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Friday, August 23, 2013

Red Hot Trainer Hopes Luck Carries Through to Travers

Wow, an amazing couple of days for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who followed up his perfect two-for-two on Wednesday with another one on Thursday, and did so with flair and some bizarre similarities.  The two on Wednesday were running in the colors of Shadwell; the pair on Thursday for Darley.  In the 7th, McLaughlin once again prevailed with a two-year old filly making her debut in a turf sprint.  As with Almurra on Wednesday, she was 6-1 morning line.  Sky Painter ($18) was also dull on the tote (though surely not to the same extent as Almurra, who was 22-1). And both fillies are by Street Cry out of a graded stakes winning mare; in the case of Sky Painter, Skywalker (Sky Mesa), who won Grade 2's at Pimlico and Indiana Downs.

Then, in the 8th, it was With Sugar on Top ($24.20) storming from the back of the pack to stun the crowd (other than Andy Serling).  This is a three-year old daughter of the late Unbridled's Song who had run into some slow pace scenarios in her last couple of tries.  Got a hot pace here for sure; but they still came home pretty quickly - 36 2/5 seconds for the last three furlongs, and the winner closed quite a bit of ground in that time.  So can't say the race fell apart (though perhaps worth noting that the second place finisher was an 8-1 show who came from dead last).  With Sugar on Top is out of Fast Cookie (Deputy Minister), who won the De La Rose over the very same inner turf course in 2004.  Perhaps if I'd spent Wednesday night handicapping instead of writing this blog, I would have seen that little tidbit before the race.  It's occurred to me lately that every race one misses because he or she is doing something else is one that could have been an all-time memorable score.  Keep that in mind next time you're deciding whether to play the races or watch the third season of Breaking Bad on DVD.

Now, McLaughlin might be thinking that he'd prefer to bottle some of that magic for Saturday, when he will start Transparent (10-1)  in the Travers. (He has a couple of entries for Friday, including Villanesca [12-1] in the Grade 1 Ballerina.)  Coming off his DQ-d 'win' in the Curlin, Transparent is, to me, the most likely alternative to the big three, even without his trainer currently being on fire.  This son of Bernardini has come around after a slow start to his career.  McLaughlin told of excuses for those early efforts in this article by Teresa in the Saratogian.  

But all that doesn't matter now; he's been good for awhile and seems to be getting better. Transparent has won three of his last four, winning easily each time; and he was taken out of his mid-pack closer running style when he pressed the pace and encountered traffic problems when he finished 6th in the Gotham.  Given that running style, and considering that he's by a Travers winner our of a daughter of Unbridled's song, you'd think he won't have a problem with the extra furlong.  (Though there's not much on the catalog page - and his dam was a sprinter and he's a half to one in the G1 winner Street Boss.)

On the TimeformUS speed figures, Transparent actually gets a higher figure (106) for the Curlin than did Palace Malice (104) in the Jim Dandy. I don't think that matters much with respect to Palace Malice though.  I look at the narrative of his eventful journey to this point; the no-chance trip in the Louisiana Derby; the quick turnaround (no doubt overruling the trainer) to the Blue Grass two weeks later in a desperate attempt to get into the Derby (and the unexpected [to me] success there over an unfamiliar surface), the wild and wacky blinkers experiment gone awry in the Derby. Then, after a five week break, a Belmont win that I think can be described as appearing almost routine; he looked like a winner every step of the way. One would suppose that, with the Triple Crown pressure off, the Jim Dandy was merely a prep, for which he wasn't fully cranked, in which he closely tracked a pretty brisk pace and won with similar visual ease.  So I don't really care about the numbers in this case.  I believe that Palace Malice is the class of the race and will prove so rather decisively.  And I say that knowing how extra dumb I feel when I'm wrong about statements like that when the trainer is Pletcher.

Here's the TimeformUS Pace Projector for the Travers.

No, I don't think that Palace Malice and Verrazano will be quite as close to the expected pace-setter Moreno as shown here.  One has to keep in mind that this stuff is computer generated and doesn't take the human element into account, especially in a longer race such as this in which strategy will stump speed.  Pletcher's two colts will likely each be seeking similar stalking trips.  I expect separation between the two by mid-stretch. I'd like to try to beat Verrazano entirely and leave him off my tickets, especially as the favorite.  But when I watch the replay of the Haskell, I'm reminded of just how impressive that performance was visually.  I'm again struck by Johnny V ignoring the Preakness winner/Belmont runner-up in front of him and instead stealing glances behind, and by the way Verrazano was striding out smoothly and powerfully while leaving the field in his wake. I'm against him in the win spot, for sure, given my doubts about his ability to stay the distance.  But don't know if I can bring myself to leave him out entirely, as I will with Orb, assuming I'm right in that he'll be significantly lower than his 4-1 morning line.

So I'm basically thinking Palice Malice over Transparent, and I'm also quite interested, for minor awards, in Romansch, (12-1) who was placed first in the Curlin.  That was his first race against winners, and he ran huge, stumbling badly at the start and being caught very wide on both turns. Can't blame anyone who thinks that he wouldn't have needed a DQ to have beaten Transparent with a better trip.  He's another son of Bernardini, this one out of a mare by the Derby winner Go For Gin (though like Transparent, his dam was a sprinter).  And I suppose I'll also give some consideration at the very bottom of the tickets to Will Take Charge (10-1), whose good effort in the Jim Dandy perhaps heralds a return to form, but who looks to be a notch slower than these overall.

1 Comment:

Figless said...

Enlightening article on Transparent, thanks for the link.

A devil's advocate would point out that the horses facing Transparent this Saturday are at least as good or better than those that beat him in the earlier races, Unbridleds Song has not exactly been a stamina influence, and he has foot issues that may or may not be lingering, but I cant believe they would just leave on the glue on shoes if his feet were 100% healed.

Class is something that cant be measured by figures and I recognized the pace scenarios contributed but the Dandy was run over 2 full seconds faster, raw time, than the Curlin.

The Curlin was, as usual, allowance race quality which leads me to toss both of the Sheikhs horses here.