Best Pal

2016 Best Pal Stakes – Ready for the Big Leagues

The Best Pal Stakes was named in honor of the Three-time California Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame Inductee Best Pal.  The gelding won graded stakes races from the ages of two to seven at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles, and the surface didn’t matter.  After compiling a 47-18-11-4 racing career and earning $5,668,245, Best Pal hung around the track as a stable pony.   

The Best Pal is a prep for the Del Mar Futurity (G1), yet the event has an illustrious roll call of colts who have done well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Triple Crown series. Last year, Nyquist and Swipe finished first and second, as they later did in the BC Juvenile and Kentucky Derby.  Other Best Pal competitors include Lookin at Lucky, Creative Cause, and Kentucky Derby/Preakness hero I’ll Have Another,

The 2016 Best Pal Stakes (G2) attracted five colts and a ridgling.  The youngsters will line up in Del Mar’s starting gate and travel 6 ½ furlongs.  Four of them enter on the high note of having won their last race.


Heavy Hitters

Trainer Bob Baffert has taken home the Best Pal trophy six times; the latest was in 2009 with Lookin At Lucky.  This year, Baffert is represented by KLIMT (Quality Road – Inventive, by Dixie Union).  In his second start, Klimt briefly stalked the pace, challenged the pacesetter, and then drew away to a 5 ¼ length score over a full field of two-year-olds.   Klimt has shown the usual quick morning works expected by the Baffert horses. In his third pre-race breeze, Klimt recorded a bullet working with graded stakes winner TOEWS ON ICE.

Pedigree: Half-sister West Coast Chick (Malibu Moon) placed in the 6 ½ F.  Vagrancy H. (G3).  Klimt’s dam is a multiple stakes placed miler. This is the direct female family of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) hero CONCERN.    


Doug O’Neill has conditioned the Best Pal Stakes winner in two of the last four years, including last year’s champ Nyqyist. This year’s 1/3 of the Best Pal is comprised of O’Neil trainees Secret House and Rinse And Repeat. 

After winning his debut at 4 ½ furlongs, SECRET HOUSE (Tiznow – Mega Dream, by Medaglia d’Oro) finished fourth, just missing third place by a short neck in the Santa Anita Juvenile Stakes.  Secret House will be fitted with a shiny new set of blinkers.  He gets his third jock switch in as many starts, this time to Santiago Gonzalez, and the colt.  O’Neil & Gonzalez have teamed for a dismal 0-15 in the last three months.

Pedigree:  Secret House is a first foal. His dam won a stakes at 6F on dirt and placed at a mile on the turf in the Royal Heroine Mile (G3).  This is the distaff line of 1991 Eclipse Award Turf Male TIGHT SPOT, and the multiple graded stakes winning warrior PREMIUM TAP.  Secret House is bred to handle classic distances and also has turf affinity throughout his pedigree. He should improve with maturity.


O’Neil’s second contender RINSE AND REPEAT (Square Eddie – Electric Daze, by Gilded Time) found the third start to be to his liking.  After chasing the pace setter Rim Ditch for much of the race, Rinse and Repeat took over in the stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths. 

Pedigree: Rinse and Repeat’s full brother Electric Eddie placed 3 times, twice in juvie stakes. Their dam was 1-7, failed to hit the board at SA and HOL, but got the job done at Fairplex. The second generation of his female family didn’t earn blacktype, but his third dam NORTHERN FABLE is a graded stakes winner and she’s also the third dam of BERNARDINI. Class could be skipping a generation here.


Ready to step up

In his debut, BIG LEAGUE (Speightstown – Reunited, by Dixie Union) dueled on the lead for much of the race, and then pulled away in the stretch to win by 3 ¼ lengths. The dark bay colt has been training smartly for Perter Miller, who is seeking his first Best Pal victory. 

Pedigree: Big League has a precocious sprinter’s pedigree. His dam is a G3 stakes winning sprinter. There are some nice blacktype earners in the female family.  Reunited’s ¾ brother DEAL BREAKER is a two-time stakes-winning sprinter, as is a half-sister, WIND TUNNEL.  Another half-sibling Ok Nothanksforaskn is Grade 3 stakes placed.  Big League’s second dam TIVLI is also a stakes winner.


Race Invaders

THIRSTFORLIFE (Stay Thirsty – Promenade Girl, by Carson City) ships in from Kentucky. The son of first-crop sire Stay Thirsty made his debut in the five-furlong Kentucky Juvenile Stakes three days before the Kentucky Derby. The colt finished third but came back to win at the same distance a month later, running away from an over-matched field of maidens by 6 ½ lengths.  Mark Casse ships in and Joe Talamo will ride.

Pedigree: Thirstforlife has a miler’s pedigree. He’s a ¾  brother to CAVORTING (Bernardini), who won the Adirondack (G2) as a juvenile. Later Cavorting captured a trio of Grade 1 races, the Test, Ogden Phipps, and Ruffian. While she was at it, Cavoting added the Prioress (G2) to her resume along with numerous second and third place finishes in other prestigious graded stakes. Their dam Promenade Girl is a multiple stakes winning miler who earned almost $700,000 in 28 starts. Thirstforlife’s fourth dam Dumbfries is a blue hen and a half-sister to the great stallion LYPHARD.


