04/08/2013 9:38AM

Trip Notes: Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, and more


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ruffian (race 4)

Withgreatpleasure appears back to top form as  she posted a big upset. She’d knocked heads with a number of these before and held her own, but when she gave way badly in the Grade 2 Top Flight here March 2 you had to be worried. She bounced back to beat easier at Charles Town and that set her up for this fine outing. She bided her time while saving ground, steadily advanced down the backside, continued to move forward grabbing the lead on the turn while staying inside, opened up and gamely kept My Wandy’s Girl at bay. My Wandy’s Girl fires every time and did so again here as she sat 4th, came with a run into the lane but couldn’t get to the winner. Twice the Lady, who easily beat Withgreatpleasure back into 2nd when winning the Affectionately here Jan. 26 and then a fine 2nd in the Grade 2 Top Flight, was last early, still last turning for home and finished decently but was never really a threat. Funnys Approval, coming off 4 straight wins including the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie where she beat many of these, bounced out to a clear lead but gave way once headed turning for home. This is a nice bunch but none of them are ready for the big girls.

Gazelle (race 8)

Close Hatches made it a perfect 3 for 3 and likely punched her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks May 3 with a smart victory. She used her speed to bounce right out to the lead. She set a modest early pace, was challenged on the turn, and drew clear to win fairly easily. She’s a nice filly on the rise, though still not sure she’s ready for Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Unlimited Budget, Midnight Lucky, Flashy Gray and company. She certainly won’t get this type of trip there against those gals. Princess of Sylmar, coming off 4 straight huge wins, did nothing wrong in defeat as she bided her time in 4th, made a smart run at the winner on the far turn, charging up to get alongside, but couldn’t keep pace in the lane while clearly best of the rest. Her connections originally said by NewYork races like the CCA Oaks and Alabama are their focus, but she might still go to the KentuckyOaks where she’d give trainer Todd Pletcher a 3-headed monster (Dreaming of Julia, Unlimited Budget are the others). Walkwithapurpose went into this off 5 straight wins at Laurel. She chased the winner from the start, moved closer while inside going to the far turn, but started losing ground to the winner and couldn’t keep up with the runner-up either.


Bay Shore (race 9)

Declan’s Warrior, facing stakes company for the first time, withstood the class hike as he posted an upset here and may have stamped himself a potential Grade 1 King’s Bishop type. He was slow into stride, content to lag well back while Retrieve set a brisk pace, swung wide into the lane to start his run and surged late to just get up in the final strides. Clearly Now, winner of the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream last month, stalked the pace, moved to the lead in midstretch as if he was going to go on to victory but just couldn’t quite fend off the winner. Still, a good run. The Truth and K G was just in front of the winner early, made an earlier run to try and challenge for the lead into the lane but couldn’t sustain it. Honorable Dillon won  the Grade 3 Hutcheson Feb. 2 and faded behind Verrazano in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby last month. He broke poorly, was last early and made only modest headway. Maleeh, the favorite after winning his first 2 starts, found these waters too deep as he was midpack from the start and never made a move.

Carter (race 10)

Swagger Jack was no match for Discreet Dancer in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap last month but a change of venue gained him his revenge at a big price. Swagger Jack bided his time early, rushed up smartly to grab the lead by midstretch and dug in gamely to get to the line before a hard-charging Sahara Sky. He’s proven at a mile, and off this may deserve a crack at the Grade 1 Met Mile later next month. Sahara Sky, one of the top sprinters from California, did that circuit proud as he sat last early, remained there to the top of the lane, swung out to launch his bid and powered home but just couldn’t quite get to the winner. His connections had mentioned the Met Mile as his main target and nothing that happened here figures to alter those plans. Discreet Dancer, so huge winning the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap last month, didn’t come close to duplicating that form in his first start away from Gulfstream. He stalked the pace, moved closer turning for home but flattened out and was no real threat in the final furlong.  Could be he bounced or could be he’s not as effective away from Gulfstream.

Wood Memorial (race 11)

This wasn’t the powerhouse win by Verrazano some were expecting but in some regards it may have been better as the unbeaten 3-year-old had to show some fight to prevail – and he did. He got a dream trip stalking pacesetter Chrisandthecapper, who set a slow pace. He moved up easily outside that foe, then quickly took command, was immediately tackled by Vyjack, gamely rebuffed that foe and had enough to get to the line before Normandy Invasion. He may be the favorite in Louisville, though Orb will certainly garner much attention as well. Other big issue is whom will Velazquez choose to ride, Verrazano or Orb? To complicate things, Velasquez was taken off on a stretcher after a spill Sunday. Normandy Invasion accomplished 2 things with his solid 2nd – he showed he indeed fits with top 3-year-olds and got the points necessary to ensure a spot in the starting gate at Churchill. He sat midpack, and with the slow pace wasn’t as far away early as in some of his other races. He moved closer on the turn, doggedly went after the leaders in the lane and finished well. This was an ideal prep and the way he ran on hints the added 2 furlongs of the Derby will be right up his alley. Vyjack stalked the pace, moved up eagerly to challenge the winner into the lane, battled gamely but just wasn’t quite good enough. He ran well in his first defeat and showed he’s not out of his element vs. the best of his peers. He reportedly had some mucus after being scoped. Elnaawi, 3rd to Vyjack in the Grade 3 Gotham and a bit of a buzz horse for this race, sat 3rd early while saving ground, remained on the rail next to Vyjack and not far behind Verrazano, moved closer going to the far turn but couldn’t keep up when the sprinting began. Freedom Child had a terrible start as his head was turned sideways when the gates opened. The final time wasn’t much (1:50.27 compared to 1:50.53 run by the fillies in the Gazelle) but that was a function of the dawdling pace and you can see the boys came home fast.

