We have action coast to coast in this weekend’s Horse Racing Race(s) of the week as we will be taking closer looks at both the 2013 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Racetrack in California, which will feature 2012 beaten Breeders Cup favorite Game On Dude and the 2013 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York where the undefeated Vyjack will take on multiple stakes winner Overanalyze.
Both races have a ton of prestige and big named past winners. The Gotham, first run in 1953, boasts past winners such as Native Dancer (1953), the great Dr. Fager (1967), the one and only Secretariat (1973), General Assembly (1979), a horse yours truly took care of after his retirement and the speedy Proud Appeal (1981), Easy Goer (1989). The more recent winners include Stay Thirsty (2011) and Hansen (2012).
The Santa Anita Handicap, which annually goes a long way in the voters’ minds for end of the year champions, includes a who’s who of racing greats.
Past winners in “The Big ‘Cap” include Seabiscuit (1940), Round Table (1958), 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed (1979), the great Spectacular Bid (1980), John Henry (1981 and 1982), “America’s Horse” Alysheba (1988). More recently, Milwaukee Brew (2002 and 2003) and the ever popular Lava Man (2006 and 2007) and interestingly enough the last two winners (Game On Dude, 2011 and Ron The Greek, 2012) will be vying for a repeat in the race this year.
Albeit unhappy with the 125 lbs Game On Dude has to tote around the Santa Anita oval, trainer Bob Baffert is going ahead with his plans to run the now 6 year old gelding.
“I wasn’t really happy with the weights,” Baffert said. “I thought I’d at least get the same weight as Bill Mott’s horse (Ron The Greek). That’s a good horse. Every time I run against those good horses, they beat me. My horse is a tough little horse, but Ron the Greek’s tough, too.
“The main thing is, he worked really well, and when he works well….he runs well” Baffert added after witnessing Game On Dude work six furlongs in 1:11 and galloping out seven furlongs in 1:24 this past week.
Baffert ended with Game On Dude “should not have to spot weight to last year’s winner” Ron the Greek, who received the second-highest amount of weight in 122 pounds.
Santa Anita Park – Saturday, March 2, 2013
Santa Anita Handicap (Grade I)
Race 10 – 4:30 PM
For Four-Year-Olds and Upward
1 ¼ miles
Ron the Greek
W I Mott
D F O’Neill
Called to Serve
G L Stevens
C A Lewis
D F O’Neill
J R Leparoux
H G Motion
Game On Dude
M E Smith
1) Game On Dude has bounced back nicely from the aforementioned BC Classic flop last November when he scored a wire to wire win in the Native Diver at HollywoodPark, then came back and annihilated the San Antonio field when he drew away down the stretch to win by 6 1/2. By doing so, he proved that, even at 6 years old, he hasn’t lost any steps and should continue to be a force in the older male horse category this year.
I think trainer Bob Baffert is right on the money when describing what the best strategy is to get this Awesome Again gelding into the winners circle come Saturday afternoon when he said:
“I’ll put it this way, there’ll be no rating tactics with him,” Baffert said. “He needs to rock and roll. He likes to run like that. He’s not the kind of horse that can make the lead in 49 and change and then kick away. He’s better off with somebody going with him. You gotta let this horse run early and you can’t take a hold of him”
Bingo Bob…that’s exactly what Raphael Bejarano tried to do in the BC Classic and look what happened there.
Not only did this horse suffer this first career defeat (he is now 6 for 7 over this surface) at Santa Anita in that race but it also cost Bejarano his job as Mike Smith took over as the reinsman two races ago.
Batting almost .500 in his career (11 for 23) and I’m giving him the edge over the second pick because of the “home field (or track) advantage”
2) Ron the Greek-returns to the Santa Anita to defend his 2012 Big Cap title here on the heels of a monster effort in the Sunshine Millions Classic over (a sloppy) Gulfstream Park surface in his last.
In that race, he ran away and hid from the rest of the field while winning by 11 ¼ lengths and registered an eye popping 123 Speed Figure.
He has a contrary style to the top pick as this guy likes to lay far off the early pace then come with a rush down the stretch. I usually like these kinds of runners but in this race and over this track, it might put him at an extreme disadvantage.
Also note if you draw a line thru, what I believe to be a freak effort in the Sunshine Millions, and look back thru his past performcnaces, you’ll notice he hasn’t won since June of 2012 and, more specifically, the two races he ran (right before the Sunshine Millions) were a distant 4th (BC Classic) and a distance 6th (Jockey Club Gold Cup).
I believe that Game On Dude is the better horse, who is running over his favorite surface with a likely pace advantage. All of that, in turn, puts this horse up against it from where I sit.
3) Called to Serve- comes into this in career best form. This gelding by the Afleet Alex ships across the country off two blow out wins…one in New York and the other in Maryland and the Speed Figure he registered in that Maryland race is more than enough to be competitive in this field.
I’m a little leery of the 1 for 4 record over this Santa Anita surface but regardless, you have to respect the way he is coming into this race, his last workout (Feb 16- 6F-1:13.2) and the 8 on the board finishes in 11 career outings.
Guilt Trip definitely shows an upward form trend over his past three races, and he could be a menace in this race at some (probably) decent odds too. Clubhouse Ride is just 3 for 25 in his career but runs well late and has 7 on the board finishes in 10 career starts at Santa Anita.
Aqueduct – Saturday, March 2, 2013
Race 10 – 5:02 PM
Gotham S. (Grade III)
For Three Year Olds
One And One Sixteenth Miles. (Inner track)
I Ortiz, Jr.
K P McLaughlin
Now and Then
K P McLaughlin
J C Guerrero
D A Schettino
M J Trombetta
E D Rodriguez
T J Tullock, Jr.
