Another weekend is upon us. Is it just me, or does this seem to happen like clockwork every 7 days? Very strange. You’ll forgive me for drifting here and there as we’ve got twelve big races to cover in what promises to be an exciting weekend of racing. The biggest (and baddest) name on the entries is obviously Zenyatta – the undefeated mare attempting to equal the feat of Personal Ensign by winning her 13th consecutive start of her career.
Here’s a quick roundup of the major races being run at Belmont Park, Keeneland, and at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet. I’ve organized them by order of post time so that they flow in sequence – which means we’ll be bouncing between the tracks a bit here.
Belmont – Race 4 – The Jamaica Handicap (Grade 1) – 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) – 2:35 (ET)
We kick things off with the 60th running of the Jamaica H. The two horses that appear to have the biggest shot here are #2 COURAGEOUS CAT and #6 TAKE THE POINTS. The latter we know from the Preakness earlier in the year and his victory in the Grade 1 Secretariat on August 8. COURAGEOUS CAT is the horse I’ve got to take here. Despite being the morning line favorite at 2/1, he might wind up offering slightly better value if TAKE THE POINTS takes a lot of money at the windows. The son of Storm Cat is also named for one of my favorite childhood cartoon stars. Most folks don’t remember Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, but I do. #3 GRASSY looks like a runner with a big shot in here as well. I could also make a case for adding in #7 MR SANDMAN and #1 STRAIGHT STORY on the bottom of the exotics.
- #2 Courageous Cat (2/1*)
- #6 Take the Points (5/2)
- #3 Grassy (6/1)
Keeneland – Race 5 – The Woodford (Grade 3) – 5 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) – 3:23 (ET)
We visit Keeneland for the first time today for the 13th running of The Woodford. I’m not much of a turf sprint handicapper, and I know it’s one of my weaker areas, so we’ll keep this one simple. I like #2 MR. NIGHTLINGER in here, despite the 2/1 odds. The son of Indian Charlie has not had quite the banner year many of us expected to have, with only 1 victory thus far in 5 starts. One of the main reasons I’m backing him though is that he’s got talent and shows early speed – something which can be noteworthy from time to time at Keeneland. He will be tested though, as #7 SILVER TIMBER looks like a good one for trainer Chad Brown. The son of Prime Timber is the most likely to get first run at MR. NIGHTLINGER if he can’t hold on out in front. #6 DIE DATE is another horse worth considering in this field. He gives you a consistently even effort every time out, although he may be better suited for the bottom of exotic tickets. Other horses worth ticket consideration would appear to be #5 BULLET FROM ABROAD and #8 FORT PRADO.
- #2 Mr. Nightlinger (2/1*)
- #7 Silver Timber (5/2)
- #6 Due Date (7/2)
Keeneland – Race 6 – The Thoroughbred Club of America (Grade 2) – 6 Furlongs – 4:00 (ET)
We stay in Keeneland for the 29th running of the TCA. #8 INFORMED DECISION is the overwhelming favorite on the morning line at 3/5. While that might be cause to try and beat her, the daughter of former Kentucky Derby champion Monarchos has proven deadly (3 for 3) at Keeneland in her career. She’s also won all 5 of her synthetic starts. Just keep that in mind if you try to take her down. The most logical contender would seem to be #6 CARLSBAD, who comes off a Grade 3 victory at Delmar last out. Tyler Baze is the listed rider, meaning he’s left the friendly confines of California. There’s enough value here on the morning line (5/1) to warrant stong consideration. #5 BOLD UNION is another interesting runner who comes off a Grade 3 victory at Delaware. The Dixie Union filly has only raced once over the synthetics, and it was nothing to write home about, but she does have speed and that can be a big factor in sprint races. I like the two “Ashley” horses (#1 AWESOME ASHLEY and #4 PIOUS ASHLEY) enough to include them on the bottom of my tickets, and I might take a chance underneath with #3 PORTE BONHEUR as well, as she’s proven she can handle the synthetics at Woodbine last November.
