Weekend Overview: I've always got my eye out for plays that I see as being good value but good value is one of those things that can only be accurately assessed after the race is over. There are however conditions that are optimal for getting value and one of the best is when you have a race with a false favorite or a favorite who looks invincible to the public eye. False favorites (like Saarland in the Derby) are easier to oppose with confidence, seemingly unbeatable horses take a lot more guts to play against but in the final reckoning they do not necessarily win at a higher percentage. Odds on favorites still lose more than they win. That's a good thing to keep in mind this Saturday at the Fair Grounds. 5 of the 6 stakes races have heavy favorites who look tough to beat. Euroears, Grasshopper, Daytona, Indian Blessing and Pyro all look nearly airtight on paper but you can almost be assured that those 5 will not sweep. The odds of all of them winning are actually pretty poor, despite what the multi-race exotics would pay for that sequence. I would venture to guess that at least two or three of these horses will be denied the winners circle. The trick is finding the horses who can turn the trick.
Duncan F. Kenner Stakes
Euroears is the big horse in this race and in 5 career starts he has never looked like losing. Turf and dirt he's been solid on both and it would be not shock to see him do it again here. In fact if you could get about 2/1 on him he'd be a great play but two days out I'm operating under the assumption that Euroears will be 7-5 or less. The one vulnerability I can see is that all of Euroears training recently has been focused at getting him to settle. They're trying to take the speed out of him so that he can stretch-out. There is a ton of money to be made staying at 6f so I wonder why they're looking at changing his game but for us it might create an opportunity. Semaphore Man is the fastest gate horse in the race and it's clear from his Past Performances that when he gets in front he's very hard to beat. He lost to Euroears two starts back but that was off of a very long layoff. He never got to the front that day but he got a lot out of the race and subsequently dominated the King Cotton, taking it all the way on the lead. On his best day Semaphore Man is a formidable foe and he just may give this field the slip. He has been working extremely quickly in the mornings and I expect him to get to the front and not look back. Let's not forget that he's got some great back class. He almost took out Bordonaro in his heyday. He was not beaten by much when facing Diabolical and Talent Search. Euroears is no easy scalp but Semaphore Man looks like he's got a lot of things in his favor.
Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap
Daytona is in a really rich vein of form. 4 straight stakes wins and it has to be said that there is a real lack of quality lined up trying to prevent his 5th in a row. In my opinion only four horses could be good enough on their best day - Twilight Meteor, Proudinsky, Brilliant and Fracas. Fracas is a complete wild card, Tagg is very savvy with his Turf horses but he's essentially too much of an unknown to take a gamble on here. It's really even quite a gamble to be predicting what kind of price you'll get on him. The public will either love him and make him the second choice or they'll ignore him and he be around 9/1. He's not my kind of horse. Daytona has shipped across country twice now so perhaps a bit of weariness has crept in. It's quite odd also that Smith has declined to ride him. He surely must be the best mount he's got on his books. I think that someone will try to give Daytona a little pressure on the front end, giving him an easy lead seems to be conceding victory. A horse like Buffalo Man has shown some speed in the past and so has Jazz Quest. I think Jazz Quest is the horse who will challenge him, no sense in simply following him around the track again. Proudinsky is a horse who will hope that Dayonta gets some company but I don't see him running better than second or third. He had a chance to get to him and couldn't in the San Gabriel I expect him to run very much the same way. Brilliant really needs soft ground and if we do get some rain he's the play and a very confident one indeed. He's a quality horse on any ground but just a cut below these on firm. Twilight Meteor is really the horse I'm wanting to use against him. He's one of the four (Twilight Meteor, Proudinsky, Brilliant, Fracas) who looks good enough and among those four I think he has the best combination going for him. He lost to Daytona once in thee Hollywood Derby but he had his head in the air for the first mile. He was extremely rank and also closer to the pace than I think he prefers. Twilight Meteor must be a frustrating horse to train because he is undoubtedly good but he has not translated that into wins as yet. Leparoux gets the mount for the first time and he is good at being patient and getting his mount to be patient as well. That bodes well for his chances here. I adored the way he came flying late in his last, Pletcher should have him ready to fire off the bench.
Brilliant (Only if less than Firm)
Some will consider Pyro the most solid win bet of the day. Maybe even more than Indian Blessing but I've never loved taking one run closers in back to back races. His last was brilliant but I really don't think a repeat of that performance gets it done here. These are better horses and I'm sure some really good ones will be getting first run. Don't get em wrong I'm not saying Pyro will lose, I'm just suggesting that he can lose. Traffic will also be a major concern. J Be K is a horse that any winner will have to pass because he is ridiculously fast and he will control the front end. I don't like him to stay the course though, he could, if he happens to be far better than I think but I think he'll give up the ghost in the lane. Pyro has not been in the habit of losing to inferior horses so I do think it will take a horse of class to beat him. Two such candidates are Majestic Warrior and Tale of Ekati. Majestic Warrior unlike Court Vision has been sharpened for this race by Mott. They are definitely trying to win this race but there are too many question marks about him for me. Sure he looked sensational at Saratoga but that race's form really fell apart and he's been away for a long time. Of the classy horses I much prefer Tale of Ekati. Not many have mentioned this but the Breeders' Cup Juvenile has turned into a bit of a key race. War Pass, Pyro, Z Humor and Old Man Buck all won their next race and Overextended outdid his recent form when he came back to run second behind Colonel John. The record of horses returning from that race is 7-4-1-0 and all the next out losers were horses who were hopelessly beaten in the Juvenile and probably didn't belong. Tale Of Ekati ran extremely well in the Juvenile to be 4th on a day where I thought his preparation left him short. It was a very tough ask of him at that stage and I love the way he responded. He's got good tactical speed and a rapier turn of foot. I suspect we've never truly seen him at his best. He is the horse that Pyro will have to reel in and at 8.5 furlongs I don't think stamina really comes into play at all. Tale of Ekati has been burning up the track in the mornings and I think he's ready to run huge. He's got a pace advantage on Pyro and he definitely has class and talent. I think he's the one if any will beat Pyro.
Tale Of Ekati