By Tony Bada Bing
Now that the calendar has turned to 2012 and all Thoroughbred two-year-olds turned three, it is hard to keep from doing some early Derby dreaming. While bloggers here at Horse Racing Nation are already looking for their top Derby choices in early stakes action like the Big A’s Count Fleet Stakes and Santa Anita’s Sham, I’ll start my Derby Wars selections with Saturday’s allowance race at Gulfstream Park…
Gulfstream Park, Race 7, Allowance Non-Winners of 1 for 3YOs, 1 mile
In addition to trying to find a winner, at a price if we can, let’s find a Derby starter among these hopefuls that have human connections looking toward the Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth, just in case their charges run their eyeballs out. So who could win and possible be on target to enter the Churchill starting gate the first Saturday in May? Remember Shackelford started his fateful three-year-old campaign winning a Gulfstream allowance race that was just a furlong longer…
Among the contenders with the potential to enter stakes company next time out are: Neck ‘n Neck, In the Beat, One Sock Down, Da Vinci and Discreet Dancer. Let me start with both of Todd Pletcher’s trainees: Da Vinci – regally breed with A.P. Indy on top and an Artax mare on bottom and Discreet Dancer – not exactly breed to go much farther than these 8 furlongs, but who won for fun by 9 lengths in his first start earning a big Beyer figure of 98. One Sock Down – third on the HRN Derby contender list???? – who rated nicely for his win in his first start four weeks ago. Neck n’ Neck ran late and a little green in his two-turn win at Churchill two months ago and picks up the ever-aggressive jock, Jose Lezcano. Finally the quartet of owner Jim Tafel, trainer Carl Nafzger, rider Calvin Borel and grandsire Street Cry had just a bit of success with Street Sense, who sired this sprint winner. Who am I going with? The karma with In the Beat for the odds, but am expecting a big win at low odds from Da Vinci.
Gulfstream Park, Race 10, Grade III Marshua’s River, F&M, 1 1/16 mile Turf
Bright day, full field and proven favorite Daveron coming off a short layoff leads me to this simple advice: take the chalk or throw a dart. The greatest interest for me comes from the many outside horses that may vie for the lead: Tapitsfly, Trip for AJ, Exclusive Love, Persuading and Kiss the Stars along with the possibility of Speak Easy Girl doing the same. If a scrum for the lead or speed duel ensue there are several others besides Daveron to like. Jenny’s So Great, Heavenly Landing and It’s Tea Time can all get up on their best day and all will be at odds worth a stab. My top choice is second time lasix runner, Louvakhova, who also makes her second start for Martin Wolfson and has the greatest upside among this bunch.
Santa Anita, Race 1, Maiden Claimers, 6 ½ furlongs
Can three times be a charm for me. In my last two blogs, I’ve pegged first time maiden winners in low-level claimers like this one. So….why not go with the same strategy until I lose? No handicapping necessary, I’ll toss a coin to choose between For Forty Second and Janie Girl. The coin toss is up and the winner is….For Forty Second. I know, handicapping at its finest.
Santa Anita, Race 3, Grade III Sham Stakes for 3 YOs, 1 mile
OK Secret Circle is a worthy chalk, but blinkers on and then off coming off of consecutive wins, curious at best. Longview Drive comes of the bullring/fair circuit with three wins and a third place finish in his last four starts. The Delta Jackpot was a bit of a debacle and Joel Rosario rides back in the Saturday feature. For me 8-1 is worth the shot in a short field with a very small priced favorite.
Santa Anita, Race 5, Claimers, 6 ½ furlongs going down the hillside turf
There’s just two ways I try to figure winners on Santa Anita’s funky downhill turf course: experience at the trip and recent turf sprint sharpness. A morning line favorite cutting back in distance, who has never sprinted, let along run down the turf with an out-of-town jock, well let’s just say I’ll pass. The much claimed Brown is Beige has finished first or second in her last three turf sprint tries, and she won over Hollywood’s synthetic surface when her race was scratched off the sod back in November. Want a flyer, take a shot with Magical Eclipse – first-time turf, first-time winners. Trainer Vladimir Cerin wins with a healthy percentage of first-time trainees, long layoffs and dirt/turf runners, so sure, why not?
A look back:
A near miss with Marlin Mission closing hard at 26-1 was nosed out for second and ended up a neck behind for top honors. Didn’t deliver a winner here, but gave you something to cheer for late. I know, that and $2 will get us all a cup of coffee. On the other hand, Warren’s Samantha proved me right at 6-1.
Last Friday’s Big Game winner who took home the top prize of $300 was Dynaformer aka Mr. McArdle. He correctly pegged the $64 topper of Hey Dirty Face, which was good for about two-thirds of his $87.60 bankroll.
Sunday’s Big Game winner, KingofPoland traveled a similar path as Dynaformer by hitting a maximum $64 winner of his own in Finnegans Wake at Gulfstream. Three more wins gave KingofPoland the necessary cushion for the $400 top prize.
In a model of consistency both early and late McCarron, aka, Jerod Dinkin hit four of the first five and three out of the last four races to walk away with the top prize in Saturday’s Big Game. A $25 winner was his biggest payout on his way to the $95.60 bankroll.
Winner’s recap complied by Josh Chicorelli