Siete de Oros
A S Arroyo
R R Rodriguez
K P McLaughlin
M E Casse
West Hills Giant
J L Espinoza
J P Terranova, II
J R Velazquez
T A Pletcher
A – Coupled Entries – 1 – Transparent, 1A – Now and Then
1) Vyjack- is unbeaten (3 for 3) thus far and was dead game while winning the Jerome in his last.
In that race, he faced pace pressure every step of the way, was carried out on the turn for home and bumped in deep stretch but still, after all that, was able to win by a head.
Speed figures and workouts look strong and he’s already won at a mile so the extra sixteenth should not pose a problem.
All that being said, I’m not convinced he’s a strong Kentucky Derby threat but we should learn more about that after this race.
2) Overanalyze- won his debut for trainer Todd Pletcher then ran in four straight graded stakes races while winning two and finishing third and fourth in the other two.
He was as game as the day is long in that Remsen win as he showed a ton of heart while fending off the oncoming Normandy Invasion, that after splitting horses at the mid-stretch marker and held on to win by a nose.
However, his past performances show the “one up, up down pattern” and if you know me, you know my distain for inconsistencies.
Dixie Union colt from the Repole Stable also makes his first start in more than 90 days so there is some vulnerability there as well being he “might need one”
Listed as the 5/2 morning line favorite but I’m going to try to beat him in this spot.
3) Escapefromreality- shows a 3-1-2-0 record and is two necks short of being unbeaten. You have to take notice of that last race (one of the neck defeats). He closed from fifth down the lane to grab a short lead but was overhauled late by the very highly regarded Revolutionary in the Withers almost a month ago.
In fact, a repeat of that race most likely puts him in the winners circle this Saturday afternoon….dangerous foe!
Siete de Oros shows 5 of 6 races on the board including his last two where he finished just a neck behind Vyjack in the Jerome and just two lengths behind Revolutionary and Escapefromreality in the Withers. In other words, he’s been “right there” with some of the elite three years of 2013….could be a menace. Ditto Amerigo Vespucci…who also shows 5 of 6 starts on the board and was also in shouting distance in those two races also. Now and Then was an impressive maiden winner in his first and only time out. He steps up and stretches out in distance but the speed figure he recorded that day is similar to the top ones in here.
Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Mucho Macho Man, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02 last Saturday at Gulfstream Park in preparation for a start in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9, will not be starting in the race due to a virus.
The defending Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Mucho Macho Man was scheduled for a rematch with Fort Larned, who narrowly defeated Mucho Mach Man in the 2012 Breeders Cup Classic last November.
The strapping chestnut is coming off the worst effort of his career in the Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes. In that race, he was pulled up down the stretch by jockey Mike Smith behind the dominant winner Ron the Greek.
“He has a virus (but) hopefully he will not be sidelined very long,” owner DanReeves said.
Fort Larned is still on track to make his 2013 debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.
A virus has knocked “M3″ out of his next race
**** Holy Bull Stakes winner Itsmyluckyday, who is pointing for the March 30 FloridaDerby, worked a half mile in :48 4/5 last Saturday at Calder Race Course for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr..
It was his first breeze since his two-length victory over previously undefeated Eclipse champion Shanghai Bobby.
“It was exactly what I was looking for,” said Plesa later in the morning. “I got him galloping out (five furlongs) in 1:01. He’s right on schedule. He’ll probably work about every seven days, although I might change it up on him one of those times with an easy mile work. I haven’t decided.”
Itsmyluckyday gets some work in
**** Several others top three year olds in training were on the work tab last weekend as well, including two year old filly champion Beholder, who worked five furlongs at Santa Anita Park on Sunday in :59.3 for this Saturdays Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile.
* 2-year-old cold champion Shanghai Bobby breezed four furlongs in :49.3 at PalmMeadowsTrainingCenter.
* Top 3-year-old filly Kauai Katie also worked a half mile in :49.3.
* Impressive Withers Stakes winner Revolutionary completed the same distance in :48.2.
* The unbeaten and, thus far, unchallenged Verrazano ripped off five panels in at :59.1.
* The speedy Delhomme completed 5 furlongs in 1:00 flat, which was the fourth-fastest at the distance.
* Out West, Flashback cruised six furlongs in a bullet 1:11 flat
* Den’s Legacy went the same distance on 1:11.2.
* 2012 Frontrunner Stakes winner Power Broker went four furlongs in :47.4
**** Trainer William “Buff” Bradley said Female Sprint Champion Groupie Doll is doing well during her off time at his Kentucky farm and remains on schedule for a late spring return to training.
“She wasn’t horrible (in Florida), and she shipped well to Kentucky,” Bradley said. “The vets said I could continue to train her, but I didn’t want to second guess myself later and have to give her more time off.”
Groupie Doll, who has won 9 of 17 starts including three grade I stakes, is scheduled to race twice before the Breeders Cup. Once in the Presque Isle Masters Stakes at Presque Isle Downs in September and the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland in October.
“We’re all good with it,” Bradley said. “My dad and the partners are good with whatever I suggest, so there’s no pressure. We’ll take our time with her.”
Groupie Doll spends her time hanging in a paddock with Brass Hat, another Bradley homebred who earned more than $2 million and retired after his 9-year-old year.
“If she’s sound and sturdy, I’m not going to say we wouldn’t run her next year,” Bradley said. “If she’s sound and healthy, she gets to race.”
Champion Groupie Doll is enjoying her R&R
**** In case anyone cares, one of my horses makes her racing debut Sunday, March 3 in the 9th race at Aqueduct…..she is the #11 horse.