02/28/2013 2:32PM

Weekend Warrior for March 2: Picks for Gotham Stakes, Tom Fool Handicap, and Santa Anita Handicap


It’s Big Cap Day on Saturday at Santa Anita, with the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap topping a program that also includes two other Grade 1 events, the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile and the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes.

There also are multiple graded stakes Saturday at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park. At Aqueduct, the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham is supported by the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap and Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap. At Gulfstream, the Grade 3, $150,000 Swale Stakes is backed up by the Grade 3, $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes.

Gotham Stakes

Overanalyze and Vyjack are the two favorites, and purely on paper they have a decided edge on everyone else in this race. Overanalyze had a very productive 2-year-old campaign last season, winning the Remsen and the Futurity, while Vyjack has shown real ability winning all three of his starts. Still, both encounter some obstacles Saturday that make them vulnerable.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

For Overanalyze, he makes his first start in 3 1/2 months, and he drew the outside in the field of 12. Given that he won his career debut, and with his steady string of purposeful Palm Meadows works, I am not as concerned with the layoff. But the post is a problem. Although there is a bit of a run to the first turn in 1 1/16-mile races on Aqueduct’s inner track, there are a fair amount of speed and stalker types in this race. That makes it tough to envision how Overanalyze won’t get caught wide at least on the first turn. And that, taken in concert with the layoff, makes me lean against him at low odds.

As for Vyjack, he comes into this off a planned two-month freshening. And I thought Vyjack’s narrow win in the Jerome most recently was better than it looks on paper, mainly because the rail was the place to be that day and he ran a path or two away from it. But even though the Jerome was around two turns on the inner track, and despite the fact that I like him as a horse in general, I question whether Vyjack is really at his best routing, at least at this early stage of his career.

I’m going with Escapefromreality, who was a narrowly beaten second last time out in the much-discussed Withers. Now, I realize that Revolutionary was a hundred lengths the best in winning the Withers, overcoming a career’s worth of trouble, albeit some of it of his own making. And I completely understand the tendency to devalue those who finish behind a horse who wins despite a ton of trouble, which you can certainly do in the Withers. I do it myself. Often. But if you can put aside Revolutionary’s trip in the Withers for a moment and focus only on Escapefromreality’s effort, you’ll see a performance that makes him a legitimate contender Saturday.

What I liked most about Escapefromreality’s Withers was how he rated in his first start around two turns. After showing enough speed to contest the pace sprinting in his first two starts, Escapefromreality willingly conceded the front end in the Withers. Then, after lacking a bit of room on the rail late on the far turn, he angled out in the stretch and surged to the front late, only to be nailed by Revolutionary. In any case, Escapefromreality’s new running style should play well again Saturday into an expected lively pace, and he should sit a good inside pocket trip breaking from post 2.

[GOTHAM STAKES: Get PPs, watch video handicapping previews]

Tom Fool Handicap

Judging from the sub-44-second half-miles he contested in Grade 2 sprint stakes at Santa Anita in his last two starts, Comma to the Top might get loose early here. And given how he was clear at the eighth pole before being run down late in the seven-furlong San Carlos most recently, Comma to the Top figures to like the cut back to six furlongs this time. Although I am wondering how he will react to shipping across the country after having raced only one week ago, it’s obvious that Comma to the Top can win. I just prefer the other Southern California shipper, Smash.

Smash has managed to make only one start in the last 14 months, and that was a tired fifth in the Vernon Underwood three months ago. But I think his inside post that day forced him to go earlier than he would have preferred, which really isn’t his favored running style. Smash, who hasn’t missed a beat in his recent works, drew the outside post Saturday, and that will enable him to return to the stalk-from-close-range style he employed when he showed so much potential early in his career.

Santa Anita Handicap

Even more so than the Gotham, there are two strong favorites here – Game On Dude and Ron the Greek – who might easily end up dominating. Then again, although there isn’t a lot of other speed here to compromise his with-the-pace running style, Game On Dude has always been a bit shaky at this 10-furlong distance. And Ron the Greek won’t get the insane early fractions that led to a pace collapse and enabled his win in last year’s Big Cap. He also won’t get the sloppy footing he relished in his explosive Sunshine Millions Classic score last time out, though I must say I was struck by the improved positional speed he showed that day.

