Excuse my absence last week, my dog ate my past performances.
So let us ride out just one last try in 2011 at the new, greatest spot to play the ponies tournament-style – Derby Wars. Before we get rolling allow me to gloat just a little (it’s been a tough year at the windows, virtual and otherwise, so why not?) I did peg a big winner for the Big Saturday Tournament on December 16. Nome was a first-time starter among a field of bad $30,000 maiden claimers who just happened to nail two other horses on the line at almost 32-1. Hey it’s not every day you can flaunt such a big pick….
Now back to reality and a few swings at today’s Big Game. You’ll probably have to secure a long shot at Gulstream, as the Left Coast looks particularly chalky this afternoon. Regardless of wins or losses, a hardy New Year’s wish for good luck to all Derby War players in 2012!
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, Two-Year-Old Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile Turf
I hate to repeat myself, but I will nonetheless - toss unknown turf trainers here to find your winner among the top sod barns of Motion (Coup), Romans (Marlin Mission), Mott (Market Princess), McPeek (Rhonin Victoria), Wolfson (Romantic Frolic) and Nihei (Regalo Mia). The two most intriguing based on connections and price are Marlin Mission and Romantic Frolic. Marlin Mission gets his second start off a short layoff and a positive rider switch to Alex Solis, who can still get it down the turf. Romantic Frolic simply gets a rider switch to one of the best in the business in Javier Castellano and that’s got to be worth at least a few lengths at 12-1 or better.
Gulfstream Park, Race 10, Beaten $30,000 Claimers , 7 ½ furlongs Turf
This is a recipe for disaster – funky distance at two turns, starting close to the clubhouse turn, three who may want the lead among a field that doesn’t like to win. With many ways to look and go here, I’m taking the most straightforward approach – looking for a horse to go coast-to-coast. Among the three most likely candidates of Hugo Light, P.L. Henry and Change of Command, I like Change of Command the best. He’s won two out of three races, was placed to ambitiously in his last start and has the ability to rate a little, which will come in handy in if the first two set their minds to a speed duel. That’s it, pure and simple.
Santa Anita, Race 1, Two-Year-Old State bred Maiden Claimers, 6 furlongs
Going back to the first-timer well again in looking for just a bit of a price. The alternative is to take a short-priced, two-time, two-surface loser in YaWanna Hug. Play that at your own risk, indeed! Warren’s Samantha intrigues me the most because while trainer Jorge Gutierrez does not hit with a big percentage of his first-timers or maiden claimers, his return on both is quite positive. Bejarano gets aboard, which will probably add interest and lower the price.
Santa Anita, Race 3, $20,000 Claimers, 6 furlongs
You won’t often see a former graded stakes winner with his male anatomy intact running for such cheap tags. Such territory is usually fertile ground (excuse the metaphor) for geldings or ruthless owners trying to recapture past glory at very cheap tracks. The former is a given, the later is just plain sad. But here we have Wall Street Wonder, who was eased at less than even money two back and then romped as the favorite in his last race. Not sure which Wonder will show up, take a long shot to finish first or second in Elusive Moment who has picked up a lot of wins and places of late. The four-year-old gelding will get plenty to run at late and 15-1 or better is worth a long look.