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Pace Essential for Many in BC Sprint

The souped-up Santa Anita main is bound to play well with the speed demons in the 6-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I), but given that come-from-behinders have done well in the past, who is the best bet of the bunch?

Contenders are:

  • Coil -The handsome G1-winning Point Given colt has proven a nice sprinter winning the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (I) from off-the-pace and is capable of improving more off that win.
  • Gantry - The southern gentleman shipped west, the Pulpit gelding is lightly-raced coming in with a 3-1-1 record out of 5 starts this year and is capable of some awesome performances given running room. His last start was a trafficky 2nd in the Temperance Hill back in September, but he looks well and wants a sizzling pace.
  • Amazombie - Mike Smith remarked following the defending champion’s last start that he was expectedly a bit short running 4th, but then the Northern Afleet gelding underwent some precautionary tests. What’s going on? I don’t know, but apparently he’s working similarly to his win last year and looks to make another bold move closing in on the pace. Out of the money just once at Santa Anita (last out), can he do it again?
  • Smiling Tiger - The son of Hold That Tiger is winless in 3 starts this year and was a hopeless 5th last out in the Triple Bend (I). He’s at his favored distance but will need to hop off that 5-month layoff stronger than ever.
  • Capital Account - The Closing Argument son has yet to finish out of the money running in Cali this year, doing well to surge from behind to never be too far from the front. He missed beating stablemate Coil last out by a head and has been spitting bullets. Upset?
  • Justin Phillip - A tough year for the First Samurai colt, he just doesn’t get a break at the stakes level but isn’t ordinarily beaten by much blowing in from off-the-pace. Doesn’t look as sharp.
  • Poseidon’s Warrior - The muddier the better for this Speightstown colt, who got his calling this year winning the sloppy Vanderbilt (I) then was 3rd last out in the good-rated dirt of the Vosburgh (I), beaten just 3 lengths. Choice pick if the ground gets tainted.
  • Trinniberg - Usually a “need the lead” type, the Teuflesberg colt won 3 graded stakes this year wire-to-wire at 7 furlongs and improved much to stay game in 2nd last out, losing by just a half-length to Well Spelled after sacrificing the lead. He’s worthy, and because of his recent losses will do well at the window.
  • Hamazing Destiny - The son of Salt Lake has just one win this year in 8 starts in the Maryland Sprint (I) back in the spring, running 2nd last out to Emcee in the Forego (I). If he looks good going in, he might have a shot here.
  • The Lumber Guy - The Grand Slam sophomore is 2-for-2 at 6 furlongs and can close as well as lead the way. With Johnny V back to try to make the pair 2-for-2 together, I anticipate a really tough contender.
  • Sum of the Parts- The Speightstown colt has been great this year, catapulting to the Sprint with a wire-to-wire win in the Phoenix (III) last out. The class step up will be a challenge.

The Lumber Guy - He’s got all the markings of a horse who will do very well here

Capital Account - Could very well beat them all out coming from behind at a better price than his stablemate

Gantry - Super tough at 6 furlongs, just give him some space!

Coil - Great colt who looks to keep on improving

Amazombie - Adept closer, if he can recover that form in time

Weekend Stake Tip: Street Cred

I handicapped the three big Travers (I) preps this past week… personal picks Ever So Lucky and Street Life hit the board in the Curlin Stakes. Alpha was fitter than I expected in the Jim Dandy (II) where second place went to Neck ‘N Neck as I predicted and Fast Falcon faltered, and last of all, I got the exacta in the Haskell (I). Other weekend cash-ins worth mentioning were $10 on Amazombie in the Bing Crosby (I), $5 on Winter Memories (Dream Peace [IRE] screwed my Winter Memories-Zagora [FR] exacta) in the Diana Stakes (I), and $2 on a longshot Matz trainee named Assateague on the Saratoga turf.

As a rule and a showing of my true inner stubbornness, I will typically make plays on whatever race I handicapped mid-week on the weekends unless a) the odds are horrid and or b) there was a significant change to the race, such as a key horse scratching or in many cases of late, track condition changes. One thing I will freely admit is that I have yet to really grasp how an off track will affect how the race shapes up, and ultimately, finishes. One guideline a NYRA commentor mentioned leading up to the Jim Dandy (II) that I openly agree with is that with an off track comes the opportunity for longshots to shine, as many who ran poorly on a fit track tend to blossom in the mud or just take advantage of a struggling favorite on the surface. Failure to consider the heavier-than-expected rainfall probably didn’t affect me much this weekend, but it has in the past!

