02/04/2011 6:11PM

Suwannee River, Donn Handicap, Thunder Road, San Antonio


Let's take a look at some of this weekend's stakes races:

San Antonio Stakes - Santa Anita (Sunday) - Race 6:

AGGIE ENGINEER has been on fire in his last three starts, winning a pair of graded events, and showing a new dimension by stalking and pouncing in his most recent effort.  He looms the horse to beat, but I'm going to go with a new face. 
GLADDING is eligible for the Strub as a newly-turned four-year-old, but trainer John Sadler is probably reluctant to run him against his better-fancied stablemate, Twirling Candy, in that spot.  Instead, Gladding will take on his elders in the San Antonio.  A private purchase that has won his last two dirt races by a combined 19 1/2 lengths, Gladding has enough early speed to establish good position, and Rafael Bejarano may attempt to grab the lead going into the first turn.  Although I don't think he beat the toughest bunch in the world in his recent entry-level optional claiming score at Santa Anita, Gladding pressed solid fractions throughout, turned back a challenge from Strub hopeful Oilisblackgold after bumping with that rival in upper stretch, and kept nicely to his task to score by almost three lengths. 
Selections:  Gladding, Aggie Engineer, Dakota Phone

Thunder Road Handicap - Santa Anita (Saturday) - Race 8:

If pace truly does make the race, then COLGAN'S CHIP may be worth a longshot try in the Grade 3 Thunder Road.  The pacesetter to midstretch in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap on November 27, Colgan's Chip failed to stay that 1 1/16 mile distance after setting a lively clip throughout.  The pace doesn't look as demanding in the Thunder Road, and Colgan's Chip may be able to relax on a lonely early advantage.  Turning back a sixteenth of a mile may also work to the gray gelding's advantage.  He still must prove that he is truly graded class, but he's run some races that are good enough to win this, and he should be very prominent when the field swings into the stretch.
Selections:  Colgan's Chip, Proudinsky, Victor's Cry

Saturday Santa Anita Quick and Dirty Selections:
Las Virgenes: 
Turbulent Descent, Zazu, California Nectar
Strub:  Twirling Candy, Honour the Deputy, Tweebster

Donn Handicap - Gulfstream (Saturday) - Race 10:

It's a fascinating renewal of the historic Donn with three major contenders to consider.  RULE and MORNING LINE, the 2-3 finishers of the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Stakes on January 8, both hope to successfully stretch out to nine furlongs. 
The former, a multiple Grade 3 winner that was a game third at this distance in last year's Florida Derby, has some questions to answer.  Although he is capable of improvement in his second start following a long layoff, Rule must show that he can successfully stay the distance.  Also, all four of Rule's lifetime wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion.  With SQUARE EDDIE, HEAR YE HEAR YE, and MORNING LINE entered to Rule's inside, John Velazquez may have to rate the Pletcher-trained son of Roman Ruler. 
MORNING LINE, a courageous second in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in his final start at three, never looked comfortable at all when the beaten favorite in the Hal's Hope.  He was under a heavy drive with three furlongs to run, and stayed on one-paced behind Soaring Empire.  Unlike Rule, Morning Line has had previous success at this distance, but a hot pace might work against him as well. 
I usually don't like to play one-run closers, but FLY DOWN might get the right scenario in the Donn.  Second in the Belmont and Travers at three, Fly Down had no pace to run at when third in his first start against elders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 2.  In his most recent start, the Breeders' Cup Classic, Fly Down was checked terribly on the first turn, yet still finished well to be third despite drifting in just a tad.  What I liked best about Fly Down's Breeders' Cup try was that he made his final lead change willingly, an encouraging move for a horse that had problems switching legs for most of his campaign.  Fly Down shows three straight quick workouts for the red-hot Nick Zito, and can make his presence felt in the lane.
Selections:  Fly Down, Rule, Morning Line

Suwannee River Stakes (Saturday) - Gulfstream - Race 7:

