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Breeders’ Cup Recaps: Holy Goldencents


This isn’t so much a “belated” post as it is one that has been allowed to fester and tenderize over the past few weeks. And yet every time I mull over what were the best Breeders’ Cup performances— as much as I disliked the running of the event this year— one horse keeps popping up:


It was one of those races that looked over from the start. I winced at not including Goldencents in a pick 4 ticket I had built up and would have won had I done so, as soon as I saw the horse in the post parade. Dammit, he looks pretty okay! As I advertised repeatedly, I was still very gung-ho about South American invader and Kelso (II) runner Brujo de Olleros, who I surmised would come roaring in off the pace in a race that was sure to be loaded with it. But as soon as those horses took off and away from the clanging metal, my eyeballs locked with the screen. Goldencents appeared to be running quickly with pistonesque strokes of his legs tapping across the Santa Anita main which he has loved much over the course of the year, but he seemed to be holding any challengers at bay. And he was doing so decisively, and the only thing that came to mind was how much he looked like Fort Larned before that horse rolled over the field to take the Stephen Foster (I) earlier in the year. Oh shit, is someone going to catch him? Will he tank out in the stretch? Just look at those fractions! The evil echo I hear all too often popped on again: Remember what you said earlier in the year when he won the Santa Anita Derby? He’s no good at 10 furlongs, but 9 maybe… a mile is his calling card. Like I did about Shackleford post-Preakness in the following year’s Met Mile, I found myself kicking my own groin.

Whether it was the lightning fast course, the 72-hour security barns, just-deceased grandsire Harlan’s Holiday looking down, or the serendipitous locomotion of Goldie’s racing heart, the Into Mischief colt took the Dirt Mile in a glorious and much deserved romp. Brujo made up ground to be 3rd, again the victim of a course too friendly to speed horses. It hurt to be so torn with the anger many fans and bettors had about the unfair bias mixed with the glee of what was an obviously very fleet horse. Weeks later, I am still beside myself with mood swings that may have cheated a few horses out of year-end honors.

This brings us up to speed for this coming Saturday’s Cigar Mile (I), where Goldencents is set to be the high-weight and will race the Filly & Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll, G1 winners Verrazano and Private Zone, and Laugh Track, who was an improving 2nd in the Sprint behind Secret Circle. It’s no secret that Aqueduct is a different animal than Santa Anita, and Goldencents will have to dance in the cold New York air after shipping 3,000 miles. With the lack of a detention barn and no holds barred on Todd Pletcher’s home turf, I have agreed with myself that if Goldie prevails again, I’ll freely give up the grudge I’ve had against him all year.

Racing Beat: August 19

Taking the lesson I learned last year to heart and planning the Breeders’ Cup Handicap contest MEGA EARLY before school decimates my attention span. I’m about 95% sure the format will be changed from being like the official “Fantasycapping” (choice of $20 win, place, show or $10 exacta box) to choosing just one horse per race for a mythical $2 win/place/show wager. It’s simpler and will level the playing field.

A TVG analyst’s Pick 6 selections cashed for $53,000. What the what. Eat your heart out, DRF.

It’s not all bad. Take Charge Indy will probably be the next Pulpit… if we’re all lucky…

Anyone else think that Alpha might be retired to stud soon after running poorly (if at all) at his old stomping grounds?

Thank you thank you to the intelligent people at the Breeders’ Cup who brought back the Distaff name. Now if we can only get all those fall stakes at Santa Anita their old names back.

I’m a little saddened by the retirement of Tres Borrachos. He and Kettle Corn were/are some of my random favorite runners out west. CHESTNUT GELDING POWER!

I kicked myself when Spicer Cub won at 15-1 odds the other day. The whole reason I have this virtual stable thing is to know when horses I like are running so I can get a bet in if they’re good enough odds. 15-1 is kind of criminal!

Best new two-year-old sires to follow? Pioneerof the Nile and Colonel John.

I can now make jokes about Consortium taking a nap at Saratoga without too much whiplash. Poor guy, I was worried when he fell over after racing while I was at the track, then got up after being down on his side for a while and seemed to be okay when he got back to the barn.

Shackleford's fans *might* get to root on his brother this week: Dare Me, a son of Johannesburg, is an also-eligible at Delaware Park on Wednesday.

I need to see a steeplechase race someday.