- #8 Informed Decision (3/5*)
- #6 Carlsbad (5/1)
- #5 Bold Union (6/1)
Keeneland – Race 7 – The First Lady (Grade 1) – 1 Mile (Turf) – 4:35 (ET)
You know, we just love Keeneland so much that we’ll hang around for another race, whaddya think? The First Lady is for fillies and mares 3-and-up going 1 mile over the turf. #5 FOREVER TOGETHER is currently listed atop most rankings of oder turf females in the U.S., and will be the morning line favorite at even odds. The daughter of Belong to Me was absolutely dominating at times last year, but has had some trouble putting together consistent victories this year. If her current pattern of running 1st, 2nd – 1st, 2nd continues, she’s due for a victory. If only it were that simple. Working in her favor will be the fact that she gets a little pace to run into with #4 TIZAQUEENA and #9 SUPERIOR STORM on her flanks. That should help her have a big race. #6 MY PRINCESS JESS and #8 DIAMONDRELLA are two runners who could also get good trips and who would obviously offer more value on the tote board. At least work them into your exotics.
- #5 Forever Together (3/5*)
- # 6 My Princess Jess (6/1)
- #4 Tizaqueena (12/1)
Belmont – Race 8 – The Frizette (Grade 1) – 1 Mile – 4:43 (ET)
It’s back to New York for the 62nd running of the Frizette for 2-year-old fillies. #3 NONA MIA looks like the horse to beat here coming off an impressive 12 length score out to break her maiden. Being a daughter of Empire Maker, I’m not as concerned about how she’ll handle the distance as perhaps I ought to be. #4 AWESOME MARIA should have a say as to how things turn out as well. The daughter of Maria’s Mon is already a Grade 2 winner having defeated several of today’s rivals in the Matron on September 19. The rest of the field looks fairly even behind these two. #6 FRANNY FREUD, #5 TOUCHING BEAUTY, and #2 DEVIL MAY CARE all came up as having chances to hit the board based on my own personal handicapping methods, as did #7 WORSHIP THE MOON. I’ll probably box the top two choices on top and then take all of these guys on the bottom of the trifecta. That’s my initial plan at least. We’ll see if se can get a good look at them in the post parade to narrow it down a bit more. I went with TOUCHING BEAUTY as my 3rd choice by a slim margin – mostly due to the fact that she was sired by Tapit.
- #3 Nonna Mia (5/2)
- #4 Awesome Maria (2/1*)
- #5 Touching Beauty (5/1)
Santa Anita (Oak Tree) – Race 4 – The Yellow Ribbon (Grade 1) – 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) – 2:00 (PT)
Time to head out west to the lovely Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita for the 33rd running of the Yellow Ribbon. The two big names in this field are #1 MAGICAL FANTASY and #7 VISIT. MAGICAL FANTASY exits 3 consecutive victories, including two at the Grade 1 level in the John C Mabee and the Gamely. This is clearly one of the better turf mares on the California circuit and she should be respected as such. VISIT is a 4-year-old that has always seemed on the cusp of greatness, yet has a tendency to run for minor slices of the pie. Garrett Gomez will get acquainted once again with the daughter of Oasis Dream , who should be firing at about the same time as MAGICAL FANTASY. This could be a good battle between these two runners in the stretch. As for the rest of the field, #4 BLACK MAMBA is a dangerous runner who can jump up and run a big one from time to time. Trainer John Sadler might have her primed for a big effort this weekend. I’m also familiar enough with both #2 LEMONETTE and #3 LEMON CHIFFON that I’ll probably include them on the bottom of my tickets as well. If I’m not mistaken, LEMON CHIFFON was one of the horses I hit at the NTRA Handicapping Contest last fall in Las Vegas.
- #1 Magical Fantasy (8/5*)
- #7 Visit (5/1)
- #4 Black Mamba (5/2)
Keeneland – Race 8 – The Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (Grade 1) – 1 1/16 Miles – 5:10 (ET)
Now we head back to Kentucky for more 2-year-old action in the Breeders’ Futurity. The colt I’m most anxious to see here is #2 BACKTALK. The son of Smarty Jones had won 3 in a row to start his career before drawing the 12 hole last out in the Hopeful. Will he like the synthetics at Keeneland? Well, if his bullet workout there on October 5 is any indication, he out to handle the surface switch just fine. That being said, I’m going with #8 AKENITE as my top choice. Why? Well, the son of Yes it’s True will offer some value at the windows, and might be overlooked. Plus, look at that last race where he lost to Dublin and Aspire. Those two are the top choices for the Champagne, run just 5 minutes later at Belmont (and coming up next in our selections). If those two are among the best in the young and developing division, then that could be a race to key on. Maybe if they don’t leave him with as much to do and go for a more even effort? It’s worth a chance is all i’m saying. #7 MAKE MUSIC FOR ME is a logical contender as well, coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Best Pal and the Delmar Futurity. I have some questions about how this one will handle the distance, but I like that they’ve trained her at 7 furlongs following a game effort at that same distance. Note that Tyler Baze will also be aboard this runner, so he’s got a couple of potentially live mounts on the card. A horse that might get overlooked and is in all honesty probably compromised by their starting position is #14 STATELY VICTOR. Don’t be surprised if this son of Ghostzapper goes on to become the best horse of this field in due time. Whether he shows that on Saturday not is a bit of question mark, but I think he’s worth at least including underneath. There’s plenty of other directions you could go here, depending on which horse you may already be familiar with or have developed some affection for.
