09/20/2013 2:47PM

DRF Plus Graded Stakes Analysis: Sept 21, 2013

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Gallant Bob Stakes, Parx (Race 9, 4:35 ET, Saturday)

By Kenny Peck

The Gallant Bob drew a full field of 14 sprinters and, to the surprise of no one, there's a good amount of early zip signed on.

The presence of speedsters such as DISTINCTIV PASSION (#2), BLACK HORNET (#3), AMARISH (#9) and race favorite RAINBOW HEIR (#11) should mean a quick, contested pace, and since none of those four has shown an ability to pass horses in the lane they figure to engage in a duel from the start, and that could compromise the chances of all of them.

Of the remaining ten, three have Beyers that suggest they're up against it even with an ideal race flow on tap: ENGLISH MANOR (#6), HEAVEN'S RUNWAY (#10) and PURPLE EGG (#14) would all need to post figures well above their top Beyers to date, and while that's not an impossible task for still-improving 3-year-olds it's not likely, either.

RES JUDICATA (#1) won an optional claimer against older over this track when last seen but he was on the lead, and while he has shown a rating gear he may be at his best when involved early. He also was no match for RAINBOW HEIR and AMARISH when they met two back, in the Jersey Shore.

TAKE IT LIKE A MAN (#4) put up a Beyer of 91 in winning three back but that was at seven furlongs, and if he runs his usual figure he's probably going to come up short here. ZEEWAT (#13) is intriguing off that last line, as the Beyer puts him in the mix, but while he's run on dirt his best figures have come on synthetic surfaces, and he ships cross-country for this.

SALUTOS AMIGOS (#5) is interesting at the 12-1 Morning Line price. He comes out of a couple of tough sprints at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Kings Bishop and the Grade 2 Amsterdam, and while he regressed in the former last time out he was making his 2nd start off the layoff, and the seven furlongs were likely more than he bargained for. The main concern with him is that he doesn't have a strong late kick, and that could mean he's vulnerable to a confirmed closer if he's close to a quick early pace, but he seems to be worth including in exotics.

CITY OF WESTON (#7) fits the expected race flow as a closer, and he has posted Beyers in the past that are good enough to win this. The dull try two back can be forgiven for two reasons: he bounced back with a decent try for 2nd in his latest, and his record strongly indicates that he doesn't particularly care for the Calder main track, posting one win in nine starts there while regressing in terms of Beyers each time he ships there from another track. He needs a quick pace to run to his best figures but he certainly should get it here, and the price should be right.

MAJESTIC HUSSAR (#8) middle moved before flattening out in the Kings Bishop, an effort that was better than it may appear to be on paper. The win in the slop at Gulfstream notwithstanding, it does not appear that seven furlongs is his best game, and if he's able to run back to that 98 Beyer he posted two back, at this six furlong distance, he's a major player. At 20-1 on the Morning Line, and with a win under his belt where he showed he can rate and make one run (in his debut), he's worth using in the gimmicks, as he's likely to rebound off that most recent try.

CLEARLY NOW (#12), the 2nd choice in the wagering at 4-1, may be the one to beat. He's back on dirt following his turf debut last time out, and though he ran well enough there it certainly seems that he prefers dirt to that surface, and to synthetic racing. The Beyers he's posted in his most recent main track try are the best figures in this field, and with the pace scenario likely to flatter his running style he should be well positioned to make a late run. The wide post is less of a concern because of that factor, and because outside closers are generally at an advantage over this strip.

THE PLAY: I'm boxing #5, #7, #8 and #12 in exactas and trifectas, and pressing #12 (CLEARLY NOW) over the #5, #7 and #8 in the same pools.

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Dogwood Stakes, Churchill Downs (Race 9, 4:59 ET, Saturday)

By Marty McGee

Early scratches will factor heavily in the final draft of handicapping the Dogwood, in no small part because trainer Tom Amoss said Thursday that the 5-2 morning-line favorite, So Many Ways (#4), will defect in favor of the $400k Charles Town Oaks on Saturday night. Two other fillies, Guadalupe High (#3) and Fusaichiswonderful (#9), also are cross-entered at Charles Town, although their connections say those fillies will run in the Dogwood.

