As we close out another year of racing, I have to say this was one of the better seasons I’ve seen in recent memory. A Triple Crown winner would make it a special year all on its own, but we saw a lot of really good horses these past 12 months.
With the emergence of Improbable, Coliseum, Game Winner and maybe even Instagrand, I look for that trend to continue in 2019.
We will be looking at three races to close the year, highlighted by the $300,000 American Oaks Stakes for three year old fillies on the turf at Santa Anita. While there, we will also be examining the Robert J. Frankel Stakes.
Lastly, but first up in sequence and although it’s a non Graded $100,000 Stakes race with no superstars in it, I thought it would be both fun and challenging to look at the two mile H. Allen Jerkens Stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf course.
I mean how often do they run 2 mile races in this country?
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Race: 10 (4:42 PM EST Post)
H. Allen Jerkens Stakes
Winter Union appears to have has found his niche. Since being switched over to the turf, this chestnut gelding is 5-2-3-0 and about three quarters of a length away from being 5 for 5. Although stepping up in class, this son of Union Rags is bred nine ways to Sunday to appreciate the longer distances so it’s no surprise he has excelled at them….I’m taking him to spring a mild upset in this spot…………………………Soglio appears to be one of two horses to beat in this race. This son of Scat Daddy is having the best year of his life (10-3-1-4) and, after almost falling on his face at the start, he missed winning the off the turf Red Smith in New York by the proverbial “dirty nose” last time out. Distance will be no problem for him nor is the possibility of an off turf course……………..The other horse to beat in here is probable post time favorite Red Knight, who had a very strong second half of 2017 and beginning of 2018 but seems to have tailed off in form a little. Regardless of that, you have to respect a horse who is 5 for 8 on the turf in his career……………………………….Honorable Mentions: I will definitely have Archer Road in my exotics as this four year old bay gelding is having a huge year and, based off his last two works, appears to holding peak form very nicely. He shouldn’t have any problem with this obscure distance either and although this will be his first start in 49 days trainer Stanley Gold, a fixture in Florida racing, hits at a 20% clip when bringing horses back off of layoffs between 45 and 90 days…………………Nessy has been tangling with much better throughout 2018 and hasn’t really ever been blown out of any of those races, so he should relish the drop in class here. Just a few things trouble me about him; he’s not exactly “sharp” right now; he is 3 for 25 in his career and 0 for 4 on this oval…………….Galope Americano ran very well in nine starts in his home country of Brazil before being sent to the U.S. and handed over to trainer Todd Pletcher. I thought his debut in this country wasn’t all that bad and, although he showed little in his last, you can go ahead and throw that race out as it was on the dirt and he was probably overmatched. File this horse in the “Ignore Pletcher, leave the track on a stretcher” category.
Santa Anita Park
Race: 4 (4:40 PM EST Post)
Robert J. Frankel Stakes
Excellent Sunset is $4,900 yearling purchase who came from overseas and finished first in three of her first four starts here in the U.S. but it was her last race that really caught my attention. Bay filly by Aussie sire Exceed and Excel broke slowly in the Grade: 1 Matriarch last time out and quickly found herself last and some 21 lengths behind after the first quarter mile. After such a disastrous beginning, I thought she did very well by, although finishing eighth, only being beaten by 4 ¼ lengths. If you suck at math like I do, that means she made up almost 15 lengths in the last six furlongs. It also means “she” ran the last half mile in a smoking :46.4….that’s impressive. This looks like a perfect spot for her as she takes a double drop in class and, as a late runner, she should appreciate the stretch out in distance…………….Fahan Mura will probably be your post time favorite in this spot based off her 6 for 10 record this year and superior early speed. Although the 5 for 6 record on this turf course is imposing, I’m going to try to beat her here. Filly by English Channel had things all her own way on the front end last time out but inexplicably spit out the bit completely and finished near last and, more importantly, she seems to be cycling out of form……………………….Quebec may have bounced slightly off in her last after running the best race of her life two starts back. Trainer Richard Baltas takes the blinkers off in this spot, a move where he has an eye popping 32% success percentage ………………………..Honorable Mentions: Sweet Charity is another who broke slowly last time out but finished less than two lengths behind my top pick in that race…..logical threat with a good start……………………Escape Clause is a bit of a Cinderella story after being purchased for $3,800 but amassing over $350,000 while beating up on lesser at smaller racetracks in and around North America. She also finished right behind my top pick two starts back and was beaten by a length in a Grade: 3 at Del Mar in her last, so she’s certainly not completely out of this.
Race: 8 (6:30 PM EST Post)
American Oaks Stakes
I’m well aware that it was against $40,000 optional claimers, but Amandine could not have looked any better in her U.S. debut. This bay filly from Great Britain, who was getting Lasix for the first time, didn’t get the best of starts in that race and found herself last after a quarter of a mile. But she unleashed a brazen; six wide run on the turn and absolutely inhaled her competition down the lane, drawing off late to win by over three lengths. She has worked three time since and “Big money Mike” gets the leg up. I’m curious to see if she actually runs in this spot being she just buried her rivals this past Wednesday in the Lady Shamrock Stakes.………………………….When I saw Califoniagoldrush’s first race, I was thinking “this is going to be a nice turf sprinting filly”. Evidently, that’s not the case as she won impressively at a mile and twice at a mile and a sixteenth, including a Grade: 2 score on the East Coast. Filly by Cape Blanco is 3 for 4 in her career and, more importantly, is 2 for 2 on the Santa Anita turf course…..looms a huge threat in this spot……………..Colonia came from out of nowhere, passing 10 horses in the final 2 ½ furlongs, to upset (7-1) a Grade: 2 at Keeneland last time out. Good looking filly finished within shouting distance of Californiagoldrush in her two previous races as well. So, if you like Californiagoldrush like I do, then logically you have to like this filly also…………………………Honorable Mentions: Paved probably didn’t care for the turf course labeled good or the competition in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last time out, so you might want to throw that race out completely. If you do, you’ll find this $320,000 daughter of Quality Road has faced Grade: 1 competition in each of her four previous races and wasn’t really embarrassed in any of them. She has never been off the board in five tries over this turf course and “DVD,” who continues to impress, gets the leg up…………………….I know Princess Warrior will take some money at the windows based off her 11-1 upset win in the Mrs. Revere last time out and after chasing Rushing Fall two back. This filly by Midshipman appears to be starting to peak out, has worked well of late and she could easily better this rating. But I’m just not impressed with her speed figures or her 3 for 14 overall record……………………Competitionofideas is another who could fare much better than this rating. Filly by wide spectrum sire Speightstown, came from last, making up over 10 lengths in the last half mile of the Winter Memories Stakes in N.Y. last time out over a surface (dirt) that is not her best/favorite. She won her two previous races, recorded an excellent work over the deep surfaced Palm Meadows Training Track two weeks ago, the stretch out in distance should hit her squarely between the eyes and I doubt trainer Chad Brown is shipping her 3,000 miles without good reason.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2018- Record: 107-259= 41%
2017- Record: 92-235 = 39%
2016- Record: 91-229 = 40%
2015- Record: 67-180 = 37%
2014- Record: 29-73 = 40%
2013- Record: 20-59= 34%
2012 -Record: 24-73= 33%
2011 –Record: N/A
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