Sure there’s the loaded Hawthorne Derby (III) and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (I) going on this weekend, but instead of concentrating on those bigger races I’m returning to take a look at Calder’s Festival of the Sun program, the highlight of which is the G3 Spend A Buck Handicap. Four-year-old Gourmet Dinner had much success there as a juvenile before winning the Delta Downs Jackpot, and after hitting a bump in the road up north, he returns home to Miami in an easier spot. Many of the locals have turned out for the Spend A Buck as the Calder meet winds down to switch off with Gulfstream in a couple of weeks.
Weather looks to keep the track solid for once, as Calder had many off-turf and sloppy goings this meet thanks to a lot of rainfall and tropical storms. The surface should be fast for Saturday.
$100,000 Spend A Buck Handicap (III) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Calder Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, October 13 at 4:17pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Ducduc - Fernando Jara, 116 lbs, Shivananda Parboo - The 6-year-old son of Langfuhr hasn’t budged from racing in South Florida all year, culminating in just 1 win in 10 starts with 5 total board efforts, mainly in small stakes. He snapped his losing streak last out in last month’s Our Dear Peggy Stakes over 1 1/8 miles while stalking a solid pace. His solitary win is misleading— the 2nd and 3rd horses are winless this year— as the horses in front of him faded to allow his rally.
2) Gourmet Dinner - Sebastian Madrid, 122 lbs, David Braddy - The Trippi colt was on fire as a juvenile, but has faded a good deal which had effectively deflected him from the rest of last year’s Triple Crown trail. His one victory this year came in the 1 1/16 mile Majestic Light Stakes at Monmouth over known sprinters like Ponzi Scheme, where he rallied wide and impressively to snatch the win by a neck. Gourmet Dinner was a longshot in the Woodward, but will be the favorite and class to beat here. Of things of concern, he is trading hands in his Calder transfer from Bruce Brown to local David Braddy.
3) Cash Rules - Luis Saez, 120 lbs, David Fawkes - The Peace Rules gelding has a 3-2-1 record this year in 7 starts including 3 stakes— all at Calder. His strategy is simple yet effective stalking the pace and then pulling clear in the stretch. No one here is likely to go fast enough to wear down Cash Rules early, leaving him as one of the dummy-proof favorites in this contest.
4) Decisive Moment - Jesus Rios, 116 lbs, Juan Arias - The With Distinction colt makes a return to the races after a summer-long layoff, with his last start being a tired 5th in the Miami Mile in April. G3-placed, he was constantly a nod away from Gourmet Dinner but has been unsuccessful at hitting the board in all 4 of his starts this year. It’s evident by the variety of surfaces and distances they’ve been giving this colt along with the extended break that they’re running out of ideas. He hasn’t been giving very impressive works at Calder leading up to the race, and as a middle-distance horse that’s certainly troubling.
5) Two Is to Many - Juan Leyva, 113 lbs, Manuel Carrasco - The first of two three-year-olds in the field, the Bandini colt may have a grammatical error for a name but he’s 3 wins this year out of 12 starts (6 total on the board) all in Florida, with two of those wins being back-to-back allowance efforts. He’s coming off a good fresh work at Calder, owning the best of 9 moves at 4 panels. The pace in those last 2 winning efforts were slowly paced and classless; he conquered the place in his last start by 1 1/2 yes, but the rest of the horses were very strung out which is bizarrely bad. His class troubles are proven by his record with just 1 board hit in 4 stakes attempts (all ungraded).
6) Flatter This - Antonio Gallardo, 112 lbs, Kathleen O’Connell - A fixture at Calder, the son of Flatter hasn’t been very flattering this year with two shows in 9 total starts. He rolled up to the front in the Darn That Alarm, but could not conquer the slow pace won by Cash Rules, and followed that performance up with a factorless, ground-saving trip in an allowance where he was 7th. A sluggish work with a very off horse that hasn’t won anything in over a year makes for a very big longshot.
7) Fair Whit - Willie Martinez, 110 lbs, Shivananda Parboo - The Birdstone gelding is as hit-and-miss as your common claimer with 3 wins this year in 7 starts, the other 4 being total duds. Normally coming from off the pace, he can be incredibly finicky (he flat-out quit in his last dirt start at Calder, being as much as 20 lengths behind the next horse) but has some good works to his name coming off a good win at Parx. Feeling brave? Fair Whit has all the makings of a good competitor who is choice at a very low impost, but I shy at any opportunity where Shivananda feels a horse like this is ready to make his stakes debut (I find he often shoots for the moon with his horses). He will have to improve and look fresh to do well.
8) Csaba - Manoel Cruz, 113 lbs, Philip Gleaves - Taking the blinkers off, the three-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt takes to the dirt again after back-to-back disappointments in the Equalize Stakes (on grass however) and the wonky Pennsylvania Derby where he went wide and never made it up front where he likes. Downgrading to Calder, a track where he sports a 4-for-7 win record, and getting a nice impost, he could be game for a comeback.
Top Picks in Order:
2) Cash Rules
3) Gourmet Dinner
Csaba is most apt to go for the lead and try to set a nice pokey pace just as he likes to do in a wire-to-wire effort, effectively holding off any closers who may benefit from something faster. Fawkes-conditioned and likely to be ignored, Cash Rules will be there to stalk and has a good chance for upset while Gourmet Dinner should feel welcomed by the class slouch.
Value Pick: Cash Rules