Here we are some 2 ½ weeks away from Christmas and the sport of Horse Racing is still running important races. I just love the fact that there is very little “down time” throughout this sport’s season.
This weekend, Los Alamitos Race Course, who opened their winter meet on yours truly’s birthday, will “come out running” with the Cashcall Futurity for two year old colts and geldings, and the Starlet Stakes for two year old fillies. Both races are contested at 8 ½ furlongs, carry Grade: 1 status and are run for $300,000 purses. Both will be our highlighted “Races of the Week”.
Elsewhere, we will be looking at the Garland of Roses, a six furlong dash for three year olds and up fillies and mares at Aqueduct.
For those of you who have been with me over the years, you know the beginning of December normally begins our long winter journey/season where, for obvious reasons, we look at a good portion of Stakes races from Gulfstream Park in warm and sunny Hallandale, Florida.
That will begin next week as I will be passing on this Saturday’s Caribbean Classic card at Gulfstream.
The feature race, the $300,000 Carribean Classic, drew a large field but not one single horse has ever made a start in the United States. With sketchy past performances and virtually no video to watch, how on earth do you try to figure it out? Like I said, I pass……If you must, I suppose Kukulkan, who is 13 for 13 in his career and won Mexico’s version of the Triple Crown, would be my choice.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
Race: 5 (2:17 PM EST Post)
Garland of Roses
Vertical Oak is having a very good year as her 7-3-1-3 record would indicate and I like the versatility she’s shown throughout her career as she can adapt to any pace scenario. Chestnut filly by Giant Oak (Giant’s Causeway) battled every step of the way on the lead versus better two starts back at Keeneland and held very well late while checking in third, beaten by just one length. That race is “sandwiched” by two Stakes wins at Churchill Downs. Although this is a short field of 5, there is a lot of speed signed up. With her drawing the outside, I am expecting her to assume a stalking position early and run them down late…….logical choice……………….Sower was scratched from a race we looked at last week in favor of this by trainer Linda Rice but the song remains the same with her. Filly by Flatter was visually impressive opening up on the field from the sixteenth pole to the wire in a Stakes race at Belmont on Oct 28, while getting the last furlong in a very good :12.1. Multiple bullet works signal to me this filly, who is 4 for 7 in her career, is holding form……………Albeit her races are spaced apart quite a bit, the regally bred Dream Pauline (by Tapit out of Grade: 1 winner Dream Rush) won her first two starts in fine fashion. Yet another chestnut, this filly was beaten fair and square, and by 6+ lengths, by the top pick last time out. However, it must be noted she was coming off a three month layoff in that race. With this being her second start off that layoff, she should be “tighter” and closer this time around………………Honorable Mentions: Yorkiepoo Princess rebounded to the form she showed earlier in her career in her last when blasting off in the final furlong to beat a Stakes field at this distance and on this oval. Good looking filly by Kantharos is 2 for 3 at the Big A yet 4 for 16 everywhere else, so it’s safe to say you have the “Horse for the Course” angle with her as well. The problem I’m seeing is that race might have been a little TOO good, making her a serious “bounce” candidate here…………………..Tigalau has never been off the board in five career starts, all versus lesser. If she has been struggling to get past first level allowance foes, how will she win this? I’m not sure….I suppose the serious cut back in distance might help.
Los Alamitos Race Course
Race: 5 (5:28 PM EST Post)
It looks as though trainer Bob Baffert, who has won this race seven times in the last 10 years, is about to go eight for 11 as he has a very strong 1-2 punch entered. Although Baffert’s Game Winner is not only a slam dunk to be crowned two year old male champion, but if he stays healthy, looks destined to do BIG things down the road….you might want to add Improbable to that list as well. I don’t mean to draw this big of a comparison so early in his career, but when I watched this colt on video he, and his stride motion, bears a striking resemblance to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. By City Zip, he was moving so gracefully in the five furlong move on Dec 3, completed in a bullet :59.4, I had to watch it several times. I liked the guts he showed in winning his hard fought, six furlong debut, but it gets better. After his debut, Baffert shipped him to Churchill, stretched him out to a mile where, after a poor break, he stalked extremely fast early fractions, then went on to annihilate his foes while drawing off to win by over seven lengths, finishing a mile in a good 1:35.3 all while running as green as Kermit the Frog down the lane. Obviously distance will be no problem for him……bottom line here is I’m very excited to watch him again come Saturday afternoon…………………………Mucho Gusto is a $625,000 son of Mucho Macho Man who wired maidens in his initial journey, then came back and did the same to the Grade: 3 Bob Hope field. He’ll be trying a route distance for the first time but he hasn’t given me any indication he won’t be able to handle it. He is the only horse in this short field with a race/win/experience over the track. Two strong works since the Bob Hope signal to me he is holding form and should run big once again……………………….I really liked the way Savagery, who gamely chased Mucho Gusto in the Bob Hope, was second most of the way around the track, got passed by another horse late but dug in, battled back and reclaimed second down the stretch, as it showed me great heart and determination. Handsome colt by Bellamy Road was a good second two starts back vs. a restricted Stakes field and broke his maiden by a wide margin three back. Talent and guts always make for a good combination…..looks best of the rest here………………..Honorable Mention: Extra Hope won his one and only try at a mile and a sixteenth by a very wide margin, signaling to me he might appreciate being returned to this distance.
