Long Branch Stakes
It's far from the highest quality race being run this weekend but it is a very even contest. There are eight horses entered and none of them are over 6/1 on the morning line. It helps that the two horses with the least logical chances are coupled with better horses but we still have six horses that could easily wind up being winners. Papa Clem will be favored but I'm not sure that he's a great play in this race. I suspect his poor race in the Preakness was just a case of the wheels coming off after a tough spring but his recent work at Monmouth casts a doubt in my mind about his willingness to get over this track. He has often been a fast workhorse. At both Oaklawn and Santa Anita he zips in the mornings but he had much slower works at Churchill and Pimlico and he finished off the board in both of those affairs. He went back to Santa Anita and drilled a bullet after the Preakness but now at Monmouth he went slowly again. It's enough for me to think that I can get a better price elsewhere. Santana Six is a very interesting prospect to me. Other than a blowup at Churchill he's done very well in all his races. A lot of Ziot horses were doing very badly at Churchill in March and April. It's possible that the whole barn was out of tune. Things have turned around for Zito recently. In his prep for the Long Branch Santana Six ran a very good second behind Lord Justice who got loose on the lead. Santana Six was getting to him late and I figure he can go one better here. Rapid Redux or Despite the Odds may be inspired to keep Lord Justice company so the pace should be just a bit better for Santana Six. I love the bullet works over the tiring training track and Saratoga. Zito ships a lot of live horses off of strong works on that strip. I guess I also get Nowhere to Hide for the same money but I'm not sure that I'm that interested in his chances.
Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap
I really like Parading both in this spot and as a horse overall. He has become something entirely new and better this year after spending most of his career injured or in allowance company. He shows the benefits of giving horses time to develop. Generally I don't like east coast horses coming into big Californian events but I developed a bit of a statistical profile for this race based on results from past years and Parading is the only one that fits all the criteria. So he looks solid visually and he lines up historically as well. Sounds like a good selection to me. One of the biggest factors that may be overlooked in this race is the effectiveness of tactical speed. When this was a dirt race speed ruled, now that it's switched to synthetics speed is still king but most people assume it wouldn't be. Horses with early speed or good tactical speed have always done better than those without it. I'm not as high on Life Is Sweet, Big Booster or Dakota Phone for those reasons. Rail Trip is always dangerous but I think he finds this distance too far. I don't expect that anyone will leave him alone in the early stages. Two longer shots that I've taken a shine to are Magnum and Tres Borrachos. Back in 2006 people thought of Magnum as a possible challenger to Lava Man. He ran poorly in that Gold Cup and his career took a tailspin. He had a major injury that kept him out for a year and a half and then since coming back he's been out of the money 7 times in 9 starts. But I think he's shown enough talent to be a factor here. His race at Lone Star was better than it looked and Jonesboro has already come out of that race to win. He could pick up a piece. Tres Borrachos has also fallen on some hard times since winning the Swaps last summer. He actually hadn't run well since that day until his last allowance race. He looked like he had some life again. I'm hoping that he brings that form into this race just like his mini two race set at Hollywood last summer. I still like Parading but I'll use those two with him in some way.