by Jerry Shottenkirk
June 2, 2018
Some fillies and mares can gut out a breakneck pace, some cannot.
Santa Anita’s Beholder Mile Stakes (Gr. I) has a tremendous pair in Unique Bella and Paradise Woods, and their appearance ensures a fast pace in the one-mile event.
If you’re connected to the talented mare Vale Dori, you know the 6-year-old has plenty of speed but probably not enough to keep up with the two fillies that are no strangers to scorching fractions. Vale Dori has set the pace in several races going long, but none of those races presented the necessity to go through ultra-fast splits. She’s in a new ballgame pace-wise, and that might actually work in her favor.
The Beholder Mile is a chance for Unique Bella to get back to winning ways after losing to Unbridled Mo as the 1-to-5 favorite in the Apple Blossom Handicap (Gr. I) at Oaklawn. It was one of only three times in his 10-race career in which she didn’t get her picture taken.
How do you play the race in the Pick 4 is the biggest question. The longest price she’s been is 13-to-10. Southern Californians hopped on her at the start of her career and have never retreated. She will get played again, of course, and she’ll have a huge chance for success, but the pace could be a problem. Paradise Woods is every bit as fast early and Vale Dori will probably get a good opportunity to play the role of stalker. A pace of :22, :45 and 1:08 and change is a possibility, and if that’s the case, something’s got to give.
On today’s suggested Pick 4 ticket, all three will get on board. If you single one, it might be the one to weaken. If you use two, both of the pacesetters might stop. You get good coverage by throwing in Vale Dori, and using Bob Baffert in the mix isn’t a bad way to go. In the event of a scratch of one of the speedsters, the remaining pacesetter could very well be worthy of a single.
The 1st two events in the Pick 4 are spread races (with four and five on the ticket) and the 10th has the least used with two (Tina’s Exchange and Hootie).
Here’s the suggested ticket for late Pick 4 at Santa Anita:
Race 7: #1 Take the One O One, #2 Hardboot, #4 Continental Divide, #7 Huddle.
Race 8: #1 Thalia, #5 Lemon Crush, #6 Queen Shelly Ann, #8 Paprika, #9 Magnolia’s Hope.
Race 9: #4 Paradise Woods, #5 Vale Dori, #6 Unique Bella.
Race 10: #3 Tina’s Exchange, #2 Hootie.
50-cent Pick 4: 1-2-4-7 with 1-5-6-8-9 with 4-5-8 with 3-2. ($60).
The Pegasus World Cup is in the rearview mirror, and that means three-year-olds are on display for the next few months. And the Triple Crown Trail kicks off in earnest at a number of tracks this Saturday, most notably Gulfstream, Aqueduct and Santa Anita. Haven’t been paying a lot of attention to this year’s crop? That’s alright. He’s a look at the horses I think you need to have on your radar in advance of this Saturday’s key races. Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Race 12 @ Gulfstream Park (5:49PM ET) Horses We’re Watching: AUDIBLE (Pletcher/Castellano) – 6/1 – You give me a Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano horse at 6/1 on the ML at Gulfstream and tell me he’s won his last two races by a combined 11 ½-lengths and I’m going to run (not walk) to the windows. He has the look of a horse that is figuring things out and getting better each time he’s on the track. His draw is perfect (#4) and I love his chances at giving Pletcher his first Holy Bull win since Algorithms in 2012. ENTICED (McLaughlin/Rosario) – 3/1 – On paper, he’s probably the most logical choice. He’s a son of super-stallion, Medaglia d’Oro, and his dam, It’s Tricky, won 8-of-14 starts, bankrolled $1.6 million and won races like the Acorn, Ogden Phipps and CCA Oaks. Plus, he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last out, albeit in a head-bobbing finish while enjoying relatively a relaxing trip in a roughly run race. He merits respect, but should not be an overwhelming favorite. FREE DROP BILLY (Romans/Saez) – 6/1 – Keep an eye on the Dale Romans quartet of entrants (Free Drop Billy, Bandito, Hollywood Star & Tiz Mischief). Logic would assume that one or two of these opt to wait a week and run in the Sam F. Davis next weekend in Tampa. Free Drop Billy is the lone G1 winner in the field, by virtue of his win in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity, and I’m content putting a line through his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile try (9th at 7/1 odds). It was so bad that it defies logic. This race is much easier and he should give a much better showing of himself. TIZ MISCHIEF (Romans/Albarado) – 4/1 – This one flipped the switch when he went from one-turn racing