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Monday, January 09, 2006

Gulfstream, Pletcher Off and Running

- The Gulfstream meeting got into full swing, and Todd Pletcher must think he’s in Saratoga. Like he did upstate, he’s off to a roaring start with seven winners in the first three days, including a three-bagger on Sunday. When a guy like Pletcher gets hot like this, there can develop a mentality of the races boiling down to a matter of deciding whether to “bet Pletcher” or bet against him.

Bettors who are following him have actually scored some decent prices; in addition to 14-1 Mercurius on opening day, he scored with double digit payoffs Terrific Storm ($11.40) (Pletcher’s Harbor Master ran second at 16-1 in his first grass try) and Keyed Entry ($14.00), and more on the latter in a bit. But there’s also opportunity to find some value for those who go against him when the “bet Pletcher” crowd goes overboard. Friendly Island was the 2-1 favorite in the wide open Mr. Prospector, contributing to a generous $13.60 payoff on the winner Gaff (who I didn’t have). In Saturday’s 4th, his Venetian Sunset, 4-1 morning line, was pounded to 8-5 even though it was his second career start coming against some more experienced foes with good form, including the eventual winner, Crunch the Numbers ($9.40), another off-the-layoff winner for Richard Violette. (Who I also didn’t have.)

And the most egregious underlay in my opinion was in Sunday’s 8th, in which bettors sent off Coin Silver at 5-2 in his first start since the Kentucky Derby. You may recall him winning that last chance Derby prep, the Lexington in the slop, leading him to be an overbet 38-1 in the big race, in which he ran 12th. He’s another horse whose running lines I look back at and wonder just what his connections were thinking about when they ran him in the Derby. Here, he was returning in a 6 ½ furlong affair, and he finished 8th as a classic kind of underlay. And no, I didn’t hit this race either, as I had a cold exacta the wrong way.

So thus far, there have been opportunities to make money betting on and against Pletcher’s horses. I shouldn’t really talk, because I didn’t make a penny doing either; but I at least had the right idea going against those favorites.

- It was a tough beat for me in the Aventura, at least at the time. Itsallbouthechase was amongst my four horses to lead off the Pick 3. As he swept past Doctor Decherd to take the lead midstretch, it was looking good, but the latter would not be denied, and battled back on the inside to get the head bob. Ouch. You can put so much time and effort into the Pick 3’s and 4’s, and then if you lose the first race, it’s all over just like that. Whatsmore, if your choices in the subsequent legs win, that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach can recur, as it did when Holden Champagne came from nowhere to take the 8th. But then, when Nightmare Affair was a never-in-it 4th in the Mr. Prospector, it no longer mattered. I guess you can’t even use it as a just-missed story to tell; the whole thing becomes moot.

Despite the loss, I really like Itsallboutthechase. He was live on the board throughout, drifting up to 7-1 at post time, was confidently rated well behind by Mark Guidry, and, as he did in his maiden win, made it to the lead with a wide move around the turn before this time succumbing at the end. He’s already won around two turns, showed some adaptability cutting back to the one-turn mile here, but may very well prefer stretching out again, so I’ll keep an eye on him.

The winner was obviously impressive too, and showed determination bulling his way between horses at the top of the stretch; it actually looked like he nudged Itsallbouthecase a bit wide doing so, and any loss of ground could have made the difference. Doctor Decherd is by Louis Quartorze, and his third dam is the great turf mare Sabin, who has produced some nice enough winners, but hasn’t been spectacular as a broodmare.

But I thought the most impressive three-year old I saw at Gulfstream this weekend was the aforementioned Keyed Entry, winner of the third on Saturday, his second win in as many starts for Pletcher. In this, his first start since his maiden win in July, he dueled early with uncoupled stablemate Western Slam, and then drew away most impressively to win by 5 1/2, breezing home in 1:09.47, with a final eighth of 12.10. His time was more than a second faster than Pletcher’s more highly regarded Exclusive Quality; the $850,000 yearling got his maiden win at 1-2 in the race before. Keyed Entry (Honour and Glory) is a half-brother to Alex’s Allure, a stakes winner on the grass in Louisiana this year. He’s out of a stakes-placed Cryptoclearance mare. We’ll see if Pletcher stretches him out next time; he seems to have plenty of distance influence in his pedigree.


Anonymous said...

Why was Corinthian scratched? I did not get to see the race and when I looked it up Sat. night, a few articles said he was scratched at the gate. What were his odds at the time? thanks

Alan Mann said...

Yeah, there was a very long delay at the gate and then he was scratched. Since there's virtually nowhere at Aqueduct where you can hear the audio from the simulcast tracks, I didn't know what was going on, nor hear the explanation. I believe he was in the 12-1 range.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I had him over and under about 6 horses and had to get my refunds. He was a key horse I used and all bets were off. Wondering if he was lame or hurt int he gate. Thanks for providing all you could

thecalicocat said...

Smarty's sire has another good one in Exclusive Quality. I also noted the time was better in the next race, but EQ was not extended.
one to watch.

thecalicocat said...

I liked EQ's race - Smarty II