by Ed DeRosa
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club opens today and with it TwinSpires.com’s $42,000 Beat the Caveman Challenge.
Our caveman will play the late Pick 4 at either Del Mar or Saratoga Race Course Wednesday (Saratoga), Thursday (Del Mar), Friday (Del Mar), Saturday (Saratoga), Sunday (Del Mar), and Monday (Saratoga) this summer. He will use four horses in each race—something Steve Crist would call a 4x4x4x4 caveman play.\
The caveman’s ticket for opening day at Del Mar is already posted.
As a TwinSpires.com employee, I am not eligible to beat the caveman and get a piece of the $1,000 daily prize if he loses, but since neither Del Mar nor Saratoga is a Churchill Downs Inc.-owned track, I can play the Pick 4 at either venue (unlike Arlington International Racecourse, Churchill Downs Race Track, or Fair Grounds Race Course).
So with personal pride and dollars on the line, I’ll take a swing at the caveman on opening day with a caveman play of my own that only goes as narrow as three horses in any one race in a skullbuster of a sequence that begins with race 7 (of 10) at 8:11 p.m. EDT (5:11 PT) and features 14,520 combinations.
The sequence kicks off with a one-mile starter allowance on Polytrack, and the top tab is #5 Sir Macho fresh off the claim for trainer Bill Spawr who clicks at 21% in that situation. This one also goes turf to dirt second off the layoff and gets Mike Smith.
Another who intrigues include #7 No Barneys at 6-to-1 morning line. He is the only “E” type in this race, a designation that did not fare well in main track routes last year, but as the only one in the field and coming off a gate-to-wire effort with this same jock last out is worth a look.
Leg 2 (race 8) is the Oceanside Stakes for three-year-olds going a mile on turf, and it’s a competitive field of 11 in which I’ll use as many as seven starters on one ticket with the “top pick” preference going to morning line favorite #9 Enterprising.
This is a restricted race in that winners of a stakes in 2014 for more than $50,000 (as the winner) are not eligible. Three horses in the field have won a $75,000 ($45,000 to the winner) stakes: G. G. Ryder, Forever Juanito, and the aforementioned Enterprising, who won the Pasadena on March 22 before a third-place finish four weeks later in La Puenta. He has been on the shelf since, working steadily for this. He is by far the class of the race with another stakes win and two other stakes placings to his credit.
My other “A” picks are #1 Argyle Cat and #5 Patriots Rule, both of whom will be closing late.
Leg 3 (race 9) is a $20,000 claimer for older male sprinters on the Polytrack, and #9 Diamond of Blue is the clear choice on talent, but the near-11-month layoff and outside post as the favorite does give some pause. Any hiccup at the start for this one, and he’s toast.
Regardless, I do think speed wins this, which means #4 Xuang Fengand #7 Close to the Edge are the clear alternatives
A conditioned claimer for $32,000 types going 1 1/16 miles on the turf course closes the sequence and the day, and I’ll try to get by with #s 5, 9, 10, & 13.
Here are my tickets:
4, 5, 7, 8, 10 with 1, 5, 9 with 4, 7, 9 with 5, 9, 10, 13 ($90)
5 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 with 4, 7, 9 with 5, 9, 10, 13 ($42)
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 with 9 with 4, 7, 9 with 5, 9, 10, 13 ($42)
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 with 9 with 5, 9, 10, 13 ($98)
5 with 9 with 9 with ALL ($6)
The Caveman’s play: 2, 4, 5, 6 with 1, 4, 9, 10 with 4, 6, 8, 9 with 1, 8, 9, 10 ($64)