02/13/2012 11:25AM

Trip Notes: Donn Handicap, San Marcos Stakes, and more


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hutcheson (race 8)

The race lost some luster when Ever So Lucky scratched due to a wet track from overnight/morning rains. He’ll point to the Grade 2 Swale on March 10 for his 2012 debut. The absence of that foe made Thunder Moccasin a heavy favorite coming off a powerful maiden win that also had been flattered (second and third finishers both came back to win easily). He broke alertly, dogged pacesetter Il Villano from the start, had no trouble taking over from that rival into the lane, and drew off to win with ease. This wasn’t the strongest bunch, but the way he won says he could surely be a big-time one-turn 3-year-old. The Grade 2 Swale could be next, where he may run headlong into Ever So Lucky. Il Villano broke sharply and went right to the lead. He was hounded by the winner from the start, tried to battle back when hooked on the turn, but was no match, though he managed to just hold on for second. Quick Wit was last early in the small field and made steady headway, though he was never really on the winner’s radar.

Suwannee River (race 9)

Snow Top Mountain was good enough to be Grade 1 placed at 3 in 2010, but she hadn’t really progressed since, that is until today. The 5-year-old lagged back early on the course labeled good from overnight rains, bided her time, still seemed to be in dire straits turning for home, but blasted home to get up for the win. The Grade 3 The Very One on Feb. 25 may be coming back too quickly, but she could instead wait a bit longer and back up in distance for the Grade 3 Honey Fox (at a mile) on March 18. Hit It Rich stalked the pace, loomed a big threat turning for home, looked as though she might win when she stuck her head in front in midstretch, but couldn’t outfinish the winner. Gold d’Oro lagged back with the eventual winner after a slow start, made an earlier move into the lane, but couldn’t quite sustain her run. Denomination, the favorite, was last early, still last into the lane, and got going far too late.

Donn Handicap (race 10)

Hymn Book hinted he was ready for the big time when second in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 26, and he confirmed that here with a game performance. Of course, it didn’t hurt he got a wet track as after this he’s now 4 for 5 on wet going. Even so, he bided his time midpack, swung very wide into the lane, and came home resolutely, despite getting bumped hard in midstretch by eventual fourth Where’s Sterling, and just got up in the final jump. Any and all big Grade 1 dirt races figure on his radar. Trainer Shug McGaughey said New York would be his focus for this guy, but the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap on April 14 could still be next. Mission Impazible did everything right, but lost a heartbreaker. He stalked the pace, surged to the lead into the lane and looked like the winner, but just got nipped in the final strides. Redeemed did the best of the new 4-year-olds as he was with Mission Impazible from the start. He couldn’t quite accelerate with that rival into the lane, but gamely held third. Flat Out lagged back and made only modest headway. He apparently just isn’t as good as he was last summer or as originally thought. Trickmeister, previously unbeaten in five starts, set the pace under pressure from Shackleford and weakened. Shackleford, last year’s Grade 1 Preakness winner, dogged Trickmeister from the start, but paid the price as he too gave way. Ruler On Ice, last year’s Grade 1 Belmont winner, lagged back and never made a move as the two classic winners from 2011 were quite disappointing.

Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (race 11)

Heavy overnight/morning rains were the cause of numerous scratches, including one of the favorites Boisterous. Get Stormy, coming off a sizzle-and-fizzle in the Grade 1 BC Mile (ran 12th) showed there’s still plenty of gas in the tank at age 6 with a front-running win. Sent off the second choice, Get Stormy bounced right out to clear early lead, hugged the rail while able to set modest splits, and kept his rivals at bay all the way round. Last year after running third in this, he waited for the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark at Keeneland in April and won, so that may be the plan again. Hollinger, who rallied strongly for third in the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale here Jan. 14 (awarded second via disqualification), stalked the pace, kept on doggedly after the winner all the way to the line, and while able to close the gap just couldn’t quite get to him. Big Blue Kitten, who rallied furiously for third versus optional claimers here Dec. 31, his first start in 4 months, showed he may be a force in the division this year after winning a Grade 2 last year at 3. He lagged back and made a smart run into the lane, though he wasn’t ever really a factor. Yummy With Butter, who set the pace and finished second in the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale before being disqualified to sixth, tried different tactics. Whereas he nearly led all the way in the Fort Lauderdale, this time he lagged back and made some headway without threatening. Silver Medallion, winner of the Fort Lauderdale, chased the winner from the start, but then hit the brakes badly to finish last as the favorite.

Santa Anita
San Marcos (race 9)

Slim Shadey, an English transplant, apparently has a new lease on life in the United States and showed again the importance of speed. This was easily the biggest win of his career, but after coming from off the pace to win at this trip here Jan.12, he employed speed this time and was able to play keep-away all the way around versus much tougher foes. He broke alertly and bounced right out to a clear lead. He was able to set dawdling splits, opened up into the lane, and that gave him enough of a buffer to just get to the line before a hard-charging Utopian. The logical next spot is the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo – but that’s a 1 1/2 miles, a trip that figures to be much kinder to beaten favorite Sanagas. Utopian chased the winner early, fell back turning for home as if he was done, but found another gear and came home with good energy to just miss. Norvsky lagged back and finished decently, though this may be pushing it for him distance-wise. Bourbon Bay, previously 5 for 6 on this course, stalked in fourth, but never mustered a run. He apparently just isn’t the horse he once was. Sanagas was basically one-paced all the way around and while surely this trip was too short for him, you still had to be distressed he ended up last, particularly after looking so powerful winning the Hollywood Turf Cup on Nov. 19 and training so well for this.