DRAFTED (Field Commission – Keep the Profit, by Darn That Alarm) flashed his heels to a young group of babies in April at Keeneland, winning his debut by 2 ¾ lengths. Barely a month later, he jet-setted to Royal Ascot and took the scenic route, finishing 17 lengths behind the winner in the Windsor Castle Stakes.  Now Drafted is back in California.  He’s recorded a couple of energetic breezes at Del Mar, and Gary Stevens will attempt to earn his second Best Pal trophy.

Pedigree:  Drafted ‘s sire, a grandson of Deputy Minister, is a multiple graded stakes winning sprinter over dirt and turf. Drafted has a very modest distaff family with no blacktype in the first two generations, and very little in the third and fourth generations.



It all comes down to speed.  Well, yeah, I guess every race does. But this year at Del Mar, either pace setters or pace pressers find their way to the winner’s circle most often. Those who sit midpack (2+ lengths back) and closers don’t fare so well. 


#6 BIG LEAGUE (2-1)

#5 KLIMT (9-5)

#1 SECRET HOUSE (12-1)



Handicapping maidens

Keys to Handicapping Maiden Races

Del Mar and Saratoga are gearing up for another year, and well-bred babies will be making their highly anticipated debuts.


Many handicappers get out the dart board when faced with the mostly blank past performance section of maiden races.  Some horse fans scan the entries and then pick the Baffert, O’Neil, Pletcher or Ward horse.  If the race is part of a vertical combo like a Pick 4, 5 or 6, the top two or three with the lowest odds are tossed onto the ticket.

Sometimes the handicapper gets lucky. Most often not.  Doing your homework can lead to lucrative payoffs in maiden races.  My eyes light up when I see a field of first-time starters. I concentrate only on two-year-olds and follow them through the Triple Crown. Once they’ve crossed the finish line in the Belmont Stakes, I’m done with them and go back to the next generation.  So call me a cradle robber.

Betting MaidensA difficult part of handicapping maiden events continues to be data, or rather, the lack thereof.  Past performances don’t give the crucial detailed info needed to select maiden winners properly.  Compiling the data for a maiden race can be a frustrating process.  It takes time, effort and most importantly, knowledge of where to find the information.   Then comes the skill learned through trial and error to pick the runners most likely to finish in the money.


Last year, Del Mar and Saratoga combined carded over 150 races for two-year-olds during their meets. Usually, these events are part of the Pick 5 or Pick 6 sequence.


So what is the beleaguered handicapper to do?  One of two things. Either follow the steps below and spend hours finding and sorting data or get it all at Bruno de Julio’s website. Bruno With The Works now includes all of the pedigree info needed to conquer the maiden races confidently using easy to read reports.


There are several components to pedigree handicapping.  They include the four components of pedigree handicapping, work reports, trainer/jock stats, post position and prior experience.

Reviewing the starter’s lineage, plus the sire and dam’s percentage stats in the PP’s won’t tell you a whole lot.  Besides the pedigree, one must determine precocity, class, distance and surface. How the horse is breezing in the morning is another vital key.   Here’s a quick run-down of what is needed to determine accurately which entrants have the best chance to put money into your pocket.


Yes, sire stats do come into play here. Percentage of 2YO winners is a start, but what percentage of them won first time out? That’s the statistic you need to know.  A stallion’s 25% two-year-old win rate from starters is pretty good, but not if 5% win first time out. 

The female family is an important clue to precocity. How many of the siblings won or placed in their first two starts, and if our contender is a first foal, did the dam and her siblings exhibit win-early tendencies?  This information is tough for the average handicapper to find unless they have a subscription to produce records or other handicapping product. 


Yes, class can be determined before the babies run. Immediate family members who have won or placed in stakes races (a/k/a black type) is an indication of class.  But – what about the family without blacktype?  The important question is – does this family win?  If our maiden is modestly bred, yet the majority of his/her siblings won a good portion of their races, this is a good sign.  Become familiar with the auction abbreviations, such as OBS, KEE, BARR, and FTF. Look at the sales prices of two-year-olds in training. Speed sells and these babies do well in the early maiden races.

Next, figure out the average class level of the siblings or dam, if this is the first foal.  Allowance/Claimers at an “A” rated track like Saratoga or Del Mar face better competitors than those at, say, Evangeline Downs. Yes, it’s a pain to look up all this data, but if that 4-1 horse you’re eyeing doesn’t have the same class level as the rest of the field, it will show.


The summer’s events for two-year-olds are sprints, and distances don’t lengthen until late summer, early fall.  California is heavy on dirt sprints. Saratoga has a dearth of turf sprints.  Often, when a baby is ready to run, the optimal race hasn’t been carded or has filled. Some trainers just want to get some experience into their youngsters and winning the debut isn’t the goal.

A horse bred to win at middle or classic distances is obviously at a disadvantage against sprinter/miler types, especially during the summer. Their conformation is different, and it takes longer for them to develop physically.   The offspring of A.P. Indy, Empire Maker, Pioneerof The Nile, and Medaglia d’Oro to name a few, rarely win shorter sprints.  American Pharoah found the 6 ½ furlongs of his debut too short but won the Del Mar Futurity at 7 furlongs.