Rest in peace, Unbridled’s Song.

Tweet o’ the Week

Derby Watch: Let’s Talk Zito

Now one of the bloodstock market’s most intriguing and good-looking new prospects, was Dialed In the last frontier for Nick Zito’s Derby success or can we entertain the idea of more to come?

Nick Zito is not the world’s most winningest trainer, but when he’s got one, ya’ll better watch out. Going into the 2010 Derby, he had the favorite in tough-as-nails closer Dialed In, who was hot off a tremendous Florida Derby (I) victory over the stubborn speedster Shackleford. I probably should have given him more credit for that win considering how highly I regard Shackleford now, but with that said and done, Zito does have a couple nice colts targeted for Churchill this year.

I wanted to bring this guy up a few months ago, but sadly he did not live up to expectations as early as I anticipated, and thus I couldn’t justify including him in my Early Bird Watch. One of the first sons of Curlin, I liked the looks of Dyker Beach last year. While Curlin is not proven yet as a freshman sire, he does have the classic lineage that suggests success at 10 furlongs after winning the Preakness (I), the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I), the Arkansas Derby (I), the Stephen Foster (I), and I’ll just stop now. His chances of being awesome are well in his favor, obviously. Dyker Beach is a bay colt out of the Capote mare, Favorite Feather, who has a stakes-winning foal closely related to him. Featherbed by Smart Strike (Curlin’s sire), was G1-placed as a two-year-old and won a  6-furlong stakes at Saratoga at 3. Favorite Feather is also a half sister to Bright Feather, the dam of G1 champion Albert the Great. Her half sister, In On The Secret (by Secretariat), had a colt by Capote named King of Capote who won more than $800,000.

Second in his debut at Delaware Park, the bay Curlin colt looked like he needed more space to complete his job than 6 furlongs, muscling out the place by a nose in a closing rally, but was far off from the winner. In his second start at Churchill Downs, he appeared to make a case then got too flustered and finished 9th in a 7-furlonger won by the promising Gulfport. He took time off— the main reason I left him out of the Early Bird articles— but he is obviously doing much better after another Gulfstream maiden race. He closed in on the field from far back on the mile-long course, but his stablemate was a bit closer than he was as he was gaining ground late. I think he’ll get better as time wears on and he grows into his three-year-old body, as will many other “Curlins.”

But what of the stablemate of his that beat him?

It seems every year there’s an awesome Giant’s Causeway to watch. Creative Cause, Eskendereya, Fed Biz… when are we getting our Giant winner? Zito is already thinking highly of one that is in his care by the name of Eton Blue, owned by the famous Marylou Whitney Stable, who sports nice bloodlines as well as some skill. By leading sire Giant’s Causeway, the bay colt is out of the Cape Town daughter Bird Town, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Oaks (I) and Acorn (I) who could carry her ability across a multitude of distances. Bird Town is also out of Dear Birdie, making her a half sister to millionaire Belmont winner Birdstone. Bird Town’s sire Cape Town is most noted for his G1 win in the Florida Derby (he ran second, but won by disqualification).

Talent-wise, we’ve seen just the tip of the iceberg for Eton Blue. He’s been getting better and better in his workouts, and held off his stablemate as noted last out in a Gulfstream maiden special weight over a mile. This looks like a special colt who knows what to do and has some real nice family backing him up as the distances grow longer. I’m excited to see what he can do, and all in all, Gulfstream is in for yet another awesome prep trail this year!

The Unforgettable Races of 2012: #10-1


Continued from the #20-11 best races post, it’s time to hammer out the ten most awesome and memorable races from 2012! Again, a lot of my choices are North American, so you Euro fans and the like take it easy on me!

Honorable mention: I believe I miscounted the number of races I had before… I really meant to include Mizdirection’s Turf Sprint here in the middle of the countdown. Ugh! I knew I was bad at math but this is very erroneous… sorry Miz!