[BIG CAP: Get PPs, watch Saturday's Santa Anita card live]

I’m taking a shot with Called to Serve, who doesn’t have anywhere near the class lines the two favorites have, but who did show dramatic improvement late last year soon after a barn switch. Despite being compromised by a slow pace, Called to Serve ran away with the Discovery Handicap two starts back, beating, among others, Grade 1 winner Willy Beamin as well as and Guilt Trip and Stephanoatsee, the one-two finishers in last month’s Strub. Called to Serve romped again most recently in the Broad Brush Stakes at Laurel, crushing noted Laurel lover Eighttofasttocatch. It’s also worth mentioning that Called to Serve was working bullets when he blossomed late last year, and he brings three straight bullet works into this assignment.

zeakman1398 More than 1 year ago
What I get out of all these comments is we have no idea who will win the Gothem or Big Cap. I generally put a lot of stock into these comments because if you care enough to have an opinion, chances are you are a decent handicapper. I love reading others' opinions (except those who can't spell and use "text" language - seriously?); therefore, when I see this much ambiguity I like the all button in both races, trying to find a single before or after in a double. Winning 400 dollars in two races is just fine by me. With that being said, I can't get past Stevens on Called to Serve. I look for horses with the biggest stride in these races, especially stalkers. I see this horse blowing by the competition in the Big Cap and winning by 4 lengths at least. As a result, I use him in a double both ways with all, then find a single in each surrounding, hit that horse with double in the big cap. Then cross my fingers that GOD doesn't win and return 40 dollars on 200 worth of betting :) Good luck
William Brites More than 1 year ago
The Gothem has many interesting angles. the horse on the rail surely will move forward. But I am looking for a huge run from Sky Captain, another who has a rider shipping in for only one mount. He may be the first in what will be many Gulf.shippers
William Brites More than 1 year ago
Comma to the top will have company on the lead Off The Jack loves to hook up and doesn't seem to be bothered by it. His connections also reach out to W. Martinez who is giving up a full race card for one 8-1 ML. Mount...Others are interesting Be Bullish should have beate Saginaw in his last. Watch the replay, Cohen gave him the inner track 3rd string rider ride. not shooting the rail. checking and then sweeping wide to finish close..I also think St. Liams Halo is a sneak at 50-1 or better
Colin Mccarter More than 1 year ago
Big Cap...................................Mike Vigennes...................................SS Mile................................................Silentio Gotham.............................................WHG
prlyr4lyf More than 1 year ago
The Gotham is ripe for an upset ,like siete de oros to pull off the upset. In the big cap if no one press the dude..... it's a wrap!!!!
Mark More than 1 year ago
If pressed?
Mark More than 1 year ago
And will he be pressed? They don't let you bet after race has started.
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
vyjack will run huge on saturday.his last work was outstanding.worked 6F with a prior dutrow GII sprint winner.spotted him 3 lengths,caught him on the turn.easily beat him by 3 lengths.do not believe the stories this guy has distance limitations.he will run all day.with his tactical speed and power.should get garden trip with 3 potential pace horses inside of him.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Don't care for over analyse moving forward from gotham but not much in this field. Elnaaw only horse i may consider playing. Kiaran and 1st time lasix this year has been lights out. Bred.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Ore Pass is interesting.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Never in contention. Thought he d be on the pace. No were to be found. Racevis a complete toss for me imo.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Elnaawi ran good finishing 3 rd first time vs winners 4 th career start. . Vyjack not sold. Waiting to see his wood mem. Elnaawi late blooming type may prove tough down the line.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Dave Volkman More than 1 year ago
And the best of the draft was the foam, but leaning on the Maserati got Mom over to Vegas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
you're moderating MY reply!? while allowing this clown to tout some website on every column and thread DRF has?!
Carlos de la Puente More than 1 year ago
"apple labtop???" "there moms???" "resently???" "burt themselves???" If you finished high school, maybe you could do better than earning pennies spamming.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Kiarin is running everything with potential in Gotham to try for desperate Derby points. I like Sky in here... your pick has positives of improving and rating comfortably..but like others say. Withers was weak. Love Called To Serve. And Suggestive Boy is this years top turf threat in my opinion at a mile.Next week looking forward to Falling Sky, Honorable Dillon in Tampa. Delhomme doing well on work tab for future wagers. Have to love his gritty Remsen in defeat coming off maiden win.
redboy More than 1 year ago
Vyjack.. After looking at his 3 races ,he looks like he doing it easy,very professional..Im going with him..staying undeated
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
No shot!