Full disclosure: my brother, Paul McGee, formerly trained Sky Girl before she was sold recently in a private sale. Both my brother and the filly’s former owner, Samantha Siegel, thought a lot of her. Her 2-for-2 record over the Churchill track portends another big race Saturday in the Dogwood, which is run at an ideal 7-furlong distance as she turns back from a Poly route at AP. She is definitely the selection here, although with So Many Ways sure to scratch, don’t expect much more than 2-1 (from a 7-2 M/L) on the odds drop.

There’s plenty of pace in here, which not only could assist Corey Lanerie in moving Sky Girl in a timely fashion, but also Shaun Bridgmohan on Irish Lute, who will be the secondary play.

The bet: trifectas and supers keying Sky Girl (#1) on top, with Irish Lute (#5) having to be in the mix. Others to use are Finding More (#6), Elusive Fate (#7), and Fusaichiswonderful (#9). Play the tri’s this way and expand accordingly in the supers: 1 with 5 with 6-8-9; and 1 with 6-8-9 with 5; and so forth.

 

Cotillion Stakes, Parx (Race 9, 5:10 ET, Saturday)

By Byron King

1. Seaneen Girl
2. Close Hatches
3. Sweet Lulu

Saturday’s Cotillion Stakes at Parx offers a deep and talented field, as one would expect for a $1 million, Grade 1 race. And there are many directions a horseplayer can look when searching for a wager.

With the field evenly matched, it seems best to look for a value horse, and that horse is SEANEEN GIRL (#5, 5-1). She doesn’t have the reputation of others, having largely stayed out of the biggest stakes for 3-year-old fillies, but she’s fast and loves routing on dirt. She overpowered the opposition in the Monmouth Oaks recently when racing on short rest, and gets better spacing into this race after a taxing schedule over the early summer. Speed figures suggest she contends, and she very well may drift up from her morning line.

CLOSE HATCHES (#9, 5-2), a winner of 4 of 6, including the Grade 1 Mother Goose, is the most likely winner, but will offer just a fraction of the price of the top choice. She’s obviously a skilled and talented filly, but being off since June adds an element of risk that she might not run her ‘A’ race.

SWEET LULU (#7, 7-2) is perfect in four starts, capped by a game win in the Grade 1 Test going seven furlongs. She appeared fatigued at the end of that race, admittedly after pressing fractions much faster than those in a typical route. She won easily one time she went two turns, but that was at a mile against an outclassed allowance field.

Others to consider for exotics use in the Cotillion include MY HAPPY FACE (#6, 9-2), a closing third in the Test, beaten a neck, and ASIYA (#4, 20-1), a lightly-raced by promising filly that is eligible to improve in her second start off a long layoff.

 

Gallant Bloom Handicap, Belmont Park (Race 9, 5:17 ET, Saturday)

By Mike Beer

Race 9 is the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap for older filly & mare sprinters, and it could hardly have come up a better race. There is a lot going on here with some talented layoff horses returning to action along with some more lightly raced fillies who feel like they still have room to improve (which they will have to do to win this), but the discussion has to begin with the ML favorite DANCE TO BRISTOL (#8, 2-1), a winner of seven straight races, including a richly deserved Grade 1 last time out at Saratoga.

Dance to Bristol isn’t going to scare anyone away from a race she is entered in anytime soon, but all she does is win, and she has never been better than she was in her last two starts upstate, winning the Gr2 Honorable Miss despite a less than perfect trip; then getting a great trip & ride from Xavier Perez in the Ballerina before digging deep when the chips were down to see off a talented Grade 1 performer in Book Review. She’s drawn well on the outside this time, and may be catching her two main rivals (or, at least, the two most talented other horses in the race) at the right time as they return from long layoffs.

