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Friday, June 09, 2006

Classic Time for Pletcher

Here's the rundown:

- Platinum Couple (Tale of the Cat) lost the Count Fleet by 15, the Whirlaway by 14, Wood by 10 and the Preakness by 22. "Being from Brooklyn, to win the Belmont would be the ultimate," said trainer Joe Lostritto.[Bloodhorse] I guess, then, that we can look forward to seeing this one in the Brooklyn Handicap this fall. If he’s still in one piece by then.

Todd Pletcher told the Form of the victory by Sunriver (Saint Ballado) in the Peter Pan: "I don't know that he was ridden perfectly to win....he was farther back than he should have been - but I thought it turned out to be the perfect prep for the Belmont," The pace was a bit slow that day, but Sunriver and Rafael Bejarano were undeterred, storming home in 36 seconds flat with that final furlong in 11.40. Just as the first two legs turned out to be coming out parties for Barbaro and Bernardini, Sunriver could emerge in the Belmont, and give us another reason to be excited about racing this summer and fall.

Hemingway’s Key (Notebook) ran the classic “evenly” in the Preakness; he was 11 lengths back at the first call, 11 ¼ at the finish, with not much deviation in between. Yes, Nick Zito seems ready to break out with a big win, and the horse does show improving figs. Zito sounded the typical line of the trainer of a Belmont horse: "I always thought he was a distance horse. This is the race we had picked out for him all along." Man, how many times do we hear that? But a son of Notebook who has never gained ground in the stretch of his two turn races? Nick should be thrilled with another minor piece with this one.

Bob and John (Seeking the Gold) is picking up a lot of support; check out the media selections in this USA Today article. I had him in the Derby, and I suppose that, given the numerous excuses offered by Garrett Gomez, I should give him another shot here. But, for one thing, certainly not at his 5-1 morning line; how did they come up with that? He's training brilliantly, but he did so for the Derby too. The course, field size, and distance may all play to his advantage, but this year's California contingent has done little outside of the state.

I was all over West Point for running Flashy Bull in the Derby, and a couple of readers have made similar remarks about the presence of High Finance (Talk is Money) here. But I must admit that I find him a little scary given his speed and seemingly unlimited potential. Rick Violette, citing Bernardini’s win, pointed out that “improving three-year-olds can improve by leaps and bounds." Like the Preakness winner, High Finance will try two turns for the first time. Unlike Bernardini, that first attempt will be at a mile and a half.

Oh So Awesome tries a fast dirt track for the first time, and even Team Valor’s Barry Irwin seems to acknowledge that he’s grasping at straws here.

"I'm a little apprehensive about this, because we usually buy them based on talent, not pedigree...With him, we were banking 100% on his pedigree - that he would improve on dirt since he's by Awesome Again. That's the play on this one. It's worth a shot." [Thoroughbred Times]
Perhaps, but not if he's not at least 15-1.

Deputy Glitters (Deputy Commander) was a million wide in the Derby, and disliked the slop in the Wood. Throw those out and you see a horse that improved markedly around two turns, exchanging decisions with Bluegrass Cat at Tampa Bay. Or, maybe he just liked Tampa Bay. He’ll be close to the pace if he’s running his race, but, being out of a daughter of sprint runner/sire Glitterman, he seems a bit light on pedigree for the Test of Champions and I doubt he’ll stick around for the finish.

Jazil (Seeking the Gold) worked out a pretty good trip in rallying for 4th in the Derby, and seems logical on the stretch out here given his late foot. It seems that us bettors are finally getting wise in our old age to this type of late-running plodder in the Belmont, and he doesn’t seem to be getting as much support as one would expect, so he could be good value here. Kiaran McLaughlin has said that he wants the horse closer to the pace, but taking a horse out of his preferred running style is not an optimal scenario no matter what the distance. I think we're talking in-the-money prospects only here again.

Of Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat), Todd Pletcher points out “If you draw a line through the Blue Grass, he's done very little wrong." [Louisville Courier-Journal]; indeed, in hind sight, his 30-1 odds in the Derby seem extremely generous. He finished second that day with as perfect of a trip in a 20 horse field as one could possibly get - Ramon Dominguez said afterwards, "I couldn't get a better trip than I did today." How much better, really, was his effort than others that had rougher trips and finished behind him? Still, he improved before our very eyes throughout the pre-Derby week on the Works, he has impeccable breeding on his distaff side, and Pletcher excels with this kind of time between races. He has enough speed to stay close, and could be the main threat to Sunriver.

Double Galore (Grand Slam) comes here off a maiden win at Hollywood, and in a perfect world, his total in the win pool would be $0. Let’s see how much money uninformed bettors throw away.

Steppenwolfer (Aptitude) always fires, you have to give him that much. And there’s no doubting that he’s sharp given his six furlong work in 1:10 1/5 last weekend (if, as a reader commented, he didn't run his race right there). "It was a pretty brilliant work," Dan Pietz said, no doubt hoping at the same time that it wasn’t too much. The workout seems to belie the fact that the horse has been in training straight through since last September. The thing is, for a closer who is supposed to excel as the races get longer, his closing fractions have never really been that fast. He can stay, that's for sure, but he's shown little inclination that he can actually kick home in a way to get him a win, and I think he’ll be settling for a minor share once again.

Sacred Light (Holy Bull) shows a little closing kick, but I prefer that my Belmont selections have actually crossed the finish line first at least once in their career. He had a decent prep at Churchill, but that was an entry-level allowance race, and he's another one based in California.

PICK: For someone who wrote just a few days ago how wide open this race is, I sound pretty dismissive of everyone other than Pletcher's horses, don't I? It's one thing to get caught up in all the excuses and workouts and connections gushing about their horses, but seeing it all in print in the Form can change one's perception. Mine is that Sunriver should win the Belmont. He's coming up to the race as well as one can expect. Whether he can get the mile and a half is anyone's guess, and he may not present much value. I wouldn't be shocked if he goes off a distinct favorite. That might usually send me scurrying, but I'm just not getting excited about anyone else. So I'm sticking with Sunriver, with Bob and John, Jazil, and Bluegrass Cat to pick up minor shares.


Anonymous said...

A lot of people seem to like Bob and John, but I agree with your opinion of the Cal horses. The only horse to win coming out of the Wood was the last place horse.

Anonymous said...

I don't like him, especially as the smart guy pick. However, he is the only Grade 1 winner in the field and might be the only horse not eligible for NW3.

Where's Jerry Bailey when we need him??

Bank Check

Anonymous said...

Is there a meeting of the blog readers at Belmont tommorrow? I generally like to hang around the upper clubhouse bar watching Bill Clinton work the Seventh Avenue models.

Bank Check