J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
fantastic summer of racing continues on Saturday with stellar afternoons at Del
Mar and Saratoga, including four grade I races. The highlight of the weekend
will undoubtedly be the Pacific Classic (gr. I), which has drawn the amazing
trio of California Chrome, Beholder, and Dortmund, but this race looks more like a "watch" than a "bet"
since the big three will dominate the wagering and all could win on their best
we'll focus our handicapping attention on the Del Mar Handicap (gr. II) and the
Alabama Stakes (gr. I). The latter also looks like a "watch" and
not a "bet" at first glance, but while Songbird is a standout, there is one
filly that I think has a chance to finish on the board at a big price. Let's
Del Mar Handicap (gr. II)
11-furlong turf race has drawn a deep field of twelve horses, including the
graded stakes winners Ashleyluvssugar,
Finnegans Wake and Flamboyant, who figure to attract much
of the wagering support. But I'm very excited about the chances of Metaboss, a son of Street Boss that I
believe has the talent to be a major stakes winner. During an abbreviated 2015
campaign, he won two of three starts, including the El Camino Real Derby (gr.
III) on the Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields. Following a thirteen-month
layoff, during which he was transferred to trainer Michael Dickinson, Metaboss turned
up in Maryland and endured three straight troubled trips when finishing sixth,
third, and fourth in allowance optional claiming races.
his traffic trouble, Metaboss showed a significant late kick in all three of
those races, and when he was shipped back to California and turned over to
trainer Philip D'Amato, Metaboss responded with a tremendous performance in a
one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Del Mar. Finally getting a clean
trip, Metaboss trailed the field early on before unleashing a tremendous run in
the final two furlongs, swallowing up his rivals in breathtaking fashion to win
by 1 ½ lengths. He strikes me as a colt that doesn't need a flat mile and a
fast pace to set up his late run; I think he can be equally effective or more
so going eleven furlongs. Call it a hunch or a gut feeling, but I've long been
a fan of Metaboss and think he's sitting on a huge effort this Saturday.
also throw in a good word for Wanstead
Gardens, who is 3-for-6 over the Del Mar turf course. Last summer, he won
an 11-furlong allowance optional claiming race with a powerful finish, and he
wasn't beaten by much when sixth behind The Pizza Man in the 12-furlong
Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (gr. II) last November. On July 30th, he
returned from a seven-month layoff to win a nine-furlong allowance optional
claiming race here at Del Mar by a neck while running the final furlong in
about :11 2/5, and I think he's a great candidate to finish in the exotics at
Alabama Stakes (gr. I)
be an overwhelming favorite in this ten-furlong race, and a defeat would be a huge
surprise. She's unbeaten in nine starts, eight of them graded stakes races, and
she looked terrific winning the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Saratoga
last month. With her tactical speed and brilliance, she should be in command of
this race from the start. The only question mark is the ten-furlong distance of
the Alabama Stakes--for what it's worth, Songbird ran the final furlong of the
Coaching Club American Oaks in a slow :13.54 seconds, and there can be a
significant difference between winning at nine furlongs and winning at ten.
you want to take a shot at beating Songbird, perhaps in a multi-race wager
where an upset could lead to astronomical payoffs, one filly to consider is Dark Nile. Owned by WinStar Farm and
trained by Arnaud Delacour, she has quietly compiled a solid record, winning
four straight races (two of them stakes races), including the 8.5-furlong
Delaware Oaks (gr. III). A versatile filly that has been successful racing on
the lead and off the pace, Dark Nile is strongly bred for handling ten furlongs
(she's by Pioneerof the Nile out of a Bernardini mare), and while she'll be
facing much tougher company on Saturday, her 20-1 morning line odds are
appealing. At the very least, she's a good candidate to play in second behind
Songbird, and how often can you get 20-1 on a horse that has won four straight
Now it's your turn!
Who do you like in the major races 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.