It’s “Big Cap” Day!
SA R10 (7:30 Eastern), The Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1) 10 Furlongs
This race was the original $100,000 race in the 1930’s. These days the purse is $750,000. The large presence of the Dubai World Cup and its $6,000,000 purse has really watered down this race. For example, if there was not a Dubai World Cup, Arrogate would have run here instead of being aimed for Dubai.
1st – #3 Shaman Ghost (2/1) 2nd – #1 Midnight Storm (8/5) 3rd – #9 – Imperative (5/1)
But the job of the handicapper is to identify winners from the willing, and going off his recent races SHAMAN GHOST has to be on top for me. His speed figures have increased every time over his last 4 starts, and visually he finished very strongly his second placing to Arrogate in the 9 furlong Pegasus Stakes. I think this horse really wants 10 furlongs (he is a good stakes winner over 12 furlongs) and he should be flying late. MIDNIGHT STORM used to be a one-dimensional turf miler, but he has won his last two races on the dirt in wire to wire fashion and is (to me) the surprising 8/5 favorite. This horse loves to win and he will have the lead at the top of the stretch. Will he be able to hold off Shaman Ghost for that last furlong? Certainly he is a top contender for the win. IMPERATIVE appears to be the best of the California horses and he has won two of his last three races.
California 3 Year Olds Duke it Out in the San Felipe
SA R5 (5:00 Eastern), The San Felipe Stakes (Grade 2) 8.5 Furlongs
The California path has been a good source of winners for the Kentucky Derby, including I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), and Nyquist (2016) in the last few years. I will go out on a large limb and say no one in this San Felipe field appears to be Triple Crown material, because no one in this group PASSES horses. They all want to be on the pace. That works in short fields full of overmatched competition, but not in races full of quality speed horses.
1st – #5 Gormley (9/5) 2nd – #4 Mastery (6/5) 3rd – #6 Iliad (5/2)
I put GORMLEY on top because he has faced the toughest competition (Classic Empire, Not This Time, and American Anthem). I have no idea who is going to win this race, because as I said my top three selections are all high quality speed horses that can’t pass a horse. MASTERY is light on the numbers (especially in late pace in the Los Al Futurity), but it is apparent in his workouts that his trainer, Bob Baffert, is trying to get him to ration his speed. His last workout on March 5th was a beauty. Check it out on xbtv.com if you are interested. ILIAD is either another West Coast speedster or a maybe better. I don’t wan’t to take 5/2 before the race to find out.
South Florida Three Year Olds Head To Tampa!
Tam R11 (5:27 Eastern) The Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2), 8.5 furlongs
Since its inception in 1981, there has been only one winner of the Tampa Bay Derby to win the Kentucky Derby, Street Sense in 2007. Street Sense was a very good animal, much higher class that anyone in this 2017 field. The winner of this race will probably be limited to races like the Ohio Derby and/or the Indiana Derby this summer.
1st – #9 Wild Shot (5/1) 2nd – #5 Tapwrit (3/1) 3rd – #6 Beasley (9/2)
WILD SHOT has improved his BRIS speed figures four races in a row and is second off the layoff. The negative is he has lost ground from the stretch call to the wire three straight times (all 8.5 furlong routes, like this weekend’s distance), but perfect horses aren’t 5/1 shots. It appears that Robby Albarado took this guy off the pace last time, and he ran a career top speed figure, so maybe similar tactics can get him to the winner’s circle. TAPWRIT is every trip handicapper’s dream, a horse that did get blocked for run by my count three times in his last race, before having a strong gallop out, bounding by the winner, McCracken. My main concern with this horse is he apparently lacks “turn of foot,” or the ability to accelerate. His jockey was able to place him in the “box seat” behind the early speed, and I thought there were several opportunities for Tapwrit to get out of trouble – but he lacked the acceleration to do it. I think this horse can run all day and maybe he can show his best at 10 furlongs (or more likely 12 furlongs at Big Sandy). Taking a short price on this guy at 8.5 furlongs would be a high-risk play, in our opinion. BEASLEY is a nifty allowance horse coming into this race with two 4 furlong bullets. His 9/2 morning line is not a great price but my gut tells me he will go off in the 7/1 range and might be a solid value play.
