Another glittering Christophe Clement trainee
I got more than one message from some of you kids apologizing for “jinxing” me… this was honestly one of the tougher races, and I’m currently beating myself up for not taking a closer look at Ring Weekend. The field was so evenly-matched I criticize myself for not picking a chestnut son of Tapit. Those are practically my favorites… and he ran a very similar race last out around the same time for 1 1/16 miles. Very nice horse, and he’ll probably show up on my March Top 10 with trainer Graham Motion backing him.
Nobody had Ring Weekend or third place Surfing U S A, but a number of you had Vinceremos, including our current leader iadoreunna. Each of you earned $11.80 to advance on the leaderboards this weekend. Congrats!
Next weekend we’ll be doing the Rebel Stakes, so best of luck to everyone!
A year ago, Tumblr erupted with posts about the greatest Triple Crown winner who ever lived.
Today is his day. Appreciate and reblog ‘Slew.
Surfing U S A ships in from Gulfstream to tackle stablemate Vinceremos.
While the class of the Derby contenders save their energy for the big payday preps, a motley field assembles for the Tampa Bay Derby, which includes the first and third place finishers of the Sam Davis (III), regarded as the prep race for this event despite the last winner of both being Burning Roma, all the way back in 2001. Todd Pletcher seeks his third Tampa Bay Derby win overall and second consecutively with the top two morning line choice Surfing U S A and Vinceremos.
Week 6/10 of the Derby Handicap Contest! Submit your choice of horse through this link by 5:05pm EST (20 minutes before post time). Read the Contest tab for rules and more information.
$350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (II) - 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs. Post Time: Saturday, March 8 at 5:25pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Ring Weekend - Daniel Centeno, 116 lbs, Graham Motion - The Tapit gelding has been getting better and better with time according to his connections, and he seems to have the speed figs to back up that belief. He won by enough wiggle room in his last start— his first time on fast dirt at this distance— despite going wide early. Graham Motion wins at a 25% clip here and the rail has been generous here at this track. Value can be had, but do note this horse is fresh off his maiden score.
2) Surfing U S A - Jose Lezcano, 116 lbs, Todd Pletcher - I wasn’t particularly impressed when I saw this Roman Ruler colt break his maiden at Aqueduct in the fall, and he was most recently snuffed out by Top Billing at Gulfstream Park. His breezes look good enough, and Pletcher may be eyeing an easier score here. How he does will at least tell us how good Top Billing really is.
3) Matador [ON] - Julien Leparoux, 116 lbs, Mark Casse - The “other” Casse entry, the Malibu Moon colt broke his maiden back in October at Woodbine on the turf, but seemed good enough to run on dirt judging by his 1-length loss in the Sam Davis, where he finished 4th while putting his best move in a bit too late. He improved well in the Sam Davis, and we haven’t really seen his best move yet due to choppy trips in the past or just surface indifference. Could be a diamond in the rough if he can keep improving.
4) Coltimus Prime - Gary Boulanger, 116 lbs, Justin Nixon - The Milwaukee Brew colt has some distance pedigree pinging around as a bit of a backside secret, as all of his 3 past starts came on Woodbine’s all-weather. He missed by a neck to the good Jose Sea View last out after enduring a very stubborn duel the whole race and smashed his maiden by 8 lengths. He seems to be quality enough to run here and his pedigree says dirt.
5) Conquest Titan - Shaun Bridgmohan, 116 lbs, Mark Casse - This Birdstone colt made quite the impression breaking his maiden at Churchill and then made up serious ground late to be 2nd in the Holy Bull behind Cairo Prince. If he can get some pace and not lag behind this time, he stands a good shot to get some more Derby points here.
6) Vinceremos - Edgar Prado, 120 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The lightly-raced and promising Pioneerof the Nile colt was up in time to win the Sam Davis last out here at Tampa at the same distance despite a bit of a sleeper pace. He came on again to prevail in his last race, displaying some class in a tight finish. An improving, sensible, likely favorite.
7) East Hall - Juan Levya, 116 lbs, Bill Kaplan - Kaplan’s horses usually stick around south Florida, but this time he ships out this Graeme Hall gelding after 2 wins in 11 starts. He was 3rd behind General A Rod and Wildcat Red in the Gulfstream Park Derby and was beaten more than 6 lengths in the Florida Derby, running 4th. He already has 3 starts as a three-year-old, but has some of the sharpest speed figures on dirt when he’s at his best, and he’ll come in closing in on the pace.
8) Cousin Stephen - Javier Castellano, 116 lbs, Chad Brown - Typically a stronger turf trainer than on dirt, Chad Brown ships in a son of one of my favorite sires, Proud Citizen, with Castellano to boot. He was beaten less than a length last out in the Sam Davis here while trying to gamely wire the field. Interestingly enough, his best race and only win to date was his maiden won on turf. He didn’t improve significantly enough between his 2 dirt starts this year to really tempt me here, but the jockey change to Castellano is a nice addition.
