2017 Presque Isle Downs Masters Preview

One of my favourite races of the year is the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters.  I love niche races, unique races, and the Masters fits that bill beautifully: six and a half furlongs on the Tapeta for fillies and mares.  It always draws a contentious and classy field, and this year’s edition is no different.  This year, I’ll be attending it for the first time — so follow me on Twitter at @rogueclown for observations, photographs, and live video on Periscope!

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.  Though she was so good on the track, she may be better known now for her work in the breeding shed, as she produced 2015 Woodward Stakes (GI) winner Liam’s Map.  There have been three two-time winners of the Presque Isle Masters: Groupie Doll, Informed Decision, and Living the Life.  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.  Tapeta maven Living the Life aimed for a three-peat last year, but she missed by a head behind a Chicago invader, Ingrid Mason trainee Sarah Sis, who proved she could carry her excellent Polytrack form to Tapeta.

Race 5: Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six and a half furlongs on the Tapeta, post time 7:15pm EDT

Selections:  Bar of Gold (12), Ami’s Mesa (7), Clothes Fall Off (2)
Longshot:  Cavalia (11)

This year’s edition of the Presque Isle Masters drew an overflow field: twelve, plus two on the Also Eligible list.  With no defending champion (both Living the Life and Sarah Sis have headed off to the breeding shed) and no dominant force in the division, the race should be as contentious as any edition of the Presque Isle Masters.

Though Bar of Gold is marooned on the outside, she is the one to beat.  There are many high-profile shippers in this race: her, Ginger N Rye, Ami’s Mesa, Clothes Fall Off, Indulgent, Pretty Perfection.  But, not only does Bar of Gold bring fast and classy form to this race, she (unlike the rest of the major shippers) has form at Presque Isle Downs.  She came out for the Masters last year, and finished a late running third beaten just half a length behind Sarah Sis.  Bar of Gold hasn’t cut quite that short since coming to Erie last year, but between the back sprinting form and her tactical versatility, she should be set to acquit herself well in this spot again this year.

Ami’s Mesa ships in from Woodbine in beautiful form.  The four-year-old daughter of strong synthetic track sire Sky Mesa has won five of her eight starts, including all three of her races this year over the Toronto-area Tapeta.  Those last two victories came in graded company: one at a mile and a sixteenth, and one at seven furlongs.  Though Ami’s Mesa has not tried six and a half furlongs yet, her seven-furlong form sparkles.  In five tries, she has four wins and one second-place finish by less than a length — in just her first try against older horses.  Finally, from a pace perspective, she should be suited here.  Though Ami’s Mesa is a confirmed off-pace type, she does not need a fiery early pace to do her best work, a positive since this race drew a bit less early zip than one would expect in a sprint with a fully subscribed field.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sends a pair here, Clothes Fall Off and Indulgent.  Indulgent has been her best at a flat six furlongs, but Clothes Fall Off has proven her form going six and a half, and even seven (as long as she’s running at the right class level, which is to say, the Madison has proven over her head the last few years).  She reverts to having Rajiv Maragh in the irons, with whom she did good work in New York earlier this year.  Clothes Fall Off also drew a nice inside post, and has strong tactical versatility.  If Clothes Fall Off can bring her best to the Tapeta, she is a strong win threat.  That is, of course, the question; she has not yet raced on anything but conventional dirt.  Still, she so consistently fires races that fit well enough with this group to give her a chance on the new surface.

For a longshot, Cavalia merits a look.  She rolls in on a three-win streak, and hails from the red-hot local Gerald Brooks barn.  She keeps rider Luis Garcia, with whom she won the local prep allowance last out.  Cavalia won that race on the front end, but has back form coming from a bit off the pace — a positive dimension, the likes of Candid Cathy or Indulgent tries to take the lead.  In addition to her good form, she is both a Presque Isle Downs surface specialist as well as a six and a half furlong specialist.  This race will be the biggest class test of Cavalia’s career, and she will have to bring her best.  But, if she does?  She can at least put the locals in the frame.

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