06/01/2016 4:04PM

California turf horses to watch

There were a couple of nice performances on turf at Santa Anita over the Memorial Day weekend.
*ILLUMINANT has always hinted at potential and she came through with a fast and professional victory in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. A 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road, Illuminant tracked pacesetter FANTICOLA through moderate fractions of 24.00, 48.04 and 1:12.31. Illuminant always seemed to be traveling better than Fanticola, took over the lead turning in the stretch and had more than enough to beat back favored WEKEELA. Illuminant received a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for her 1:48.34 final clocking.
"Fanticola was the only speed in the race so I knew I needed to be right there," winning jockey Flavien Part told track publicity. "My filly has speed too, so I knew it would be ok. The turf is a bit softer here and that’s maybe better for her, especially going a mile and an eighth. And here at Santa Anita I feel it’s better if you’re closer to the lead."
Illuminant has been rock-solid in all of her turf races, compiling a 8-4-2-1 record on the green. In the start prior to the Gamely, she shipped to Keeneland for a date with the monstrous Tepin in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes. Illuminant ran well for third after pressing a solid pace up front and that race gave trainer Michael McCarthy, a former assistant to Todd Pletcher, hope that a big win was right down the road. 
Illuminant boasts excellent tactical speed and can adapt to any pace situation. Nine furlongs seems like a very comfortable distance and she should be followed in middle-distance graded events in Southern California.
*SI SAGE has found his niche at 10 furlongs on the grass in Southern California. The 6-year-old, a former claimer in his native France, bounced to the front in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes, set legitimate fractions of 23.15, 47.02 and 1:11.23 under Mike Smith, and kept right on going in the stretch. He completed the distance in 1:59.48, a time good enough for a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. 
"He got carried out a little bit when we were crossing the dirt," Smith told track publicity after the race. "We went a bit quicker than I wanted to go but in doing so he was well within himself, was comfortable, very relaxed and sometimes you’ve just got to let a fast horse be fast.”
Si Sage ran well, but just couldn't get over the hump after arriving in North America during the summer of 2013. In his first 11 stateside appearances for now-retired trainer Darrell Vienna, Si Sage placed in two graded stakes races, but failed to find the winner's circle. 
On the recommendation of jockey Elvis Trujillo, Vienna added blinkers and Si Sage became a different animal. In his first race with the hood, Si Sage pulled a 42 to 1 shocker in the Grade 3 Last Tycoon Stakes at 10 furlongs at Santa Anita. The blinkers made Si Sage more aggressive, sharpened his speed and transformed him from a midpack runner into a horse that wanted to race closer to the pace. 
Unfortunately, Si Sage couldn't immediately build on that upset win as he was sidelined with a severe bout of colic that required hospitalization. Away from the races for over a year, Si Sage returned with an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3, one-mile Thunder Road Stakes and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 American Stakes. He had excuses for both defeats. The Thunder Road was probably only a prep off the bench while the American was washed off the turf. The Whittingham, Si Sage's second start for trainer James Cassidy, marked Si Sage's third race of the current form cycle and a return to 1 1/4 miles (he is now 5-2-1-0 at 10 furlongs and 21-3-5-2 at all other trips). 
The turf course at Santa Anita has been speed-friendly of late, but Si Sage's good early gas should play nicely in similar longer-distance grass heats in Southern California over the summer. He's one to watch in the short term.
Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 5/24/16 - 5/30/16:
1. SI SAGE (FR) - 102 - Charles Whittingham Stakes (G2) - 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) - 29May16-8SA
2. ARE YOU KIDDING ME - 100 - Eclipse Stakes (G2-C) - 1 1/16 Miles (Tapeta) - 28May16-8WO 
2. AVANTI BELLO - 100 - Tiznow Stakes - 1 Mile - 28May16-8SA 
2. ILLUMINANT - 100 - Gamely Stakes (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 30May16-8SA 
5. PAY ANY PRICE - 99 - OC 25k/N1X -N - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - 30May16-9GP 