This looks like a fun betting race with several contenders.  It wouldn't be surprising to see three or four noses on the line here, and trip could make all the difference.  I'm going to go with CHEROKEE QUEEN, a six-year-old mare making her fourth start of the form cycle for trainer Marty Wolfson.  Cherokee Queen may appreciate a slightly shorter distance than the nine furlongs of the Suwannee River, but she's won at the route in the past (entry-level allowance win at Belmont on June 18, 2008).  Although she finished behind a couple of the runners she'll face on Saturday in the Grade 3 Marshua's River Stakes on January 9, I didn't think that Cherokee Queen had a very good trip.  In-and-among horses for most of the way, Cherokee Queen split rivals while three wide on the far turn, but ended up five deep turning for home.  She made a solid run before weakening a bit in the final sixteenth to finish fourth. 
PERSUADING, the Marshua's River runner-up, at 36-1 odds, may be tough to catch once again.  She stole out to an easy lead in the Marshua's River before being passed nearing the wire.  A winner at nine furlongs on dirt, Persuading is a lightly-raced four-year-old with some upside potential. 
TRIX IN THE CITY parlayed a perfect trip into victory in a 'n3x' optional claimer here on January 12, but if you toss out her terrible performance in the Grade 3 Athenia two back over boggy going (she also broke through the gate prior to the start), you're left with a mare that's won her last two turf races.  She may be in closest attendance to Persuading for the backstretch run. 
IT'S TEA TIME should be used in multi-race wagers.  A two-time winner at this distance, It's Tea Time had a troubled trip when fourth in the Grade 1 Spinster over polytrack two starts back.  She was mired down on the rail every step of the way that afternoon, and was checked in midstretch when commencing her rally.  Last time out, in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic over dirt, It's Tea Time was simply overmatched.  Now, she's back on grass, arguably her preferred surface, and can make a strong late bid. 
NEVER RETREAT, only beaten a length in the Marshua's River, figures to save valuable ground in the early going under Carlos Marquez Jr.  A four-time stakes-winner, Never Retreat sometimes has trouble with her lead changes, and may be slightly more effective on wet ground.
Selections:  Cherokee Queen, Persuading, Trix in the City

Saturday Gulfstream Quick and Dirty Selection:
Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap:  Battle of Hastings, Twilight Meteor, Little Mike.

For more in-depth analysis featuring DRF National Handicapper Mike Watchmaker and drf.com Handicapper Mike Beer, click on the below link:


More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

Next week, I'll pick a race for the upcoming HandiGambling event.

