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Friday, November 25, 2011

Churchill Friday [Updated - + Aqueduct]

I read someone write somewhere that a win by Ruler On Ice (4-1) in the Clark on Friday would put him in the running for 3 yo championship honors, and are you kidding me? That would be his third win of the year, and one of them was the Belmont, which shouldn't even count. Yeah, I know, the "Test of Champions" and yada yada; but a mile and a half is an abnormal distance that most thoroughbreds can't handle, and the result of the race, as we've seen increasingly in recent years, often has little or nothing to do with the relative abilities of the horses involved at the distances at which championships are (or at least should be) determined. (Didn't hurt him that the track was sloppy that day either.) I think Caleb's Posse is a pretty clear winner of the 3yo Eclipse.

The other thing is that this year's Clark is a pretty weak edition, so much so that Ruler on Ice could actually win (though I'll lose if he does). Not much to say about his form; he's not a bad horse, but he doesn't have what it takes to beat top competition at normal distances. Flat Out (5-2) is back after being the beaten favorite in the Classic, and I do not like him one bit as the favorite in the Clark. Never was a huge fan even when he was running well, and feel that his campaign is getting long in the tooth at this point. He's never won a graded stake around two turns on a fast track, and he hasn't been better than 5th in three tries at Churchill. He is, in my opinion, about as easy a throwout of a favorite as you'll see. Hope I don't regret saying that.

Unfortunately, it's slim pickens as far as finding an alternative. Wise Dan (4-1) would be a contender in the slop, over which he's two-for-two at Churchill. But he's 0 for three on fast tracks and the forecast is good. Prayer for Relief (5-1) is probably the logical choice by default with his string of Minor Derby wins followed by his defeat behind repeat winner Redeemed in the Ohio Derby; but hard to get too excited at that price given his poor post position.

The horse who interests me at a price is Mister Mardi Gras (12-1). Four-year old gelded son of Belong to Me has been handled more patiently this year after some ambitious placings last year in which he hardly disgraced himself. That strategy paid off with a win in the G3 Wash Park on the Poly at Arlington. Switched to the dirt after that, he closed stoutly after having to back up and circle the field from last while extremely wide, finishing 4th in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (behind Headache (12-1)). And he had what seems like a perfect prep over this (albeit muddy) surface in the Ack Ack. Saved ground until swinging wide entering the stretch and rallied to win rather handily in a not-too-taxing effort in a race which didn't have much pace, which may be the case in the Clark as well. Jumps in class and will probably have to put in a career-best effort; but seems poised to do so, and the price will be right.

In the 10th, Future Prospect (4-1) returns to this track after a poor effort on the Poly at Keeneland that I think we can excuse, as he doesn't seem to care for that surface. Prior was a G2 stakes win at Turfway. Seven-year old son of Freud failed on this track at this mile route against 50K claimers in May, but got good after that. A four race winning streak started with a win here at 6 1/2 furlongs in which he rallied from off the pace as opposed to his usual front-running style. His jockey that day was Manoel Cruz who, interestingly, returns to the saddle for the first time since then. If the rider can utilize his natural speed wisely from his outside post, he could control the proceedings and roll to a win in this spot. Agastache (8-1) comes off a win over the track at six furlongs. Been sprinting of late but has won here at this distance in the past. Dubious Miss (5-2) is a dubious favorite in this spot in my opinion.

Continuing to work backwards for no particular reason, in the 9th, Revelstoke (4-1) comes off a solid effort off a layoff and over this course in this class and should be ready to get the job done here. Had a pretty easy trip that day but couldn't quite pass the even money favorite Exclusive Love, earning a career high Beyer of 86. Do you downgrade the effort because of the ground saving trip and clear shot at the leader? Or figure that she's eligible to improve here since the race probably didn't take too much out of her? (Similar question regarding Mister Mardi Gras in the Clark.) Considering that trainer Jim Corrigan is hitting at 38% second off the layoff, I'm figuring that we'll see a solid effort on this day. Heavenly Landing (3-1) moves up in class after a handy win in her first try on turf.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, best of luck and have a great day and holiday weekend. (Hope you don't have to go in to work on Friday like me.)

[UPDATE: In the 9th at the Big A, the G2 Go For Wand (sandwiched between two awful maiden claimers at the end of the card), I'm all in on the Magical Dutrow Tour. C C's Pal (6-1) was a different animal in her first start for the barn, gliding along under a confident Johnny V while perched three wide for the entirety of the sweeping turn for home at Belmont, and besting the promising Alseera. Dutrow had another winner on Thursday, and is now 14 for 27 at the meet. If you can't beat em, join em. From her outside post, this modestly-bred daughter of Alex's Pal can use her tactical speed to ride the old Ussery's Alley to the winner's circle. All Due Respect (3-1) comes off a layoff for Dutrow, has run well in that circumstance before, and could complete an all Hey Babe exacta. Arena Elvira (5-2) has won four in a row (albeit all around two turns) and is clearly the one to beat.]


Anonymous said...

Tom Durkin calls race 1 at the Big A.

Longshot Hopeful Boy with a narrow lead. I don't think that 2-1 is a longshot. Its time for him to hangem up. He can't even make a win photo call anymore. I have seen photo finishes that my 2 year could make the call. But, Durkin will say to close to call. He's been a good soldier and now its time for him to retire in my opinion. Time to go Tommy boy.

Anonymous said...

Oh yea anon 12:09 I saw that race and his call of the co-favorite being a longshot was ridiculous. He for sure has gone south with his race calling and as you alluded to with his photo calls. As he did in todays second race not being able to make the call on the wire. It was very clear that the 7 horse won the race and Durkin was reluctant to make the call.

Figless said...

He's not what he used to be but if John Imriale is the alternative they should keep sending Durkin out there for as long as he wishes.

Anonymous said...

I love Durkin, but I do agree he is five lengths slower than his best day. A few weeks ago when that 90-1 shot won at Aqueduct, he forgot to note the horse was 90-1 when they hit the wire. He will definitely be missed, and he'll be impossible to replace, but he probably should wind down. -jp