Hey, it's Keelerman in lights.  Congratulations!

27 Feb 2014 11:41 AM
mz

Ibid on the congratulations, Keelerman!

I also congratulate you on No Nay Never.  I have been confused about where he is going this year for a long time but my question is: when he wins the Swale, will they push him onto the Derby trail or keep him on track for the big Grade 1 sprints in Europe?

I still like Samraat, though.  

27 Feb 2014 11:54 AM
-Keelerman

Thanks for the congratulations, Rusty Weisner and mz! It's great to see you here!

mz, I've been asking myself the same question. I think if No Nay Never were to win the Swale impressively, his connections might be tempted to give him a shot in a race like the Florida Derby. Even if he were to lose the Florida Derby, it most likely wouldn't affect his training for the St. James's Palace Stakes, and if he were to win...well, suffice to say, how could you pass up a shot at the Kentucky Derby? :)

27 Feb 2014 12:48 PM
hopalong

Wasn't the Withers run in moderate time?

27 Feb 2014 3:37 PM
Carlos in Cali

Keelerman! Congrats!

I agree with you regarding Harpoon,thinking he should sit a nice stalking trip behind the speed.

Any news on where Monopolize will be re-entered?..

Commissioner?..

27 Feb 2014 4:37 PM
-Keelerman

hopalong;

The final time of the Withers was indeed not very fast; they ran the 8.5-furlong distance in 1:46.31. But Aqueduct seemed to be playing a bit on the slow side that day. Three-year-old fillies in the Busher Stakes clocked the distance in 1:48.49; a $20,000 NW3 L claiming race for older horses went in 1:47.58; and a one-mile NW1 X allowance race for older horses was timed in 1:38.97. With that in mind, the time for the Withers wasn't really all that bad, and it translated into a respectable Beyer speed figure.

27 Feb 2014 4:48 PM
-Keelerman

Thanks so much, Carlos in Cali! I appreciate it!

Monopolize was re-entered just today for the $75,000 Smooth Air Stakes at Calder on Sunday. Here are the entries: www.equibase.com/.../CRC030214USA-EQB.html

I thought Commissioner's performance in the Fountain of Youth was actually pretty good. True, he didn't present a serious challenge at any point in the race, but perhaps he wasn't comfortable racing down along the inside. Regardless, he stayed on fairly well in the homestretch, losing just 1 3/4 lengths on the leaders from the eighth pole to the wire, and finished well clear of bottom half of the field, which included We Miss Artie, C. Zee, and Almost Famous. And given that Commissioner was in mid-pack throughout, the somewhat speed-favoring nature of the Gulfstream main track last Saturday didn't help matters any. Perhaps a different racetrack and better post position will help Commissioner turn things around next time out -- I personally believe the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) would be a perfect spot for him. Overall, I think the Fountain of Youth was a performance that Commissioner can build upon, and it wouldn't shock me to see him progress in much the same manner that Drosselmeyer did in 2010, and wind up a legitimate contender for the Belmont Stakes.

27 Feb 2014 5:11 PM
KY VET

heres a list of 3 horses i think show bad signs......vicars in trouble....harpoon......and tapiture.........lets see if any go on shelf soon......

27 Feb 2014 5:11 PM
-Keelerman

Does anyone else like Flores Island in Saturday's Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct? Trained by Bill Mott, this daughter of Giant's Causeway hit the board in six of her first seven starts without winning, but found the winner's circle in October at Belmont and now brings a three-race winning streak into the Top Flight. In a race with only one standout front-runner, I believe that Flores Island has enough speed to work out a decent stalking trip behind a slow pace, and hopefully hang around for a piece of the trifecta at her morning line odds of 10-1.

And while on the topic of the Top Flight, does anyone have any thoughts on why Flash Forward is also listed as a 10-1 shot on the morning line? In the Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct on January 25th, she easily defeated fellow Top Flight contenders Centring and Royal Lahaina by 5 3/4 and 10 1/4 lengths, respectively, yet those fillies are listed at 5-1 and 6-1 on the Top Flight morning line! Perhaps the odds will shift by post time, but if Flash Forward does goes off at longer odds than Centring and Royal Lahaina, she may offer the best value in the field.

27 Feb 2014 5:40 PM
predict

Gotham whales, Uncle Sigh and Samraat, get Harpooned? Doubt it, but they won't win anyway. Look for Extrasexyhippzster to put both away and Financial Mogul, now over lung infection, to pick up the pieces late.

Swale, no doubt it will be No Nay Never, bad grammar and all.

27 Feb 2014 8:04 PM
Ranagulzion

No Nay Never appears to be a good one and is fancied to win the Swale Stakes but I don't view him as a strong Kentucky Derby contender based on pedigree. The same applies to Havana. The nicely bred Ghostzapper colt Breitling Flyer is an interesting entry ...could be a fly in the ointment.

Samraat should continue on his winning ways in te Gotham.

27 Feb 2014 8:23 PM
Cassandra.Says

No Nay Never's win in the Prix Morny was a thing of beauty. You can see it on YouTube. I've been discouraged by the brilliant works, because it looks as though his connections are going to sprint him without testing him. On the other side of the pond they seem to be dogmatic about it. A very fast horse cannot stay, period. (See Frankel.)

