#1: the sixth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny through 2019. Among all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones to which my mind keeps wandering back.

#12: Curlina Curlina Finds the Wire
#11: A Pleasant Surprise, Volgograd
#10 Ajaaweed Emerges as a Juvenile to Watch
#9 Lady Apple Trains On
#8 Tenfold and Cordmaker Stretch Out
#7 Chaos Theory Defies His Inexperience
#6: Global Campaign, Standard Deviation, and Curlin Grey Hit the Trifecta
#5 Point of Honor Lives Up to Expectations
#4 Risky Risky Risky Comes Home
#3 Gladiator King Rediscovers His Talent
#2 Solar Maximus Finally Conquers Cleveland

#1 Raise a Toast to a Banner Day

November 2 was as as good a day as Curlin’s progeny have ever had, no mean feat. After all, on May 17 of this year, Tenfold, Point of Honor, and Mylady Curlin all won graded stakes races at Pimlico. On November 4, 2017, Good Magic and Solomini formed the exacta of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). But, on November 2 of this year, Curlin babies were winning all over the country, at every rung on the class ladder.

The day began in modest yet thrilling fashion. In the second race at Finger Lakes, a $7,500 claimer for non-winners of three, going a mile and seventy yards on dirt. Four-year-old gelding Construct (Blue Catillac, by Bluegrass Cat) made the top, was confronted near the half, battled from there to the wire under the urging of rider Joel Cruz, and got his nose down between horses to win the photo. Trained by Julie Smith and owned by his trainer and Deborah M. Cornell, Construct posed for his second win picture in a row after that game effort.

A little over an hour later, Flip (Malibu Moon Dance, by Malibu Moon) took the spotlight in the Laurel fourth, a seven-furlong waiver maiden claimer on the dirt. The three-year-old gelding, trained by Dale Capuano and owned by Edward F. Schuler at the time, was trying for the third time to break his maiden. Breaking second to the outside in the field of eleven, jockey Sheldon Russell sat just off a three-way pace battle, encroached around the far turn, led near the furlong mark, and drove clear to a two-length victory. Flip went home to a different stall after that race; trainer Cathal Lynch and owner Lynch Racing LLC dropped the $35,000 slip. The move paid fast dividends; Flip returned on November 27 to win a starter optional claimer at Laurel for his new connections.

Next came Rocknroll Rocket (Rocket Twentyone, by Indian Charlie). Trained by Robertino Diodoro for owners Rick Wiest, Clayton Wiest, and Charlie Butz, he raced in a maiden optional claimer at a mile on the Turf Paradise grass, the track’s eighth race of the day. Just like Flip, he was three. Unlike Flip, he was in no way new to the racetrack. He was making his thirteenth start. He had already hit the board nine times, including a Listed-level placing: he ran third behind his odds-on stablemate Oil Money in the Manitoba Derby back in August. But, November 2, Rocknroll Rocket’s day finally came under the Arizona sun. He settled at the middle of a well-strung field, jockey Denny Velazquez loose with a circling move from the three furlong pole, and he blasted off to win by five and a quarter lengths. It may have taken him thirteen starts to break his maiden, but his first-level allowance win came far more quickly: just two starts later, on December 2, that time at a mile on the dirt.

The stakes rose for Curlin’s next big moment, in the Chilukki Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. The race drew a field of six to go a mile on the dirt, and the favourites were both daughters of Curlin: Mylady Curlin (Ladyledue, by Slewdledo) and Sally’s Curlin (Cabo Queen, by More Than Ready). Four-year-old Mylady Curlin, trained by Brad Cox and owned by Sather Family LLC, was the proven stakes horse: she was a three-time stakes winner, including her Grade 3 win on Curlin’s big day at Pimlico back in May. Trainer Dale Romans and owners CJ Thoroughbreds, Left Turn Racing LLC, and Casner Racing, LP had high hopes for Sally’s Curlin, but she was still unproven at the stakes level. She came into the Chilukki flying high off of two consecutive allowance wins, but the three-year-old’s only previous stakes attempt had been an eleventh-place finish in the Indiana Oaks (G3).

Mylady Curlin stalked just behind pacesetter Cairenn, and outside of Divine Queen. Sally’s Curlin, on the other hand, settled to the rear, just inside of Chocolate Martini. Near three furlongs out, both daughters of Curlin began their moves. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan urged Mylady Curlin to encroach to Cairenn’s outside. Meanwhile, Corey Lanerie switched Sally’s Curlin outside of Chocolate Martini, giving her clear running room to show her closing kick. At the three sixteenths, Mylady Curlin took the lead; Sally’s Curlin rolled up the far outside, still two and a half lengths off the lead.

No one else in the field could match the two daughters of Curlin, but the late run proved the best run. Sally’s Curlin got to Mylady Curlin in time, winning by three quarters of a length.

