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WINS OF THE WEEK
It was the richest overlay of the meet. One Track Mind ($13) led wire to wire in a five-horse main-track allowance May 21. The only front-runner in the 1 1/16-mile race, he was perfectly ridden by Tyler Baze, who allowed the gelding to use his weapon, which is his speed. He opened up on sharp fractions of 47.05 and 1:10.86, put away off-form pace rival Kelly Leak, and held by a nose over Aggie Engineer. David Bernstein trains One Track Mind, who has won six races and $212,532 since he was claimed from his fourth start in a $25,000 maiden claimer July 31, 2008. One Track Mind is the leading money earner ($226,532) sired by Mach One, whose second-ranked earner is a long way back. Mach Ones Girl earned $25,364.
One Track Mind's race exposed Chocolate Candy. A 4-year-old, he was considered a potential stakes horse this season, but his flat fourth in the allowance seemingly eliminates that possibility. Handicappers have repeatedly overrated Chocolate Candy, runner-up in the 2009 Santa Anita Derby. That race produced one significant older horse: fourth-place finisher Take the Points, who later won three Grade 1's. Last-place Santa Anita Derby finisher Gallant Son, a Grade 3 winner, is scheduled to run Monday in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.
Trainer Marty Jones was concerned his streaking turf sprint filly Unzip Me would be tough to handle around the tight turn when she sprinted six furlongs at Hollywood in the Great Lady M. Stakes on May 21. Jones had a right to worry.
Although Unzip Me previously won on the course, she has become faster with maturity. Unzip Me was a handful for jockey Joe Talamo to control, which he did, and despite trying to drift through the turn, she led throughout in 1:09. It was her fifth straight win. Watch out if she finds a turf course with broad, sweeping turns.
It was only a half-length allowance win by Bogie on May 19, but the lightly raced 3-year-old already looks like a worthy foe against Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Line of David when they meet June 20 in the Grade 3 Will Rogers for 3-year-olds on grass. Bogie won comfortably. He is 2 for 4, stakes-placed in the U.S., and has much upside for trainer Paddy Gallagher.
UPSETS OF THE WEEK
The week's two highest win payoffs were May 19 new shooters. The 2-year-old first-time starter Drink At Buster's ($47) was trainer David La Croix's final starter. La Croix, long one of the top 2-year-old longshot trainers in spring, has retired from training to focus on breeding and selling. It is unfortunate for horseplayers who occasionally cashed on overlay 2-year-olds trained by La Croix, such as 2008 winners Meetyouatyogi's ($68.40) and Upper Manhattan ($34) and 2005 winner Bully Bones ($77.20).
Another longshot winner May 19 was a Vindication filly trying turf for the first time in her 18-start career. Pretty Katherine ($35.60) had names such as Zenyatta, Made for Magic, and St Trinians in her running lines, but her recent form was below par. Switching to grass, she wore down loose-on-the-lead Burg Berg to win by a neck. Pretty Katherine was the highest payoff by a Jerry Hollendorfer winner in Southern California since Rendezvous won the 2009 Del Mar Derby at 22-1.
The May 22 maiden win by Rapport is complicated. Her 1:15.90 time earned a mere 84 Beyer, she switched to her wrong lead late, and she was doing her best to the wire. On the other hand, the Bob Baffert-trained Songandaprayer filly set the meet's fastest fractions for 6 1/2 furlongs (21.75 and 44.54) and drew off by 5 1/4 lengths. Was the win as good as a fast-pace, five-length win suggests? It is hard to tell. The only certainty is that Rapport is awfully quick. The next rung on the ladder will tell the tale. Win or lose, Rapport will be the one to catch.
When he was away from the races for more than two years, it seemed improbable that Grade 2-winning turf miler Crossing the Line would ever return to form. But after losing the first three starts of his comeback, the 8-year-old gelding has won three straight claiming races, including a $40,000 claimer May 21 that was his eighth win from 12 starts. John Sadler trains the New Zealand import for Doubledown Stables.
