I don't trust any horse in this race. Music Note was fantastic last season but has been hit and miss this year. I do suspect though that her first race of the season came at a time when the stable was out of form and she just wasn't ready. She surprised me with her effectiveness at 7f in the Ballerina. She probably wins this over a lackluster field. Unbridled Belle has the right credentials if she's feeling up to it on the day but she has just become more inconsistent as time has gone on. Music Note in a yawner at 1/5.
This race is not unlike the Tom Fool Handicap that was run in July. That was supposed to be the big showdown between Fabulous Strike and Munnings but the Strike backed out on race day. His connections seemingly lacked the courage to face Munnings. Which is odd because Fabulous Strike would have been favored there just as he will be here. But I do think that the conditions are better for the Strike here because this is a 6f race. 7f favors Munnings but 6f is the specialty of Fabulous Strike. Go Go Shoot and Kodiak Kowboy are a good supporting cast but I think they're in for third money. I think that two factors are very important, Go Go Shoot and the weather. Munnings will not win this race without a big pace pushing effort from Go Go Shoot and a dry track. The former seems like something you can count on. The latter is definitely up in the air (no pun intended). My feeling is that the track will be wet and Fabulous Strike will defeat Munnings. But Munnings, should he be given the chance, has a much better claim for victory in the BC Sprint. Fabulous Strike is in a unique class as a sprinter. He has shown that he can take unbelievable pressure at 6f and still run to the line. Zensational is not a member of his class, not yet at least. Munnings can definitely be that good but I think a wet track deprives him of that explosive kick he's got.
Flower Bowl Invitational
This is an exciting contest and a good chance to get away from chalky picks in short fields. My own figures say that the race comes down to Pure Clan and Carribean Sunset but I really don't think it's that simple. Dynaforce, Leamington and Moneycantbuymelove all have big chances. I won't quickly forget the race Rosinka ran in the 07' Flower Bowl for Graham Motion. Like Leamington, Rosinka was a tough front runner in the form of her life. Her campaign gained traction at Keeneland, she had a couple of early summer starts and then was layed off until the end of Saratoga where she took a stakes race. Leamington has had a very similar buildup to this race and Motion is very dangerous in the fall months. Her speed figures look a touch shy of the best but if she improves on her last, which I think she is set to do she can win this race. Dynaforce has to be heavily respected as well and I think she's actually the horse to beat. Belmont, like Arlington, is a nice deep course which seems to suit her perfectly. Dynaforce is also a qualifier on a new angle I'm working on. I know I haven't ever really looked at pedigree but after my post last week I got to thinking about ways to catch well bred talented horses. Dynaforce is a horse I'm going to refer to as a "Blue Blood" and I'm interested to see how she does not only here but in every subsequent start. From a pace perspective Pure Clan and Carribean Sunset will be hoping that Criticism and Leamington lock horns but I really don't see a duel developing. I think Criticism takes back and is never heard from again while Leamington has things her own way. Pure Clan and Carribean Sunset may be chasing in vain in the final furlong. Moneycantbuymelove is a wildcard. I think she has only shown form good enough once but it was in her last race so it's not exactly intelligent to pass her off. I don't feel strongly about her but I fear her so she gets on the ticket.
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational
This race is an invitational which to me begs the question - How on earth did Ready's Echo and Interpatation get invited? I suppose I'll be red faced if either of them win but they look totally out of their element here. Gio Ponti is the class and the ground looks to be coming together for Grand Couturier. But I can see both of them getting beat. Gio Ponti is my favorite horse in training and it's been a great year to follow him but he always did look like a horse with stamina issues. Is 12f too far? I guess we'll find out. He ought to be heavily favored in this race because he is the most likely winner but seeing his stamina give out would not be a great surprise to me. Grand Couturier is rounding into his best form just like he was last year he'll be a huge danger to Gio Ponti but I think the best value play here is Telling. His last race shocked me but a repeat wouldn't. I think he's come into the best form of his life and 12f is perfect for him. I think he and the other two I've been mentioning will settle this but of course Telling will be far and away the best price.
Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes
Once again and perhaps to my peril I'm going to go against Macho Again. I see his merits but I think the three year olds are better horses. Summer Bird is the new Curlin, he's getting stronger and stronger as the year goes on both physically and with his results. I think the likely off track here helps him defeat the other really talented horse in here, Quality Road. I still think that Quality Road will be the more brilliant horse but 9f is probably better for him and a wet track is a real question mark in my mind. These two are the fastest in the race and other than maybe thinking about a price on Dry Martini underneath I'd just use the sophomores. I think Summer Bird powers home once again over a much more stubborn Quality Road.
Oak Leaf Stakes
I think it's probably best to go against Baffert's hot pot Always a Princess. Sure she made a great debut but many juveniles regress off of their first performance and she's drawn the rail in here. I'm not a big fan of taking inexperienced horses on the rail. Of course that bias blew up in my face when Hot Dixie Chick romped at the Spa but I'm willing to take my chances that Always a Princess is not another Hot Dixie Chick. I'm going to focus on Blind Luck and Softly Singing. Blind Luck has only lost once in three starts and that was in a G-1 to Mi Sueno. That's as good a resume as you'll find right now. My one worry with her is that she seemed to hang a bit in her last, or maybe she just had problems closing with a rush against horses that were also closing out the race pretty well. Either way it made for a less than stirring visual impression. Blind Luck is the class in my opinion but she's no slam dunk. I was very impressed with the maiden win by Softly Singing. She was aggressive but still reserved, she moved powerfully when asked and seemed very focused and professional. I suspect that she came out of that race with a fair bit of fizz and ginger because Hollendorfer has put her through 5 timed workouts since her last race just a month ago! I think this filly is as sharp as a razor and I expect a very big effort from her.
I tried really hard to find a reason to oppose Lookin At Lucky. I tried Gallant Gent, Dave in Dixie and Pulsion on for size but none of them quite fit what I'm looking for in an upsetter. Lookin At Lucky is likely just the best horse and he's supposed to win this race. But watch for the horses that run well behind him. There could be some real BC Juvenile potential among the others. Lucky does not have me convinced that he's championship quality yet but he is more than good enough to win the Norfolk.
Lookin At Lucky