Equidaily Racing Journal



Saturday, May 6, 2006
Picks and plays for some of the day's major stakes
by Seth Merrow

WAGERED: $445.00
COLLECTED: $535.20

Turf wagers are turf only

Best Bets

Churchill, Race 7, Lock and Key... 5th at 7-2.
Churchill, Race 9, Cacique... 2nd at 2-1 (xxx, 3.60, 3.00).
Churchill, Race 10, Lawyer Ron... Ran 12th at 10-1.
Churchill, Race 10, WPS on Bluegrass Cat... Ran 2nd at 30-1 (xxx, 28.40, 15.40).
Pimlico, Race 10, WPS on Stormatic... Scratched.


Barbaro 6-1
Bluegrass Cat 30-1
Steppenwolfer 16-1
DH - Brother Derek 7-1
DH - Jazil 24-1

Wager: $5 WP on Lawyer Ron.
Ran 12th at 10-1.
...$5 WPS on Bluegrass Cat.
Collected $109.50 on the WPS (xxx, 28.40, 15.40).
...$1 exacta box top five.
Ran 2-4-12-17-18.
...$1 tri box top five.
Ran 2-4-12-17-18.
...$1 exacta saver box (closers, in case of a meltdown)... Jazil/Steppenwolfer/Private Vow/Cause to Believe/Storm Treasure.
Ran 3-4-11-13-15.
...$1 super... Lawyer Ron-AP Warrior/Lawyer Ron-AP Warrior/Bob and John-Bluegrass Cat-Brother Derek/Bob and John-Bluegrass Cat-Brother Derek
Ran 12-18/12-18/2-4-17/2-4-17.

A fun race that seems to be generating some extra buzz this year. After last year's wacky payouts fans are probably envisioning an either/or situation, with three or four, or maybe even five contenders who will achieve superstar status with a win, or -- if that group falters -- the chance for a second year of lottery-like payouts. Either scenario is enough to cause the excitement that's been felt this week.

Lawyer Ron...Undefeated on dirt -- his losses came on turf or Polytrack. Ran through the Oaklawn series convincingly and that trail to the Derby has been successful of late. Rated in the G3 Rebel and, in fact, though to a lesser degree, in the G3 Risen Star (The PPs don't do justice to the stalking trip this one sat in the Risen Star. There's only one call in second-place in the PPs -- but watching the replay you'll see Lawyer Ron sit comfortably in the second spot well around the first turn.) The 17-post might help the jock make the decision to find a position off of the first-flight early -- but that doesn't mean he won't have to try to save some ground by the time they reach the first turn. The knock on this guy from some quarters has been "he's not fast enough" -- but I'll contend it's hard to know just how fast he is when he's winning by daylight. If you're comfortably ahead in a race, do you go faster in order to get a better Beyer and final time, or do you get to the wire first and save something for the next race? He'll need to bump his Beyer figure up to win here -- but so will most of the others and the 106 this guy got in the Risen Star shows he's capable, while some of the others have yet to attain a triple-digit Beyer.

AP Warrior...Picked up on this guy in the G1 Hollywood Futurity where his fourth looked sneaky good. The next-out fourth in the NoCal stake had us shy away a little bit but our confidence has been bolstered since the move into the Shirreffs barn. If he's able to repeat the scenario of the trip in the G2 San Felipe he should be in good shape on Saturday. The trainer won last year with Giacomo and brings this one in off of a similar series of works.

Bob and John...Ran fourth in his career debut and has yet to miss the board since. Baffert trainee comes in with a traditional foundation of 2YO and 3YO races. Won the G1 Wood Memorial last time. Said to have looked good in gallops at Churchill this week.

Bluegrass Cat...We've liked him all spring and we won't jump off now that the value should sky-rocket. Won the G3 Nashua and G2 Remsen last year and came back to win a $100K stake at Tampa in 3YO debut. Ran second next-out in the G3 Tampa Bay Derby but we didn't think that was a bad race. Got going again in the stretch and was clearly second-best in the nine-horse field. The G1 Blue Grass was a different story -- but, looking for the positive, we're willing to toss that one as being a bit flukey (it was the wire job by Sinister Minister). And while Bluegrass Cat was well-beaten, he was the best of the group that stalked just behind Sinister Minister early. Two years ago trainer Pletcher brought Limehouse into this race after winning the Tampa Bay Derby by a neck and then running third in the Bluegrass. Limehouse was a good fourth in the Ky Derby at 41-1.

