Sunday, August 29, 2010

Who Will Be Crowned in Woodbine's Play The King?

Sunday's G2 Play The King S. at Woodbine provides a tough handicapping exercise that could reap great benefits for those punters that can find the right exotic play.

Will Field Commission earn his first win of 2010 in the Play The King?

Trainer Sid Attard sends out a trio of turfers as an uncoupled entry (Jungle Wave, Signature Red, and Smokey Fire) to take on a pair of champion sprinters (Field Commission and Fatal Bullet). The field is rounded out by the G3 Eclipse S winner Southdale and Eugene Melnyk's Porter's Gate. It's worth noting that Melnyk won Saturday's turf stake, the Ontario Colleen, with Barracks Road.

Woodbine's turf course is very firm at the moment and the temporary rail is set at 60 feet to protect the course for the upcoming Woodbine Mile and other events in the Fall turf championship series. There were three races on the turf on Saturday and there was a noticeable inside speed bias for front-runners that could get away on the lead. Both New Normal (click here for video and Barracks Road (click here for video) took advantage of the bias and shrewd handicappers were rewarded with 9-1 odds on the stakes score by Melnyk's filly. The third turf event was won by Sangore (click here for video) who was always within two lengths of the lead.

With that bias in mind, let's take a look at the field for Sunday's Play The King Stakes.

$200,000 Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT, Race 8, 4:35 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Field Commission (ON), E Ramsammy, 121, D J Vella
2. Fatal Bullet (FL), E R Da Silva, 119, R Baker
3. Jungle Wave (KY), P Husbands, 121, S C Attard
4. Smokey Fire (ON), J C Jones, 119, S C Attard
5. Porter's Gate (KY), S Callaghan, 117, M Pierce
6. Signature Red (KY), C Sutherland, 123, S C Attard
7. Southdale (ON), J McAleney, 121, I Black

A closer look:

1. Field Commission (ON), E Ramsammy, 121, D J Vella 4-1
Champion sprinter Field Commission is winless in five starts this season. The five year-old son of Service Stripe had the unenviable task of chasing Hollywood Hit in a pair of races to open his campaign (2nd and 4th) before moving to the turf course. That first turf start of 2010 was a memorable one in the G3 Connaught Cup, going seven furlongs, as jock Eurico Rosa da Silva closed well to finish second just a length behind much improved Grand Adventure and in front of Jungle Wave.
In his next start, Field Commission would finish fourth as the favourite in the G2 Highlander won by Signature Red - a race run at just six furlongs. The versatile fella moved to a polytrack route his most recent start finishing third in the Seagram Cup to Sand Cove. Trainer Daniel Vella had Field Commission put in a 2F blowout work on Friday and the seven furlong distance of this extended sprint suits.

Field Commission loves the Woodbine grass

2. Fatal Bullet (FL), E R Da Silva, 119, R Baker 5-1
The five year-old son of Red Bullet is a devastating six furlong sprinter on the polytrack and his inclusion in this race is puzzling. Fatal Bullet finished off the board in his lone turf start and there are no recent turf works to mention. While leading jock Eurico Rosa da Silva retains the mount, apparently over the opportunity at other options here, this race does not seem to suit the resume of Canada's 2008 Horse of the Year. This is the only horse in the race seemingly capable of taking advantage of the speed bias, however, I'm looking elsewhere today but will note that Fatal Bullet will likely have the key turf-to-poly angle at play in his next start

Can Fatal Bullet steal the Play The King on the lead?

3. Jungle Wave (KY), P Husbands, 121, S C Attard 3-1
Like those listed above, Jungle Wave is winless in 2010 but don't let that discourage a wager on the returning champ of this event. Jungle Wave defeated Field Commission by three-quarters of a length in last year's Play The King and his improved with each start in 2010. Draw a line through a puzzling opener and you are left with three excellent efforts including a third in the G3 Connaught, third in the G2 Highlander and a trying second last out to the solid Utterly Cool. Jungle Wave has been in the money in seven of his nine starts over the E.P Taylor course and he appears to enjoy the firm going. Patrick Husbands gets the call.