10) Union Rags sneaks by Paynter to win Belmont (I) - My most personal race from 2012 being that I was there for it, whether you cared for the race or not it was still one not to miss. Hot improver Paynter looked like the first horse in some time that could win the Test of the Champion wire-to-wire until Union Rags managed to find a path through on the inside just as time ran out. Watch it here

9) Questing all shock and awe in Alabama (I) performance - I was kind of heart-broken to have missed this race in person (it was between this weekend and the Whitney weekend I had to go to Saratoga), but all in all, it was still a jaw-dropping display of raw ability watching Questing set Secretariat-like fractions in a wire-to-wire romp in the Alabama (I) against top-class fillies! Watch it here

8) Shackleford deflects Caleb’s Posse to win stunning Met Mile (I) - I didn’t have him to win despite feeling that he could win this race last year after his Preakness victory, all because I thought he was in bad form. Shack Attack proved me wrong and his fan base was jubilant as he kept right on going in a rousing renewal of his rivalry with Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I) champion Caleb’s Posse. Watch it here

7) My Miss Aurelia ousts Questing in Cotillion (I) match race - Despite boasting a four horse field, it was really a match race between undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (I) winner My Miss Aurelia and the rising star Questing, each well-handicapped against each other to make things an interesting race. Each filly gave it her best and it was quite the million-dollar race. Watch it here

6) Royal Delta digs in, gives away weight, and still prevails in gutsy Delaware Handicap (II) - We all knew she was something special, but a fast horse is nothing without a big heart. Royal Delta gave away 3 to 10 pounds to all of her foes, including a whopping 9 to recent Azeri (III) winner Tiz Miz Sue who challenged her in the stretch when she already appeared to be going all out. Watch it here

5) Wise Dan conquers international field, holds off Animal Kingdom in Breeders’ Cup Mile (I) - A vulnerable favorite, Wise Dan capped off an impeccable year as a do-it-all gelding with a win in the seriously competitive Breeders’ Cup Mile against shippers of colossal class. He skirted away to the lead in the stretch as easily as he did in past starts while managing to hold off Animal Kingdom who came sweeping in late. Watch it here

4) I’ll Have Another catches Bodemeister in dramatic Kentucky Derby (I) - A curious race from its rocky start, Bodemeister unexpectedly outran predicted pacesetter Trinniberg early and looked prime to wire the Derby in an outstanding display of might, only to tire and be caught late by the heroic I’ll Have Another. Watch it here

3) Orfevre caught by Solemia in upsetting Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (FR-I) - While it appeared that Japan’s Triple Crown winner was going to revel in the one of the world’s most prestigious races, it was Solemia who stormed in late and out of the clouds to upset the good Orfevre in the waning moments of the Arc. Watch it here

2) Frankel bows a perfect winner in Champion Stakes (ENG-I) - A timeless, unforgettable sort of horse, the fantastic Frankel made his last start worthwhile as he encountered trouble in the early stages of the race while running on soft turf against some of the best horses in Europe. The crowd cheering to a sustained din, it was the ideal end to a superhorse’s legacy. Watch it here

1) Black Caviar outsmarts and outsprints them all in Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee (ENG-I) to stay perfect - Humming off the rail in an unprecendented ship from Australia to England, the world’s most perfect sprinter looked easy-going making her move to the lead, but nearly lost her undefeated streak when jockey Luke Nolen appeared to ease her too early. Watch it here

Weekend Stake Tip: Limitations and Track Bias

Anyway, it was a super great weekend for handicapping. I covered two races instead of just my normal one weekly race: the Clark Handicap (I), a dirt route race for older horses, and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (II) for two-year-olds. Both resulted in the top picks winning (Shackleford and Uncaptured) and my KYJCS top three all came out in the top three with 2nd and 3rd in shuffled order (race finish: Uncaptured, Frac Daddy, Dewey Square). My Clark trifecta came close to all finishing in the top 3, but second-choice Lunar Victory was 4th. Value pick for the KYJCS, Tesseron, finished a good 4th at about 8-1 odds. YAY I CAN STILL PICK GOOD JUVENILES! Thanks to my turkey dinner being on Friday and forgetting my laptop charger, no, I did not bet. It’s worth noting for the future that according to Trakus figures, the closing Dewey Square went 41 feet more than Uncaptured and 17 more than Frac Daddy, who lost by a neck going 27 feet more than the winner.