Brother Derek...Not convinced he can rate and, if not, the 18-post isn't going to help. Word is that the trainer has been working in the morning at getting the horse to relax early -- but I'm not sure I want a horse who is getting a strategy change going into a race of this magnitude. So there are some knocks -- but, all that said, it's just too hard to ignore that way he breezed through his SoCal stakes schedule this year.
------ Clearly we've ignored some of the contenders who are going to get some action on Saturday. Showing Up and Barbaro both come in undefeated and will be bucking enough historical trends that a win this weekend would elevate them to star status. But, with only three starts, it's really hard to use Showing Up. Seasoning and experience just seem like a solid requirement for handling nineteen other horses and 150,000 screaming fans. Between the two Barbaro seems more likely to make history because he's already overcome some adversity. In his first start on dirt he won the G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream over a sloppy sealed track and then followed that up with a win in the G1 Florida Derby coming out of the 10-post which has been deadly there over the past two seasons. Still, like Showing Up he might be lacking in seasoning. And while we'll give trainer Matz his defense of the five-week layoff as being a questionable trend because there haven't been preps at that interval in the past -- we have to feel shaky when seeing a horse coming into the Derby with only one race on the resume since Feb 4.

Steppenwolfer and Jazil both look a little bit like money-burners. Horses with that big closing kick often attract plenty of attention and the feeling that they're the one to play "next time" -- particularly if the next race is longer. But horses tend to have the same run regardless of the distance, they just start it later in a longer race. So more often than not history repeats itself and this kind winds up bridesmaid more than bride -- and typically at less than fair value because so many people jump on the bandwagon after the just-miss efforts. That said, because of the expected hot-pace this year we'll be boxing some of these closer-types in an exacta to hedge against a complete meltdown on the front-end.

It looks like Sinister Minister's shot will be if he's allowed to get to the front alone. That seems unlikely -- but that's what makes a race with so many need-for-the-lead types so hard to handicap, it becomes a little bit of a guessing game about trainer/jockey strategy. We just find it hard to believe he'll be allowed to sneak away early.

Point Determined and Sweetnorthensaint are actually both kind of attractive -- but you can only use so many horses. They were considered and just missed making our cut.

Of the rest, only Seaside Retreat would have to be considered a total shock if he won. The rest have enough knocks that we wouldn't use them -- but they also have enough positives that they can't be considered out of the hunt.

Belmont: Nassau Cty BC G2 $200K

Hello Liberty 9-1
Win McCool 7-1
Swap Fliparoo 4-1

Wager: $5 WP on Crystal Current.
Ran 5th at 2-1*.
...$4 exacta box top two.
Ran 4-5.
...$2 tri key Crystal Current over next three.
Ran 5/1-4-6.

Crystal Current...Third to Bushfire and that one has run a couple of good ones since. Might appreciate return to sprinting.
Diamond Spirit...Cutting back to sprint and turf-to-dirt for Allen Jerkens.
How True It Is...Undefeated and a bullet work for this. Might be ready for stakes debut.
Hello Liberty.

Churchill: CD Hcp G2 $200K

Trickey Trevor 9-1
With Distinction 7-1
Level Playingfield 17-1

Vicarge scratched.

Wager: $5 WP on Vicarage.
...$2 exacta box top two.
...$1 exacta box top four.
Ran 3-5-10.
...$1 tri box top four.
Ran 3-5-10.

Vicarage...He's shown flashes and always seem on the verge of turning the corner. Makes second start as a 4YO and let's see if he can fulfill some of that promise.
Battle Won...Won this race last year in one of his best performances. Needs to step it up off of last but he really likes Churchill.
Level Playingfield...Typically in the hunt. Fifth last time to Bordonaro, and that's a pretty good one.
Charging Indian.

Churchill: La Troienne G3 $100K

Joint Effort 6-1
Adien 8-5*
Smart N Pretty 7-2

Wager: $5 WP on Adieu.
Collected $9.50 on the WP (xxx, 3.80).
...$2 exacta box top two.
Collected $54.00 on the ex box ($54.00/$2).
...$1 exacta box top four.
Collected $27.00 on the ex box.
...$1 tri box top four.
Ran 1-2-5-6.

Adieu...Gets the nod off of her 2YO class. The layoff is a concern but Pletcher is OK in that area.
Joint Effort...This gal seems better than her last two -- and she's yet to miss the exacta in five tries over this track.
Sweet Belle...Diplomat Lady won a Keeneland stake when she got out of the shadow of Balance. This gal might also appreciate that scenario.

Churchill: CD Distaff Turf Mile G3 $100K

Mirabilis 5-1
Special Grayce 28-1
More Than Promised 12-1

Wager: $5 WP on Lock and Key.
Ran 5th at 7-2.
...$2 exacta box top two.
Ran 4-5.
...$1 exacta box top four.
Collected $119.40 on the ex box ($238.80/$2).
...$1 tri box top four.
Ran 1-2-4-5.