- #8 Akenite (5/1)
- #2 Backtalk (4/1*)
- #7 Make Music for Me (6/1)
Belmont – Race 9 – The Champagne (Grade 1) – 1 Mile – 5:15 (ET)
We head back to New York for the final time this afternoon for the Champagne. If you start reading this and feel as though you’re having deja vu, don’t worry – we did just talk about some of these runners. #5 DUBLIN comes into the race as the victor of the Hopeful at Saratoga. In that race he held on to deny #3 ASPIRE, who will get the benefit of an extra furlong in his attempt to turn the tables on his rival. Don’t I kind of have to go with a horse named ASPIRE since this is The Aspiring Horseplayer? That’s just too strong a vibe for me to pass up. In all honesty, I rate these two extremely close to one another, and while if my life depended on it, I’d probably side with DUBLIN, I”ll take a chance and go with ASPIRE here. The horse that might be the x-factor here is #6 HOMEBOYKRIS for Rick Dutrow Jr. #4 DISCREETLY MINE also rates a chance here as this son of Mineshaft did run well against Dutrow’s other prized possession in the 2-year-old division thus far, D’Funnybone.
- #3 Aspire (3/1)
- #5 Dublin (8/5*)
- #6 Homeboykris (6/1)
Keeneland – Race 9 – The Shadwell Turf Mile (Grade 1) – 1 Mile (Turf) -5:45 (ET)
The finale of the marquee races at Keeneland for Saturday is the 24th running of the Shadwell Turf Mile. I’ll consider taking a chance here with #9 COURT VISION, despite the fact that the son of Gulch has not won a race since the Hollywood Derby last November. He’s running for Dutrow now, which in itself is cause for improvement, and adds the blinkers back on, which he’s had off the last 3 races. Call me crazy but I think this helps keep him focused in the stretch and gives him a chance for the upset. The monster of the race though is #7 JUSTENUFFHUMOR. The son of Distorted Humor exits 6 consecutive victories, including the Bernard Baruch Handicap last out at Saratoga. If he’s good enough to beat my boy Cowboy Cal, he’s good enough to take this field. #5 BATTLE OF HASTINGS is a horse I’ve given out several times here successfully, so you know he’ll be on my tickets again.
- #7 Justenuffhumor (5/2*)
- #9 Court Vision (7/2)
- #5 Battle of Hastings (5/1)
Santa Anita (Oak Tree) – Race 6 – The Oak Tree Mile (Grade 2) – 1 Mile (Turf) – 3:00 (PT)
Things get a little bit calmer as we head out west to stay to finish up the day, beginning with the Oak Tree Mile. Notice that there’s a theme here today where I talk about a horse in one race, and he shows up in the next. #9 COWBOY CAL comes into the Mile having finished 2nd in the Bernard Baruch. There’s something about this guy that I really admire. He’s a gamer – and I think he could be in store for a big effort. He’ll need to avoid a speed duel with #7 MONTERREY JAZZ though, and ought to press the pace from 2nd to give himself his best chance. Coming off the pace will be #10 WHATSTHESCRIPT and #4 GLOBAL HUNTER, who each have big shots in here as well. I’m going to stick with my COWBOY CAL on top, with GLOBAL HUNTER running big for 2nd. WHATSTHESCRIPT has a tendency to run 3rd or 4th, and I’ll use him on the bottom. Do give some props to the filly, #8 ALLICANSAYIS WOW – as she steps up to take on boys again. She ran well for 2nd in the Delmar Mile, and finished ahead of Lethal Heat, a horse who (you guessed it) will come up again later in our picks. I’d also keep MONTERREY JAZZ around in your tickets, being as that he is the speed of the speed.
