TimeformUS Weekend Stakes Plays from Around the Country

Santa Anita

Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 5, Local Post Time 2:00pm PT
The G2 San Felipe Stakes, 1 and 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3YO
By Robert Finnegan

Kentucky Derby Fever makes its way back to Arcadia for the Grade 2 San Felipe, to be run at a mile and 1/16 on the main track, with 50 Kentucky Derby points going to the winner.

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The announcement from Bob Baffert that the likely heavy favorite, Bayern, is out with a foot bruise dramatically changes the likely complexion of this race. It changes it early. It changes it in the middle. It changes it at the finish. And of course it changes the toteboard odds.
According to the TFUS Pace Projector, at the opening half, the longshot Sawyer's Hill will be on a short lead, followed by Midnight Hawk, Kristo, Unstoppable Colby, and California Chrome. It is probably best to consider the other horses closers in here.

TimeformUS Pace Projector

In addition, it should be noted that Bob Baffert has been making noises to the effect that he will be letting the speedy, headstrong Midnight Hawk do things his way from the gate this time, since Baffert didn't care for how the rating experiment came a cropper in the Robert Lewis. This sort of change in strategy has the potential to be the fly in the Pace Projector's ointment. Midnight Hawk is a talented colt, and if he (or the equally talented Kristo, for that matter) and his rider want the early lead, there may not be all that much that Sawyer's Hill can, or should, do to keep them from getting it--the Pace Projector notwithstanding.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let's get to the horses who interest us most in the San Felipe:
California Chrome: A California-bred, trained by Art Sherman, training at tiny Los Alamitos...it is all so very quaint. But this colt has turned into a serious runner. Draw a line through his November 1st race. His trip in that race was impossible, and it is very much to his credit that he managed to lose by only three lengths. His last two efforts have been terrific. Speed figures of 100 and 103. A push-button demolition of his opponents. A sparkling visual impression. Yes, California Chrome is stepping up in class for this race. His Race Ratings are a little bit light. But if he has another race in him like those last two, we don't think it will make any difference. California Chrome was our selection before Bayern scratched, and California Chrome remains our selection.

TimeformUS PPs

Sawyer's Hill: Still a maiden, this colt is going to be a huge price. Debuted with a speed figure of 88 in a sprint on Poly. Went to the sidelines. Returned with a dirt-sprint speed figure of 102. Horses that improve like this from their first start to their second are leaving the door wide open to further improvement in their third start. Goes long for the first time today. His breeding is not flashy (Pedigree Rating of only 67), but it is certainly more than adequate to the task of handling today's distance. Sawyer's Hill exits a potent maiden race, one that received a Race Rating of 102.
Kristo: Paired his top of 99 when running second to Midnight Hawk in the Sham. Expectations for this colt have always been lofty. Sadler gets a decent Trainer Rating of 76 off this sort of layoff. Popular at the betting windows.

TimeformUS PPs
Schoolofhardrocks: We think he is being asked to do quite a bit today. We don't consider him a strong contender for the win off the layoff (though he has been training well). But this colt's lone effort, in a Del Mar maiden race, was quite a sight. This is a horse to watch for in the near future, and we'll watch even more closely if the race is on synthetic--a surface for which he is deliciously well bred.
Midnight Hawk:  Improving speed figures: 98 101 102. Hard to ride in his last start. Figures to be sent today. Baffert and all that. Strong contender.

TimeformUS PPs
The play:
Win bet on California Chrome.
Exactas: Kristo and Midnight Hawk over and under California Chrome.
Trifectas and supers following the same logic, requiring California Chrome to finish first or second and making use of Sawyer's Hill, Rprettyboyfloyd (if he goes), and Schoolofhardrocks in the low holes.

Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 8, Local Post Time 3:30pm PT
The G1 Frank Kilroe Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 4YO+
By Jason Perlmutter
The first thing to note about the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita is that this is one tough heat. It features a combination of improving upstarts and classy veterans.  It's also the time of year when some of these stakes horses are just initiating their 2014 campaigns and may not be fully cranked.  Let's start with the ones we don't think can win:

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Lochte - Coming off huge 39-1 upset victory, this horse ships cross country for his toughest test to date.  A mile may be a tad short for him and he projects to be last in the early stages of the race.  Topping it off, he gives this excellent field 5 pounds of weight.   

TimeformUS Pace Projector

Regally Ready - Got a dream trip last time loose on the lead in a half mile that didn't crack 46 seconds and was still outkicked in the lane.  This one is pure pace fodder today.

Optimizer - After essentially being raced into the ground in 2012 and 2013, this gallant steed finally got a rest.  This is an incredibly difficult spot for his first start in 203 days and we can't see him beating this field.

