J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
hope you're ready for another great weekend of racing action! We've got an
impressive slate of stakes races on the schedule, including the $750,000
Delaware Handicap (gr. I), and on Friday, the much-anticipated summer meet at
Del Mar will begin. Plus, I've found a first-time starter at Presque Isle Downs
that I think has a strong chance to win at a solid price, so let's start
Delaware Handicap (gr. I)
small field of six will contest this ten-furlong race for fillies and mares,
led by the grade I winner I'm a
Chatterbox. She was among the best three-year-old fillies in the country
last year, hitting the board in six straight graded stakes races while winning
the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I) and crossing the wire first in the Coaching Club
American Oaks (gr. I). She even ran well at ten furlongs, finishing second by 1
¼ lengths in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.
although the daughter of Munnings is very talented, she doesn't seem to have
taken a step forward this year. Her 2016 debut was slightly disappointing, as
she finished second as the 1-2 favorite behind longshot Brooklynsway in the
Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, and while she rebounded to win the
nine-furlong Obeah Handicap by 8 ½ lengths at Delaware Park on June 11th,
her final time of 1:53.20 was slow compared to the time of 1:43.00 for a mile
and 70 yards posted by the three-year-old colt No Distortion in an allowance
race earlier in the day.
addition, the pace of the Delaware Handicap has a tendency to be very slow and
speed-favoring, which might not fit I'm a Chatterbox's style of settling a few
lengths off the lead. Add in the fact that she'll be stretching out in distance
and conceding from four to eleven pounds to her five rivals, and I think you
have a recipe for an upset.
Mei Ling is a
mare with a lot of speed and the breeding to handle ten furlongs--she's by
Empire Maker out of a Seeking the Gold mare. She actually handled twelve
furlongs pretty well in the Rags to Riches Invitational last month at Belmont,
finishing second by eight lengths to Theogony, and she won the Heavenly Prize
Stakes earlier this year in gate-to-wire fashion and employed front-running
tactics to finish a close second in the Top Flight Handicap (gr. III) as well.
She gets into the Delaware Handicap carrying just 113 pounds, and the addition
of blinkers suggests that she'll set or track the early pace, giving her a
major tactical advantage. Better still, how often does one get 5-1 odds on a
Todd Pletcher runner in a graded stakes races? At that price, she is my
selection to win.
Paid Up Subscriber was
a sprinter last year, but has taken a big step forward since being stretched
out in distance and is 2-for-2 going a mile or longer. Last time out, she
tracked the pace in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs before
taking command and running the final furlong in :11.99 to win by three lengths
over Brooklynsway. Her final time of 1:48.44 was slightly faster than Bradester
ran while winning the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) later on the card, and
her pedigree (by Candy Ride out of a Street Cry mare) suggests she'll be able
to handle another furlong. She flashed excellent early speed in her 2016 debut,
setting fractions of :22.38 and :45.63 in a 6 ½-furlong allowance sprint at
Keeneland, and having drawn the rail, I think Paid up Subscriber will be
forwardly placed early on. She should have a strong chance to finish in the
the Royal Delta Stakes (gr. II) three starts back with a 97 Beyer speed figure,
but hasn't looked as sharp since then while tackling grade I company in the
Santa Margarita Stakes and La Troienne Stakes. It's worth noting that three of
her five wins, including the Royal Delta, came at Gulfstream Park, and given
her inconsistent record and recent performances, I think it's worth playing
against her today.
would also like to mention Money'soncharlotte,
a five-length, gate-to-wire winner of a one-mile and 70-yard allowance race at
Monmouth Park last time out. Last year, she competed in four straight graded
stakes races (including the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose Stakes) with little
success, but her race at Monmouth was a very promising step in the right
direction. Interestingly, she's 3-for-3 when setting the pace and 0-for-9 when
unable to get near the early lead. She's been assigned just 111 pounds for this
race, and has shown some significant speed, both in her workouts and in her
allowance win. This is a very big step up in class, but at 15-1 in a race with
no other fillies that definitely want the lead, I wouldn't want to leave her
out of multi-race wagers, as I think she has an outside chance to steal this
race on the front end.
Race 2 at Presque Isle Downs on July 17th
5 ½-furlong maiden special weight for two-year-olds has drawn a deep field of
twelve, and while the favorites look talented--Rapa Iti has finished second in three straight races while running
Beyer speed figures higher than par, and Nuclear
Fusion was beaten just a neck by Rapa Iti last time out--I'm very intrigued
by the first-time starter Sea of Gelt.
Trainer Ron Potts is very strong with debut runners, particularly two-year-olds
at Presque Isle Downs, and Sea of Gelt brought a respectable final bid of
$105,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, which was below his reserve.
Being by Blame out of a Cat Thief mare, Sea of Gelt's pedigree might be slanted
toward longer distances, but his dam was a precocious five-furlong stakes
winner at the age of two, and Sea of Gelt has shown speed in the mornings, most
recently breezing five furlongs in a bullet :59.75 on July 10th. At
10-1 on the morning line, I think he's a great choice to key in the vertical
exotics with Rapa Iti and Nuclear Fusion, with the first-time starters Trick Up My Sleeve (15-1) and Upatoi Bug (12-1) others to consider given
their trainers' increasing and so far profitable success with first-time
it's your turn! Who do you like this weekend?
To help simplify the process of choosing and keeping track of everyone's prime horse selections in our 2016 Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Handicapping Challenge, I would like to ask everyone to please submit their prime choice each week by leaving a special comment on the official blog page for the contest. This will greatly reduce the chances of any prime horse selections getting overlooked, and will also make it simpler to double-check the standings. Thanks, and enjoy the racing!
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.