The same situation as distance applies to surface.  A maiden bred for turf might win on the dirt in their debut with raw talent, but not usually.  Turf-bred horses can sometimes have a different conformation than their dirt counterparts. The hoof is broad and flat and pasterns tend to be longer.  A horse bred for dirt can have a narrower, tighter foot, and shorter pasterns.  This isn’t always the case, but it is something to consider when looking at the pedigree and viewing horses in the paddock.


Knowing how the horse breezed is more important than knowing how fast he went.  Would you rather back a horse who out-worked a stablemate in hand or a horse that was pushed hard to keep up? This factor applies to every type of race, not just maidens. Work reports are one of the most valuable tools a handicapper can use for any race condition.

Physical Demeanor

confident horseBefore betting a maiden race, it is crucial to see how the horses are behaving. Or not. A little sweat never hurt anyone, especially on a hot, humid day. A first-time runner looking like a shampoo commercial can be tossed. Look for a horse that has a bounce in his step, he’s eager, maybe prancing, but not kicking, rearing or causing general havoc. There’s a shine to his coat, and you can tell he’s feeling good.

Handicapping maiden races require a ton of research. A full field of maidens can take upwards of an hour or more to thoroughly explore all of the factors and nail down the most likely runners to hit the board. Unless you’re a handicapper who loves to delve into the minutiae of handicapping maiden events, a subscription to a quality publication specializing in work and pedigree reports is a must. If you think that you don’t need one, try a trial supplement and compare your before and after ROI.

Santa Anita

2016 Santa Anita Juvenile Championship Stakes – The O’Neil Special

The Santa Anita Juvenile Championship Stakes was formerly known as the Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes. First carded in 1938, the Grade 3 event for two-year-olds was contested at six furlongs.  1959 Kentucky Derby winner Tommy Lee and Triple Crown hero Affirmed captured the race. Other notable winners include Champion 2yo filly Althea, Terlingua, the dam of legendary sire Storm Cat, multiple G1 winner, and son of Storm Cat, Hennessy, and Squirtle Squirt, who continued on to become a Champion Sprinter.  Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Desert Wine, Graded Stakes winners and sires Dixie Union, Yes Its True and Swiss Yodeler also include this race on their list of accomplishments.


The Hollywood/Santa Anita Juvenile has lost some luster, including the race’s Grade 3 designation and it has been shortened to 5 ½ furlongs. The winners and runners-up of the last six editions of the affair haven’t reached the status of previously mentioned winners, but we are ever hopeful that another year will unveil a star.


Doug O'NeilThe 2016 Santa Anita Juvenile Championship Stakes attracted a small field of six colts.  All except Rebel War have won their debut. California Diamond is the only last-out winner who didn’t have the lead from the outset of their race.  Trainer Doug O’Neil will attempt to take down the exacta with Green With Eddie and Secret House.  O’Neil has hogged the Juvenile Championship Trophy – he earned it in 2008, 2009, 2014 and last year, completed the exacta with two sons of Square Eddie, Found Money and Mrazek.


Green_With_Eddie_GREEN WITH EDDIE (Square Eddie – Marquis Diamond, by Yonaguska) has the more precocious pedigree of this year’s O’Neil charges.  The son of Square Eddie is a full brother to the restricted stakes sprinter More Complexity.  Their dam Marquis Diamond won or placed in half of her eight starts, and she’s a half-sister to a stakes placed runner. The second dam is also stakes placed.  With the bloodlines of the precocious sprinters Yonaguska and Belong to Me in his first two generations, Green With Eddie is built to be a quick sprinter.


Secret HouseOn the other hoof, SECRET HOUSE (Tiznow – Mega Dream, by Medaglia d’Oro) is bred to win classic races.  At first glance, it would appear that this good looking son of two-time BC Classic Champ Tiznow is surprisingly precocious. Secret House’s dam didn’t earn her first victory until March of her three-year-old season. She developed into a stakes-winning turf sprinter.

Medaglia d’Oro gets the occasional early winner, but most of them (Songbird, Rachel Alexandra, Plum Pretty) are fillies.   Yet, Secret House’s distaff line holds the key to this colt’s raw talent. His dam is a half-sister to Giant Jack (Harlan’s Holiday), winner of the Springboard Mile as a two-year-old. Secret House’s third dam Premium Win, a daughter of Lyphard, was a stakes-placed juvenile in France. Her son Valiant Nature captured the 1993 Hollywood Futurity (G1). That one’s full brother Tight Spot was 1991 Champion Turf Male.  Farther back in the pedigree are the 1962 Champion 2YO Colt Never Bend and 1964 Champion Filly Mira Femme. Sadly, their daughter Classic Perfection didn’t live up to her breeding on the race track, but she did bear six blacktype earners, five of them won or placed in stakes as two-year-olds.

But back to the future. Secret House could win on class alone, but sprinting isn’t his forte. As the distances lengthen, this colt will be in his element. Secret House has a strong turf pedigree, so we could see him on the lawn if his Kentucky Derby dreams fail to materialize.


