Normally, I don’t like rooting for favorites, and that is the biggest reason why I did not favor Winter Memories in the 2010 Juvenile Fillies Turf event at the Breeders’ Cup. Instead, I was rooting for my Oaks filly, the Bluegrass Cat do-it-all daughter Kathmanblu. Coming down the stretch, it was Bobby Flay’s filly More Than Real who pulled off the upset, as the gray blur known as Winter Memories got trapped down on the rail to get second. Kathmanblu was a heroic third in a race normally dominated by European-breds. Truth be told, when I first watched Winter Memories, I had little interest in grass races. They were oddities compared to their distant dirt cousins, slow runnings on a fickle surface that varied from spongey to firm, climaxing in a harried and often jumbled dash to the wire when the stretch came into view. What was to love about these races that were won by unfamiliar faces?
Marketing Mix* - The Medaglia d’Oro filly has been consistent as heck this year, delivering 4 wins in 6 starts and was most recently the winner of her last prep at 10 furlongs in the Rodeo Drive (I) at Santa Anita. Sure to be chalky, she looks like a strong choice in the American ranks.
Zagora [FR] - A personal favorite of mine being from Chad Brown’s barn, the Green Tune mare sports 4 wins in 7 starts this year falling off the board just once. She likes to sit mid-pack, but can fall victim to a sharp closer.
Stormy Lucy - The Stormy Atlantic three-year-old filly can’t catch a break, being very close to the win to be on the board for 6 of 8 starts this year and was beaten 4 1/2 lengths last out in the Rodeo Drive (I) to be 3rd. An improving closer type, she’ll need a significant push.
The Fugue [GB] - The three-year-old Dansili [GB] filly is a Gosden trainee and was just a neck away from besting champion Shareta [IRE] in a G1 last out at York. She’s won 2 and has been off the board just once this year in 6 total starts, all in tough-as-nails Europe and has a win at 10 furlongs.
Nahrain [GB]* - The chromey Selkirk filly looks to be in fighting trim after her big closing move over the yielding Belmont green to win the Flower Bowl (I) over Zagora and Dream Peace. Tough in the States, she’ll have to work harder against some of these invaders.
Lady of Shamrock - One of the west’s best turfers, the Scat Daddy 3-year-old won 4 this year and never finished off the board in 6 starts. She turned in 2-for-2 great Santa Anita turf efforts, and trainer Sadler is hardening her up for the big girls.
I’m A Dreamer [IRE]* - The Noverre mare defeated Marketing Mix in a strong rally in a G1 this year, but is a real loosey-goosey choice finishing a good 4th last out in the Flower Bowl (I) and seems to prefer a softer going.
Nereid - The Shirreffs stablemate to Star Billing, she is winless in 5 total starts this year but did surge to 2nd late last out behind Marketing Mix in the Rodeo Drive (I), suggesting she’s ready for another big effort.
Star Billing - The Shirreffs-trained Dynaformer filly is winless in just 3 starts this year, but should benefit from the extra ground if she can handle the class boost.
Up [IRE] - The Galileo [IRE] filly and Aidan O’Brien pupil was victorious at 10 furlongs earlier this year at Curragh, but has won just twice in 10 starts this year with 2 places and shows. She has also run on mostly off surfaces, and Santa Anita’s turf is going to be pretty hard on her feet.
Ridasiyna [FR]* - The three-year-old Motivator [GB] filly is an excellent 4-for-5 overseas this year, turning in super efforts leading graded fields to their doom. Her one off race was a 5th 2 races back in a 10-furlong Group 2, but she lost by just 2 lengths after weakening. Likes her ground on the soft side, but can manage firm just fine.
In Lingerie - The Empire Maker filly was tops this year on synthetic, winning 4 starts out of 7 being out of the money just once. She looked great winning the Spinster (I) last out, but will be tested on the grass for the first time here. Can she be a rare graded winner on all 3 surfaces?
Next week I’ll announce my top 3 picks and value pick for the Filly & Mare Turf.
The Fugue [GB] - Has few weaknesses and ships in looking strong from Europe
Ridasiyna [FR] - European shipper has excellent record
Nereid - Upset choice of the field, she turned for the better last out
Marketing Mix - Excellent U.S. horse who has already run well at Santa Anita
Lady of Shamrock - Consistent closer looks to defend her home turf
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.