Weekend Preview: Turf racing takes the center stage this weekend as 7 of the 9 Graded stakes on tap are being contested on the sod. Personally I am very excited to see Canadian Horse of The Year Arravale back in action in the Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine. If she has come on at all as an older mare she could be a serious Eclipse Award contender. The only stakes being run on dirt this weekend are the San Diego Handicap and the Coaching Club American Oaks. The Oaks has yet another short field and Octave really only have one challenger in Godolphin's Folk. The San Diego will be a much tighter affair with Buzzard's Bay, Arson Squad and many other solid contenders.
Del Mar Race #4
I love handicapping 2yo races, especially maidens, in fact I may start a new feature on it next week for the Saratoga meeting but this spot offers the chance for a little practice. One of the toughest things about handicapping 2yo maidens who are largely unraced a day before the race is run is that you don't get a chance to see how the public bets them. Often the best way to find a live firster is to watch the board. Especially the "opening" prices as compared to their morning line. If the horse was 10/1 on the morning line and is down to 3/1 when betting opens on the race they might merit a closer look. I have not yet seen the morning line for this race but I do like the look of Grace Anatomy for O'Neill. O'Neill is not particularly good with first timers but he quite effective with 2yo's as a whole. He made changes to his 2yo program last year and the results were very good. This will be his first entire 2yo season with his new method. Grace Anatomy has been working very well and is by the red hot Aldebaran who at this time is 60% with first timers. Baffert, unlike O'Neill is very good with first timers and he brings the high priced More Happy in here. She is by Vindication, who is likely to have a lot of representatives at this meet. No clue yet as to how his progeny will handle the track. More Happy is one of those who could go either way. I would not take this horse if she isn't hot on the board. BR's Girl is the one they'll have to beat. Sadler put her right into stakes company first out and then she just got caught against maidens. Obviously this is a runner and she must be included.
I love this race because it gives me the opportunity to get onto the kings of Colonial at decent prices. Edgar Prado and Graham Motion both have fantastic records at Colonial and in my opinion any horse they are connected with has a huge chance. The odds for everyone else will be great because Dreaming of Anna and Christmas Kid are both in this race and they have big reputations. I don't like Dreaming of Anna going this far and while I respect Christmas Kid I do not think she is one bit faster than the rest of these. The horse I really love is Motions Bees. Bees is bred for grass up and down but has never been on it. Instead she has run 5 times on dirt or Polytrack. She did much better on Polytrack which suggests a preference for Turf. She finished just a long neck behind Panty Raid at Keeneland and that one came back to win not only the Black Eyed Susan but also the American Oaks which is the biggest Turf race for fillies. Last time out Bees was 4th behind Moon Catcher and Winning Point who came right back last week and ran 1-2 in the Delaware Oaks. She already fits in this group on form. She is working well and could be a world beater on the grass. At 15/1 she is too good to be true. Bit Of Whimsy also has a huge chance for Tagg and Prado. She has been beaten only once and managed to dead heat with Rutheriene, a horse who is considered by many to be the top turfer in the East. Prado negotiates this course like no other. A real bomb I am enticed by is Snow Cone. I love Wolfson shippers as I think he is one of the best domestic shippers in the nation. Especially with his turf horses. No rider has been named and she has not won this year but she is coming back from a rest and Wolfson is also very good with those types.
Bit Of Whimsy
Class tells on the Turf and this race has seen more than its fair share of class achieve success. It seems like the horse who is truly the best always ends up as the victor. That means this race will be very telling as the top 5 horses in this division are all here. In my gut I feel like the best horse is Strike A Deal. He has never been worse than second on the sod. He is quick, versatile and classy. I think he was disadvantaged in his last start. It was his second off a long layoff, he had relatively short rest between starts and worked hard in his comeback. He could have been a little drained physically. He also did not get a very good trip. I think the trouble he faced was more than equal to the head margin he lost by. As the distance gets longer I think his superiority over Summer Doldrums will be more apparent. I am also quite intrigued with the KY Turf horses. Until I saw Strike A Deal I thought Duveen was the best thing out there. He got conclusively beaten in his last race but that was a nightmare. He never settled and Guidry never put and pressure on the leader who went wire to wire. Prado gets on this time and that automatically moves him up a notch in my book. Most people will write off Duveen's last conqueror as a fluke but it's possible that Inca King is nothing of the sort. He has never been beaten on the grass and no horse has even gotten near him. He's been a longshot in every race he's had on the grass but clearly he is much better than the public thinks he is. Is it possible that he could steal this race on the front end? Early speed tends to fare pretty well on this course so I do not think it's out of the question. Pletcher's "other" horse is the one I find to be the most enticing of his entrants. Top Cross is very quick and in my opinion he is talented enough to be a factor. He has never lost with Decarlo on board and his last race looked like a breakout performance. He does perhaps appear to be more of a miler. This race would surely be the edge of his effective range but just maybe he could pull it off. It would not be the first time for Pletcher. But for my official picks I'll stay with more proven class.
Strike A Deal