12/06/2013 2:57PM

DRF Plus Graded Stakes Analysis: December 7, 2013


Bayakoa Stakes (Betfair Hollywood, Race 8) Marcus Hersh

When you see CHARM THE MAKER at 5-1 on the morning-line in a 10-horse field, you know you are not looking at an especially strong Grade 2 race. To these eyes, the G2 Bayakoa in great part looks like a glorified open $50K claiming race.

FIFTYSHADESOFHAY is the 9-5 morning-line favorite, and given the competition, I’m not advocating trying to beat her despite some valid reasons for skepticism. Three-year-old Fiftyshadesofhay meets older horses for the first time in the Bayakoa, and though she has faced some top-level foes (Beholder, Princess of Sylmar), she never has beaten such a horse. And though she won her only start over the BHP synthetic surface, the jury still is out on whether she’s as good on synthetics as on dirt.

On the plus side, this is like Fiftyshadesofhay’s Breeders’ Cup. She wasn’t good enough for the Distaff and wasn’t quick enough for the Filly & Mare Sprint, and her connections wisely waited a more appropriate spot. Considered for races in Kentucky and New York, they chose to stay home, and landed in what looks like a soft race. And I don’t hold Fiftyshadesofhay’s defeat as the favorite in the Indiana Oaks against her. She got bogged down on the rail on a very wet day when outside paths seemed far superior.


The pace here projects as moderate, and I don’t really see anyone stealing away on an easy lead. I’d want nothing to do with Charm the Maker at her listed price, but at the same time, I’m not finding a lot of substance to many of the alternatives. If forced to choose an exacta partner for Fiftyshadesofhay, I’d go with CUSTOMER BASE, who, despite a wide draw, looks like horse with the best chance at an upset. Three of her last four starts came in Grade 2 races of pretty solid quality, and though she appears superior on grass, the filly has won two of her four synthetic-surface races.

Hollywood Starlet (Betfair Hollywood, Race 6) by Mary Rampellini

A CliffsNotes read on the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Starlet at Betfair Hollywood Park on Saturday is that ROSALIND is the one to beat and UNTAPABLE is the one to fear. They are part of an eight-horse field for the mile and a sixteenth race, and both exit the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

ROSALIND was third in the championship race, beaten a half-length following a troubled start that found her racing farther of the pace than usual. She should be closer in the Hollywood Starlet, but she is still a late-runner and with nearly half the field stretching out to two turns for the first time she should get an ideal setup. ROSALIND also will be back on Lasix after racing without the diuretic last time in a Breeders’ Cup policy. As for the move to a synthetic surface, ROSALIND has had a chance to work over the main track at Betfair Hollywood Park and is also Grade 1-placed on a such a surface by virtue of her runner-up finish in the Alcibiades at Keeneland. Further, her trainer, Ken McPeek, won this race last year with Pure Fun. There are a few concerns for ROSALIND on Saturday. There’s a chance she could find herself at a disadvantage were one of the sprint-to-route prospects to shake free and control the tempo of the race. ROSALIND also has traveled back to her base of Kentucky since the Breeders’ Cup, while the rest of her rivals are based in Southern California. There’s also the concern she faces one who has defeated her before, UNTAPABLE.

The pair met in September in the Grade 2 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs, with UNTAPABLE winning by a half-length and ROSALIND finishing two and a half lengths back in third. The tables were sort of turned in the Breeders’ Cup, when UNTAPABLE  finished eighth. But the off-the-board performance is not a fair assessment of UNTAPABLE’s abilities as she was eased due to the catastrophic breakdown of a rival. Leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, UNTAPABLE had won both of her career starts. She took a maiden allowance at five and a half furlongs at Churchill Downs in June, then conquered two turns, winners and graded stakes foes in her first attempt in the Pocahontas. After that race she was sent to Southern California well in advance of the Breeders’ Cup, and she has remained in the region leading up to the Hollywood Starlet. UNTAPABLE is a stalker who can get first run on the leaders, giving her a tactical advantage over ROSALIND. She also is one of the best bred members of the field as a daughter of Tapit and the Grade 2 winner Fun House, and a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Paddy O’ Prado ($1.7M).

