Friday, March 5, 2010

Wow! Awesome! It's Time to Handicap the Gotham

There's simply so much happening this weekend my head is spinning trying to keep track.

*There's Kentucky Derby prep races such as the G3 Gotham Handicap and the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.
*As well, plenty of Woodbine-based talent is loading into the gate all across the continent over the next 48 hours.
*Queen's Plate contenders could be emerging. Others are in training.
*Tomorrow I'm attending the Windfields Farms dispersal auction (See the Woodbine News section above for details.)

Much of that will be covered within this post. When in doubt, put your thoughts on paper, right?

First off, I haven't publicly handicapped a race since I correctly selected Discreetly Mine to win the Risen Star Stakes. Granted, that wasn't exactly a betting coup but a winner is a winner.

Given the number of recent cancellations at Santa Anita, I'll put my pen down on the Gotham Handicap instead of the Sham.

(Click on the link for free past performances courtesy of the Formblog.)

The Gotham, the prep for the April 3rd G1 Wood Memorial, is the highlight of a solid Aqueduct card which includes the Fred Capossela Stakes and the Togoggan Stakes which will see sprint sensation Custom for Carlos leg it around the Aqueduct inner track.

The field for the Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham raced at 1M1/16 on the Inner Track:

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer Odds
1 Three Day Rush (KY) F Jara 116 T A Pletcher 4-1
This Harlan’s Holiday colt has been off the board just once in seven career starts and most recently finished third in the awkwardly run Whirlaway Stakes when forced wi-i-i-i-i-de on the first turn by a bolting 85ina50.

The colt recovered nicely and at the wire only 1 1/2 lengths separated Three Day Rush from winner Peppi Knows and place finisher Afleeet Again who are both here.

Would like to see Jara try a stalking trip here.

Peppi Knows wins the Whirlaway Stakes over Afleet Again and Three Day Rush

2 Yawanna Twist (NY) E S Prado 116 R E Dutrow, Jr.5-1
Yawanna Twist, a Yonaguska colt has been beating up on New York-bred competition for trainer Richard Dutrow. A pair of sprint wins by a combined ten lengths and a recent 87 Beyer figure suggest this one is ready to try a route of ground.

However, the competition here is steeper and I suspect that this race might go down as a learning experience.

3 Nacho Friend (KY) J Bravo116 K J Breen 8-1
This one has been bulleting works at Palm Meadows in Florida for trainer Kelly Breen. Those works are much needed as the colt has been shelved since a solid fourth-place try in the G2 Sanford at Saratoga Race Course last July.

That Sanford sprint was impressive as Nacho Friend was in traffic during the stretch and then dived to the trail to find room in a race won by the improving Backtalk - a son of Smarty Jones. (Interactif was also in that event.)

This is a very nice horse but is it too soon to ask this much? Breen is .22 off a layoff and .38 from a sprint to a route.

Nacho Friend closes to within a length against Backtalk

4 Awesome Act (KY) J R Leparoux116J Noseda7-2
It's his first start since finishing a closing fourth down the middle of the course to Pounced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at odds of 31-1.

The Awesome Again colt has started mostly on the grass in England and this will be his first start over dirt.

At 7-2 on the morning line, I'd like to see a race or even a few local works to pick over before handing over my hard-earned money. Julien Leparoux, in town to ride Custom For Carlos, provides some comfort.

Pounced wins the BC Juvenile turf - Awesome Act finishes fourth

5 I've Got the Fever (KY) C Hill 116 J P Terranova, II 12-1
This one earned a 90 Beyer figure while just breaking his maiden February 20th going a mile on the inner track.

The Stephen Got Even colt is used to being in tough having already faced a trio of Todd Pletcher’s Triple Crown candidates. At two, I've Got the Fever finished fourth behind Aikenite in his debut; fourth (beaten nearly 20 lengths in the slop) to Super Saver in his second start; and third behind Rule (the excellent Bank The Eight was second) to close out his juvenile campaign.

The morning works are consistent rather than spectacular but it counts when contenders are coming in off a layoff.

Something tells me the early fractions to be provided by Wow Wow Wow will be a real test.

6 Peppi Knows (KY) R Migliore 120 T C Kreiser 10-1
This one is yet to be out of the money with a record of 4-1-1 from six starts. Peppi Knows was a non-threatening second to Buddy’s Saint in the Grade 2 Remsen to end 2009.

His first stat of 2010 was a memorable win in the awkward Whirlaway Stakes.

Four wins in six starts and still I'm not all that certain he's up to this task. I'm not alone, as he starts at 10-1 on the morning line with The Mig in the irons.

Buddy's Sain defeats Peppi Knows to win the Remsen

7 Shrimp Dancer (NY) C C Lopez 116 D G Donk 12-1
This might be a turf horse. The son of Kitten's Joy had three starts on the grass as a juvenile winning one while third in the others - the last turf try beaten four lengths in the Vision at Belmont by Dean's Kitten.

His first two starts in 2010 have come at Aqueduct on the dirt as the favourite. In each event he experienced tough trips placing both times.

Shrimp Dancer came out of that last race well enough working 4F in 48.20 at Belmont. Worth a try underneath.

8 Turf Melody (KY) R A Dominguez 120 H G Motion 8-1
The son of Maria's Mon has raced once each month since August of 2009. He's been beaten by some good ones: Dixie Bend (August at Arlington in the Spectacular Bid); Queen's Plate contender Ghost Fleet (September at Woodbine in the Swynford); Interactif (October at Keeneland on the turf in the G3 Bourbon.)

Turf Melody won his November and December races over lesser knowns at a mile on the dirt and then last out was sixth to Ron the Greek in the G3 LeComte at the Fair Grounds.

