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DRF Plus Graded Stakes Analysis: September 7
Kent Stakes, Delaware Park (Race 7, 4:15 ET)
By Kenny Peck
The Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park certainly seems to be a fairly paceless race, and that gives the edge to HARD ENOUGH. He won his last two starts, both stakes on the turf at Monmouth Park, and he was especially game in victory in his most recent, the Restoration. On the lead and under pressure from the start, he had to seal with a couple of separate challenges, and then stave off an unlucky MICHAEL WITH US, who came up just short following some traffic trouble in the lane. Coming off a race where he was against the race flow, and now landing in a race where the pace scenario favors him, HARD ENOUGH, proven at the distance, figures tough to catch if able to shake loose and control the pace, as expected.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME was a solid 2nd when last seen, in the Toronto Cup, a race which gained credibility when the winner, Five Iron, returned to win the Saranac Stakes at Saratoga in his next start. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, prior to that start a confirmed closer, was forced to race close to the leader and eventual winner in the early stages thanks to a relative lack of early speed in the field, though given the way the race shaped up that certainly worked to his advantage. Such a controlled tempo always works to the favor of those horses on the lead, who will then have something in reserve for the stretch will enjoying a "head start" on the closers. ARE YOU KIDDING ME may enjoy a similar scenario in the Kent, with a trip just off expected pacesetter HARD ENOUGH likely.
MICHAEL WITH US ran a big race in defeat in the Restoration. He lacked room in the lane, even brushing with the temporary rail while down inside, and he was forced to check. Still, he gathered himself and closed nicely to just miss catching HARD ENOUGH on the wire, a solid try that was better than it may appear. The concern is that he may not get enough pace in this Kent Stakes, as he is at his best when he's allowed to settle off the pace and make one run, but if HARD ENOUGH gets any kind of pace pressure MICHAEL WITH US may be the one who benefits most.
GRAND TITO might be a value horse worth including. He was well off the winner in the Naked Greed at Calder last time but the yielding course provides a built-in excuse, and he also had trouble on the first turn. He's quick enough to stay close, which could prove important if the fractions are mild, and his prior Beyers are good enough to make him a contender. At 15-1 on the Morning Line he's one to seriously consider for underneath in exotics, at the very least.
MAJESTIC JESS steps up in class for this but he could improve with today's addition of blinkers. He's need to take a big step forward off his first two North American tries/Beyers, and the fact that he gets yet another inside post is not a plus, as he may be better when in the clear and allowed to make a stretch bid, but he is one with some upside given the right kind of trip.
READYSHAKEGO and FEAR THE KITTEN both come out of the Stroll Stakes at Saratoga and the Virginia Derby at Colonial, facing good fields in each of those races. Neither colt threatened in those races, and for READYSHAKEGO, at least, part of the reason for that was a lack of tactical early zip that left him with too much to do. The pace scenario in this Kent Stakes may mean he's in a similar predicament. FEAR THE KITTEN showed a little more speed in the Stroll yet still was unable to threaten, in fact losing position late.
I'm looking to beat SAINT VIGEUR if he's anywhere near the 7-5 price listed on the Morning Line. He's coming off runner-up finishes in two Grade 2 races, and wins in his prior two races, but those races were all on dirt. He's been on the turf twice and though he ran okay in his debut the Beyer (68) wasn't exceptional. Granted, that was last August, and he's a much better horse at this stage of the game, but taking a short price on a horse unproven on the surface against a fairly deep field is not the recipe for success.
I'm keying HARD ENOUGH and using him with ARE YOU KIDDING ME, MICHAEL WITH US and GRAND TITO.
