Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Weekend Picks and Analysis - Part 1

Sunshine Millions Sprint
The opening race of what looks like a great renewal of the Sunshine Millions. Possibly the deepest ever over the eight races even though the Classic does not look all that tough. One has to think that if Benny The Bull is ready to run this race should be meat and drink to him. I know you have the classy Mach Ride and the speedy Bushwacker who recently beat the hot In Summation but there seems to be a lot of speed so the pace should setup and Benny The Bull has been working very well. He's a 6f specialist and his connections have to be thinking of this as the first step to a campaign of mostly G-1 races. I'm not sure if many others in this field, aside from Mach Ride could realistically harbor those expectations. But this is racing and anything can happen, especially in a sprint. I do think the pace will be fast with Bushwacker and Finallymadeit in front. Those two will likely go very fast because they can and will likely need to in order to stay ahead of Mach Ride who will be right on their heels. When they turn for home I do think Mach Ride has the lead and maybe even opens up a bit. Tropic Storm will be trying to make some headway but it really becomes a question of how fast did they go early and does Benny The Bull get a clean trip? If you want a real bomb how about Storm in May. He won a Sunshine Millions race last year under much the same conditions over Idiot Proof at 26/1. He could be double that in here and the race again sets up for a closer. Now there was no Benny the Bull in that one and Storm In May himself seemed to be in better form last year but he coming off a Turf race and that angle has served him very well in his career. He is 3-1-1-1 when going turf to dirt and twice he was over 20/1. A definite must use underneath and maybe worth a few bucks on his nose.

Benny The Bull
Storm In May

Sunshine Millions Oaks
The Oaks has attracted two high quality fillies and I think the race will be decided between them. Blitzing has been dominant ever since she came back from a break. Things didn't go right for her in the Spinaway but they've certainly gone right recently. She slammed American County (who came back as a winner and is in the field today) then returned and beat Syriana's Song by over 7 lengths during Asmussen's dominant run at the Fair Grounds. The one concern with her is that she has run 5 times now and has faced the toughest competition but she has not really improved to a level that is significantly above the others. It is hard to see her out of the top two but there is always the chance that someone could improve and beat her. Sindy Jacobson looks like a good candidate for the mild upset. She will likely be the second choice and she is the one that the Asmussen barn would likely fear the most. She has never been on dirt but she's by More Than Ready so it's hard to see her struggling on it. In fact she may improve on it. She won her first two races without much fuss then got served by California's best filly sprinter Spring Awakening to whom she was giving quite an edge in experience. I think she'll come on quite a bit for that run and the cutback in distance should help as well. California is renown for it's speed and very often the reputation is well deserved. It is not at all unusual for a Cali speedster to come east and give the locals a lesson in early pace. Blitzing is still scary but I think I'll lean slightly for Sindy Jacobson. Also don't count out Yogi'ssplashofgold to hit the frame. She showed some nice form as a 2yo and could be cycling back up to her peak.

Sindy Jacobson

Sunshine Millions Distaff
The Sunshine Millions usually always features at least one crazy result with a boxcar payoff. Distaff winners returning to the track for the first time after the BC are just 2 for 8 since 1996. The last two winners who continued to race, Ashado and Round Pond, both finished out of the money in their first start back. So I'm sure there will be those clinging to those numbers and hoping that Ginger Punch simply doesn't fire. I'm going to resist the temptation to get interesting and simply stick with Ginger Punch. The only horse who looks as if they have any chance against her is Bayou's Lassie but there is so much pace in here I'm not sure if she'll be good enough. Leah's Secret could step up for Pletcher but that is basically a shot in the dark. Ginger Punch would basically have to regress to her maiden race form to be in any danger here. I think the pace works against her slightly and I've never been totally convinced that she loves 9f but she is in a different class.

Ginger Punch

Sunshine Millions Turf
I see this as the most interesting race on the Gulfstream card. There are many ways you could go and that should mean some nice prices, even for the well regarded horses. Icy Atlantic might be the main focus after his 4th, 3rd and 2nd place finishes in this race. He has run progressively better in this fixture over the past three years and it would be quite fitting if he culminated that run with a win. This is likely the easiest field he will have faced on Sunshine Millions day so the chance is there. Since coming to Pletcher the only times he has really underperformed is when he's been in against G-1 level horses or when he's been used as a pacemaker. On his own this gallant 7yo has been a steady performer. I respect him a great deal but most likely we're looking at 3 or 4/1 on a horse who could easily beat this group but could also easily lose to this group. It's an even field, no sense jumping at a chance to play the favorite. A horse I actually adore in this race is the "other" Pletcher horse Ruff And Ready. He has had physical issues all his life and has managed only 9 starts over 4 years. Pletcher brought him back in late 07 in a race that came off the turf and he looked like he needed it. Next time out they got him back on his preferred surface and he ran a huge race against very solid allowance class horses. The pace was quick and he was in a decent spot right in behind the speed but as they swung for home Johnny V committed to the rail and he got squeezed. By the time he got through there was not much ground left and the closers were coming hard on the outside. Ruff and Ready got through the gap and managed to get his nose to the line first while still not up to top speed. In races prior to his latest big setback he showed a very nice turf of foot and his speed figures, while not all that fast, are decent enough to make you think he could step up into stakes company. No one has beaten him on the grass and I like him to pull off the upset. War Monger also has a huge chance, Mott has brought him along slowly but has also campaigned him as he would a future star. War Monger has done very well and this is actually not the toughest race he's ever run in. The Jamaica Handicap was a brutal race to make a stakes debut in and to make matters worse they changed styles on him in that one. It would not surprise me at all to see this horse go on to be one of the best in the east and this is a logical first step. I notice the morning line has 6/1 on him. If you get anything near that it's a gift. The Californians don't look that great. Epic Power and Lucky J.H. have chances to hit the board but I'm going to stay with the Eastern horses in this one. French Vintage is an interesting bomb. He was closing hard against tougher just a few weeks back on the same course. The added distance and lighter competition makes him dangerous and a much better contender than his odds will suggest. It's hard for one run closers to have a consistent winning percentage and he's on an 8 race losing streak, but his form is good, it's just that the setup's have not been there. There seems to be a good amount of pace here so don't rule him out.

Ruff And Ready
War Monger
French Vintage

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