Jerry Hollendorfer tries his chances with SILVER ASSAULT (Maclean’s Music – Spooky Minister, by Deputy Minister).  The pretty gray colt completed 5 furlongs in :57.31, just missing the track record of :56.37.  His first crop sire, Maclean’s Music, is off to an excellent start at stud, with four winners from eight starters.  Silver Assault is a half-brother to Grade 3 placed miler Holy Candy (Candy Ride). Their unraced dam is a half-sister to the juvenile stakes placed Broadway Moon. Silver Assault’s second dam Lunar Spook was a tough multiple graded stakes veteran who won from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.  The highlight of her career was capturing the 1993 Ashland Stakes (G1).   Surprisingly, Hollendorfer hasn’t won the Juvenile Championship since 1988. Maybe he’s due to earn another one.


The short field means that there likely won’t be huge odds on the current 12-1 longshot REBEL WAR (In Summation – Dixie Gator Gal, by Dixie Union).  Keep an eye on this one.  He met up with Right Hand Man in their debut. While Right Hand Man had it all his own way winging it on the lead, Rebel War broke last and had to make up ground through the entire race. That isn’t easy to do in a 5-furlong sprint over a speed-favoring track.  Rebel War kept going and closed to finish fourth.  Rebel War is the first foal out of an unraced full sister to a stakes placed runner. Going back a generation, we find the classy G1 stakes mare Mandy’s Gold.  Rebel War has breezed well since his debut, but trainer Bobby Grayson’s record of 0-19 with second-time starters is disconcerting.


RIGHT HAND MAN (Street Boss – Storm Queen, by Stormy Atlantic) drag raced through the opening half in his debut, nailing the first quarter in :21.73 and the half in :45 while staying a safe 1 ½ lengths in front.  That pretty much fried his opponents and Right Hand Man maintained that lead at the wire. His late fractions show a different story. He slowed down in the stretch, getting his final 1/8 in 12.76.  Right Hand Man has little blacktype in his distaff line. His two half-siblings each earned a maiden victory but had seven starts between them.  Right Hand Man’s second dam Dixieland Gold was a G2 winning sprinter annnd…that’s all we have for three generations.  Right Hand Man has posted two strong pre-race breezes, and we have to respect the reliable trainer Jeff Bonde.


CALIFORNIA DIAMOND (Harbor the Gold – Carrie’s a Jewel, by Slewdledo) pressed the blazing pace of :21.61 and :44.87.  Despite the fractions, the leader, 17-1 longshot Rim Ditch wasn’t slowing down much. Jockey Edwin Maldonado whaled on California Diamond through the stretch. The colt didn’t like it much, briefly swishing his tail, but he grudgingly closed the gap and won by 2 ½ lengths. California Diamon got his final 1/8 mile in 12.82 under duress. California Diamond’s sire was an underperforming half-brother to 1996 2YO Champ Boston Harbor.  His dam Carrie’s a Jewel placed in a minor stakes race and owns the only blacktype in two generations of the distaff family. Trainer John Brocklebank is 0-8 with the last out maiden to stakes angle.



It’s rumored that a stable hand caught Doug O’Neil posing in a mirror in preparation for capturing the Santa Anita Juvenile Championship for the third straight year.  Maybe I lack imagination, but I’ll go with another chalky O’Neil exacta.  As much as I like Secret House, his best is yet to come, so his stablemate gets the nod for the victory.  Besides, I like the name and think that Square Eddie is an underrated sire.





#1 REBEL WAR  (12-1) 






2016 Landaluce Stakes – We’ve Waited for This!

The Landaluce Stakes for two-year-old fillies was originally held at the now defunct Hollywood Park. First carded in 1945 as the Hollywood Lassie Stakes, the name was changed to honor the Champion Filly Landaluce, who tragically died from a virus before the end of her two-year-old season in 1982.



Over the years, the former Grade 2 contest has been held at 5 ½ furlongs and 6 furlongs. Landaluce’s record for six furlongs in 1:08 still stands as the stakes record at that distance. She devastated her foes by 21 lengths.   Currently, the Landaluce is tried at 5 ½ furlongs.


The Landaluce Stakes is typically won by precocious sprinters who don’t always develop past their two-year-old season.  In the last five years, two winners of the Landaluce finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – Executiveprivilege in 2012 and She’s a Tiger in 2013.

A short, but contentious field of seven fillies will enter the Santa Anita starting gate for the 2016 Landaluce Stakes. All except Tap It All and Demigoddess are entering off of a maiden score.


The Favorites

Chalon HRNCHALON (Dialed In – Fall Fantasy, by Menifee) won her 5-furlong debut by 1 ½ lengths 16 days ago.  She’s a member of Florida Derby hero Dialed In’s first crop.   Chalon is the final foal out of Fall Fantasy. The mare bore 8 foals, all started, two raced only once, and failed to hit the board, but the rest were winners.  Not much blacktype in the first two generations of Chalon’s distaff line, although her dam is a half-sister to Boston Park, who was third in the Sapling Stakes (G3). So why is Chalon a favorite?  She won her debut in 57.56, getting her last eighth in 11.80.  Plus, trainer Peter Miller is noted for sending out fast juveniles.


onewewaitedforTHEONEWEWAITEDFOR (Creative Cause – Yolo Lady, by Eastern Echo) won her 4 ½ furlong debut in :51.97. The pretty gray filly dueled in second place behind the pace setter, went widest of all around the turn, then edged clear of her foe by ½ length. It was a good learning experience.  Theonewewaitedfor is a daughter of first crop sire Creative Cause. He was a precocious baby himself, and captured the Norfolk Stakes (G1).

