- I haven’t mentioned Bandini’s smashing comeback the other day, even though I correctly said he would win and should at least brag about that (though I missed the cold exacta by a neck and a nose). It seems I’m almost speechless at the way Pletcher has been bringing horses back to win off long layoffs, even those whose previous year ended in disaster. Besides Bandini, he’s won at Gulfstream with Firejack (254 days), Ghostly Apparition (225), Tompest (158), Ready to Please (242), Monarch Lane (278), Keyed Entry (181), and Bluegrass Cat (84); as well as off slightly shorter layoffs with India, Harlington, and Wait A While.
If Bandini has HRTV, he can check out some possible future competition in the handicap division when the Santa Anita Handicap is run at Santa Anita on Saturday. I’m having a hard time getting past High Limit (Maria's Mon). Some question his ability to get the mile and a quarter based on last year’s failures, but I think he’s a different horse now and that should all go out the window. He showed a new dimension in the Strub, passing horses in the stretch for the first time in achieving a lifetime best Beyer of 111. Brad Free in the Form (sub. only) discusses that fig in light of the fact that Bob and John, who ran nearly the identical time on the same track earlier in the card that day, only got a 93. Andy Beyer says “I am confident that our numbers are right,” and the last time I dared to question his numbers, I was dead wrong.
"Even though their final times were almost identical, I cannot believe that Bob and John came close to running a figure like High Limit's 111……[Bob and John's] previous races had been 92, 93, and 85. Okay, maybe he improved, but what about runner-up Hawkinsville? His previous best was an 80. If you accept a giant figure for Bob and John, then Hawkinsville ranks among the nation's leading 3-year-olds."Beyer is backed up by track superintendent Steve Wood, who told the Form, "Around 3:15, the moisture rises and the track becomes wet and gets dead, and people say, 'He changed it.' "
"On Feb. 4, I concluded that the track was much slower for the last three races - when High Limit won the Strub - than it was for the first three races on the card, when Bob and John ran.”
High Limit may or may not find himself on the lead. "If there is speed, I want to get the same trip," Frankel said. "If there is no speed, he can go to the lead..” [DRF] Lava Man came off the pace in winning the Millions race, but the early fraction were ridiculous and the race totally fell apart; I think he’ll be closer to the pace early here. Spellbinder has speed but can sit just off the pace as well.
Whatever happens, I don’t know that they’ll be a fast enough pace to set the race up for Giacomo. As much as I’d like to see him achieve success, his overall record strongly indicates that he’s usually good for a piece of the purse, but will only win if the race falls apart. Whatsmore, John Sherriffs doesn’t expect him to even be at his peak. "Will he be near his peak performance after one race? I don't think so.” He’s going to take money on the second-race-back theory, and if so, I’d look to leave him out of the exactas, and see if I could get a decent price using High Limit with someone else. The problem is…who? It’s not really a stellar field. Lava Man will likely be third choice and won't generate value, and besides, he still has to show me that he's regained his top form from last year. Spellbinder is on the improve for sure, and is a possibility if he can get the extra furlong. Frankel’s other entry, Marenostrum, looks like a longshot possibility. I’m even almost tempted to say….Wilko?