12/02/2015 4:59PM

Tonalist overcomes slow pace


With five-sixteenths of a mile to run in last Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct, John Velazquez was concerned.

His mount, TONALIST, was five lengths behind a slow early pace and spinning his wheels. Meanwhile, quality opponents such as PRIVATE ZONE, RED VINE, MATROOH and MSHAWISH were all ahead of Tonalist, poised to take advantage of their tactical advantage.

Turning for home, Tonalist was in deep water.

"I got anxious a little bit when we passed the half-mile pole," Velazquez told track publicity following the Cigar. "We were going so slow on the backstretch and I could see the horse on the lead keep trying to get back, throwing his head up, and Javier [Castellano, aboard Mshawish] seemed to be taking back. I was thinking that we were just walking with these horses here. I was close enough I didn't worry about it but when we got to the turn, they started to move away from me."

Once ushered to the far outside, however, the multiple Grade 1 winner dug down into his vast reserves of class. Despite giving weight to all, he stormed home in the final quarter of a mile to neck a troubled Red Vine and a game Matrooh. Tonalist received a 104 Beyer, his ninth consecutive triple-digit speed figure.

"Another horse came to him by the quarter-pole," Velazquez continued. "I don't know who that was, and he got into the bridle and started running. My job was trying to put him in the clear, run him in the clear. When I got him clear and hit him, he responded right away. The last sixteenth of a mile was really good, very exciting."

There was a lot of intrigue packed into the 1:37.14 of the Cigar Mile. PRIVATE ZONE, the defending Cigar champ (he went gate-to-wire in 2014 after setting fractions of 22.18 and 44.18) and one of the better sprinters in the nation, loomed the controlling pace on paper. The gelding wanted to run out of the gate, jockey Martin Pedroza wished to rate, and the result was an awkward-looking ride that might have taken some of the will out of the speedster at crunch time.

Private Zone was clear and headstrong through 24.15 and 48.50, splits more at home in a middle-distance turf race than one of the better one-turn mile dirt skirmishes of the year. One must wonder if Private Zone would have finished better if he was given his head, opened a giant lead through fractions of 23 and 46 or so, and played catch-me-if-you-can.

Red Vine might have been best. He saved ground under Joel Rosario and was forced to slam on the breaks once Private Zone began to fatigue at the three-sixteenths pole. Red Vine steadied, lost momentum and altered course in between foes. Instead of taking advantage of his positional edge over his stablemate, he began his rally on equal turns with Tonalist and the big horse had already gained a full head of steam.

First profiled in FormBlog on January 22, 2014 (http://www.drf.com/blogs/daddy-nose-best-3-year-olds-follow), Tonalist went on to capture the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at nine furlongs before turning back CALIFORNIA CHROME's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont. In the fall of 2014, Tonalist defeated older horses with an impressive performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Following a rallying fifth over a speed-friendly track in the Breeders' Cup Classic, hopes were high for Tonalist's 4-year-old campaign and he started things off with a career-best 111 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes on May 2.

He ran evenly to finish a well-beaten second behind Honor Code in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and might have moved prematurely when headed by EFFINEX in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on the Fourth of July. Tonalist then burned chalkplayers for the third straight time when unable to finish with Honor Code and Liam's Map in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, but returned to the winner's circle at his favorite track, Belmont, with a successful defense of his Jockey Club Gold Cup title.

Tonalist had no chance against lone speed American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic and it certainly didn't help when he was almost put over the rail entering the far turn. Despite only one off-the-board finish in 2015, I wondered if Tonalist was as good as last year. His speed figures said yes, but he seemed to lack that knockout punch at times in 2015. The Cigar proved that Tonalist still retains his ability and will to win.

Tonalist's trainer, Christophe Clement, knows when to roll the dice as it pertains to blinkers and Tonalist. He is 3 for 3 when adding the headgear and 1 for 2 (the loss coming by a head) when removing blinkers.

As Grade 1 winner at 1 Mile, 1 1/4 Miles and 1 1/2 Miles by top sire Tapit, Tonalist is a very attractive stallion prospect. The good news for racing fans is that he will be pointed for a 5-year-old campaign in 2016. Possible options include the Donn Handicap, the Dubai World Cup, or a more pronounced winter vacation that would have Tonalist back in action for the Belmont Spring meet. He must be considered a leading light in a handicap division expected to feature stalwarts such as SHARED BELIEF, California Chrome and DORTMUND.


Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 11/24/15 - 11/30/15:

1. EFFINEX - 104 - Clark Handicap (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - 27Nov15-11CD
1. HEART TO HEART - 104 - River City Handicap (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 26Nov15-10CD
1. TONALIST - 104 - Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) - 1 Mile - 28Nov15-9AQU
4. DORTMUND - 103 - Native Diver Stakes (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles - 28Nov15-8DMR
4. PAGE MCKENNEY - 103 - Swatara Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles - 25Nov15-3PEN
6. MELMICH - 102 - Valedictory Stakes (G3-C) - 1 3/4 Miles (Polytrack) - 29Nov15-10WO
7. THE PIZZA MAN - 101 - Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) - 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) - 26Nov15-7DMR
8. ALMASTY - 100 - Commonwealth Turf Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 27Nov15-10CD
8. GREEN GRATTO - 100 - Fall Highweight Handicap (G3) - 6 Furlongs - 26Nov15-8AQU
10. COMMISSIONER - 99 - Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G2) - 1 1/4 Miles - 28Nov15-8HAW
10. CONTROL STAKE - 99 - Thanksgiving Handicap - 6 Furlongs - 26Nov15-9FG
10. MIDNIGHT STORM - 99 - Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 27Nov15-8DMR
10. RECOUNT - 99 - Blackhawk Handicap - 6 Furlongs - 28Nov15-3HAW
14. CHIROPRACTOR - 98 - Hollywood Derby (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 28Nov15-7DMR
15. CHOCOLATE RIDE - 97 - OC 62k/C -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 27Nov15-6FG
15. DANGER BAY - 97 - OC 60k/N2X - 1 1/8 Miles (Polytrack) - 29Nov15-13WO
15. STORMY LUCY - 97 - Matriarch Stakes (G1) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 29Nov15-8DMR
18. DOC'S LEGACY - 96 - OC 62k/N2X - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 28Nov15-5GG
18. POSHKY - 96 - Berkley Handicap (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles (Tapeta) - 29Nov15-6GG
18. UNION JACKSON - 96 - Alw 56688N1X - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 27Nov15-3CD
21. BEHRNIK'S BANK - 94 - Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 25Nov15-2PEN
21. MOHAYMEN - 94 - Remsen Stakes (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles - 28Nov15-5AQU
23. BELLARMINE - 93 - OC 45k/C - 1 1/16 Miles - 29Nov15-9LRL
23. CEMENT CLEMENT - 93 - Hcp 16000s - 1 Mile (Turf) - 28Nov15-7TAM
23. FOREVER UNBRIDLED - 93 - Comely Stakes (G3) - 28Nov15-7AQU
23. SMACK SMACK - 93 - Zia Park Championship Handicap - 1 1/8 Miles - 25Nov15-9ZIA
23. SUPER SAKS - 93 - Dream Supreme Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 27Nov15-9CD

*The past performances for Heart to Heart, Effinex and Tonalist are available at the bottom of this blog post.


Video stakes analyses for many of the weekend's major stakes will be available later this week at http://www.drf.com/videos

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.

I'll be on with Mike Beer for live coverage of racing at Aqueduct, Del Mar and Gulfstream beginning at 3pm ET at live.drf.com.


Here's a message from Laura regarding our 2016 FormBlog Convention at Gulfstream Park:

Make plans to attend the 2016 FORMBLOGERS CONVENTION! February 19 - 21 at Gulfstream Park. Courtesy of our generous benefactor, Mike Nyman, we once again have a private suite - temperamental wagering machine included.
Room discounts at the Hampton Inn across the street from the track are available. With the discount, the rooms run about $200/night including taxes and free breakfast buffet. (The Romance Package is extra and hotel management is very strict about that).
We always have a fun time - even when the track gets washed away! Besides the pleasure of each other's company - and that of our fearless leader, Dan Who, there will be Breeders' Cup swag, and more! Previous years, courtesy of SR Vegas, we included Derby Futures Tickets given in raffles throughout the weekend (everyone winds up with one!), and other fun stuff.
I'll have more info available in the next few weeks. I offer FREE! transportation to/from the Ft. Lauderdale airport.
If you have any questions, please contact me at: lross@imtbreds.com


I haven't received the official tally from Rick M. yet, but it appears that Biggar W finished first in last week's HandiGambling.

We'll go with Saturday's Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream 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 "60-Card Quarterly Formulator 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!




HeartEffinexTonalist.pdf733.14 KB
HGGP.pdf206.52 KB