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 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

After researching this year’s race, I have found what I expect to be a solid mid-price horse with a good chance to win. Read on for more. At the Breeders’ Cup, 2YO’s are asked to run 8.5 furlongs, which at Santa Anita is around two turns.

This race starts with two time G1 winner American Pharoah (that’s how it’s spelled — perhaps in honor of SNL’s Jay Pharoah?). He has plenty of speed and ran lights out over the track and at today’s distance in the G1 Frontrunner. To be fair, he hasn’t beaten much of anything and hasn’t rated successfully. When the highly-regarded Om got the lead on him in a maiden race, he didn’t run particularly well. However, American Pharoah’s behavior that day was especially unsettled, and it’s tough to draw too many negative conclusions from a horse’s first start.

Carpe Diem was scintillating in winning the Breeders’ Futurity, which was now on the new Keeneland dirt. His Beyer didn’t match the visual impressiveness of the performance. Yet, I’m a bit cautious of putting too much stock in the Keeneland Beyer, especially after only 3 weeks of racing on the track. Daredevil certainly must like the mud — he’s raced twice over wet tracks and been scintillating both times. He has every reason to be a good horse over a dry track, although it is a unknown, so you need to price accordingly.

Moving past the big three, Upstart is another who ran second last out in the slop at Belmont in the Champagne. He has been training well for Violette, who can train them when he gets a good one. Importantly, we still haven’t seen him go two turns, which creates both risk and profit possibility. Calculator is worth a serious longshot look. I like horses that sold at auction for many times their stud fees. Calculator’s sire, In Summation, only stands for $4k, but sold in April for $132,000. He ran a lifetime best in his first route, and may improve his second time out.

The two Aidan O’Brien international entrants are worth deeper looks. The Great War and War Envoy have not raced on dirt, although may very well handle it with War Front as their sire. Neither is terribly accomplished — with only a minor stakes for The Great War and some nice placings for War Envoy. One Lucky Dane had a tremendous maiden win in early October and goes straight to the Breeders’ Cup. Last year’s winner, New Year’s Day won this race straight out of a maiden for Baffert, although it took place one month earlier than One Lucky Dane’s win.

Without a dominant favorite here, I am looking for a potentially underrated horse, and I may have found that in Upstart, who still hasn’t raced around two turns. I trust Violette to have his horse in peak condition, and the work pattern suggest that he will be. I expect him to be about 8-1, although he could get forgotten a bit with the top three contenders (American Pharoah, Carpe Diem, Daredevil) getting more action. He’ll be a bet to win, and possibly in some exotics as well.

Check out “Stealing Money from the Crowd,” a contrarian guide to the Breeders’ Cup. Available here and on Google Play. Coming soon to iBooks.

Image: Lisa Andres, Copyright 2009.