In the Group I Prix Morny, No Nay Never sprinted clear of his field for the first six furlongs, it appeared, and looked in trouble as the closer loomed up behind him like a tsunami. Then he pulled away from them with ease.

Speed is always dangerous? Not if it is a deterrent to entering.

28 Feb 2014 12:11 AM
Coldfacts

“I thought Commissioner's performance in the Fountain of Youth was actually pretty good.”

That’s being overly generous. He performed as was expected at least from my end. He is devoid of tactical speed, very even pace and he lacks explosive acceleration.

Top Billing secured a wide and unfavorable post and was directed to the rail by his rider. He then launched is challenge from that location. Speculating that Commissioner did not like his position on the track is again being kind. The really good ones perform from any location on the track.  

28 Feb 2014 6:51 AM
-Keelerman

Coldfacts;

Those are valid points, and I agree with you. I should have clarified my position a bit better -- given that Commissioner does lack tactical speed, and explosive acceleration, I thought he ran as well as could be expected. I think he could show a lot of improvement in a race like the Louisiana Derby, with a (hopefully!) slower pace that will allow him to stay within shouting range of the leaders. Thanks for your thoughts!

predict;

I hadn't heard about Financial Mogul's lung infection. I assume it happened after the Holy Bull, and that's why he's been training at Fair Hill? You may be on to something here -- I had been disappointed that Financial Mogul failed to sustain the rally he started on the far turn of the Holy Bull, but perhaps this lung infection explains why he faded. I'll be sure to keep a close eye on him tomorrow!

28 Feb 2014 9:55 AM
-Keelerman

Although the majority of the week's best racing is scheduled for Saturday, I'm really looking forward to watching today's eighth race at Oaklawn. An 8.5-furlong allowance race, it has drawn the promising three-year-old Street Strategy, who is the even-money favorite against six older rivals. Another strong performance by Street Strategy could propel him to a start in a major Kentucky Derby prep.

28 Feb 2014 10:14 AM
Pedigree Ann

Keeler middle name, eh? Any relation to Edith Keeler? (Yeah, I'm a sci fi nerd.)

28 Feb 2014 10:16 AM
-Keelerman

Whoops! I just heard that Street Strategy has scratched from the eighth race at Oaklawn this afternoon. Sounds like he may come back in the Rebel Stakes instead.

28 Feb 2014 11:59 AM
-Keelerman

Pedigree Ann;

Great to hear from you! No relation to Edith Keeler that I know of. :)

While going through the Blood-Horse stallion register a few weeks ago, I noticed a stallion that made me stop and think of the mare you bought at auction last year. From strictly a pedigree perspective, do you think that Lunarpal would be a good match for Milly? I remember you saying that you wanted to key on the Tartan Farm bloodlines in her pedigree, and when I saw Lunarpal's pedigree, I thought to myself "You can't get much more Tartan blood than that!" What do you think?

28 Feb 2014 12:16 PM
Rusty Weisner

Keelerman,

They're bumping you down, but out of loyalty I'm going to put the weekend's comments on your thread.

I'll take a pass on the Gotham.  The two favorites are legitimate to my eyes after separating themselves from the field and running back to mid-90's Beyers.

That said, I'm actually making a rare foray to the track tomorrow, to Laurel, and will take a look at the GP and Aqueduct cards (I already feel like I'm going to go berserk, like a caged animal let free).  I don't like it that Havana and the Gotham bust up the late P4s.

I don't like Harpoon.  I think the rushing finish is deceptive - he beat staggerers and lost to a horse that almost literally backed up, and bumped the rail.

28 Feb 2014 1:11 PM
-Keelerman

Thanks, Rusty! I look forward to seeing your picks, and I hope you have a great day at the track!

28 Feb 2014 2:12 PM
Plod Boy Phil

re: Swale

Havana romps. Lay the 4 lengths.....

28 Feb 2014 2:15 PM
Rusty Weisner

Yeah, maybe I play the P5 for the price of 4.

28 Feb 2014 2:49 PM
Rusty Weisner

LRL R4 I'll probably try Symphonic Hero, who is the lone speed, exits the fastest race and drops way down in class from AlwS to claiming, and may be better than ML 5-1 because of prior performance against these.  Secret Jackpot exits the same race and is my second choice.

28 Feb 2014 3:14 PM
Rusty Weisner

Anyone know anything about this "Charlie Allnut" (other than Humphrey Bogart played him in "The African Queen")?  He is a Big Brown colt debuting against a 3/5 favorite in LRL R5.

28 Feb 2014 3:22 PM
Rusty Weisner

LRL R6 favorite Moonstone Magic

LRL R7 Bombay Beaches 5-1 - drops into a race I don't see a lot, AlwStk for 3-yo.  She was entered for her second straight Alw/Ocl race today but has scratched out for the race at the lower class tomorrow.  I'll take her over legitimate favorite 8 and prefer her off the layoff to comparable 3.

28 Feb 2014 4:10 PM
Rusty Weisner

They start them practically on the turn at 8.5f at Laurel.  

