The Grade 2 Jim Dandy
by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
Saratoga / July 26 / Race 10 / 6:01 EDT:
With a pair of entrants cross-entered into Friday's Curlin stakes, and the participation of another on the fence, the field for Saturday's Jim Dandy is very much in flux as of this writing. Were Kid Cruz to run here, we would give him a very long look. But his participation is far from certain, what with his trainer, Linda Rice, looking at races out of town for her overachieving colt.
The race will feature the return of Belmont Stakes hero Tonalist, a colt of much early season promise for Christophe Clement. After being forced to miss the first two legs of the Triple Crown series, Tonalist returned with a vengeance in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont, a week before the Preakness. Running over a sloppy track that he may not have cared for, Tonalist ran off a bit with jockey Joel Rosario early on before leveling off with a strong run to leave his rivals behind through the stretch. He then went on to spoil California Chrome's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes despite losing much ground throughout that 1 1/2-mile endurance test. Tonalist enters the second half of the year with a beautiful TFUS Speed Figure pattern, every number faster than the one that preceded it, and he has the kind of cruising speed that allows him to be placed anywhere in a race. We think very highly of this colt and are expecting big things from him going forward.
His strongest challenger in this race is likely to be Wicked Strong. He owns the top TFUS Speed Figure in the field, a 117, earned for his Grade 1 Wood Memorial victory, and he was a troubled but dead-game 4th in Kentucky. Wicked Strong couldn't impact Tonalist in the late stages of the Belmont, but he may benefit more from this turn-back in distance than that horse will. We believe Wicked Strong has an opportunity to make things closer this time.
We prefer Tonalist. Since there doesn't figure to be much separating these two talented colts price-wise, we see no reason to try to beat him with Wicked Strong. We will use them both in multi-race wagers and then simply enjoy the show.
The Grade 1 Haskell
by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
Monmouth / July 27 / Race 12 / 5:44 EDT:
The list of winners of the Grade 1 Haskell, top to bottom, is an impressive list indeed, but looking at it just before the 2014 Haskell, two names jump off it: Serena's Song and Rachel Alexandra. Will Untapable prove to be up to the task of winning the Haskell on Sunday, thus racing into the company of those elite fillies?
While Untapable is certainly a contender, we will be betting that she does not win the Haskell. We simply see too many negatives to take her at a short price.
For starters, according to the TFUS Pace Projector, Social Inclusion (#2) will be mixing it up early with the speedy, formidable Bayern (#6), and doing so at a pace that might well be punitive.
This has the potential to leave Untapable in a difficult position. If she takes up the stalking position that she has in all of her starts this year, she might well find herself in uncharted territory. Looking at her lifetime past performances, one sees that she has not raced close to a fast pace (fast being denoted by the fractions and pace figures being color-coded red) in her entire career.
Can she handle such a scenario? Very likely yes. After all, that is what she does when she runs. She handles things--often so well that she leaves her opponents in the dust. But the question remains unanswered, and that leaves us uneasy given that her odds will be short.
We also have questions about the quality of the fillies she has been leaving in the dust, fillies such as Got Lucky, Unbridled Forever, and America. And the TFUS Race Ratings only add to our concern. The Haskell has a preliminary Race Rating of 114. The highest Race Rating in any of Untapable's races is a 107.
Then there is the fact that her speed figures do not show her with a significant edge in here. Although she is a paragon of consistency, her very best speed figure, a 117, has been exceeded by both Social Inclusion and Bayern.
In total, much as we admire Untapable, we cannot bring ourselves to support her at anything like her morning line odds of 2-1.
Reluctantly, we see Bayern as the most likely winner of the Haskell. Surely a repeat of the 121 TimeformUS Speed Figure he ran in the Woody Stephens would make him a prohibitive favorite to come away with the win, and Bob Baffert's record in the Haskell is well known. But there are distance and pace questions here. In addition, the list of horses who can put a second 121 on top of the first one is not all that long. Given his short odds and our nagging feeling that his Woody Stephens was not all that his supporters think it was, we are looking to oppose Bayern, too.
We believe that Social Inclusion is a genuine talent. In fact, we think he has more raw talent than Bayern. But it usually takes more than raw talent to win big races. There is something to be said for good management, too. Social Inclusion does not interest us in the Haskell.
Albano impressed last time and projects for a similar trip. He'll just have to get it done in the face of an even faster pace and against even better horses, somehow improving his speed figure by a dozen points. Rather a lot to ask at morning line odds of 6-1.
And that brings us to Medal Count. Yes, his speed figures are a little light in here. But he is an admirably rugged horse who seems to thrive on racing and who has been improving fairly steadily. His best races have come on dirt. He had genuine trouble in the Kentucky Derby.
He was beaten by only a length in the Belmont, which we believe--counterintuitive though it might be--was the strongest Triple Crown race this year. With his Late Pace rating of 90, he figures to be a prime beneficiary if Pace Projector is right about the destructive pace. While we harbor no fantasies about him being the most likely winner, at morning line odds of 8-1, Medal Count is our Haskell bet.