Bowling Green Stakes, Belmont Park (Race 8, 4:45 ET)
By Mike Beer
The opening day feature is the Grade 2 Bowling Green, and #1 Boisterous is the horse to beat. I think there are at least some questions surrounding Boisterous in this spot, even as he comes back to his favorite track and gets a cut back in distance that I believe he needs. Even with the distance excuse, however, it is a little troublesome that Boisterous ran as poorly as he did in the Sword Dancer last time. He seemed to get a perfectly clean trip while kept out in the clear, was in contention at the top of the stretch, and was outfinished by everyone with a pulse in the stretch. He did run a similarly weak race in the Sword Dancer back in 2011, and bounced back immediately when returned to Belmont for his next start, so perhaps it’s just as simple as that, but at a short price I am at least a little leary of him. The most likely upsetters are #4 HYPER and #6 FINNEGANS WAKE, and I have no big argument against them, but I was more interested in using the #3 LONDON LANE as my backup to Boisterous. London Lane got a well-timed ride to upset the Colonial Turf Cup (and Hyper) at 50/1 two starts back, but I thought he ran a deceptively good race in the Sword Dancer without a good trip at all, and he is a horse that goes off at one good price after another in his races. I would still lean on Boisterous in the multi’s, but London Lane will be my other horse, and I will use him in exactas with the favorite, as well.
Arlington-Washington Futurity, Arlington (Race 7, 5:06 ET)
By Marcus Hersh
By now we’re all accustomed to 2-year-old summertime graded stakes looking like first-level allowance races, and the Arlington-Washington Futurity fits that mold: None of the eight expected starters (Mighty Brown will be scratched) has won twice. And in this case, not only are we working with minimal performance history, we’re asked to get a handle on eight horses -- only one of which has raced as far as the Futurity’s one-mile distance -- that most recently ran at seven different venues.
My top pick is WHYRUAWESOME, but I’m starting to think he’ll offer little value. I’ve seen him picked in several spots already, and despite low-profile connections, and the fact he won his debut at 17-1, he seems to have generated buzz.
His debut win, on Aug. 16, was eventful. The first-timer I thought had a good chance in that seven-furlong maiden, Greyfell, started getting out on the backstretch and drifted way wide while falling out of contention going into the turn, with Category, a well bet firster, inheriting the lead. Whyruawesome (wearing blinkers first out) was the only horse rallying at the quarter-pole, but as he closed in on Category he lugged in badly; jockey Diego Sanchez couldn’t think about helping Whyruawesome finish until he finally got him straightened out past the eighth pole. But once Whyruawesome came out from behind Category, he passed his rival without appearing to work especially hard, and proceeded to gallop out strongly all the way around the clubhouse turn. It was a classic display of talent minus professionalism, but between the misbehavior, the blinkers, and the fact the horse isn’t clearly superior to his rivals Saturday makes me wary of taking a big swing at something like 7-2. Rail-drawn CEE ‘N O won his Ellis debut by more than four lengths, but got only a 53 Beyer for the run, and was not especially visually impressive. He has a high knee break-over & an apparently inefficient stride, and for a horse that appears to want to show speed, he doesn’t look especially fast.
The horse in post 2, LOTTA MISCHIEF, does look especially fast: He’s worn blinkers and shown fast-tempo early foot in both his races. He won his second start – on Prairie Meadows dirt after a Canterbury turf debut – by negotiating the turn especially well, but that fact he widened in the stretch while failing to change leads and getting his final eighth in 13 seconds suggests there was not much running happening behind him. Despite a pedigree suited to a one-turn Polytrack mile, he looks like mere pace fodder.
Post 3 also houses a front-running maiden winner, HIGH ROLL, whose 3.75-length Arlington debut score Aug. 3 was among the best maiden performances during a meet light on good maiden performances. Cisco Torres rode High Roll to make the lead out of the gate, and there’s a chance he could rate some with different tactics, but he didn’t gallop out much after that 5.5-furlong race. If it were me, I’d try to get to the rail just in behind whoever goes for the lead & hope this gelding can effectively rally. As with Whyruawesome, value probably won’t be found in the win pool.
SOLITARY RANGER in post 4 also looks like a pace player. He ran well enough to win both his 4.5-furlong maiden races at Keeneland in April but hooked above-average winners both times, including No Nay Never, who won the Group 1 Prix Morny in France last month. The trainer, Wayne Catalano, can get a horse ready for a top effort after a five-month break, and Solitary Ranger has worked fast, but here is another horse who looks like a pace player that might be found wanting late.