28 Feb 2014 4:25 PM
-Keelerman

Rusty Weisner;

I'm afraid I can't offer much on Charlie Allnut, except that he is a half-brother to 2008 Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Recapturetheglory, who finished fifth in that year's Kentucky Derby behind (coincidentally!) Big Brown.

28 Feb 2014 4:42 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Two at Aqueduct make the Grade as likely overlays capable of repeating or improving upon their last races. Of course, the view from Flowville often casts events in a different light.

R3 5 Hackleton - this 'Neutral or Better Winner' ran through speed favoring conditions at 22-1 as one of two upgrades in his last.  No reason to dismount now,  but he'll admittedly need help from other speeds to soften the ML favorite.

R7 8 Towering Moon (6-1), available in the handicapping section of an adw near you, finished fast into a speed favoring Flow in his last.  That runner-up try at big odds came following an upgraded effort, so the forward move on the stretch was anything but unexpected. I'm betting he'll produce the same energy Saturday,  at far less appealing odds.

28 Feb 2014 9:48 PM
Rusty Weisner

I'm going to play Notability in GP R6 as a win/single.  I doubt I get the ML 4-1.  His last race, where he and the winner ran away from the rest, was better than the one before. Plus he shortens up a little. Maybe Romans is making this one another Silver Max.  

01 Mar 2014 7:25 AM
Rusty Weisner

Anyone have any ideas on the last race at GP?

01 Mar 2014 7:27 AM
Rusty Weisner

Certainly no GP P5 today:  the first and last legs (R7 & R11) are inscrutable.

01 Mar 2014 8:00 AM
Rusty Weisner

R8 Gulfstream:  Kalamos 12-1. Was behind the 8-ball in last.  A couple of the favorites come off long layoffs.

01 Mar 2014 8:04 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Rusty -

Nothing to offer in the GP finale.

Concur on Kalamos being live at a price.

01 Mar 2014 8:19 AM
Rusty Weisner

I like the favorite, Bella Castani, in GP R5, who lost to a graded stakes winner and runs second back.

01 Mar 2014 8:22 AM
Rusty Weisner

GP R1: I'll take the favorite here, too, the 2nd time starter who's already routed in an even debut where she never came off the rail, and is very sharp, with a race three weeks ago and a bullet since.

01 Mar 2014 8:32 AM
Rusty Weisner

Plod Boy Phil,

I suspected you might like that one, too.

01 Mar 2014 8:36 AM
Rusty Weisner

I don't like GP R3 at all.  The two Pletchers are not going to be 2-1 and 3-1.  More like even money and 9-5.  And I don't know which I'd use.  

01 Mar 2014 8:38 AM
Kevin

My picks for the day at GP

6).  #3 Only turf race closed into very slow fractions.  Comparable beyers.

7). #1 Very consistent morning bullets, and the rail.

8)  #5.  Think Kalamos will take a lot of money, making the odds on the #5 more juicy.  

10). Tri box 1,7,9,10.  Love the 7s increasing beyers.  

11). #3.  Race full of horses who tire in the last 1/2 furlong, he has speed and stamina.  

01 Mar 2014 9:27 AM
Secreteriat

Rusty,

I'm using Conemara Coast # 4 Charlie Allnut #5 in a TRI

35 with 345 with all.

It is my  Bet of the Day.

01 Mar 2014 9:32 AM
Secreteriat

Rusty,

I'm using Conemara Coast # 4 Charlie Allnut #5 in a TRI

35 with 345 with all.

It is my  Bet of the Day.

01 Mar 2014 9:44 AM
-Keelerman

Just heard that Classic Giacnroll will scratch from the Gotham and target the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel on March 8th, leaving the Gotham with a field of nine.

01 Mar 2014 9:50 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Keelerman -

A wise choice,  that.

01 Mar 2014 9:58 AM
Coldfacts

Keelerman,

I do believe Deceived merited a mention as part of the supporting cast. Four colts have recorded wide margin victories on the inner track at the Big A. They are Samraat, Deceived, Uncle Sigh and Extrasexyhippzster. You highlighted three and totally disregarded Deceived.

There have been two races contested by Deceived that are startlingly in their outcome. On 12/18/2013 He contested the Damon Runyon at 1 70yd where left the gates at 2-1. He was beaten 19L by Samraat. How was it is possible for a 2-1 contender to be beaten by such a wide margin? Was it a true reflection of Samraat’s superiority? Did something either go wrong or did he dislike the inner track? On 01/312014 he returned to the same inner track and won an 8F race by 8L in a good time of 1:39 2/5 on a plus track.

Samraat is certainly not 19L better than Deceived and their December meeting should be totally dismissed. This colt has to be sitting on a big one. From a pedigree angle Deceived has a major advantage being sired by a son Unbridled the greatest extension of Mr. Prospector. Deceived dam sire Known Fact was a son of In Reality. Known Fact is also dam sire of the talented and recently retired Data Link. Smile and Believe It are sons of In Reality who were dam sire to Derby winners Smarty Jones and Real Quiet.

