03/26/2010 3:38PM

International opinions, Slumps?

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Some of our better handicap horses have excelled on Dubai World Cup night so it will be very interesting to see how our runners handle the Tapeta surface of the new Meydan course. 

Let's take a look at some interesting runners on the World Cup program:

Dubai World Cup - Race 8 - Meydan:

While #4 GIO PONTI and #10 RICHARD'S KID, especially the former, are hard-knocking, consistent runners, they don't exactly inspire the same confidence as previous World Cup winners Cigar, Silver Charm, Pleasantly Perfect, or Curlin. 

After studying the race earlier in the week, I half-heartedly landed on #6 VISION D'ETAT, a multiple Group 1 turf winner that has only run two bad races in his career.  Both of those starts were in the Arc de Triomphe at 1 1/2 miles and his connections feel that he is sharper at the World Cup distance of ten furlongs. 

The latest word from Dubai is bearish on Vision d'Etat, however.  It was reported this morning that he will have to pass a veterinary exam in order to reach the starting stalls and punters have enough to worry about without having to consider a possible injury.  I'll stick with my guns on Vision d'Etat if he stays near his 6-1 morning line but will now seriously include #2 GITANO HERNANDO, the conqueror of Richard's Kid when only a three-year-old in last year's Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita.  Gitano Hernando skipped the Breeders' Cup to point specifically for the World Cup and it's possible that we haven't even seen the best of this lightly-raced runner.
Selections:  Vision d'Etat, Gitano Hernando

Dubai Duty Free - Race 6 - Meydan:

The American horses look very solid but are they, in their current form, classy enough to take down an international cast of Group 1 horses?  #5 COURAGEOUS CAT and #10 TAKE THE POINTS seem in the best form of our contingent but both will be stepping up in class.  The former headed Cherokee Artist last time out, but that one is a Group 3-type at best.  Take the Points is a courageous performer with good tactical speed and shouldn't be discounted completely for Todd Pletcher.  #9 THE USUAL Q. T. may have the biggest "wow" factor of the Americans, but he reportedly bled when the beaten favorite on Pro-Ride in the Sunshine Millions Classic.  He'll return to his preferred turf surface in the Duty Free but will run without the anti-bleeding medication Lasix. 
I was impressed by the recent victory put up by #15 PRESVIS in the Group 2 Jebel Hatta over this course and distance on March 4.  After breaking two lengths slow, Presvis raced last on the rail and then was trapped behind horses for much of the stretch.  Under a confident and patient Ryan Moore, Presvis eventually shook clear and he inhaled his foes in the final sixteenth of a mile.  He loses Moore to #12 CONFRONT as Moore rides first-call for Sir Michael Stoute but Christophe Lemaire seems like a capable replacement.  The Jebel Hatta doesn't seem like a one-hit wonder for Presvis, the runner-up in last year's Duty Free. He also won the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup in Hong Kong last season over capable performers like Viva Pataca and Archipenko.  Expect him to race near the rear of the field in the early going.  If he gets enough pace, he can run them down late.
Selection:  Presvis

UAE Derby - Race 4 - Meydan:

This race has been completely dominated by trainers Saeed bin Suroor and Michael de Kock and it looks like they have the top contenders once again.  Godolphin is represented by UAE 1000 Guineas winner #6 SIYAADAH, Listed stakes-winner #7 FROZEN POWER, and their top chance, #5 MENDIP.  The undefeated Mendip, a three-year-old by Harlan's Holiday, is undefeated after three races on synthetic and looms Godolphin's best hope for a Kentucky Derby entry after the defection of the hospitalized Vale of York.  Mendip may have to work harder than he did in winning the second leg of the UAE Triple Crown, the Al Bastakiya on March 4.  Mendip broke from the far outside post in the field of 14 that day, but there was no pace on, and Frankie Dettori was able to place his mount off the leaders's flank while in the two-path.  He won easily but should get a sterner test here. 
de Kock sends out UAE Oaks winner #3 RAIHANA and UAE 2000 Guineas hero #9 MUSIR.  The latter, an Australian-bred son of top stallion Redoute's Choice, must prove his mettle at this additional distance, but he was a very impressive winner at one mile.  If he runs back to that most recent start, he will be very tough to beat.
Selections:  Musir, Mendip

The World Cup will be the focal point of the weekend's action but there are some fascinating Kentucky Derby preps among the stateside stakes races.