to two-turn racing and I loved what he showed last out. Despite a far outside post, and covering 12 more feet than Enticed (an admittedly miniscule difference) in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he came within a head of victory that day. He’s going to need a pace, but it’s worth noting that Robby Albarado is named to ride this one instead of Free Drop Billy. Withers Stakes (G3) Race 8 @ Aqueduct (4:35PM ET) Horses We’re Watching: AVERY ISLAND (McLaughlin/Bravo) – 8/5 – It’s hard for me to envision this race not going to Avery Island. He’s arguably the quickest runner in the bunch and he should get a perfect trip from just off the expected pacesetter, California Night. As that one tires, I don’t see a scenario where Avery Island doesn’t inherit the lead and stay on. He won the G2 Nashua on November 5 and was beaten by Catholic Boy in the G2 Remsen, a race that seemed to favor horses coming from further back. This time around, I think the race shape plays to his strengths and he gets the win at a short price. FIRENZE FIRE (Servis/McCarthy) – 9/5 – Everyone seemed to get down on this horse following his win in the Jerome, but I’m not sure why. Sure, he was all out at 2/5 odds to win that day, but what do you expect of a closer when forced to run behind fractions of :25, :50 4/5 and 1:16 3/5? I think it’s indisputable that a fast early face is the reason he won the G1 Champagne, but this horse still has that win on file. Problem is, I don’t see him getting a fast pace, nor do I see him necessarily excelling around two turns. He should give a good impression of himself, however. MARCONI (Pletcher/Franco) – 3/1 – Hard to decide what exactly to make of this one. On one hand, he’s a Todd Pletcher-trained son of Tapit that cost $2 million at auction and won last out by 5 ½-lengths. On the other, he’s Beyered 70 and 74 in two starts and needed 1:54 2/5 to go 1 1/8-miles last out, a mark that surely won’t get the job done here. This is the right spot to try him in a stakes race, though, and you have to think he’ll take another step forward. Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Race 5 @ Santa Anita (5:30PM ET) Horses We’re Watching: PEACE (Mandella/Smith) – 3/1 – It’s hard to give him a confident nod over these, as 6-of-9 runners in the Robert Lewis exit maiden races (two maidens in the field). And Peace broke his maiden by just ¾-length over Regulate, who he faces again today but bombed in a subsequent race. Peace did run better in a pair of two-turn races and adds blinkers this time, but needs to take another step forward to validate his low odds. SHIVERMETIMBERS (Hollendorfer/Bejarano) – 7/2 – He’s one of just two entrants with experience in a dirt stakes race, having finished 4th last out in the G3 Sham Stakes against McKinzie. His effort that day was just mediocre, 4th of 6 beaten 7 ¾-lengths, but there’s no McKinzie this time around and he’ll move forward from that. REGULATE (Baffert/Talamo) – 8/1 – What do we make of Regulate? He debuted as a heavy favorite at Los Alamitos and didn’t run a step. Generally Baffert horses that debut at low odds run to those odds, so you have to think he’s regarded in the barn. Then, in his second start, he was 12/1 against Peace, but battled that one and was only defeated ¾-length. Then he came back in a similar race on January 19 and ran 6th, beaten 14 ¾-lengths, at 6/5 odds. But still, he’s a Juddmonte/Baffert horse and they’re confident enough to put him in a G3. It may be a reach, but I like that they’re taking the shot. Cross-Country Pick 4 The Stronach Group is excited to partner with the New York Racing Association to offer a Cross-Country Pick 4 of this Saturday’s top races. The sequence consists of the following races: 5:05PM ET - Aqueduct, Race 9 5:16PM ET – Gulfstream, Race 11 (Dania Beach Stakes) 5:30PM ET – Santa Anita, Race 5 (Robert B. Lewis Stakes) 5:49PM ET – Gulfstream, Race 12 (Holy Bull Stakes) Based on my picks above, you can get a good glimpse at who I’m playing. In the Dania Beach, I think you only need to cover to the two favorites – Untamed Domain (8/5) and Gidu (3/1). In the kickoff leg at Aqueduct, a maiden claiming race, I'm looking at Linda Rice's Daring Destiny (3/1), Greg Matties' Musicality (9/2), Charlie Baker's Barefoot Angel (5/1) and maybe, just maybe the 23rd time will be the charm for Miguel Vera's Catapult Jack (4/1) who has a remarkable aversion to winning. If you're looking for a bit of a price, check out John Toscano's Tammany Giant (6/1), who adds blinkers and gets back to (hopefully) fast-track sprinting for the first time since December, when he ran the best race of his life. Look