Assuming this colt is a good as his pedigree suggests and he shows up in competitive shape, he should be a worthy challenger from the supporting cast.

01 Mar 2014 10:04 AM
El Kabong

You can call him JJ or you can call him Johnny, or you can call him Mr. Johnson, but yah doesn't have to call him KEELERMAN. Keelerman, I am salivating for the Palm at GP. Romans has a real runner in there who should hit the board named Smart Cover. This is only a stepping stone, more than likely to one of the Major Derby Preps, but at 15 to one, he's going to fatten up an exotic. Very tough race for a comeback but Romans knows this road and loves this guy, and so do I. Give him a look. Gooood luck today.

01 Mar 2014 11:03 AM
-Keelerman

Coldfacts;

I wanted to mention Deceived in my analysis of the Gotham, but I'm afraid there just wasn't enough room! I agree, one should not judge Deceived based on his performance in the Damon Runyon Stakes. He lunged at the start that day and broke a couple lengths behind the field, then appeared to become rank and pulled his way up into third after a bit more than a quarter of a mile. Even with a clean start, I don't think he was going to take down Samraat, but he definitely wouldn't have lost by 19 1/2 lengths.

However, the Gotham will mark Deceived's first start in open company, and he figures to encounter a much faster pace than the ones he tracked in his two victories. I also thought he looked pretty tired at the finish of his most recent victory, being urged hard all the way to the wire to record his 8 1/4-length triumph. That's not to say he can't win, but since he's stepping into open company -- and stretching out a sixteenth of a mile farther than his allowance win -- I think others may have the edge.

01 Mar 2014 11:25 AM
-Keelerman

Major scratch to report -- Havana is out of the Swale.

01 Mar 2014 11:26 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Havana scratched.

01 Mar 2014 11:30 AM
-Keelerman

El Kabong;

I am also looking forward to seeing how Smart Cover performs. It's encouraging that he broke his maiden on the turf at Ellis Park, so at 15-1, he's definitely worth a look. I'm hoping that he can hit the board, then head to Keeneland for the Blue Grass Stakes, the same route that Dullahan took to the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Good luck to you, too!

01 Mar 2014 12:13 PM
Plod Boy Phil

re: Palm Beach

I recommend a video review of Patent's last three turf races,  from the bottom up of course.  After, consider the 9f distance of today's race, the addition of Lasix, and the fact that his impressive finish last out was into an Extreme for Speed.  

01 Mar 2014 1:51 PM
-Keelerman

Plod Boy Phil;

I took a look at the three replays you mentioned, and I was very impressed with Patent. You may have found a hidden gem! But I'm going to side with Mr Speaker for the win, with respect to Patent and Gala Award.

01 Mar 2014 3:47 PM
Kevin

good start with #3 winning the 6th.  just wish odds stayed at 12-1 ML.

01 Mar 2014 3:50 PM
-Keelerman

Wow! The Gotham Stakes was one of those races where the eventual outcome was secondary to the exciting show put on by the top finishers. From the top of the stretch to the finish, I kept waiting for either In Trouble, Uncle Sigh, or Samraat to give way, but they all held together in one of the most memorable races I've seen in a long time. It's so unfortunate that two of them had to lose, but I think Samraat beat them fair and square, even if Uncle Sigh and In Trouble were in a bit tight through the final furlong. Watching the head-on replay, I was really amazed at how straight the three colts ran down the homestretch -- there was a little bit of bumping, but nothing serious. After making a few quick calculations, I think the Beyer for this race is going to come back at around 100, a very solid figure indeed!

01 Mar 2014 4:49 PM
-Keelerman

Kevin;

Great pick with Woodfield Springs in the sixth at Gulfstream! Too bad he couldn't have stayed closer to 12-1, but perhaps he's a larger price in the multi-race pools. Are you live in the Rainbow 6?

01 Mar 2014 5:17 PM
-Keelerman

It all went just as I had hoped. No Nay Never got off to a good start, tracked the early pace, and held off the late-running Brothersofthetime by 1 1/4 lengths. Never mind that horse that rolled right past No Nay Never in the homestretch -- he must have joined the race on the far turn, or something. Surely that wasn't Spot, who finished a distant fifth in the Hutcheson Stakes last month as a 30-1 shot. Couldn't have been. :)

...Getting serious, congratulations to anyone who liked Spot, and to trainer Nick Zito. The Triple Crown has felt a bit empty the last two years without a starter from Zito's barn, but perhaps Spot can return him to the "spot"light.

01 Mar 2014 5:39 PM
-Keelerman

With zero minutes to post for the Palm Beach Stakes, Patent is 21-1, more than 2.5x his morning line odds. Good luck, Plod Boy Phil!

01 Mar 2014 5:46 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Patent did not handle his Lasix debut well - on edge,  which was not my vision,  or theirs I imagine.

Excellent day for Kevin.

01 Mar 2014 5:58 PM
-Keelerman

Upon review of the Gotham result chart, and re-examination of the earlier races on the card, I think my projection of a 100 Beyer speed figure for Samraat may have been a bit high -- 94-95 seems more likely. I'll be very curious to see what the official figure ends up being!