Louisiana Derby - Fair Grounds - Race 10:

The key to this race will be if #5 A LITTLE WARM appreciates this added distance.  It's somewhat of a dicey proposition and one that should make punters pause if he drops down from his 4-1 morning line.  If he drifts in the wagering, he may be worth a play.  With #10 WOW WOW WOW in the field, it's unlikely that Risen Star winner #7 DISCREETLY MINE will receive the same easy lead that he received last time out.  While still a logical contender, Discreetly Mine may prove an underlay this time around. 
A Little Warm chased D' Funnybone, arguably the best 3-year-old sprinter in the country, in the Hutcheson last time out, and was flattered when that one came back to annex the Swale at Gulfstream.  A Little Warm's sprint races are fast enough to win the Louisana Derby and he may sit a good spot just off Wow Wow Wow down the backstretch.  Perhaps he'll get first jump on the closers but his supporters will likely be screaming for the wire in midstretch. 
Selection:  A Little Warm

Sunland Derby - Sunland - Race 12 (Sunday):

#3 CONVEYANCE is obviously the horse to beat as the undefeated son of Holy Bull really seems to appreciate dirt.  But he did ride a speed-favoring surface last time out at Oaklawn and there are some questions about how far he really wants to go.  Also, there is a possibility that #6 CLASSICAL SLEW and #9 tEMPTED TO TAPIT will attempt to press him early. 
I landed on #2 NACHO FRIEND, a colt that was only beaten a length in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga last year.  He missed time after that race with an ankle injury and was ambitiously-placed going two turns in the Grade 3 Gotham last time out.  Nacho Friend ran well in the Gotham as he made a three-wide bid to the lead turning for home only to understandably tire behind the sharp Awesome Act.  Nacho Friend goes second off the bench and his trainer, Kelly Breen, shipped in early to give his colt a work over the local strip.  He can work out a good pace-tracking, ground-saving trip and would appreciate some help up front.
Selections:  Nacho Friend, Conveyance

Mervyn Muniz Jr. Handicap - Fair Grounds - Race 9 (Saturday):

I spotlighted #8 BLUES STREET with the unofficial FormBlog "performance of the week" after his impressive 104 Beyer Speed Figure victory in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap over this course and trip on February 20.  Although there wasn't much pace on, Blues Street was able to settle, make one run, and easily go by the leaders in midstretch.  A former $75,000 claimer, Blues Street has really picked up his game since Todd Pletcher removed blinkers three starts back.  He'll have to reel in #2 JET PROPULSION, the in-form lone speed for Marty Wolfson, but may be sharp enough to do just that.
Selection:  Blues Street

Assorted action plays:

Godolphin Mile:  Skysurfers, Desert Party, Summit Surge
Dubai Golden Shaheen:  Regal Parade, Eagle Falls, Benbaun
New Orleans Handicap:  Battle Plan, General Quarters, Stonehouse
Dubai Sheema Classic:  Youmzain, Spanish Moon, Eastern Anthem
Lane's End Stakes:  Northern Giant, Doubles Partern, Dean's Kitten

As you guys know, my picks have stunk this entire year.  I'm sorry about that and my wallet is really sorry.  I don't know if it's a prolonged slump or I just stink.  I have to believe it's the former, if only for the reason that I don't want to believe it's the latter. 

How do you guys handle slumps?  I could use any help I can get. 

Anyway, have a great weekend, and let me know who you like?

Cheers,

Dan