01/15/2011 1:55PM

Six Graded Stakes


Six graded stakes races top this weekend's racing action. 

Sprinters will be on display at Gulfstream Park on Saturday as Big Drama makes his four-year-old debut in the Mr. Prospector Stakes.  At Santa Anita, Blind Luck, very likely to be named 2010 three-year-old filly champion, gets back to the races in the El Encino.  Also, three-year-olds get an opportunity to earn valuable graded stakes earnings in the Sham Stakes.

Let's take a look:

Santa Ynez Stakes - Santa Anita - Race 6 - Track Condition and Scratches (N/A):

I do think that trainer John Sadler is making a wise move in turning ZAZU back in distance.  The $285,000 daughter of Tapit was an impressive maiden winner going 6 1/2 furlongs on October 15 before finishing second to the very promising Turbulent Descent in the seven-furlong Moccasin Stakes on November 21.  Understandably, Sadler wanted to see if Zazu could route so he then entered her in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on December 11.  Things didn't work out as Zazu was merely one-paced from start-to-finish.  It's possible that she packs a bigger wallop sprinting and she should be very tough this afternoon as she makes her first start on dirt.
CALIFORNIA NECTAR is an underrated California-bred and is one of only two multiple-race winners in this field.  The winner of the California Breeders' Championship at this distance last time out, California Nectar should be close to the pace under Pat Valenzuela.  STAR PRESENCE, a $450,000 daughter of Forest Wildcat, burned a ton of money in her first four races before breaking out with a maiden win going a mile in her first start on dirt.  Perhaps, she's been a dirt horse all along.  Don't be surprised if Mike Smith attempts to rate her off what could be a quick early pace.
Selections:  Zazu, California Nectar, Star Presence

San Fernando Stakes - Santa Anita - Race 8 - Track Condition (N/A) - Early Scratch (Sidney's Candy - #3)

The story of the San Fernando is the early scratch of SIDNEY'S CANDY, who would certainly have been the odds-on favorite as the controlling speed.  Sadler feels that the injury to Sidney's Candy isn't too serious as he is hoping to make the Strub Stakes here next month. 
With Sidney's Candy out, INDIAN FIREWATER may assume the role of pacesetter.  He was in closest attendance to Sidney's Candy in the early stages of the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort on Opening Day at Santa Anita, and his best races have come when allowed to set the tempo.  The distance is my main concern with Indian Firewater.  He has lost ground from the stretch call to the wire in his last five races, and is 0-6 in routes.  He could prove vulnerable in the stretch.
Instead, I'll go with the other half of Bob Baffert's uncoupled entry, TWEEBSTER.  A $300,000 son of Tapit, Tweebster was a terrible disappointment in his first seven races, losing at odds ranging from 6-5 to 4-1.  The light finally went on three starts back as Tweebster won a maiden race on the grass.  Since then, he's won a pair of races at this distance on the Hollywood cushion track.  The dirt is a question mark for Tweebster, but Rafael Bejarano can keep the tactically-inclined ridgeling close to his stablemate, and he may outstay them in the stretch. 
VICTORY WITH HONOR is an up-and-coming son of Tiznow.  A homebred for WinStar Farms, Victory With Honor has won both races this form cycle and will now make the two sprints to a route move for Eoin Harty.  This will obviously be a major class test for Victory With Honor, but the lightly-raced colt has upside potential.
Selections:  Tweebster, Indian Firewater, Victory With Honor

El Encino Stakes - Santa Anita - Race 8 (Sunday) - Track Condition and Scratches (N/A):

BLIND LUCK was the best three-year-old filly to race in North American in 2010 and is obviously the horse to beat in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles over the Santa Anita main track on Sunday.  Her accomplishments and record speaks for themselves, but you guys know that I usually try to beat short-priced, one-run closers.  I almost beat Blind Luck on three occasions in 2010 (Evening Jewel in the Las Virgenes, Havre de Grace in both the Delaware Oaks and Alabama), but Blind Luck not only has a great amount of class, but a feel for where the wire lies. 
Nonetheless, I'll try to take her down again on Sunday, this time with MALIBU PIER.  A facile winner of a 'n2x' optional claimer over the Hollywood cushion track on November 21, Malibu Pier turned back to seven furlongs for the Grade 1 La Brea on Opening Day, and suffered a tough trip,  She was steadied after the break, was buried down on the rail for most of the running, and still came with a solid late run to finish second behind the quality filly Switch.  Malibu Pier appreciates this distance, and may get the jump on Blind Luck while stalking likely pacesetter CHAMPAGNE D'ORO. 
I went down in flames with ALWAYS A PRINCESS in the La Brea, and really couldn't find an excuse for her fair fourth-place finish.  Perhaps she'll improve in her second start following the layoff line, and she is a graded stakes-winner at this distance.
Selections:  Malibu Pier, Blind Luck, Always a Princess