01 Mar 2014 6:00 PM
-Keelerman

Kevin;

Congratulations on hitting the trifecta in the Palm Beach Stakes!

01 Mar 2014 6:35 PM
-Keelerman

Thanks to everyone for making this an exceptional day of racing! I had a great time exchanging insights, seeing everyone's selections, and watching the day's races unfold. Congratulations to everyone on some fine handicapping!

Be sure to join me on Thursday to handicap Saturday's spectacular day of racing, which will be highlighted by the Santa Anita Handicap, San Felipe Stakes, Tampa Bay Derby, and many other intriguing events.

In fact, this coming Saturday looks like such a great race day, I think it warrants one of our handicapping contests! Same style as usual, with mythical $2 win/place wagers on our selections, and the winner being whoever compiles the highest payoff.

Here's a tentative schedule for the contest races:

Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita

Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. I) at Santa Anita

San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita

San Carlos Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita

Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs

Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park

Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park

Thanks again, everyone!

01 Mar 2014 10:13 PM
Rusty Weisner

Made enough money in the middle of the day at Laurel to have something to lose at Gulfstream.  The track was kind to speed and all the winners were latching on to the rail so I played Symphonic Hero for $36 in bets that returned $96.  At GP I lost about that much on three races:  R6, where I liked the 4 a lot in horizontals as well as a $20 4-3 box, then on Kalamos.  I was bothered that Havana scratched, as I was committed to him, and tried to make up for it with a last play of the day on Mr. Speaker on top and in boxes over the 1 with the 4,7,12.  Should have listened to Kevin!  Among several other good calls, another one on Kalamos:  12-1 ML, 4-1 post time.

I wish I hadn't remained a spectator on the Gotham.  The obvious exacta and trifecta paid decently, $12-1 and $40-1.  

02 Mar 2014 9:24 AM
Brontexx

Rusty Weisner who did you bet in futures,if you dont bet this you should, if you are looking for the best odds on exactas.

The win pools arent very good IMO because the all others is always the favorite and the payout is miniscule compared to the colt in all others that actually wins the race.The one that immediately comes to mind is Mine That Bird.

02 Mar 2014 9:48 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Rusty -

Always enjoy your daily recaps. Am a bit disappointed that you turned Symphonic Hero ($9.20) into a 9/5 shot, especially considering your second choice completed the 12-1 exacta.

Perhaps "I should have listened to myself" is a more appropriate lesson.

02 Mar 2014 10:02 AM
Plod Boy Phil

One other general comment:

Seems a lot being made of the ML odds.  Remember, it is an educated guess at how the PUBLIC will bet the race - not a handicapping opinion.

02 Mar 2014 10:16 AM
Rusty Weisner

Plod Boy Phil,

I got at least close to the post time 3-1 (ML 5-1, hah).  But point taken:  just bet the darn horse to win or WPS.  It wasn't my second choice that got up, by the way, it was another, but I played two exactas, 3,2 and 3,4. Had P3's on either side of that race, but chalky ones.

That wasn't the worst of it, though.  I thought an ML 15-1 horse in Laurel's last, Flattering, was live.  This one I bet to win but not to show, and in exactas; came in second at 17-1.  I don't know if you do Laurel, but this was a

02 Mar 2014 11:01 AM
Rusty Weisner

Plod Boy Phil,

We all know what the ML is.  But seeing the wrong guesses by the ML writer has the psychological effect of getting the salivary glands going.  I sometimes get set on a horse because of anticipated odds and then don't refactor at race time.

02 Mar 2014 11:04 AM
Rusty Weisner

Plod Boy Phil,

Lost the comment I was making.

I got close to the 3-1 post time odds with my bet on that Laurel horse.  Actually, it wasn't my second choice, it was another I had overlooked, but I ended up playing $10 exactas with that one: 3,2 and 3,4.  There were also chalky P3's on either side of that race.

Point taken, though (again).  But that wasn't the worst of it!  In the last race I though an ML 15-1 horse called Flattering was live, and it went off at 17-1.  That one I DID bet to win (but not to show) and in exactas with three others.  It came in second, and I missed the exactas.  I don't think you guys do Laurel, but this was one you might have flagged, as it was very disadvantaged by the race scenario.  

02 Mar 2014 11:10 AM
Rusty Weisner

Brontexx,

I don't bet the futures.

02 Mar 2014 11:11 AM
Coldfacts

Post-race assessment is always difficult and painful. Some horses will always perform to expectation and others will leave supporters puzzled. The two NY based colts performed as expected and were very competitive. It would be fair to conclude that In Trouble was a victor in defeat. With 5 months between races and his 1st attempt beyond 6F, he was very game in defeat against two talented colts with race fitness and track advantage.

Extrasexyhippzster, Harpoon and Deceived showed very little in defeat. All three were coming off good last performances and were grossly disappointing. Can the inner tack be blamed for their performances? Absolutely not! Both Extrasexyhippzster & Deceived won impressively on the inner track. Harpoon had no excuse either as In Trouble was making his 1st start on the surface as well.

The Wood should be interesting. Samraaat seems unbeatable at the Big A. Will this deter shippers from taking a shot at the big point’s race?