Horizontally Speaking - Improving animal, but another one who needs a comfortable lead to run his best, and he surely won't be able to match strides with some of these in the final furlong.

Lakerville - Hung out on the far outside. Coming in off short rest and big efforts that aren't big enough to make an impact here.

That leaves five potential winners.  The favorite, #5 Za Approval (3-1 ML), is the fastest horse in the race.  He's coming in off a layoff, and the 126 speed figure he posted when finishing second to equine legend Wise Dan in the BC Mile would probably get the job done.  We can't project him to run that number in this spot, but his secondary top figure of 119 would also be tough to beat.  We think he will run well, but he's not exactly a win machine historically, and we will not make him our key.

TimeformUS PPs

The 7-2 co-second choices, #9 Silentio and #6 Winning Prize, are both dangerous.  Of the two, we prefer Silentio, who comes in off a nice freshening and has steadily improved throughout his career.  In fact, had Silentio drawn farther to the inside, he would be our pick, but we think trip will make all the difference in this race.  If Rafael Bejarano (100 T/J rating with Gary Mandella) can find a way to save ground from the nine-hole, then Silentio has a great shot here, but it's a tall order, and he projects to be wide.  Winning Prize is your most likely leader at the sixteenth pole, but he won't get the perfect set-up he got in his last race, and we feel he may come up just short in the final strides.

#8 Tom's Tribute (10-1 ML) is another whom we would love if he could find a way to save ground.  This colt ran a 113 on synthetic in his second career start and has never run back to it, but it's clear he has found a home on turf.  Even in the race two back, in which he finished sixth, Tom's Tribute had an absolutely brutal trip and led until deep stretch.  This colt has all the hallmarks of one that is coming into his own, which is precisely what he'll need to do in order to impact this tilt.

This all leads us to #4 Suggestive Boy (6-1 ML).  We will need to see that the morning line is holding up before we pull the trigger, and we think we'll get it and then some. This play is all about form patterns and anticipated trip.  Note the sweet inside stalking trip Suggestive Boy figures to have, according to the Pace Projector.  Suggestive Boy didn't fire in his last race, but that was off an 11-month layoff, and he had no pace to close into.  We think that race was an ideal tee-up for the Kilroe.  Suggestive Boy defeated Silentio twice a year ago.  He has back-class that makes him dangerous in here.  If ever there were a race that figures to have a blanket finish, it's the Kilroe Mile.  Therefore, we will limit our venture to the win pool, where we hope Suggestive Boy finds a way through along the inside and leaves the backers of others muttering about tough beats and what ifs.

TimeformUS PPs

The Wager:  Suggestive Boy to win.

Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 9, Local Post Time 4:00pm PT
The G1 Santa Anita Handicap, 1 and 1/4 miles, Dirt, 4YO+
By Robert Finnegan

Eight horses are set to go in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, which will be run at a mile and one quarter on the main track, but it seems a safe bet that a few minutes before post time, the toteboard will make this look like a three-horse race, with Mucho Macho Man the favorite, and Will Take Charge and Game On Dude also receiving heavy support.

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According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the "Big Cap" will be run at a pace favoring horses who run on or near the early lead, and the early leader--indeed, the clear early leader--will be Game On Dude. The Pace Projector then has Mucho Macho Man tracking in second, followed by Hear the Ghost, Rousing Sermon, and Will Take Charge. The others look very much like closers in this spot.

TimeformUS Pace Projector
Will Take Charge (2-1): Warrior always fires. Ran speed figure of 121 over this surface and distance in BC Classic. Pace Projector suggests he could be at a strategic disadvantage--needing to run down Game on Dude and Mucho Macho Man while trying to close into  relatively tame fractions.

TimeformUS PPs
Mucho Macho Man (9-5): Warrior always fires. His six-year-old debut saw him run a speed figure of 121, a number that looks very much like the one he ended his five-year-old season with. He makes his own trip and figures for a very pleasant one tracking Game on Dude. Plainly loves this surface. His rider, Gary Stevens, is as cool and as smart as riders get. The horse to beat.

TimeformUS PPs
Blingo (8-1): Got a great set-up in the San Antonio. At these odds, a toss for us.
Imperative (12-1): Figures to bounce off the rail-skimming figure of 112.
Rousing Sermon (12-1): We see no race that will scare the best in here.
American Blend (20-1): Have a hard time seeing this gelding involved at any point.
Game On Dude (5-2): Is he over the top, as so many people are saying? We don't know. What we do know is that his best is good enough in here, and he figures to get a flattering pace set-up. But the question marks are real, and they will affect our odds floor on this estimable animal.