CONCAVE is one of the most accomplished members of the field as a Grade 2 winner, achieved in the Sorrento this past summer at Del Mar. In the six and a half furlong race she defeated She’s a Tiger, who would return to win the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante and finish first in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies before being disqualified for interference. As for CONCAVE, she also ran in the BC, and was taken up as a result of the catastrophic breakdown of a rival. She has since shipped to Louisiana for the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Downs Princess and was third to Tepin, whose company line into the race included Vexed, the next-out winner of the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. CONCAVE raced over a six-furlong track last time at Delta, and the return to a one-mile oval might suit her well. CONCAVE will be seeking her first two-turn win and note her dam was a route stakes winner at 2. The concern would be the travel between starts, as all of her competition, with the exception of ROSALIND, has been sitting in Southern California.

STREAMING and TASTE LIKE CANDY are the candidates most likely to be showing the way on Saturday, and they could be pressed by BAJAN. All three fillies will be making their first starts around two turns. STREAMING and TASTE LIKE CANDY give up experience to all of their rivals as this will be just the second career start for each following maiden special weight sprint wins in their debuts. Both were impressive. STREAMING delivered as an odds-on favorite at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 15, and TASTE LIKE CANDY scored by six and a half lengths at Santa Anita on Oct. 20 to earn this field’s best career Beyer Speed Figure, an 85.

BAJAN, meanwhile, is a two-time stakes winner whose winning effort in last month’s $100,000 Moccasin at Betfair Hollywood Park serves as a strong lead-in to Saturday’s race. Not only does the score make her one of just three in the field with a win over the local strip, the start at seven furlongs should have her razor-sharp for the move to a mile and a sixteenth. Distance will be a question as she is a daughter of sprint champion Speightstown, but do note that her dam registered both of her career wins in routes.

ARETHUSA has some similarities to ROSALIND in that she is a closer who found herself farther off the pace than usual in her most recent start. ARETHUSA did not get the break, but overcame the disadvantage and powered to a more than eight length win in the local prep for the Hollywood Starlet, the $100,000 Sharp Cat. ARETHUSA won her maiden in the race, and now faces both winners and graded stakes rivals for the first time.

BE PROUD was second in the Sharp Cat, one start after defeating ARETHUSA in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita. BE PROUD has raced in blinkers throughout her career and will remove them on Saturday in what is a high-percentage equipment change for her trainer, Bob Baffert. She’s well-versed at the two-turn trip, and while she is quick she could find herself stalking the race’s sprint-to-route prospects Saturday.

In this one, taking UNTAPABLE over ROSALIND and for further exotics would consider CONCAVE, BE PROUD, TASTE LIKE CANDY and STREAMING.

Fred Hooper Handicap (Calder, Race 7) by Kenny Peck

Betting the Grade 3, $100,000 Fred Hooper Handicap (Calder, Race 7) on Saturday means all handicappers have to answer the same question: What do you do with CSABA? The 7/5 Morning Line favorite comes off an easy allowance win, his eighth in 11 starts at Calder, following a pattern that is similar to last season, when he and DUCDUC (#10) finshed in a dead heat in the 2012 Hooper, winning that race with a triple-digit figure off an easy, off-the-turf score in his prior try.

CSABA has speed but can also rate, and that is what makes him tough. At this extended (nine furlong) distance, however, he's much more likely to be on the lead, or at least right off it, and that makes him susceptible to race flow. This is not an easy race to plot in terms of pace, but it does seem certain that SR. QUISQUEYANO (#7) and I'M STEPPIN' IT UP (#9) will also be very much involved from the start. In fact, those two are likely to be intent on the lead. There's a chance that CSABA will rate will behind those and fall into a perfect trip, and if that scenario unfolds he's even more difficult to beat, but if the pace is quick and he's close it could take a toll on him.

