- There's too much going on tomorrow to fully digest, with the three Derby preps, the Carter, and the two filly showdowns (Country Star vs Proud Spell; Ginger Punch vs Zenyatta). Overlooked amidst all the excitement is the Oaklawn Handicap, a Grade 2 featuring a seven horse field with large implications for the Older-Horses-Besides-Curlin division.
Heatseeker is listed at the 2-1 morning line favorite. The five year old son of Giant's Causeway has matured big time, and comes off his Big Cap win in which he earned a career best Beyer of 110. Jerry Hollendorfer told the Form: "Every horse takes its own time to mature and find their self, and this horse has found himself and is very confident and is going very well."
However....and perhaps you could sense there was a 'however' coming since we always like to oppose the favorite if possible....it's certainly worth noting that all of this horse's 15 career starts have come on either the turf or synthetic tracks. It's also his first race outside of California. I know I've at times written that the synth-to-dirt thing can be overrated in some circumstances; but when it comes to evaluating a horse that's going to be a short price in a talented field, that's a different story.
I like the "new" Circular Quay, though I don't expect that he's going to be any bargain in the win pool either. In saying that, I'm betting that his win in the New Orleans Handicap was more due to the addition of blinkers than an affinity for the Fair Grounds. Pletcher said: "We got the response that we were hoping to with the blinkers." [DRF] That's for sure. Had he closed through the long stretch from far back to win, I probably would feel differently. But Garrett Gomez had to wrangle him back off the lead down the backstretch, and the length of the stretch was actually more of a disadvantage considering he was battling head and head with Grasshopper towards the end. He got that last furlong in 12 3/5.
Circular Quay's improvement could of course also be due simply to his maturation.
"He's made a big transition from 3 to 4 in terms of his physical appearance....He's a much stronger horse than he was a as 3-year-old, and he's carrying more condition, and I think that's part of the reason for his success the other day."Interesting also that the Toddster shipped the four-year old son of Thunder Gulch back to the west coast after the race; he seems to have really thrived on the Cushion Track at Hollywood, working a bullet (of 36) five furlongs in 59.1 last weekend.
Buzzards Bay ran the race of his life over this track when he won this race two years ago; but he hasn't approached that race in terms of Beyers ever since. Tiago is a big disappointment to me, and you can have him at 7-2 as far as I'm concerned. Fairbanks never seems to have recovered from the 115 he ran at SA one year ago, but could be an early factor in a race without too much speed. Silver Lord also has early foot, but seemed a bit dead on the board when he dumped his rider at Fair Grounds.
- Again, I'll be live blogging from the Big A tomorrow....and I'll be discussing the bulk of tomorrow's races, both here and around the country, during that time. If by chance you're around, check in and let us know who you like.