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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Met Mile Day

- Some thoughts on today's Memorial Day card at Belmont:

Race 1 - Cockney Gambler moves up in class confidently for the hot Phil Serpe barn. He had to angle out sharply after turning for home on the rail, and put in a nice rally when he finally got settled. He may or may not appreciate the extra furlong, but something around his 9-2 morning line seems worth a try. On the Margin also moves up, he for Bruce Levine. He lost on a head bob in his last (to a horse that came back to beat cheaper at Philly), and the turnback to seven may help. Dontess opened up a lead with ease for Eibar Coa against cheaper for the revived Howie Tesher; but the fact that Coa jumps off for Raw Cat, and the extra distance are both concerns. Raw Cat looks logical off a second at this level, but doesn't inspire confidence for the top slot.

Race 2 - Dr. D.F.C ran very well for third in his grass debut. He got squeezed a bit between horse while very wide on the turn, but once he found a lane, he closed with good energy, though he failed to last for second over the ground saving Senor Musician. Switch to Eibar Coa may help. Striking Rizzi has been consistent with three seconds since switching to grass; the third and 4th place finishers in his last both won their subsequent starts in this company.

Race 3 - The (latest) return of Commentator, 2-5 against four defenseless state-bred rivals. "He gets these fractures and they have to heal," Zito said. [DRF] That can be a problem.

Race 4 - Winstrella won easily at a mile at the Big A for the hot Toddster, turning back Joppa Flat's, who ran very well for second on Saturday; note the steady improvement in his Beyers. Cheetah Trail graduated first out for Dutrow, and ran well for second in allowance company despite hesitating at the gate both times. Note the two nice gate works since at Monmouth. He tries stretching out, and could complete (or top) a short exacta. Three in the Bag has good early foot for Contessa and has proven to be a stubborn foe on this Belmont strip.

Race 5 - This is one tough state-bred maiden race, with several of these coming off impressive graduations on the grass. Then there's That'll Do, making his grass debut for Castle Village Farm and trainer Leah Gyamarti, whose runners have been quite sharp here thus far. This three-year old son of Freud was claimed by CVF for $50,000, and has already won for them on the dirt. But the grass is where he should shine, at least according to his bloodlines. He's out of a mare by Lear Fan (Roberto) [which makes him inbred 4x3 to Roberto] who is a three-quarter sister to the St. Leger/Epsom Derby winner Touching Wood, and a half to the dam of the multiple Group 1 winner Pride. Thunderestimate was second on the board and the track to Admiral Bird in that one's Saratoga debut; and was the easiest kind of winner in his return on May 2; fifth place finisher Logic Way won the 9th on Saturday, and you may want to upgrade if Striking Rizzi runs well in the 2nd. Back to Mandalay really did win with something left, as noted in the comment line. You may want to upgrade him if Seeking No More runs well in the 2nd.

Race 6 - Reverberate looks tough here dropping back to reality after three decent tries in graded stakes; he should have a willing target in City Attraction, for whom the mile distance seems beyond his capabilities. But here's a plug for He's a Pioneer, 6-1 morning line for Bruce Levine. Yes, he had a blistering pace to run at in a pretty mediocre field when he won his last. But, according to Formulator, he ran a 21.43 second quarter just to keep up, yet still was able to circle wide and hold off Pulpiteer for the win. He's had a month off to recover from that effort, two excellent workouts since; and he's won at this mile distance.

Race 7 - Pays to Dream is two-for-two on grass in this ponderous and uninspiring state-bred allowance; doesn't have the figs, but has some nice turf pedigree. By High Yield out of a stakes winning Time for a Change (Damascus) mare, he descends from the family of the Italian champion Alwuhush and his brother, the Rothmans winner Husband. Good Going Darl probably has the best grass form, having run second to Gimme Credit in a restricted stakes last fall. The problem is that he's been out since fall and returns for a barn that's winless in 2007. Banrock also returns off a layoff, and had a series of close-but-no-cigar finishes in this class last year.

Met Mile - I dealt with this contentious edition of this classic Grade 1 stakes by the process of elimination and came up with this: Silent Name surprised in the Commonwealth on Polytrack, but has never run on natural dirt. Some people were ready to see Corinthian take on Invasor after his dazzling four-year old debut, but the narrow win over Hesanoldsalt and his poor showing after a poor break in the Excelsior has tempered some of the enthusiasm; and in any case, this doesn't seem like his ideal route. Dutrow has entered a rabbit in Mr. Umphrey, which figures to make life very difficult for Half Ours and Latent Heat (and longshot Accountforthgold as well). The latter seems the more likely of that duo to survive the early doing, but this seven furlong specialist may be hard pressed to last until the finish.

That brings me to three main contenders - Lawyer Ron, Sun King, and Silver Wagon. If you put a line through the two mile and a quarter races at Churchill Downs, Lawyer Ron has some fantastic record. He seemed far more tractable under rating by Edgar Prado in the Oaklawn Handicap than he did as a three-year old; and two back was a win at the one-turn mile of Gulfstream over subsequent two-time winner Istan. Pletcher has been spacing his races a bit less than two months apart, and this son of Langfuhr looks ready to roll. I expect a return to closing tactics for Sun King after he was closer to the pace in the Westchester, his 2007 debut and nothing more than a prep I suspect. The pace setup should be far to his liking, and he should be rolling late for the hot Zito. Silver Wagon is in incredible form for Dutrow, and interestingly his current roll seems to correspond with the addition of front bandages. Castellano will be looking for a trip identical to the one that carried him to victory in the seven furlong Carter.

I'm going to narrow it down further to Sun King and Lawyer Ron for the top slot. Silver Wagon, as sharp as he is, has never won beyond seven furlongs, while the mile seems right up the other two's alley. I can't see betting Lawyer Ron at his 5-2 morning line in this affair, and would lean towards Sun King if he's really 5-1. Even though he's never quite won a Grade 1, I feel that he's the only real legit such horse at distances beyond seven furlongs. Zito's runners have been sharp, the pace setup should be to his liking, and Sun King should be rolling late. (And a word for Jerkens' Political Force as a possible price play for the bottom portion of the exotics. This four-year old son of Unbridled's Song is improving for the Chief, and could work out a trip behind the speed.)

Race 9 - An impossible maiden turf affair including a couple of very unfortunately named runners appearing on Memorial Day. Perfect Bullet (yuck) shows two good efforts on the lawn at Gulfstream and seems the logical favorite here. First-timer War Monger (ugh) is by the excellent first-turf-out sire War Chant, out of a half-sister to the French champion Salse. He debuts for Mott, four for 35 with first time grass runners over the last year. Giant Storm debuts for the hot Stan Hough barn, just one for nine over the last two years with first-timers on the grass. This son of Giant's Causeway is a half to Argentinian champ Miss Linda, who also won the Spinster (but never won on the grass). Watch the tote on these two first-timers. Virginia Minstrel had a nice effort on grass last year; by Pleasant Tap, he's a half-brother to Bandini. Hyracotherlum is another possiblity off a decent close in a sprint for Pletcher. Good luck in this guessing game!

Race 10 - There's a tenth?

1 Comment:

Valerie said...

Alan, some great picks today! I wish I had paid more attention to them before I went to the OTW :)