Race: 7 (6:28 PM EST Post)
Vibrance has gotten progressively better through all four of her career starts with her last two starts being especially good. Nice looking filly by surging sire Violence, she chased two time Grade: 1 winner Bellafina two starts back (finished second), before making an eye catching middle move in the Breeders Cup Filly race last month. Although her rider mistimed that move, I thought she did well to hang on for third at 35-1. She is already proven at the distance, has the most amount of money won in this field and, even though this is Grade: 1 race, there is a “hidden” drop in class here………………….Oxy Lady is about a quarter of a length away from coming into this race unbeaten in four tries over four different surfaces. Filly by Preakness winner Oxbow was super impressive coming from behind to capture the Grade: 3 Tempted Stakes at Aqueduct by five widening lengths at an eye popping 36-1 in her last. She is versatile, improving as her speed figures would indicate and has been training lights out all along…..big threat………………………Mother Mother is a talented speedster from the Baffert barn who won her debut by six, chased Bellafina (2nd best) in the Grade: 1 Del Mar Debutante then, after fast early fractions and final time, wired a Stakes field at Churchill in her last. This $450,000 daughter of Pioneerof the Nile figures to come out running and be prominent throughout……………………….Honorable Mentions: Chasing Yesterday will take money at the windows based solely on the fact that she is a half sister to the great American Pharoah and by super sire Tapit. Although this filly, who looks nothing like her older brother, is 3 for 4 in her career it must be noted she has been running against much easier rivals. This chestnut will be stepping up in class big time and stretching out to route distance for the first time as well. I will be paying attention to her but it appears on paper she might struggle in this spot…………..Enaya Alrabb looks overmatched in this spot but a few things stick out about her. First, she responded/improved nicely when stretched out in distance off a short recent layoff. Second, trainer Doug O’Neill is winning at an 18% clip when he runs horses second time off a layoff and, most importantly, Mike Smith sees fit to take the leg up.
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2018- Record: 103-248= 42%
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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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Mendelssohn, a half-brother to four time champion Beholder and elite sire Into Mischief, has been retired and will stand at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky next year.
The $3 million, 2016 Keeneland sale topper, who raced for Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, will stand for a fee of $35,000.
Mendelssohn retires with a mark of 13-4-2-2, $2,542,137.
“All of our team loved Mendelssohn from the first time we saw him as a yearling and he has developed into a magnificent looking horse,” said Coolmore America manager Dermot Ryan. “Being by our own Scat Daddy and a half-brother to Into Mischief and Beholder, you couldn’t ask for a better pedigree and he showed real brilliance when winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar and the UAE Derby by a street recording a new track record. He also ran some excellent races in defeat this fall, notably in the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. We have already had a huge number of enquiries about him and I have no doubt that he will prove extremely popular.”
**** Jockey John Velazquez earned his 6,000th career North American win aboard Singapore Trader in Race 5 on Friday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“Everybody kept asking me when it was going to happen, but for me it was just another number,” Velazquez said. “One day I’ll look back and know I accomplished something great, but my job is to come here and win races. That’s what I care about”.
Velazquez won his 5,000th career race aboard the Todd Pletcher trained Galloping Giraffe in 2013 at Belmont Park. Singapore Trader is also trained by Pletcher.
“Winning 6,000 races is a tremendous accomplishment, but what I’m most proud of Johnny for is the person he is: a leader of the jockey community, a caring father, loving husband, friend and mentor to many,” Pletcher said. “These are the qualities that make him so special.”
Added Velazquez: “I guess it was meant to be. I won my 5,000th for Todd so it’s kind of nice to come back now and win my 6,000th with him as well and have it stay in the family.”
**** The Lieutenant, a Grade: 3 winning, half brother to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, has been retired and will enter stud at Sequel Stallions New York next year at a fee of $6,500.
The Lieutenant retires with a 4-2-1 record in 15 starts and $345,882 in earnings.
“Before Justify became a Triple Crown champion I thought his older brother, The Lieutenant, could have been any kind,” trainer Mike McCarthy said. “His looks, mechanics and desire to train reminded me of some of the most talented horses I had ever been around, before an unfortunate injury after the Suburban ultimately curtailed his career.”
“Justify is a very special horse. When the opportunity presented itself to stand his brother in New York, I just couldn’t pass it up,” said Sequel Stallions’ Becky Thomas. “Standing brothers of famous horses has served me very well. Giant’s Causeway’s brother Freud has become the very cornerstone of the breeding program in New York”.
“Not only is The Lieutenant a half brother to the future Horse of the Year, he beat a bunch of nice Grade: 1 horses on his own,” Thomas continued. “He is by a horse I love, Street Sense who is having a phenomenal year, and I believe has a very bright future. I am very happy to be able to offer this quality of bloodlines to our breeders.”