03/05/2012 10:48AM

Trip Notes: Santa Anita Handicap, Gotham Stakes, and more


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Top Flight Handicap (race 5)

On paper It’s Tricky dominated this, and while she didn’t blitz her rivals she did what she had to do to kick off her 2012 campaign. The daughter of Mineshaft was among the best of her division last year with only Royal Delta seen as a better 3-year-old filly by Eclipse voters. Here she stalked the pace of Love and Pride, went after that rival on the turn, needed some encouragement from rider Dominguez but pushed past but grabbed the lead and was kept to her task to edge away while getting a bit weary. In her defense, the drying-out track seemed quite tiring. Love and Pride, coming off a seven-length romp in the Affectionately here Jan. 28, used her speed as expected to carve the pace, tried to battle back when hooked by the winner but couldn’t keep pace. Bahama Bound, 3rd to Love and Pride in the Affectionately but well beaten (9 1/4 lengths), plugged along to get 3rd but was never really a factor.

Tom Fool Handicap (race 9)

Calibrachoa won this last year as part of a hot streak and may be on his way to another one after posting a game tally. He stalked the pace of Royal Currier, got first run on Caleb’s Posse, came home smartly and just got to the line before Caleb’s Posse. Last year after winning this he was freshened but this year this start came off the bench. No reason the Grade 1 Carter on the big track here April 7 shouldn’t be on his radar. Caleb’s Posse did just what you expect – lag back and storm home, though his rally fell just short. Still, it was a fine effort and should set him up well for the Carter, his primary target. You have the makings of a wonderful one-turn division what with this guy, Amazombie, The Factor, Sway Away. Force Freeze, Shackleford, Calibrachoa and Jackson Bend. Emcee, inexplicably favored off a big maiden win and big N1X win which admittedly were impressive, dogged pacesetter Royal Currier from the start but couldn’t quite match the top 2 in the final furlong. Still, for just his 3rd start and first try vs. this caliber it was promising – but favored?

Gotham Stakes (race 10)

Hansen, last year’s 2-year-old champ who suffered his first defeat in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Jan. 29, overcame a tough outside post and tiring track. With blinkers removed so he wouldn’t be so eager he showed a little more patience, stalking in 3rd behind pacesetter King and Crusader while a bit wide on the first turn. He seemed comfortable there, steadily advanced to the far turn, surged clear into the lane and really wasn’t in any danger. Nice bounce-back. His trainer Maker said the Grade 1 Wood here April 7 would be next. My Adonis, who finished just behind Hansen in the Holy Bull, was the horse immediately behind again, though not nearly as close or as threatening. He was midpack early, got position just behind Hansen coming off the clubhouse turn, stayed there to look threatening, but couldn’t accelerate with the winner while coming home well to be much the best of the rest (6 lengths). The Wood is also his target. Finnegans Wake was last early and finished with good energy but was never really a factor. Dan and Sheila stalked the pace early but steadily retreated. 

Gulfstream Park
Canadian Turf Stakes (race 10)

Doubles Partner showed quality when 3rd in the Grade 1 Turf Classic last May 7 on the Kentucky Derby undercard, but hadn’t been seen since. However, trainer Todd Pletcher had him primed and ready and his class shone through as the son of Rock Hard Ten won nicely. He stalked the pace while saving ground, angled out into the lane and while the rally wasn’t explosive he just kept coming and pushed past the leaders. Another shot at the Turf Classic (May 5) would seem in the cards. Trend stalked the pace of favorite and defending champ Little Mike, moved up to challenge that rival into the lane, was getting the better of him but couldn’t fend off the winner. Data Link was last early but put in a solid, sustained run for 3rd. Little Mike, winner of this last year and on a 4-race win streak, set the pace as expected but was pushed through fast splits and weakened a bit late. Mutual Trust, much-ballyhooed when he came here from Europe, was never really a factor in a 2nd disappointing effort in the U.S. A Group 1 winner in France last year he apparently isn’t comfortable in his new surroundings.

Santa Anita Park
Las Virgenes Stakes (race 9)

Eden’s Moon couldn’t handle Reneesgotzip at Hollywood Dec. 18 but then romped over maidens by 11 1/2 lengths. She had to be scratched (ill) from the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel but she’d trained wonderfully since and gave Bob Baffert another big win. Whereas most expected Reneesgotzip to be the controlling speed, instead it was this gal who went right out to the lead. She took pressure early from Made to Love Her and then from Reneesgotzip heading into the backstretch but she kept that gal at arm’s reach and kicked away in the lane for the easy win. She may have caught a break as replays seemed to show her rider’s whip smacking Reneesgotzip in the face a couple times turning for home. Eden’s Moon’s main target is the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks May 5 and she might go next in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks March 31. Reneesgotzip did everything right, pressing the winner from the start. She tried to make a run at the winner into the lane, popped her head upward a couple times (presumably when hit on the face by the whip of her rival’s rider) and didn’t resume her run. She’s likely for the Santa Anita Oaks as well. Open Water, a Ky. invader, lagged back and finished well but this was basically a 2-horse race. Willa B Awesome, winner of the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, stalked the top 2 but never mustered a run. Killer Graces and Charm the Maker, 1-2 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet and then 2-4 in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, sat back and never made a move. Killer Graces may simply be better on synthetic and Charm the Maker may want turf.

Santa Anita Park
Frank Kilroe Mile (race 10)

Willyconker couldn’t finish with Mr. Commons in the Grade 2 Arcadia here Feb. 4 but he got his revenge and is now a Grade 1 winner. He stalked the pace, got first run on Mr. Commons, was able to edge past Compari in the final furlong and get to the line before Mr. Commons. He’s run in 6 straight mile grass races and has 4 wins and 2 seconds so he’s found his niche. He’s also had success with varying styles. His connections are hoping this win earns him an invite to the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on turf or Group 1 Godolphin Mile on synthetic footing there March 31. Mr. Commons, the heavy favorite, was well back early, moved up to look dangerous turning for home, had to wait just a bit for room entering the lane and that may have been the difference as he then finished decently but just couldn’t quite get to the winner. Rider Mike Smith said he has no excuses and thought he didn’t show his normal late kick. Compari dogged pacesetter Jimmy Simms from the start, took the lead in midstretch but couldn’t fend off the top 2. Jeranimo sat 5th early, looked dangerous turning for home, came home well but never really looked as though he would win. He'll get an extended vacation now and point for a summer return.

Santa Anita Park
Santa Anita Handicap (race 11)

Ron the Greek benefitted from a suicidal pace and flattered the form of Mucho Macho Man as he invaded from Florida to capture Santa Anita’s biggest prize. Unable to threaten Mucho Macho Man when 2nd to that foe in the Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 28, he lagged well back early off fast fractions, steadily advanced to the far turn, swung out into the lane and powered home to win going away. Main question is whether he’s become that good or whether he exposed the West Coast contingent as less than stellar. Setsuko, 2nd in this last year, got the same reward this season. He sat midpack, moved up smartly into the lane and finished well but was no match for the winner. Uh Oh Bango was far back early, still far back turning for home but finished good energy. Ditto Holladay Road and Norvsky. The closers did so well because favored Ultimate Eagle went far too fast too soon, setting hot splits while being hounded by Gladding and he paid the price as he gave way badly in the lane.