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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday on the Derby and Oaks Trail

At Aqueduct, race 2 is a maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs. Mike Hushion sends out first-time starter Roman Treasure, a $200k yearling purchase by Roman Ruler, out of G1 Kentucky Oaks/Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Jeanne Jones—a precocious filly who won first-out (in addition to winning the G1 Hollywood Starlet before finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. That said, her full-brother Roman Racecar was a flop, never a factor in 6 starts. Portside and Satilla Shores beat Espresso Martini last out, but it’s entirely likely that Pletcher’s filly will go off favored, with Ramon Dominguez aboard. I hope so, as she’s a good bet-against. For some intangible reasons, I really like the Dixie Union filly Rose’s Turn.

UPDATE: Well, at least I was right about betting against Espresso Martini—as the even money favorite, she finished fifth, out of the money. Huge payoffs, with 6-1 Portside ($13.80) winning by 1-1/4 lengths, and 61-1 Good Habits ($45.20 place) nosing out 15-1 Rose’s Turn ($9.00 show) for second; 4-1 Roman Treasure was a neck back in fourth. The $2 exacta paid $486.50, trifecta $3,601 and superfecta $32,757. Watching the replay, Rose’s Turn and Roman Treasure impressed me most with their late bursts of speed, so put them on your watch lists next time out!

The real action, though, will be at Gulfstream, being with race 2, an allowance race for 3-year-old fillies going 6.5 furlongs. Tap for Luck has yet to match her smashing maiden effort, and especially first-up here, a likely-bet against. Off her strong form against juvenile filly champion Awesome Feather, Because I Like It looks to be a better bet, but the extra 1/2 furlong may be a question. I’m all in on Oh Carole, trying dirt after breaking her maiden over Keeneland’s Polytrack last October. Her unraced dam is a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Escena, so there’s a lot to like in addition to her strong workouts.

UPDATE: Feeling good about perceiving Tap For Luck’s weakness, as she finished dead-last. Because I Like It was on the lead most of the way, but the distance found her out, and she finished fourth. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, nearly everyone jumped on the Oh Carole bandwagon, as she went off the 1.90-1 favorite and won by nearly two lengths, paying $5.80 win.

Race 5—a maiden special weight for 3-year-olds going 8 furlongs—features an exciting first-time starter. Achaemenes is a 3/4 brother to Breeders’ Cup Distaff (“Ladies’ Classic”) victress Unrivaled Belle, and that filly narrowly missed winning her maiden effort after a troubled run. She didn’t repeat that mistake, winning handily next out. He’s posted sharp works for trainer Todd Pletcher and rates a big chance. Pletcher also sends out Redwood Falls, an Indian Charlie colt whose stakes-winning dam took six efforts to break her maiden—and none of her progeny displayed precocious tendencies—so I’m definitely not sold on his chances first-up. Rahy doesn’t usually hit with first-time starters so Nacho Business is a bit of a question mark; his dam Palaestra failed to stay 9 furlongs first-out but that was on turf, and next out on dirt going 8.5 furlongs she won by four lengths. Of those with race experience, Sinorice has some good past form, finishing third (admittedly, 18 lengths back) to Uncle Mo in his maiden effort. Next out he finished second in the slop to Pants On Fire, recent runner-up in the G3 LeComte. There’s also a lot to like about Bowman’s Causeway, who gains blinkers for Patrick Biancone and the services of 7 lb. bug boy Ryan Curatolo. He closed well to finish third against Holy Bull starter Mucho Macho Man in his only previous start, and that one was twice runner-up to To Honor and Serve.

UPDATE: Go Rahy! 7-1 Nacho Business got up for the win ($16.80) over 8-5 Bowman’s Causeway ($3.40 place), followed by 6-1 Redwood Falls ($5.00) and 3-1 Sinorice, both of whom were well-ahead of the rest of the field, including 5-1 Achaemenes. A 10-cent super paid $41.70.

I highlighted the G2 Forward Gal in this week’s Hello Race Fans! Derby Alert, so if you aren’t already signed up for it, do it! R Heat Lightning and Dancinginherdreams have garnered the most attention, and could very well fire first up, but I think all the other contestants—except Evil Queen—have a chance. I’m going to be a homer and root for PA-bred Alexandra Rylee who broke her maiden at Saratoga in impressive fashion against some good fillies and ships in from Philadelphia (I adamantly refuse to call it Parx) where she won the Brandywine last out. She’s got some quality on her damside, and if the track turns up sloppy, this daughter of Afleet Alex should plow through it.

UPDATE: Being a homer sucks! Alexandra Rylee finished last, and my no-shot Evil Queen (at 82-1) actually stayed on for third, upsetting R Heat Lightning! It was Pomeroys Pistol for the win over Dancinginherdreams, and looking quite good in the process.

The G3 Holy Bull winner receives $240k, likely enough to earn a spot in the Derby field come the first Saturday in May. Thus, a relatively large field of nine goes here, including Black N Beauty who has good form against the much-heralded Brethren, and looked good first-out this year in an allowance race here. Another one with lots of chatter is Mucho Macho Man, twice runner-up to To Honor and Serve in G2 events, while the Mineshaft colt Dialed In has posted some smokin’ workouts in advance of this start for Nick Zito. And talk about regal breeding—his second dam is champion juvenile filly Eliza, who also won the G1 Santa Anita Oaks and was runner-up in the G1 Kentucky Oaks. No question he could be a serious Derby contender with that stamina pedigree. The Harlan’s Holiday colt Leave of Absence also has much to recommend him, including his dam being a half-sister to G2 Silverbulletday victress Belle of Perintown, and his third dam Jeanne Jones being a runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly (to Epitome), the Santa Anita Oaks (to Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors) and the Kentucky Oaks (to Goodbye Halo). The only one in here who does not need graded stakes earnings is G3 Delta Jackpot winner Gourmet Dinner whose fourth-place finish in the G1 Cash Call Futurity can either be excused as his first effort on synthetics (since he’s posted excellent dirt works since returning to Gulfstream), or be viewed as a sign that he can’t route against higher caliber competition. I’m inclined to believe the latter.

UPDATE: Dialed In ($7.40 win) roared from last place to win the Holy Bull, while Sweet Ducky ($13.00 place) held off 7-2 Gourmet Dinner for second, and 2-1 Mucho Macho Man rounded out the superfecta. The early fractions were slower than the Forward Gal, but they finished stronger—especially Dialed In. He definitely earned a place on my early Top Ten Derby list with that performance.


Brian Appleton said...

I think Dancinginherdreams could easily turn out to be one of the best sophomore fillies in the nation this year. The Forward Gal is a pretty classy field to start the year off in but I think she'll be able to handle it.

I'm inclined to agree with you on Gourmet Dinner, Mucho Macho Man is my pick for the Holy Bull and I like Major Gain as a long shot.