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Friday, January 06, 2006

The Aventura

- 14 three-year olds go in the Aventura at Gulfstream on Saturday. It’s the first of the Derby prep races for the Florida contingent, a series whose credibility is in question since last year’s change in the track configuration and stakes scheduling. After this, it’s three stakes at the same nine furlong route which is heavily skewed towards the inside posts, culminating in the Florida Derby, held in the no man’s land of five weeks before the big race. Last year’s winner and runner-up High Fly and Noble Causeway didn’t fare too well at Churchill as you may recall.

In Summation (Put It Back) will garner a lot of attention in the Aventura and is listed as the 3-1 morning line favorite. He was a summer sensation at Calder, going five for five in sprints before being nosed by Blazing Rate in a game effort in his first two turn try. But I think he’ll have a tough task here at the one turn mile in his first start since that Oct 15 effort. Trainer Frank Gomez does not excel in bringing horses back off layoffs, and it looks as if he may get some company up front. May also be worth noting that his fastest races were over off tracks.

However, finding the one to beat him is a difficult task. Catcominatcha (Tale of the Cat) would be the logical alternative; he is, after all, the only graded stakes winner in the field, and that came in the Iroquois, contested at Churchill over the same one turn mile route. However, he greatly benefited from a hot early pace that day – note that it took him 51 seconds to cover the last half mile. One can excuse his 5th in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club against Private Vow and High Cotton; but I’m not going to be inspired to bet him as the second choice here (and possibly the favorite).

My Golden Song (Unbridled’s Song) is listed at 6-1 for Pletcher; he’s two-for-two lifetime, but is buried on the rail and needs to pick up his speed figs. Allan Jerkins has Saint Daimon, an impressive closing winner of his last two at six furlongs in New York. But he stretches out, may not work out the rail trip that he did in both of those races, and the trainer was somewhat disappointed with a particularly fast 1:25 4/5 seven-furlong workout the other day. [Bloodhorse]

So, now that I’ve dissed the top four choices, here’s a few interesting ones that could be nice prices. Corinthian is a son of Pulpit coming off a one-turn mile win at the Big A; he’s a half brother to San Rafael winner Desert Hero. Nick Zito, who won this race with High Fly last year, starts Little Cliff, cutting back to one turn after two wins around two. He’s a son of Gulch, out of a Capote half-sister to Chekov and Bright Feathers, the dam of Albert the Great.

Two more that interest me in particular in this most difficult betting race are:

Dixie Swinger (Unbridled’s Song) goes for the Anthony Dutrow stable, and according to Haskin, brother Rick Dutrow touted him as his best young horse in October. This is obviously a huge step up in class and distance from his 5 1/2 furlong maiden win in November. But this barn is blazing right now, and he certainly has the pedigree, being by Unbridled’s Song out of stakes winner Cool Dixie (Dixieland Band). His second and third dams, Be Cool and Icy Time (brrrr…) are stakes winners as well.

Itsallboutthechase has an unusual pedigree by today’s standards, being by Devil His Due out of a Dynaformer mare, which means that his sire and distaff lines both trace back to Hail To Reason (4x4)/Turn-to; and his dam Wild Goose Chase is inbred 3x3 to the full brothers Graustark and His Majesty. He has nary a drop of Northern Dancer or Mr. Prospector to be found. Whether all that means he can win this race, I haven’t a clue, but it’s pretty cool. More relevant is the huge rally he put in to graduate in his last race; he closed in real racehorse time while 6-7 wide in his first try with blinkers on, and is listed at 15-1.

- This race probably would qualify to be in category #6 in Dave Litfin’s recent column Habits every horseplayer can use in the Form (sub. Only).

Identify time-wasters and eliminate them. Learn to recognize and categorize races for the hopelessly inept, races with insufficient information, and races that are ultra-competitive. Devote most of your handicapping time to the more promising spots.
Nonetheless, it seems like a race on which to have some fun, take a small flyer on a horse at a good price and/or go deep on your multi-race bets.


Teaman said...

Thanks for the heads up Alan. I"Ve got all your comments next to your horses written on my form for tomorrow. When I scanned the card earlier I wrote off the 7th as being too tough for me. Too many horses...too little knowledge. After reading your thoughts maybe I'll "Dig in" a bit and watch the odds and take a minor shot at a fat EX.

Alan Mann said...

I think I'm going to use Catcominatcha in my exactas top and bottom and stand against In Summation, My Golden Song, and, nervously, Saint Daimon. I watched the last race of Itsallboutthechase; don't know what he beat there (though two of them came back to break their maidens), but it was very impressive visually and not too far off figure-wise.

Ruben Bailey said...

Well, maybe I'll be be to catch the last couple from the East Coast. We'll be in the Turf Club at Portland Meadows at around 11:30 am for a little birthday party: Ruben Bailey is now officially 30 and he thought it would be nice to bring 20 or so of his friends to watch two Quarter Horse Races and seven t-breds ranging from $4K Maidens and Claimers, to the featured $10K Mt. St. Helens for Fillies.

Alan Mann said...

Hey Ruben - Welcome to adulthood! Have a great time at the track! Who knows, when you're there for your 31st, maybe you'll get to see Highland Cat there running for $4K.