The weekend of stakes action has come to an end, and even though I didn’t get everything right in the picks I gave for the Turf vs. Tech Handicapping Challenge, I cannot complain at about how it shook out. Standing mostly on the strength of the bets on Centre Court in the Honey Fox, my suggestions for $100.00 worth of bets ended up returning $116.00. It’s not a life-changing score, but it is more money than you’d have had if you had kept your money in your pocket instead of betting my tickets — and a better return than my challenger’s picks!
Anyway, on to the race recaps!
Gulfstream: Honey Fox Stakes (GII, 1 mile on the turf, fillies and mares, four-year-olds and up)
In this race, I had Centre Court as my first choice, Parranda as my second, and Tapicat as my third choice. Since she raced, Centre Court was my contest horse for Public Handicapper. Despite being in her first race off of a seven-month lay, Centre Court delivered; she won the race by a nose over a late-flying Kitten’s Point.
I was incorrect that it was going to be Parranda who got to the early speed. Parranda was a few lengths back early, and never got on the lead. Instead, it was Effie Trinket and Triple Arch who got right on the lead, with Parranda, Triple Charm, and Run A Risk stalking early. Centre Court was a bit further back (which was within my realm of expectation) next to Tapicat (who was further back than she normally races), and then Kitten’s Point, the known closer, took up the rear.
Centre Court made a wide move through the far turn, coming into the stretch, and picked off the lead horses one by one. Effie Trinket held on well, only giving way late to Centre Court when she made her run. Kitten’s Point confused me going in; she had been inconsistent in some of her past races, and I steered clear of her mainly because it was such a question whether she would fire after running a good race last time out. It turned out, she fired in a big way. Watching her flying down the stretch the way she did, it was clear that if the wire was a few inches past where it actually was, Kitten’s Point would have had it.
My second and third choices in the race did not race quite as well as I had hoped. Parranda never got the lead that she needed, made it as close as about a length from the lead, and lost ground coming down the stretch to finish 6th beaten 3 3/4 lengths. Tapicat started to make a run coming into the stretch, but could not sustain her bid; she checked in fifth, 3 lengths behind Centre Court. Run A Risk, not one of my win choices but my interesting long shot, proved outmatched. She stalked the pace early, but faded back behind Kitten’s Point even before she tried to make her run; Run A Risk finished a distant last.
Oaklawn: Rebel Stakes (GII, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, three-year-olds)
In this race, Ride On Curlin was my first choice, Strong Mandate was my second, and Tapiture was my third. Since he raced, Ride On Curlin was my contest horse. He may not have won, but he turned in the kind of performance that showed why his 11.7-1 post time odds were an overlay, and that his third place finishes in the Southwest and the Champagne were not flukes.
Ride On Curlin didn’t run the closing style I had been hoping to see; he shot straight to the front with Strong Mandate. Hoppertunity, Tapiture, and briefly Street Strategy got into stalking places; Sheltowee’s Boy, Kobe’s Back, and Jet Cat were further back.
Coming into the stretch, I thought Ride On Curlin may have had a shot at it. He got his head in front, and Strong Mandate looked like he was starting to fade. I was a little surprised that Strong Mandate was fading then, given that I was expecting him to run really well in the slop. It wasn’t much at that point, though, but enough to make it look like Ride On Curlin was going to have more.
Hoppertunity and Tapiture made their moves, and then down that last furlong, what can only be described as a game of bumper cars ensued. The finish was a thrilling fight: Hopportunity crossed the wire first, with Tapiture half a length behind, and Ride On Curlin another half-length back of Tapiture. Strong Mandate was a length and a half further back, but still over seven lengths clear of the fifth-place Sheltowee’s Boy.
There were inquiries regarding Hopportunity, Tapiture, and Strong Mandate (as well as an objection made by Tapiture’s rider against Hopportunity) that had to be resolved before the results were made official. Nothing was bad enough to change the results of the race; it all looked to be close quarters race riding.
