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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Public Handicapper Prep Begins

The Daily Racing Form’s 2008 Public Handicapper Prep (which runs through the end of April) starts today with four races:

G1 Donn Handicap (Gulfstream)
I am a Daaher skeptic—he wins in NY, sure, and that Saratoga race was visually impressive, but who has he beaten? A tired Midnight Lute and warhorse Naughty New Yorker? Okay, so this Donn field isn’t that impressive either, so maybe he can beat these, but at what will surely be very short odds, I’ll try to beat him. Old warrior Brass Hat won the 2006 version before finishing second to Electrocutionist in the G1 Dubai World Cup—but he’s been up and down since his return. I figure him possible for a piece, but not the top prize. For that I choose Einstein who runs for only the fourth time in his career off the turf—the last time he won at this distance, over this (albeit sloppy) track, leading wire-to-wire. I trust Helen Pitts and Edgar Prado to get the job done. Kiss the Kid is another one who loves a sloppy track so I’ll watch for that angle.

G3 La Habra Stakes (Santa Anita)
Passion in the only filly here who has run and won over this course and with the Pletcher-Bejarano pairing, I love her chances. Set Play is the class of the field, having already won the G1 Del Mar Debutante; she finished in a dead-heat for third (with Golden Doc A) in the G3 Miesque Stakes in her only previous try on turf and that was at 8f—she’ll thrive at the shorter distance. I also like the Pennsylvania-bred Sweet August Moon who was dumped into the G1 Del Mar Debutante her first time out, then just missed going 8f next out; she’s coming in off her maiden win and could impress.

Thunder Road Handicap (Santa Anita)
I don’t normally like horses off extremely long layoffs (six months or more), but It’s A Bird appears to be working extremely well since transferring to Todd Pletcher’s barn and he won last out wire-to-wire after nearly 2-1/2 month break. With Rafael Bejarano up, he’s promising at a long price. Storm Military—a G1 miler in Argentina—should relish the cut-back from his last start. Mr Napper Tandy kept impressive company in Europe last year, finishing just behind Creachadoir (runner-up in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains, G1 Irish Two Thousand Guineas, and G1 Hong Kong Mile) and Tariq (winner G2 Lennox and G3 Jersey stakes) in 7f stakes at the Curragh and Newmarket respectively; extremely nice finish last out in the G3 Sir Beaufort behind Monterey Jazz (who goes in the G2 Strub today). If he can overcome the rail post, he’ll be tough here.

G2 Strub Stakes (Santa Anita)
I have been on the Tiago bandwagon since last year’s Derby and, while he’s done well enough, he’s not yet moved into the elite “can’t be beat” category for me. That said, this is the perfect race for him in terms of distance (he’s 3 for 3 at 9f). Air Commander should hold for some money, but I’m taking a long, hard look at Giant Gizmo for a possible upset in his third race off a layoff. This Giant’s Causeway colt (out of the Hansel mare Golden Antigua) should absolutely relish the distance—it’s just a matter of pace.

In other news, this week Pennsylvania-bred Lord Admiral (El Prado-Lady Ilsley, by Trempolino) opened his 7-year-old campaign by winning the G3 Al Rashidiya Stakes at Nad Al Sheba, with Mick Kinane up. “It’s my first winner in Dubai, we’ve been close a couple of times with him before but we were nothing more than hopeful. We’ll have a look at the Al Fahidi Fort or Jebel Hatta next,” said trainer Charlie O’Brien whose father Vincent O’Brien is Lord Admiral’s owner. His connections may have the G1 Dubai Duty Free as the ultimate goal, which would be only his second attempt at G1 company. In 2006, Lord Admiral made his only foray into the US, finishing third (1-1/2 lengths) behind Aragorn and Courtnall in the G2 Oak Tree Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita and second (1-1/2 lengths back) to Bayeux in the G3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Also, for those keeping track, the following graded stakes-winning mares have upcoming dates with the following gentlemen, hoping to produce the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner:

Ermine , Round Pond,and Balance visit AP Indy
Citronnade goes to Ghostzapper
Lahudood and Kingmambo
Monashee and Hard Spun
Memorette and Empire Maker
Octave to (surprise!)Discreet Cat


Anonymous said...

Hi Val,

I couldn't agree more about being a Daaher skeptic. I didn't handicap the Donn, but I'd go Einstein as well. I've liked him ever since that brutal finish he encountered on Preakness day.

I covered the Santa Anita races in my update for today. In the La Habra, I boiled it down to Passion and Ariege. I liked Set Play a lot, but I sided with Fantaical in my selections to round out the exotics. At 15/1 if that one ships well there could be a ton of value.

In the Strub I had to go with Tiago. I think he would've prevailed in the San Fernando if Monterrey Jazz hadn't scratched, so I like him in here as well. He should have a pace to run at and he's one of my favorite horses on the circuit. Giant Gizmo was my second pick at 10/1 (great minds think alike!) :)

The Thunder Road Handicap I may be a sucker on, as I'm totally going Awesome Gem. I know it's turf, but he looked so good against the elite in the Classic over that slop.

Best of luck buddy! I'll be rooting for your picks when mine inevitbally run last. :)

Anonymous said...

oops...just saw that Awesome Gem was a scratch today....Oh well, guess it's down to Sotrm Military and Langfield for me then.

dana said...

Thanks for the bookings update, very interesting!

I looked back on my poll (that was inspired by a post of yours) about who Octave should be booked to and GbG readers voted for Bernardini. Nice to see what fans want matching up with reality for a change!

Anonymous said...

Tiago is worse than his brother - Giacomo. Both made their names with lucky runs in the Kentucky Derby (Giacomo) and in the Santa Anita Derby (Tiago). Both have been flops ever since.

Dubai2008 said...

Anyone going to the Dubai World Cup next month. If so, see ya there!