TimeformUS Saturday Plays from Oaklawn, Santa Anita and Gulfstream

Saturday, Oaklawn, Race 10, Local Post Time 6:04pm CT
The G2 Rebel Stakes, 1 and 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3YO
By Robert Finnegan

85 more Kentucky Derby points are on the line in the Grade 2 Rebel, to be run at a mile and 1/16 on the main track. The morning line has this looking like a three-horse race, with Tapiture at 9-5, Strong Mandate at 2-1, Kobe's Back at 7-2, and the others all 8-1 or higher. However, at these prices, we like a couple of longshots in here: Ride On Curlin (12-1) and Hoppertunity (10-1). But let's begin by looking at the TimeformUS Pace Projector.

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According to the Pace Projector, at the opening half mile, Strong Mandate will be on the lead, followed closely by Street Strategy and Tapiture, with Ride On Curlin in fourth and Jet Cat in fifth. Hoppertunity is shown in sixth, but we think he has a fair chance to outrun his projection. Sheltowee's Boy and Kobe's Back are the trailers.
Ride On Curlin received an epically awful trip in the Grade 3 Southwest, going extraordinarily wide around the first turn while forcing the pace, making the lead on the backstretch, going wide around the far turn, and packing it in, understandably, before the stretch call. For this effort he received a decent speed figure of 93, a number that was given a bit of a boost because of his pace figures. However, his speed figure was not adjusted in any way for all the groundloss. Ride On Curlin earned a speed figure of 108 in a Grade 1 as a two-year-old, and if he can get the trip today that the Pace Projector projects for him, saving ground while stalking the pace, we believe he is in line to improve by many lengths--and at a fat price.

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Hoppertunity ran an odd race in the Grade 2 Risen Star, giving a delayed response to his rider's commands. He also lost considerable ground around the far turn and seemed to cross the line with too much gas still in the tank. He earned a competitive speed figure of 93 for that effort. He ran a 100 two back. His trainer, Bob Baffert, for whatever reason, has an awe-inspiring record at this racetrack (rating of 100). There is more early speed here than he showed last time. He is a contender.

TimeformUS PPs

Much as we respect the talented Kobe's Back, we are tossing him on the ship because we don't love the stretchout or the likely odds and we don't consider him wholly reliable. Talented horse though.
Strong Mandate is an obvious contender and yet another horse who received a brutal trip in his last start, and morning line favorite Tapiture looked terrific blowing the Southwest apart in the stretch.
The play:
Ride On Curlin and Hoppertunity in horizontal exotics.
Ride On Curlin and Hoppertunity over and under Strong Mandate and Tapiture in exactas and trifectas.

Saturday, Oaklawn, Race 9, Local Post Time 5:27pm CT
The G2 Razorback Stakes, 1 and 1/16 miles, Dirt, 4YO+
By Jason Perlmutter

Welcome to the TimeformUS analysis of the Grade 3 $200k Razorback at Oaklawn Park. Lo and behold, we have another live-looking son of Tapit getting an inside post position.  Four weeks ago, it was Tapiture, winning the Southwest.  A week ago, it was Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby.   Is it any wonder Tapit's stud fee is $150k per pop and rising?

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According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, #1 Taptowne (3-1 ML) is set up to get a perfect trip just in behind #2 Right to Vote (10-1 ML), the gutsy but unimpressive winner of the ungraded Essex Handicap on this surface a month ago. 

TimeformUS Pace Projector

Taptowne is coming in off a 108-day rest, which we view as positive (neutral at worst) in this day and age in a spot like this.  The six-year-old has been a consistent hard-hitter in the 110-119 range speed figure-wise in his last nine races, and we have every reason to believe he can pop the upper end of that scale off the layoff, which would make him very tough in here with the inside draw.  His trainer, Tim Glyshaw, is sharp with this angle (Trainer Rating of 100 with comparable time between starts), and we feel strongly enough about this horse to use him almost exclusively on top.

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#4 Golden Lad (9-2 ML, Pletcher) has been getting better with each start and is riding a three-race winning streak.  He seems like the greatest threat if Taptowne doesn't quite have what it takes to finish the job.

