Turf Paradise Derby
This race drew a much shorter field than I expected considering the quality of the competition. I'm not surprised that Cerin is trying to win this race with a maiden. I'm a little surprised that he's the only one taking that kind of shot. Only two horses are coming from Santa Anita. The bettor's are sure to key on the two Santa Anita horses Mayor Marv and Pauper's Prize as well as the most accomplished local Hidden Bounty. All three of those horses are good enough to win. I'm going to oppose Pauper's Prize because he didn't improve in his second start. The horse he beat in his debut came back to beat him next time out and he basically just ran the same. He might improve with a switch to dirt or he might get worse, it's hard to tell so I'll lean on the side of my initial impression and drop him. Mayor Marv is a dangerous horse who has come to life this year on the synthetics. Tight losses to Papa Clem and The Pamplemousse don't look so bad. Aside from his loss at Belmont all of his races have been very good. It would be a shock to see him run poorly here. But it would not be such a shock to see him run second. If one were to take a cynical view of his form you'd say that he looks like a better horse on synthetics. One could also say that he losses often when he should win. I'm hoping some healthy skepticism gets me a contender than isn't 8/5. Hidden Bounty is the dominant local force and he'll have the most support aside from Mayor Marv. I'm hoping for no less than 5/2 or 2/1. My figures suggest that he is the fastest dirt horse in the race. Mayor Marv has better synthetic form but not better dirt form. Hidden Bounty loves the track and seems like a horse with some genuine ability. At least enough to win a race like this. His last two races have seen him develop into something of a local phenomenon. Since Mayor Marv is likely to head right to the front Hidden Bounty should get a perfect trip right off his flank. If someone like Albacore Bob or Just Jebicah decides to go crazy and make the pace too quick Hidden Bounty is the logical horse to benefit. I am somewhat tempted, though, to go for a real longshot. The reality is that none of these horses are very good and it's not a far stretch to think that any of these could improve enough to win. Lesson in Deceit got some shockingly good rankings with my figures and upon closer inspection there are some things to like. He is obviously coming off a breakout performance. For young horses it's a great thing to see. He showed talent in all his initial races but had a bit of a loser's mentality. Seconditis is most often cured by throwing in a more dull effort which he got two back. He then put it all together with a dominant performance. Young horses often keep that momentum going once they finally break their maiden. He gets Lasix first time and should see out the trip with no problem. I know his best form has come on the grass but he has always handled dirt just fine. I'm thinking that if he really is in great form the surface is not a big issue.
Lesson In Deceit
The Very One Stakes
Backseat Rhythm is the horse to beat and she's likely going to be a dominant force in the division but I'm set to go against her here. I think she won't be tightly wound and ready to fire. Reynolds often gives his horses long continuous campaigns so the first few races are usually just meant to get back in the swing. One thing I'll also be watching all year long is how she reacts to hard ground. My suspicion is that firm ground isn't her preference but she'll be a monster on soft ground. I think this race plays right into the strengths of Criticism. She stays the distance better than Callwood Dancer and Lady Carlock and is likely a touch better on ability. I think Albertrani has her ready to go and having Prado doesn't hurt. I don't understand why Godolphin didn't take her back to Dubai for the winter but I think it's their loss because she can do very well in races like this all year long.