The Bashford Manor

We’ll take a look at 2YO’s for the first time this year with the 117th running of the GIII Bashford Manor from Churchill Downs. We’re still months away from 2YO’s routing, but this is still an early test of stamina for this group of 13 2YO’s. It’s 6f, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s farther than any horse in the race has run. They’ve all been cutting their teeth on races from 4.5f to 5.5f. They also comprise a national field — Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Indiana Downs, Belmont Park, Belterra Park, Evangeline Downs, Presque Isle, and Santa Anita are all represented.

The field’s highest Beyer Speed Figure (84) belongs to Tales of Chaucer who earned it over a sloppy track at 5f at Belmont Park. Trained by Norm Casse (son of Mark Casse, who branched out on his own this year), he’s a NY-bred who earned the figure in a NY-bred restricted race. He’s cost $58K this past March. The other likely favorite is Toothless Wonder, a $220K purchase in March that is trained by Doug O’Neil, who needs no introduction. He lost first time out at Santa Anita — nothing strange for an O’Neil trainee — and then won with a 76 Beyer Speed Figure his next time out. He’s by Street Boss and should appreciate the extra distance, having run at the short 4.5f in his two starts.

Sir Truebadour is trained by Steve Asmussen (he of the recent haircut) and finished fourth by two lengths in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont. None of the top 3 finishers in that race are here today. He cost $300K last August as a yearling. He returns to Churchill Downs, where he broke his maiden, albeit over a sloppy track. Weiland won the Kentucky Juvenile back in May over this track with a 63 Beyer Speed Figure at 20-1 odds. Trained by John Ennis, he was only a $7K purchase last October.

Shanghaied Roo, trained by Bret Calhoun, has been unseen since his win in early April at Keeneland. There’s no Beyer Speed Figure for the 4.5 sprints at Keeneland, but his BRIS speed figure puts him right among the top contenders. Mr. Granite, trained by Wayne Rice, ran in the Kentucky Juvenile but finished 15 3/4 lengths behind. He did experience a bit of trouble early, but is still too slow. The rest of the field is comprised of maiden winners with speed figures that are a bit too low to be competitive to win graded stakes at this point in their career. Unlike in some 2YO (and 3YO) stakes, every horse has earned a win coming into this race.

Analysis: Anything can happen in these early 2YO races as horses are likely to grow in between starts. That said, it will likely come down to the favorites. Among these, I like Toothless Wonder, due to his high recent purchase price, experienced trainer, and likely propensity to improve with the distance. But I’m likely to also play Shanghaied Roo, who is the wildcard in the race and might offer some value. His breeding, trainer, and almost 3 months off suggest a possible strong performance. He’s very playable at 9-2 or better.

Day Three: “Ils Sont Partis” — 3 Maiden Races from Evangeline Downs

Three maidens from Evangeline Downs are on tap for the third day of the dozen maiden races. At these lower purse levels, you’ll find far different fields — complete with many quick eliminations — from those at Saratoga and Del Mar. The story-lines require a bit of digging, but are just as compelling to the fan of the game.

Race 3: $12.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15K, 8f, LA-bred, Older, Turf, 7:38 PM ET

At smaller tracks (and at all tracks, really), you should never toss a horse based on the morning line. Inside information often moves horses, and sometimes the line is quite off. It’s not unheard of to see several 15/1 or greater lines reduced to 5/2 throughout a card.  This is a fun level, too — and one that we see again in “split” in Race 7.  You’re essentially asking inexpensive horses to do something that they are likely not bred for — turf and distance.  It creates some variability that often leads to value.

The only horse with proven speed on the turf is Dance War (#2, 6-1). The rest are all question-marks and are trying the turf for the first time. It’s quite possible that one of them will take to the turf —  Uncle Carl (#3, 8-1) has some pedigree reasons to do so — although that often is built into the public’s price.  So the key question to this race is:

What is likelihood that the other runner’s in the race will not take to the turf and also that Dance War will run his race after a dull effort last time?

Selection: I’ll take my chances with Dance War, with these connections, at 9-2 or above.

Race 5: $7.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $8K, 7f, Older, 8:32 PM ET

By far, one of the most interesting stats I’ve seen recently came out of this race. Red Delta (#5, 8-1) is out of A.P. Delta who only wins with an impossibly low 1% of his first-time-starters.This is still a shockingly low percentage Granted, Red Delta is a five-year old, so this may, in theory, apply a bit less. That said, the only winner on debut for A.P. Delta went off at 8/5 odds. Thunder Bill (#7, 2-1) is 0 for 25.  Mouton goes with apprentice Odilon Martinez and hopes to finally find the winner’s circle today.  He might, but these horses tend to be bad bets. I much prefer Mr. Rossini (#10,5-1) on the outside. It’s only his seventh career start as well. He’ll go out for the lead and likely is rounding back into form. Tee Top Cat (#12, 30-1) is not that much worse than these and might be worth a flyer.

Selection:  It’s Mr. Rossini at 3-1 or greater.

Race 7: $12.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15K, 8f, LA-bred, Older, Turf, 9:27 PM ET

See Race 5 for analysis of this level. There’s a bit more proven turf speed in this maiden, but Throwsomelimeonit (#6, 2-1) has been a new horse since taking to the turf.  The most speed on paper puts him on top. Fitz Perfectly (#9, 7/2) is interesting and could very well steal this on the front end, if he takes to the turf.

Selection:  I’ll take Throwsomelimeonit. There’s always risk after two big efforts, but both of those were against fields in which he was an outsider (at least according to the odds). He figures well in this group, and he’s a solid play down to a legitimate favorite’s bottom level price of 8/5.

Image:  Jason Howell, “Evangeline Downs.” Copyright 2009.