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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Who Do You Like on Opening Day?

- The Oak Tree meeting opens at Santa Anita on Wednesday, and it's a cause celebre for racing fans everywhere. The meet gets off to a rollicking start with a contentious six-horse allowance race on the grass. Here's the breakdown:

Symphony Sid (5-1) was claimed for $50K by Mike Mitchell two back, and his last was a thoroughly fine 5th in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, in which he earned a 92 Beyer that is well competitive in this field. Drops down to the N3L allowance level - he won at the NW3X level at Bay Meadows last year (he's the only horse in for the optional claiming tag). The cut back from a mile and three-eighths to nine furlongs should help as well as the inside draw. He could very well be lone speed in here too.

Unrivaled Song (2-1) is two-for-two lifetime and on the grass for Neil Drysdale. In his last, he broke a bit slow, and was extremely wide coming out of the turn, and closed to win, getting his final furlong in 11 1/5. The horses that ran second and third ran behind Symphony Sid in the Del Mar. Unrivaled Song is by Fusaichi Pegasus out of a Danehill mare, which makes him inbred 3x3 to Danzig.

Budha (9-2) was a Grade 3 winner in Chile. His two allowance races here have been OK, but other than a couple of sharp recent workouts, not too much to get excited about here.

Robador (7-2) has returned in fine fettle as a four-year old after a year layoff, with two route wins on the dirt. He put in some decent efforts on the grass in three winless tries. He's by the late Batonnier, a 15% turf sire who is inbred 3x3 to Ribot, and he has some European stakes winners on his distaff side. Still, I'd want some value against some horses with proven grass form.

Potential (8-1) is the longest shot in the morning line, but I dunno, it seems to me that his last race, a win at 35-1 in his turf debut, stacks up quite favorably against that of the morning line choice. For one thing, he ran a faster race according to Beyer, 90-87, and he too was very wide swinging for home. Whatsmore, whereas Unrivaled Song loped along and saved ground early, Potential had to run early to stay in contact with a quick pace; his first quarter was 22.89. After a second quarter was 23.80, and he quickened in each of the subsequent quarters as he rolled home in 23.49. The two horses out of the race that have started ran 1-2 in the Ponoma Derby at Fairplex (on the dirt). Not much turf in the pedigree to speak of, and an anemic Tomlinson of 186. But his performance on the grass certainly showed some potential (sorry).

Much Faster is 3-1 morning line off a 13 month layoff for Frankel. Another one of those TNT horses from Brazil (and I'm surprised that a stable with that name is permitted to fly equines or humans into this country), he had shown steady progress culminating in a win in his 4th U.S. start in an entry level allowance at a mile and three-eights. He earned a 93, the highest last grass Beyer in this race, but he has to contend with a move up in class and a cut back to a distance that may be less than what he'd prefer. He's working nicely, but damn it, I'll continue to stand against these long layoff horses that are overbet until I eventually go broke. Besides, this horse may not be the best one here even without the layoff.

PICKS:
Symphony Sid - in front as far as he goes
Potential - can split the exacta (at least) at a fair price
Unrivaled Song - tough to pick against a horse that has come home in 11 1/5 in both starts, but I think the value will lie elsewhere as this one needs to go faster as he moves up and tackles elders.

5 Comments:

Walter said...

Unrivaled Song is a star in the making. Not much more i can say, except that i'd expect him to win tomorrow. I haven't looked at the PP's yet, but i think he can handle just about any optional claimer you throw in front of him. Incidentally, i'm pretty sure he's a half-brother to a multiple stakes-winner, although i forget who it was. I read about it before his debut. Interestingly, Drysdale seems to be taking it slow with this one. He's a conservative guy by nature, but i was rather surprised he didn't turn up in the Del Mar Derby. Seemed like a good spot to get some black type without having to face older horses just yet.

Walter said...

Just looked it up. Unrivaled Song is a half to Sherwood Park, a nice horse but not who i was thinking of. I must've been thinking of Melleray, Unrivaled Song's mom. She was a really nice one several years back. In any case, the horse can run.

P.S.- I forgot to mention, i read today that the new polytrack surface @ Hollywood is getting "rave reviews" from horsemen.

Walter said...

Just looked at the workout reports for tomorrow. Since my clocker goes on vacation during Fairplex, i don't have anything too recent on Unrivaled Song, but i'll share what i got:

UNRIVALED SONG (Aug 30, 117.2)

Ultra talented turfer breezed with power here in 52.4, 117.1 finishing with a ton left at the wire. Grade B+

Now on to more important issues, namely the Arc. Deep Impact will have his final drill Wednesday morning. By all accounts, the horse is spot-on for the race, and this looks like a very good betting oppurtunity should he go off @ his projected 3/1 odds. Looks like the field is coming up pretty small by Arc standards, with only 12 horses left in at the final entry deadline. Two of those horses are Dylan Thomas and the filly Alexandrova, who are about 99% certain to pass. So there should be a field of 10 or fewer, which should alleviate most traffic issues. Of greater concern is the ground, as they got a ton of rain on Monday and the track has turned soft, at least for the time being. There's also a hurricane in the area that's supposed to dump some more rain, so it looks like the ground will be less than firm on raceday. That's good news for Hurricane Run, and particularly Shirocco, each of whom would relish the squishy going. I saw that Alan Shuback in the Racing Form claims that Deep Impact has never raced on a surface less than "good", though i believe he's mistaken. I'm about 90% sure that Deep Impact's last race was over a rain-soaked course. I e-mailed my Man in Japan, and i'm awaiting confirmation on that. I don't think a soft course would be much of an issue for him, although he'd certainly move up on a firm course due to his competition moving backwards. In any case, his work tomorrow should be over soft ground, so we should get a sneak preview. I have the utmost respect for Hurricane Run and Shirocco, in fact i even had Shirocco to win the Breeders Cup last year. But i firmly believe Deep Impact is gonna beat them on Sunday. I think it's very telling that Heart's Cry was able to trounce Ouija Board in Dubai, and was able to match strides with Hurricane Run and Electrocutionist in the King George. Deep Impact is certainly better than Heart's Cry, nobody in Japan disputes that. Also, his jockey Yutaka Take rode El Condor Pasa to a 2nd-place finish in the Arc several years back (Japan's best-ever finish), and he says that Deep Impact is "twice as good" as that one. Throw in that 1 1/2-mile drill where Deep Impact reportedly got his final quarter in 21 seconds, and i think we're looking at the best grass horse in the world. Maybe one of the best ever. 3/1? Ummm, yeah, i'll take that.

Anonymous said...

Walter, I agree and am anxiously awaiting Sunday. Looking for a Deep impact/ Hurrican Run/ Shirocco, Pride, Rail Link Trifecta and exactas with Deep I. over Hurricane Run and Shirocco. Byanose

Walter said...

I hadn't even thought about exactas, but i guess it makes sense, because it's awfully hard to see someone other than Hurricane Run or Shirocco taking second (should Deep Impact win the race). Maybe Pride could sneak in there if you catch her on a good day, but i'd tend to doubt it. Alexandrova would deserve a very hard look if she runs, but it doesn't look like she will. Incidentally, i wonder if she's passing the race because her connections don't want her confidence shattered right before the Breeders Cup. An Arc win wouldn't be out of the question, but it's more likely she'd be a well-beaten 3rd or 4th. One thing to keep in mind though, if she does run. Ouija Board and Islington each won the F&M Turf after dropping out of the Arc. It's not often the Breeders Cup represents a class-drop, but in those two cases it certainly did.