Bourbon Courage impressed me the most making a good move in the stretch to miss Shackleford by a length while just missing the place to G1 winner Take Charge Indy (who I honestly don’t… and still don’t… take seriously). It looks as if Bourbon had to counter some tight space trying to shoot the gap between horses. Speed seemed to hold strong over the weekend at Churchill as expected so that gives me all the more reason to expect big things from the Super Derby (II) winner next year. Have a look at the replay:

As we reel in closer to the Kentucky Derby trail (I hardly count most wins from a horse’s two-year-old year as signs for success as a 3-year-old), it’s time to talk limitations and track bias. The perfect example of these two factors occurring simultaneously would be in Saturday’s Cigar Mile (I), where even-money favorite Groupie Doll fell short in a duel with Stay Thirsty. All 5 of Thirsty’s wins occurred on a New York track as did his 5 places and 1 show effort. Outside of New York’s challenging surfaces, the best he could manage was a stale 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I) at Churchill Downs. On the other hand, Groupie Doll has never made a start in New York and clearly loves an easy, fast track while holding most of her wins at 6-7 furlongs. Thirsty, meanwhile, was a stalwart all year and seems to be at his best when given at least 9 furlongs. The Cigar, at 8 furlongs on Aqueduct’s main, seemed to be a balance of two evils.

It did not appear that Groupie Doll was unfit for a stacked race, but the Cigar may  have put too much of a stretch on her limits against a horse who was not only well-rested, but gave it his all on the New York dirt in his career swan song. Losing by a head bob does no injustice to the ‘Doll, but between Stay Thirsty and Flat Out, it’s proven time and again this year to take track bias seriously. With that said, I must also take Overanalyze's victory in the 9-furlong Remsen (II) lightly; as a Pletcher trainee and one who has won 3 times all in New York but failed as the favorite at Churchill, I'm not about to dive in deep.

Shackleford Stretches One Last Time in Clark Handicap

Normally for this weekend I would go with the Cigar Mile (I), but with Groupie Doll running in it this year I don’t see much of a ball to be had trying to work out a nifty handicapping angle. That mare is on fire! I’m also really intrigued by the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (II) for juvies… probably the first time ever that that’s happened.

Preakness winner Shackleford is the high-weight for Friday’s Clark Handicap (I) at Churchill Downs, known as the premiere G1 rematch for many Breeders’ Cup contenders or those who elected to skip the world championships. Joining him are G1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, Hawthorne Gold Cup (II) winner Pool Play, and Super Derby (II) winner Bourbon Courage among a field of ten that ensures an interesting race with a ton of value.

Weather looks good, and morning showers will likely not affect the track too much by post time. Keep an eye on it though.

$500,000 Clark Handicap (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs. Post Time: Friday, November 23 at 5:35pm

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

1) Pool Play - Corey Lanerie, 118 lbs, Mark Casse - A horse that doesn’t mind his long odds and will probably get some semi-long ones here again, the Silver Deputy son brushes off his poor 8th place showing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a few weeks ago to try again at Churchill, where he already owns a G1 win on the dirt. The pace will be sweet for this closer, but he will face some steeper foes and typically he gets more time between races than just 3 weeks. Lanerie’s been tops lately.

2) Eye of the Leopard - Jon Court, 115 lbs, D. Wayne Lukas - A Breeders’ Cup Marathon (II) dropout, the 6-year-old A.P. Indy son shoots for the moon in his second career dirt start— his first one was a sprint at Churchill 2 years ago where he finished a distant 6th. A stakes winner on all-weather and just 1 win in an allowance this year, this guy has been working well enough on the Churchill dirt and pedigree-wise is worthy. He gets a big weight advantage, but did not respond at all in his last start running 8th in the Fayette Stakes (II) on Keeneland’s poly going. His speed figures as well as his past performances boom louder than his workouts: “HUGE LONG SHOT.”

3) Shackleford - Jesus Castanon, 120 lbs, Dale Romans - The enormous Forestry colt hopes to restore his reputation with an effort better than his poor trip in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I), where he stumbled and got stuck to finish 7th as the heavy and deserving favorite. A miler at heart, he has placed twice and won once in 3 tries at this distance. He remains sharp and will go to the lead. With old jock Castanon in the irons, he has the added benefit of psychology— he wants to go out with a bang, and who better to want to also help him achieve that than his returning Preakness rider? 

4) Bourbon Courage - Leandro Goncalves, 117 lbs, Kellyn Gorder - Marvelous as the 5-length winner of the Super Derby (II), the Lion Heart sophomore lost a courageous dive to the wire in the Indiana Derby (II) last out to Neck ‘N Neck, and should be pleased with the return to 9 furlongs here. Pace will be to his liking and given how quickly he can close ground (as shown in the Indiana), he’s going to be sneaky on the improve.

