- I’m having a tough time with this year’s edition of the Florida Derby. One on hand, has there ever been a more obvious bet-against than Barbaro (Dynaformer)? Never raced on the expected fast dirt track; horrible post; hasn’t raced in eight weeks. Plus, he’s 8-5 morning line. Perhaps it’s so obvious that he’ll become a wise guy bet himself! But I think not; I imagine he’ll be closer to even money. In my opinion, you cannot be wrong betting against him if that’s the case. You can lose, but it’s still the right bet, and it’s always the right bet to bet against a big favorite that is being asked to do something that he never has before.
But who do you bet instead? Flashy Bull (Holy Bull) is the obvious candidate to upset the favorite. He was hard used to get position from the ten post in the Fountain of Youth; but with such a short run to the stretch, was still hung out four wide. He dropped back a bit at the top of the stretch, and appeared to be coming on a bit at the end; though how much of that was due to Corinthian goofing and First Samurai tiring I can’t say. Flashy Bull is a nice, handy horse with good speed to get position, but has never really finished strong enough to get excited about. Plus I think he’ll be lower than his 4-1 morning line, and to me, that would be an underlay.
Other than those two, you have a bunch of horses that have performed well enough in allowance races to think they have a shot, but have not shown enough, run fast enough, or beaten enough to get inspired about. Sunriver, Pletcher’s full brother to Ashado, won an allowance race on Fountain of Youth day in a time 4/5ths faster than the stakes race, though his Beyer was only one point faster than FOY third place finisher Flashy Bull. I’m not buying into him. He’ll also be overbet, and he beat little that day; the runner-up in the five horse field was High Blues (also in this field), in his sixth attempt at breaking out of the entry-level allowance condition. Saint Augustus, Doc Cheney, and Rehoboth all fall into this middling category; though at least they have won NW2 other than allowances.
So, while I’m not normally inclined to take a tout from Mike Watchmaker, maybe he has a point about Sharp Humor (Distorted Humor).
Given the high speed he demonstrated contesting a fast early pace when he won the Swale Stakes in his first start of the year, Sharp Humor is unquestionably the best early speed in this field. He should be able to build a clear advantage fairly quickly, and then slow down the pace. [Daily Racing Form]The problem is that he’s never been around two turns, nor longer than a mile. But perhaps that will mean a square price. He’s shown big Beyer improvement on fast tracks, and was tough and game in the Swale. Out of a Hansel mare, there seems to be no reason based on his pedigree why he can’t get a mile and an eighth. He gets a tepid vote in a race that's probably one to just watch.
- Balletto ran 4th at even money at Gulfstream on Thursday. There’s gotta be better ways to invest one’s money than a horse coming off a year and a half layoff at that price. Nobody took the winner Take D’Tour for the optional $250,000 tag.
Darley took the 9th, an entry level allowance for three-year old fillies, with Beholden, a $700,000 two –year old in training purchase, and a daughter of Cat Thief, third in the 1999 Florida Derby. You know that a stallion is a disappointment when the best they can come up with in the Stallion Register is Sire of 2006 NY SWs GREAT INTENTIONS (First Flight H. [G2], etc.) and REGAL ENGAGEMENT. Cat Thief's third crop is two this year, and those are his only two stakes winners; those are the kind of numbers that can earn him a new home outside of Kentucky. His stud fee has gone from $35,000 Live Foal to $10,000 Stands and Nurses; and that ain’t a good trend. As a racehorse, he won only four times in 30 starts, but one of those of course was the Breeders Cup Classic, which he won at age three at 19-1. That topped off a single superfecta ticket of $692,000, with Budroyale, Golden Missile, and Chester House following him home at respective odds of 26-1, 75-1, and 63-1. I didn’t have it. Did you?
- No two furlong sprint at Santa Anita in Friday’s opener; but instead a really nice allowance affair on the grass. Neil Drysdale has a German import named Dalicia who is listed as the 2-1 favorite in this race for older fillies and mares. And beware – Drysdale has scored with five out of his last six foreign imports, all of them coming off long layoffs, as is this one.
But there are some tough runners in here. Memorette (Memo) spent the first part of last year chasing the best three-year old fillies in the country, then switched to the grass and ran second (dead heat) in the G2 San Clemente last July. Last month, in her first race since then, she ran a nice closing third, missing by just a length. However, she hasn’t won in nine races dating back to Dec, 2004. Carini has put in two huge closes for a second and a win in an entry level allowance since coming over from the UK; she moves up in class here and may like the stretch from a mile to nine furlongs.
There's not any speed in here, and perhaps Frankel’s Dream Lady (Old Trieste) can steal it up front with Valenzuela despite stretching out to nine furlongs for the first time. She’s stalked in her last two, but there doesn’t look like anything to stalk this time; and she’s gone wire to wire before. She ran second in the G3 Lake George at Saratoga last summer; and this is her third off the subsequent layoff. The first two have been excellent, the last in a lifetime best Beyer, defeating Memorette. Could be a decent exacta using her on top of Drysdale’s import.