TimeformUS PPs
Hear the Ghost (20-1): Reportedly having some physical problems. And speed figures are two cuts below the best. But in great hands and seems capable of jumping up somewhat if 100%.
The play:
From our point of view, this is an awful betting race. Accordingly, our plan is to watch it with great interest but not bet a dime on it. There are other races on Saturday. We will bet on some of those.
OK, what could change our mind about betting on the Big Cap? Simple:
If Mucho Macho Man is 2-1 or higher, we will bet on him. If Will Take Charge or Game on Dude is 3-1 or higher, we will bet on him.
And if, as seems probable, none of this happens, we will sit back and enjoy what should be a fascinating horse race.

Tampa Bay

Saturday, Tampa Bay, Race 10, Local Post Time 4:55pm ET
The G3 Florida Oaks, 1 and 1/16 miles, Turf, 3YO Fillies
By Peter Kleinhans

The Florida Oaks, Saturday's 10th race from Tampa Bay Downs, features the return to the races of (12) Testa Rossi.   The exciting runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly Turf, she overcame post 12 in that event, coming from 14th (and last) to finish second, earning a strong speed figure of 92.  The start before, she had circled the field in the blink of an eye, going from 10th to first in one call to win the Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Belmont.  Those were her only two American starts after arriving from France, and she is clearly a very talented grass filly.  There is no question that the field she faces here at Tampa is easier than the one she almost beat at Santa Anita in the Breeders' Cup. And her trainer, Chad Brown, gets a rating of 100 out of 100 off of layoffs similar to this one.

TimeformUS PPs

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The main obstacle Testa Rossi has to overcome today may not be another horse, but rather the treacherous 12 post in a race that starts heading into a tight turf turn. 

TimeformUS Pace Projector

In this case, there's no question that Testa Rossi could overcome the post. After all, she had post 12 in the BC and still finished second. But there is a degree of uncertainty involved that can't be overlooked.  In the Breeders' Cup, she managed to work out a good rail trip despite that starting spot. It may work out that way again today, but it very well may not.  The odds should tell the tale as to whether she's worth a bet.  Her works are good and she should run her race.

(8)  Duff One finished fifth behind Testa Rossi in the Miss Grillo, but she has improved her speed figures by many points since then.  Her last two races really showed her relishing the turf: closing very well and circling the field to win an allowance race, then following it up with a very nice sixth-place finish, missing by less than three lengths despite a wide trip, while throwing in an excellent adjusted individual final half-mile of 46.92 and earning a speed figure of 92.  She's a closer, but she won't be as far back as Testa Rossi, and she'll certainly be a better price.  Might be the value in the race.

TimeformUS PPs

(1)  Kitten Kaboodle was well-beaten in the Breeders' Cup, but the trip didn't go her way, and with the rail here, she may work out a much better one today.  She wouldn't be a shock in here either.  She's a graded-stakes winner on turf going long and deserves respect. She, too, is trained by Chad Brown, and so the layoff rating of 100 applies here as well.

(10)  Miss Besilu has been very sharp, but has been getting nice trips.  Her speed may allow her to get another one despite her outside post, but 4-1 on the ML may be a touch low.

The rest all seem a little outclassed.  In a very tough race to bet, we'll suggest:

Small exacta box (1)-(8)-(12)

Saturday, Tampa Bay, Race 11, Local Post Time 5:25pm ET
The G2 Tampa Bay Derby, 1 and 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3YO
By Jason Perlmutter

Derby hopefuls meet Saturday in Westchase, Florida, for the Grade 2 $350k Tampa Bay Derby, and the main question handicappers need to answer is just how far 3-1 morning line favorite  Surfing USA can take this field of ten.

TimeformUS Pace Projector

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Although our instinct is to play this horse to get caught, he does have the fastest TimeformUS figures in the field, and the 101 he posted in his last race, run at this 8.5-furlong distance six weeks ago, would be a tough number to beat. That allowance race actually received a higher rating (96) than the Grade 3 Sam F Davis did (95).  The fear is that this is another one of those Pletcher babies that have already peaked and the others are catching up to him.  However, it's important to remember that a mile and a sixteenth isn't a stayer's distance. We think Surfing USA can hold most, if not all, of the other colts at bay.  Surfing USA's Pedigree Rating is a passable 74.  His sire, Roman Ruler, has sired a Belmont Stakes winner, and, however flukish that may seem, we have to take this horse's chances seriously.  The hope is that most horseplayers dismiss his chances and the 3-1 morning line holds up.

TimeformUS PPs

Virtually every other horse entered in this race, with the exception of longest shot on the board Tuscan Getaway, has a similar profile.  They all have steadily improving form patterns, and their most recent TimeformUS speed figure is somewhere in the 90s.  The one likely to take the most money at the windows is Conquest Titan (7-2 ML), who appears to be putting things together.  Still, he's a dead closer, and it's hard to accept too short of a price.

