Big ‘Cap Weekend recap: part 1!

I fared a bit better in the races away from Hawthorne this weekend than I did at Hawthorne.  It would be weird, but I’m starting to do enough handicapping contests that I’m becoming familiar with a lot of the horses being entered in stakes races around the country.  I’m enjoying that feeling of inching my way toward becoming more knowledgeable about racing.  I still have a long way to go, but it’s a nice little feeling nonetheless.

All things considered, out of the eight contest races, I picked three winners, and one second-place horse.  Of course, as luck would have it, all three winners I picked were horses in the Danonymous Racing contest, and the second-place was in a race that was part of both contests.  Since Public Handicapper is straight win, that meant I completely struck out once again in that contest.  However, on the strength of those picks that did work out, I finished in eighth place out of 38 contestants in the Danonymous Racing contest, which is far better than I did in the last one!


Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII, 1mi on the dirt)

In this race, I had Palace Malice as my first choice, and Falling Sky as my second.  Since he raced, Palace Malice was my contest horse, and one of my three winners on the day.  I covered his performance pretty thoroughly already in an entry on Saturday night, while I was still on a high from how exciting that race was, and how much I loved seeing my favourite horse win.  I figured that with the speeds he is capable of putting up, combined with the fact that he has done some of his best work stalking the lead, that he wouldn’t get too far from the early speed, and be able to catch up if a speed duel ensued, or the early speed tired.  That’s exactly what happened, after a fashion; he was right behind Falling Sky and Itsmyluckyday as they set the early fractions, and Palace Malice was able to pass them on the far turn.  He had to deal with two separate runs at him, first Uncaptured’s run from a few lengths back and then Golden Ticket’s closing run, but he fought them both off and won by a head.  I did worry about the short distance, but Palace Malice proved his versatility and resolve here.

Things didn’t go so well for my alternate pick, Falling Sky.  He was on the lead early, but faded badly through the far turn and the stretch.  I am not sure if it was the distance, or if he was just bouncing from his win in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes last month, but he crossed the wire seventh and last, beaten 14 3/4 lengths.  Given his tendency to fade near the end of the set of Derby preps he ran in last year, it was probably a little of both.

Laurel Park

Private Terms Stakes (1 1/8mi on the dirt)

In this race, I had Kid Cruz as my first choice, and Classic Giacnroll as my second choice.  Kid Cruz raced, so he was my contest horse.  Kid Cruz was the only one I liked at all in this race.  That may be an odd thing to say about a horse whose only win coming into a stakes race (and a potential minor Triple Crown pre-prep, at that) was a $50,000 maiden claimer.  However, given the plethora of early speed horses, I wanted to hang my hopes with a horse who could win from off the pace, who had turned in speed figures that fit decently with the field, and who had the breeding to do a route.  Given that, Kid Cruz was the only horse who fit that bill.

Kid Cruz delivered, in thrilling fashion.

Roman Fire set the early fractions, with Baratti, Elevated, and Joint Custody stalking close behind.  Then there was the pack, then Classic Giacnroll and Matuszak further back, and Kid Cruz a good half a dozen (or more) lengths further back.  If you remember how far back Mine That Bird was near the beginning of his Kentucky Derby win, that’s how far back Kid Cruz was.  Coming toward the far turn, though, he began to roll.  The early speed, with the exception of Joint Custody, started to fade; both Kid Cruz and Matuszak were making their closing moves.  Kid Cruz was wide, as far as five or six wide coming into the stretch, but he picked off horses one by one.  Watching him finally pick off Joint Custody in the stretch was nothing short of surreal; compared to Kid Cruz, it looks like Joint Custody was slowly trotting along.  I’ve watched the replay several times, and can still hardly believe how strongly he blasted down the stretch.

I expected Kid Cruz to win.  I expected him to overtake the early speed from off the pace, which somehow describes what he did.  That description may be technically correct, but it would also be a gross understatement.  I didn’t expect him to come from twenty back and win by four lengths.  That was amazing, and I cannot wait to see him race again.