Santa Anita Quick and Dirty Pick:
Sham Stakes - Tapizar, Clubhouse Ride, Uncle Sam

Sugar Swirl Stakes - Gulfstream Park - Race 9 - Track FAST, No Scratches:

I've been waffling back-and-forth concerning this race since the entries were announced.  On the DRF Stakes Preview


(pardon my appearance, I look terrible, I know), I was leaning toward MOONTUNE MISSY, a filly that I actually liked at 44-1 in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs.  Moontune Missy seemed to be in a good position going into the turn, but she steadied from in between horses, and soon called it a day.  I thought she ran well two starts back at Belmont Park, and her tactical speed should serve her well in this spot. 
After further review, I will finally settle on HILDA'S PASSION as my top pick (now watch Moontune Missy name her margin).  A winner of her last two starts, Hilda's Passion looked pretty good in winning the Grade 2 Raven Run last time out.  She dueled early, took control of things on the turn, and gamely held sway in the stretch.  She draws way outside, but has enough speed to be right on the early pace. 
TAR HEEL MOM makes the second start since suffering a fractured left leg.  She gave seven pounds to a sharp Nicole H in her return, and it was a useful prep for the mare that run so well to no avail at Gulfstream last year.  Expect her to be prominently-placed when the field turns for home.  All-in-all, a really nice race.
Selections:  Hilda's Passion, Moontune Missy, Tar Heel Mom

Gulfstream Quick-and-Dirty Pick:
Mr. Prospector Stakes:  Big Drama, Custom for Carlos, Taqarub
More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

