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Belmont, Race 9
G2 Peter Pan Stakes
By Mike Beer
A field of seven is set to enter the gate for the Grade 2 Peter Pan. They will go nine furlongs over Belmont's main track, and when all is said and done, one of these three-year-olds will be a newly minted graded stakes winner. Depending upon who that winner is and, perhaps, how impressive he is, there will also be some talk about him being an interesting new contender for the Belmont Stakes.
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The 2/1 ML favorite is Tonalist, a lightly raced son of Tapit trained by Christophe Clement. We believe Tonalist to be the Peter Pan entrant with the most scope for improvement, and we think he is the horse to beat. However, if ever there is a time to take a stand against a horse at a short price, it is when that horse enters the gate with questions surrounding his current form. Tonalist was looking very good down in Florida over the winter, first overpowering maidens over nine-furlongs despite a wide trip, and then finishing a solid second to the undefeated Constitution despite being taken out of his game while forced to chase that rival over a speed-favoring track. Those efforts spurred talk of Tonalist being a legit Kentucky Derby contender, and he was supposed to get his chance to make that race by competing in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in April at Aqueduct. Unfortunately, Tonalist came down with a lung infection, which caused him to miss that race and lose any hope of running in the Derby. He has also reportedly been training in bar shoes lately to help alleviate some issues with his feet. Neither of those things means that Tonalist can't or won't win the Peter Pan. But it does make taking a short price on him a little more difficult to do.
Our Pace Projector for the Peter Pan indicates that Fabulous Kid, a speedy son of Congrats newly settled into trainer Jimmy Toner's barn, will be on a clear early lead, with that being the preferred running style for the race.
We think that the extra furlong here is going to prove too much for Fabulous Kid, but we like the projected trip for our selection in the race, Our Caravan, who should be tracking right in behind that lone pace-setter. Our Caravan was asked to run in a couple of difficult spots at Gulfstream after winning first time out at a big price, and that didn't work out. But he looked good defeating Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend at Calder with new blinkers last time, and he earned a solid 97 TimeformUS speed figure for that effort, which puts him on par with Tonalist.
We also think Todd Pletcher's "other" horse, Matterhorn, could get a piece of this, especially if Tonalist needs a race. Matterhorn endured a tough, wide trip vs. older horses in his last start, and gives the impression of a progressive horse who will stay all day.
Based on his projected good trip, and that solid last race, we think Our Caravan could offer some value in the Peter Pan. He is our selection in the race.
Win bet on #6 Our Caravan, and exactas using him over #4 Tonalist and #1 Matterhorn. Reverse exactas underneath those two.
Santa Anita, Race 7
G3 Lazaro Barrera Stakes
By Robert Finnegan
Formerly run at Hollywood Park, which met the wrecking ball, the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera is now run at Santa Anita. Seven three-year-olds will be going seven furlongs on the main track, chasing $100,000.
The Timeform US Pace Projector is hampered by a lack of data on the Puerto Rican speedster Tonito M. Nonetheless, it projects this race to be run at a pace that favors horses who run on or near the early lead, and it projects Chelios to have the early lead, with Ferocious just off of him. Twenty Percent and Top Fortitude are shown in mid-pack. Kobe's Back and Puppy Manners are in the rear.
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Here's the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Ferocious (5-2): Makes his fourth start today, and he's a head away from being undefeated. Trainer Ron Ellis has successfully stretched him out twice, from 5.5 furlongs to 6.5 and from 6.5 to 7, and is reportedly eager to send him around two turns, which could be significant given that Ferocious figures to build up a large early advantage over ML favorite Kobe's Back--and do so in a race projected to favor early speed. Moreover, he has a beautiful pattern of speed figures, 87 99 105. The 105 is the fastest last-out figure in the race, and it was earned over a surface that strongly favored closers (as denoted by the Race Rating appearing in a dark blue box). We don't care for this post position. It could force his rider's hand early and land Ferocious in a speed duel. But Ferocious is a strong contender in here.
Tonito M. (6-1): A star in Puerto Rico, he was sold in March to owners who supposedly had Triple Crown aspirations and considered running him in the Illinois Derby, but valor gave way to discretion and he lands here. He is a toss for us.
Kobe's Back (9-5): What a trouble-prone bundle of talent. He has now had serious trouble in five out of his six races. In the Grade 3 Bay Shore, run at Aqueduct, he hit the gate and got away several lengths behind the field, and then launched a tremendous rally while wide, only to fall short by half a length while earning a speed figure of 96. His trainer, John Sadler, has been wearing out the starting gate in the morning, trying to find a cure for what ails this colt. Will it work? Who knows? What we do know is that if he fires his best shot while receiving a reasonably trouble-free trip, he is going to be awfully hard to handle.
Chelios (3-1): Has started three times and run well three times. All of his speed figures (98 106 96) are competitive. But he came up short against Ferocious in an allowance race last time despite having the bias in his favor. Chelios is a contender but seems a cut below the best in here.