CLUSTER OF STARS (#2, 3-1) is a fast, undefeated NY-bred for top connections returning from a long layoff. The major question for Cluster of Stars in this spot revolves around her fitness, as it seems pretty clear to this point that she has the talent to win a race like this. We haven’t seen her since mid-April, and being drawn to the inside post likely forces the hand of Javier Castellano, but it’s worth pointing out that speed & the inside have been almost unbeatable since racing returned to Belmont, so that may not be a bad thing assuming the bias continues.

DANCE CARD (#1A, 7-2) is perhaps the most talented horse in the field after stinging together four straight impressive wins as a three-year-old, culminating with a blowout of the Grade 1 Gazelle last November; the problem is, she has had surgery to reportedly remove chips from both front ankles since that race, and you get the feeling that the Gallant Bloom is just a place for her to get started. Maybe she’ll win it on talent alone, but you’ll be better off in the long run playing against these kinds of horses at short prices. It is entirely possible, however, that Dance Card’s entrymate, VILLANESCA (#1, 7-2) could bail out anyone taking the McLaughlin duo, assuming that Dance Card needs one of the bench. Villanesca has some improvement to find if she’s going to beat a horse like Dance to Bristol, but she was not embarrassed by that horse in the Ballerina and she does appear to be a filly who is still improving at this point. The problem with Villanesca from a wagering standpoint is (and I likely will bet her if Dance Card scratches) being part of an entry with a Grade 1 winner kills any value that might have been available on her.

Perhaps the most interesting horse to take a shot with in here, from a wagering perspective, is HOLIDAY SOIREE (#3, 4-1). We’ll see how the betting goes, as value is often hard to come by when talking about Tood Pletcher-trainer horses, and 4/1 certainly doesn’t feel like much of it in this field, but Holiday Soiree was always a horse I have felt might one day be able to factor in graded stakes races, and she really appeared to turn a corner last time – which was her first start since being sold and transferred to Pletcher’s barn. She wasn’t beating anyone of substantial quality when burying the field in a restricted stakes race last time, but she did it convincingly with a new Beyer top, and she may be in the right place at the right time with Dance Card & Cluster of Stars returning from layoffs, and Dance to Bristol wheeling back off of a bit of a gut-wrencher upstate.

Pennsylvania Derby, Parx Racing (Race 9, 5:45 ET, Saturday)

By Marcus Hersh

There are four horses who, barring the chaotic, can win this race: The big two, Will Take Charge and Moreno; Fury Kapcori, who probably will be a defined third choice, and not as high as his 8-1 morning line; and Transparent, who might make it up to this 8-1 morning-line odds.

Moreno has turned into a different horse with blinkers. I’m not tossing him, but neither am I in his corner. Four straight sharply improved races and two straight peak-performances hint Moreno might struggle to hold his form 28 days after the Travers. He’s drawn inside a serious pace rival, Fury Kapcori, and is unlikely to be gifted the easy early lead he got last out and three starts ago. Nine furlongs also seems to push Moreno’s ideal distance range.

It was ‘blinkers off’ that moved Will Take Charge far forward: The equipment change seems to have ended his tendency to fall out the back door early in some of his races, and his second to Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy was as good as his Travers win. He stays the nine furlongs, and of the Travers two, I’d side with him over Moreno.

Fury Kapcori has the feel of a wise-guy horse, and considering the action he took in his two DMR starts, and the sense I have that skepticism remains about the Travers Two, I’m guessing he’ll be bet down. I think he’s a pretty serious horse coming to this race the right way. It’s possible he prefers dirt to all-weather, and he gets that for the first time since last fall at Fresno. His pedigree is suited to nine furlongs, and he gets that for the first time. He made strides in relaxing early in his race last out and ran into a potentially very nice winner. He’s not had a good trip in five starts, but could fall into a perfect pressing journey this time.

Transparent interests me at a better price than the other three. He clearly did not show his best in the Travers, and the belated addition of Lasix suggests why. Prior to that, there was a lot of serious development going on from an apparently late-maturing horse; his going-away win at this distance in the Curlin was a career-best, and it’s plausible he builds on that performance. Transparent has positional speed and if ridden to beat Speak Logistics to the spot, could wind up in the pocket not far behind Moreno and Fury Kapcori.