hello, goose-egg.

Before I dive into this weekend’s Public Handicapper races, I still owe you (and myself) a recap of the races I picked last week.  Unfortunately, last week did not go as well as I had hoped.  Out of the four winners, none were my first choice, and only one of them was even in my list of top three picks for the races.  Here’s hoping there’s something I can learn from it, at least.

Gulfstream Park Sprint (GIII, 7f on the dirt)

In this race, I had Laugh Track as my first choice, Brujo de Olleros as my second, and Fort Loudon as my third.  Going in, I thought it was Laugh Track, Brujo de Olleros, and the rest nowhere.  Clearly, that did not happen the way I thought.  Falling Sky, one of the horses who I didn’t have pegged as a sprinter (or, really, as good at anything in particular), ended up dominating the race by five and a half lengths.  He wired it, getting up front early and pulling away down the stretch.  I did note that I’d want to use Falling Sky in an exotic, but didn’t love him to win, between the fact that he has been passed around between trainers, he flopped in the City of Laurel two outs ago, and that he hadn’t won a sprint since breaking his maiden as a juvenile, in November of 2012.  I mentioned that if his last race (in which he finished half a length behind Revolutionary in a one-mile AOC) was for real, he had a shot.  Looks like that race was for real.

As for Narvaez, I noticed that he was working very well, but still thought he was outclassed for the race.  I had noticed his two wins were from a stalking position; this one, he was way too far off the pace the entire race to be described as stalking.  After his slow break he never got close enough to the lead in this race to be described as stalking, but managed to get past everyone but Falling Sky.  Everything about his race surprised me.  Brujo de Olleros, one of my two choices going in, ended up running a race more similar to the one I noted as anomalous (the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile) than to any of his other career races.  He was far off the pace for most of it, but was able to pull past enough of the horses down the stretch to get third.

It turned out that my faith in Laugh Track was mistaken.  I thought he’d fire after a lackluster effort in the Cigar Mile, after a bit of a rest and a turn-back in distance.  He just didn’t, and there was no clear excuse.  As for Fort Loudon, his start was terrible, he tried to get up early, but he never quite stayed up there and faded back late.  Going into the race, he wasn’t a third choice I was excited about — it was seriously a question of not loving anyone but Laugh Track and Brujo de Olleros, and defaulting to the defending champion.

As for Catron, I was pretty well right about him.  I thought he’d try to stalk, which he did.  I thought the jump in class might be a little much for him; it probably was, since he couldn’t quite pull ahead of the field the way he had in his previous races.  He still managed to finish fourth, six lengths behind Falling Sky (and only half a length behind second-place Narvaez), so I wouldn’t say he was completely embarrassed.  However, I thought it was absurd that he was the favourite going into the race, and I still can’t say I understand that.

San Marcos Stakes (GII, 1 1/4mi. on the turf)

In this race, I had Lucayan as my first choice, Temeraine as my second, and Bio Pro as my third choice.  I got quite a few things about the shape of this race correct.  I said Slim Shadey absolutely had to be on the lead, and he was on the lead for most of the race.  I said Segway and Bio Pro were likely to be right near Slim Shadey, and they were.  Lucayan ran exactly the sort of race I expected to see — closing from relatively far back.  He didn’t have the best of trips, between getting bumped a bit early and getting caught five wide on the turn, but managed to cross the wire third, a length and a half behind Vagabond Shoes.  It wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t a bad race either.  Temeraine, I also expected to see close; he did, though not as strongly as Temeraine, which I thought was a possibility.

Vagabond Shoes won this race, and Si Sage finished second.  I shied away from Vagabond Shoes because of the fact that he had been on lay since the Breeders’ Cup, though I noted that he would be useful in exotics.  He had only won once since shipping over to the States before the 2013 racing year.  I didn’t think he was a bad horse, and thought his speeds were decent for the field, but I just thought there were better, and thought he’d be bet down.  I was right in that he’d be bet down; Vagabond Shoes went off as the 2.7-1 favourite.  However, turned out he went best.  As for Si Sage, I didn’t see him doing well at all.  I didn’t like him past a mile.  He couldn’t handle a mile and an eighth in the Del Mar Derby.  I didn’t anticipating him as close to the pace as he was in the San Marcos.  I may have been missing something, but he came as a complete surprise to me.

