12/27/2012 3:33PM

Weekend Warrior for Dec. 29, 2012: Picks for Dave's Friend, Mr. Prospector, and Daytona Stakes

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Wilkinson shows no recent races, but comes into the Grade 3 Daytona at Santa Anita with a steady series of workouts, including three bullets since November.

The Weekend Warrior hits the final stop for 2012 with the hopes of parlaying some of that loose change Santa left in his stocking into some shipping money for the New Year. And who couldn’t use some extra coin as we draw ever closer to falling off that fiscal cliff next week?

Our first two stops will be Laurel Park and Gulfstream Park, both old stomping grounds for this substitute warrior, and then we will venture out to the familiar terrain of Santa Anita for one of those down-the-hill melees that always pique a horseplayer’s interest.

Dave’s Friend

Named for the sturdy sprinter who they still marvel about in the Maryland press boxes, this $100,000 race drew a field worthy of its namesake and purse, with the predictable influx of New York shippers (Fiddlers Afleet and This Ones for Phil) coming in to test the quickest older horses on the local circuit.

This Ones for Phil has knocked out nearly three-quarters of a million dollars when smartly spotted virtually his entire 26-race career by Maryland native Richard Dutrow Jr., and this spot looks custom-made to his style. Yes, he is the likely favorite, but probably not in a prohibitive way; others such as Immortal Eyes, Fiddlers Afleet, and Il Villano are just too honest and playable for it to be otherwise.

Still, Dutrow has really tightened the screws on this 6-year-old gelding, having worked him four times in a three-week span, and as he drops 12 pounds from his runner-up effort when carrying 130 in the Nov. 22 Fall Highweight (we consider weight only in the rarest of instances, such as this), he figures to take plenty of catching. There’s no denying he brings a bit of a class edge into this, and he does look like the dominant speed (unless Immortal Eyes is hell-bent on taking an early fight to him), so let’s try some exotics, keying This Ones for Phil over Wolfcamp, a stalker with a terrific record (3 wins and a second in 4 starts) over the local course.

Mr. Prospector

Speaking of Maryland and classy sprinters, the 2012 De Francis Dash winner, Action Andy, will be looking to close out a phenomenal season when she ships to Gulfstream shooting for a fourth straight victory and his eighth of the year.

Named for a Maryland racing fan (Andy Andrews, who can never get enough action) and conditioned by the venerable trainer-turned-agent-turned-trainer Carlos Garcia, Action Andy has never been better. Three weeks ago at Tampa Bay Downs, he quickly turned what seemed (on paper) to be a two-horse race with Indiano into a one-horse race when earning a second straight triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure.

With Indiano once again looming the chief threat among just five opponents in this six-furlong race, and with John Velazquez accepting the mount Saturday, this should be a crowning achievement of Action Andy’s year (not to mention, remarkably, his first graded stakes win). Indiano, drawn more favorably than he was at Tampa (from the inside post to the outside post), should end a simple exacta.

Daytona Stakes

Unlike those two East Coast races, this Grade 3 fixture at Santa Anita looks much deeper and trickier and therefore stands a much better chance at yielding bigger mutuels.

Great Mills, off an excellent fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, and Comma to the Top, the versatile 4-year-old on the threshold of hitting the $1 million earnings milestone, are among the logical plays in the field of 12, as is Capital Account, whose penchant for triple-digit Beyers makes him a consideration despite his lack of turf experience. But we’ve already (grossly) exceeded the chalk limit in this space, so we’re compelled to try something a little more adventurous.

A couple of outside-drawn horses, such as Ain’t No Other (subtly good back-form and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in his corner) and Tale of a Champion (blinkers off) look intriguing at huge prices, but the ones that really catch the eye are Circa’sgoldengear and Wilkinson.

The California-bred Circa’sgoldengear has 2 wins and 3 seconds from 6 starts going down the hill, and his recent form and Beyers are solid and seem to match up here, despite his noticeable dearth of stakes experience. Employing his tactical speed, Joe Talamo should have this horse in the right spot once they traverse the dirt for the final quarter-mile.

Conversely, Wilkinson has no recency to speak of – unless you count those bullet drills that Jeff Mullins has gotten into him since he upset the Grade 2 American in late May at 44-1. (He has 12 recorded works since late September). Neil Howard always thought a lot of this colt, and now Mullins could be the one to start capitalizing. Let’s give him a slight edge over Circa’sgoldengear when tying both of them up in the gimmicks.

Albert More than 1 year ago
By the way, do you remember Finders Fortune, maybe one of the best ever at this trip? I ran into him on a farm years after he was retired and asked the owner what made this guy so good running down a hill. I think Darrell Vienna trained him and she said that he told her that he was the most crooked horse in the front end that he ever had. Somehow, that made it possible for him to cruise on a course that was always falling out from under him....and it made it just as hard for a correct horse to give its best.
Albert More than 1 year ago
Daytona: coming down the hill one should NEVER throw out a horse that has proven capable of getting this freaky trip....that horse is Starspangled Heat....in fact, his best number down the hill is better than Great Mills and Comma's, when adjusted for ground loss. Agree with your other comments except for Wilkinson. I can't visualize him getting the trip even though he has a class edge over most of these.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
One point - one question. Point - Action Andy is as honest a horse as I've seen all year. The De Francis win was needed to be seen a couple times to believe how he "gutted" it out. Question - When if ever will Dutrow's 10 year ban start ?
Il Villano More than 1 year ago
hope he wins too