Lock and Key...Had a solid season as a 3YO filly in Europe last year -- often facing the boys. Should be set-up for a solid try today off of the to just-miss efforts sprinting on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita.
Wend...Mott trainee was in the midst of a 5-race streak at this time last year. So when she's good, she's good -- and she's good right now. Comes in off of to stakes wins.
Mirabilis...Frankel and PVal and she might be better than her three US starts indicate.
Special Grayce.

Churchill: Humana Distaff Hcp G1 $250K

Pussycat Doll 4-1
Behaving Badly 4-5*
Bending Strings 13-1

Wager: $5 WP on Behaving Badly.
Collected $7.00 on the WP (xxx, 2.80).
...$2 exacta box top two.
Collected $20.40 on the ex box ($20.40/$2).
...$1 exacta box top four.
Collected $10.20 on the ex box.
...$1 tri box top four.
Ran 1-2-5-6.

Behaving Badly...Pro-tem leader of older F/M sprint division. Hard to look past off of her 2006 record.
Pussycat Doll...Sprinting is probably her best game. Finally steps out of age-restricted races but working well for the assignment.
Splendid Blended...On the way to superstar status early in her career. Then went to the bench. Could be rounding back to the prior top form.
Nossa Cancao.

Churchill: Turf Classic G1 $400K

English Channel 7-2
Cacique 2-1*
Milk It Mick 8-1

Wager: $5 WP on Cacique.
Collected $9.00 on the WP (xxx, 3.60).
...$2 exacta box top two.
Collected $27.00 on the ex box ($27.00/$2).
...$1 exacta box top four.
Collected $13.50 on the ex box.
...$1 tri box top four.
Collected $92.50 on the tri box ($185.00/$2).

Cacique...Regally-bred Frankel/Juddmonte runner just missed in US debut. Charmo and Aragorn came out of that G1 Kilroe to run 1-2 in nice grass stake at Golden Gate last weekend.
English Channel...Super 3YO turfer has done well since transitioning to facing older..
Milk It Mick...Won the tough G1 Kilroe then disappointed a little in next. But he'll go well here.
Silver Tree.

Delaware: LaBelle Memorial $75K

Urban Guy 7-2
Mike'sgoodandtough 10-1
City Dweller 3-5*

Laptop Computer, Pirating, Dontfearthereaper scratched.

Wager: $5 WP on City Dweller.
Ran 3rd.
...$2 exacta box top two.
...$1 exacta box top four.
...$1 tri box top four.

City Dweller...Speed-burner has been solid as a 3YO and won stake debut at Hawthorne last time.
Laptop Computer...Legit stakes competitor shows names like Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer and Barbican in the PPs.
Pirating...Nice, improving figures coming into this.

Pimlico: Woodlawn $75K

Rock Lobster 5-2
Extra Bend 7-1
Unbridled Behavior 9-2

Stormatic scratched.

Wager: $5 WP on Stormatic.
...$2 exacta box top two.
...$1 exacta box top four.
Collected $20.20 on the ex box ($40.40/$2).
...$1 tri box top four.
Ran 1-2-4.

Stormatic...This could be fun as we expect some serious value here. Has had trouble in both starts this year. Stretching to two turns off a couple of sprints. Makes turf debut but should take to the grass.
Independent George...Two solid starts since moving to the lawn.
Extra Bend...Actually looks like he might have a little bit of an edge on these but is moving out of high-percentage barn(s) into low-percentage.
Rock Lobster.

Hollywood: Senorita G3 $100K

Foxysox 4-5*
Arlene 5-1
Shermeen 3-1

Wager: $5 WP on Foxysox.
Collected $16.00 on the WP (3.80, 2.60).
...$4 exacta box top two.
Ran 1-3.
...$2 tri top three -- in order.
Ran 1-3-4.
...$2 tri key Foxysox over next two.
Ran 1/3-4.

Foxysox...Undefeated since arriving stateside and seems to be improving.
Shermeen...Took the lead in G3 last time and faded. Might be tighter and hold longer today.
No Greater Love.

Hollywood: Railbird G3 $100K

Bettarun Fast 5-1
Mystery Girl 7-1
So Long Sonoma 2-1*

Wager: $5 WP on Acceleration.
Ran 5th at 3-1.
...$4 exacta box top two.
Ran 3-5.
...$2 tri key Acceleration over next three.
Ran 5/1-3-6.

Acceleration...Solid, improving figures coming into this.
So Long Sonoma...Impressive in two starts so far. Working well and should go well in stakes debut.
El Mirage Queen...Two wins and a just-miss second in last three and the last two were stakes.
Bettarun Fast.

Coast-to-coast Archives...Picks, plays and results from previous weeks


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