9) Hy Kodiak Warrior - Gabriel Saez, 116 lbs, Marcial Navarro - Part of Kodiak Kowboy’s first crop to race, Kodiak Warrior will be given Lasix for the first time this race with a trainer who is 50% at first-time Lasix winners and an already attractive set of speed stats to go with that little boost. He lost to two good horses last out, Commissioner and Top Billing, while making his first start with trainer Navarro. He didn’t make up much ground against Commish and Top Billing last out, and is coming off a 2-month layoff with a new trainer. However, there is plenty to like about him as a fairly consistent runner who likes to come from off the pace, and he has some good 5 and 6-panel works coming into this race.
10) Tuscan Getaway - Joe Rocco Jr, 116 lbs, Ricky Griffith - 2-2-2 in 7 starts, the Stroll colt hasn’t raced since November over at Woodbine, where he wired the field at this distance on the all-weather main. He does have a prior win on dirt at Delaware Park as well as a place in his 2 dirt starts. Class as well as extended layoff is an issue, especially as a horse who likes to hug the pace, but his trainer does win at a 26% clip and this colt put in a barn-burning :57 and change workout a couple weeks ago.
Top 3 Picks in Order:
1) Hy Kodiak Warrior
2) Conquest Titan
3) Cousin Stephen
This is a bit of a hard race to pick apart when it comes to locating a serious contender for the win. Vinceremos had a rail trip of things and was in the clear to just make it there in the Sam Davis. There seems to be an ample amount of forwardly-placed horses here, which causes me to want to look at those who launch their bids later on. Despite a long layoff, Hy Kodiak Warrior looks like a good choice with good odds. He’s run well with classy types and has been logging some good longer works lately leading up to the race. Conquest Titan probably won’t get enough ground here again, not that he needs to win here to get prepared enough for the big race, but it ought to set up for him if he can be moved up a bit closer than he was in the Holy Bull. Cousin Stephen could have won the Sam Davis had he not been squeezed in the stretch on both sides. I want to put up Coltimus Prime pretty badly up here as well, but not off such a long layoff.
Value Pick: Hy Kodiak Warrior (8-1)
Contest Wager: Hy Kodiak Warrior
One of Akindale Farm’s racers: Mlle. Minuit, a daughter of Midnight Lute and a granddaughter of Silver Charm
As you may have noticed, GHR has had a bit of an hiatus. This is not because I hate you, I’ve just been quite busy with the real world. 3 tests at school, more documentary prep work/shooting, and preparing for my portfolio defense and interview processes this coming week has really hampered any updates being made.
For the Derby Handicap, this is an “away” week with no contest races needing handicapping. Yes, the Gotham is today, but I didn’t include it as a contest race because of Aqueduct’s shaky history of drawing good fields… plus that would give Aqueduct ace handicappers an unfair advantage if we had 3 races in the contest be there. Next week we’ll be back in action for the Tampa Bay Derby (II). The 3 people who picked Intense Holiday to win the Risen Star should be happy with their $22 step up in payroll, resulting in a freshened top 3:
1) [still] Iadoreunna - $45.30
2) Marroquin - $35.10
3) Marioangel - $31.00
Intense Holiday before his 4th place finish in the Remsen Stakes (II).
I finally got a mention in America’s Best Racing’s weekly Notebook.
Week 5/10 of the Derby Handicap Contest: Submit your choice of horse up to 20 minutes through this link before the scheduled post time of 5:25pm CST for this race. Read the Contest tab for rules and more information.
Two graded stakes winners and a handful of challengers line up to take some Derby points in a loaded rendition of the Risen Star Stakes. As though named for the race, Rise Up will return from a 3-month layoff since winning the Delta Downs Jackpot in a romp to challenge Lecomte (III) winner Vicar’s In Trouble, who had no trouble winning that race by almost 7 lengths. #4 Bond Holder scratched, allowing also-eligible entry Emmett Park into the gate. The other also-eligible, Teniente Coronel, will not run according to his trainer.
$400,000 Risen Star Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Fair Grounds. Post Time: Saturday, February 22 at 5:25pm CST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Albano - Kerwin Clark, 116 lbs, Larry Jones - The son of Istan and half to Mark Valeski breaks from the rail after a somewhat unfavorable trip last out in the Lecomte (III), where he finished a respectable 2nd way behind Vicar’s In Trouble. He has won 2 and has never been off the board in 4 starts. While I expect him to run a better trip here, I think he may be out of luck here. Perhaps needs more ground like Atigun, another Istan colt.
2) Rise Up - Gerard Melancon, 120 lbs, Tom Amoss - The Rockport Harbor colt has won 4 of 6 races, including the Delta Jackpot (III) by a breezy 6 lengths over Casiguapo. He owns some of the best figures here and has a win at the distance. His workouts look good and he has enough early speed to do well at this post. Extended layoffs didn’t hurt him in the past, and he looks fresh.
3) Flat Gone - Chris Landeros, 116 lbs, Keith Desormeaux - Trainer Desormeaux took this race in a shocker last year with Ive Struck a Nerve, so can he go back-to-back with this Flatter colt? Flat Gone has been a bit of a lost cause up until his last race here at the Fair Grounds, where he rallied on the turn to break his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths to improve very significantly. Flat Gone retains 10% rider Landeros for this race and Desormeaux is nearly 20% here. While I credit that maiden win to a rapid pace, if he improves his numbers again he could be a factor.
