Presque Isle Masters Preview

I love the Presque Isle Masters (GII).

It’s a unique, even improbable sort of race.  The race is the only graded stakes on the Presque Isle Downs calendar.  It’s on a surface, Tapeta, which is not all that common on this side of the Atlantic.  Yet, it manages to draw serious filly and mare sprinters year after year.

Miss Macy Sue won the first renewal of the Presque Isle Masters on the way to a third-place finish in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint; she is known even better known as the dam of a pretty good racehorse, Woodward Stakes (GI) winner Liam’s Map.  Both Groupie Doll and Informed Decision won this race twice.  Groupie Doll parlayed wins in the Masters to BC Filly and Mare Sprint wins and Eclipse awards in both 2012 and 2013; Informed Decision only completed that trifecta in 2009, though she won at Presque Isle the next year as well.

The fact that the race is on Tapeta also ensures that it will draw an intriguing mix of runners year after year.  It draws dirt sprinters, synthetic-track sprinters, and turf sprinters from all over.  It also pulls in a handful of local Tapeta specialists who want to try classier horses over their home strip.  This year’s field of nine fits that mold, and should continue the tradition of the Presque Isle Masters as a highlight of the filly and mare sprint calendar.

Selections:  Leigh Court (4), Living the Life (3), Miss Mischief (2)

Longshot:  Cactus Kris (6)

This year’s Presque Isle Masters drew a contentious and diverse field of nine.  The refrain for this year’s race originally rang a bell from last year: that Ageless would be underlaid.  However, Ageless scratched on the day of the race.

Last out, Ageless gamely put away Leigh Court in the Royal North (GIII – CAN) at Woodbine.  However, Ageless had a few races under her already, whereas Leigh Court was seeing the starter for the first time since November.  Leigh Court stands to improve today, and is the top selection.

This race did not draw a lot of speed.  Leigh Court, Pirate’s Trove, and Miss Tapit have all shown it, but none are true one-way speeds.  Leigh Court’s early pace is the best of the group, and the Presque Isle course has been relatively speed-friendly.  Though she has never run on Tapeta before, she has form on dirt, turf, and poly, suggesting the versatility to run on anything.  Trainer Michael Stidham’s 18% strike rate with runners second off the lay suggests that she will take a step forward from that second-place finish in the Royal North, and her success at both six and seven furlongs suggests that six and a half today should not be a problem.  Look for Leigh Court to wire the field.

Living the Life is a true Tapeta savant.  She won the Presque Isle Masters last year, and her only win since was a decisive victory in the Camilla Urso Stakes: a six-furlong sprint over the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta.  Last out she finished second in the Great Lady M (GII) at Los Alamitos, going the same distance as the Presque Isle Masters, and posting a career high Brisnet figure over a a surface not her primary.  This suggests she is back in form.  She puts blinkers back on, which may give her a bit more speed than she showed in the Great Lady M.  With the Masters unlikely to have a hot early pace this year, that should help her chances.  A repeat win by Living the Life is not out of the question.

A pair of Presque Isle locals also appeal here, and have a shot to take on the shippers.

Miss Mischief has won all four of her starts over the local oval.  Three of those were allowance races; she also won the listed H. B. P. A. Stakes last year.  Though three of those four races were at route distances, her allowance win last out was over the same six and a half furlong trip as the Masters.  She finished second in the Hendrie (GIII – CAN) at Woodbine earlier this year, also at six and a half furlongs, suggesting she can do well against classy sprinters.  Pacewise, she rallies from off, but does not need to come from the clouds, and has shown the ability to rally into paces that are not exceedingly fast.  Miss Mischief has posted speeds over the Tapeta that compete well against the runners she faces today, and her connections could hardly be sharper.  Trainer Dale Capuano has won at 21% at Presque this meet, rider Antonio Gallardo has a 26% win rate on the meet, and together they have won at 28% and hit the board at 64% over the last two months.  With her strong form over the course, she has the best chance among the locals to surprise the shippers.

Cactus Kris is another Tapeta specialist who deserves a mention.  She has a 10-4-3-2 line over the Presque Isle main.  The only time she has missed the board over the local oval was in last year’s Presque Isle Masters, in which she was fourth beaten just two lengths as a 37/1 outsider.  She will not be such long odds again this year, but could drift even higher than her 6/1 morning line with so many other horses in the field likely to take money.  10/1 would not be a stretch.  Her pace versatility should help her a lot here; though she does not stand to be a threat to Leigh Court for the lead, she can run close enough to the pace to keep her in her sights.  She would have to run the race of her life to win this, but she has shown herself to be a dependable undersides type, and could easily run into the trifecta or superfecta.

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