- #9 Cowboy Cal (2/1*)
- #4 Global Hunter (8/1)
- #10 Whatsthescript (5/2)
Santa Anita (Oak Tree) – Race 7 – The Goodwood (Grade 1) – 1 1/8 Miles – 3:30 (PT)
The feature race of the day is the final major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic – the 28th running of the Goodwood. Wht a race we’ve got in store. #4 COLONEL JOHN tries to get back to his winning ways on the main track following a disappointing 5th place finish in the Pacific Classic. I thought the son o f Tiznow had a horrible trip that day and am expecting the real COLONEL JOHN to show up again this weekend. He was, after all, my Derby selection back in 2008. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert brings the hot longshot winner #3 RICHARD’S KID in for the Goodwood with visions of the Classic dancing in his head. Was that last win in the Pacific Classic a fluke, or has Baffert turned this guy into a top runner? I wouldn’t let Bob Baffert burn you twice, if you know what I mean. Of course, there are also some runners in here both seeking to regain respect and who are favorites of many fans. #2 TIAGO is one class=”mceItemHidden”> of the few remnants of the talented 2007 crop of 3-year-olds that produced Curlin, Street Sense, and Hard Spun. Tiago always was in their shadows, and despite ome success as a 4-year-old and some sexy Beyer figures on his resume, he’s only won $24,000 in 2 starts this year. If he comes back like his old self, he actually makes some sense here. This is the same team, remember, that gave the world Zenyatta (and Giacomo). #5 TRES BORRACHOS still has the coolest name in all of racing (“3 drunks”). And of course, there’s that guy that won the Kentucky Derby at 50/1, #10 MINE THAT BIRD. How great would it be to see the son of Birdstone come back and run a big race? He’s been on synthetics before – hell, he’s won on ‘em before, so if his throat surgery has got him back to the way he was this spring, he could make some noise here in his 1st start against older horses. I haven’t even had a chance to mention #9 INFORMED (son of Tiznow), #6 MONZANTE (winner of the 2008 Eddie Read), and #7 PARADING (disappointing 4th in the Pacific Classic last out). This looks like a great race – hopefully a glimmer of things to come on Breeders’ Cup weekend this November.
- #4 Colonel John (3/1*)
- #4 Richard’s Kid (8/1)
- #10 Mine That Bird (7/2)
Santa Anita (Oak Tree – Race 8 – The Lady’s Secret (Grade 1) – 1 1/16 Miles – 4:00 (PT)
We wind up the day with the return of the undefeated Zenyatta – the super star of west coast thoroughbred racing. I’ve covered this race already for the NTRA, and you’re welcome to read my assessment there. The biggest question we’ll be looking to answer won’t come until after the race, once trainer John Shirreffs has had a chance to see how ZENYATTA comes out of the race. That will ultimately determine whether she runs against boys on the Classic on Saturday, or defends her crown against the Ladies’ on Friday in the Breeders’ Cup. Last time we saw her, ZENYATTA was flying home like a rocket towards a desperate photo finish with longshot #8 ANAABA’S CREATION. This race could play out in similar fashion without an abundance of speed signed on. Also note the presence of #1 COCOA BEACH, who in case folks forgot ran 2nd behind ZENYATTA in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic last year here at Santa Anita. Hopefully we can get a good gauge on how she’s shaping up heading into the championships as well. Stablemate #4 LIFE IS SWEET draws the misfortune of facing the monster that is ZENYATTA once again, after earlier reports that she would be pointing towards a turf race. Then there’s #6 LETHAL HEAT, who just ran against the boys last weekend in the Cal Cup Classic (finishing 2nd). She comes right back in what should be her final tune up for the Ladies’ Classic as well. I think the class of ZENYATTA is too much for ‘em all in the end. Look for ANAABA”S CREATIOn or COCOA BEACH underneath in second. I’ll give LETHAL HEAT a big shot to hit the board as well along with LIFE IS SWEET.
- #5 Zenyatta (2/5*)
- #8 Anaaba’s Creation (12/1)
- #1 Cocoa Beach (6/1)
Whew – I need a break after all that ‘capping.
Best of luck to all – and don’t forget about Icon Project this Sunday in the Spinster at Keeneland.