Vino Rosso, resplendent in the days leading to the 2019 Breeders’ Cup.

Curlin was already having an excellent day, but his biggest moment still awaited. After all, his son Vino Rosso (Mythical Bride, by Street Cry) was making his final start before retiring to stud at Spendthrift Farm, and was doing so in his division’s biggest race of the year. He was trying to become the first of Curlin’s foals to match their sire’s feat of winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable had planned for it all year, going so far as to send him west for the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) to test him over the track. He passed that test in May, and was coming into the Breeders’ Cup Classic off of a gritty race and a disappointing disqualification in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).

Drawn second to the outside in the field of eleven, Vino Rosso was prominent, just behind the leading flight, down the first stretch run. With War of Will and his closest pursuers, McKinzie and Mongolian Groom, going as fast as they were — 23.09 for the opening quarter — he settled back closer to midfield around the first turn, three wide but with clear sights. Down the backstretch, he kept on a clear fourth, well behind the leading trio, through a half in 47.16 and three quarters in a lively 1:10.71.

Near the seven sixteenths, jockey Irad Ortiz asked Vino Rosso to get going. He responded, swallowing the gap on the leading group. McKinzie struck the front nearing the quarter pole, but he had company. Just past that point, Vino Rosso looked McKinzie in the eye. A class horse, McKinzie didn’t give up easily, battling Vino Rosso to the furlong mark. However, past the sixteenth, as Vino Rosso drew off to win by four and a quarter lengths over McKinzie, announcer Frank Mirahmadi punctuated the end of the greatest day in the history of Curlin babies.

“Vino Rosso: like father, like son! The son of Curlin romps in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic!”

#9: the fifth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2018. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones to which my mind keeps wandering back.

#12: Timeless Curls Marks Herself a Rising Star
#11: Secret Passage Comes Into His Own

#10: Legit Proves Aptly Named in His Gulfstream Unveiling

#9 Bishop’s Pond Proves She Is a Dirt Horse, After All

Leading into 2018, the race record of Bishop’s Pond (More For Me, by More Than Ready) reads as one that belonged to a filly that connections always knew had talent, but had never quite lived the full potential of that talent.

Perhaps the beginning of her career tossed her connections a red herring. After a May 2015 maiden win at ten furlongs on grass and then a one-other-than win at ten and a half furlongs on grass, trainer Chad Brown and owners Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC, and The Elkstone Group LLC figured they had a horse best suited as a turf router. That’s what she focused on from then on, finding on-and-off allowance and allowance optional claiming success without putting it together consistently enough to emerge as a real stakes horse. Even as her owners moved her to the barn of trainers Kelly Rubley and then Jason Servis, Bishop’s Pond kept racing on the grass. She ran competitively enough that she never dropped down from those nice east coast allowances — but as time went by, it didn’t look like she was going to advance from that, either.

Things began to look up early in her five-year-old year, 2017. She started the year with a second-place finish as the 34/1 longest shot on the board in the Plenty of Grace Stakes, a turf mile at Aqueduct. From there, a pair of Grade 3 tries on the grass proved just a little too much. In September of that year, though, a new horizon opened. She tried a top-shelf allowance going a mile and seventy yards at Delaware: on dirt. She led at every call.

Perhaps Bishop’s Pond was a dirt horse?

Going straight from that allowance win to the Grade 1 Beldame to face the likes of Elate and Money’soncharlotte was a little much to ask; she finished fifth in that outing. After one more turf try in November she was done for the year, but Servis brought her back on January 8, 2018 in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel.

This time, she proclaimed even more loudly, “I am a dirt mare!”

Bishop’s Pond overcomes early pressure and leaves them all chasing her late in the 2018 Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes.

Jockey Rosario Montanez urged Bishop’s Pond to the lead; they battled between Chic Thrill and Tiz Rude to make the running. Chic Thrill, inside her, was particularly keen to go, but Bishop’s Pond would not let her pass.

Into the turn, Bishop’s Pond inched forward, turning Chic Thrill away for good. Tiz Rude, to her outside, kept up the pressure, with Street Surrender trying to join the fray three wide.

Into the lane Bishop’s Pond floated wide, with Street Surrender just to her outside, and Tiz Rude not far behind. Sky Flower, coming up the rail, loomed the biggest threat if she was good enough.

She wasn’t. The early pace pressure didn’t deplete the reserves of Bishop’s Pond, who responded when asked to pick it up near the three sixteenths mark. The daughter of Curlin drove clear, widening to a five-and-a-half-length advantage over Sky Flower come the wire.

Bishop’s Pond started five more times during her six-year-old year, with four of those coming on the dirt. Her one turf start went well enough, as she finished third behind Elysea’s World in the Violet Stakes (G3) at Monmouth. But, her one more victory this year came on her new favourite surface: she wired the Winter Melody Stakes at Delaware Park on October 10.