5) Cease - Miguel Mena, 117 lbs, Al Stall - The War Chant gelding looks to be at his best this year with a 3rd in the Woodward (I) and missed the Hawthorne Gold Cup (II) by a mere 1/2 length to Pool Play. I like him plenty from an improvement angle, but have to wonder how competitive he is right now to jump into a G1 event. While strong at this distance, he also seems to want more ground than just 9 furlongs.

6) Take Charge Indy - Calvin Borel, 117 lbs, Patrick Byrne - The A.P. Indy 4-year-old won the Florida Derby (I) earlier in the spring and made a promising comeback in the 9-furlong Fayette (II) at Keeneland where he was caught as ground ran out and finished 3rd in his usual spot up front. Borel can only help his chances, but he may need another start before he can compete here. Byrne is optimistic which is a promising angle, but I’m not vested in a horse who wants the lead with Shackleford in the race.

7) Fast Falcon - Shaun Bridgmohan, 113 lbs, Nick Zito - The Awesome Again sophomore made a good run in his first race against older horses last out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (I), rallying hard and wide to finish 5th and nearly bested 4th place Atigun, who went on to have a really nice 3rd place effort in the Marathon (II). This horse is better than his PPs suggest, and with a feather impost and a solid pace, I cannot possibly leave him out of my exotics on a fast track.

8) Stealcase - Brian Hernandez Jr, 115 lbs, Mark Casse - Lawyer Ron colt I initially liked, but has been on and off. A past winner at Churchill, he was the winner of the Ontario Derby (III) at Woodbine then was absolutely no threat running last in the Indiana Derby (II). He gained ground quick enough but ran out of room last out in the 1-mile Ack Ack (III) to be 3rd. Never out of the money in his 4 Churchill starts (3 of them G3 stakes) and getting more running room, I don’t feel like Stealcase is the winning type of horse but one that will try to work his way up close.

9) Mission Impazible - Javier Castellano, 115 lbs, Todd Pletcher - Soon to be retired, the Unbridled’s Song gelding makes one more go in the race he almost won last year (I also picked him to win), but got overwhelmed in the final yards by Wise Dan. A horse that seems to love running 2nd, 9 furlongs seems to be his ideal distance. Fitness is questionable, but he gets a nice weight break for what he’s really capable of.

10) Lunar Victory - Junior Alvarado, 116 lbs, Bill Mott - An impressive horse from Juddmonte’s colors, the Speightstown son has recorded 5 wins in 6 starts this year all in New York jumping from his win in the 9-furlong Empire Classic to his first graded try. If Bill Mott thinks he’s ready, then by golly he’s ready. It’s hard to knock a record like his and I enjoyed watching him race against Saratoga Snacks in a very well-earned win last out.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Shackleford

2) Lunar Victory

3) Bourbon Courage

Despite being best at a mile, Shack’s class is too much: he’s beaten Animal Kingdom and Caleb’s Posse hellooooo. I feel comfortable enough to draw a line through a lot of these entries simply by comparing how good they are not in relation to Shackleford, who is speed as well as heart, but from there it gets tough. Fast Falcon who has some good acceleration favored by a light impost, Lunar Victory who has a good stretch drive will be closer to pounce, and Bourbon Courage who is a G2-winning closer on the improve— these three I like best. I envision Shack setting his solid pace to wire the field, with the two sharpest accelerators Bourbon and Falcon firing early to try and get him before he opens up. Lunar Victory has a good drive and will be closer with less traffic and should stay on.

Value Pick: Fast Falcon likely to be the wise-guy of the bunch, but also take a look at Mission Impazible who is always full of random top-tier performances to use in exotics.

Yo, Industry!: Do More Meet and Greets

I wasn’t the only one bummed to be living on the east coast two weekends back— and “Frankenstorm” had nothing to do with it.

Romans Racing Stables held a meet-and-greet opportunity for Shackleford's large fan base at Santa Anita, just days before the Preakness winner would turn in his last one-turner around a track in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (I). By the looks of it, a good-sized crowd gathered to meet the huge, chromey chestnut in person as well as G1 winners Little Mike and Dullahan. Photos of the event made me extra green with envy, as this past summer I had been excited at the chance to see Shackleford in the Whitney (I) at Saratoga only to hear he had been scheduled for the day-later Forego (I) instead at the last minute.