MAT More than 1 year ago
Patrick: To answer your question re: St Liam, at least in part, I believe Havre de Grace is one of his and you may recall she gave Blind Luck some good runs last summer, and beat her in the Cotillion in Philly. She is at Oaklawn now under Larry Jones. She should have a good year. MAT
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
TAZ I'm not sure how (Dogs up) affect workout times. I just relay what the track reports. Maybe another Formblogger can answer that question. Any takers? I'm REALLY pleased to see Zenyatta get the HOTY award. Makes me very Happy! Congratulations to all her connections. And Patrick, thanks for posting the list of them all! ...anyone hear who her new boyfriend will be?
Annie More than 1 year ago
SR Vegas, I don't know who Z'S boyfriend will be, but I heard a rumor that they're going to do it differently this year and the stallion is going to have to pay her. :) Annie
chicago gerry More than 1 year ago
Ron Zuecher, Interesting questions you have about the Pars. Most detailed explanations I have read about Beyers and/or Pars, including from Beyers himself, are too heady for my understanding. There are guys who seem to understand everything about it. Maye you are one that does. To me there seem to be too many nuances for my understanding. While I would like to understand it my eyes just start to glaze over after a while. I have been working with the DRF Speed Rating, Variant more lately. I am not confident of how I understand, and am using the concepts. I used those scores the final and determining factor at the FG last Saturday. I took a Shane Sellers runner at 7-2, over a 1-1. If I did not use the factor, I would have passed the race. As "C" has pointed out how do you really know which angle won for you. Espesially if the numbers you are using have some subjectivity built in. One does not know really, if he just kind of fell into it. Further, as an aside, when you go the the DRF's, Learn to use PP's when you click on the 'Speed Rating, Variant', it is spelled 'Seed Rating, Variant.' Not that I have never misspelled a word. But it has been that way forever. I think the DRF could promote more confidence, if it corrected the spelling. Maybe it is suppose to be "Seed Rating"? BSB, Sounds pretty peaceful and beautiful out there where you live. I guess California isn't all that bad a place to be- at all times:) SR Vegas, Speaking of California, I hope you caught my Beach Boys parody the other day. I figured you would, and I hope I did not offend. It was meant as a compliment.
Mike A More than 1 year ago
Chicago Gerry.............That's right Headache......did ok with him last year. He never paid big, but the exactas were nice with him. Mike A
Mike A More than 1 year ago
Chicago Gerry I love looking back at races....gives me a heads up as to how good/bad a race was. There are many factors involved of course and it usually takes a series of races to gauge by, but each race does have indicators.......as I mentioned with the "bunched up finsishes". Basically I'm not only looking for a future price horse I'm also looking for a horse that ran well and will be favored next time, but I deem a throwout. Picking longshots for me has more to do with eliminating the "picks" then finding the hidden price horse. One comes before the other. Mike A
Mike A More than 1 year ago
Well Zenyatta won.....I am glad and mildly surprised. I knew if the DRF had any say outside of their vote she was in trouble since they were 36-15 in favor of Blame I believe. Ok since I'm a reality guy....and I believe most folks should know their true odds in racing as in life, I thought I'd give a realistic view of some three year olds winning chances come May. I have no qualms knowing Economic Summit, my MKB horse doesn't have much of a chance winning the Derby......unless he is touched by the hand of God somehow. Even my second stringer Badleroibrown hasn't seen a racetrack since 10/26. My long shot horse Animal Kingdom has registered exactly one workout since October on 1/7/11.... a blazing 3f on the turf at PRM in 39:4. Reality.....it is what it is. So while I believe we all should root for our respective charges and if reality dictates otherwise, find someone you like and root for them.......we all should call a spade a spade. I will look at a few winners this weekend and give some thoughts on each. Tapizar............My Goodness......I was on the fence about his performance with Santa Anita playing fast and loose. However I have to give him his props. The San Fernando was run 6 lengths slower. I will admit I would have rather seen Sidney's Candy in there, since the remainder of the field was marginal at best, but still you have to give Tapizar credit.....he did it off a maiden win, a win that was at CD's. Even with the way Santa Anita is playing, the horse ran the time to the track surface......easily beating Clubhouse Ride and he besting the rest by five. There may have been little behind Tapizar.....but he ran against the clock, not the competition. There is a caveat though......I've seen performances like this from tapit's sons before.....up to 1 1/8th......I wish they were going to ship him out for one before the Derby, give me a better gauge, but it is what it is. Clearly the one to beat out there as of now. Fort Hughes.........Ran a very good 6f, the track was playing fair at the distance and he ran and hid. Seems to have an upside, but I've yet to see a descendant of Henny Hughes make it much past a mile....will have to see more from him.....Bred by Darley.......he may have the chops to extend his daddy's sprint influence......but I don't see him beating anyone of quality at 1 1/8th no less 1 1/4m. Caleb's Posse............First race back and he won......but I didn't see any killers behind him. He did beat them convincingly though....albeit in 1:43:1. To give you an idea.....30,000 claimers ran the same mile in 1:42 in route to a 1 1/16th in 1:48. The track was playing extremely slow......but you can't discount the time when compared to others. So the winner is Tapizar......I'm very interested to see what he does next as I am with Fort Hughes....albeit tentatively. As to Calebs Posse....let's see how he does when the weather heats up a bit and the tracks playing better. Mike A
Whackymacky More than 1 year ago
Notes from last night.... HOY winner Zenyatta wins BIG over Blame. I really need an answer to the 2 boneheads that sent in NO VOTES!!!. Did they get buried in all of this snow?? Who are you?? I need an answer!! Why did you get a vote and do nothing? Show yourself and let us, the player know why!!! The 128 to 102 votes is a blow out to me. Anyone else see it that way? No way in God's Green Earth was Zenyatta going to run 2nd for the 3rd year in a row!!! It was the Zenyatta show last night if anyone watched. It is all over and we need to move on. Nothing else to say about this subject. Debate over and done. That's it. Close the book and hope that Big Z can get covered and pray for a healthy baby!! Don't miss the #5 Cortado in the 4th at Parx Racing today!! Getting 9/2 on this one......?? Whackymacky out!!!
Dizzy More than 1 year ago
I guess that's what an owner gets for running his horse against real competition instead of lead ponies. Makes me want to puke.
p ensign More than 1 year ago
this is in response to puking dizzy: A horse named Laysh Laysh Laysh just ran his THIRD race since January 9, winning two and losing the third by a head. combined, Z and B ran in 11 races in 12 months. I'm not in any way disparaging their accomplishments, or nominating LLL for some sort of award - just commenting that if people think it was such a cut and dried decision that one of these VERY LIGHTLY AND CAREFULLY campaigned horses was some sort of easy, obvious choice, they need to think much harder about it. Blame beat everyone but Haynsefield, (with whom he traded decisions), that he faced, Zenyatta beat everyone but Blame (and trashed Haynesfield the one time she raced against him). They each raced for approximately 10 minutes in 2010, although it's arguable that Z only actually raced for about 3 minutes total... Many believe that had they faced each other more than once, that Z may have gotten her head in front by the wire more often than not. As they both raced so infrequently, we never got the chance to know the answer to that. finally, as has been mentioned numerous times, the owner does not dictate who shows up for a race. the horse is entered, and if enough other owners think it's worth their while to either try to win, or just grab some purse money, they enter their horses. One horse won 5 GIs, one won 3... personally, although I thought Z the Eclipse award winner by what I referred to in an earlier thread as "the length of the stretch," I also believe that this year's vote was also far and away more difficult than last year's, which I also, coincidentally, believe went to the correct horse.
longwaytomay More than 1 year ago
If you haven't read Mary Lou Whitney's acceptance speech from last night, you should. It can be found on The Paulick Report.
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Chigago Gerry I LOVED your California Girls/West Coast paroday! ..I totally took it as a compliment. Only thing better was the TBTA & SR Vegas w/Chicago Gerry sandwich .. BTW, I still owe you that picture :) I will get to downloading my camera soon.