By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman")
Although it is an ungraded stakes race and rarely draws much attention on a national scale, the $250,000 Remington Springboard Mile at Remington Park has been drawing fields of higher and higher quality in recent years. In fact, two years ago, the runner-up at odds of 12-1 was a little-known colt by the name of Will Take Charge, who went on to be the champion three-year-old male of 2013.
As is befitting of a race that is increasing in stature, this year’s Springboard Mile has drawn a large field of eleven, with several promising runners among the entries. At first glance, the race looks like a showdown between Shotgun Kowboy and Bayerd, who have exchanged victories in their two meetings thus far. For their third confrontation, Shotgun Kowboy has been established as the slight morning line favorite at 2-1, thanks to his eye-catching rally last time out that earned him victory in the seven-furlong Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington by a length. In that race, he ran his final furlong in just under :13 seconds—a respectable time given the quick early pace—and although the added distance and two-turn nature of the Springboard Mile are question marks, his trainer, C. R. Trout, does well with starters stretching out from a sprint to a route, and is winning at an impressive 35% strike rate overall at this Remington meet. Throw in top jockey Luis Quinonez, and the fact that Shotgun Kowboy has been earning very competitive Beyer speed figures, and he looks like a very difficult favorite to beat.
The second choice at 5-2 is Bayerd, a Steve Asmussen-trained colt that finished third sprinting six furlongs in his debut at Saratoga before scoring by 11 ½ lengths in a similar race later in the meet. In that victory, he easily defeated Frosted, who has since finished second in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct.
For his third start, Bayerd shipped to Remington and used his terrific early speed to press a fast pace and win the six-furlong Kip Deville Stakes by a length, with Shotgun Kowboy finishing third in a late-running effort. However, the tables were turned when Bayerd stretched out to seven furlongs in the Clever Trevor, a race in which he set a good pace before tiring to finish second behind Shotgun Kowboy. Although the stretch-out to a mile doesn’t seem like an ideal fit for this speedy colt, it’s possible that the expected slower pace of the race could help him see out the distance, and I’m not opposed to considering him for the exotics if he stays at a fair price.
In a race like this one—with so many unproven young runners—it’s natural to want to find a longshot that can be in the mix at large odds. It seems particularly fitting to do so in the Springboard Mile, given that the last two winners have gone off at 23-1 and 128-1. Therefore, while I remain confident that Shotgun Kowboy is going to win this race, I’m going to take a moment to mention a couple of longshots that I like, and would consider using in vertical or horizontal exotic wagers of any kind.
The first colt I like is Phenomenal Phoenix, who is 12-1 on the morning line. This is as much a pedigree hunch as anything else, as he is a son of Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird out of a mare by Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat. After finishing third in his debut going six furlongs, Phenomenal Phoenix stretched out to a mile and won easily by 5 ½ lengths. Having drawn the rail, I hope to see him work out a ground-saving trip behind the leaders and then come running in the homestretch.
An even better candidate for an upset might be Hillbilly Style (15-1), who has already made three starts at a mile or longer. In his last two races, he has rallied well despite slow starts to finish second each time, and although he’s still a maiden, I think he’ll relish the distance better than most and put in a good run in the final two furlongs. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who has been on a bit of a hot streak lately. Really, there’s a lot to like about this colt—the solid stretch runs, the nice pedigree, his connections, the morning line odds… at 15-1 or higher, I think this colt is definitely worth a look, for if he breaks well and is able to save ground from post four (and thus avoid circling the field on the extreme outside, as he has done in his last two efforts), I think he can absolutely secure a major piece of this purse.
Who do you like in the Remington Springboard Mile?