I have little idea what to make of CAPTAIN’S AFFAIR, an Irish import who starts for Team Valor and will be ridden by Mike Smith. Captain’s Affair led in his two seven-furlong races in Ireland, so he will be able to at least keep up with a faster-paced US race, but how good is he, and was the soft turf he got in both races a positive or negative? One horse among his five debut rivals has since shown decent form, but that was no great maiden race, and the jury is still out on the Aug. 9 El Gran Senor, in which Captain’s Affair was a fairly close fifth. The winner, Indian Maharaja, looks like a good colt for the Coolmore gang. But it’s a pure guessing game here.
GONE MOUNTAIN is the horse with the one-mile win, but I rate him at the bottom of this group. He was gifted the lead through an opening quarter-mile in just less than 25 seconds in his win, as slow a pace as one will see on the quick IND surface. He’s likely to get hung wide on what’s been the worst part of the AP main track, & I want no part of him.
JOEDINI, the outside horse, is more interesting, but I’d be more into taking a price stab had he drawn inside. Sure, he beat little in his IND debut score, but the final furlong and the gallop-out in that performance were noteworthy. To play, you just have to toss his dud as the odds-on chalk in the MNR Juvenile, where he got away slowly, raced wide, never accelerated or changed leads in the stretch, and was a flat, distant third. On pedigree he handles this longer distance, and Joedini has worked sharply since the MNR run, a race that will inject value into his pricing Saturday.
Bottom line: This race would be ripe for an overlooked, inside-drawn closer, a horse turning back from a two-turn turf mile, for instance. Such a horse is not to be found. Whyruawesome might have the talent and appears to have the right style for the race shape, but in my opinion is not worth the risk of a somewhat low-margin win bet. Were he to drift to 6-1 or thereabouts, I might reconsider that perspective, but I’ll be more likely to key Whyruawesome in exactas with longer-priced horses who I don’t think will lead, and to lean on him a little in multi-race wagers.
Super Derby, Louisiana Downs (Race 8, 6:15 ET)
By Byron King
1. Departing 2. Cameo Appearance 3. Bashaar
Any way one looks at Saturday’s Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, there is no getting past Departing, winner of the West Virginia and Illinois Derbies. Aside from being a no-show in the Preakness, his form since beginning his career last year is excellent, with five wins from seven starts.
His earnings, standing at $1,079,500, also exceed the combined bankrolls of the six rivals facing him.
Value, or rather a lack thereof, is truly the only criticism of Departing, who is even money on the morning line and quite likely to dip to 4-5 or 3-5 odds by post time.
Not seeing any vulnerability in the well-drawn favorite, the best wagering strategy seems to look for horses to use beneath him in the exotics.
Cameo Appearance, breaking just to Departing’s inside in post six, might prove capable of completing the bottom half of the exacta if he possesses the necessary stamina. A naturally speedy horse, he looks poised to get a favorable trip, perhaps running freely on the lead if he can shed West Virginia Derby runner-up Ruler of Love early.
Not having raced beyond a mile or on dirt, he could get overlooked in the wagering. And though it would add to horseplayer confidence if he had such experience, his pedigree indicates that he should route and handle dirt.
If he weakens over the 1 1/8 miles in the Super Derby that would leave late-running Bashaar as the horse most likely to pick up the pieces. Although a non-threatening fourth in his latest when racing in the Jim Dandy, bear in mind te company that finished in front of him – Belmont winner Palace Malice, plus Will Take Charge and Moreno – the one-two finishers in the Travers.
It is his total lack of early speed that lessens his appeal. Horses that rally from the rear-half of the field, as he does, are poor wagers over the long haul – though in this case, the play on him is not to win, but to merely hit the board.
An exacta beneath Departing figures to be skimpy, hence his placement as the third selection, behind the speedy Cameo Appearance in second.
As for the others, stalker Holiday Mischief, upset winner of the Prelude at Louisiana Downs, is also worthy of exotics consideration to a lesser extent, as is Treasury Bill, a graded placed Lemon Drop Kid colt who was third recently in a surprisingly fast allowance at Indiana Downs.