TimeformUS PPs

The top two wagering choices, #5 Called To Serve and #6 Govenor Charlie, have questions about their current physical condition.  Called To Serve hasn't competed in over a year, and his trainer is not at his best off layoffs.  Govenor Charlie took some extra time off after popping huge off the layoff.  With Baffert's well-known Oaklawn success, Govenor Charlie figures to be overbet, and we refuse to board what is sure to be an overpopulated ship of backers, for fear we end up soaking wet at the end of the day.

The Wager:  #1 Taptowne to win.  Exacta #1 Taptowne over #4 Golden Lad (heavy).  Reverse 4/1 exacta with less emphasis.

Saturday, Santa Anita, Race 7, Local Post Time 3:30pm PT
The G1 Santa Margarita Stakes, 1 and 1/8 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4YO+
By Robert Finnegan

Eight fillies and mares are entered in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita, to be run at a mile and 1/8 on the main track. However, Ron McAnally has said that his frontrunning mare, Miss Serendipity, will probably scratch in favor of a turf stake on Sunday. This potential scratch, should it occur, would have a strong effect on the pace scenario of the Santa Margarita. (And remember, TimeformUS Pace Projectors update after scratches and surface changes, so be sure to check the free PPs for the Santa Margarita on Saturday for our most up to date information).

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According to the TFUS Pace Projector, which assumes an intact field, Miss Serendipity will be on a clear early lead at the opening half, in a race run at a pace that favors horses racing on or near the early lead. Yahilwa and the likely strong favorite, Iotapa, are abreast in second and third, followed by Fiftyshadesofhay and Let Faith Arise. The others should be considered closers or deep closers. (And let us hasten to add that the Pace Projector may not do justice to Fiftyshadesofhay's early speed, thwarted as it was by trouble at the start in her last two races. We would not be surprised to see Fiftyshadesofhay leave the gate on Saturday with rider Martin Garcia hellbent on staying within striking distance of Iotapa.)

TimeformUS Pace Projector

Let Faith Arise seems to have come into her own this year. At morning line odds of 4-1, she is our selection. Her last two speed figures, 107 and 109, are a match for those of any horse in this field. She was bucking a speed bias (denoted by the race rating being color-coded dark red) in her second-place finish to Iotapa in the Grade 2 Santa Maria. She might also have been bucking a favorable rail that day, though the evidence is sketchy. In any event, Iotapa received a ground-saving trip while Let Faith Arise lost a fair amount of ground on both turns. Let Faith Arise is making her third start of the year here. Her first start of the year saw her run pace figures that were lopsided fast: 125 126 119 into a final-time figure of 106. Her second start of the year saw her run pace figures that were lopsided slow: 82 91 99 into a final-time figure of 109. She figures to be in a good spot early under Corey Nakatani, and she should benefit if Iotapa is required to do more early work today. Jerry Hollendorfer has had a terrific meet. If the odds are decent, as they should be, there is quite a bit to like here.

TimeformUS PPs
Iotapa is an obvious contender once again. She has the best last-out speed figure in the race: a 109. She is bred to handle the added distance. And she may well end up with another pace advantage in this race, though there is also a chance that the connections of Yahilwa will send their filly today from her outside post, since in both of her starts in this country, she has reacted with displeasure to her rider's attempts to rate her.

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Fiftyshadesofhay has had two difficult trips in a row. In the Bayakoa, she was shuffled into a ludicrous position down the backstretch. In the La Canada, she was pinballed at the start (a double-edged development, given that it kept her well off the fast early pace). Her trainer, Bob Baffert, gets a 95 rating with this sort of spacing between starts. She, too, is a strong contender.

TimeformUS PPs
There are other talented fillies and mares in here, but we would be surprised to see one of them win this race.
The play:
Win bet on Let Faith Arise.
Exactas over and under Iotapa and Fiftyshadesofhay.

Saturday, Gulfstream, Race 10, Local Post Time 5:36pm ET
The G2 Honey Fox Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4YO+
By Alan Mann

In the G2 Honey Fox Stakes, at a mile on the turf at Gulfstream, Centre Court (5-1) returns off a layoff in an attempt to repeat her win in this race last year.  That victory also came off of a layoff (albeit 119 days versus the 203 in this case), and she earned a TimeformUS speed figure of 113, which is better than any number that any of her opponents has ever run.