4) Vigorish - Marcelino Pedroza, 116 lbs, D. Wayne Lukas - Lukas with another seemingly hopeless son of English Channel in the Derby preps (Optimizer!)? Vigorish has yet to snap his maiden in 6 starts, the best of which were 2 places. To his credit, he was barely beaten last out going this distance at Oaklawn, and his resume is a mix between turf, slop, and inexperience that has handicapped him. He’s a bit of a lost cause, but do you dare to doubt the Coach with a horse who is knocking at the door?
6) Gold Hawk - Corey Nakatani, 116 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Smushed as the favorite last out in the Lecomte (III), the Empire Maker colt switches to Corey Nakatani after he got going too late to catch Vicar’s In Trouble in his only career loss in 3 starts. His numbers and race trips are not that impressive. Asmussen and Nakatani are a good combo though.
7) Interchange - E.T. Baird, 116 lbs, Thomas Clark - 2-for-2 as a juvenile, the Fairbanks colt goofed in his 3-year-old debut here at Fair Grounds, being 5th by nearly 10 lengths to Quick Indian and Xtra Luck in 3rd. Interchange’s two wins aren’t very special looking at the setup he received: one a likely pace meltdown, the other an uncontested easy lead. Nope.
8) Hoppertunity - Martin Garcia, 116 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Any Given Saturday colt was a bit slow and wide while 5th in his debut race won by Bayern, then reeled them in on the rail last out to win by 3. Bob Baffert is a pro shipping to the midwest and Hops should improve. Yet to accomplish much of anything, Hops will be stretching and shipping, but ought to be a fairly decent play as his last race was really nice.
9) Intense Holiday - Mike Smith, 116 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The Harlan’s Holiday colt had a rough trip of things in the Remsen (II) last year, and got along to be 3rd last out in the Holy Bull (II) despite breaking from an outer post. He gets another outer post here and has only won once in 6 starts. He improved his figures last out and should improve again in his 2nd start off the layoff. How highly you think of Cairo Prince should factor into how you place him. Likely to get good odds again.
10) Son of a Preacher - Miguel Mena, 116 lbs, Bret Calhoun - The Pulpit colt hasn’t won since his debut going 6 furlongs at Churchill Downs last year, and hasn’t faced much class in recent starts, the best of which was a 3 1/2 length loss to Gold Hawk. He’s failed to make much ground (if any) up in the stretch, but did get a rocky race against Gold Hawk here at the Fair Grounds. He could do better with an improved trip, but how much so is the question.
11) Quick Indian - Brian Hernandez Jr, 116 lbs, Merrill Scherer - The Indian Charlie colt won his allowance race here at the Fair Grounds in January, spinning off the turn to log 2-of-3 wins at the distance. A great pedigree, with an Apple Blossom (I) winner for his dam’s mother, Quick Indian could keep improving.
12) Xtra Luck - Richard Eramia, 116 lbs, Danny Pish - The Exchange Rate colt was a well-beaten 3rd last out, more than 9 lengths behind Quick Indian. Outer post, poor figs, bred like a grass horse.
13) Commanding Curve - Robby Albarado, 116 lbs, Dallas Stewart - The Master Command colt had some cruddy races before finally snapping his maiden at Churchill Downs, running his best late and eating into a slow pace from the back of the field going this distance. An interesting new player, he won well enough last out to be a contender here if he can keep improving. The long layoff may hurt him.
14) Vicar’s In Trouble - Rosie Napravnik, 120 lbs, Mike Maker - The Into Mischief colt is 2-for-2 at Fair Grounds and is fresh off a commanding score in the Lecomte (III) last out, where he won by nearly 7 lengths despite veering out a little. The distance and contenders should be no problem for him, but the outer post is daunting as he will have to break quickly and give up some ground in the process. It’s not impossible, though, and he has plenty of talent.
AE) Emmett Park - James Graham, 116 lbs, Robert Pincins - 2-for-2 at Turfway Park on poly, the Bob and John gelding has had 3 Fair Grounds works on dirt and looks to be an improver and a closer should he keep the same strategies on dirt. His works have been good on the dirt and he can be had from an improving angle. I do not think a wide post (should he get post 14… I’m assuming he does) will hinder him.
Top 3 Picks in Order:
2) Rise Up
3) Commanding Curve
The horse to beat here isn’t Vicar’s In Trouble, but Rise Up, who owns top figures all around but is still in need of a test— and should he win on Saturday, he’ll probably need to be tested again as this is a pretty weak field altogether. Hoppertunity made some leaps and bounds in his last race and I’m keen on him to do well here. I liked Commanding Curve’s Churchill win a lot and he should improve. All I worry about for him is fitness level. I could go back and forth between these three all day, this is a tough race.
Value Pick: Commanding Curve (6-1 or better) can explode in that last quarter from behind if he’s still got it.
Contest Wager: Hoppertunity