The one horse I clearly underestimated was Hoppertunity. I thought he could hit the board with a better trip than he had last out in the Risen Star, but would be beaten by one of the more experienced horses to win. He did better than that. The one horse who I overestimated was my second choice, Strong Mandate. I was actually going to toss him if it weren’t for the fact that the track was going to be sloppy, but I thought the track would help him more than it actually did. Instead, Hoppertunity and Tapiture found more than I expected they would given the track condition.
Santa Anita: Santa Margarita (GI, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt, fillies and mares, four-year-olds and up)
In this race, Iotapa was my first choice, Fiftyshadesofhay was my second choice, and Stanwyck was my third. Iotapa didn’t scratch, so she was my contest horse.
Let Faith Arise surprised me in her racing style. I expected her to stalk or close, but she went up to the lead with Fiftyshadesofhay. Iotapa, who I expected to take the lead for lack of anyone else wanting it, was stalking less than a length back. However, almost no one was too far back for most of the race; until the far turn, only about three or four lengths covered the entire field save the closer Spellbound.
I shouldn’t have discounted Let Faith Arise, given her close seconds in the Santa Maria and the La Canada her last two times out, combined with her cracking workouts. However, I didn’t like the fact that she had been doing sprints until so recently; I wasn’t sure how much she’d like the extra half furlong. It turns out, she could be right on the early fractions, hold out to the end, and take the win. The horse in this field who I ended up overestimating was Fiftyshadesofhay. I preferred her for exactly the reason I didn’t prefer Let Faith Arise: she had more experience at this distance and longer. Instead, she was the one who faded badly from the early lead.
Iotapa, my predicted winner, didn’t run a terrible race; she just didn’t run a great one, either. She stalked from close behind Let Faith Arise and Fiftyshadesofhay. She had enough to keep the rest of the field at bay, but not to catch Let Faith Arise. Stanwyck, my third choice, ran exactly as expected: a few lengths back, and getting up for a share late. I thought she may have a bit of trouble with slow fractions, and that bore out.
Tampa Bay Downs: Wayward Lass Stakes (1 1/16 miles on the dirt, fillies and mares, four-year-olds and up)
In this race, Montana Native was my first choice, Giant Cats Eye was my second choice, and Sheer Drama was my third. Sheer Drama was one of three horses who scratched (Malibu Red and Pixie Devil being the other two); however, since she was my third choice, that had no effect on my contest horse. It remained Montana Native.
Montana Native ended up going off as the even-money favourite, but may have been a little rusty off of the lay. She got a nice stalking position early, just behind the pacesetters Clarinda and Dress The Part. However, she couldn’t quite find enough to get past Dress The Part. She got ahead of the fading Clarinda, and had enough to fend off everyone behind her except for the late-running Ambusher, but never got anywhere near Dress The Part again once she made her move.
My second choice, Giant Cats Eye, I expected to come from a stalking position. She did have a good stalking place through the first furlongs of the race, two or three lengths off of Clarinda and Dress The Part. However, she had no rally coming down the stretch. She finished near the back of the main pack, but in front of the stragglers: 6th beaten 5 1/4.
This race was a bit hard to handicap since the pace was difficult to tell, but of all the horses I expected to win this, Dress The Part was not on my list. All of her wins had been six furlong sprints; she had made some turf mile and route attempts, but been soundly beaten. She was coming off two wins: but both at allowance level, and both in sprints. The best indication that she could find it in her to succeed in a dirt route was something I did not manage to correlate until hearing it on At The Races this morning: as a Malibu Moon mare out of Erhu (Tactical Cat), Dress The Part is a full sister to Onlyforyou. Sadly, we’ll never know how far Onlyforyou could have stretched in a race someday, but she did win this year’s Davona Dale at the same distance as the Wayward Lass.
I had been hoping to see Liberated run a good race. I knew she was likely in over her head here, but as a Curlin filly out of a Colonial Affair mare, she has two of my favourite racehorses of all time in her first two generations. However, she just didn’t have a particularly good race, and finished ninth beaten eight lengths. She was last early, and only made a mild run late. She was only able to pass the badly fading Action Lady and Yeardley, who never really fired. Despite the distance in her pedigree, she is probably going to show better results dialing back to seven furlongs or a mile.