The Grade 1 Mother Goose
by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
Belmont Park/June 28/Race 4/2:53 EDT:
The Grade 1 Mother Goose has long been a fixture on the NYRA calendar, and pulling a list of previous winners of this historic race, one finds a veritable who's who of racing's most celebrated 3yo fillies. In all, nineteen fillies who would later be named 3yo filly champion have won this race. Cicada and Shuvee are on the list, as are Ruffian and Davona Dale; Go for Wand won it in 1990, and Sky Beauty and Serena's Song followed later that decade. More recently, Rachel Alexandra competed in the last Mother Goose to be contested at 1 1/8 miles and scorched the distance in a stakes record 1:46.33.
Last year's winner, Close Hatches, has since won three more Grade 1 races and is currently the top older female in training.
It is against that backdrop that the 2014 running of the race is best viewed, not because the heavy favorite on the morning line, Untapable (#2, 1-5), can be considered among those great names (at least not yet), but because her presence in the race makes it more spectacle than wagering opportunity. Untapable has been installed as the 1/5 ML favorite, and it would be no surprise to see her go postward at odds even shorter than that. She has been the dominant force in the three-year-old filly division all year, beginning with her comprehensive victory in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds, a race in which she completed the 1 1/16 miles in a time faster than colts required in the Risen Star stakes later that afternoon. She won the Fair Grounds Oaks in equally impressive fashion, but she saved her best for the most important early season race on the calendar for her division. Despite drawing post 12 in the Kentucky Oaks, there was never an anxious moment for Untapable as she dominated the best of her generation with a minimum of fuss while posting a 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure.
If you're looking for chinks in her armor, she is returning from a short break following the Oaks, she will have a new rider on Saturday after Rosie Napravnik's unfortunate injury, and her trainer, Steve Asmussen, has been on a long cold streak in NY, where he is 1 for his last 43 dating back to last November 29. All these things are worth considering when you're talking about the heaviest of favorites. But they are nowhere near sufficient to tempt us to reach into our pockets.
The only other stakes winner in the field is Todd Pletcher's Stopchargingmaria (#6, 8-1), a multiple graded stakes-winning 2yo who got back on the beam last time when taking the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in a low-rated performance. She is not fully committed to running against Untapable on Saturday and is unlikely to beat her if she does run.
There are sure to be tougher tests for Untapable down the line--at least we hope there are. But this year's running of the Mother Goose is hers to lose.
The Grade 2 New York Stakes
by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
Belmont Park/June 28/Race 9/5:28 EDT:
The Grade 2 New York features an enticing match-up between two runners who figure to be major players in the top races for longer-distance turf females throughout the year: Tannery (#1, 9-5) and Riposte (#2, 2-1). Tannery managed to win only two of her first ten starts after arriving here from her native Ireland back in 2012. But she ran much better than the bare results would indicate. One of those losses came in this race last year, when she was unable to work out a clear run after saving ground all the way. She acquitted herself quite well vs. males in both the Sword Dancer and the Red Smith, and she became a Grade 1 winner when taking a strong edition of the E. P. Taylor last fall. Her first start back as a 5yo resulted in a workmanlike victory at Monmouth over a distance shorter than her best. She figures to benefit greatly from having that run and from this stretch-out in distance.
Her main rival is Riposte, a Juddmonte Farms import who exits a clear-cut victory in last month’s Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay. Riposte, like Tannery, had trouble finding the winner’s circle after arriving stateside, but she emerged from each of her defeats with viable excuses (caught behind exceedingly slow paces in Florida – note the fractions below shaded in blue – she then endured a brutal wide trip at Keeneland) and finally broke through once given more ground with which to work. While she likely benefited from getting stretched back out in distance last time (she was a Group 2 winner over 1 1/2 miles in England), she also was given a heads-up ride by Joel Rosario, who went straight to the lead and controlled the race from start to finish.
There is truly little to separate these two talented runners. Their top TimeformUS Speed Figures fall closely in line, and, since they figure to be similar prices come post time, there is no real advantage to be found from a straight-up wagering perspective.
The runner with the best chance to upset those two figures to be Inimitable Romanee (#3, 4-1), who, after burning much money at the start of her career, has turned things around with added distance, posting a trio of upsets in graded-stakes company from her last four starts. She is facing much tougher competition today in the form of Tannery and Riposte, but she has the ability to pull any kind of trip in a race. She should not be completely dismissed.