Best of luck,




EmilyBurrows More than 1 year ago
thanks this helped me out a lot, very informative stuff. thank god I found www.drf.com ! Annie :)
Bear More than 1 year ago
I’ve been catching up on all the postings (over 500) since I’ve been gone. __ SR Vegas It sounds like you had a good time “hosting” over the NHC weekend. Also, I hope your surgery went well and you get back on the golf course soon. __ Chicago Gerry Glad you didn’t get hurt when you fell. I try to be real careful in those icy, snowy conditions but I also have fallen (way too many times!!!) I have a suggestion--read below: __ To anyone looking for a GREAT vacation island, I would strongly recommend Aruba (85 degrees and sunny every day). I know there was some bad publicity a few years ago but, it is a very SAFE place to visit. My wife and I (along with two other couples) were there for seven nights. We flew home to Omaha, NE on my birthday, February 2. It seemed like most of the people at our hotel were either from the Northeast or Upper Midwest. There was a group of about 40 people from Chicago (some were staying an extra two days because of the snowstorm--they were so sad). Another reason I liked Aruba is you can bet on horse racing. I found one of the casinos that had a sports book. I was there about an hour and could have bet on Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Aqueduct and other tracks. I bet a couple races at Santa Anita and Golden Gate and then it was back to the beach. __ HG 221 I see the selected race at Aqueduct was canceled. Let’s not make a big deal about it. Unless Dan wants to change something, let’s just leave things they way they are.
blackstone More than 1 year ago
blackseabass and meathead01 Thank you for the shout out(bsb-twice over)-it was an angle that worked, with lots of luck. You are right bsb, of course, the key to the race was the Agent's selection. Ray Harris is his name-a genuine pro, and has had the local colony beaten for a couple of decades. As we all know, some people are just smarter than others-Harris is one of them. As to Bocce-much fun. The gals were far better than the guys, who were all tossing it like it was a bowling contest. We all kept making that walk of shame (for hitting the back wall). A couple of the kids were smarter than the rest of us-they practiced all week on an X Box 360 Version, although I'm not quite sure how that specifically related to their soft touch. I will do it again, as long as someone else picks up the tab.
Captain Bodgit More than 1 year ago
Why doesn't Hollendorfer keep Dakota Phone to 1-turn 7f-1m races on dirt? Dan, will you please post the pp's for Elusive Quality, Storm Cat, Sadler's Wells, Mr. Prospector, Deputy Minister and Danzig?
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Dick W, Brethren and Cal Nation are virtual duplicates. Good luck with him. I've been a little lucky myself lately. Racing always has that element. Good luck to you on the PH you'll have fun doing it and it keeps you familiar with the stakes horses around the country that you otherwise might not notice. My big brother Black Butte Bill always told me, " Plan your work & work your plan", when I learned to do that it made a world of difference. He also likes to say "to be a winner avoid losing" . It sounds like you did that in the King Congie race by having a saver. Annie, Yes he's cute, I wish Pletcher wasn't so cute & would let him run once in awhile. Mo's getting bored standing around in his stall while all his buddies are out there racing. They should have named him Uncle Rudolph if they weren't gonna let him join in the reindeer games. I promise not to feed him to the crows regardless of what happens with him.. LOL. Calvin , no sweat I was on your blog and found the emotional / mental breeding article very interesting. I posted something about it on your blog. As well as a prediction that my old shortstop would visualiZe something big in that Super Bowl. He did. Keep up the good work your blog is a fine site. classicchampionthoroughbreds.com formbloggers. Calvin has got it goin'on. I'm not sure Comma is a 10f horse ,but if he makes it to the gate I won't leave him uncovered.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Blackstone, I've been on a lucky roll for a few weeks . Winners and losers come in bunches for me. I'm not sure why that is. Regarding the downhill it clicked for me this week . It may come up snake eyes several in a row next week. In racing things tend to average themselves out over time. Just when you think its time to chunk up, your horse will fall down crossing the dirt so its best to take it a little at a time. In the long long run its a superb angle. Your reasoning on the GG 3rd worked regardless of rider .It was enough to know that RB's agent wanted him on that one.Nice call. Its fun for me to see Smarty do well too. I've got 5 older sisters and love them all ,but she's always been my favorite and she's always treated me like I was golden. She treats everyone like that, so I'm not special in that respect, but for a flake like me I appreciate it because I know I'm not real easy to take sometimes. (only my momma & smarty love me & they could be jivin' too.LOL) How did you like that Bocce ball ? Kind of a cross between shuffle board ,bowling and curling. LOL. I've played at an annual 4th of July party since I was a kid. My little brother and me used to get great fun out of taking down the Uncle's and their friends at their own games, Bocce & Horseshoes, when we were teens. My little Bro is real good at both so he carried us. I took the credit and handled the taunting end of it. There aren't any excessive celebration penalties in Bocce & Horseshoes. LOL. Super Bowl , My old shortstop Clay Mathews came up big when it looked like Pittsburgh was going to take command. I got a big kick out of seeing his coach take him aside personally and tell him they needed something big right before he caused that fumble. He can focus and visualiZe. He could do that when he was a kid. I told Smarty if my boy doesn't get a sack or something right now GB is going to let it slip away. Wham ! FUMBLE ! I looked at Smarty and said, "my boy visualiZed that", she rolled her eyes, but I knew I was right. She said "I suppose you taught him how to do that" . I said "No I won't claim credit but I damn sure didn't teach him to be accepting of defeat". He's a game changer . He's always been a game changer. I don't watch much NFL. If he wasn't playing in that game I probably wouldn't have suffered through the commercials. I'm happy for him. Barring a bad injury you NFL fans are going to see and hear a lot more about him in the future. Zenyatta was a visualiZer . Thats what she was doing standing at the top of the lane looking down the stretch before her races when the other dummies were jogging down the backside thinking about nothing. It WORKS FOR HANDICAPPERS too. Go ahead and LOL if you want to, but I'm not joking. I'm absolutely serious.
