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