Ashland (race 9)

Emollient got a much-needed win and confidence boost and put herself back into the Kentucky Oaks mix with a smashing effort. She got throttled by Dreaming of Julia in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks March 30 (5th, beaten 30 lengths) but trainer Bill Mott opted to bring her back quickly and it paid off. She went right out to the lead, was clear while able to set slow splits, and basically just cruised away from her competition to win in a romp while geared down. Tuttipaesi, coming off a turf stakes win and who romped in her only synthetic track try in Italy last year, showed she’s the real deal. She was last early but steadily advanced and kept to her task well even if no threat to the winner. Kittens Point, who won the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on turf over the runner-up last month, was midpack early, got shuffled further back turning  for home and finished decently. Spring Venture was well back from the start and never got involved. Spring in the Air, the tepid 4-1 favorite, seemed in a decent spot stalking early in 4th but she backed out of it.

Santa Anita
Santa Anita Oaks (race 5)

Dreaming of Julia may have created all sorts of buzz with her dazzling Gulfstream Park Oaks win last week but Beholder reminded everyone she’s the champ for a reason as she posted another front-running victory and might now look to affirm her status atop the division in the Kentucky Oaks. As usual her speed was lethal. She bounced right out to a clear lead, set modest spits and basically played keep-away all the way around while winning pretty much under a hand ride only. Iotapa sat 4th early and steadily advanced though she was never a threat to the winner. Fiftyshadesofhay, 2nd to Beholder in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes last month, chased the winner from the start, tried to make a run at her turning for home but was no match once again for the champ. Since Bob Baffert already has Midnight Lucky slated for the Kentucky Oaks he might instead find other game for this filly, who is talented but at best ranks as just the 3rd best 3-year-old filly in his barn, behind Executiveprivilege and Midnight Lucky.

Santa Anita
Potrero Grande (race 7)

Jimmy Creed won the Grade 1 Malibu in impressive fashion Dec. 26, but a series of setbacks kept him on the bench since. However, he was declared ready to go for this and he proved his connections right with another strong performance. He dogged pacesetter Comma to the Top from the start, got the better of that tiring foe into the lane, opened up a quick lead and then gamely held off the hard-trying Unbridled’s Note. This was sure a nice way to return to action, but it’s worth noting he didn’t face the best of the Southern California sprinters like Fast Bullet, Sahara Sky or Amazombie. The Grade 1 Met Mile may be on his calendar next. Unbridled’s Note, 3rd to Jimmy Creed in the Malibu and then winner of a grass sprint stakes here Feb. 23, stalked in 4th, doggedly kept to his task and was closing the gap on the winner late but just couldn’t quite get to him. He pretty much fires every time be it dirt, slop or turf. Apriority, who once knocked heads with the best, showed signs of his old form as he lagged back early, made a smart run into the lane to look threatening but couldn’t sustain it. Comma to the Top, a sharp 3rd in the Grade 2 San Carlos here Feb. 23 and then gutsy winner of the Grade 2 Tom Fool at Aqueduct March 2, set the pace inside while being hounded by Jimmy Creed and weakened into the lane. Could be those tough races and shipping across the country and back may have taken some of the run out of him.

Santa Anita
Providencia (race 8)

Scarlet Strike got away from champion Beholder went back to turf, and it paid off as the daughter of Smart Strike notched her first stakes win. She lagged well back early, bided her time, swung wide into the lane and finished strongly to get the win. Now that she’s proven on turf she could surely be a Grade 1 American Oaks/Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks type of filly. Birdlover, wire-to-wire winner of the China Doll, almost made it 2 straight as she again used her speed to make the running, opened up into the lane, battled gamely when challenged by the winner late and while unable to fend off that rival finished well clear of the rest. Sweet Red Cat sat back with Scarlet Strike early, got shuffled back to last turning for home but finished strongly. Flashy Ways was well back, swung very wide into the lane and put in a strong rally. Sarach chased Birdlover from the start but tired from those efforts.

Santa Anita
Santa Anita Derby (race 9)

Race complexion changed when Hear the Ghost, one of the favorites, scratched Thursday due to injury and is off the Triple Crown trail. A change of tactics got Goldencents back on track and back on the Derby trail. His Grade 2 San Felipe was a debacle as he rushed up into a duel with Flashback and paid the price. He made no such mistake this time. Here he showed more patience, still using his speed but this time to pressure Super Ninety Nine instead of dueling. He went past that tiring rival turning for home and gamely stayed on to keep Flashback at bay. On to Louisville as trainer O'Neill goes for a 2nd straight Derby. Flashback, the favorite, sat a couple lengths off the lead, bided his time, made his run into the lane to go after Goldencents, but just couldn’t get to him while much the best of the rest (8 1/2 lengths). Unfortunately he came out of the race with a knee chip and is off the Derby trail. Super Ninety Nine set a brisk pace but faltered turning for home to be a well-beaten 3rd. His Derby status would have to be considered tenuous at best. Tiz a Minister, who closed so well in the San Felipe when 3rd, was last from the start, still last turning for home and could make only modest headway.