Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ice Box and First Dude Lead Average Field in the Belmont

Belmont Park - Elmwood, NY

A steller lineup of six stakes races with four of those being Grade 1 including the return of Gio Ponti highlight an outstanding thirteen race card on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park today. Coverage of the Belmont under card can be found on ESPN today from 11:00 - 4:00 Central and then moves to ABC from 4:00 - 6:00 Central for coverage of the Belmont itself.

Belmont Stakes - Grade I - Purse $1,000,000 - Surface: Dirt - Distance 1 1/2 Miles
The same can't be said for the Belmont itself as with Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky both absent and no Triple Crown on the line for the fifth time in the last seven years 2010 has produced a rather average field of twelve to contest the 142nd running of the race that is called "Test of The Champion". Derby runner up Ice Box and Preakness runner up First Dude are getting the attention but several in the field could win.

Ice Box - Post 6 - Morning Line 3/1
He has been very consistent and is the closer type that does well in this race in a large field. He won the Florida Derby in March and after being stopped cold behind horses at the the head of the stretch he was charging down the lane to close 7 lengths on Super Saver in the Derby. Zito knows a bit about winning this race as he is going for his 3rd win in the last 5 years here today. Jose Lezcano rides for Nick Zito and his top owner Robert LaPenta.

First Dude - Post 11 - Morning Line 7/2
He led the Preakness while in a dual the entire race but was unable to hold off Lookin At Lucky in the end. He has been a solid performer who has hit the board in 6 of 7 career races but his only win came in a Maiden race. He looks to be the lone speed today and could be hard to catch if that is the case and if the rider uses that advantage wisely. Ramon Dominguez rides for Dale Romans.

Fly Down - Post 5 - Morning Line 9/2
He is the second Zito horse in the race and has a win and a third in two starts at Belmont Park. He has been very consistent but ran a huge race in winning the Dwyer by 6 lengths and earning a by far lifetime best Beyer in his last. As always, this means he could either be ready for a bounce off that effort or he could be sitting on another huge race again today. A bullet work at Saratoga last Sunday and Zito training indicates he'll be ready. The pick up of Johnny V as the pilot also is a plus and he also has a closer running style. Johnny Velasquez rides for Nick Zito.

Drosselmeyer - Post 7 - Morning Line 12/1
He ran second in the Dwyer to Fly Down after a troubled trip in his last and has been very consistent in hitting the board in 7 of 8 lifetime races. He is a high expectations son of Forty Niner but the breeding on his mother's side indicates he may well be a really good turf horse down the road. He has been training through foot problems his past couple races and Desormeaux being taken off the horse is interesting. The switch to Mike Smith who along with trainer Mott rode each other into the Hall of Fame as a legendary team in New York in the early 90's is also interesting. Mike Smith rides for Bill Mott.

Game On Dude - Post 8 - Morning Line 10/1
He has two wins in five lifetime starts but has not faced the likes of the top four in this race. He is here because he won the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in Dallas in his last and posted a bullet work at Santa Anita last Monday. The team of Baffert and his new young riding sensation have been on fire this spring which is why we are even talking about this horse today. Martin Garcia rides for Bob Baffert.

Others to Watch:
Make Music For Me - Post 4 - M/L 10/1 - 4th in the Derby with a steady Beyer climb. Joel Rosario rides for Alexis Barba.
Spangled Star - Post 2 - M/L 30/1 - 3rd in the Withers and Gomez up helps chances. Garret Gomez rides for Rick Dutrow.
Uptowncharleybrown - Post 3 - M/l 10/1 - A cut below these but new trainer is a plus. Rajiv Maragh rides for Kiaran McLaughlin.

The return of Gio Ponti and a field of eleven that includes most of the current US turf stars makes the 2010 Manhattan Handicap a great warm up for the Belmont Stakes today.

Manhattan Handicap - Grade I - Purse $400,000 - Surface: Inner Turf - Distance: 1 1/4 Miles
Gio Ponti - Post 1 - Morning Line 2/1
He ran 4th in the Dubai World Cup in his last but losing to Gloria De Campeao is no disgrace. He ran second in his first start of the year in the Tampa Bay Handicap and Second to Zenyatta in the BC Classic last fall. Assuming he comes off the trip to Dubai in good shape, he should be ready to roll here. Ramon Dominguez rides for Christophe Clement.

Take The Points - Post 5 - Morning Line 9/2
He ran 5th in the Dubai Duty Free in March and again how horses handle the travel to and from Dubai is always a question. He has very consistent 100 + Beyers and a Grade 1 win in his only race over this track. The guess is his top trainer will have him ready and since Prado climbed aboard he has been hard to beat. Edgar Prado rides for Todd Pletcher.

Just As Well - Post 9 - Morning Line 10/1
He ran second in the Dixie to rival Strike A Deal and hasn't won that often lately. A second in a Grade 1 in Canada last fall and a second to Gio Ponti in the Arlington Million last August are the recent highlights. Still, Desormeaux takes the mount to replace the injured Leparoux and he is a top turf rider. He has had consistent 100+ Beyers. Kent Desormeaux rides for Jonathan Sheppard.