Theonewewaitedfor is a half-sister to Willard L. Proctor Memorial hero Alpenfest (Hennessy).  Their dam Yolo Lady placed in Grade 1 and Grade 2 contests at 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles.  She’s the only stakes winner in two generations. Theonewewaitedfor hasn’t raced since May, but has a series of steady breezes under her girth. Trainer Mike Harrington is 21% with the maiden to listed stakes winner angle.


MISS SOUTHERN MISS (More Than Ready – Miss Atlantic City, by Stormy Atlantic) was very professional in her debut. She sat behind three bickering leaders, one of whom was Miss Tapit All. Miss Southern Miss was in tight, but didn’t hesitate to split horses and run away from her competitors by 3 ¼ lengths under a hand ride, getting 5 furlongs in :57.86 and her final eighth in 12.20.  Miss Southern Miss’ dam Miss Atlantic City was a multiple stakes winning miler conditioned by Keith Desormeaux, who also handles Miss Southern Miss.  Desormeaux owns the only blacktype in two generations, but the second dam Fat City is a half-sister to Acorn Stakes (G1) heroine Cotton Blossom. The third dam For Dixie is also a stakes winner.


Worth a Second Look

LOVE A HONEYBADGER (Bushwacker – Angela’s Love, by Not For Love) showed her namesake’s disposition down the lane in her debut. She grabbed the lead early, then dug in and repelled the challenge of My California. That one came back to beat state-bred maidens by 9 ¼ lengths, getting 5 furlongs in a decent :58 flat. Love a Honeybadger is the seventh foal out of the G3 winner Angela’s Love. None of the siblings own blacktype. Angela’s Love and her dam Goldgorians Alden own the only blacktype in two generations of the distaff family.   Love a Honeybadger has put together a string of quick works, including a second – to -last bullet breeze. Tyler Baze was aboard for the initial victory, but decamps to ride Chalon. Victor Espinoza gains the mount, and the journeyman jock is a positive change.


CIOPPINO PASADINO (Time to Get Even – Clawpuccino, by Forest Wildcat) outclassed state-bred maidens by 4 ½ lengths, getting 4 ½ furlongs in :52.29. She breezed a bullet three furlongs in her first post-race work, which is always a good sign. A bad sign is that trainer Gary Sherlock is 0-17 with the maiden to listed stakes winner angle.  Cioppino Pasadino’s dam Clawpuccino was unraced and that ones dam La Crema was also unraced, yet bore only two foals.  Cioppino Pasadino has some back class. Her third dam Hard Copy is a half-sister to the multiple G1 winner and sire Behrens and a couple of her half-sisters bore multiple graded stakes winners.


Maybe Next Time

TAP IT ALL (Tapizar – Yawkey Way, by Grand Slam) is the most experienced filly in the field. She’s raced three times, yet is still a maiden. It was close last time out, she only missed by a head.  The daughter of first-crop sire Tapizar was a pricy $800,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton March 2YO in Training auction after breezing a furlong in :10.1.  She’s the first foal out of a restricted stakes winner.  Not much in the way of blacktype in her first few generations.  Tap It All has gone to the post as the favorite in each of her races. She was out-gamed by Miss Southern Miss two starts back. Tap it All is turning around in only eight days for trainer Doug O’Neil. Go-to jock Mario Gutierrez is off and Santiago Gonzalez takes over. Note that this trainer/jock combo is 0-7 in the last 3 months.  The extra distance could help, Tap It All, but the quick turn-around after a tough beat might be too much for her to overcome.


DEMIGODDESS (First Dude – La Chica Sensual, by Lightnin N Thunder) finished a zip code behind Chalon in her debut. She returned eight days later to finish four lengths behind Tap It All.  Eight days have passed and here she is again.  Demigoddess, the second foal out of her dam, has a pedigree that requests longer sprints to two turns. Her second-crop sire First Dude has one stakes winner and one stakes placed runner from 72 starters. A late bloomer, First Dude finished third in four Grade 1 stakes at three and won the 1 ¼ mile Hollywood Gold Cup in his finale as a four-year-old. Demigoddess’ dam La Chica Sensual captured two legs of the Florida Stallion Series for juvenile fillies. Her first foal, Bootleggers Wife, is a multiple stakes winner. She’s the only blacktype earner out of her unraced dam Lerma, a daughter of Unbridled.



Four of the seven entrants have won on the lead, which is typical of a baby sprint race.  So what is more impressive, a horse that wins by a half-length while battling foes or the one who earned their victory by open lengths?  I’ll take the filly with an attitude, the kind who looks them in the eye and says, “oh no you don’t.”  I’ll also take the filly who overcame trouble and did it in style.

