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Sprinters of All Sizes Line Up for Vosburgh

If there’s one race type I need to work on, it’s sprints, so here we go…

The Vosburgh Invitational (I) has had a nice tradition of producing some of the nation’s fastest horses including Breeders’ Cup Classic winner/Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and Male Sprinter Eclipse winner Kodiak Kowboy, but it has also seen some upset winners including last year’s winner Giant Ryan on a wet track. With Belmont forecasted to get some rainfall, will there be another upset? The Vosburgh is a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Sprint.

$400,000 Vosburgh Invitational (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 6 furlongs on dirt at Belmont Park. Post Time: Saturday, September 29 at 4:04pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Poseidon’s Warrior - Irad Ortiz Jr, 124 lbs, Robert Reid - The Speightstown gelding was the prevailing nose winner of the muddy Vanderbilt (I) last out, making it 2-for-2 on off surface races. A 6-furlong stalking specialist, if it pours keep this one on speed-dial.

2) Little Drama - Rajiv Maragh, 124 lbs, Michael Mareina - The adorable blaze-faced little brother of Big Drama has turned around since being gelded and has been working like a champ up to this race. He romped by 3 in his last start in a Saratoga allowance. For a horse who likes to be on or near the lead, he may get overpowered by the class level early, not to mention he is 0-for-3 on an off track.

3) Zero Rate Policy - Jose Lezcano, 124 lbs, Terri Pompay - The Trippi gelding managed to edge out Royal Currier for the runner-up spot in the Afflilate Stakes won by Sean Avery last out, but has been off form for a while. He hasn’t been running well since leaving Florida, but does have a win in the mud. Tough to consider either way.

4)(a) Sean Avery - Joe Bravo, 124 lbs, Allen Iwinski - The bay Cherokee Run gelding returned strong after a year-long layoff to win the 6-furlong Affiliate Stakes at Belmont by 2 1/2 lengths pretty easily. He’s being taken along slowly but just a little more improvement off that romp will send Sean Avery back into G1 mode. His one start on an off track (rated good) was his pace-setting win over Trappe Shot in last year’s Vanderbilt. I don’t usually like layoff guys, but this one’s good.

5)(a) The Lumber Guy - John Velazquez, 122 lbs, Michael Hushion - Lightly-raced, the gray Grand Slam gelding is apt to help set the pace and has won by impressive margins in all of his sprinter-distance starts. Last out he was 6th running beyond his comfort zone in the Peter Pan (II) in May, but has been working like a race-ready beast. Getting Johnny V is a big positive sign, but thanks to the layoff and unproven class level, The Lumber Guy might get slammed at the end by closers and may fall prey if he doesn’t like an off track.

6) Fort Loudon - Corey Nakatani, 122 lbs, Nick Zito - An eager closing second in the 7-furlong King’s Bishop (I) last out, the Awesome Of Course colt has dethroned Trinniberg twice now and looks smart as a newly-minted sprinter. A winner at this distance and sporting good speed figures, Fort Loudon could be game to close into some fast fractions and doesn’t seem legitimately affected by a wet track.

7) Rothko - Julien Leparoux, 124 lbs, Steve Asmussen - The Arch gelding was 5th last out in the muddy Vanderbilt (I), with some good stakes placings this year on the top level of racing. He seems to be spent at the end of the race and is not looking very sharp leading into this race.

8) Royal Currier - Stewart Elliot, 124 lbs, Patricia Farro - The Red Bullet gelding and 6-furlong specialist likes to stalk and has been good this year with 4 wins and 2 thirds in 8 starts this year including 2 stakes wins. Does okay on an off track and is really fire or no fire when he runs. The lack of legitimate class is also a big question.

9) Caixa Eletronica - Javier Castellano, 124 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The do-it-all Arromanches horse drops back to a favorite distance, last at which he won at Belmont in the True North (II) in impressive closing fashion, winning twice in 3 tries this year at 6 furlongs. He’s been looking great and has hit the board in all but 1 start on an off track. With a fast pace assured, keep an eye on this closing machine.

10) Justin Phillip - Ramon Dominguez, 124 lbs, Steve Asmussen - The First Samurai colt has had some rotten luck, missing the True North (II) in a photo finish when he seemed to have it put away. He missed his last start by a nose as well in the muddy Vanderbilt (I) in a career best performance. He’s been looking good; if he can get another lightning pace to close into he’s got a very good shot to win.

Picks in Order:

1) Poseidon’s Warrior

2) Sean Avery

3) Caixa Eletronica

If Poseidon’s Warrior can improve or simply stick it out like he did last time, he’s going to be tough in this race. I also like Sean Avery a lot; he’s a very classy horse capable of producing really big efforts not to mention he’s consistent as heck and fresh for the challenge… he may or may not win Saturday, but either way he will just be warming up for the Breeders’ Cup. Caixa will benefit from the fast pace The Lumber Guy and company are bound to set up, and he loves Belmont and 6 furlongs. He should also get some good value if people look too much into his route tries of recent.

