Weekend Overview: All eyes are on Lava Man as he bids to win his third straight Hollywood Gold Cup. It would be a fantastic feat and story for racing if he was able to do it. But it would also serve to shift him up the TCR. He is currently the 5th ranked horse in the nation (with a score of 133.22) and has a chance to move into 4th place courtesy of the 70 points on offer . It wont be easy though as Molengao (107.00) the 5th ranked older horse could also find himself in the top 5 overall with a win. It promises to be a tight contest. Corinthian (120.90) the 7th ranked horse in the nation could also move himself up the ladder with a win in the G-1 Suburban. He faces He'sanoldsalt (65.80) Political Force (57.70) and Fairbanks (31.20). The short field for the Mother Goose makes it a poor betting race but I'm sure connections of Octave (44.00) Boca Grande (24.10) and Lady Joanne (22.18) would all love to close the gap on the divisional leaders. Up to this point that talented trio has been a little light on accomplishments. Turf Female heavyweight Cittronade (131.10) is also in action as she takes on 5 rivals in the Beverly Hills. She is bidding to stay undefeated in 2007.
Cornhusker Breeders Cup Handicap
I love races with vulnerable favorites and good solid horse for the course angles. Patriot Act is an inconsistent horse who wins once in a blue moon. Given the fact that he won last time out I think it decreases the chances that he'll win here. His last race was a good one but I think the Beyer is inflated and a regression is likely. He had never been involved in a route race with a pace that fast and the race fell into his lap. I think he'll be poor value and will most likely make one of his belated bids for third. I much prefer to get a price on a closer. More Than Regal should be around 10/1 despite the fact that his two best career races have come on this track. Either he really loves Iowa or he really loves Bute, either way he's got both angles going for him. He is coming into this race in almost identical fashion to his win in the Iowa Derby last year. He is going turf to dirt off a 4th place finish but this time his 4th place finish at Lone Star was a deceptively good race. You can bet his connections circled this race after doing a Prairie Meadows double last year. Forget that he has just a few thirds from 7 starts this year. He is a different horse on this track and will be very live. Silent Pleasure also needs to be respected. He is 5 for 6 this year and while he is not really a dominant horse he'll kill you with consistency. He should attend the pace closely and he will be the horse to pass in the stretch. The extra 1/8th of a mile makes him more vulnerable but he is still going to be tough. I also like Dry Martini, he is a horse who loves two turns and he's classy enough to beat all of these. It will be interesting to see how he goes first time for Tagg but merely holding his for would put him right in the mix.
More Than Regal
I love Turf Mile races, I don't know why but it is likely the most captivating type of race for me. It's a distance that is usually fair to all running styles and often you can isolate horses that excel at 8f as opposed to other distances. It's a distance that was made for specialists. Remarkable News who could go off as the favorite is the furthest thing from a mile specialist and I will be opposing him. Could he win this race? Sure he could, he has enough talent, he is arguably better than all the competition but it is his record at a flat mile that dissuades me. He is 5-1-2-0 at a mile and 9-7-1-1 at all other distances. The last race he lost that wasn't run at 8f was his 4th career start. He's won all 6 of his starts since then. The only race he ever won at 8f was his maiden. To me this suggests that he is a horse who is far less effective at 8f than is he is otherwise and I would not touch him. In fact I would hope that he loses badly to plump up the price for his assault on the Saratoga stakes that are at his preferred distance. So who can we go for? Unfortunately for those looking for a price the morning line favorite Brilliant looks solid. He loves the course and is unbeaten at the distance. Now both of his races at 8f were in lower class races but his obvious love for Churchill Downs makes him a must use. The horse I am really excited about playing is Outperformance. I think this stretch runner is most at home at a flat mile. He won the Hill Prince at a mile which is his only stakes win and he also recorded his lifetime highest Beyer Speed figure when winning an 8f allowance. Now most of his best races have come at Belmont so that is a slight worry but he seemed to get the CD course just fine when he ran a troubled 4th over the strip last year. He was narrowly edged in a blanket finish that day and without the trouble he could have been the victor. In his last start he was troubled by the spill in the Dixie but he closed strongly to be third. I think he'll get a faster pace here and the sharper distance will help him. Violette is sneaky good with this kind of horse and he should be about 6/1 at the off.
American Invitational Handicap
Saturday at Hollywood will likely be dedicated to Lava Man but the lock of the day for me is the other venerable old gelding, The Tin Man. He absolutely lays over this field and it's hard to envision a scenario where one of these horses beats him. The only horse who has bettered him since 2004 is David Junior who is a multiple G-1 winning European. Mandella has done a superb job with this old guy and the distance he's running at will suit him much better than last time where he still managed to win. It's hardly adventurous to pile onto a horse who will surely be odds on but sometimes the best play is the obvious one. When you really look at it this is just about as close to a lock as you will find and you will still almost double your money.
The Tin Man
Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap
I almost feel like a cad for doing this but I am going to go against Lava Man, and I'll do it with both fists. I would not mind seeing him win, sentiment is good for the soul but detachment is good for the wallet. I think one horse in this race is hands down superior to Lava Man at this point and his name is Molengao. Molengao has been awesome this year and Paulo Lobo has been doing everything right both with him and pretty much every horse he's run at Hollywood. Just 3/4 of a length separated Lava Man and Molengao the last time they met. Since then Lava Man has lost two races on Turf, Molengao turned in one of the most impressive races run by an older horse this year. He demolished the Mervyn LeRoy field and Buzzard's Bay came out of that one to score in the Californian. He is the best finisher in the race and should be getting to Lava Man late on. Lava Man has never been on an all weather surface and while he does look likely to handle it it has to be noted that Hollywood is experiencing some problems with the Cushion Track. Because of the heavy use Hollywood gets the track has suffered a wax depletion which has made it loose. The effect has been slower times and especially slower finishing times. It's harder to get home and I want my money on a horse who gets home better than all the rest.