03/19/2014 3:00PM

Evolution of a Sprinter


SOCIAL INCLUSION received most of last week's headlines, and deservedly so, following a 111-Beyer romp over top Derby prospect Honor Code at Gulfstream Park. Two races earlier, however, another gate-to-wire winner gave a noteworthy performance.

EVOLUTION ROCKS, claimed for $6,000 on June 16, 2013, earned his third consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure when annihilating a field of 'n2x' runners at six furlongs. The 4-year-old gelding was ridden by Edgard Zayas and immediately asserted his dominance, grabbing the lead and the rail in the opening fifty yards. Evolution Rocks set fractions of 21.93 and 44.23 before powering clear turning for home. He finished 7 1/2 lengths better than runner-up Border Song, polished off the distance in 1:08.50, and received a career-best 107 Beyer, the co-fastest number earned by a sprinter this year (he's tied with the now-sidelined Mean Season).

How has this horse evolved from ordinary plater to the swiftest sprinter in the country in a span of nine months?

It's not as if he's a blue blood that has finally figured out the game. Evolution Rocks sold for $14,000 as a yearling and doesn't have much blacktype in his female family.

A cursory glance at his past performances (listed at the bottom of this blog post) indicates that trainer Jorge Navarro is the probable answer to the above question.

Evolution Rocks was a useful horse when he raced for trainers Manuel Criollo, Michael McDonald, and Don Swick, compiling a record of 16-4-1-1 with a lifetime Beyer top of 72.

Since being claimed by owner Jennifer Harries and re-adding Lasix, Evolution Rocks, racing for Navarro (and trainer Alexander Martinez at Parx when Navarro was serving a suspension), sports a mark of 8-5-3-0 with Beyers ranging from 77 to 107. That's right. Evolution Rocks' WORST Beyer for Navarro is better than anything he ever recorded for his previous three trainers.

Perhaps the combination of fast dirt and Lasix is the key to the gelding's success (Evolution Rocks raced seven times with Lasix earlier in his career. Six of those starts came on polytrack, turf, or slop. The lone win came on fast dirt). Perhaps Navarro simply found an underachiver, and turned him around by paying attention to detail and placing him in the right spots. Perhaps it's something else entirely. While there is no evidence of unfair play with Evolution Rocks, Navarro is currently barred from competing at Tampa Bay Downs after six post-race drug positives were found during the 2011-2012 Tampa meet.


Whatever the reason for the sudden improvement, handicappers have found another angle to consider. The Navarro Factor must loom in our minds when we skim the past performances. Clicking through Formulator, we find that Navarro was 113-343 (33%, $1.98 ROI, 64% ITM) over the past year. Off the claim during that time period, he is whacking out a phenomenal 52%, (27-52, 81% ITM, $2.64 ROI). Ignore Navarro-trained horses at your own peril. It's not whether he improves horses, it's how much.

As for Evolution Rocks, who knows where he fits on the class ladder right now?  But, would you ignore him if he showed up next time in a graded stakes race?


This week's 3-year-old spotlight features two horses with standout pedigrees.
THE ADMIRAL (Giant's Causeway - Sassy Pants, by Saratoga Six)

*FOAL DATE, STATE: February 17, 2011, Kentucky
*TRAINER: Bob Baffert
*BREEDER: Sassy Pants Syndicate
*OWNER: Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor
*LAST RACE:  1st "A1x" allowance, 1 1/16 Miles, Oaklawn, March 16, 90 Beyer
*DP = 4-1-26-1-0 (32) DI = 1.29   CD = 0.25

Another from Bob Baffert's seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of solid sophomores is The Admiral, a late-blooming son of Giant's Causeway that has won two straight races in gate-to-wire fashion at Santa Anita.

Third in his career debut on December 7 over the Betfair Hollywood cushion track, The Admiral disappointed in his next two starts. He failed to stay a mile as the 9-10 favorite in his second appearance, then disappointed with blinkers off at 1 1/16 miles.

Baffert put the hood back on for a seven-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita on February 15, and The Admiral responded with a 90-Beyer victory. It must be noted, however, that speed ruled the roost at "The Great Race Place" that afternoon and The Admiral was loose on an uncontested lead.

Last Sunday, The Admiral stretched back out in distance for an entry-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Sent away the 2-1 second choice in the field of six, The Admiral broke sweetly from the inside post position and immediately made the lead. He took mild pressure from the outside by Papa Turf through splits of 23.25, 47.25 and 1:11.52 and spurted clear turning for home. While Papa Turf couldn't stay with The Admiral, Friendswith K Mill, the longest shot on the board, rallied stoutly along the rail. The Admiral held him at bay, though, to score by a half-length in 1:43.14.

The Admiral is by the wonderfully classy Giant's Causeway. Horse of the Year in Europe as a 3-year-old of 2000, Giant's Causeway won five consecutive Group 1 races that season at distances between a flat mile and 1 5/16 miles, all over the span of 81 days. In his lone dirt appearance, Giant's Causeway finished a neck behind Tiznow in the Breeders' Cup Classic, earning a 116 Beyer under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.