for Cross-Country P4 on the Track List to play! Gulfstream 1 Million Point Split We’re upping the ante this Saturday at Gulfstream with a 1 Million Point Exacta Split! Hit Exacta Bets ($2 base minimum) on four different races and you’ll win an equal Split of the Points. Log In to register and play. Generally races with low-priced favorites are among the most popular in this sequence. I’d be keeping my eye on Strike Power (7/5) in Race 4, Dream Friend (7/2) in Race 8 and Untamed Domain (9/2) in Race 11 to get you started. My Gulfstream Late Pick 4 Ticket Here’s one way to attack today’s Late Pick 4. I think you can go short in the Dania Beach and go deeper around it. Keep an eye on the scratches in the Holy Bull. Assuming Romans doesn’t run all four of his entrants, you may be able to pare you ticket down there, too. Race 9: 1, 2, 6, 9 (13, if he draws in, should be included) Race 10: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 Race 11: 6, 7 Race 12: 1, 2, 4, 7 Ticket Cost: $96.00
Saturday is a big day at the Fair Grounds. There’s no way around that. Their ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ kicks off with the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes. And while the LeComte isn’t always a ‘hit’ race on the Triple Crown Trail – for every one Hard Spun, Oxbow or Friesan Fire, there seems to be five or six ‘forgotten’ winners. This year, however, feels like a big one. The field is massive – 14 entrants and an also eligible – but, probably more importantly, the class seems to be there. Principe Guilherme is on every ‘watch list.’ Same true for Instilled Regard. The filly entrant, Wonder Gadot, as of Thursday at least, appears more likely to run in the Silverbulletday Stakes earlier in the card. Here are four LeComte horses I’m watching this Saturday, and also throughout the Triple Crown season. You can the LeComte as Race 9 at the Fair Grounds, at 6:03PM ET. Four Horses I’m Watching 12. Principe Guilherme (5/2) Pedigree: Tapit x Aubby K (Street Sense) Owner: Three Chimneys Farm Trainer: Steve Asmussen Jockey: Florent Geroux The sky appears to be the limit for the regally-bred Principe Guilherme, who blitzed through maiden and first-level allowance fields by 18-lengths combined late last year. His sire, Tapit, is regarded as one of North America’s finest, and his dam, Aubby K, won the G1 Humana Distaff and G2 Inside Information in 2013. This is a major class test, though, and his outside post does him no favors. I’m interested to see how aggressive they are early with him. Ask too much and he’ll be vulnerable late – ask too little and he could be hung wide throughout. I expect to see a positive performance and assume he’ll still be on most Derby Lists in the coming weeks. 10. Instilled Regard (4/1) Pedigree: Arch x Enchancing (Forestry) Owner: OXO Equine, LLC Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer Jockey: Javier Castellano If we’re betting this one on class alone, this guy is your pick. He ran great against Bob Baffert’s two-headed monster of McKinzie and Solomini last month in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity, a race in which he was bumped down the stretch and ultimately placed second due to the DQ of Solomini. To finish right there on the wire with those two horses is quite the accomplishment. It’s interesting that the connections chose to bypass racing against McKinzie at ‘home’ last Saturday in the G3 Sham. Hard to know what to make of that (if anything), but given the version of McKinzie we saw last weekend, I wouldn’t have wanted any parts of him either. I love that this horse has improved significantly in two-turn races and I love even more that Javier Castellano gives up a Saturday riding at Gulfstream to head to New Orleans and pilot this one. He’s my top choice by a very slim margin. 9. Zeke (15/1) Pedigree: Gio Ponti x Dancing Years (El Prado [Ire]) Owner: Bossci Stable Trainer: Michael Stidham Jockey: Joe Bravo On paper, he lags well behind this field. That’s a given. But I watched his last race and left nothing short of very impressed. Breaking from the outside post in nine-horse allowance field on the lawn, he raced wide and wider behind a dawdling pace, yet still managed to run down and beat a ‘loose on the lead’ frontrunner who raced toward the rail. The final margin was only a nose, but based on the ground Zeke covered, he was probably much the best. The Stidham/Bravo combination has been virtually unbeatable in 2017/18 (41% winners, $3.23 ROI) and you’re getting him at 15/1 on Saturday! Zeke broke his maiden on the dirt at Laurel (albeit slowly), so he’s at least adept on this ground. 