That victory in the Winter Melody will almost certainly be her last. After all, she did it while in foal: Bishop’s Pond sold to John Muir and Milburn Creek for $230,000 at Keeneland November, pregnant to Violence. Fortunately, she didn’t retire to the breeding shed before proving that she was a stakes horse after all — and getting the chance to show that despite those years on the grass, she wanted to run on the dirt.

#12: the fifth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

The end of December has come around, and unless you have been living under a rock these last five (!) years, you know what that means: it’s time for the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies!

As always, the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies features memorable races by Curlin’s progeny at every level of the game. From graded stakes races to lunch-pail claimers, from up-and-coming young horses to durable first-crop runners who are still finding the winners’ circle, Curlin babies once again brought excitement to the racetrack.

For the next twelve days, we remember the highlights.

#12: Timeless Curls Marks Herself a Rising Star

Timeless Curls (Lookinforchange, by Gilded Time) is the first foal out of stakes-winning sprinter Lookinforchange. Her dam isn’t the only indication that she was meant to be a racehorse: Lookinforchange is a half-sister to both star New Jersey-bred Geeky Gorgeous (Devil His Due), a multiple stakes winner, as well as stakes winner Chubble Maker (Hey Chub).

Despite this, she slid under the radar as a yearling. It runs in the family: her dam sold for $5,700 as a two-year-old, and ended up winning over $200,000 on the track. Cataloged as hip 2115 in the Keeneland September 2016 yearling sale, Timeless Curls sold to owner Sookdeen Pasram for just $35,000.

It took some time for the Dale Capuano trainee to make it to the track. Timeless Curls made her debut over a sloppy Pimlico track on May 18, in a maiden special weight to kick off Black-Eyed Susan Day. Sent off the chalk, she finished second beaten a head. She kept trying, and not quite getting there, in a pair of starts at Laurel in June: she finished third, then second.

As fall approached, she caught fire. August 2 at Laurel she stretched out to two turns for the first time, and responded with a frontrunning four and a quarter-length victory. Though she finished three-quarters of a length second in her first try against winners, September 1 at Delaware, she quickly rediscovered her winning ways. She shed her one-other-than condition over a mile at Delaware on October 3. She then quickly dispensed with her second-level condition on November 9, over a one-turn mile at Laurel.

Timeless Curls was favoured in her N1X victory, and went off a shade below 5/2 in her N2X victory. The board told a different story November 29 at Laurel, when she lined up for a three-other-than going seven furlongs over the Laurel dirt. The lightly-raced three-year-old filly went off at 10/1 against a salty group of fillies and mares. Favoured Isotope, like Timeless Curls also riding a two-race win streak, was a year older and making her 18th career start. Four-year-old Sine Wave had a pair of money finishes in graded stakes, five-year-old Imply already had four Pennsylvania-bred stakes wins to her name, and Trace of Grace had one.

The daughter of Curlin ceded experience to every single one of her foes that day. At the wire, that didn’t matter.

Timeless Curls came out sharply, but as Sine Wave and Lady by Choice made the running, she responded when the hands of jockey Weston Hamilton implored her to wait. Favoured Isotope made a move on the leading pair from just outside of Timeless Curls on the turn, but settled more kindly than she was on the backstretch, she waited her turn.

Shaken up into the lane, Timeless Curls took a moment to get going. But, in the final furlong, she stopped spinning her wheels and shifted into the next gear. She joined the fray between Isotope and Lady by Choice, had aim on Isotope with a sixteenth of a mile remaining, and willed herself a head in front at the wire.

Timeless Curls returned to the worktab on December 13, and worked again today. Keep an eye through the winter and into her four-year-old year; the Mid-Atlantic may be home to Curlin’s newest rising star.

a tale of two eleven-year-olds

This evening, chatter on horse racing Twitter has been dominated by news of two eleven-year-olds.

Ben’s Cat has been retired.  Awesome Actor was entered to race this Thursday.

(Update, June 28, 2017: Erich Zimny from Charles Town has announced that Awesome Actor will not be allowed to run.  I am keeping the rest of this blog post intact, because I stand behind both my approval of how Ben’s Cat’s career was managed, as well as my trepidation over both Awesome Actor’s entry and the record of the owner under whose name he was entered.  But, I applaud Charles Town for having Awesome Actor scratched from Thursday’s race.)

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battle of the Curlin babies at Laurel

Yesterday’s Marylander Stakes featured a battle of two of Curlin’s most promising two-year-old sons.

Irish War Cry (Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers) had already proven himself once over the Laurel dirt.  He debuted in a maiden special weight, drawn far outside in a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint on November 11.  He rallied from well off the pace, and though he was green, he won with ease.  It was a good enough debut to get him into Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager as the only son of Curlin included.  The Marylander would be his second career start, his first against winners.