02 Mar 2014 11:20 AM
Rusty Weisner

It just goes to show how averse I am to the sensible WPS wager that I just mixed up "place" with "show".

02 Mar 2014 11:29 AM
-Keelerman

On a side note, the Beyer speed figure for the Gotham was posted this morning as a 96, a career best by 1-2 points for all of the top three finishers.

02 Mar 2014 12:04 PM
-Keelerman

Whoops! This comment was supposed to come before my last one -- thus, the "side note." Sorry about that!

Anyway, this morning, I went back to watch the replay of the Gotham, curious as to why Extrasexyhippzster failed to show his typical early speed. What I discovered -- something I had missed upon first viewing of the race -- was that the he actually suffered a very poor start. Just prior to the opening of the gates, he was acting a bit antsy, and had his head tilted sideways. As a result, he seemed unprepared for the start, and came out of the gate a step slowly. He was then bumped lightly from the inside by Samraat, which caused him to drop back a bit more, and then Master Lightning and Samraat came together and shut off his opening, which left him in last place. From there, he became rank heading into the first turn, and remained rank until allowed to advance between horses heading down the backstretch. He actually put in a decent run to be as close as fifth on the far turn, but understandably tired from his efforts and wound up finishing a distant eighth.

Perhaps he wouldn't have challenged the top three finishers even with a perfect trip, but regardless, I believe the Gotham is a complete throw out race for Extrasexyhippzster, and I think he is capable of rebounding in a big way next time out.

02 Mar 2014 12:22 PM
-Keelerman

Big workout this morning form Honor Code at Gulfstream Park. He went five furlongs in :59.18 seconds alongside stablemate Special Agent, a maiden who clocked the distance in :59.48. Honor Code is definitely getting sharper as the Rebel Stakes approaches!

02 Mar 2014 12:33 PM
El Kabong

Keelerman, Smart Cover certainly needed that race to build lung. I found this comment posted on Donegal site on Feb. 21 by Conor Foley. "I would be shocked if Smart Cover is able to even come in the top 4. However the entire purpose of the race is to use it as a springboard from a fitness and experience standpoint towards the Bluegrass Stakes (G1). " Hold out on that hope for this guy. Yesterday went as planned. Based on last year, he may only need to really run 3rd to get in but you'd like to see the fitness and closing strength if he is going to factor into the Derby. May get good odds for BG too because of this race. News at eleven.

02 Mar 2014 12:40 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Gulfstream R7  2 Nickerdoodle (3-1) continued her string of quality performances against conditioned claimers with an upgraded rush to the wire behind the front-running winner of a Speed favoring Flow.

02 Mar 2014 12:48 PM
-Keelerman

In the aftermath of the Swale Stakes, I took a closer look at Spot's pedigree, and now I really want to see how he does when stretched out in distance. Being by Pulpit out of a Quiet American mare, the potential for classic-level stamina is definitely a possibility, and for supporters of Dosage, his profile reads as a respectable 7-11-14-0-0, with a Dosage Index of 3.57 and a +0.78 Center of Distribution. Time will tell if he can replicate that stretch kick around two turns -- and without a blazing pace softening up the favorite -- but I'm looking forward to finding out!

02 Mar 2014 1:07 PM
-Keelerman

El Kabong;

Thanks for sharing that quote! Smart Cover will definitely have to step up in a big way come the Blue Grass Stakes, but given the unpredictability of the Blue Grass, that's by no means impossible. And since he's already earned four Kentucky Derby qualification points, even a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass would probably get him in the Derby. I'm looking forward to seeing how he progresses!

02 Mar 2014 1:21 PM
-Keelerman

Sounds like the top three finishers from the Gotham will be back for the Wood Memorial: www.bloodhorse.com/.../gotham-winner-returns-to-florida-wood-next

Who's your early pick in the rematch? Will Samraat continue his winning streak? Will Uncle Sigh turn the tables with a slightly better trip? Will In Trouble improve in his second start of the year?

02 Mar 2014 3:48 PM
-Keelerman

Any thoughts on the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park this afternoon? I like Valseuse, a second-time starter from the barn of Christophe Clement. She showcased a strong turn-of-foot to break her maiden on Gulfstream turf last month, and has drawn a nice post position that should enable her to save ground early on. And of course, the presence of jockey Julien Leparoux doesn't hurt, and neither does her pedigree (Kitten's Joy - Vilia, by Royal Academy.)

02 Mar 2014 4:03 PM
-Keelerman

Sweet Reason, winner of the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) last year and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), returns on Friday in a one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Aqueduct: www.equibase.com/.../AQU030714USA-EQB.html

02 Mar 2014 4:17 PM
Rusty Weisner

Keelerman,

You're the liveliest host I think we've had.  Great job.

Re: Smart Cover.  I take the connections with a grain of salt.  I'll believe it when I hear it from the horse.