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Perhaps you want to see how she's done after a layoff more comparable to this one?  With our PPs, it's quite easy to scroll down to see a horse's entire resume.  Going back to March of 2012, some 13 races ago (one more than you'll see in PDF's or in very small paper products), we see that it came off a layoff of 243 days, also came at Gulfstream, and resulted in a narrow loss and a big speed figure.

TimeformUS PPs

So the ability of this daughter of Smart Strike to run well off a break is well-established. And her preparation for this return is remarkably similar to what trainer Rusty Arnold has employed in the past.  Here are her workouts coming into this race.

TimeformUS Workouts

Using our expanded workouts, you can easily see how she prepared for her prior, and successful, returns.

TimeformUS Workouts

In each case, as repeated here in 2014, the return race was preceded by a half-mile breeze, which was, in turn, preceded by a series of four-and five-furlong works spaced a week to ten days apart. It doesn't hurt our confidence either that her final workout in this case was particularly sharp.  So Centre Court would surely appear to be well-prepared.  And the fact is that her back speed figures in general match up extremely well in here.  Pace Projector shows her placed forwardly behind two horses without her kind of credentials.  Julian Leparoux, with whom she has enjoyed ample success in the past, is up.  Centre Court is our selection.

Tapicat (3-1) comes off an improved effort in a Grade 2 at Santa Anita, earning a competitive speed figure of 106 in a third-place finish for trainer Bill Mott.  That came after a handy win in an overnight stakes over this course, in which she defeated She's Spooky, who came back to win her next race with a figure of 108. John Velazquez, who rode her out west, gets the mount here, and he and Mott have a trainer/jockey combo rating of 94.

Effie Trinket (5-1), coming off a layoff of 119 days, is a versatile NY-bred who ran rather well against open company in her last start, a second-place finish in a Grade 2 stakes at Churchill. (Interestingly, she will be only the 5th horse from the 14 starters that day to run back.) Her speed figures are a cut below the top contenders', and we believe she's benefited from some favorable pace scenarios and trips.  However, she is nothing if not consistent, and this always-trying filly surely deserves consideration for minor awards.

Triple Charm (6-1) has not run as fast as other contenders, and has not encountered this level of competition.  However, she improved in winning her last in her second North American start, and is eligible to progress further for trainer Christophe Clement, who has a trainer rating of 95 with horses running third time off a layoff (and a perfect 100 overall at Gulfstream).

Kitten's Point (6-1) made a smashing return to the races after a layoff of 308 days in her last, swinging six wide and mowing down an allowance field that was assigned a respectable race rating of 103. She earned a speed figure of 111, a career-best, the top Spotlight figure in the field, and clearly the best of any number earned by any horse in this field other than the top choice.  However, it was earned closing into a fast pace, which may not present itself here. It's also interesting to note that every horse in that race was assigned a top career-figure as well.  So that number is one that we might be a bit wary of....but in a healthy way, part of our ongoing effort to review and refine our speed figures when necessary.  We're keeping an eye on that as the horses run back.  Still, we do believe that Kitten's Point is a prime contender here given her record on grass and her sterling connections. Trainer Graham Motion has a rating of 98 with horses running second time off the layoff.

Run a Risk (15-1) is our longshot play.  Like Centre Court, she returns from a layoff for trainer Rusty Arnold; and also like that one, she ran quite well returning from a similar layoff (in fact, an identical break of 155 days) over this course last year.  She has earned triple-digit speed figures in each of her last six grass races, which, by itself, earns her consideration at those odds.  Pace Projector places her forwardly in this race, which is predicted to favor a horse on/near the early lead.

We will take a stand against the morning line favorite, Parranda (5-2).  She broke through to triple-digits in her last race, earning a 104 in a front-running win over this track in the Grade 3 Suwanee River.  While the cut-back in distance from nine furlongs would seem to benefit her here, she benefited from an extremely slow pace that she was allowed to set. And though Pace Projector tabs this as a race favoring the early leaders, it does not place her even amongst the top six after a half mile.  Yes, she has surely won from off the pace as well, but not with the kind of figures we believe she will need to compete here.

Selections:  Center Court to win.  Use in exactas with Tapicat, Kitten's Point, and Run a Risk. Triple Charm and Effie Trinket belong at the bottom of deeper exotic plays.

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