- Brad Free of the Racing Form thinks it’s "cool” that Giacomo (Holy Bull) is returning to the races in the G2 Strub at Santa Anita on Saturday, even if he faces a tough task in his first race since the Belmont.
And sure, there are a number of reasons to slam the Derby winner.However, he notes that Giacomo may simply be the fastest horse in the field despite his flaws, and cites the example of Lava Man’s win in the Sunshine Millions last week.
His speed figures are not good enough. He was lucky to win the Derby, a low-rated race that fell apart late. Giacomo has not raced in eight months and his closing style hardly suits the Santa Anita racing surface. [Daily Racing Form, subscription or print edition only]
For all the right reasons, many lined up to bet against Lava Man. And it turns out that they were right.Well, Free is alone amongst his DRF colleagues in thinking that Giacomo can win the Strub; he’s the only one in the selections box that even has him finishing in the money. Whatsmore, the Form lists the Derby winner at 6-1, and at that price, I’d be on board too (though I highly doubt he'll be anywhere near that). Trainer John Sherriffs has prepared him in a similar way as he did for the Derby, starting with s-l-o-w works, building up to a snappy seven furlongs in his final one.
Lava Man has lost a step. He is not the horse he was last summer when he earned successive Beyer Figures of 116, 120, and 112 at Hollywood Park and Del Mar. In fact, Lava Man has regressed so far that the Beyer Figure he earned Saturday was a mere 98, about eight lengths slower than his midseason form of 2005.
Problem was, there was not a horse in the Sunshine Millions Classic that could exploit Lava Man's vulnerability.
”He's a little more aggressive than he was as a 3-year-old and probably gained 150 pounds. I remember him as being kind of thin as a 3-year-old; now he's filled out. He's a bigger, stronger horse." [Bloodhorse]Sherriffs told the Form: "If we can get as much speed as the Derby [had], it would be great." Well, yeah! It would be great if I found a million bucks in the street too!
I suppose one could make a case for Greeley’s Galaxy (Mr. Greeley) in his third race off the layoff; his third in the San Fernando wasn’t bad, but wasn’t inspirational either. And I’m not even going to mention Wilko (Awesome Again). OK, I just did. "His last race, I think maybe he came back too soon and gave it the old bounce," said Corey Nakatani [Bloodhorse], referring to the fact that his 11th place finish in the Malibu came just 16 days after what had to be a tiring third in his 4yo debut. But that's just his latest in a long and growing line of excuses, and he’ll have to win a race before he gets my support.
Steve Asmussen sends New Orleans Handicap runner-up Dixie Meister (Holzmeister), who ran a lifetime best 99 Beyer in running second to Brass Hat (see how that one runs in the Donn). This Texas-bred was purchased by Gary Tanaka after the New Orleans, and his racing manager said of the 4 yo gelding, "He's a progressive horse….and he could be a top-class handicap horse based on his run in the New Orleans Handicap.” [Thoroughbred Times] My question is why Tanaka still has an owners’ license given his increasing troubles with the law, which has led him to be confined at his home.
High Limit (Maria’s Mon) returned to the races with a front-running nose victory in the San Pasqual in which he was challenged throughout, but even Bobby Frankel conceded that “it wasn't a great race.” Still, if he can reproduce his 101 Beyer at the longer distance and with other potential speed types like Actxecutive and Greeley’s Galaxy to contend with, he should be right there at the finish again.
One contender that could be overlooked is the lightly-raced Ulistnintome (Wild Rush). It seems that Richard Mandella hasn’t been quite sure what to do with this 4 yo; he’s tried sprints, routes, turf and dirt. He fires every time with a 7-2-3-2 lifetime record. He was favored against Greeley’s Galaxy at a Santa Anita route last March, closing for a no-shot third against a slow pace. He’s run just twice since that race, both excellent closes at 6 1/2 furlongs; first on the downhill turf and the last time on the dirt last month. He closed stoutly for second by a neck in that race, earning a lifetime high 97 Beyer, and could be poised for an upset on the stretchout.
Picks: Ulistnintome, Giacomo, Dixie Meister
- Nine Kentucky Derby winners have run previously in the Strub and six have won the race. Silver Charm was the most recent, beating five opponents in 1998 after his Derby victory in 1997. [LA Times]