Ruler of Love and Runaway Stephen complete the field and are difficult to back at the mutuel windows in any capacity.
Pocahontas Stakes, Churchill Downs (Race 6, 8:30 ET)
By Marty McGee
Perhaps the best place to start in the G2 Pocahontas is with the filly who has been tabbed as the 3-1 M/L favorite, Milam (#3). Presumably she is such a low number because of the field-high 79 BSF she got in an ElP sprint … but if she is so good, why on earth wasn’t she at Sar with Kenneally this summer instead of with his “off” string in Ky.? You just have to be skeptical here and gamble that, given the new two-turn distance and the substantial raise in class against this fine group, she is extremely vulnerable (although, granted, it’s dubious whether she actually will be the post-time favorite).
By dismissing Milam on this general principle and moving on to the other contenders, there seem two worthy of greatest mention, and those are the race bookends, Untapable (#1) and Stonetastic (#8).
Untapable was scratched from the Aug. 11 Adirondack at Sar after coming down with what Asmussen said was a minor case of colic; she has trained very well in the interim, has plenty of prep from her HOF trainer-to-be, draws favorably with Rosie (assuming she will actually make it here on time from KD), and obviously was well-meant before winning her first-and-only over this track. Surely she’ll be forwardly placed on the stretchout.
Likewise, Stonetastic should have little problem getting early position when breaking from the open-air outside box after absolutely romping in her eye-popping Jersey bow. Kelly Breen said he believes this filly is the goods, and that’s the reason he shipped her and 3 others in from Mth for these races; he, like the others, are wanting that Win and You’re In bonus for shipping to SoCal for the Breeders’ Cup. Look for this one to be very tough to deny.
As for the others, Elena Strikes (#2) chased a couple of nice ones in the Schuylerville when well clear of the rest, and with Johnny V. in to ride for Todd, she’s a rather obvious consideration and just demands to be used in the tricks. A couple who already have two-turn experience, Rosalind (#4) and Harlan’s Special (#5), seem like they could be along for minor awards and are worth using in your verticals.
The bet: Base trifecta part-wheel, 1/8 with 1/2/8 with 1/2/4/5/8; and perhaps more emphasis with crunch tickets such as 1/8 w 1/8 w 2/4/5 AND 1/8 w 2/4/5 w 1/8, which give added emphasis to Untapable and Stonetastic running big.
Iroquois Stakes, Churchill Downs (Race 7, 9:05 ET)
By Marty McGee
The critical question regarding the G3 Iroquois would seem to this: are you for or against Ride On Curlin (#9)? As the 5-2 M/L favorite who has garnered quite a bit of publicity as a much-sought-after 2yo (as of yet, the big fish have yet to swallow the little fish), he takes an awfully big step-up here when stretching out from an ElP mdn. sprint while taking on far, far more talented opposition.
From this corner: against (mostly). It seems a huge and unnecessary gamble for his connections NOT to have sold him; if he runs poorly here, his worth has gone from 7 figures to maybe one-tenth of that. Maybe he is a freak, but he had a minor physical problem (shin) that led to him being scratched from a little PrM stake last month; and plus his post is a tough one in this full field. Nonetheless, he has shown the kind of brilliance thus far that would make it foolish to leave him completely off all tickets.
Having said all that, who can and will win? Here’s a vote strongly in favor of the Cash Is King (of Afleet Alex fame) baby, Honorable Judge (#6), whose 12-1 M/L seems legit because the relatively low BSF (59) from his debut win at Parx won’t inspire much confidence. Still, that may be a fooler; he won by a ton, and his trainer (Butch Reid) doesn’t ship west on a whim. Seems worth a try at a price.
As for the others, Tapiture (#4) was a solid runner-up (with an 81 BSF) behind eventual Hopeful winner Strong Mandate, and Asmussen said this week that he went from wondering whether to run Tapiture in the Iroquois to “hoping we’d get in.” (Maidens can be excluded from stakes if the race overfills.) So he sure seems worth using, even as a maiden.