Court Vision - Post 6 - Morning Line 4/1
He has suffered from seconditis in his last three starts and comes close a lot more often than he gets there. While others went off to Dubai he stayed racing in the US and has a second to Take The Points in the Gulfstream Turf Hcp and a near miss to General Quarters in the Churchill Turf Classic in his last. He ran 4th to super star Goldikova in the BC Mile last fall and is usually on the board in his last ten starts all of which came in Grade 1 races. Robby Albarado rides for Richard Dutrow.

Others To Watch:
Strike A Deal - Post 2 - M/l 12/1 - Consistent 100+ Beyers and a win on the lead in last. Garret Gomez rides for Alan Goldberg.
Pinckney Hill - Post 3 - M/L 8/1 - A cut below these but always close. Rajiv Maragh rides for Angel Penna.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quality Road Leads Quality Field In Met Mile

Belmont Park

A quality field of 8 will contest Monday's $500,000 Grade I Metropolitan Handicap for three year olds and upward at Belmont Park. The Met Mile is the traditional Memorial Day feature at Belmont and is always one of the premier races of the Belmont Spring/Summer meet.

Quality Road - Post 7 - Morning Line 4/5
Quality Road has been off for 3 months since taking the Donn Handicap by 12 lengths at Gulfstream in February. He is 6 for 7 on dry tracks and his only two Grade I losses in 2009 came at the hands of Summer Bird on sloppy tracks. Johnny Velasquez rides for Todd Pletcher.

Warrior's Reward - Post 4 - Morning Line 9/2
He won the Carter at Aqueduct in April over Musket Man & Munnings before taking second in the Churchill Downs Handicap in his last over an off track. He is 2 for 3 in 2010 and may appreciate the added distance today. Calvin Borel rides for Ian Wilkes.

Musket Man - Post 3 - Morning Line 5/1
Lost by a nose to Warrior's Reward in the Carter before running 3rd as the favorite in the Churchill Downs Handicap in the slop in his last. Posted an impressive bullet while posting the best time of 44 horses at the distance at Monmouth on May 23. After three straight declining Beyers he may be sitting on a big race today. Ramon Dominguez rides for Derek Ryan.

Tizway - Post 2 - Morning Line 20/1
Posted a 106 Beyer in winning an Optional Claimer in his only start in 2010 and a bullet work at Saratoga on May 23. He was competitive in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Whitney last fall before ending 2009 with a 12th place finish in the Japan Cup Dirt in December. He has run consaistent 100+ Beyers and likes this track. Rajiv Maragh rides for James Bond.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Super Saver is the Favorite But Preakness Looks Wide Open

As it has for the past 134 years this series moves on to Baltimore with one horse having captured the country’s attention and fueled the discussion among racing fans whether this could possibly be the year for another Triple Crown. Racing’s biggest party will again inhabit the infield and crab cakes will replace mint juleps as the food of the day. It’s Preakness Day at Pimlico and time to see if the Derby winner is for real.

Preakness ~ Grade 1 ~ Purse $1,000,000 ~ Surface: Dirt ~ Distance: 1 3/16 Miles
Super Saver – Post 8 – Morning Line 5/2
This horse looked to be sitting on a big race before the Derby and a masterful ride by a jockey who owns Churchill Downs allowed his all world trainer to break an 0-24 streak in that race. Today, the decision is whether his lifetime best Beyer in the Derby and the fact that this horse loves the mud and Churchill means he is ripe for a bounce or is he just peaking at the right time. He deserves to be the favorite today and favorites win the Preakness around 50% of the time. Calvin Borel rides for Todd Pletcher.

Lookin At Lucky – Post 7 – Morning Line 3/1
The Derby favorite had no chance from post 1 and was bumped into the rail twice before they reached the first turn. However, many in the sport feel that horses who are constantly in traffic trouble will continue to find traffic trouble and the promise he showed as the 2 Year Old Champion has simply not been there this year. Baffert seems to be blaming the rider and has dumped the veteran Gomez in favor of the young Garcia. If he wins he would be the first beaten Derby favorite to come back and win the Preakness since 2001. Martin Garcia rides for Bob Baffert.

Jackson Bend – Post 6 – Morning Line 12/1
A horrible trip and a wet track in the Derby led to a 12th place finish but it will be dry today and a bullet work on Monday indicates he may be ready to rebound in here. If you throw out his Derby performance he still finished second to Eskendereya twice this spring and Hall of Famer Smith stays aboard. Mike Smith rides for Nick Zito.

Pleasant Prince – Post 3 – Morning Line 20/1
He ran a close second to Ice Box twice this spring including just missing by a nose in the Florida Derby. He didn’t seem to like the Keeneland Polytrack in the Blue Grass and ran third in the Derby Trial in the mud at Churchill. Missed the Derby on earnings but fits well with these. A sharp work last Sunday indicates he may be ready. Julien Leparoux rides for Wesley Ward.

