I'm not sure how that bettors will perceive this race but I sure hope that there is a fair price to be had on Mushka in this race. Again this is another Zayat 2yo and I suppose I'm hoping they have a big weekend but with a filly like Mushka it might be less hoping and more reality. Mott started her out on the grass like he does with many of his 2yo's and she ran a great race but was robbed of any real chance by a huge early move. She was cut down late by Backseat Rhythm and Country Star. Those two are some of the finest fillies in the nation. Very possibly the #2 and #3 behind champion Indian Blessing. Mushka switched to dirt next time out and it came up sloppy. There was no early move from Kent D but she appeared to be struggling with the surface. She just got up in the end and I think it was to her credit that she ran so well because she did not look like the same horse. Although she has never run on a fast dirt track she still has the third highest figures in the race. Empire Maker has gotten off to a hot start as a sire and Bill Mott has been great all year long. Expect The End, Sunday Elegance and Elusive Lady should ensure a quick pace and Mushka ought to be able to get to them.
Cigar Mile Stakes
There won't be much money to be made from backing Midnight Lute in this race but he does appear to be such a sure thing that I might just do it anyway. The Lute has always been a good horse but now that his breathing problem has been corrected he's looked like a monster. Baffert has said many times that this is the best horse he's ever had. Baffert had great success in this race with Congaree who beat much tougher fields. If this horse is better than Congaree than he'll win for fun. Baffert also has a long history of successful shipping to Aqueduct so everything seems in line. High percentage connections with a good track record in this race, blazing recent works, limitless talent and race conditions that were seemingly made for him. I do expect Daaher to chase him home though. Daaher is the horse I am most looking forward to for next year. Still it would surprise me if he was able to handle the Lute at this stage. I'm looking for a solid second place finish from him.
This looked set to be a division defining race but it lost a bit of luster with Citronnade and Vacare pulling out. Both fillies would have had a huge impact on this race and Citronnade still had an outside chance of winning the division. Precious Kitten has a chance to do so but would need win big. Her form all year long has been fantastic and I think she has a big shot in this race. I thought Vacare would have been the horse to beat, now with her out I think Precious Kitten, Wait A While and Lady Of Venice will decide this. Naissance Royale looked hot in her last but when a field comes up short and there is so much quality I think class will tell. Lady Of Venice won the Cash Call Mile facing similar company under identical conditions but her last race was horrible and in any event I think Wait A While is the one with the most upside. She has not always run her best but firm courses bring out the best in her and when she does her best, Precious Kitten and Lady Of Venice have been left toiling in her wake. Both Precious Kitten and Lady Of Venice are more pure miler types than Wait A While but I'm hoping some good old California sunshine does her some good and we see her at her imperious best. If I were playing a straight trifecta I'd put Precious Kitten second and Lady Of Venice third.
Wait A While
I'm not sure why I always find myself looking to oppose Nobiz Like Showbiz, I have nothing against the horse. I just always see him as beatable on paper. Sometimes like in the Florida Derby and BC Mile that has led me to some nice scores. Other times, like in the Hall of Fame and Jamaica that tactic hasn't panned out so well. Here in the Hollywood Derby I find myself looking elsewhere again. Not because I think he can't win but because I don't think his price will be a proper reflection of his chances. He is unbeaten on the grass aside from the BC Mile, that is a strong statistic going for him. You also have to love the way he slammed Red Giant in the Jamaica and stuck around in the Mile when things didn't go his way but you also have the enticing Medici Code who is nearly perfect on the grass in this country (if you discount DQ's). Twilight Meteor who was just a nose behind Nobiz and we know he'll love the distance. And of course Bold Hawk, a fast improving 3yo who looks to be in over his head but is running for one of the most conservative trainers in the land. I think I'm going to settle on Bold Hawk over Nobiz. I can't say I love Samyn in the saddle but he is a useful turf rider and he knows the horse. He settled him down beautifully two back when Bold Hawk was extremely rank early and as passive as a lamb later in the race. This big bodied gelding has been facing mostly older horses until the Hawthorne Derby where he bulled his way through the field and beat Twilight Meteor by a head. If the Pletcher horse can be used as a form guide that put him roughly on par with Nobiz and he's still got plenty of improving to do after just 5 career starts. James Toner is as good a turf trainer as you'll find anywhere and he very rarely sends his horses to the west coast. He is worth a long look but you might want to hedge with the favorite.
Nobiz Like Showbiz