TBTA More than 1 year ago
Congrats to all the Packer fans out in Formblog land. What started out looking like a blowout, ended up being a pretty good game. My party was split pretty evenly between Packers and Steelers rooters, with the exception of my husband who insisted on wearing his Payton jersey, so PGM does not have to pull me out of the lake. My yorkie and other pup snagged so many treats off the partygoers, I think I'm going to have them try out for the Bears offensive line this summer. They are still passed out, bellies up! Annie, Twirling Candy is looking pretty awesome. PGM, Agree on Redding Colliery. We saw him at Monmouth last summer. Sometimes I don't understand the grade 2/3 types management. When they are geldings or have little pedigree power, why do the owners not go for the money and run them at a level where they can kick some butt? I'll take win money over bragging rights for starting in a Grade 1 any day! As for Giant Oak, there are so many Giant Causeway foals born every year that I think his "brand" has been somewhat diluted. His progeny also seem to have a certain raw coarse look that doesn't appeal visually to many breeders. Again, with this horse, I'd take the money and run.......on a couple of different surfaces, if possible...........
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Meathead , I live or die with turnbacks on that course, that was the key. I thought the #1 would win and the #3 would get a piece . I included the #7 , #12 and the favorites that were coming off previous downhill runs . It was partly lucky but mostly that I don't deviate from upgrading the dropbacks when playing the hill. The good trainers have always known, the mediocre ones have known for quite sometime . The players tend to get hung up on the hillside specialists or the one that just won coming down the dip. The lucky part was the odds and there was not to much real speed outside. I haven't kept track of the number of turnbacks that have won or ran 2nd at this meet (maybe Uncle Steve knows ? He keeps extensive & meticulous records) Its been quite a few. I've been playing the dip that way forever so its a stat I don't need to check and recheck . It produces over time & $20-$40 horses are not really that uncommon. When playing long numbers its always wise to include the top choices with them in exotics no matter the track or course. Like I said before I may take it up the stronach with a meathook using the same philosophy several in a row ,but the players not being tuned in to the angle make it a money maker over time. The weekend before I got whooped doing the same thing on saturday but it didn't cost me $2000. For me the key is not trying to figure out when it is or isn't going to happen ,but rather to expect it to happen every time. The number of dropbacks in any particular race does leave me with bet structure decisions sometimes. I just try not to get beat by one even if I have to put a couple bucks on all of them like a pic- X player does when he's live in the last leg. I prefer it when there is only one or two ,but like Mick says "you can't always get what you want". BTW , its strictly for the hill . It doesn't work the same way at Hollypark or any other flat turf course that I know of. I personally avoid route to sprint like the plague in any other situation. On a side note the biggest bet I ever made $700 was on a 20 something to one shot named Pina Colada on the hill on New Years Eve (that was a natural for me right Annie & SR LOL ) he/she was coming off an 8f win at TUP under Goncalino Almeida. He/she got nailed by one called Lil' Sister Stitch who I assume was named after Lauren . I made some money but nothing like if it would have won.
meathead01 More than 1 year ago
BSB .. good answer to my question about Quinonez to Gomez on sundays 7th down the hill I agree with you that the LTS angle works best on five to six and a half furlong races. I use this angle often when the horse falls in my system. good analogy of the meathook since I used them all my career, get it ca-reer. ha ha thanks for your honest answer MH01
Ray Manley More than 1 year ago
Annie and Virgin Queen, Thank you for the kind words about the new addition! And Annie thanks for the kind words about my son, Travers, as well. Those good looks come from his mom, LOL. If you or anyone would like links to video of the new foal at about one hour old just send me an e-mail and I will send you the you tube links. My e-mail is: gomaledawgs@yahoo.com. I am guessing that at some point these videos will also be uploaded to Travers blog, reachingforroses.wordpress.com. As I said to Travers last night, te second biggest news story of the day was the Packers winning the Super Bowl.
Mike A More than 1 year ago
VQ...... Didn't like the Suwanee River.....I watched it. Your eyes didn't deceive you.......the course was playing even..... Persauding faded because she really should have last time, the track helped her then. Perhaps you misunderstood......I said to MH01 to watch The Best Glacier and Lil Bit O fun, to see how they ran in their respective races so he could get a better gauge on the Hallandale run yesterday. I wouldn't have bet either one Saturday. Both horses ran very well all things considered. Both weakened at around the 1/16th, considering The Best Glacier repulsed two bids at him before weakening and Lil Bit I Fun held well after his last "fade to last", their races were very good indicators that the horses who came out of the Dania were the real deal. Well at least the first three finishers. The only other Horse that merited attention in the Hallandale was King Congie. Of course if you remember in the Dania Beach I liked Master Dunker who got third at 38-1 after being left at the gate. Along with Brilliant Speed, who was impeded down the stretch it was a fairly easy race to figure. Even though Master Dunker won on the DQ I still couldn't believe they let him go off at 12-1 considering what he did last out. So your eyes are fine.....you saw what you saw and your were correct in your assumptions. Well except perhaps not seeing that even in a losing effort a horse can run well. Watch the early races......they will always give you indications of what's to come. I was hoping you would say you saw Teaks North and bet him. You've come along way since last year.....keep it up.......you'll do fine. One last sentiment......... Goodnight Mrs. Kalabash were ever you are.........Mike A