Also, Rise Up (#3) sure looked good in his Mnr Juv. romp on the W.Va. Derby undercard for Rosie and Amoss, while both of the Breen colts, Solemnly Swear (#7) and the curiously named Jimmy Connors (#8), both earned their way here with dominating mdn. wins at Monmouth.
The bet: Tri part-wheels, 4/6 w 4/6/9 w 3/4/6/7/8/9 and variations thereof, i.e., selected boxes and reverse-cycled part-wheels using those same numbers.
Ack Ack Handicap , Churchill Downs (Race 9, 10:11 ET)
By Kenny Peck
I'm approaching the Ack Ack Handicap with the idea that PANTS ON FIRE could be vulnerable as the 2-1 Morning Line favorite. He does come into the race off a win in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup but he could not have had an easier trip, inheriting the lead when early leader (and odds-on) Take Charge Indy was injured and pulled up, never leaving the rail while a couple of other rivals took measures to avoid the stricken favorite. He's also regressed each of the six times he's returned after posting a lifetime best figure. He's certainly dangerous, especially at this one-turn mile distance, but in terms of value it may be wise to take a shot against him.
GOOD MORNING DIVA is one to consider. He needs to be ridden with patience, as the presence of RIGHT TO VOTE and TAPTOWNE could mean an intense early pace, but he has rated effectively in the past. His career-best figure did come over this track, and though he has not won at this exact distance he has won routing, scoring in the 1 1/16 mile Calder Derby on the main track in April of 2012 and on the turf course there in November. He also ran a big race was 2nd back in March when in a one-turn mile at Gulfstream.
GOOD MORNING DIVA makes his first start since late July but he runs well off this type of freshening, and, aside from his most recent, when he was caught behind a controlled pace set by the eventual winner, his Beyers are consistently in the 90's, which makes him a contender here.
BRETHREN was a game winner when last seen, in the Evangeline Mile, beating SABERCAT along the way. That effort was perhaps better than it may appear, as he put away a couple of pure speeds and was still able to draw away late. The concern is that the effort was enhanced by the wet track, which he apparently relishes, but if he's able to run back to that race in this Ack Ack he's a threat to win it.
TAPTOWNE is going to be tough. That win in the West Virginia Governor's last time was solid, and he has the best Beyers in this field. Most importantly, he has established that he does not necessarily need the lead to win, and with the speedy RIGHT TO VOTE to his inside that's no small consideration. He figures to be just off that rival, as jockey Calvin Borel isn't likely to engage him in a needless speed duel, and he should be able to make a run at the lead into the turn. The main knocks on TAPTOWNE may be that he seems to want a little more ground than this, and he will be a relatively light price.
RIGHT TO VOTE tries a mile after five straight sprints but it does seem this is a little long for him, especially given the level of competition. His stock would rise if the track is carrying speed well, as he should be on the lead, but his ability to stave off runners of this quality at this distance has to be questioned at this stage of his racing career.
LOOKING COOL meets older for the first time and he could be in a tough spot against this salty group. The Beyer he earned in the Iowa Derby puts him in the hunt but since he had never before approached that figure, and he reverted to a more typical Beyer in the Jim Dandy, that number looks a bit like an aberration. This does appear to be his best distance but the question is if he's good enough.
Was it the addition of Bute that moved up MOE MAN in his latest, resulting in a career-best figure? Or was it a function of trip, combined with a soft field? Since most of the runner in that John Bullit field came in with average Beyers in the mid-80's I'm assuming it's the latter, and MOE MAN has trouble replicating that form here.
SABERCAT was behind BRETHREN in the Evangeline Mile last time despite a fairly good pace set-up. He was also behind TAPTOWNE in their two meetings at Oaklawn early this year. His last win came in the Delta Jackpot in November of 2011, and he figures to have trouble winning this. That said, he may be one to consider for the bottom of exotics given his penchant for getting checks.
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Marcus is right... These are condition races n that's how to view their results.