Champion sire by earnings in 2009, 2010 and 2012, Giant's Causeway is a versatile stallion with North American Grade 1 winners on turf (Aragorn, My Typhoon, Red Giant, Internallyflawless), synthetic (Heatseeker, Carriage Trail), and dirt (Giant Oak, Swift Temper, Creative Cause, First Samurai, Book Review, Eskendereya, Frost Giant).

While Giant's Causeway imparts stamina, the bottom half of The Admiral's pedigree is full of speed influences. He is a half-brother to Madcap Escapade, a winner in 7 of 9 starts at distances between six furlongs and 1 1/16 miles. Madcap Escapade's big win came in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, but she faltered to third in her only start at nine furlongs, and is remembered more for her big sprint scores (107 Beyer in both the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Handicap and Grade 3 Madison Stakes, 106 Beyer in the Grade 2 Shirley Jones Handicap, 108 Beyer in the Old Hat Stakes). Madcap Escapade is the dam of the precocious Mi Sueno, who grabbed the Grade 1 Darley Debutante at seven furlongs over Del Mar's polytrack.

The Admiral is also a half-brother to Dubai Escapade, the winner of the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes traveling seven furlongs at Saratoga with a 115 Beyer. Another half-sibling, Real Estate, took the $100,000 James B. Moseley Sprint Handicap at Suffolk Downs.

Their dam, Sassy Pants (by Saratoga Six), won two sprint stakes races, but was beaten 23 lengths in her lone attempt past a mile. She is a half-sister to Delicatessa, who won the Claire Marine Stakes going 12 furlongs on turf at Arlington Park, stakes-winner Apalachee Special (Sportsman's Park Handicap at 1 1/16 miles) and stakes-placed sprinter Greetings.

The third dam, Generous Portion, won the Del Mar Debutante at two, the California Oaks at three, and a division of the Golden Poppy Stakes at five. This is the family of the very good fillies Fleet Treat and Impressive Style.

Although in excellent form, the jury should still be out as to The Admiral's quality and distance ability. He looked fatigued on the gallop-out last time with Friendswith K Mill roaring past him after the wire, and his pedigree indicates he might be more of a middle-distance performer than a nine-furlong horse, let alone a classic contender. It might be wise to take a wait-and-see approach before anointing The Admiral a future stakes-winner, but he looks promising as a sprinter and middle-distance performer.

CLASS LEADER (Smart Strike - Class Kris, by Kris S.)

*FOAL DATE, STATE:  March 25, 2011, Kentucky
*TRAINER: Neil Howard
*BREEDER: W. S. Farish
*OWNER: Lane's End Racing
*AUCTION HISTORY: $185,000 (RNA) Keeneland September Yearling,
*Last Race:  1st 'N1X' optional claimer, 1 Mile 70 Yards, Fair Grounds, March 13, 86 Beyer
*DP = 8-11-21-1-1 (42) DI = 2.36   CD = 0.57

While The Admiral may end up better at shorter distances, Class Leader acts like he wants to run all day long. Perfect from two starts this winter around two turns, Class Leader will likely make his next start in a Kentucky Derby points race.

Trained by Neil Howard, the Will Farish homebred made his career debut last October in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs. Class Leader was outrun early and passed tired ones after a wide bid. The second- and third-place finishers from that race, Be Well and Albano, returned to finish two-one in the $48,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. Albano then went on to place second in both the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes and Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes.

Class Leader stretched out for his first try this year and rewarded his backers with a 6-1 maiden victory on February 17. Last week, he made his initial attempt against winners and came through once again. Ridden by James Graham, Class Leader settled along the inside as Interchange and favored Candy Dandy brawled through splits of 23.19, 46.46 and 1:11.81. Class Leader moved up in behind horses on the final turn and split rivals while racing in the three-path in upper stretch. From there, he engaged in battle with Divine View before edging clear in the final hundred yards. Class Leader hopped back to his left lead at the wire but, all in all, it was a professional performance for such a lightly-raced colt.

Class Leader is by Smart Strike, winner of the Grade 1 Phillip H. Iselin Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. The leading stallion by progeny earnings in 2007 and 2008, Smart Strike is the sire of Eclipse Award winners Curlin, English Channel, Lookin At Lucky and My Miss Aurelia.

Class Leader's dam, five-time graded winner Class Kris, has also produced multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Student Council and Grade 3 route winner Gradepoint. The former excelled at 1 1/4 miles, winning the Pacific Classic over polytrack and the Hawthorne Gold Cup on dirt. Student Council also won the Pimlico Special at 1 3/16 miles. Gradepoint, meanwhile, received a 96 Beyer for winning the Risen Star Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

Class Kris's big races came on turf at distances up to nine furlongs, but she handled dirt just fine.

Class Leader lacks experience and will get a true test against tougher horses next time out. While the Derby seems like a longshot, he looks like a horse that will improve with distance and maturity.


Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures (3/10/14 - 3/16/14):

1. SOCIAL INCLUSION - 111 - Alw 61500NC - 1 1/16 Miles - Gulfstream
2. EVOLUTION ROCKS - 107 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs - Gulfstream
3. ALI'S BIRTHDAY - 102 - Alw 61000N$Y - 6 Furlongs - Oaklawn
3. ANAHAUC - 102 - OC 40k/N2X -N - 5 1/2 Furlongs - Fair Grounds
3. GOLDEN LAD - 102 - Razorback Handicap (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
6. ACTION ANDY - 100 -  OC 100k/N3X - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Gulfstream
6. HOPPERTUNITY - 100 - Rebel Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
8. LET FAITH ARISE - 99 - Santa Margarita (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - Santa Anita
9. JOY BOY - 98 - Alw 62000C - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
10. VIRAMUNDO - 97 - OC25k/SAL20k - 1 Mile - Gulfstream
11. CLOSE HATCHES - 96 - Azeri Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
11. GANTRY - 96 - Colonel Power Stakes - 5 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - Fair Grounds
11. HORIZONTALYSPEAKIN - 96 - Alw 63500C - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Santa Anita
14. COIN BROKER - 95 - OC 25k/N1X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - Gulfstream
15. AUSSI AUSTIN - 94 - Clm c-50000 - 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Dirt) - Aqueduct
15. SMASH AND GRAB - 94 - OC 40k/C -N - 7 Furlongs - Laurel
17. BIORYTHM - 93 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - Santa Anita
17. CENTRE COURT - 93 - Honey Fox Stakes (G2) - 1 Mile (Turf) - Gulfstream
17. KINGS OVER - 93 - OC50k/SAL32k - 1 Mile - Calder
17. SINGING MY WAY - 93 - Alw 5000s - 1 1/16 Miles - Laurel
21. GRAND CONTENDER - 92 - Borgata Stakes - 1 Mile - Delta
21. RUNFASTERELSE - 92 - OC 62k/N2X - 1 Mile (Tapeta) - Golden Gate
23. HOLD ON SMOKEY - 91 - OC 40k/N2X - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - Tampa Bay
23. MAL GUAPO - 91 - Clm c-(30-20)N2L - 1 1/16 Miles - Oaklawn
23. PART'N PARCEL - 91 - OC 30k/N$Y -N - 1 Mile 70 Yards - Hawthorne
23. STORMY LUCY - 91 - Santa Ana Stakes (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - Santa Anita

*SOCIAL INCLUSION's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.

*AUSSI AUSTIN was claimed for $50,000 by trainer David Jacobson from Rudy Rodriguez.

*MAL GUAPO was claimed for $30,000 by trainer Kim Puhl from Kellyn Gorder.


i always feel like i can ask you for some perspective, so here goes:
as good as game on dude was saturday, he was not aided by the track?
Todd Saunders

We all know if you give a good horse an easy lead over a speed-friendly track, that good horse becomes a very good horse. I do think the track was speed-favoring on Big 'Cap afternoon and it probably aided GAME ON DUDE and CALIFORNIA CHROME in their front-running scores. In praising Game On Dude, I wasn't saying that he's going to be Horse of the Year or anything. Heck, I won't blame anyone that tries to beat him at a short price in the Charles Town Classic. I do think we should recognize horses that are consistently good over a long period of time, however, and Game On Dude's record warrants such respect. By winning the Big 'Cap again, he proved that he shouldn't be put out to pasture just yet.


What happened in race 10 at Gulfstream? I missed the race, and I still can't find out why it was declared no contest.

Edgar Prado was unseated in the first turn and was still down as they turned for home so they declared it a "no contest".
AZ Wildcat


belmont is closing the second and third floor clubhouse...write something about that

If what you write is true, my main concern is where the Elmont Yodeling Club will now practice on weekday afternoons.


The weekend handicapping previews should be available in the video player on the homepage soon.

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman


Congrats to Gary Peacock for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling race.

Rick M's scoresheet is available at the bottom of this blog post.

Let's go with Saturday's Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park for this week's exercise.


SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to streamline all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

With so many new people attending Dan's Formblog we thought it would be a good time to update the Handigambling Guidelines and Rules as we go forward in 2014.

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 if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.


-  Please start your post with  HG or HANDIGAMBLING to better recognize and find your entry.

-  You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose and that is available for that HG race.
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

- Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF THE 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 recognize you .

- (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.

- Separate your analysis from the wager and use the horses # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

-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 "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan"

As an example :

HG 2014
The speed in this race goes to  horses # 1, 4 ,6 ..Ennie , Meenie, and Mo
Since it's a sprint I don't see any closers catching them.. like # 9 Miney.
I think trainer Groucho with the #6 Mo has the best stats in this condition, route to sprint.. just a gut feeling at large odds ML 20-1

HG wager
50$ Ex box 1-6
total $100

Thanks Dan!




Best of luck to all.


Copy of Formblog Tampa Bay Maiden 3-14-14.xls70 KB
HGSPIRAL.pdf179.5 KB