by Johnny D
October 16, 2020
Thankfully, in this year of Our Lord two thousand and twenty, or whatever else you want to call what we’ve experienced since Jan. 1 (expletives permitted), some things remain relatively undisturbed.
It’s mid-October, trees have turned or are completely undressed and Breeders’ Cup is on the horizon. Two of racing’s biggest days are scheduled for Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7. You’ll note those dates are a smidgen later than usual--either because of the way the calendar falls or due to the Notre Dame football schedule, I’m not sure which. I am positive that later than usual Breeders’ Cup dates have nothing to do with COVID, which is amazing because everything else has something to do with COVID.
At least we’re having Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. Not many of us will attend, of course. Restrictions won’t snap this writer’s attendance streak, but that’s not true for everyone. For some this will be a first missed ‘Cup--the one that will have attendance and handle figures forever asterisked.
Back in ’84, I was among the live 68k strong for the original single-day, 7-race, $10 million event and wondered out loud if there’d ever be another one like it. ‘A $3 million race? Crazy. Never happen again!’
Wrong. Racing appeared live on NBC that day for an unprecedented four hours! That was huge because back then sports fans didn’t have unlimited viewing choices. They also didn’t have to remember too many letters or numbers other than ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN.
What’s truly amazing is that Breeders’ Cup has continued and, actually, thrived across decades during which the sport has been challenged to maintain handle, purse and field size levels. The ‘Cup’s continuously been a bright spot, attracting a majority of the best available runners here and abroad.
Plus, they’re great gambling days. Not that yours truly always wins—I said ‘gambling’ days not ‘winning’ days—but I’ve had moments. While I haven’t made a ‘life-changing’ Breeders’ Cup score, I have made a ‘vacation-changing’ hit. What’s most important is that opportunities for scores abound. You’ve got chances to go deep. To knock one out of the park. Hit a dinger. Touch ‘em all. And you can’t say that for many other racing days.
In the meantime, let’s attempt to pad our account balances by cashing wagers on races from around the nation. Below is one man’s humble swing at Saturday’s Santa Anita Late Pick 4.
Overview: This five and one-half furlong $50k starter turf race for non-winners of 2 races includes a couple of runners with fast dirt races attempting to transfer that form to turf, plus a 6-year-old turf router that returned from a layoff with a solid turf sprint for a new trainer. There are a few in here that haven’t won in a long, long time, so it may be advisable to lean on those with less visits to the well.
1. Gregdar changed trainers, shipped from Golden Gate synthetics to turf and won a maiden sprint last out over this course. The effort wasn’t particularly fast, but it was only the 3-year-old colt’s second lifetime start. He’s lightly raced, sharp, from a hot D’Amato barn (20% last 90 days) and is ridden by turf wizard Umberto Rispoli (35% with the barn in 20 starts). All stats courtesy of Thoro-Graph.
3. Gate Speed is a 4-year-old gelding coming off more than six months on the sidelines. He’s run some fast races and actually finished second the last two times he started. Those were dirt races and he must transfer that form to turf. Trainer Glatt is 13% with runners gone more than 90 days, according to Thoro-Graph. The trainer also is 11% with dirt-to-turf runners. The gelding is fresh and has speed.
4. Kris’ Wild Kat hasn’t won a race since a maiden $50k in October of ’18 over the now retired downhill turf course and has 9 losing efforts. He’s obviously had some physical issues—only five starts since his 3-year-old season. He’s got a race or two on his resume that fit and trainer Baltas always is dangerous. Gelding is working every 7 days at San Luis Rey.
Large Tickets Only
5. Colt Fiction is a 5-year-old who’s made just three starts—all at various levels of maiden races. First out, at 3, he was vanned off, didn’t race at 4 and has had just two starts at 5. Last out, he broke maiden against state-breds for $50k. That was a solid effort, as was his previous try against open $40k foes. Those last two races were for veteran trainer Bill Spawr. He’s had time since his last start and blinkers will be added for this. He has speed.
7. This year, Factorial has posted at least 3 turf sprints that fit in here. He hasn’t won in a while, is just 1 for 20 overall and is 6 years old, but he’s got speed and should be in the race from the start. He’s a real reach but attracts 29% jockey Flavien Prat.
Large Tickets Only
8. Antithetical is a 3-year-old with a win in 6 starts and 5 in the money finishes. That’s a decent record when compared to some of the old timers in here. This will be his first turf sprint but he has handled the surface well routing. This gelding would need to run faster than he ever has before, but there is plenty of speed involved and that could set up a cutback’s late charge. He’s a longshot look.
Large Tickets Only
10. Combat Zone has been a steady turf route performer (6 seconds), for trainer John Sadler. He has just 1 win in 16 starts, so he’s really difficult to rely on. Last out, his first start for trainer Mark Glatt, he closed to finish a solid fourth at the $32k level. A repeat of that race gives him a look in here.
Overview: This is a wide-open 2-year-old state-bred maiden race. Use #7 Suzie Qzz Brother and as many others as you can possibly afford. Something wild might happen.
1. Alpine Thunder has the second fastest rated race, according to Thoro-Graph speed figures. That was 2 races back in a fourth-place effort. That finishing position matches exactly his other two races. After starting at over 50-1 first out, he has been single digit odds in his last two starts.
