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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Shapper Da California Capper

Del Mar's Turf reopens including baby race in the sixth


The good news came on Monday that turf racing would resume at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club after giving it three days off.  The turf course was shut down after the fourth horse in two weeks of racing over the grass had to be euthanized on Saturday afternoon. The San Diego based track already had planned to perform maintenance on the new course on Monday, but decided the extra day could only help in what was a rough start to the 2014 summer meet. Included in the plan was moving the rails out to 18 feet and aerating the grass to give it a bit more bounce.  Hopefully this will help in avoiding further issues and casualties, but there still remains concern that there is more to the recent occurrences than just the condition of the course.


With the announcement that racing on the Del Mar lawn will resume on Wednesday, we can hopefully get back to normalcy at the picturesque Northern San Diego destination. Included in Wednesday’s eight race card is a maiden special weight event for two-year olds at one mile over the modified turf.  Many horseplayers think these races are “crapshoots” without having seen much of the runners, but these are in fact some of my favorite races to handicap. The sixth race on the card is one of these races. Generally when handicapping them, I first look at each horse’s pedigree. This includes investigating not only the sire, but the broodmare as well. It is often difficult to find value with the bloodlines of the father because there is a plethora of information available plus a large sample to choose from, however the same cannot be said for the dam who is only able to produce one foal per year.  Researching the productivity of the broodmare can prove to be beneficial in these races and also provide the horseplayer with value at the windows.


The sixth race on Wednesday at Del Mar did not provide me with too much help in separating these runners based on pedigree, however it did provide a bit of useful information. Firstly, # 5 P Club, for trainer Walther Solis, is a half brother to Dan and Sheila, earner of over $180,000. The problem is that the older is a son of More than Ready and sold for significantly more than his half brother. Additionally he is 3 for 30 including just 0 for 2 over the turf. I will side with others. #6 Mr. Chase also is out of an extremely productive daughter of Forest Wildcat, Cat Out. This mare has produced two six-digit earners including Apollo Da Vinci earner of nearly $500,000, but once again there is little to suggest that the lawn will be the best place for this one based on the history of both mother and father.  #1 Ligety fits under the same profile as her mother Back in the Shade finished third in the 1996 Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Park, but was 0 for 6 on the turf. 


While the investigation of pedigree did not produce a standout, the most useful data came when evaluating the breeding of #2 Seve’s Road. This son of 2009 Florida Derby winner Quality Road is out of a Giant’s Causeway mare named Silk Road. Silk Road never made it to the races, but was sold for an impressive $435,000 at the 2011 November Keeneland sale illustrating that someone thought this one was going to be a productive runner. Interestingly, his first progeny, Finalize, sold for $200,000 and is still unraced, but once again this colt must have looked “the part” given the significant price of sale. While it is hard to decipher how successful this broodmare will be long term, not only is she from the extremely productive Giant’s Causeway family tree, but also her two offspring have sold for a significant amount at the top sales the States have to offer.  Seve’s Road in my eyes is the best bred in a field of two-year olds who probably will do their best running on the dirt or synthetic, not the grass.


More important to me than pedigree in two-year old maiden special weight turf races is the trainer of each runner. A horse can be bred regally on both sides, but if a conditioner is not one to crank them up in their first and second starts it must be taken seriously.  Often times I will see a runner who is a full or half sibling to a star of the past or present, but it will take them several starts to get to their best simply because the conditioner and connections want to be patient.  These horses generally get over bet in their first few starts and are bad options at the window. Conversely, if a trainer is known to have his runners ready at first asking, they can overcome below average breeding and run big early on in their career.


Wednesday’s sixth at Del Mar has a few entrants where the conditioner’s strengths and weaknesses must be taken into serious account.  A solid example of this is #8 Popsracer who makes his third career start for trainer David Hofmans. While this one is bred decent enough on both sides to succeed on the grass in a relatively weak group, I am reluctant to use him tomorrow because of Hofmans statistics and history. In 2014, he is 0 for 12 with runners making their turf debut and just 1 of 16 with two-year olds as a whole. In addition, he has also not succeeded moving runners from the dirt to the turf yet in 2014 in ten tries.  In contrast, #9 Papacoolpapacool is a son of Temple City who has not sired a winner on the grass yet this year and out of a Saint Ballado mare named Sainttwok who has never produced a grass winner despite several successful offspring attempting the lawn. Despite the poor pedigree, I give this one a look tomorrow because his trainer Jeff Mullins is capable winning first out.  I am not in love with this one, but the point is that in my mind Mullins style “trumps” the lack of breeding.


With the course being altered over the dark days, I am reluctant to get too heavily involved financially in this one and recommend watching how the turf plays earlier on.  The rails being out could definitely lead to a speed-favoring course but who knows with the amount of maintenance done the past few days. In addition, this field does not offer much in terms of value as the best bred horse as well as the one who ran best first out, Seve’s Road is the 5-2 morning line favorite for trainer Doug O’Neill.


We do see a few horses with value that have been training well and could run big.  Cody Autrey who has been red hot with debut runners in 2014 connecting at an eye-popping 39% trains one of them, #3 Dallas Skyline. I am not in love with Autrey on the grass or in Southern California usually, but he will have this son of Scat Daddy cranked up for his debut and 12-1 with Kent Desormeaux seems worth a chance. #4 Nakamoto for Adam Kitchingman took no money in his debut where he broke and ran an even fourth, but has been training well and could improve in his second try.  Finally, #8 Visitation for trainer Paddy Gallagher is worth a shot given the okay pedigree and Gallagher’s ability to fire first on the grass. He is a solid 27% in 2014 with a relatively solid sample of 22 and 12-1 makes him somewhat intriguing.


I have no suggestive wagers here because of the unknown course, but watch the first and third races and perhaps take a shot with one of the value horses mentioned above as well as trifecta keying Seve’s Road over a few long shots. All in all I am just happy racing is back on the grass!


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Scott has been a fan of handicapping and following thoroughbred racing since Garden State Park was rebuilt in Cherry Hill, NJ in 1985.  His first memories of the racetrack include the 1985 Jersey Derby won by Spend a Buck and the 1990 Met Mile clash between Easy Goer, Criminal Type and Housebuster, but it was not until his mid to late twenties that Scott became confident he had a knack for picking winners. He points to the summer of 2007 in San Diego while working on a masters degree in American History as the time where he took his handicapping, his communication skills, and his attention to detail to the next level.  It was at this time where he had his first real big score.   He had four of only five winning combinations in the now extinct “Place Pick All” on a $8 ticket netting himself $40,000. 

A few months after hitting a monster pick five at Santa Anita Park in February of 2013, Scott started his website, www.shapperdacapper.com showcasing his and other experts' selections, as well as analysis and commentary on North American racing. From there, he began writing a weekly column for www.danonymousracing.com called "Race of the Week" and soon thereafter started writing for Horse Racing Nation. Currently, he is Horse Racing Nation's Southern California Racing Correspondent and can be found most days at Santa Anita Park or Del Mar Race Course.

Scott loves playing in horse racing tournaments and constructing pick four and pick five tickets.  His favorite all-time horses are Captain Bodgit, A.P. Indy, Fly So Free and Charismatic. He has lived in multiple states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado before returning to Southern California in the middle of 2015 to start "Shapper Da California Capper." 


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