Twenty Percent (6-1): Won his debut in visually impressive fashion, gobbling up ground around the turn like a mini-Zenyatta and earning a strong speed figure of 99. But steps way up in class today and figures to need another jump to take this.
Puppy Manners (20-1): A plodder trying dirt for the first time, his ceiling figures to be a minor award.
Top Fortitude (6-1): The 109 he ran in his debut is the best figure any horse in this race has ever run. But he went to the sidelines after that and returned with a clunker. We want to see a sign he is turning it around.
If the morning line odds hold, win bet on Ferocious.
Sunday May 11th – Belmont
Race 9: The Man ‘o War Stakes–Local Post Time 5:43PM
By Mike Beer
A strong field is assembled for this Grade 1 turf event, a race in which we think we could make a case for backing any one of 5 or 6 of the 8 horses entered. Grandeur may be the horse to beat based on his overseas form, and it’s to his credit that he has proven to be a capable shipper. He made a return trip to the states last year for the Arlington Million, after winning a couple of graded stakes in California as a 3yo (note: No Lasix!), and while he was no factor in the Million, he was caught wide throughout from post 13.
He will need to bring one of his best races to defeat this field, however. Imagining is a typical late-developing runner for Shug McGaughey, and he had a career-year in 2013, at the age of 5. He received a curious ride in his 2014 debut, in the GP Turf Handicap, taking back to last before coming with a game wide run for 2nd, but he has more tactical speed than that and is a dangerous horse in this race.
Amira’s Prince would have been our choice in this race were he in his 2013 form. He hasn’t been at his best in two starts so far this year, but is now third off of the long layoff for Bill Mott and may be ready to step forward. If that’s the case, expect him to be a handful in here.
We think Real Solution is a major player in this spot and want to use him on all tickets. He caught soft turf off the layoff at Fair Grounds and didn’t fire his best shot, but he proved last year that he is capable of a race that would be plenty good enough in here, and his trainer, Chad Brown, is firing on all cylinders through the first two weeks of this meet.
We are going to go in another direction for our main play in this race, based mostly on price considerations.
In a lot of ways, Vertiformer may simply be in too tough today. However, outside of Real Solution’s promotion to 1st via disqualification in the Arlington Million last year, there are no Grade 1 winners in this field, and he may be getting good at the right time. Vertiformer returned from a long layoff in January with a trainer change to Christophe Clement, and the improvement in his performance has been noticeable. He did appear to be a short horse first off the layoff in Texas, but was ready to travel 1 1/2 miles last time at GP, and but for being locked in through the final turn and forced to try to rally up the rail in the stretch, would likely have won that Grade 2 event. The horse that finished just behind him that day, Slumber, had previously acquitted himself well vs. Real Solution and Imagining in last year’s Turf Classic.
We think it may be the right time to get a price on Vertiformer, while recognizing that it won’t be easy for him in the Man O’ War.
Win bet on Vertiformer.
Use Vertiformer with Real Solution, Imagining and Amira’s Prince in exactas.
Sunday May 11th – Belmont
Race 8: The Ruffian–Local Post Time 5:13PM
The Ruffian brings together an interesting mix of horses, some already of proven graded-stakes quality, a couple stepping up in class, hoping it’s the right time, and, finally, a solid pair of stakes mares looking to solidify their credentials.
The accomplished graded-stakes performers, and perhaps the pair to beat, are Grace Hall and Fiftyshadesofhay. At age two and three, Grace Hall was a quality filly in the care of Tony Dutrow, but she hasn’t been seen since two below-par efforts early in 2013. She has almost certainly had issues in the interim, and, even though she is returning to the races for Bill Mott, who does excellent work with layoffs, we will be taking a wait-and-see approach regarding her current status.
Fiftyshadesofhay, a three-time graded stakes winner last year as a 3yo, ships in from California for Bob Baffert. She was far from embarrassed in her three tries vs. Beholder and Princess of Sylmar last year, and is sure to attract a lot of attention in this spot. We just have never been big fans of hers, and are never afraid to be in against her, especially when she’s a short price.
To us, the two right horses in here are My Wandy’s Girl and, to a lesser extent, Toasting. My Wandy’s Girl seems to be suited to these middle-distance one-turn races around here, and she will be looking to better her unlucky runner-up effort in this race last year, when she was caught four-wide throughout and fell short of catching a rail-riding winner. She enters the Ruffian this year off a strong effort in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie. She did all of the dirty work that day, going after the speedy La Verdad right off the blocks and gamely dueling her down through the stretch. La Verdad came back in her next start to post a big 121 speed figure in winning the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap.
We like My Wandy’s Girl’s chances in this race quite a bit.
Win bet on My Wandy’s Girl.
Exactas: My Wandy’s Girl over Toasting and Fiftyshadesofhay.