13. Prince Lucky (8/1) Pedigree: Corinthian x Lucky Notion (Great Notion) Owner: Daniel McConnell Trainer: Larry Jones Jockey: Julien Leparoux Like Javier Castellano with Instilled Regard, you have to take note that Julien Leparoux picks up this mount. He’s likely in town primarily to ride Heavenly Love in the Silverbulletday, but this is a strong pickup mount. Prince Lucky is 3-for-4, with a win last out at Parx in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes. He’s very hindered by an outside draw here, but this is a horse that has been well-backed throughout his career in the Mid Atlantic and figures to receive support again Saturday. Note the big workout (5f in 1:00 1/5, best of 60) on January 7 to sharpen him for this. Also on the Docket Race 3 (MSW) – 3:03PM ET – Tapability (5/1, Bradley/Graham) is the first of two-time champion, Groupie Doll’s, offspring to make it to the races. Following her 2013 G1 BC Filly & Mare Sprint win, Groupie Doll was purchased for $3.1M by Mandy Pope and bred to star stallion, Tapit. I’ve got no idea if Tapability can run, especially in a pretty decent maiden race, but it’ll be nice to see him on the track. Race 5 (Duncan F. Kenner Stakes) – 4:05PM ET – All eyes are on Yockey’s Warrior (4/5, Stall/Mena), who is 3-for-4 locally and won the Thanksgiving Handicap here by 5-lengths in November. Chublicious (3/1, Faucheux/Valdivia) won the G3 Xpressbet DeFrancis Dash at Laurel in September but was no match for ‘Warrior in the Thanksgiving. The once regarded Zulu (6/1, Catalano/Albarado), who was runner-up behind Mohaymen in the 2016 G2 Fountain of Youth, is now trained by Wayne Catalano, but hasn’t won in over a year. Race 6 (Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes) – 4:35PM ET – Mom’s On Strike (4/1, Sharp/Beschizza) is a tepid favorite in a wide-open field. And anytime a ML favorite is a $10 horse, that’s great for bettors. Giada Vegas (9/2, Casse/Lanerie) has won four-straight races, while Inveniam Viam (9/2, Cox/Bridgmohan) is 5-for-10 at the Fair Grounds and 3-for-5 at the distance. No matter where you land here, you’re going to get paid if you’re right. Race 7 (Silverbulletday Stakes) – 5:05PM ET – Sophomore fillies are on display and most money will funnel through the Mark Casse-trainees, Heavenly Love (3/1, Leparoux) and Wonder Gadot (2/1, Velazquez). Both have big wins on the resume – Heavenly Love took down Keeneland’s G1 Alcibiades, Wonder Gadot scored in Aqueduct’s G2 Demoiselle. Both were disappointing the G1 BC Juvenile Fillies – Wonder Gadot (6th) despite closing into a fast pace and Heavenly Love (11th), who was cooked by a fast pace. Heavenly Love was fancied by bettors more that day (7/2 vs 12/1 for her stablemate), but Wonder Gadot has the recency edge with the Demoiselle win. Blonde Bomber (7/2, Gold/Lezcano) benefitted from the hot BC pace to run 3rd at 30/1. Race 8 (Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap) – 5:35PM ET – Like the Marie Krantz, this is a very deep turf race. Special Ops (6/1, Maker/Leparoux) won the Claiming Crown Emerald last time at Gulfstreamm and has won 3-of-5 since Maker claimed him. Tower of Texas (7/2, Attfield/Geroux) was 3rd, beaten 1-length, in the G3 Tropical Turf at Gulfstream in December, and Galton (5/1, Maker/Castellano) was second in that race. Avanzare (12/1, Broberg/Beschizza) makes his first start off the claim for Broberg, a positive angle, while Dimension (8/1, Murphy/Graham) scored at 40/1 last out in a stakes race here. Race 10 (Louisiana Handicap) – 6:34PM ET – The Player (3/1, Bradley/Borel) won the G2 Fayette at Keeneland and was a tough-trip 5th in the G1 Clark last out. Dazzing Gem (9/2, Cox/Bridgmohan) is reliable and makes his second start off the layoff, which is a huge angle for Brad Cox. Hawaakom (12/1, Hawley/Mena) won this last year, while Cedartown (Stidham/Bravo) appears to be an up-and-coming sort off his Zia Park Derby win. Worth Noting Here are the Top 10 Trainers and Jockeys at the Fair Grounds, for those who don’t bet there often: Top 10 Trainers 1. Brad Cox – 22 (31%) 2. Joe Sharp – 19 (26%) 3. Tom Amoss – 16 (30%) 4. Al Stall – 14 (21%) 4. Mike Stidham – 14 (24%) 6. Mark Casse – 10 (26%) 7. Bret Calhoun – 9 (17%) 7. Karl Broberg – 9 (15%) 9. Sam David Jr. – 8 (29%) 10. Steve Asmussen – 7 (11%) 10. James Hodges – 7 (32%) Top 10 Jockeys 1. Shaun Bridgmohan – 31 (29%) 2. Miguel Mena – 30 (18%) 3. Mitchell Murrill – 24 (14%) 4. Joe Bravo – 19 (30%) 4. Adam Beschizza – 19 (21%) 6. Colby Hernandez – 18 (15%) 7. Marcelino Pedroza – 15 (12%) 8. Corey Lanerie – 14 (10%) 8. James Graham – 14 (12%) 10. Florent Geroux – 12 (13%) 10. Gabriel Saez – 12 (13%)