Paddy O’Prado – Post 10 – Morning Line 9/2
He usually hits the board and ran a solid 3rd in the Derby with a positive Beyer move. Ran second to Stately Victor in the Blue Grass and won the Palm Beach on the turf at Gulfstream. The biggest question mark about him is that none of his seven lifetime starts have come on a dry dirt track. Would like him better on the turf but there is a lot to like if he takes to the surface. Kent Desormeaux rides for Dale Romans.

Dublin – Post 12 – Morning Line 10/1
He hasn’t won lately but has consistent high 90’s Beyers and is another who looked like he did not like the mud at Churchill Downs plus post 17 didn’t help either. Other than the top 3, this is a very similar field to what he has faced this year and trainer Lukas has won this race 5 times. Positive jockey switch to Gomez also helps his chances. Garrett Gomez rides for D. Wayne Lukas.

Friday, April 30, 2010

With Eskendereya out the Derby is Wide Open

For the second year in a row, the Derby favorite scratched the week of the race with an injury. This year more than ever the ability of horses to handle the synthetic to dirt transition will play a part in the outcome as the top two favorites are both synthetic surface horses. This year, another filly will attempt to beat the boys. It has now been 33 years since Affirmed became the last to capture the Triple Crown. It is the First Saturday in May. It is time to dream of what could be at least for two more weeks.

Kentucky Derby ~ Grade 1 ~ Purse $2,000,000 ~ Surface: Dirt ~ Distance: 1 ¼ Miles
Devil May Care - Post 11 – Morning Line 10/1
Won the Frizette at Belmont last fall after a terrible break but didn’t care for the pro ride while running up the track in the BC Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. She won the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream in her last and her connections passed up favorite role in KY Oaks to run today instead. She has top notch breeding and her stalking running style suits this race. Pletcher is 0 for 24 in the Derby but this one has a chance to end that streak today. Johnny Velasquez rides for Todd Pletcher.

Jackson Bend - Post 13 – Morning Line 15/1
He is 0-3 this year but ran a good 2nd to Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth & Wood Memorial. That one would have been a heavy favorite today before being forced out with an injury this week. He has never finished worse than 2nd in 9 lifetime races and his well respected owner and trainer are both very high on him. He is another who likes to stalk the pace and the addition of the game’s premier money rider can’t hurt. Mike Smith rides for Nick Zito and Robert LaPenta.

Lookin At Lucky - Post 1 - Morning Line 3/1
He will likely go off the favorite and deserves it. Lost by a nose after what looked like interference in the lane in the BC Juvenile and was bumped hard into the rail at the head of the stretch in SA Derby but still finished 3rd. Other than that, he has done little wrong and Baffert has been waiting a year since Pioneerof The Nile didn’t quite get it done in the 2009 Derby. On the plus side Baffert knows how to win this race and again looks like he has the best horse. On the minus side this is only his second race on dirt and he seems to always find traffic trouble plus he drew Post 1 which in this race means traffic trouble.. Garrett Gomez is aboard for Bob Baffert and Mike Pegram.

Awesome Act – Post 16 – Morning Line 10/1
He will be making his 4th North American start and has looked good in his first three running 4th in the BC Juvenile, winning the Gotham and then running 3rd to Eskendereya in the Wood after a terrible break. Irish Trainer Noseda only brings them here from Europe when they have a chance and the fact that Leparoux stays aboard while having other options confirms this as does a sharp work in the mud earlier this week. Covered him in exotics. Julian Leparoux rides for Jeremy Noseda.

Ice Box – Post 2 – Morning Line 10/1
He is a big closer who got up at the wire to win the Florida Derby and he also posted a bullet work in the slop a week ago over this track. He seems to be the second best Zito horse in the race but if he takes another step forward as he did in Florida, he could get his picture taken today. Your call as to whether 100+ Beyer in his last indicates he is sitting on a big race or ready to bounce off a lifetime best Beyer. Jose Lezcano rides for Nick Zito and R. LaPenta.

Super Saver – Post 4 – Morning Line 15/1
Ran 2nd and 3rd in two races this year but took the Kentucky Cup Juvenile impressively over this track last fall. He reunites with Borel today who knows a bit about winning this race. He is one of several speed horses in this race but if Borel can keep him out of a speed dual he has a chance. Pletcher’s horses are always ready to run and consistent high Beyers indicate he may be sitting on a big effort today. Calvin Borel rides for Todd Pletcher.

Others of Interest:
Line of David – Post 5 – M/L 30/1 – Longshot winner of Ark. Derby has won 3 straight - Berajano rides for Saddler
Dublin – Post 17 – M/L 12/1 – Best D. Wayne Lukas Derby horse in years - Thompson rides
Homeboykris – Post 19 – M/L 50/1 – Champagne winner is back with Richard Dutrow again - Dominguez rides Sydney’s Candy – Post 20 – M/L 5/1 – Post hurts and he has never run on dirt - Talamo rides for John Saddler