About my second choice, Classic Giacnroll?  He was never a factor.  He settled near the back of the pack, and never got much closer to the front.  He didn’t fire.  As I said, though, that was a lukewarm second choice; it was basically down to him and Matuszak, since they were the only horses other than Kid Cruz who had shown anything from off the pace.  I dismissed Matuszak because Classic Giacnroll at least had a decent race off the pace against stakes company; turns out, it was Matuszak who fired well enough to garner third.  In between Kid Cruz and Matuszak was Joint Custody, the only one of the early speed who didn’t fade terribly.  He impressed me this race; I was expecting him to be one of the more likely among the early speed to fade, and he managed to dig in well enough to stay in front of everyone but the flying Kid Cruz.

Santa Anita

Kilroe Mile (GI, 1mi on the turf)

This race was part of both contests, and it was the one in which I did a little rearranging of the horses, given the different goals in each.  For Danonymous Racing, the win/place contest, I picked the two horses who I thought were most likely to hit the board; Za Approval was my first choice, and Winning Prize was my second.  For Public Handicapper’s win only format, I decided to take a shot with a longer shot to possibly beat my chalkier picks; Lakerville was my first choice, Za Approval was my second, and Winning Prize was my third.  Since there were no scratches among my selections (only Horizontalyspeakin scratched), I had Lakerville in Public Handicapper and Za Approval in Danonymous Racing.

My major flaw, at least among my safe plays, was going with the horse coming in off the four-month lay over the horse who has been racing through the winter.  Za Approval didn’t run terribly, but he just didn’t have enough in him to catch the two early speedsters, or hold off the closing Suggestive Boy.  Suggestive Boy had been on a lay since last year’s Kilroe Mile due to injury, but came back last month in the Arcadia to warm up.  As for the two early speedsters?  The wire-to-wire winner was Winning Prize, the one I slotted just behind Za Approval in my picks.  I set him back in my picks because I feared a speed duel where Za Approval could pick off the tiring horses late.  However, a speed duel just didn’t happen.  He wasn’t loose on the lead, but he was strong and ready to run a mile faster than anyone else, simple as that.  Tom’s Tribute was stalking Winning Prize early, though faded, and then Lochte picked up the spot in the backstretch.  I did note that Lochte liked the turf, and had a good shot to at least hit the board here.  My biggest worry on Lochte was the shorter distance; it turns out that even though a mile still may not be his best distance, he can acquit himself well at a mile.

Lakerville, my attempt to beat the chalk, never really contended.  He was back early, which didn’t in itself pose a problem since his style is more mid-pack or closing, but any rally he had was too little, too late.  He crossed the wire sixth, 3 1/4 lengths behind Winning Prize.  Nothing clearly suggested he can’t handle a mile, since he was gaining some ground late, but he just didn’t have enough rally to get there.

San Carlos (GII, 7 furlongs on the dirt)

In this race, my first choice was Shakin It Up, my second choice was Big Macher, and my third was Sahara Sky.  Since he did not scratch, I had Shakin It Up in both contests.

In this race, I made no attempt to beat the favourite, since Shakin It Up had closed into relatively slow fractions in the Malibu, and I wasn’t expecting a lot of early speed here other than Big Macher and Ready For More.  It turned out there were a lot more horses who wanted to be close to the early speed than I anticipated, and the fractions were cracking.  Big Macher got up on the early speed as expected, but Cyclometer got right up near it as well, with Wild Dude, Clubhouse Ride, and Let’s Get Crackin not far off at all.  Shakin It Up was never that far off the lead, no more than about four lengths, but didn’t have as much down the stretch as some of the others.  It was Sahara Sky, the horse I would likely have picked if I thought there would be faster fractions early, who picked up the pieces.  Big Macher, at or near the front for the entire race, finished just a half length back from Sahara Sky, best among the early speed horses.  Clubhouse Ride, who stalked close behind Big Macher the entire time, finished a head back in third.

Shakin It Up, outclosed by Sahara Sky, ran out of space and time; he finished fifth beaten 1 3/4 lengths.  This was his first time missing the board at seven furlongs, and first time missing the board on the main track at Santa Anita.  That said, those were supporting factors, not main ones, in my handicapping; the main reason I went with Shakin It Up was that I thought it would just be Big Macher and maybe one other slower horse getting to set the fractions; I didn’t figure that everyone would want to get up there and run so fast.

Those are four of the stakes races I handicapped for this weekend, and what I got right and wrong in each.  Stay tuned for the last four (the San Felipe, the Big ‘Cap, the Florida Oaks, and the Tampa Bay Derby), coming soon.

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