02 Mar 2014 5:34 PM
Ranagulzion

Keelerman & Coldfacts: Watch for a coulpe of shippers to crash the New York party in the Wood Memorial as the scramble for points gets serious, not to mention Grade 1 status of the race. Todd Pletcher is almost certain to send one or two like perhaps Constitution or Commissioner or even Gala Award. Bob Baffert could also send one of his, like Tap It Rich and then there are some colts that could be looking for softer spot than the Florida scene to continue their progress while improving their chance of getting into the Derby, like Wicked Strong, Tonalist or Mexikoma. I think that the Samraat/Uncle Sigh party is over and that neither will be a major player going ten furlongs at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May (kind of, like Vyjack last year).

02 Mar 2014 5:47 PM
-Keelerman

Ranagulzion;

Thanks for your thoughts! I definitely expect some shippers from Florida to take a shot at the Wood Memorial, and that will no doubt make the going deeper for Samraat and Uncle Sigh. It could become especially challenging if Top Billing shows up -- Shug McGaughey mentioned after the Fountain of Youth that he might send him to the Wood Memorial, depending on how the colt was doing and whether he thought Gulfstream was still playing in favor of speed.

But even still, I think Samraat and Uncle Sigh can hold their own against the invaders. I'm not saying one of them will win, but it wouldn't shock me if the Wood Memorial shippers find the locals to be a bit more tenacious than usual... :)

02 Mar 2014 6:44 PM
-Keelerman

Thanks, Rusty! I appreciate it! :)

02 Mar 2014 6:48 PM
-Keelerman

I just reviewed Anchor's Down's Gulfstream allowance victory from Saturday, and I must say, I was impressed! Although he seemed to be a bit headstrong early on -- did anyone notice how high he was carrying his head during the early stages of the race? -- he looked great taking command from Myositis Dan after being passed by that one on the far turn, and wasn't under much pressure at the finish. His final time of 1:21.67 for seven furlongs was 0.77 seconds faster than Spot ran in winning the Swale Stakes later on the card. A while back, trainer Todd Pletcher mentioned that he was thinking about the Arkansas Derby or Florida Derby for Anchor Down's stakes debut, and after seeing how sharp Anchor Down was on Saturday, I have to think those plans are still very much in consideration.

03 Mar 2014 10:00 AM
Coldfacts

Keelerman

The above is an interesting conclusion that I think merits further review. There was one entrant in the Gotham that never contest at race at The Big A and that was In Trouble. If he is classified as the true shipper and his overall profile is examined closely, then his performance can be used to do some extrapolation of the likely competitiveness of top class FL based horses in the Wood.

With only two starts and none beyond 6F, In Trouble had the least foundation in the Gotham. In addition, he had not made a start in 5 months and his 3YO debut was slated to be over the tricky inner track at the Big A. Despite the overwhelming disadvantages confronting him, he lost by either a NK or 1/2L.

If In Trouble exited the Gotham in good shape, will either Samraat or Uncle Sigh be capable of defeating him with that race under his belt? The Big A seems to be speed favoring but not nearly as fast as Gulfstream. Could the speedy types in FL with more foundation be more competitive in NY?  The likes of Constitution, Almost Famous, Surfing USA, Cousin Stephen, Hy Kodiak Warrior and others should be far more formidable with their ability and foundation.  

Using In Trouble’s performance as a measure, I think the NY colts are going to be very vulnerable if some from the top tier of the FL contingent show up.  

03 Mar 2014 10:16 AM
Coldfacts

Ranagulzion,

I agree with your assessment regarding possible shippers for the Wood. I think Midnight Lute for Speedy Bob would be a better fit than Tap It Rich at the Big A. The track appears to be speed favoring and Midnight Lute has displayed tactical speed in all his races.

I think Constitution might go the route of the FL Derby. The slow Commissioner needs a slow track and along stretch and AK Park offers same. Surfing USA might be a good fit for the Wood as he has already won in NY. As for the $1.3M Bernardini colt Gala Award, he is definitely a candidate for the Bluegrass.  

Cousin Stephen, Hy Kodiak Warrior and East Hall all have good speed to stay close and launch a challenge.  Wicked Strong ran a big race in NY and he could also be considered. Tonalist was in my Derby Dozen but I was not impressed with the ease with which Constitution.  dismissed him. Constitution had one start over 7F and Tonalist was coming off a victory in a 9F race. He had not excuse. Mexikoma needs a 12F race and probably that will not be long enough. The best of his peers are very fast and he contests his races from a different zip code because of his lack of tactical speed. He is always at the mercy of the pace upfront and therefore does not control his destny.

03 Mar 2014 10:50 AM
-Keelerman

Coldfacts;

Good point. I had it in my mind that In Trouble was a local, since all of his races have been in New York, but it slipped my mind that he is wintering in Florida. Given the circumstances surrounding his strong effort in the Gotham -- lack of foundation, first start in five months, first start beyond six furlongs, first start over the Aqueduct inner track -- my first thought after the Gotham was that In Trouble will be tough to beat in the Wood Memorial. So I guess that means I like a shipper to win the Wood Memorial... :)

It's interesting that you should mention Hy Kodiak Warrior. I've had my eye on him for a while, and his third-place finish to Commissioner and Top Billing in that Gulfstream allowance race on January 3rd was quite strong. He's been training very well at Calder, and was nominated to the Tampa Bay Derby, so I'm hopeful we'll get to see him back in action this Saturday. Perhaps a strong effort there would propel him toward a start in the Wood Memorial. What do you think?

