Race of the Week 2017

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Shapper Da California Capper

Pletcher/Ward entrants highlight 2 year old MSW field at Belmont


On "First Time Turf” I will not only analyze some of the principal grass stakes races each week, but I will also take a look at some two-year olds that are just beginning their racing careers. Two-year old maiden special weight events with a number of debut turf runners are some of my favorite races to analyze and wager on because of the number of different angles they offer a handicapper.  Whether it is pedigree evaluation, analysis of trainer statistics or a review of workout reports, there are a number of clever ways to find value or find vulnerable favorites in these events.


The first race on July 10th’s Belmont Park card is one of these such maiden special weight races and has me looking forward to 1:20 Eastern time on Thursday.  The seven-horse field has only one horse with racing experience and that is long shot Nicky’s Brown Miss for low profile owner/trainer Savino Capilupi. This Big Brown filly has run twice over Monmouth Park’s main track and has beaten a total of two horses. A reversal of form is not expected with the change in surface.


Of the more logical contenders, top trainer Todd Pletcher sends out two for Thursday’s first race. Ironically, both runners are by former star three-year old, and young sire, Eskendereya.  Eskendereya, a son of Giant’s Causeway, was dominant early in 2010 and appeared set to the be the favorite for that year’s “Run for the Roses,” however fate was not on his side.  After an eight an a half length victory in the Fountain of Youth and a nearly ten-length victory in the Wood Memorial, the Zayat Stable owned colt seemed destined for a Triple Crown run, but unfortunately the fragility of the equine athlete took precedence.  On April 25th, 2010 it was announced that Eskendereya had sustained a major leg injury.  He never ran again. 


While the freakishly talented runner was forced to retire from racing in the spring of 2010, he was able to survive and start a career as a stallion.  Eskendereya’s first crop of two-year old runners has started to emerge the last few months of 2014, but have yet to provide a first time victor in five tries.  Thursday’s first race at Belmont Park will offer two young fillies the opportunity to be the first debut winner out of the Giant’s Causeway colt, but I wonder if either entrant is amongst the top tier Pletcher two-year olds.


Eskenformoney is the 5-2-morning line favorite for the all women partnership group, Starladies Racing.  This filly is out of a lightly raced Not For Love mare named But for Money who earned a bit over $43,000 in six career starts as a three-year old.  Although I always respect Todd Pletcher runners that draw John Velazquez in their debut, I think there are better wagering options then this potentially short priced favorite.  Not only is Pletcher only 13% with his debut turf runners, but neither side of this filly’s bloodlines have yet to produce a first-time winner.  Additionally, Pletcher has already shifted his tact to Saratoga for the summer so it is safe to assume that his best two-year olds are being targeted for the baby races upstate in a few weeks.  I prefer others.


The second of the two Eskendereya/Pletcher runners is a Siena Farms filly named Isabella Sings.  This young lady is out of a British bred daughter of Lomitas, Isobel Baille and unlike the other Pletcher entrant this one has solid grass pedigree.  In fact, she is a half to four-time winner over the turf, Alaura Michele.  I have seen some of Siena Farms runners succeed and expect this horse to be effective, but I once again wonder how high on the massive Pletcher roster this homebred filly is in talent if he is not saving her for the Spa.  Joel Rosario gets the “leg up” and I prefer this one to Eskenformoney, but she is not my top selection.


For our top choice I will look towards one of the kings of two-year old debut runners, trainer Wesley Ward.  Ward is a master at teaching his first time starters to break well from the gate and I expect my top selection in Thursday’s first race at Belmont Park, Heartofthetemple, to break running from the rail and never look back.  This daughter of Temple City is not only conditioned by a great win early barn, but is bred solid as well. Her father is out of the extremely productive Dynaformer family and her dam has been useful as well including a similarly bred half sister named Kinly’s Pure Heart that had a win and a second in two starts as a two-year old in 2013.  The presence of the aggressive Paco Lopez, Monmouth Park’s leading jockey, further points to this one being sent to the lead.  I think if Heartofthetemple can avoid a speed duel with one of the Pletcher runners or non-coupled entry mate Cool Comfort it should be a wire-to-wire score in his debut. Obviously, a clean break from the rail is key, but if we can count on anyone to have his horse ready from the gate it is Wesley Ward.  On Oaks Day for Rudy Rodriguez and Suruj Devi for trainer Randi Persaud round out the seven-horse field.




WPS on #1 Heartofthetemple






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Older Comments about Pletcher/Ward entrants highlight 2 year old MSW field at Belmont ...

"Ironically, both runners are out of star three-year old sire Eskendereya." I think the correct terminology is BY Eskendereya, unless HE gave birth to a pair of foals that year.
  • FirstTurf · I think I would have given more focus to On Oaks Day if Rudy had even 1 win this year with this type runner, but good call on the pedigree · 1231 days ago
On Oaks Day is by one of the best studs in the nation Malibu Moon, and she has Storm Cat and Alydar in her bloodline through the mother.. I think she should be given more than one sentence. But, I like your focus. Keep writing!

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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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