10/13/2007 3:06AM

Mile-High Handicapping


CHICAGO -- The flight from LaGuardia to O'Hare was delayed and then late, but at least that gave me airport and plane time to get through the Belmont, Keeneland and Hawthorne cards for Saturday. Those three tracks host four of Saturday's seven graded stakes around the country -- the G1 QE II and G3 Perryville at Keeneland, the G3 Hawthorne Derby and the G3 Athenia -- and I'll discuss that quartet below. You're on your own in the other three -- the G3 Calder Derby and Spend A Buck H. at Calder, and the G2 Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita.

For the first time in ages, we can't call any of the nation's Saturday stakes "Breeders' Cup preps" -- perish the thought a horse would run in the Breeders' Cup these days off anything as barbaric as a mere 14-day layoff. Saturday's graded stakes are mostly in divisions without a BC race, including the three Derbies (Calder, Hawthorne and Oak Tree) for 3-year-old grass horses.

Let's see if my mile-high handicapping was any good. At least I did it in comfort. I made out a $120 late pick-four play at Belmont today, if only to celebrate the first rained-off turf sprints of the meeting, then got distracted and forgot to put it in. It would have been a loser, as it did not include Morning Gallop ($68.50) in the second leg. So I was feeling like a $120 winner for the day when I got to the airport and the self-service check-in kiosk offered me an upgrade to first class for $90. Easy decision, and still "up" $30 for the day.

4:15 p.m. EST, Kee race 7: G3 $200k Perryville S. 7f-Poly (3-year-olds)
All eight of these sprinting 3-year-olds are looking for their first stakes victory, and the race appears to set up well for Frankel trainee Les Grands Trois to be the one. The Officer colt is a bad-trip third in the Bay Shore away from being 4-for-4, comes off a top-fig 101 Beyer winning a Belmont N2x off a 5 1/2-month layoff, and should close into a hot pace between his principal rivals: Shrewd Operator, winner of his Arlington starts by a combined 13 1/2 lengths, and the improving Chihulykee.

5:12 p.m. EST, Bel race 9: G3 $100k Athenia H., 1 1/16m-T (Older fillies)
This somewhat orphanned stakes drew a field of just six, led by Noble Damsel 1-2 finishers Dance Away Capote and Fantastic Shirl. If Dance Away Capote duplicates her last race, where she ran as if shot out of a cannon, she'll romp again but circumstances may be different: She and Fantastic Shirt closed into hot fractions on a rock-hard course last time, whereas today the turf will be softer and the pace virtually non-existent. Criminologist has the tactical speed to stay closer than the Noble Damsel duo, and improved sharply last time out as if now ready to beat this caliber.

5:15 p.m. EST, Kee race 9: G1 $500k Queen Elizabeth II 1 1/8m-T (3yo fillies)
I'm looking to play against Dreaming of Anna as the 3-1 ML favorite in this spot because her three straight grass-stakes victories have earned weak figures and came against softer fields than this one. I'm also not crazy about the four coming out of the weirdly-run Garden City, with the possible exception of eligible-to-improve Euro import Costume. I'll look to Europe for the winner in Coquerelle, who gets Lasix after bleeding in the French Oaks June 10, her first defeat in five starts including a G1 win in the Prix Saint-Alary.

5:54 p.m. EST, Haw race 9: G3 $250k Hawthorne Derby 1 1/8m-T (3yo males)
Several midwestern dirt stakes-winners try turf for the first time in this spot, but unless one of them's a monster, the race boils down to New York-based Twilight Meteor and Summer Doldrums, Both have run well against Nobiz Like Shobiz in recent starts and have better figures and company lines than the locals. Bold Hawk is worth a look at 10-1. With just four starts, including two victories at 10 furlongs, he may have the most upside of anyone in the field and is dangerous cutting back a furlong while still clearly improving from start to start.

I'll be watching the various festivities from Hawthorne. Maybe if I forget to put in some more losers, I'll upgrade to first for the Saturday night flight home.

david More than 1 year ago
who will win a race first- david jacobson or arthur wendell
Floppydog More than 1 year ago
What're the odds that a horse named Pick Six ($14.60) wins, let alone runs, on a day with nine pick 6s across the country? 6-1 seems a cosmic underlay.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Firstly, what a great column in Sunday's paper. "have the politicians been promised something in exchange for cutting them an even larger slice of the pie?" Will Dylan Thomas be favored in the Turf? Not that the Governor's a prize, but every time I see Sen. Bruno I keep thinking of Claude Rains in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Will there be a shot heard from the cloak room, or would that require a conscience? Wow, first Fabulous Strike and now Shakespeare. The hits just keep on coming. Noticed today while starting to plan a modest wagering strategy for the BC that the takeout in New Jersey is 25% on Pick 3's and Triples, but only 15% on Pick 4's and Superfectas. Just thought I'd throw that out to the other commentors who might not have noticed. Keep giving it to 'em in Albany!
jhbvta24 More than 1 year ago
SC--it has been well documented that you play your picks with your own bankroll. what do you think of the wagering networks on-air talent releasing multiple tickets each day without knowing if they are players or churn schills? at least a stock analyst has to disclose their firms/personal holdings on an equity play.
Bob Cordaro More than 1 year ago
Steve, Recently,Andy Beyer wrote an interesting column about racing in Hong Kong. I had the good fortune of living in HK in the late 90's. During my first visit to the Happy Valley race track,a Wednesday night, I was astonished when I realized that the handle for each race was approximately US$10 million. Is HK racing a big opportunity for fans in the US ? Does DRF see it as an opportunity ? Thanks for everything that you do for our sport. BC
ralph conte More than 1 year ago
steve, at hawthorne its race 8 that bold hawk is in . Ralph
Tony More than 1 year ago
Steve, Great bloggin' off topic thought why doesn't the form include a come home time like they do with harness PP's? i know its easy to figure it out but it would be nice to just have there in front of you for quick looks at the horse that came home the fastest .
John More than 1 year ago
Senator Larkin's proposal to give the casino operator a bigger slice is truly shocking. As a follow-up to your article, it might be interesting to take a look at Saratoga Raceway and Gaming. Whatis the split there? How much do the horsemen get. The slice that the casino operator gets must be sufficient because the gaming end of things is hugely successful and in fact, the casino recently expanded. The parking lot is always full.
SamG More than 1 year ago
What did you say at that seminar Steve?Nice call on Bold Hawk but he wasn`t anywhere near 10-1.
AJV More than 1 year ago
Enjoy Chicago. Its beautiful in NY today. Don't be so quick to write off Dreaming of Anna's chances to win the QEII or run in the BC. Wayne Catalano, who was my favorite jock when I lived in Detroit and frequented the late, great DRC, is as quirky as they come in the training ranks and you can't put anything past him. But she's a champion filly. PS I found Johnny Ruane's trophy from when he won the Met Mile on HA Jerken's Tunex in the 70's on Ebay!