Value Pick: Caixa Eletronica

Smash, Factor Headline the Malibu

Nope, Coil needs more time after all as well as listed “possible” Casper’s Touch, who is slowly crawling his way back to the races. However, the field for the Malibu Stakes is still large and interesting, pitting many improving horses as well as proven winners looking for a shiny new G1 win.

Steve Asmussen will try his chances with 3 entries, led by the spry three-year-old Wine Police. Bob Baffert will also offer up another trio of eligibles led by Kaleem Shah’s Smash.

$300,000 Malibu Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 7 furlongs on dirt at Santa Anita Park. Post Time: Monday, December 26 at 4:35pm PST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) El Pocho [CHI] - Kevin Krigger, 118 lbs, Ruben Cardenas - A little exotic play to the field, this three-year-old Storm Cat grandson doesn’t have a whole lot of info on him and has only been tested in two starts: winning one, coming in second in the other for just over $12,000 in earnings. Is this the right race? I don’t have enough clues to cast judgement, but it should be interesting to watch.

2) Centralinteligence - Joel Rosario, 118 lbs, Ron Ellis - A late probable to the game and a three-year-old by Smarty Jones, he was second last out in an allowance race to Smash. Not a bad horse, but an improving one in sharp company. Joel Rosario ought to help his chances of getting a good trip.

3) Luckarack - Hector Berrios, 118 lbs, Doug O’Neill - A surprisingly steady and long record matches this Lucky Pulpit three-year-old nicely, with efforts mainly focused on 6 furlongs. He is winless in 3 starts at Santa Anita, but was second in an ungraded stakes in August over 7 furlongs. His best distance seems to be 6 furlongs, which causes a little worry for me with such a big leap up in class.

4) Rothko - Corey Nakatani, 118 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Asmussen’s secret weapon, this son of Arch is ready to test stakes waters after three consecutive allowance wins at sprinter distances. He’s been working phenomenally at Santa Anita, dashing through 5 panels recently in :59 4/5. I’ve got my eye on him to nail the board.

5) Racing Aptitude - Mike Smith, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Donald Dizney-Bob Baffert bromance continues (First Dude)! The son of Aptitude easily upset the the ungraded Yo Eleven Stakes at Hollywood after struggling with longer distances for some time. An exciting type of underdog, I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does next. 

6) Hoorayforhollywood - Garrett Gomez, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - A speedy Storm Cat three-year-old, he’s been working excellent for the race with 5 furlongs in :59 1/2. He’s beaten Rothko at SA before in an allowance, but has come up short in the past to Smash. Honestly I think this horse has been tuned up since his last start at a mile in October and has been nuzzling in the dark since his debut for the sprinter class. He’s raring to go: Hoorayforhollywood for the win!

7) Light Up the Score - Victor Espinoza, 118 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Asmussen’s third wheel, by the looks of it. An Unbridled’s Song grandson, his best effort was a second place in a 6-furlong maiden special weight back in September at Belmont. I smell a field filler.

8) Smash [pictured] - Rafael Bejarano, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - Following a lay-off, Smash came back to the races with a good win in an allowance race at Hollywood Park. He’s obviously one of Baffert’s current best three-year-olds next to Coil and The Factor. Boasting only wins and seconds, he’s obviously a good horse, but is he ready for this stakes race so soon?

9) Associate - Ramon Dominguez, 118 lbs, Rick Dutrow - A multi-surface specialist, Associate hasn’t been truly tested in a particular trade. The Wando colt is 3-for-3 at 7 furlongs, although two of those wins were in claiming races. This one worries me. How does a $35k claimer go from plodding around to achieving an almost 40-point Beyer figure jump just by switching trainers? Oh yeah: Rick Dutrow.

10) Wine Police - Joe Talamo, 118 lbs, Steve Asmussen - One of my favorite three-year-olds in the spring, this Speightstown colt sure likes the sprints, falling off the board to fourth only once in 7 starts. This will be his western debut as well as his second attempt to win at 7 furlongs. Not counting on him to win, though I would love to see him do well. A very talented colt, I think this will be an improving race for him.

11) The Factor - Martin Garcia, 123 lbs, Bob Baffert - The winner of the Pat O’Brien Handicap (I), The Factor settles back to a much better distance for him after coming in 8th last out while setting the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I). A horse that seems to be keen on the speed, he’s bound to shoot out immediately to grab the lead as usual, but will need to keep in check if he expects to do well. With a spot on the outside and a good history already at Santa Anita, though, I think he’ll fare well enough to make a second or the win here. The Breeders’ Cup bounce might affect him though, so I wouldn’t dump too much dough on his low odds.

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Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.

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