I admitted my third choice, Bio Pro, was a risk, and I wasn’t sure he would like the distance.  Turned out, he didn’t.  He was stalking just off the pace for the first three quarters of a mile, but faded in the latter part of the race.  He crossed the wire 11th and last, beaten eight lengths.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sticking to shorter races from here on out.

Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (GI, 1 1/8mi. on the turf)

In this race, I had Tetradrachm as my first choice, Nikki’s Sandcastle as my second choice, and Boisterous as my third choice.  There wasn’t a single horse I loved in this race; I picked Tetradrachm because I was having a hard time getting my finger on what the likely pace of the race would be, and the fact that Tetradrachm had won races both from on the pace and off the pace looked like an asset in such a race.  He got the lead in this one, and held it down into the stretch, but just faded in the last bit.  He crossed the wire fourth, the best of my three picks.  Nikki’s Sandcastle checked in fifth, just a head behind Tetradrachm.  He was far off the pace, last going into the far turn, but closed to cross the wire 3 3/4 lengths behind Lochte.  Boisterous, my third choice, was a risk coming off the lay.  He was a few lengths back through most of it, but just didn’t fire.  He finished last, beaten 6 1/2 lengths.  He’s one I’m curious to see in his next race or two, and will reserve judgment as to whether he is the same horse or not until those races.

As for the winner, Lochte?  I was never in a million years going to pick Lochte.  True, he looked like he was improving, and that was something that I probably underestimated.  However, I tend to handicap quite a bit based on class, and he who took seven tries to break his maiden, and other than that had only won an AOC25 N1X.  On top of that, his previous speed figures were on the slow side for the field.  Even though he was working relatively well, the rest of his stats looked quite out of place in this bunch.

Imagining and Amira’s Prince, the second and third place finishers, were both horses I thought seriously about, and who clearly fit the field of the race.  However, I thought there was going to be a lot more fighting for early speed than there actually was, given how many horses in this race have wanted to be near the front in previous races.  I slanted my picks toward closers, and therefore gave those two short shrift.

Donn Handicap (GI, 1 1/8 mi. on the dirt)

In this race, I had Will Take Charge as my first choice, Lea as my second choice, and River Seven as my third choice.  This is the only race where my picks were anywhere close to the actual results of the race, even though I got the exacta flipped the wrong way.  I opted for Will Take Charge over Lea mainly because he was more proven on dirt — though if the contest bet had been win/place and not just a straight win, I’d have taken Lea in a heartbeat.  My guess was that Uncaptured and Lea would be the most likely to be near the early speed, and that came to fruition – with Uncaptured starting out front and Lea stalking right behind for the first few furlongs.  I thought River Seven would stalk, and he was around there for the first part of the race…and then, I don’t know what happened, he just faded.  That said, I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that River Seven was coming off three wins in a row; he was bound to turn in a not-so-great race at some point, which was why I was higher on Lea than on River Seven.  Will Take Charge ran exactly how I expected he would — Lea just managed to run a flawless race in track record time.  There’s nothing I can do about that.

As for Viramundo in third, I was a little surprised to see him hit the board, but maybe that means he’s finally rounding into form stateside after shipping here from Panama.  It’ll be interesting to see how he does next out.

I mentioned in my race preview on Sunday that I still had questions about Revolutionary.  He has won races from either a stalking position or a deeper close, so it didn’t necessarily shock me that he had a slow start and got caught further back early.  However, he then got caught six wide through the far turn and couldn’t catch up.  He had a bad trip, but it also never looked like he really fired.  In short, the Donn didn’t do a whole lot to answer the questions I had about him.

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