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Friday, January 28, 2005

Trust the Frankel Touch?

Sometimes you’ll see a race in which a horse is ceded the pre-race role of favorite, based on class, his trainer, or perhaps because he’s won before on that track or in a prior edition of the same stakes, even though there are compelling reasons to doubt that he can win; and people will spend the run-up to the race insisting that the horse will be bet too much to be worth a wager and vowing to seek more value elsewhere. This seems to be the case with Midas Eyes (Touch Gold) in tomorrow’s million-dollar jewel of the Sunshine Millions program, the OBS Classic at 1 1/8 miles. Despite being the clear morning line favorite, only 1 of the handicappers in the Form’s selection box picks him on top, and with reservations, whilst the other three don’t even have him in the money; and Dave Liftin and Mike Watchmaker weigh in against him as well [links subscription only], citing, among other things, the fact that he'll be overbet.

In fact, it feels as if it’s almost a contrarian view to make a case for him here. Yes, he’s won and placed in Grade 1’s, but he’s only been around two turns once, a very wide-on-both-turns closing 4th in last year’s Strub for 3 yo’s at the same Classic distance at Santa Anita. It was a game effort to be sure. But 9 furlongs from an outside post at Gulfstream has never been a picnic, and the new configuration there puts the starting gate closer to the first turn than Condoleezza Rice is to the President, and from the 11 post, he figures to have an even rougher time than Condi did during her confirmation process. However, it could be that Midas Eyes will present more than enough value for those who believe his class can overcome; I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he’s not even the post time favorite.

If anyone figures to be overbet, it may be Second of June (Louis Quatorze). Yes, his high-Beyer efforts here as a 3 yo last winter were superb, but it remains to be seen if his roughly run 2nd against a quartet of allowance horses at Calder after ten months off recovering from a condylar fracture of the cannon bone is enough preparation for this, and trainer William Cesare is 0-7 in the 2nd-off-180 days off category. Two fine workouts since are a plus for this June foal 4 yo who sold for only $7500 at two, but I think he may not present sufficient value here.

Lava Man and Cozy Guy, though they sound like they could be a new pair of superheroes on Spongebob Squarepants, are instead two 4 year olds who both improved drastically from the claiming ranks to run 1-2 respectively in a rich Cal-bred stakes at this distance at Santa Anita last fall, and both have remained sharp since then. In fact, Lava Man (Slew City Slew) ran a close second to Rock Hard Ten in the Grade 1 7-furlong Malibu in his last. He stretches back out for red-hot trainer Doug O’Neill, who claimed him for 50K last summer, while Cozy Guy (Alphabet Soup) comes off a close third in a one mile turf stakes to repeat stakes winner Whilly, and should benefit from the rail.