07/01/2014 3:29PM

Bernier's Los Alamitos pick four plays


Saturday, July 5

Race 6 – Md Sp Wt 42k, 6 furlongs

Saturday’s late pick four could be a tough one to find value in if the favorites perform up to expectation, and the sixth race is a prime example of that. The Bob Baffert trainee Opsec looks plenty fit and ready to roll at first asking, and he’s likely to take a significant amount of money. Offspring of Pioneerof the Nile that are 3 years old and up in maiden special weight races are hitting at 23 percent (8 for 35), and the dam has dropped her fair share of winners (siblings are 23 for 80, top Beyer Speed Figure of 95). It’s also very encouraging to see that a large portion of this colt’s training has taken place over the surface at Los Alamitos, so his ability to handle the track is of no concern. If for some reason Opsec doesn’t fire in his debut, other intriguing options include Prontezzo (working nicely since early April, Joe Talamo sees fit to take mount; trainer Phil D’Amato’s numbers out of the box aren’t specatular, though), Good Deal (dam won stakes sprinting on both dirt and turf and banked $235K, trainer Tom Proctor always sharp), Raspberry Ala Mode (consistent works for a number of months, fitness shouldn’t be of concern; bullet at Santa Anita on June 23 jumps off page), and Radiant Dancer (gate drill at Santa Anita on June 28 was very strong).

Race 7 – Alw 25000s, 6 furlongs

The seventh will feature a group of fillies and mares that can’t be trusted. Many of them have done very spotty work throughout their careers, and if you’re going to find a price in this pick four sequence, it’s likely to be here. Many people will look to Tough Business who is now 2 for 3 lifetime, but the way in which she changed back to her left lead down the lane in her latest has to be viewed as a bit of a red flag. Rhodium may be the best of the bunch, and that’s not saying much. Her last start down the hill at Santa Anita should be viewed as nothing more than a starting point coming off the layoff. That being said, trainer Peter Miller is a mere 1 for 15 over the past five years with horses transitioning from turf to dirt and making their second start off the layoff. Again, it’s a very motley crew of ladies, and while it may not be the most bullish or emphatic position to take – the “ALL” button may need to be called upon in this spot. Don’t view it as a copout; view it as a tool in situations like these.

Race 8 – Los Alamitos Derby, 1 1/8 miles

While there is a field of seven slated to go in the inaugural Los Al Derby, there’s really only one horse that people should be paying attention to – and that’s the champion 2-year-old male of 2013, Shared Belief. Although he was essentially handed the lead (and victory) in his 3-year-old debut last time out at Golden Gate Fields, it was encouraging to see this son of Candy Ride striding out nicely down the lane and really getting over the surface well. He’ll be racing on dirt for the first time, and it should be noted that he was knocked off the Kentucky Derby trail due to a foot issue. He appears to be sound and ready to roll Saturday night; expect to see an authoritative performance from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s entrant. If you’re looking for one other horse to use as an alternative, the most logical would be Candy Boy. Hopes were high rolling into Louisville that Candy Boy could play spoiler in Derby 140, but trouble entering the clubhouse turn erased all hope of that. He’s been off since then and has been working steadily over the past two months at Santa Anita. He’ll need to hope that another of the runners here elects to go and keep Shared Belief honest throughout the early stages of this race, if he’s to have a shot at running the Shared Belief down late.

Race 9 – Md Sp Wt 42k (State-bred), 5 1/2 furlongs

The nightcap is a statebred maiden special weight affair, and there are a fair amount of runners entered that have decent pedigrees. Swiss Intrigue is a full sister to a mare named Downhill Diva, who went 5 for 20 and earned nearly $240K during her career. Star Rising is out of a Saint Ballado mare named Cosmah Star. Cosmah Star’s foals have amassed a career record of 9 for 69 with combined earnings of nearly $270K. Our Love Affair sports a nice worktab for trainer Bruce Headley, and her siblings have gone a combined 9 for 31 ($264K earned, top Beyer of 93) throughout their careers. Others to keep an eye include Inflamed (hasn’t been seen since Del Mar 2012, trainer Barry Abrams is respectable with horses coming off of long layoffs), and Lucky S.J. (working steadily since end of May, Martin Garcia takes mount for debut). There are a number of ways that you could go in the finale, but be sure to take a long, hard look at some of the pedigrees to help get a gauge on this field.

