Tiago bests Heatseeker in the Oaklawn Handicap on 4/5/08
Hollywood Park features a star-studded 9 race card on Saturday, highlighted by the renewal of the scintillating rivalry between two of the top older horses in the nation; Heatseeker and Tiago in the Grade 2 Californian. The duo have turned in a pair of thrilling finishes, with Heatseeker getting the best of Tiago in the Santa Anita Handicap on 3/1/08, and Tiago returning the favor in the Oaklawn Handicap on 4/5/08.
As if that weren’t enough, racing fans will also be treated to an appearance by local monster Zenyatta in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap. Zenyatta has rapidly become one of the best horses in all of California and still has room to improve.
We’ve got 9 races in all, and I’ll let you know right off the bat that my top selections include a pair of 20/1 longshots, and one misprint that suggested I had a 50/1 longshot bomb (I don’t, it’s a typo in the DRF). In other words, when paired with the featured races already mentioned, this looks like a great day to play Hollywood.
- #1 Backstroke (7/2)
- #3 Tripped the Light (2/1*)
- #7 Afternoon Gold (5/1)
We open the afternoon with a $25,000 maiden claimer for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going 1 1/16 miles over the main track. Ah hell, let’s play to beat the favorite right out of the gate, shall we? I wish it were that simple. You can’t totally discount #3 Tripped the Light in here, and she is my second choice. I do like #1 Backstroke a tad better. I’m not sure what happened last time out but that looks like it should have been hers to win. She’ll have to be a little quicker today breaking from the rail, but her last 4 races show improvement to me and in an event like this there’s not much else to support. #7 Afternoon Gold is your biggest class dropper of the field, which in maiden races is usually a useful angle.
- #2 Starry Pursuit (9/5*)
- #1 Mini Do (2/1)
- #3 Silent Kitten (12/1)
The 2nd race is the 9th running of the $75,000 Manhattan Beach for 3-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs over the turf course. This looks like a two horse race to me between #1 Mini Do and #2 Starry Pursuit. I thought Mini Do could have to fire quickly from the rail and may wind up in a bit of a duel with #7 Thunder and Ice. That led me to pick the favorite, #2 Starry Pursuit as top choice. #3 Silent Kitten should be coming late, but is there enough pace to close into to threaten for top honors? I didn’t really think so, but I suppose it’s possible.
- #2 Major Pleasure (7/2)
- #3 Within Reason (6/1)
- #6 Secret Shuttle (2/1*)
The third race of the day is a conditional (N2X) $54,000 Allowance race for 3-year-olds and upwards going 6 1/2 furlongs over the main track. There’s not a lot of speed in this one. #2 Major Pleasure figures to stalk whomever does make the lead and looked to be in top form to me. #3 Within Reason is quite playable at 6/1 and has room to improve. Think about this for a moment – how often do you get a horse coming off a 96 Beyer speed figure in a conditional allowance race such as this? 6/1 suddenly seems a gift, doesn’t it? I went with Secret Shuttle for 3rd choice due to the 3 for 3 mark at this distance, combined with the fact that the place horse last time out did return to win.
- #9 Indy Blaze (20/1)
- #10 Courtly Couture (4/1)
- #5 Quick Command (9/2)
The 4th race of the day is a $50,000 Maiden Special Weight for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going 1 1/16 miles over the turf course. Indy Blaze is a daughter of A.P. Indy and half to Starvinsky. In addition, she’s making the ever dangerous two-sprints-to-a-route move today. Watch out! #10 Courtly Couture draws the outside, but shouldn’t have to ask for too much to stay in a decent position. #5 Quick Command could be the speed. She’s got a tendency to fade in the stretch, but may appreciate the ability to set softer fractions in a route race like this if she can get out in front. Pay attention to #6 Foreign. She was getting a lot of attention from the DRF handicappers. I didn’t back her, as it appeared to be all connection based, and I liked some of the other horses better. This will be the first test to see if I’m way off the mark with the longshots I took today.
- #6 Zenyatta (4/5*)
- #4 Romance is Diane (7/2)
- #7 Double Trouble (10/1)
The 5th race is the 57th running of the Grade 2 Milady Handicap for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upwards going 1 1/16 miles over the main track. Zenyatta!!!! That’s all you need to know. The monster has become one of the best horses in California (and indeed the entire country). She handled Ginger Punch last out and won’t get anything like that today. Look for her unbeaten streak to continue today. Romance is Diane thrives off this distance andshould hit the board underneath. I’ll use Double Trouble at 10/1 as well, but it’s partly a heart play as she ran 3rd to the late, great, Nashoba’s Key, who had to be euthanized earlier in the week.
- #5 Flashing Forward (20/1)
- #2 Saint’s Crown (8/1)
- #7 If Not For You (20/1)
The 6th race is a $48,000 Maiden Special Weight for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going 6 furlongs over the main track. I like all longshots here. #5 Flashing Forward boasts a ridiculous 4 furlongs in 45 and change workout on 5/26. If that speed translates to the track today, look out. #2 Saint’s Crown may need a race, but I’ve learned to respect the offspring of Tiznow on the California circuit. #7 It’s Not For You looks sneaky to me. Doug O’Neill’s percentages are starting to creep up and when this guy gets hot there’s no stopping him.
- #11 Pindaric (9/2)
- #8 She’s got Skills (10/1
- #6 All Set (15/1)
The 7th race is an open $40,000 claimer for fillies and mares 4-years-old and upward going 6 furlongs over the turf course. This one is wide open, so once again I looked for value. This may be the toughest race on the card to handicap. #11 Pindaric might get lost in the shuffle and ignored by bettors here, but if she shows up with her best there’s no reason she can’t beat this field. #8 She’s got Skills is another that looks very threatening on her best stuff. #6 All Set could show speed here or sit just off the pace. I thought that made her a contender here as well.
- #1 Heatseeker (9/5*)
- #2 Tiago (5/2)
- #4 Surf Cat (3/1)
The 8th and feature race of the day is the 55th running of The Grade 2 Californian for 3 year-olds and upward going 1 1/8 miles over the main track. Can we get a dead heat between Tiago and Heatseeker? Seriously – it’s pick your poison with these guys. I thought Heatseeker might get first jump on pace setter Albertus Maximus due to the rail post, but Tiago’s right there at post #2 so who knows? This one should be worth the billing as the two rivals come charging late. I thought #4 Surf Cat would be right there with them, tyring to close. You could make a case for Albertus Maximus to hang on for place or (more likely) show, but I went with the closers catching and passing him at the wire. I’m thinking this one may need a photo finish to decide.
- #3 World War (9/2)
- #13 Common Trust (3/1)
- #1 Grits (4/1)
We endup the day with a $20,000 open claimer for 4-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs over the main track. The folks at the DRF are smoking crack if they seriously think World War is going off at 50/1 (that’s what my copy says). The beaten chalk last time out at $40k drops today and looks like a real threat to me. #13 Common Trust would be my top choice if not for the outside post, but who knows, that could actually help in his case. #1 Grits is a guy I”ve used from time to time. He seems to do his best running at Hollywood and fits with these guys.
As always, check for late scratches/changes. Best of luck to all of you.