It’s also not just trainers who host these types of for-the-fan gatherings. Stonestreet has a “Rachel Day” to allow fans to meet superstar Rachel Alexandra and other well-known farms like Lane’s End and Three Chimneys commonly host open houses. Unfortunately, these types of events are secluded to Kentucky very often, making it difficult for other fans to get a closer look.

I know from reading and hearing things that not all trainers are as welcoming to fans on the backside as Dale Romans was recently, and while I can relate to the need for peace and quiet it would be great to see this becoming a regular thing. Many fans aren’t close enough to a major track to witness many of these champs for themselves, and the ones who do rarely get closer than the outer rail allows. It would be great to see the sport grow by holding more of these kinds of events when and where it’s possible. Racehorses have the same effect on their fans as rockstars, so where’s the VIP treatment?

Breeders’ Cup Saturday Picks: Game On, Dude!

Enjoy the rest of my finalized picks for Saturday! Yee haw!

Juvenile Turf Top 3

1) Dundonnell

2) Artigiano

3) Fantastic Moon [GB]

Value Pick: Artigiano

Contest Wager: $20 win on Dundonnell

I think this was the toughest race of the 15 for me… I still like Dundonnell a whole lot, and because of the breadth of the field I hope to get some good odds on this Juddmonte colt. Artigiano’s sharp for the improve and Fantastic Moon [GB] factors as a fitting pacesetter. I also like I’m Boundtoscore’s chances and am intrigued by longshot Gervinho on his home turf.

Filly & Mare Sprint Top 3

1) Groupie Doll

2) Dust and Diamonds

3) Switch

Value Pick: Dust and Diamonds, Rumor

Contest Wager: $10 exacta box on Groupie Doll, Dust and Diamonds

Dust and Diamonds is bound to improve and dig this pace scenario and track, but can Groupie Doll ace her last test of 2012? I think so, but beware, she isn’t a lock here whatsoever! Switch is always good right here and at her home track.

Dirt Mile Top 3

1) Shackleford

2) Jersey Town

3) Rail Trip

Speedballs that want the lead like Fed Biz and Tapizar are sure to help set things up. Shackleford should dig the speed-biased main and is a miler at heart, not to mention one of the best horses this year. Jersey Town looks tough in his works and his Kelso (II) victory and should storm the pace late. Hard to dismiss the local Rail Trip, who takes a cutback here for Ron Ellis. I also like Emcee, but the two turn introduction causes me to wince a bit.

Value Pick: Rail Trip, John Scott

Contest Wager: $20 win on Shackleford

Turf Sprint Top 3

1) Corporate Jungle

2) Mizdirection

3) Next Question

Value Pick: Mizdirection

Contest Wager: $20 place on Mizdirection

Another tough race, I’m going “Brown” with Corporate Jungle, who has been a special horse to me this year and is taking a cut back in this race after working well on the turf course. Mizdirection is tough and has great morning line odds for some reason. Next Question’s been looking good on the grass course as well and is hard to fault.

Juvenile Top 3

1) Power Broker

2) Shanghai Bobby

3) Title Contender

Value Pick: Title Contender

Contest Wager: $20 win on Power Broker

All these colts are intriguing in their own way, and after a lot of flip-flopping about the two turns and the track, I’m going with Power Broker who has a win at this course under the same conditions and is in his element here. If Shanghai Bobby, who ships in and stretches out to two turns first-time, wins I’ll ease up on my criticism. Title Contender’s been looking real nice this week.

Turf Top 3

1) Trailblazer [JPN]

2) Point of Entry

3) Shareta [IRE]

Value Pick: Shareta [IRE]

Contest Wager: $20 win Trailblazer

While I hope Point of Entry has enough left in the tank for one more G1, Trailblazer is warmed up perfectly for this race and is good to go the distance. Shareta’s seriously underlooked as a top Euro performer. I also like Slim Shadey [GB] out on the lead.

Sprint Top 3

1) Capital Account

2) The Lumber Guy

3) Amazombie

Value Pick: Capital Account, Gantry

Contest Wager: $20 place on Capital Account

I feel pretty good about supporting Capital Account in a very tough field in a sprint (aggh I hate handicapping sprints!). The pace should be lightning as predicted, which The Lumber Guy could lay off of early and if Amazombie’s back up to speed, might want to watch out for that one too. I still also like Gantry who ships in with a lot of clout and skepticism.