Theonewewaitedfor and Chalon appear most closely matched time and speed figure-wise. Chalon was pressured a bit early on, then drew off.  Theonewewaitedfor sat behind horses on the rail, fought in traffic and prevailed by ½ length. She refused to let the second place finisher pass, even in the gallop out.   Miss Southern Miss also fits the profile of a filly who can sit of the lead and win if things get to hot on the pace.  Gotta Love a Honeybager.  Talk about attitude. No way, no how was she going to let that second place filly by.  What do we do with Tap It All? Turning her around so quickly appears to be a desperate move to get a victory and a stakes win to justify her designer price tag.



#7 CHALON (2-1)







Two Track Record Holders Vie in Kentucky Juvenile Stakes

The Kentucky Juvenile Stakes attracted and assortment of nine colts, fillies and geldings.  The precocious two-year-olds will travel five furlongs over the Churchill Downs dirt course. All except one of the entrants have raced.  There’s some quality in the field and we may see some of these babies competing in other stakes races this summer and fall.



Just how fast was the Keeneland dirt on April 21?  Hey Mike set a new track record for 4 ½ furlongs in :51.36 in the opener. Two races later, Lady Aurelia lowered the record to :50.85.


LadyAThe slight favorite at 8-5 morning odds is Lady Aurelia (Scat Daddy – D’ Wildcat Speed, by Forest Wildcat).  Galloped clear of the field by 7 ½ lengths in her debut.  The filly’s dam D’ Wildcat Speed was Champion Imported Three-Year-Old Filly in Puerto Rico and showed her class by winning the Rampart (G2) at 1 1/8 miles.  Lady Aurelia owns the highest early and late pace speed figures in the field. What will she do for an encore?




Hey Mike (Cape Blanco (IRE) – Nina Fever, by Borrego) was slightly out-shown by the filly. However, he tracked the pace before getting up to win by a half-length.  The colt is a half-brother to last year’s Frizette (G1) heroine Nickname, who is entered in the Eight Belles Stakes (G2) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.



When you think of early season juveniles, who is the first trainer that comes to mind?  Wesley Ward, of course.  The baby specialist has a 51%-win rate with two-year-olds. He entered a trio of fillies in the race, including Lady Aurelia. They have a good shot of completing a Ward sweep of the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes.


The Ward-trained Silvertoni (Tapit – Somasach, by Johannesburg) captured her Keeneland debut by two lengths. Precocity and class runs in the pretty gray filly’s female family.  Her dam was Group 3 placed in Ireland as a two-year-old. Her second dam Easy Now captured the Astarita Stakes (G2) at two and was a multiple Grade One winner at three. Oh, and she’s a half-sister to the legendary Easy Goer, who was a Two-Year-Old Champ. Expect to see Silvertoni develop into a very nice two and three-year-old.


Ward’s third entrant is Con Te Partiro (Scat Daddy – Temple Street, by Street Cry (IRE)) naturally won her debut at Keeneland too, getting 4 ½ furlongs in :52 flat, defeating her rivals by 5 ½ lengths. Her older half-brother Donworth is a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles. Their dam placed in the Humana Distaff (G1). Con Te Partiro has solid Claiborne Farm bloodlines. She has 5×5 Rasmussen Factor breeding (inbred to a blue hen within five generations) to Narrate, the third dam of Johannesburg (Scat Daddy’s daddy) and she’s also the second dam of Pulpit (the third damsire of Con Te Partiro).  The filly has the pedigree to love stretching out.


The first starter for Freshman Sire Stay Thirsty is making his debut in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes. Thirstforlife (Stay Thirsty – Promenade Girl, by Carson City), The colt is a three-quarter brother to Cavorting (Bernardini), the multiple stakes winner who captured the Adirondack Stakes as a two-year-old, and the Test (G1) at three.  Their dam was also a precocious runner, winning her debut and multiple stakes. Thirstforlife draws the tricky post 1.


Cold Snack Thirty (Backtalk – Passeporta, by Rockport Harbor) ships in from Gulfstream Park, where he captured his 4 ½ furlong debut in a dueling :52.  He has little blacktype in his distaff line, but he earned nice speed figures and could surprise at a price. Cold Snack Thirty goes out for the first time for trainer Tevis McCauley. The conditioner’s 0-19 record in listed races isn’t that great, but when McCauley wins that first one, it should pay.


Bluegrass Gem (Gemologist – Song of the Saints, by Saint Ballado) was his Freshmen Sire’s first starter. The colt made a four-wide move to get up for second place in a 4 ½ furlong maiden race at Keeneland. He’s bred to go longer, so it was a good effort.  His dam is stakes-placed and Bluegrass Gem’s second dam Prospector’s Song is a veteran stakes winner and juvenile stakes-placed.  The colt will be competitive with more distance and he could hit the board.


Cold Hearted Pearl (Parading – Sessile, by Forestry) was wide in her debut and finished a fading fourth, beaten by over seven lengths just last week.  She receives first time Lasix. The Helmbrecht barn is 12% with first time Lasix and their second-time starters win at 12%.  This is a tough place for her second start.