A mystery horse. A travelling man. He didn't like the turf or the synthetic all that much. Or was it the fast pace of those races? Or maybe he just didn't like the rail trip in the LeComte?

That's a lot of questions.

Turf Melody rank in the LeComte finishing sixth

9 Afleet Again (KY) K Carmouche 116 R E Reid, Jr. 20-1
This one finished so nicely behind Peppi Knows in the Remsen at odds of 21-1.
His Form is a difficult read. His last start as a juvenile he finished third beaten 13 lengths by Winslow Homer. That was followed by his 2010 opening number - a 17 length beat in the Count Fleet at Aqueduct won by Laus Deo.

Afleet Again recovered nicely in the slop at Philly on Jan 17th to win by a length over N1X company and then surprised to place in the Whirlaway at 21-1.

Others look a bit tougher here. He will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche.

10 Wow Wow Wow (KY) C S Nakatani 116 D W Lukas 6-1
Marylou Whitney’s Wow Wow Wow, overcame starting in the ten-hole to wire an N1X allowance field at Oaklawn Park on Feb 13th at a distance of 1M 1/16.
Although the competition was questionable, the numbers are impressive. Fractions of 23.18, 46.62, 1:13.67, 1:37.83 finishing in 1:44.55 earned a Beyer of 84.

Wow Wow Wow "Wows" them by four lengths at Oaklawn Park

Wow Wow Wow started from post 12 in the start prior to this performance finishing eighth, beaten 20 lengths, in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. I'm tossing that race off the Form as WWW was forced at least six wide going into the first turn and then sprinted wide to try and catch the leaders along the backstretch. He never had a chance.

Wow he's REALLY wide into that first turn

The Jan 3rd race where WWW finished a flat fifth at Fair Grounds was against a solid pair including Stay Put and Letsgetitonmon.

Why does this horse always draw outside?


No doubt there's a few questions here regarding Wow Wow Wow, but if the notorious Aqueduct inner track speed bias is in play it could be tough sledding for Nacho Friend, Turf Melody and Awesome Act trying to play catch up.

1. Awesome Act
2. Turf Melody
3. Wow Wow Wow
4. Nacho Friend

Given the layoff, I'm not confident enough to key Awesome Act and will try my luck with a combination of exactors using the four listed above. Yes, that means I push likely favourite Three Day Rush off my ticket.

A reminder for those keeping track of the 2010 Queen's Plate contenders:

Saturday's fifth race at the Fair Grounds, a 5.5F Turf MSW, includes a Eugene Melnyk Florida-bred colt by the name of Heywoods who is trained by Malcolm Pierce. In the same race, Sam-Son Farms owned Ontario-bred Forest Run, will make an appearance for trainer Neil J Howard.
Please click on the link to view the entries in this twelve horse field.

A pair of Ontario-bred three-year-olds are featured in the tenth race at Gulfstream on Saturday . Josie Carroll sends out three-year-old gelding Captain Canuck while Mike Doyle sends out Smart Sky in this 1 1/16M turf tilt. (Mike dePaulo's Kentucky-bred Bear's Finish Line is on the also eligible list.)

The Todd Pletcher trained Canadian-bred Forever Awesome is entered Sunday March 7th on the Gulfstream turf going 1M 1/16 at the $48K Allowance level. Jockey Eibar Coa will ride. This turf specialist finished 8th in his last event on Jan 13, 2010 at Gulfstream. The Stronach Stable charge has been working extensively at Palm Meadows.

Mark Casse trained Ontario-bred Flim Flam is entered on March 10, 2010 at Tampa Bay Downs in a 1M 1/8 AOC turf event for owners Quintessential Racing and Horse'n Around Racing. Flim Flam last raced, and won, on August 23rd at Woodbine.

Arepeatee, owned and trained by Bob Tiller, worked three furlongs in 39:40 Breezing on the Woodbine dirt training course on March 4th.

Careless Jewel worked 5F handily in a time of 1:01:20 on the Palm Meadows dirt as her connections ponder whether or not to try their luck against Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom.

While the above two monster ladies have beaten the boys previously, five year-old mare St Trinians will attempt to beat the boys in the Santa Aninta Handicap on Saturday.

To do so, she'll have to knock off a tough fourteen-horse field which includes Misremembered, Marsh Side (Woodbine folks know him!) and Mark Casse trained Ontario-bred Pool Play. Pool Play will be ridden by Chantal Sutherland. Click here to see the entries.

Mark Casse's Francis X pulled off a stunning 42-1 upset at Tampa Bay Downsearlier this week. Might be time to ride that hot streak and wager on Pool Play.

Check back often as the Woodbine News and SnowBirds tabs at the top of this page will update automatically each and every day.

Have a great weekend readers.


Trifectabox said...

Great analysis of the Gotham and a big thank you for the link to the PP's. I am hoping Peppi Knows and Afleet Again will make decent showings, obviously they are facing much tougher competition here than in the Whirlaway, but I'll be putting them in exotics.
This has been one of the tougher races to handicap - which usually means the favorite will win!

Keith McCalmont said...

This is exactly the type of race where the exotics are well worth playing. A decent sized field where anyone is likely to finish 3rd and 4th.

Looking around the web, there really isn't much consensus either for most of the handicappers. Everyone is looking away from the chalk.

Good luck!

ThoroughbredZone.Com said...

Aewsome Act is up against it today...

ThoroughbredZone.Com said...

Good pick--He ran well and won--My 2 were 2nd and 3rd...Worried about the plane ride and detention barn...

Good Job!

Calvin Carter said...

Nice picking Keith

Brandon Boone said...

How about that Captain Canuck?! Looks like Centennial Farms (Niagara) is back in the Queen's Plate picture this year. Keeneland for him next.