I respect the speeds, and will certainly use all of the three mentioned, but I'll take a shot with the closing ON THE LOOSE AGAIN (#2). He's won three of his last four, including his latest, despite racing well off a slow pace. This is the first time he's been this far but given his running style, and the expected race flow, that's not a huge issue. I'm more concerned with his lack of a race over this trickly surface, but he has certainly trained well over the Calder main course of late. If he's anywhere near the 12-1 Morning Line he merits a win bet but I'll also use him in exactas with CSABA, SR. QUISQUEYANO and I'M STEPPIN' IT UP.

My Charmer Handicap (Calder, Race 8) by Byron King

STRATHNAVER looks well suited to a cutback in distance to race in the 1 1/8-mile My Charmer on the grass Saturday at Calder after fading to fourth Nov. 9 in the Grade 3 Long Island at 1 ½ miles at Aqueduct.

She is a filly at her best making a late rally and racing over firm turf, and the conditions of the Long Island simply didn’t suit her. The pace was a crawl, resulting in her being second early for much of the race, and course was rated “good” – not the firm going she prefers.

Previously when racing 1 1/16 miles in the Lady Baltimore at Laurel, she outran the classy Abaco to win a stakes there, posting a quality Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

Local star ANGELICA ZAPATA, seven for 10 in 2012-2013, ranks a close second. She isn’t as classy as the top one, but is remarkably consistent.

A winner of two straight on turf, she can obviously handle racing the surface, but her flashiest wins have always come on the Calder main track. That’s the surface on which she truly excels.

NAPLES BAY also figures prominently, having raced competitively against Grade 3 competition since this time last year. In fact, she was second in this very race in 2012, taking the lead from a stakes position, only to be caught late in the final furlong.

She owns good numbers but is drawn outside, putting her at risk of a wide trip – which could prove costly going a 1 1/8-mile distance that is seemingly a furlong or a sixteenth further than what she prefers.

Other horses to consider for exotics use include PARRANDA, coming off two straight stakes victories at Gulfstream Park; AWESOME FLOWER, a versatile filly who was third in the Grade 2 Chilukki most recently at Churchill; and SOMALI LEMONADE, a battle tested miss but a filly that is just 1 for 13 in 2012-2013.

Tropical Turf Handicap (Calder, Race 6) by Byron King

One of two horses, BAD DEBT or TETRADRACHM, seem likely to win the Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder Saturday, with the former slightly preferred over the latter.

In terms of wagering, the most logical moves are to use those two horses in multi-race exotic wagers, and to key them on top in bets like the Trifecta and Superfecta.

BAD DEBT, having won the Million Turf Prevue Stakes easily Nov. 9 at Gulfstream, rates a narrow edge based on the dominance he displayed in that race, though it was just his first win in 10 starts this year. But when looking at his career on a whole, this isn’t a horse whose wins come infrequently. He is 12 for 37 on grass.

TETRADRACHM appears virtually as fast as the top choice, having run Beyers of 97 in two of his last three starts, just off the 98s posted by BAD DEBUT in his last two races. He likes a firm course, something he ought to get Saturday, provided the weather forecast proves correct.

His most-recent start was deceptively good – a fourth-place finish in the Knickerbocker behind Za Approval, a race in which he was beaten in two photos the runner-up prize.

Bettors looking to use these two in Trifectas and Superfectas should primarily focus HEIKO, SPEAKING OF WHICH, and REFLECTING beneath them in the gimmicks. They are listed in order of preference.

HEIKO has shown vast improvement for trainer Marty Wolfson recently and has the speed to be prominent and potentially last for a share. SPEAKING OF WHICH was a Group 3 winner overseas who is battle tested in graded company. And REFLECTING has solid form if one excuses a last-race failure at Keeneland in which he failed in a marathon stakes race that was moved from turf to Polytrack due to a rain-soaked course.