Santa Anita Derby (GI)

The Santa Anita Derby concludes the 3YO series in Southern California. The field begins with Dortmund, who was #1 in the latest Derby rankings. He has run the two fastest speed figures in the field, and I don’t imagine that the 9 furlongs — a 1/2 furlong longer than he’s gone before — will be a problem. Dortmund has shown a strong propensity to stay, as exhibited in his two recent races. It’s worth watching the San Felipe, his most recent race. Not only does it feature Dortmund, but also Prospect Park and Bolo, who race here today.

Dortmund has already qualified for the Derby, regardless of the result here. This would be his second GI win, having captured the Los Alamitos Futurity this past December.

Bolo, who was #5 in latest rankings (before the final preps began), is really exciting. He was the best 3YO turf horse in California, when Derby fever mandated a dirt try. His dirt debut was excellent. Now, he faces off again against Dortmund and Prospect Park. However, there’s reason to believe that he’ll be an even faster horse today. A horse often excels the second time they try something. An improved effort will place Bolo as a strong contender for the Kentucky Derby, and he’s my upset pick to capture his first GI today.

One Lucky Dane was rushed into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile off an impressive maiden score. I don’t mind tossing his lackluster effort that day.The connections are optimistic once again, moving One Lucky Dane from first level allowance to GI. He certainly has a chance if he improves, although his resume suggests that he dominates when he’s the best horse.  He’s not the best horse in the field today, so he’ll need to show a new dimension to find enough points to get to Kentucky. I think he’s a bit overmatched here.

Prospect Park has been the steadiest of improvers throughout the winter. He’s looked quite sharp in the stretch as well, particularly last time out. However, one has to wonder, if he couldn’t beat Dortmund last time out, why today? Unlike Bolo, who may improve second time out on the dirt, Prospect Park seems unlikely to continue his remarkable string of improvement. Only if Dortmund or Bolo are off their game.

Image: Suzanne, Copyright 2012



The Haskell Invitational (G1): Race Replays to Ignore

It’s Haskell Day at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Today, it’s the first GI exclusively for three-year old since the Belmont Stakes, and only one of four GI races exclusively for three year olds remaining on the 2014 calendar (Travers Stakes, King’s Bishop, Malibu Stakes).

Memories today will be firmly centered on several important past races. However, these three races shouldn’t be predictive of today’s race, and are (mostly) irrelevant to today’s outcome.  The first race, inspired by Untapable’s attempt to defeat colts, will be Rachel Alexandra’s domination in 2009, in which she earned the highest speed figure that year:

A sensational race, indeed, and one that will be in the back of today’s mind.  But, of course, it has absolutely no bearing on today’s race, although I expect the memory of it will drive down Untapable’s price. As an aside, I don’t think Untapable is in the same class as Rachel Alexandra. That said, she doesn’t have to be to win here.

The second race on everybody’s mind will be Bayern in the Woody Stephens:

He was superb that day, demolishing a deep field.  But, he seems best at shorter than this, and this seems like a  attempt that you have to make with a high-priced horse just to see. He didn’t run in the Triple Crown, and this racetrack seems to give him a good chance.  But, the connections are taking a calculated chance that has a big reward. If you decide to take a chance with them, make sure the price is fair.

The final race of irrelevance with be Social Inclusion’s Preakness effort against California Chrome:

It’s easy to forget now, but he had missed training and was a bit rushed back into this race. To view his potential, I’d instead focus on this race — perhaps the best of the winter at Gulfstream Park:

Good luck in the Haskell Invitational!

Image: Five Furlongs, “Coil and Shackleford battle for the lead in the Haskell Invitational.” Copyright 2011.