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Weekend Warrior for Oct. 29
NEW YORK – With the Breeders’ Cup almost here, there are but two graded stakes on Saturday’s schedule. They are the Grade 2, $150,000 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont. Saturday is, however, California Cup Day at Santa Anita, where the $175,000 Cal Cup Classic heads a card that includes four other stakes.
Bold Ruler Handicap
Caixa Eletronica is a very dangerous horse in this spot. Last time out, Caixa Eletronica rallied from last to be third in the Grade 1 Vosburgh, beaten only two lengths. And if that alone wasn’t enough to make him a prime win threat Saturday, Caixa Eletronica also ran big in the Vosburgh despite what I think was a speed bias that at least prevailed at the point in the card the Vosburgh was run, and in sprints. Moreover, Caixa Eletronica now stretches out from six furlongs to a seven furlong distance at which he is 8 for 15 in his career. Really, the only thing wrong with Caixa Eletronica in this race is he will not offer much betting value.
Sangaree got a long look from me here, too. At the age of 6 and in his 22nd career start, Sangaree finally got his first opportunity to race on dirt last time out, and he performed in a manner that suggests he should have been racing on dirt all of his life. In an overnight stakes at Saratoga, Sangaree engaged in a race-long battle with the classy Rule, narrowly coming out on the short end, but finishing far ahead of the rest while earning a career-best Beyer Figure. But even if Sangaree has recorded some outstanding workouts since that performance, it bothers me a little that he has been absent almost three months following a career-best effort.
I find Rodman intriguing in this spot, and I’m making him my play. Rodman wasn’t disgraced finishing fourth after setting the pace in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Cup most recently, and he also set the pace when he ran third as the favorite three starts back in the Suburban. But the Suburban and the Jockey Club Gold Cup were route races, as was his admittedly dull effort in the Whitney two starts back. Rodman is cutting back significantly in distance here, and I believe it is a positive switch for him. Four starts back, Rodman was a strong, if surprising second in the Met Mile. Before that, he was a dominant winner of an overnight stakes going a mile out of Aqueduct’s chute. So, going seven furlongs out of a chute at this level of competition should be within an effective range for Rodman.
The other thing that’s interesting about this race is, for a graded sprint stakes, there isn’t much serious one-way speed. Barring a speed bias earlier in the card that would lead every jockey in here to send out of the gate, the first quarter mile of this race could be deliberate. That could be of benefit to Rodman, because it would put him in close early striking position without forcing him to expend too much energy. We already know that, by cutting back off three routes, he has the foundation to be formidable late.
Unlike the Bold Ruler, there is plenty of pace in this race. From the rail out, Decisive Moment, Jimmy Simms, Future Prospect, and Workin for Hops are all at their best when they operate on or right with the early lead. Mission Impazible, who is taking a massive class drop after competing in Grade 1 stakes in his last three starts, is also at his best when in the mix early. But Mission Impazible’s best performances this year – a win in the New Orleans Handicap and a near-miss in the Stephen Foster – came when he was in close attendance to slow early paces. He’s up against it pace-wise Saturday, a situation made worse by his terrible draw of the 12 hole.
Wise Dan would seem a logical alternative. Wise Dan was beaten less than two lengths when fourth in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile earlier in the Keeneland meet. He is now moving back to a synthetic surface, footing on which he won the Presque Isle Downs Mile two starts back, a race in which he was much the best since he was six to seven wide on the first turn, and four wide on the far turn. However, the issue with Wise Dan is, while we know he is good at a mile, he is an unknown commodity at this nine-furlong distance.
I’m going with General Quarters. General Quarters turned in his best effort in quite some time most recently when he was a game second to Future Prospect in the WinStar Kentucky Cup, a race in which General Quarters’ late kick was compromised by a deliberate pace, and a four to five wide trip. If General Quarters is indeed cycling back to his 2010 form, it would be big here, because something close to his second in the New Orleans Handicap and third in the Foster last year would be good enough to win. It also doesn’t hurt that General Quarters is returning to the track and distance at which he recorded one of his two big career scores, the 2009 Blue Grass.
California Cup Sprint
It’s hard not to pull for Bob Black Jack here in his return from a 20-month absence. He’s just a classy horse who managed quite an achievement the last time he raced by winning the 2010 San Carlos off a 16-month absence. M One Rifle is another class horse returning from a layoff, albeit a much shorter one, less than four months. The last time M One Rifle competed in a statebred spot like this was in the 2009 edition of this race, in which he was nosed by Dancing in Silks, who in his next start upset the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. But I’m opting for the one in sharp recent form, Mensa Heat.
Mensa Heat finished third in the Grade 1 Ancient Title three weeks ago, beaten less than a length, and would have been second had he not been steadied in tight quarters on the rail in deep stretch. In any case, Mensa Heat’s big effort in the Ancient Title continued his trend of dramatic improvement since being claimed last April for $25,000. Now, some will note that the wicked early pace battle in the Ancient Title was a major reason why the stretch-running Mensa Heat ran as well as he did, and that is true. But he is presented with a similarly favorable pace set up Saturday.