Let me begin by apologizing for the extended, unannounced hiatus. I have been very busy with school as of late and have not had much time to handicap, let alone handicap and write analyses. However, with the Breeders’ Cup on the horizon and a break in the madness of life, there is time to pause for an examination of the full weekend of international racing ahead.
500k Juvenile Sprint
Cup races begin Friday at Santa Anita with the fourth race. Bob Baffert took the inaugural running last year with Secret Circle and he has 5-2 contender 5 SUPER NINETY NINE this time around. Super Ninety Nine’s sole career start, however, was breaking his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths going 7f at Santa Anita. I am certainly concerned about backing a horse coming off of only one race, but Super Ninety Nine has a central post, a small field to deal with, is at home, and is a Baffert trainee, which could compensate for his inexperience.
In making my selections for HRN, I went with East-coast filly 7 SWEET SHIRLEY MAE. Like Super Ninety Nine, she cuts back from 7f in her last out. She was second there, but it was the G1 Spinaway. Sweet Shirley Mae started fifteen lengths back in that event but made up significant ground at the end, though she may have just been passing tired horses and certainly had stamina left from a plodding start. It is unlikely a similar start will fare any better here. A repeat of the G2 Schuylerville two back will also not suffice under these conditions. She left the gate quicker than in the Spinaway, but she ran evenly on the rail throughout and lost ground at the end for a bad finish. Selections are tenuous. As I write I am reevaluating my selection here.
There is not much to say about 8-5 favorite 3 MERIT MAN: he has run twice with a fifteen point Beyer speed figure increase in between and is now an 8-5 favorite in a 2-year-old Breeders’ Cup race under Pat Valenzuela. I wouldn’t necessarily leave him off of a pick-6, but I am not rushing to the window here.
I am left with 6 HAZARDOUS, who tried dirt for the first time in his three-race career and appears to have liked it. If he truly did find his surface last out, 8-1 could be a solid price. Strangely, both of his wins have come when he has been “off slow”. Perhaps that would not be so bad here.
A number of horses may want to be up close here, but the two outside have also broken slowly at times. South Floyd should show the way. Super Ninety Nine has a good shot from just off the pace. I may toss the two out of the Tim Conway, the rail, the Euro, and the filly who I already picked and take:
6 HAZARDOUS / 5 SUPER NINETY NINE: exacta, double, pick-3.
Ah, the Marathon. I am a huge fan of stayers and distance races, but, as I thought while watching Afleet Again cross the wire at Churchill Downs last year, this race has been elusive. Taking that into consideration, and in the spirit of last year’s upset, I am siding with 4 GRASSY. I will admit, this is a hunch and angle play, but Garrett Gomez returns to a horse who he rode to second behind Musketier in the G3 Singspiel and to victory in the G2 Bowling Green last fall. While Grassy’s career to this point has been analogous to his name, he looks to be able to handle this distance. At 30-1, I will accept not knowing how he will fare on the surface.
To round out multi-race wagers, I will look first to 12 WORTH REPEATING. The 6-year-old Giant’s Causeway horse comes off a commanding victory at Fairplex having run competitively in Graded stakes prior. He has gone 12f before and should not have a problem with 14. A solid, consistent sort like Worth Repeating appears to be a good play in a race like this opposite a boom-or-bust play like Grassy. In multi-race wagers I would also consider using 1 ATIGUN, 2 FAME AND GLORY, and/or 7 NOT ABROAD.
4 GRASSY / 12 WORTH REPEATING: 4 to win, doubles, pick-3.