WHO'S NOT HOT
How could the leading trainer be "not hot"? Doug O'Neill's 10 wins at the meet tie him for the lead with Bob Baffert, John Sadler, and Mike Mitchell. The reason O'Neill is "not hot" is a 14.2 percent win rate and correspondingly low $1.02 return for each $2 win bet. It is not O'Neill's fault his horses are overbet, but handicappers have been overestimating his runners all spring.
If you knock a trainer, you also have to give him props for a good job with a good horse. O'Neill made a terrific claim when he took Lava Man's half-brother Enriched for $32,000 last Nov. 1. In nine starts since, Enriched has earned $175,676. On May 22, Enriched powered to a 9 1/4-length victory in a first-level allowance race at one mile on turf. His final time of 1:33.20 translated to a 110 Beyer Figure. It was the highest figure of the meet, and 10 points higher than the next-highest turf race.
Horseplayers recognize Peter Miller as a high-percentage trainer in the right spots. Although Miller is having another good meet (one-two finishes with 11 of 23 starters), one category in which Miller has fallen short is 2-year-olds. Miller won one race from his first nine juvenile starters, including seven who started at 4-1 or less. Those statistics would be less bleak if May 20 first-time starter Comma to the Top had won the eighth race. He lost by a head but was a mile best.
HANDICAPPING AND BETTING
It does not get much chalkier than May 22, when favorites went 6 for 9; second choices won the other three. The first three winners were odds-on; the $1 pick three returned $5.40. It was a good day to arrive late.
The $2 pick six paid $643.20, and bettors who followed Bob Ike's selections only needed a $2 ticket. Ike, a leading newspaper handicapper for more than 20 years in California, swept the nine-race card May 22. Ike's selections are published in Los Angeles-area newspapers, including the Los Angeles Daily News, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, and Orange County Register.
Veteran newspaper handicapper Jerry
Antonucci also made news for a week that started grimly and ended a lot better. Antonucci was diagnosed with a brain tumor (benign) May 17. He underwent brain surgery May 20, was out of intensive care a day later, and scheduled to return home May 25, only five days after surgery. Antonucci, whose handicapping career began in 1972, expects to return to work before the Hollywood meet ends July 18.
It would have been nice to have paid attention before the third race May 23. It was the Fran's Valentine Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares. Only five entered, odds-on You Lift Me Up was the recipient of most of the show pool. When she finished a flat fourth, the show payoffs on winner U R All That I Am, runner-up Woman Warrior, and third-place Salty Fries were $7.80, $21.40, and $25.20.
The winning pick six Friday, May 21, was the ninth single-ticket winner this meet (from the first 21 days). According to the Hollywood Park publicity department, the lone winning ticket returned $112,216 and was purchased for $24 at Golden Gate Fields.
HORSES TO WATCH
Big Man in Town
Trainer: Mike Pender
Last race: May 20, 2nd
Finish: 6th by 11 1/4
This $25,000 maiden claimer got limited betting support in his debut but showed plenty of run after breaking poorly. He hesitated and was away last, uncorked a big move to reach contention on the turn, and then flattened out. Maidens from this stable typically improve; this Benchmark colt may only need a clean break.
Trainer: Caesar Dominguez
Last race: May 20, 3rd
Finish: 4th by 4
Four and one-half furlongs was too short for this 2-year-old California-bred filly. She lacked speed, angled out, and finished with run while crying for more ground. She can win an upcoming race for statebred maidens at five furlongs or (preferably) farther.
Comma to the Top
Trainer: Peter Miller
Last race: May 20, 8th
Finish: 2nd by head
This 2-year-old rookie was well meant and should have galloped at 7.60-1. Racing for a $40,000 tag, he broke slowly, steadied into the turn, rerallied, waited for room behind horses into the lane, found a seam, rallied, and then lost his punch. With a clean trip next time vs. similar, he should crush. Unfortunately, his odds will be much shorter.
Trainer: Walther Solis
Last race: May 23, 10th
Finish: 3rd by 2 3/4
A first-time starter by Officer, this colt ran well against a heavily favored stablemate, second-start winner River's Chapel. Doughboy raced inside, steadied at the half, and then went evenly. This was a good prep. He should improve with a race under his belt.