6. AMBITIOUS BREW - 98 - Lennyfrommalibu Stakes - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 28May16-1SA
6. COMFORT - 98 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - 29May16-8BEL
6. CYRUS ALEXANDER - 98 - Lone Star Park Handicap (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - 30May16-9LS 
6. GIFT BOX - 98 - OC 80k/N1X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - 26May16-8BEL
10. DREFONG - 97 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 6 Furlongs - 30May16-3SA 
10. RICHIES SWEETHEART - 97 - Honor the Hero Stakes - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - 30May16-7CBY
10. TAPITATION - 97 - Kingston Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 30May16-7BEL
13. CHUBLICIOUS - 96 - John J. Reilly Handicap - 6 Furlongs - 28May16-9MTH
14. LIVING THE LIFE (IRE) - 95 - All American Stakes (G3) - 1 Mile (Tapeta) - 30May16-6GG 
14. WEEKEND HIDEAWAY - 95 - Commentator Stakes - 1 Mile - 30May16-3BEL
16. ENOLA GRAY - 94 - Melair Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles - 28May16-4SA 
16. LONG HOT SUMMER - 94 - OC 62k/N2X -N - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 30May16-5SA 
18. BLUE DANCER - 93 - Journal Handicap - 6 Furlongs - 28May16-4NP 
18. EL DEAL - 93 - OC 40k/N3X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 28May16-5PRX 
18. GOOD BYE GREG - 93 - OC 40k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs (Polytrack) - 30May16-8AP 
18. INDIAN GUIDE - 93 - OC 25k/N1X -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 29May16-6GP 
18. ISABELLA SINGS - 93 - Miss Liberty Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 29May16-9MTH
18. LEXIE LOU - 93 - Nassau Stakes (G2-C) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 29May16-8WO 
18. STORM POWER - 93 - Ed Skinner Memorial Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 28May16-8PRM
18. TALE OF FANCY - 93 - Alw 77000N1X - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 28May16-7BEL
*Si Sage's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.
Video stakes analyses for many of the weekend's major stakes will be available later this week at http://www.drf.com/videos
You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.
Matt Bernier, Mike Beer and I will be on for free and fun live handicapping analysis at 4pm ET on Saturday for coverage of Belmont, Santa Anita and more. Please join us at http://www.live.drf.com.
Congrats to Sinatra Jeter for winning last week's HandiGambling challenge.
Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post. 
Let's go with Saturday's Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont for this week's exercise.
SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to update all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...
HANDIGAMBLING version 2016:
Let's remember WHY we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.
The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses and why we're betting them the way we are. We are not asking for a novel but SPARE A SENTENCE OR TWO outlining your HANDICAPPING ANGLES and/or THOUGHT PROCESSES about WAGERING.
1. Start your post with HG or HANDIGAMBLING to find your entry in a thread.
2. You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose that is available for that HG race. Anyone going over the $100 limit will be DISQUALIFIED.
3. Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog prior to the start of the designated race. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR POST. Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST SIGN YOURSELF AT THE END (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to identify who you are.
4. (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes. Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.
5. Separate your analysis from the wager and use the PROGRAM # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.
6. If any of the rules listed above aren't met, the wager is subject to review which can lead to disqualification of your entry.
In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.
The winner will receive a "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"
As an example :
HG 2016
The speed in this race are #1 Alpha, #2 Beta, and #8 Ocho. I like the works for layoff horse #5 Cinco who can sit off the pace. Lots of speed in here, so this could set up for a closer like  #6 Six Flags and I like the trainer's stats in these conditions. I’ll put the closer over the speed.
HG wager:
$10 EX   6 /   1,2,5, 8  = $40
$5 TRI   6 /   1,2,5,8  /  1,2,5,8  =  $60
Total $100
Thanks Dan!


SiSage.pdf840.84 KB
HG 5 28 16 Matron Stakes.xls54.5 KB