03 Mar 2014 11:41 AM
-Keelerman

Coldfacts;

I'm also looking forward to seeing where East Hall turns up next. He's demonstrated in both the Holy Bull Stakes and Fountain of Youth that he is among the better horses in Florida, and if he can hit the board in one of the major prep races -- even finish fourth! -- he would likely have enough points to start in the Derby, where the potential for a blazing pace would surely enhance his late run. He seems to be overlooked by most, but I haven't counted him out yet.

03 Mar 2014 11:51 AM
El Kabong

Coldfacts,

I agree. Much like last year, the Gotham showcased nothing. The times, base on how the track was run that day and how this race was run just last year, point to a group that will be taken to the mat if the likes of a Top Billing shows up, which is likely to happen. Fun race to watch not question, but these guys don't seem to be on par with the better group running at GP, FG or SA.

03 Mar 2014 2:38 PM
-Keelerman

Coldfacts;

DRF.com just released an article on the Tampa Bay Derby, and listed Hy Kodiak Warrior as a probable starter. Others expected to contest the race include Vinceremos, Conquest Titan, Matador, Asserting Bear, Coltimus Prime, and Surfing U S A.

Here's a link to the article: www.drf.com/.../tampa-bay-derby-casse-pletcher-have-top-contenders

03 Mar 2014 2:52 PM
-Keelerman

The entries for Aqueduct's Saturday card were released today, and a six-furlong maiden special weight for three-year-olds has caught my eye. Among the seven horses entered are Scotland, third in both the Jerome and Withers Stakes (can you believe he's still a maiden?!) and Constantine, a first-time starter from the barn of Bob Baffert. However, it's worth noting that Scotland's trainer, Anthony Dutrow, has also entered a colt named Onthewhistle, and named Charles Lopez to ride them both. So it's possible that one or the other could scratch. I checked the nominations for the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park this Saturday, to see if Scotland might be entered there as well, but he wasn't among the nominees.

The feature of the card is the six-furlong, $100,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes for three-year-olds. Among the notable names here is Long On Value, fourth in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) last time out behind Wildcat Red. A two-time juvenile stakes winner at 5-1/2 furlongs, Long On Value will be attempting to become the fourth horse to exit the Hutcheson and win a stakes race next time out, following Wildcat Red (Fountain of Youth), Spot (Swale Stakes), and Tashir (Smooth Air Stake.)

Among the other prominent names entered in the Capossela are Germaniac, winner of the Frank Whitely, Jr. Stakes on January 4th at Laurel; Hot Heir Skier, winner of the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct; and Oliver Zip, runner-up in the Jimmy Winkfield and subsequent winner of a starter allowance race.

03 Mar 2014 5:15 PM
Coldfacts

El Kabong,

Regarding Smart Cover, I cannot have any confidence in him after his 11th place finish in the Palm Beach.  Tipiture, Ride On Curlin, Rise Up and Laddie Boy finished behind him in the KJC, they returned with either creditable or winning performances. There will be no easy Derby preps going forwards and with his deep closing style he will find out y like Top Billing,  that the best of his peers are fast and their speed is not of the cheap variety.

04 Mar 2014 12:00 PM
Coldfacts

Keelerman,

Many thanks regarding the TBD information.

Both Matador and Asserting Bear were making their dirt debut in the Davis. They both ran well on the new surface and probably needed the race for tightening. Asserting Bear travelled powerfully on the bridle but found little in the stretch but was only beaten by 3-4L. He was fitted with blinker for the first time and I hope they will be removed for the TBD. He is my money horse in the TBD. Matador came off the pace but was out finished by the fitter top three. He was the pick of the Davis paddock. He has less value than his Canadian counterpart.

I am anxious to see Vinceremos perform away from his love zone. He kisses the rail each time he runs and tends to pull himself up from the resulting excitement. I think he is very talented despite his poor speed figures.

04 Mar 2014 12:34 PM
El Kabong

Coldfacts,

And faith is what you would need in him and his handlers. He showed much promise in the Iroquois but came out of it with a slight injury. He's been training since Jan. but he is behind. As Mr. Foley stated, they did not expect much from the Palm, but they feel they can have him cranked enough for the Bluegrass to garner points sufficient for the Derby, and with three more weeks, he may be in a good position to run at a track he obviously likes. His pedigree is for the distance is very good and I don't expect too many will be in his camp in April after the Palm. Romans knows he belongs so we'll just have to see how he does in the Bluegrass. I've said all along I felt like this is going to be a year that a horse will come out of the blue late. I should have said Bluegrass.

04 Mar 2014 10:25 PM
Brontexx

-Keelerman Ill take whichever one of the two maidens Dutrow picks to run Saturday in race 3 at Aqueduct.

A comment on the jockey named on both, Charles C Lopez has only riden once for Dutrow at this meet, and it was on Onthewhistle.

If he runs both, I think they both come in the top 3 maybe even in the exacta.

05 Mar 2014 7:05 PM

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