Sunday, July 6

Race 6 – Md 50000, 6 furlongs

The opening leg of the Sunday late pick four at Los Alamitos is a maiden $50,000 claimer for horses bred in California, and there would appear to be a few runners who might stand out. Ron’s Boy hasn’t been seen since November at Hollywood Park, but he does own the two best Beyer Speed Figures in the field. Although he hasn’t necessarily been burning up the work tab, he’s been working steadily for trainer Herbert Bacorn, and Kent Desormeaux sees fit to take the mount. Any step forward off his races as a 2-year-old, and Ron’s Boy could prove difficult. Watch It Buster takes the biggest class drop in horse racing, from maiden special weight to maiden claiming, and exits a very blasé debut performance at Santa Anita last month. He’d already been doing some nice work in the mornings at Los Alamitos for trainer Mike Puype prior to his unveiling in June, so his nice workouts come as no surprise. He’ll try to graduate in his second career effort Sunday. Inspired Wisdom has put together back-to-back gate drills at Los Alamitos in preparation of his debut, but the latest work is the one that really stands out. This son of Bedford Falls had never registered any sort of blistering times on the stopwatch in the morning – until his last drill from the gate, in which he stopped the clock in 46.80 seconds. Trainer Marty Jones has been known to get a debut runner ready to go at first asking in the past, and we may be looking at a similar situation here.

Race 7 – OC 40k/N$Y – 6 furlongs

The seventh is a race that lacks any real early speed, and whichever rider takes the initiative could be at a great tactical advantage over the rest of the field. Belle of the Fleet likely possesses the best early foot of the bunch, but she’s coming off a two-month layoff, and she’s done her best work on synthetics. She’s shown a penchant for breaking a step or two slowly throughout her career, but if Joe Talamo can get her to break sharply, she could prove difficult to run down late. Ciddy’s Song broke her maiden at first asking at Sunland Park in March and did so rather impressively. Sitting a few lengths off the leaders throughout much of the running, this daughter of Unbridled’s Song ranged up in the three path and ran down the loose pacesetter in the shadow of the wire. It should be noted that the runner-up in that spot was nearly seven lengths clear, and she also returned next out to break her maiden and earned a 70 Beyer in doing so. Another noteworthy piece of information is that Ciddy’s Song will be making her first start since being switched to the barn of Bob Baffert. Gracie Ragazza has steadily improved in each of her three lifetime starts, and she’ll be making her first start off the layoff for trainer Mark Glatt. This daughter of Eddington broke her maiden nicely at Santa Anita in May, and she picks up the services of Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux here. Her nice set of drills at Santa Anita over the past four weeks seems to indicate that she’s ready to run.

Race 8 – the Cypress, 1 1/16 miles

The Cypress features a short field of five, and Onna Bugiesha has the look of a very serious filly. In her latest victory, Victor Espinoza hardly asked her to run a step as she drew off impressively down the lane, ears pricked and all. She seemed well within herself during that performance, and if she has another gear, the rest of the field is likely in trouble. She should sit just off the likely pacesetter drawn just to her inside, Legacy. Legacy exits a weak performance in the Grade 3 Adoration, but if she puts forth an effort comparable to either of the races two and three back, she’ll have a say. Expect rider Joe Talamo to take control of the pace from the very beginning.

Race 9 – Clm 8000N2X, 1 mile

The ninth and final race on opening weekend at Los Alamitos appears to be an absolute crapshoot, as none of the entrants in the field has done any serious running as of late. Cuneo owns a Beyer Speed Figure two back that lays over this field, but his latest effort at Santa Anita on May 25 was absolutely dreadful. If you can look past that, he’s a logical contender. Forever Freedom has done some decent work of late, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that his races on grass and synthetic are exponentially better than anything he’s ever done on dirt. Bright Ocean goes out for trainer Paul Aguirre first off the claim, and he’s been known to have success with this kind of move in the past (over the past five years, Aguirre is 29 percent (4 for 14) with eight in-the-money finishes). The biggest advantage horses like Smokin Bomb and Atascaderan have on the field is that they’ve done the majority of their racing over the Los Alamitos surface. It appears to be a wide-open affair on paper, and it likely requires one to spread in the payoff leg of the pick four.