09/25/2008 11:00PM

Global Hunter live shooter in Oak Tree Mile

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - There will be two graded stakes races at Santa Anita on Sunday, and both will have Breeders' Cup implications, with the winner of each race earning a berth in a Breeders' Cup race under the Win and You're In format.

The Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile is a one-mile turf race that figures to be very competitive.

Hyperbaric won his last two races, and nearly always makes his presence felt. He has nine top-three finishes from 10 starts. And he proved that he fits at this class level, finishing second in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap, third in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, and third in the Grade 3 American Handicap. He also likes this turf course with a win and 2 seconds from 3 local starts.

Golden Balls finished last of seven when better things were expected at 4-1 odds in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill, then headed for the sidelines. But he ran well while finishing second in the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap and third in the Arcadia Handicap in his two previous races, so a rebound would be no surprise.

Awesome Gem is a deep closer who is overdue for a win after four second-place finishes, and a pair of thirds from his last 10 races. Although all of his recent graded stakes placings were on synthetic or dirt tracks, he earned a respectable 95 Beyer Speed Figure when he lost the restricted Wickerr on the grass two races ago, so the return to the grass seems unlikely to hinder him in this race.

Tropic Storm has been quite consistent with 10 top-three finishes from his last 11 races. He handled the jump into graded stakes company three races ago and has now finished second in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, third in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap, and third in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile Handicap. Although he shows only one grass start, he ran well in it, finishing a close second.

Ferneley checked in fifth of six in the Gradeo1 Eddie Read in his first U.S. start, but was beaten by only three lengths.

I like Global Hunter, who should offer a square price. He ran a much-improved race when he moved to the turf and finished third, only a length behind the winner, as a 29-1 longshot last time in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile. He lacked room briefly in deep stretch in that race, then finished strongly when clear. That was his first grass start in the U.S., and a similar effort would give him a legitimate chance to upset this field. His 46.40-second work since that race is encouraging.

Norfolk: Regal Ransom exits key race

The 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Norfolk is an interesting handicapping challenge. The horses who look best on paper will be stretching out to a route distance for the first time. There are two horses who show wins going a mile, but Del Conte, who beat maiden specials on the turf at Del Mar, and Tiger Blitz, who beat maiden specials second time out at Del Mar, must run faster than they did in those races to be effective here.

Midshipman is a perfect 2 for 2, with a maiden score in his debut and a triumph in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity second time out. He'll be formidable if he runs as well with an extra 1 1/2 furlongs to cover today. But it is a concern that, despite winning, his Beyer dipped 6 points last time on the move from 5o1/2 to seven furlongs.

Street Hero finished third, just three-quarters of a length behind Midshipman in the Del Mar Futurity, and was gaining steadily on that rival down the stretch. The added distance might be all he needs to turn the tables on that opponent. Improvement is also possible with the addition of blinkers.

Silent Valor was a comfortable maiden winner in the slop at Belmont, took 3 1/2 months off, then won the Grade 3 Sapling. The catch is that, despite his win, his Beyer declined by 7 points on the move from five to six furlongs.

Regal Ransom defeated maiden specials in his debut, a swift seven-furlong race that netted a 93 Beyer. It was also a key race. Second-place finisher Brave Victory won his next start by 7o1/4 lengths, with a 93 Beyer. Third-place finisher Royal Vindication, who finished eight lengths behind Regal Ransom, won his next race by 3 1/4 lengths, with a 90 Beyer.

Handicappers looking for a reason to bet against Regal Ransom won't find any weaknesses in Kiaran McLaughlin's training statistics. He shows 25 percent wins second time out, 26 percent wins stretching out from sprint to route, and 27 percent wins with horses who won their last race, all with profitable returns on investment. Regal Ransom is my selection.