I know better. There are a few things in life you shouldn’t rush into – big purchases like a home or a car, proposing (or accepting) marriage and trying to pick winners. Last week I was pressed for time, so I hastily made some predictions far too fast for my own good. The result – lots of waste or a big O-for. Sorry about that, I will try to do better this week. At the very least, there are opportunities for big payoffs on Saturday, so let’s get to it.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, maidens on the turf are won by trainers who can get the job done with turf runners, period. Looking at this full field, we can knock down the contenders to Taken Twice (Miller), Wayward Sailor (Maker), Chicks Dig Me (Plesa), Fortunate Bill (White), Purest Form (Fawkes) and Trumpet Man (Matz). Throw a dart, pick a number, look at the trainer’s two-year-old success and you just might find your winner. For me it’s Taken Twice –Miller’s first-time turf success is 25% with a huge $5.71 return on investment. I’d say he knows which horses to try the green with, wouldn’t you? Want another bomb? How about Purest Form, whose grandsire is Dynaformer (turf sire extraordinaire), comes off a bullet work, a long layoff and a big drop. At the very least the price will be right!
Gulfstream Park, Race 11, Starter Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Turf
Ok, you’ve got the heavy favorite starting way outside with a need to come from way back to win. This means that Cavalero may find himself far from the rail, far back and with much traffic to run through. For me, this is a stand against. So who do we turn our lonely eyes to? Cantonic has the best chance to hug the rail, breaking for post two, and lead them along for as far as he can go. The problem with Cantonic is that he usually caves when the real running starts. So…trainer Nick Canani wins at a very high percentage in just about any stat that correlates to this race. His runner, Coach Gravy, has won at four different distances, on two different surfaces, on dry land and in the slop. I don’t care that he’s raced versus a cut below the morning line choice; he’s got the right running style for the way this race looks on paper and he’s likely to get a jump on Cavalero in the stretch. Coach Gravy is my top choice.
If every a race was crying out for a first-time starter to win, this is the one. Filled with a bunch of slow horses that have finished willingly or unwillingly behind a winner many times over, Nome has a real shot to win at a price. Nome’s sire, Ministers Wild Cat, has scored with 10% firsters this year with winners on both dirt and synthetic. Not bad. Trainer, Mike Harrington isn’t exactly tearing it up at Hollywood – just one winner from 19 starters – and the jock isn’t exactly a household name. No matter. It’s not the humans that are running it’s the Thoroughbreds, and I give Nome a big shot against these.
Hollywood Park, Race 3, Optional $40,000 Claimers, 1 1/8 miles, Turf
Good luck with all your choices today at Derby Wars!
This is a tricky distance at this level of competition and at first look Bonita Star may not add up. She’s failed twice at the distance, and her recent success is against straight claimers. But it is difficult to argue against trainer Mike Mitchell’s recent and yearlong success. He’s winning at a 44% clip at Hollywood, so he knows where to place his runners. The main threat in the PPs, Imperialistic Diva, has only one win from 11 starts and will likely be the betting choice. On the track, Born Lucky, who picks up a pretty good jock in Ramon Dominguez, and will likely be loose on the lead presents the greatest challenge to my pick.