The Florida Oaks is a Great Race for Three Year Old Fillies!
Tam R9 (4:25 Eastern) The Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 3), 8.5 furlongs (turf)
1st – #5 LA COLONEL (5/2) 2nd – #9 Compelled (4/1) 3rd – #3 Dynatail (8/1)
LA CORONEL was the key to my horizontal bets at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup (bad idea from post 13 of 14). She was 5 wide and out of position the entire races and I got sour. It’s nice to see her back in a race she can win. Her 2016 race at Keeneland crushes this bunch. COMPELLED keeps putting together nice races and she lost a heat breaker last time to a very nice Chad Brown filly named Rymska. DYNATAIL is 2 for 2 over the course against weaker and I think she makes the lead again this weekend. She would appear to be a great pick 4 horse.
The Hillsborough Stakes is a Great Source For Black Type!
Tampa R10 (4:55 Eastern) The Hillsborough Stakes (Grade 2), 9 furlongs (turf)
These Grade 2 races for fillies and mares are really interesting. As racing fans, we tend to focus on the winners of the Grade 1 races, but breeders and bloodstock people also pay close attention to Grade 2 races, especially for fillies and mares. Winning one Grade 2 race can make a mare’s breeding career.
1st – #3 Dickinson (7/2) 2nd – #1 Swiss Range (6/1) 3rd – #6 Isabella Sings (5/2)
DICKINSON and SWISS RANGE have yet to win a Grade 2 so I would venture their connections are all out to win this weekend. Dickinson has race recency and appears to be very sharp. Swiss Range is a listed stakes winner at Newmarket and she put in a big run in the always “high class” E.P. Taylor at Woodbine in the Fall of 2016. This race may be a touch short for her but I expect a top effort. ISABELLA SINGS is already a Grade 2 winner (Nov. 14th, 2015), along with several Grade 3 races. Her connections might be looking “down the road” with her. Either way, with her high early speed she’s the one to chase, for sure.
The Triple Bend Stakes is a Great Source For Grade 1 Black Type!
SA R8 (6:30 Eastern) The Triple Bend Stakes (Grade 1), 7 furlongs
The Triple Bend used to be a key stakes on the Hollywood Park schedule, but in recent years it has bounced around between the Santa Anita Winter/Spring and Summer meetings. It is welcome to see it placed in a nice spot on Big ‘Cap day so the fans can see some top quality sprinters.
1st – #5 Masochistic (Even) 2nd – #4 Silent Bird (4/1) 3rd – #3 Kobe’s Back (5/2)
MASOCHISTIC made a lot of supports groan in agony when he was well beaten as the favorite in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup with no apparent excuse. On the positive side he wins these kinds of races and he wins fresh, and there is no Defrong in here to torment him. SILENT BIRD has won his last 5 races and he’s 2 for 2 at 7 furlongs – solid upset chance at the 4/1 ML odds quote. I have no idea how Kobe’s Back is doing. If he’s in form he is the best horse in this race, especially at Santa Anita (7-3-2-1, $572,000 in earnings).
The Kilroe is a Great Source For Grade 1 Black Type on Turf!
SA R9 (7:00 Eastern) The Frank E. Kilroe Stakes (Grade 1), One Mile
From memory, there are very few Grade 1 races at One Mile on turf – we count seven. The Kilroe, three at Keeneland (one limited to females), the Shoemaker (now at Santa Anita) the Woodbine Mile, and the Breeders’ Cup Mile. To win one of these is a BIG DEAL. Assume everybody is fully locked and loaded in this race.
1st – #5 Ring Weekend (4/1) 2nd – # Bolo (3/1) 3rd – #4 Dortmund (4/1)
RING WEEKEND has been pointed to this race since coming out to California. Don’t go against Graham Motion when the “money’s down.” Note he won this exact same race two years ago (he was injured and did not run in the 2016 edition). Bolo appears to be 100%, but I just can’t buy this guy is going to win a Grade 1 mile on the turf. He’s just lost too many times and his speed figures are on the slow side. DORTMUND is a “fix-it” project for Art Sherman. I like that the blinkers are coming off and the workouts tend to be very fast. Pedigree is OK for turf (for example, it’s better than Bolo’s pedigree), with Big Brown being average with turf winners, and he is a sibling with a turf winner.