Mile Top 3

1) Excelebration [IRE]

2) Wise Dan

3) Willcox Inn

Value Pick: Willcox Inn

Contest Wager: $20 win Excelebration [IRE]

Looking good on the American grass after a fresh G1 score in the Queen Elizabeth, Excelebration [IRE] is going to be Wise Dan’s greatest foe here as the latter is hot off a Shadwell Mile (I) score. I’m probably cuckoo for choice #3, Willcox Inn, who flew off the handle and was the only one closing in on Wise Dan in the Shadwell Mile stretch.

Contest Wager for Classic: $20 place Fort Larned

MAY ALL THE BLAZE FACES WIN! Dry Summer and Brown Almighty in a Juvenile Turf dead heat, Nahrain [GB] in the Filly & Mare Turf, and Shackleford in the Dirt Mile!! BOOM!

Shackleford Towers Over Rest in Dirt Mile

After coming in second last year, Shackleford reaped revenge over Caleb’s Posse in his dominating Met Mile (I) win to show he’s boss to closing company. Considering how fast Santa Anita is bound to be on Saturday, Shack Attack will be the one to beat here but it’s not like no one is going to try and topple the favorite. Contenders are:

  • Shackleford - The Forestry champion son likes a good fast dry track, and will win wire-to-wire on one as he showed in the Met Mile (I). His past 2 clunkers can be tossed out due to the track as the Preakness winner has been working tough.
  • Nonios - The Pleasantly Perfect three-year-old colt has been the best worker lately at Hollywood Park and takes a cutback in distance following a good place effort behind Game On Dude in the 9-furlong Awesome Again. He could emerge well off a quick pace to contend.
  • Rail Trip - Gutsy in his return, the Jump Start gelding got a free berth winning the San Diego (II) and should thrive at the distance running behind the pace. He’ll need some improvement and a pace collapse.
  • Fed Biz - The promising Giant’s Causeway colt got locked into a duel last out in the Indiana Derby (II) and trainer Bob Baffert cuts him back to the mile here, a distance at Santa Anita he’s won twice. Look for him to run on or very close to the lead.
  • Delegation - The Mark Casse pupil by Speightstown is 3-for-3 on Woodbine’s synthetic and has never been off the board in his only year of racing. He just about wired the field in all of his winning efforts, but will need to improve and make a splash in his dirt debut.
  • Emcee - A sprint winner confirmed for the Dirt Mile, the Unbridled’s Song colt won 3 this year out of 6 starts including the Forego (I) last out in a 4 1/2 length romp. Working super, he’ll stretch out a furlong here and emerge off-the-pace.
  • Jimmy Creed - The Distorted Humor sophomore was best by Coil to be 3rd by just 3/4 lengths last out in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (I). Working super fast, I think Mandella will have him placed behind the lead as he was last time out so he’ll survive the fast pace and not get into another losing duel with Fed Biz.
  • Tapizar -A “need the lead” type, the Tapit colt quits if he doesn’t get his way in the early goings but could romp on the speed-biased dirt if he can cut away to an early lead.
  • Second City - The Distorted Humor gelding is 4-for-5 this year, tiring badly last out in the Indiana Derby (II) to be 10th 9 lengths back. While he’s been shown to do it all and could close into a rapid pace, I haven’t heard anything enlightening about his outlook leading up to Saturday.
  • Jersey Town - The chromey Speightstown son was my rooting interest last year and looks to be game this time around following his victory over Shackleford in the Kelso (II). Working well, he’s got a great shot to nip a fast pace here for the win.
  • John Scott - The Bertrando gelding has 3 wins this year from 6 starts and surges well from off-the-pace to catch horses like Rail Trip and Kettle Corn. Faces a class test.

I’ll give my top 3 picks and value pick for the Dirt Mile (I) this week.

Shackleford - Fast track, hot speed, tenacity, class… why shouldn’t Shack be the one to beat?

Jersey Town - Comes off a great effort and could take advantage of the pace

Rail Trip - Like I’m going to underestimate a crowd favorite from Jay Em Ess…

Emcee - Super talented sprinter has some speed that lies in wait

Jimmy Creed - A change in strategy could make this one a live longshot

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