This week, I’m going to go light on everyone and just let the horses speak for themselves. Summing up the 3 three-year-old preps in one word is “meh.” I don’t know what to make of the Jim Dandy (II), most of all. I will say that I do not consider Alpha to be a top contender and will be taking advantage of all the love he’s getting when the Travers rolls around. He set soft fractions on the front end on an off track and while he won by about 2 lengths, the race was not impressive at all. Gemologist beat this horse at his best and that one finished last in the Haskell (I)… what does that say? Paynter looked dominant, but considering the loose credentials of the Haskell field, he wasn’t tested. At this point in time, I think Street Life will win the Travers.

As far as older horses go, Winter Memories made me proud beating up Tapitsfly and the Euros to be 3-for-4 at Saratoga and a wonderful prospect for the Breeders’ Cup Filly Turf (I). Just an easy win for her right there. Sprinter Capital Account should be watched in the future as well as a Starlight Racing two-year-old named Lawn Man I had down to win (but did not bet because of the deep field, agh! 10-1!) who destroyed a very classy maiden special weight at Saratoga.

Weekend Stake Tip: Champions Conquered

The weekend did not disappoint, as two Kentucky Derby prep races gave their audiences a hell of a show. Accompanying stakes races welcomed back Eclipse champions while introducing new names to watch. Tightening up after last weekend’s dismal San Vicente (II), three win bets of $5, $10, and $10 respectively on El Padrino, Nehro, and Union Rags bettered my bankroll while show bets on Shared Property and Discreet Dancer failed to muster anything additional. Graham Motion ruined a pick 3 for me when Smart Bid prevailed by a nose over Mr. Vegas in the Fair Grounds Handicap (III). But, I cannot complain at the day’s end.

Over on the left coast, Santa Anita played host to the return of Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I) champion Amazombie, who while a bit behind on his 2012 campaign had been training better than ever. He took his usual spot behind the pace set by the brilliant The Factor, who trimmed even, fast fractions all the way. Sway Away, returning off a lengthy layoff, broke well behind the rest to trail the field. The Factor looked hot the whole trip, but well in-hand by Martin Garcia. Coming down the lane, Amazombie inched closer, but not with devastating effect. The real attention-grabber was Sway Away, who made a sudden mad dash toward the front. Had the race been a bit longer, Sway Away would have made a serious case for the win. Nonetheless, The Factor had wired the field to win by less than 2 lengths, giving Baffert another win in an impressive streak and keeping the roan son of War Front undefeated at 7 furlongs. Keep an eye on both The Factor in sprints and Sway Away, probably in a mile event, this year. Bob Baffert discusses the colt’s future— including a possible Met Mile (I) start— below.

Featured as a big returning race on the loaded Saturday card at Gulfstream Park was the Sabin Stakes (III) for older fillies, pitting the champion three-year-old filly Royal Delta against fellow Eclipse Award nominee Awesome Maria, who was fresh off an injury-induced 8 month layoff. The gray five-year-old Awesome Maria broke last, but was eased into fourth between horses into a nice tracking position behind the leaders. Royal Delta, not content to trail early on, leapt up to the side of Awesome Maria, who began gunning for the superior position. Striding easily around the far turn, the gray daughter of Maria’s Mon looked every bit the favorite and was given her head turning for home. Making a mockery of Royal Delta, who finished a distant second, Awesome Maria coasted home under a hand ride and ought to be taken seriously already. Watch replay

Runaway Malibu Stakes (II) winner The Factor hopes to keep Bob Baffert’s hot streak rolling when he faces off against Amazombie in this Saturday’s San Carlos (II) feature race at Santa Anita.

Runaway Malibu Stakes (II) winner The Factor hopes to keep Bob Baffert’s hot streak rolling when he faces off against Amazombie in this Saturday’s San Carlos (II) feature race at Santa Anita.

The amazingly keen and perhaps the only Breeders’ Cup winner who was a free horse, Amazombie is slated to run in today’s Palos Verdes Stakes (II) at Santa Anita against the likes of Euroears, M One Rifle, and Mensa Heat.

The amazingly keen and perhaps the only Breeders’ Cup winner who was a free horse, Amazombie is slated to run in today’s Palos Verdes Stakes (II) at Santa Anita against the likes of Euroears, M One Rifle, and Mensa Heat.

To “Grace” Be The Glory: The Eclipse Awards Last Night

This year was my first time tuning into the Eclipse Awards, American Thoroughbred racing’s highest year-end honors, and while the stream was very poor, the awards did not disappoint. In a year with many divisions lacking a single stand-out champion, the illustrious Horse of the Year prize went to heavily-favored Havre de Grace along with a shut-out in Older Female, culminating a remarkable campaign against girls and boys alike. Hansen drew the voters in for his two-year-old award, and Bill Mott triumphed in a close race for Trainer of the Year.

