Leave It to Eddie Haskell in the Daytona Stakes

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Although this week's Unlocking Winners blog post is publishing before entries for the Memorial Day races are released, there's no shortage of quality Saturday stakes races worth handicapping.

They might not the most prestigious events of the weekend, but I personally am intrigued by the Paradise Creek Stakes at Belmont Park and the Daytona Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita. Let's dig in and come up with a couple of plays....

Paradise Creek Stakes

There won't be much wagering value involved, but I'm excited to see Fog of War return to action in the seven-furlong Paradise Creek Stakes at Belmont Park. Trained by Chad Brown, this beautifully-bred son of War Front caught my eye when he unleashed a strong late rally to win his debut sprinting 5 ½ furlongs at Saratoga last summer, leaving the future graded stakes winner Current 2 ½ lengths behind in third place.

Subsequently, Fog of War stepped up sharply in class and distance for the Summer Stakes (gr. I) at Woodbine, where he overcame a somewhat troubled trip to rally relentlessly and wear down the future Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner War of Will to win by a bit less than a length. His final time of 1:33.90 Was on the quick side, but unfortunately, Fog of War was sidelined after the Summer Stakes and missed the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I).

Despite the injury-induced layoff, I expect Fog of War to give a good account of himself on Saturday. He's been breezing every week like clockwork since the beginning of March, and Brown wins at a high percentage off layoffs, so there's no reason to think Fog of War won't be fit enough to sprint seven furlongs in the Paradise Creek Stakes. Brown wins at a solid 28% rate with horses returning from layoffs of six months or more, and Fog of War is catching a relatively easy field—four of his seven rivals have never even won on turf. This race should serve as a springboard to bigger and better things for Fog of War.

But rather than leave you with just a chalky win play, I'll also throw out an idea for the exacta. Pole Setter has spent the majority of his career running a mile or farther, but he stepped up his game nicely when cutting back in distance for a 6 ½-furlong allowance race at Keeneland last month, dueling from start to finish to win by a nose in the quick time of 1:16.18, which translated to an excellent 93 Beyer. That race was on dirt, but Pole Setter easily won his debut over the Ellis Park turf course last summer, so the switch back to grass shouldn't be an issue. Pole Setter might find his niche sprinting on turf, and it doesn't hurt to back a Brad Cox runner at Belmont Park, since Cox has gone 5-for-10 to start the meet. Throw in the fact that Pole Setter will carry just 117 pounds, six less than Fog of War, and we might be looking at an upset possibility. How about a boxed exacta with Fog of War?

Daytona Stakes (gr. III)

Traditionally, the Daytona has been contested at 6 ½ furlongs over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, but this year the race has been shortened to five furlongs and will be conducted over the regular turf course. That should absolutely play to the strengths of Eddie Haskell, a former claimer with a 9-6-1-2 record sprinting five furlongs on grass.

Quite simply, this is Eddie Haskell's ballgame. He's capable enough over the downhill course, but going five furlongs he can hang with the best. Two starts back, he defeated the two-time Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. I) winner Stormy Liberal in a five-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita. Four starts back, he beat the graded stakes winners Calculator and Cistron while traveling the same distance at Del Mar. The last time he lost a race at this distance, he dueled for the lead through a blazing :20.94 opening quarter-mile, and even off that crazy fraction he was still beaten less than two lengths.

Eddie Haskell has tactical speed but doesn't need the lead to win, so he should work out a perfect trip in the Daytona, which has attracted only one true front-runner. And as with Fog of War, Eddie Haskell has managed to find a field where he's one of relatively few accomplished grass runners—three of his six rivals have never won on turf. Gee whiz Beaver, that wise guy Eddie Haskell might be pretty neat this Saturday!

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the weekend stakes races?


Want to test your handicapping skills against fellow Unlocking Winners readers? Check out the Unlocking Winners contests page—there's a new challenge every week!


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.

Recent Posts

More Blogs