Rapa Iti (Discreet Cat – Extra Mousse, by Posse) was squeezed at the start of his debut, but rushed up to grab the lead briefly.  From there, he retreated to finish last, beaten 18 lengths.  He owns the lowest late pace speed figure in the field.



Lady Aurelia looks like the class and speed here. Hey Mike can track the speed and take over if the filly falters. The Ward stablemates Silvertoni and Con Te Partiro also figure.  Thirstforlife goes out for Mark Casse off of a bullet breeze.


#4  LADY AURELIA (8-5)

#9  HEY MIKE (5-2)

#3  CON TE PARTIRO (8-1)




San Felipe Stakes Showdown

In the last four years, a victory in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) has resulted in a win or third place finish in the Triple Crown races. California Chrome steamrolled through the ’14 San Felipe on his way through a six-win race streak.  The pretty gray Creative Cause captured the San Felipe and was third in the Preakness, while last year, Dortmund won a thrilling edition of the San Felipe. He suffered his first loss finishing third in the Kentucky Derby to stablemate American Pharoah.


This year, a competitive field of six colts will go to the post in the 1 1/16 mile contest. The winner will earn fifty points towards their trip to the 2016 Kentucky Derby


The Main Contenders

The San Felipe is a highly anticipated match up of Los Al Futurity and R.B. Lewis winner Mor Spirit vs. San Vicente runner-up Exaggerator vs.  the undefeated state-bred champ Smokey Image.


MOR SPIRIT  has improved his speed figures in each start. In the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2), the son of Eskendereya just galloped by San Felipe entrants Uncle Lino and I Will Score, who were all out. Gary Stevens allowed the colt to win by only 1 ½ lengths, but there was no doubt who was superior.



EXAGGERATOR   enters the San Felipe fresh from his third defeat at the hooves of the 2YO Champ Nyquist.  The two made their three year old debut in the seven furlong San Vicente. Nyquist got the better trip while Exaggerator had to go four wide, yet the undefeated champ cruised  by 1 ½ lengths while under a hand ride while Exaggerator was all out to keep up.



Following in the hoof prints of California Chrome, the undefeated, untested SMOKEY IMAGE makes his graded stakes debut.  The son of Southern Image has been boxed in, steadied, bobbled at the start and still won. Like the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner, Smokey Image likes to press the pace.  Both California-breds are bright Chestnuts with white blazes and both wear blinkers.  Smokey Image won the 1 1 11/16 mile California Cup Derby in 1:43.49 in hand, drawing off by 8 ½ lengths. A week later, Mor Spirit captured the Robert Lewis Stakes in 1:43.21 by 1 ½ lengths.



Can Step Up

In his two-turn debut,  UNCLE LINO (Uncle Mo – Haysee, by Orientate) had a perfect trip stalking the pace in the R. B. Lewis Stakes, but was all out in the stretch dueling with I Will Score. He held second place over that one by ½ length.  He couldn’t hold off Mor Spirit.  Uncle Lino has one of the best pedigrees in the field. By a 2YO Champ and leading freshman sire, Uncle Lino is out of an unraced full sister to an Alabama (G1) winner and a half-sister to Preakness Stakes winner and new sire Shackleford.


The lightly raced I WILL SCORE  answered the class question affirmatively. He made the pace in his first try routing and tired only slightly to finish third.  It was a good effort. I Will Score has a sprinter/miler pedigree and 1 1/6 miles may be his limit. Mike Smith, the colt’s pilot in all three starts, jumps off in favor of Danzig Candy.


DANZING CANDY may vie with I Will Score on the front end.  The son of track record holder Twirling Candy ran them off of their feet in his last two races by a combined nine lengths. Danzig Candy is making his stakes debut. His dam is a half sister to the popular stakes warrior Better Talk Now.


Mor Spirit’s stablemate, the last out maiden CUPID was scratched.



All except two of the last ten winners of the San Filipe won their previous start, which was a stakes race. Only two captured the R.B. Lewis in their last start.


Uncle Lino is speed from the rail. He’ll probably duel with I Will Score and Danzig Candy could join the pair.  Mor Spirit will likely draft behind them.  Smokey Image may be in the mix or he could settle back with Mor Spirit. Exaggerator may have another wide trip unless he sits behind the rest. All the colts have a shot at winning and I don’t see this as a strong betting race.


#3 MOR SPIRIT (2-1)

#6 SMOKY IMAGE (7-2)


#1 UNCLE LINO (8-1)


2016 Robert B. Lewis Stakes – Gotta Have Mor Spirit!

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) has been through a few name changes over the years since its origin in 1935 as the Santa Catalina Handicap. Renamed in honor of one of California’s greatest horse owners, the race has showcased aspiring colts and fillies looking to take their next step on the Triple Crown Journey. The Robert B. Lewis Stakes honor roll includes the names of Sham, Ferdinand, Artax, and General Challenge. Not all of them made their presence felt in the Triple Crown races, but they became good horses in their own right. More recently, 2009 Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Pioneerof the Nile fought his way to a runner-up position in the Kentucky Derby while 2012 and I’ll Have Another captured the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Last year’s R.B. Lewis contenders took a close second and third in the Kentucky Derby behind Pioneerof the Nile’s son, American Pharoah.