Hy Kodiak Warrior (10-1 ML) is an interesting contender.  This colt has never run a bad race in six career starts, and he has been working bullets.  Plus he adds Lasix.  Like Conquest Titan, he's one that will have to come from well out of it.  This style cost him dearly in his last race, when he made a four-wide move into the teeth of the race on the far turn, and yet he persevered all the way to the line in an underrated effort (95 TFUS figure). He moves to the barn of a high-percentage trainer and gets good rest for his first stakes effort, assuming the 64-day layoff was by design and not the result of a training setback.  

TimeformUS PPs

Ring Weekend (15-1 ML) is one of the slowest colts in the field, but he comes in off paired 91s, and he seems as likely to jump forward as any of these in his third start off a layoff.  The Pace Projector puts him on the rail in a lovely position mid-pack.  He's our longshot.

TimeformUS PPs

The Wager:  #2 Surfing USA to win at 3-1 odds or longer.  #2 Surfing USA in exotics in the 1/2 holes with #1 Ring Weekend, #5 Conquest Titan, and #9 Hy Kodiak Warrior in the other spots in exactas and trifectas.


Saturday, Oaklawn, Race 6, Local Post Time 3:39pm CT
The G3 Honeybee Stakes, 1 and 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3YO Fillies
By Peter Kleinhans

The Honeybee stakes is the sixth race at Oaklawn on Saturday, and the headliner, without question, is (2) Taris.  This three-year-old filly is 2-for-2, both by open lengths.  There is no question that this daughter of Flatter is blazingly fast.  But to me, a horse like this is a horse to try to beat.  She's going long for the first time, she's never been pressed before, and she'll be heavily favored.  There's really no way to know for sure how she'll like the distance. Her Pedigree Rating for this dirt route is an unspectacular 74.

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So why bet on her at prohibitively low odds?  She may be the speed of the speed here, but there IS other speed, and Pace Projector predicts a fast pace.  Let's hope we can find someone to catch her.

TimeformUS PPs

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(1) Please Explain is a closer who loves the distance.  She has to be considered here because with her inside post and so much speed in this race, she's almost guaranteed to get a relaxing trip.  Her figures aren't spectacular, but she finishes every single race off.  In her last start, she powered to a decisive win despite following relatively slow fractions.  Nice filly who could definitely outrun her figures and beat the favorite if that one comes up a little short at the distance.

TimeformUS PPs

But the interesting value might be 20-1 ML shot (3) Silk Purse.  Although she has not gone long yet, and she might not be a true distance horse, she does have a Pedigree Rating of 100 (the maximum), and she showed a lot of grit in her last race, beating Springsteen Road, who is in this race and has since come back to win.  She figures to be well situated, off a duel, but not too far back.  Not a horse to place a big win bet on, but perhaps one to throw on a ticket.

(11) Sugar Shack might be the real toss-out at 6-1.  Post 11 is tough enough, but she looks as if she'd want the lead going long, and she isn't going to get it.  How is she possibly going to win?

Speaking of having the lead going long, that's just what (6) Euphrosyne has been doing in her last three starts.  It's doubtful she can outsprint Taris early--and if she does, the pace would be legitimately suicidal.  If she doesn't, she can win only by coming from behind, something she has never done.  The fact that she has gone long successfully in the past is a point in her favor, but this tactical issue pretty much nullifies it.

(9) Ireland looks like the other valid closer.  She earned a very legit 98 breaking her maiden at a mile, and followed that up with a solid effort in which she finished just behind Euphrosyne.  Unlike Euphrosyne, nothing today regarding the pace situation will be problematic for her, and she is a far better proposition than that foe.

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(10) Dream Spinner parlayed a trainer change into an enormous 13-length win at a mile-and-a-sixteenth last start, earning a 95.  But she, too, did it on the front end.  If she proves capable of changing tactics and sitting off the pace (something she has been able to do at shorter distances), she might be a threat here.

The aforementioned (5) Springsteen Road has some good figures, but she just looks like a sprinter on paper.  The rest of the field appears overmatched.

The play:

So how do you bet this race?  Do you just pitch Taris and hope she's no good?  That's one valid way to play the race; you just have to face the reality that you'll probably lose, so you shouldn't make a big bet if you play it that way.  Play a small amount and hope for a big score.

The other option is to use Taris, but only as an equal component of a box. That way, if you're right about the other horses to use, you can break even or pick up a few shekels even if she wins or hits the board, but you can crush the race if she doesn't.  A reasonable box here that includes Taris might be a $1 tri or super box 1-2-3-9-10.

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