Jungle Wave defends his crown in the Play The King

4. Smokey Fire (ON), J C Jones, 119, S C Attard 7-2
The five year-old son of Smoke Glacken returned from a long layoff to win the Bold Venture S. on the polytrack at Woodbine on July 17th. Next out the Sid Attard trained gelding travelled to Saratoga for the G1 Vanderbilt finishing last over a surface the horse clearly did not enjoy. For his third start of 2010, Smokey Fire moves to yet another surface but this time it's one the horse has proven form on with a win and a trio of place finishes in four starts. The concern here being that the four turf starts do not match the calibre of competition of this group. A recent bullet work on the poly in 1:00 (best of 80) leaves me thinking this is the second entrant that might be better suited to a poly sprint. Turf-to-poly angle to be in play next time out.

Smokey Fire returns to his favoured Woodbine on Sunday

5. Porter's Gate (KY), S Callaghan, 117, M Pierce 20-1
The Melnyk entrant opens at 20-1 and deservedly so off a campaign that includes two wins, a second and a third from six starts against either N3X Allowance or claiming competition. The four year-old son of Victory Gallop is a turf specialist with no apparent preferred distance though he hasn't won since opening his campaign with a pair of wins at 5.5F at the Fair Grounds. Hard to recommend but those searching for a long shot might want to take a closer look at his last race, a third place finish behind Utterly Cool and Jungle Wave at 6.5F on the turf, to gauge this guy's chances at seven furlongs this afternoon.

Utterly Cool defeats Jungle Wave and Porter's Gate in the prep for the Play The King

6. Signature Red (KY), C Sutherland, 123, S C Attard 5-2
The lukewarm favourite enters this race off a pair of victories including a rousing finish to defeat Heros Reward in the G2 Highlander on Queen's Plate Day. The four year-old has only three lifetime starts on the turf but has won his last two tries over the E.P Taylor course, earning back-to-back 100+ Beyer figures - and both those wins came on firm going. Signature Red has been freshened since the Highlander win and his form shows a steady stream of workouts. The only cause for concern is that the Highlander victory is the only "class" victory of reference and it came on an excruciatingly hot day early in the campaign. If Field Commission and Jungle Wave have improved in the interim then this could be a susceptible favourite. Chantal Sutherland retains the mount.

Signature Red hopes to sign off on a graded victory this afternoon

7. Southdale (ON), J McAleney, 121, I Black 8-1
*Extreme bias alert* - I am a huge fan of Southdale. Having followed this guy through his 2009 Queen's Plate trail, which was derailed by injury, I have thoroughly enjoyed his adventurous 2010 return to the races which includes a six furlong win, a G3 win in the 8.5F Eclipse Stakes and a third place finish in the 10F G3 Dominion Day Handicap behind Hold Me Back and Pool Play. In his most recent start, Southdale tried the turf for the first time finishing third in the 9F G2 Nijinksy S won by Windwards Islands. The turf was yielding on that day and I believe that Southdale will enjoy the firmer going this afternoon. If you must have proof of that statement, then check out the 5F work in 58 and 3 over firm going on the training turf course on August 15th. Southdale has won at sprint distances previously and the son of Street Cry will have no fitness issues based on his recent races.

Southdale to make a splash in the Play The King?

The Picks

1. Signature Red
2. Southdale
3. Field Commission

Ultimately, I will be boxing the top two in an exactor and keying them in triactors over Field Commission and Jungle Wave.

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Check back tomorrow for photos and videos from stakes events at Woodbine and a recap of a multitude of graded races across the continent including the incredible finish in the Travers Stakes won by Afleet Express over Fly Down.

Don't forget that Rachel Alexandra and Life At Ten do battle this afternoon in the tenth race (5:56PM EST) at Saratoga in the G1 Personal Ensign Stakes. Also, Woodbine's Milwaukee Appeal takes on Queen Martha and Just Jenda in the G2 Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth Park in Race 11 (5:43PM).

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As always, keep track of the latest goings on in the world of horse racing by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page.

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