Undulated (Polly Alexander, by Foxhound) had run three times.  He made an impressive winning debut on turf at Laurel, finished second in the Laurel Futurity (also on turf) next out, then graduated to the ranks of the stakes winners by taking the Swynford Stakes over Woodbine’s Tapeta.  In the Marylander Stakes, he stretched to seven furlongs for the first time and tried conventional dirt for the first time.  Everyone else came into the race with form over dirt — specifically, the dirt at Laurel — leaving him with something to prove.

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another excellent week for Curlin babies!

Connect (Bullville Belle, by Holy Bull) carried the banner for Curlin Babies Saturday, winning a loaded edition of the Pennsylvania Derby (GII).  Already a stakes winner after winning the Curlin at Saratoga, he rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the Travers Stakes (GI).  He tracked inside and midpack through much of the race, was finally asked approaching the turn for home, and stoutly held Gun Runner at bay.  It was Connect’s fourth win in six starts, and his first graded victory.

Still, since Thursday, Connect is not the only Curlin baby who has made his mark.  He is one of eight winners by Curlin over that time, in addition to three more stakes placings.

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Undulated proves himself on the track

High-flying racehorse auction buys can be some risky investments.  After all, the old adage is “breed the best to the best, and hope for the best”.  Notice, they don’t say plan.  You can’t plan that the best of each genetic line will be expressed in the foal.  You can’t plan whether the horse stays sound enough to get to the track.  You can’t plan for a horse to have the right mind to want to race.

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Picks and Ponderings: De Francis Dash Preview

This Saturday, Laurel Park hosts a stakes-laden card, anchored by the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.  The race, six furlongs on the dirt, drew a field of nine.  Those runners include a mix of graded stakes level shippers as well as a handful of locals trying to beat the heavy hitters.

Palace may loom large — but I am looking elsewhere on top.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, and get ready for Saturday’s renewal of the De Francis Dash at Laurel!

a great day for sophomore fillies by Curlin!

Breeders’ Cup Friday proved a good day for three three-year-old fillies by Curlin.

Two daughters of Curlin lined up in the same Breeders’ Cup race today.  Both Curalina (Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall) and Stellar Wind (Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) contested the Distaff.  A little over five hundred miles east, Curlish Figure (Fi, by Langfuhr) contested an allowance at the same racetrack where Stellar Wind had broken her maiden less than a year ago: Laurel Park.

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Curlin’s monster weekend

Sires rarely have better weekends than Curlin just had.

Curlin had nine runners hit the board, six of whom won their races.  He had a pair of graded stakes winners: his first fourth-crop stakes winners, as well as his second multiple Grade I winner.  From the claiming ranks to the highest level, and everywhere in between, Curlin babies were running well.

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Sound Studio figures it out

Heading to post for the Keeneland 7th on October 5th, dreams of lilies danced in everyone’s heads.  Nine two-year-old fillies entered the starting gate, facing a mile and a sixteenth test over the dirt.  Anyone who did well in that race could start to think about stakes glory.  Hopefaithjoy won by daylight, and returned to finish fourth in the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill.  Birdatthewire finished second, but has blossomed through the winter.  She won the Forward Gal (GII) at Gulfstream, and followed that up with a second-place finish in the Davona Dale (GII).  Third-place Loom had already finished fourth in the Pocahontas.

Crossing the wire 21 3/4 lengths behind Hopefaithjoy that day was the only first-time starter in the race: Sound Studio (Brilliancy, by Exchange Rate).  This chestnut daughter of Curlin looked dainty in the paddock.  Unfortunately, being pretty does not win her the race.  She broke slowly, never got involved, and only passed one tiring horse.  She returned in the claiming ranks next out, and hit the board once in her next four starts.  Her best race before today was that third place finish, a late-running third in a seven-furlong race against $15,000-$12,500 last November at Churchill.  After a last-place finish at Fair Grounds in December, she was privately transferred from the barn to Neil Howard to trainer Mark Salvaggio.  She finished a trailing sixth at Penn National in her first start in her new barn, facing $10,000-$9,000 maidens.  Today she notched back up to $12,500 maiden company, three year old fillies, going a one-turn mile through the Laurel mud.

The mud at Laurel agreed with Sound Studio.

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Picks and Ponderings: a grab bag of stakes action

This week at Picks and Ponderings, I previewed a grab bag of three stakes that could hardly be more dissimilar: the Red Smith (GIII) for long-winded grassy types at Aqueduct, the DeFrancis Dash for the dirt sprinters at Laurel, and the Bob Hope (GIII) for the emerging two-year-old polytrack runners at Del Mar.  All three of these races drew well-matched fields, and they all have at least one particularly interesting runner from a betting perspective.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, see what my opinions are on these races, and let me know in the comments what you agree or disagree with!

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.