Monday is Presidents’ Day, which means there’s far more racing than usual on Monday. The second four-race leg of Danonymous Racing’s weekly handicapping contest covers four of the stakes races scheduled to go off tomorrow, including one of the early Triple Crown preps, as well as the much-loved Egg Drop’s 2014 return to the track.
Here are my thoughts on each of the four races in the contest tomorrow.
Aqueduct: Hollie Hughes Stakes (6f on the inner dirt, restricted to NY-Breds)
Assuming he is anywhere near the same horse after the four-month lay, Mine Over Matter looks like the horse to beat here. Most of the horses in this race either prefer or need to be on the early lead, so the likely pace scenario fares well for someone coming from a bit off — especially if they tend to be as fast or faster than the field, which would describe Mine Over Matter. Among the speed horses, Notmyfirstime is worth looking at; even though this race is a jump in class for him, he has the speed, the affinity for six furlongs, and the affinity for the Aqueduct inner to be a factor here. Speaking of affinity for Aqueduct, Marriedtothemusic has won has last two 5 1/2 furlong races on the Aqueduct inner by open lengths. Though this race is half a furlong more, and against possibly a tougher field, he belongs, and will be a factor if he races the way he has during his last two trips out.
Laurel: General George Handicap (GIII, 7f in the dirt)
Here’s hoping the track conditions at Laurel improve so this race actually happens; Laurel cancelled all races on Saturday due to the weather. Palace is the morning line favourite, and has been facing the classiest fields of the bunch, but it has been a very long time since he has stretched out to 7 furlongs instead of 6. Well Spelled is another horse who has been running mainly at 6 furlongs (at least when he has not been on layoff), but has been gaining on the field in his last two stakes races at six furlongs — suggesting he will likely enjoy the extra furlong. Service for Ten has shown some versatility of pace and distance: he has won from near or far from the lead, and he has won both sprints and routes. These characteristics, combined with good speed compared to the field, make him look promising. Smash and Grab, one of the long shots, also interests me: he is probably going to be the early speed in this race, but if early speed holds, expect him to be in there.
Oaklawn: Southwest Stakes (GIII, 1 1/16mi in the dirt)
This race is one of the weekend’s big Kentucky Derby prep, and attracted a field of twelve horses. There are a ton of horses in this field who like being on the early lead. Combined with the fact that a lot of these horses are stretching out past a mile for the first time, this suggests the pace might be more favourable for a horse coming from the back. Strong Mandate is probably the class of the early speed, but there is enough class among the horses coming from off that he looks like a vulnerable favourite. Paganol may have only run once, a nose win in a 6 furlong MSW at Oaklawn last month, but he came from off the pace, and got terribly tangled with Discipline down the stretch. Ride on Curlin also looks interesting. Even though he has won his two races from the front, his closing run in the Champagne last year showed that he can come from behind as well. This capacity may prove invaluable here. Tapiture is one other horse who looks good coming into this race. He hasn’t raced since his maiden-breaking win in the Kentucky Jockey club last year, but he has put some nice, relatively long works recently.
Santa Anita: Buena Vista Stakes (GII, 1mi on the turf, fillies and mares)
It is hard to figure out a pace on this one, since this race has enough classy horses who have won from different parts of it. Not seeing Pontchatrain and Tapicat on the lead early, though, would surprise me. Pontchatrain is a really nice sprinter, but I’m not sure she’s going to stretch out to a mile. She’ll be bet down from her recent wins, but it would be a surprise not to see her on the lead for the first five or six furlongs, and then fade. On the other side of the card, this is a distance cutback for Moone’s My Name — a horse who has been running longer than a mile last out, but more than likely prefers a turf mile. She raced most of her career in England. Here first two races stateside she hit the board in turf mile stakes; her only win stateside was at a mile and 1/16, but against a weaker allowance field. Last out she tried the Robert J. Frankel at a mile and an eighth. That didn’t go so well for her, and she’s back here where she belongs at a mile. Egg Drop, in her first race back since her nose win in the Matriarch, is coming off three straight graded stakes wins, her last two at a mile. The price on her is liable to be terrible given both her recent record and her relative popularity, but she is working well. If she runs the kind of race that she has in her last several, it’s hard to imagine anyone catching her.
And, there are my thoughts on Monday’s races. Good luck, everyone!