  • Horse of the Year: Havre de Grace [166 votes] (Acclamation: 26, Game On Dude: 10)
  • Male Juvenile: Hansen [194 votes] (Union Rags: 52, Secret Circle: 1)
  • Female Juvenile: My Miss Aurelia [247 votes] (Stephanie’s Kitten: 1)
  • Three-Year-Old Male: Animal Kingdom [114 votes] (Caleb’s Posse: 111, Shackleford: 12)
  • Three-Year-Old Female: Royal Delta [243 votes] (Awesome Feather: 2, Plum Pretty: 2)
  • Older Male: Acclamation [95 votes] (Game On Dude: 70, Tizway: 52)
  • Older Female: Havre de Grace [245 votes] (Blind Luck: 2, Awesome Maria: 1)
  • Male Turf: Cape Blanco [IRE] [172 votes] (Acclamation: 55, St. Nicholas Abbey [IRE]: 16)
  • Female Turf: Stacelita [158 votes] (Perfect Shirl: 28, Never Retreat: 25)
  • Male Sprinter: Amazombie [201 votes] (Caleb’s Posse: 42, Regally Ready: 2)
  • Female Sprinter: Musical Romance [131 votes] (Hilda’s Passion: 53, Sassy Image: 46]
  • Steeplechaser: Black Jack Blues [IRE] [137 votes] (Tax Ruling: 80, Decoy Daddy [IRE]: 1)
  • Trainer of the Year: Bill Mott [83 votes] (Bob Baffert: 60, Todd Pletcher: 57)
  • Jockey of the Year: Ramon Dominguez [197 votes] (John Velazquez: 30, Javier Castellano: 14)
  • Apprentice Jockey of the Year: Kyle Frey [77 votes] (Ryan Curatolo: 57, Rosario Montanez: 19)
  • Owner of the Year: Ken and Sarah Ramsey [55 votes] (Midwest Thoroughbreds: 60, Team Valor International: 25)
  • Breeder of the Year: Adena Springs [151 votes] (Ken and Sarah Ramsey: 62, Ocala Stud: 5)

Among the most surprising and controversial of results, Animal Kingdom won the award for Best Three-Year-Old Male by a mere 3 votes over the terrific, dual-G1 winner Caleb’s Posse. The two, while expected to have a close race, were the hot topic of discussion for several months leading up to the Eclipse Awards, and by the looks of things, many non-voters were disgruntled by the outcome.

Also, now that mares have won the Horse of the Year prize for the past three years running, is it still just to still rank their victories in male-dominated races higher than when those same races are captured by the colts?

Overall, not a bad ceremony, but they could use a new audio and graphics person for the next stream and video presentation!

Amazombie and co-owner/trainer Bill Spawr

Amazombie and co-owner/trainer Bill Spawr

Hi! Just wanted to say that your random fact about Amazombie blew me away! I LOVE to learn stuff like this. Your blog is so so awesome!

Asked by exactagirl

I know right? Makes you look at free horses a little differently. I’ll hear little interesting whispers about some horses every now and then, so I just have to look more into them to get the facts. That was certainly one of them I was glad to find out was factual. 

Horse Racing Facts #28

Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie was technically a “free” horse. A friend of his co-owner and trainer, Bill Spawr, told him someone’s son was dispersing his deceased father’s two racehorses. Spawr had no serious money to spend, and when asked to name a price, he offered “$5,000 for him"— for the better of the two horses who last out came in fourth in a good race. The man thought Spawr said "them" and sold both the intended horse and the freebie Amazombie for $5,000.

Probably the best buy one, get one deal I’ve ever seen.

The Factor headlines a field of six for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I)-qualifying race, the Ancient Title Stakes (I) this Saturday at Santa Anita. The gray/roan son of War Front blasted away the track record for the same six-furlong distance in his Pat O’Brien (I) comeback and will meet the likes of Square Eddie and Amazombie here. There’s no second-guessing who will win here… GO FACTOR! With this win, it would make him the ONLY three-year-old with more than one G1 victory this year!

The Factor headlines a field of six for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I)-qualifying race, the Ancient Title Stakes (I) this Saturday at Santa Anita. The gray/roan son of War Front blasted away the track record for the same six-furlong distance in his Pat O’Brien (I) comeback and will meet the likes of Square Eddie and Amazombie here. There’s no second-guessing who will win here… GO FACTOR! With this win, it would make him the ONLY three-year-old with more than one G1 victory this year!

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