2. Teton Valley is the most experienced in the group with four starts—2 sprinting on dirt and 2 routing on turf. He managed a third-place finish first out and hasn’t improved on that finish since.
3. It’s Bedazzle Time makes first start for trainer James Cassidy, who’s just 3% with first time out maiden special weight 2-year-olds.
4. Careless Kitten had some trouble first out earlier this month and finished a well-beaten 7th at nearly 35-1. Trainer Val Brinkerhoff is 5% with second time out maiden 2-year-olds but 10% with runners wheeled back in from 11-29 days.
5. Moving Fast was nearly 25-1 first out, took up early in the race and showed some late interest to finish a well-beaten 5th. Trainer Sean McCarthy is 16% with 2 second out maiden 2-year-olds, according to Thoro-Graph stats.
6. My Child Sbud is by Tisbud, a 4% winning sire with first timers, according to Thoro-Graph stats.
7. Suzie Qzz Brother made 2 starts at Del Mar and owns the fastest figure of any runner in this field. He’s had plenty of time since that second-place effort and should be the one to beat. He was ‘bumped repeatedly’ at the start last out, so that adds to his fine effort.
One to Beat
8. Club Cal is a first timer out of 14% maiden voyage winning sire Clubhouse Ride.
Overview: Favored #5 Warren’s Showtime will be a popular single on many multi- leg tickets and she appears the one to beat. There are some other contenders in here that appear to have some shot at upsetting the favorite, so this could be a spot to tread more lightly than it first appears.
1. Mind Out has improved nicely for trainer Simon Callaghan since breaking maiden sprinting on turf first out in August of ’19. Her best efforts to date have come sprinting on turf, but she’s by Tapit which suggests she’ll improve with age and handle a route. She has just 1 win in 6 starts with 3 seconds. She’s not nearly as accomplished as the favorite but, on the come, is an outside price alternative.
3. Nasty first two good efforts to break maiden and win an allowance race at Indiana Downs. Those efforts fit if she can transfer them to the West Coast. These should be stiffer competition.
Large Tickets Only
4. Guitty has one race that faster than anything favorite #5 Warren’s Showtime has ever run. That’s part of the good news. More good news is that she’s had plenty of time since that big effort to recover for trainer Leonard Powell. She posted that fast number against Grade 2 foes in the San Clemente at Del Mar and has faced graded company in 4 consecutive starts, so she’s not outclassed. There are two issues with her. First, she gets terribly far back early and must circle the field to win. Second, (probably because of the first) she hasn’t won a race since Nov. 19 last year.
Large Tickets Only
5. Warren’s Showtime is strictly the one to beat. She has 3 wins in her last 8 races, 5 of 12 overall, 4 of 7 at the distance and 3 of 4 over Santa Anita turf. She consistently runs faster than her foes in here. She’s had plenty of time since her last effort, so a repeat of one of her good races seems likely and she might even improve a bit.
Must Use/Possible Single
6. Going to Vegas should use her early speed in here and ought to be stalking #2 Quiet Secretary. They should keep each other company early and set things up for more accomplished closers. Going to Vegas is incredibly steady and has improved this season for trainer Richard Baltas but never has run fast enough to win this race. She is 3 for 5 over this turf course and 3 for 8 at the distance and blinkers are off for this. Note: Baltas/Mario Guitierrez combo is 23% with 113 mounts, according to Thoro-Graph stats.
Large Tickets Only
7. Croughavouke has one race that fits with the favorite and that came three back at Santa Anita when third in the Grade 3 Honeymoon at one mile and one-eighth. She has just 2 wins in 11 starts but one of those came last out in a claiming/allowance race when blinkers were added. She raced much closer to the early pace that afternoon than she ever has before, so the blinkers seemed to make a difference. Jockey Umberto Rispoli has worked magic on turf this season and a horseplayer could do worse than merely using Rispoli and Pratt (#5 Warren’s Showtime) in Santa Anita turf races.
Overview: This $25k maiden claiming sprint ought to be a 1 or 2-horse race, depending on your budget.
#2 Saving Sophie is way faster than the rest of these but has 0 wins and 6 seconds in 10 races. She’s by far the one to beat in here but the question is: How much can you rely on a late running 0-10 filly reduced in price from $40k to $25k? Based on your budget, you’ll need to answer that question.
#5 Save the Story has some speed, always takes money, comes off a troubled last out, adds blinkers and gets weight with 7-pound apprentice allowance jockey Centeno. She’s also got a bullet 1:00, best of 25 workout. She should be on the lead with #2 Saving Sophie gaining late. Six and one-half furlongs is a full furlong further than she’s ever travelled in the afternoon.
There appears to be two possible singles in this Pick 4—Race 9 #5 Warren’s Showtime and Race 10 #2 Saving Sophie. Race 7 probably demands players use several runners and Race 8 requires a spread mentality in the hopes of catching a bomb. Below are some suggested attacks.
Saturday Santa Anita
$.50 Late Pick 4 ($96)
#1, #3, #5, #10
(All 8 Runners)
#1, #5, #7