Mastery, 3.11.17, 2:07pm PDT

’tis never promised, always hoped, a horse
with early talent past what foes have shown
will gallop on along a steady course:
to grow into himself and to endorse
the highest hopes of those who would enthrone.
’tis never promised, always hoped, a horse
will face the best directly and enforce
his quality against what they have thrown,
will gallop on along a steady course
across the wire, beyond all doubt a force —
then so abruptly stop — to then intone:
’tis never promised, always hoped, a horse
will let the learned doctor’s hands enforce
the slow repair of fragile equine bone,
will gallop on along a steady course
back to the starting gate, or as a source
of faster blood for generations grown.
’tis never promised, always hoped, a horse
will gallop on along a steady course.

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Santa Anita Handicap Day Preview

Saturday’s card at Santa Anita is a huge one, and I’ve taken a dive into all five of the stakes races.

The card features a trio of Grade 1 events.  In addition to the Big ‘Cap, sprinters also get a top-level chance in the Triple Bend, and turf milers line up for the Kilroe.  The Grade 2 San Felipe drew a small field, but features a showdown of the west coast’s two marquee sophomore males: Gormley and Mastery.  And, the China Doll drew an overflow field of sophomore fillies to go a mile on the grass, a mix of proven stakes horses and newer faces.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s stakes action at Santa Anita, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

the Doc is in!

The Doc hasn’t been in for a while.

Before today, Doc Curlin (Jasmine Jewel, by Mr. Greeley) hadn’t run since last April.  The five-year-old gelding had raced eight times between ages three and four, earning his diploma in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Belmont in October 2015.  That came for trainer Thomas Bush, though he was claimed for $50,000 out of his next start.  That was the last start of his three-year-old year.  He made two more for new trainer Kristen Mulhall, missing the board in both of them.

All of those starts had come out east.  Today, not only did Doc Curlin emerge ten months older, but he got a change of course.  He still ran under Mulhall’s care.  But, instead of the old familiar strains of New York or Gulfstream, he tried the hill at Santa Anita.

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a sucker for the Sham

I have grown suspicious about the Sham (GIII).  In Derby terms, it never grades out well.

Last year’s winner, Collected, won a few minor sophomore races but been invisible since a tenth-place finish in the Preakness.  (And, we won’t even begin with my Let’s Meet in Rio-mania.)  Calculator is back on the worktab, but has raced sparingly and not won since his maiden-breaker in the 2015 Sham.  Midnight Hawk showed flashes of excellence in the 2014 Illinois Derby (GIII) and the 2015 Razorback (GII), but tumbled into the claiming ranks and pulled up lame after his last start in October.

As befits a one-mile race, the best recent winners have turned out to be milers.  Goldencents (2013) won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) twice (2013-2014), and Tapizar (2011) scored in the 2012 Breeders’ Dirt Mile (GI) as well.

The only Sham winner who made their mark at the Classic distance was Colonel John (2008), but even he did not win one of the Triple Crown races.  His triumph came that summer in the Travers.

Despite that loud voice in my head telling me to toss that race like a hot potato, I am getting excited about Gormley, winner of yesterday’s Sham.

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Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Santa Ynez Stakes Preview

This Sunday, the west coast road to the Kentucky Oaks begins in the Santa Ynez Stakes.

Many eyes will be on Unique Bella, facing winners for the first time after an impressive maiden victory.  But…I’m going to go elsewhere.  My top selection is one who will get a class test here, but who looks more than ready to face it.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Santa Ynez Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 San Gabriel Stakes Preview

Over at Picks and Ponderings, we once again venture west to Santa Anita for Saturday’s graded stakes action.

I preview the San Gabriel (GII), a well-subscribed turf route for the four-and-up set.  Paul Mazur looks at the other two stakes: the Sham (GIII) for sophomores ready to take the year’s first step onto the Derby trail, as well as the Las Cienegas (GIII), a downhill sprint for older fillies and mares.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read our preview of Santa Anita’s Saturday stakes action, and let us know in the comments what you think!

Picks and Ponderings: American Oaks Day Stakes Preview

This week, Picks and Ponderings turns its attention back to Santa Anita for Saturday’s only graded stakes action.  The card features a trio of graded events, and we preview each in detail.

I preview the American Oaks, the final Grade I of the year.  Sophomore fillies will test their stamina, going a mile and a quarter over the Santa Anita grass.  Paul Mazur previews the rest of the graded stakes action: the Robert J. Frankel (GIII) for older turf mares, as well as the Midnight Lute (GIII) for open dirt sprinters.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read our preview of Saturday’s graded stakes action, and let us know what you think in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2016 Malibu Stakes Day Preview

Santa Anita’s winter meet gets underway on Monday, and Picks and Ponderings previews all four stakes races on the card!

It’s winter break, so Paul Mazur is back to join in the fun.  I took the pair of Grade I dirt sprints for sophomores: the La Brea and the Malibu.  Paul takes you through the pair of grass stakes: the Mathis Brothers Mile (GII) and the San Simeon Handicap (GIII).

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read our preview of Monday’s stakes races at Santa Anita, and let us know in the comments what you think!

2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Preview and Saturday Analysis

Over at Picks and Ponderings, Paul Mazur and I have gone horse by horse through the field, discussing our picks, our place chances, and our tosses.  Head over to Picks and Ponderings and watch it!

In addition, don’t forget that my Saturday Breeders’ Cup analysis is available in the following places:

Good luck tomorrow, and enjoy the second day of the Breeders’ Cup!