This year, a competitive field of seven colts will go to the post in the 1 1/16 mile contest. The winner will earn ten points towards their trip to the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

Bob Baffert has a solid chance to score the exacta in the R.B. Lewis. The top classic horse in his stable right now has to be MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union), easy winner of the Los Al Futurity by 1 ¼ lengths over stablemate Toews on Ice. Read his pedigree profile.


Baffert’s other entry LET’S MEET IN RIO (Flatter – Rio Carnival, by Storm Cat) won his maiden two starts ago, besting Lewis contestant Laoban by 1 ½ lengths. The son of Flatter made a huge run from eighth place in the Sham Stakes to place second, beaten by only 1 ¼ lengths by another Baffert horse, Collected. The extra distance should suit Let’s Meet in Rio and Baffert could collect another exacta finish.


Jerry Hollendorfer gives the inexperienced, yet undefeated I WILL SCORE (Roman Ruler – Grassy Nellie, by Belong to Me) a class check. The colt has no blacktype in the first two generations of his distaff line. However, his dam was in the money in 9 of 17 starts as an allowance class runner. Her game was 1 1/16 miles over the lawn. I Will Score has a sprinter/miler pedigree and 1 1/6 miles may be his limit. Besides stepping up in class, he’ll be asked to carry his speed around two turns for the first time. Hollendorfer gave the colt three sharp stamina breezes to equip the son of Roman Ruler for the task.


DRESSED IN HERMES (Hat Trick (JPN) – Elusive Fashion, by Elusive Quality) scratched out of the Sham and will make his first start of the season in the R.B. Lewis. Trained by Janet Armstrong, the colt spent the last three months recording a string of moderate/slow breezes. Dressed in Hermes’ has carved out a nice little career over the lawn as a stakes miler. His initial start was in a dirt sprint where he finished a distant fourth to Exaggerator. Although two of his half siblings won once each over the dirt, Dressed in Hermes’ distaff line is solid turf. The colt should enjoy the extra distance and if he’s kept on the outside away from dirt kickback, he could have a shot at hitting the board.


UNCLE LINO (Uncle Mo – Haysee, by Orientate) has one of the best pedigrees in the field. By a 2YO Champ and leading freshman sire, Uncle Lino is out of an unraced full sister to multiple graded stakes heroine Lady Joanne. Her greatest accomplishment was a victory in the Alabama (G1) at 1 ¼ miles. Haysee is a half-sister to Preakness Stakes winner and new sire Shackleford, plus multiple graded stakes winners Afleeting Lady and Baghdaria. After winning his maiden, Uncle Lino placed third by a short neck to I Will Score in an optional claiming race. The Gary Sherlock trainee posted three stamina breezes, including a sharp pre-race 5F move. Uncle Lino should enjoy the extra distance and should be considered for the exotics.


With six starts under his girth, PATH OF DAVID (Istan – Rimini Road, by Dynaformer) is the most experienced, and only gelding in the field. Slow to mature, Path of David showed little in his first two races, both dirt sprints. He found his home on the turf and has finished in the money in all four starts, including a last out victory in the Eddie Logan. Path of David is a full brother to the multiple graded stakes placed Antigun, who was third in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. Antigun won over dirt and turf and improved as a three and four-year-old. If Path of David is anything like his big brother, he may handle dirt now that he’s a little older and maturing.


LAOBAN (Uncle Mo – Chattertown, by Speightstown) is still a maiden after three starts at a straight mile. Let’s Meet in Rio got the best of him in both meetings. After finishing second to his rival and in the process, blowing a five length lead in a maiden race, Laoban switched running styles in the Sham Stakes. The Eric Guillot trainee was in tight in the early stages and made a four-wide move, but didn’t make up much ground in the stretch. Laoban finished third in the Sham Stakes, 2 ¾ lengths behind Collected. Laoban has plenty of sprint attributes in his pedigree and may be more competitive at shorter distances. Laoban’s dam is a stakes placed sprinter. She’s a half to That’s How I Roll, a stakes winning sprinter and to Santa Ysabel Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Chatter. The second dam Chatter is a multiple stakes winning sprinter and she’s a half to the dam of Grade 1 winning veteran I’m a Chatterbox.



Track bias: Pace pressers earn the lion’s share of awards over the Santa Anita dirt.

Eight of the last eleven R.B. Lewis heroes prepped in a graded stakes and only one of them didn’t hit the board in their previous start. I dislike being one of those handicappers who always goes with the obvious favorite, but Mor Spirit is again the one to beat here. I picked him over his stablemate in the Los Al. Watching videos of Mor Spirit’s morning works, I observed that the colt has a good mind. He can gallop along on a long rein despite having fractious horses to his inside. That kind of attitude wins races. I Will Score has a ton of early speed and looks like the early pacesetter, or he may duel with Uncle Lino. Unless he can conserve his natural speed, I Will Score might fade, but have to include based on connections. Uncle Lino has the best pedigree in the field, but like I Will Score, he needs to prove that he can sit off of horses successfully as races get longer. Let’s Meet in Rio will most likely sit at the back of the pack and will take aim around the second turn. He has a good late kick and can create another Baffert exacta, if given the right trip by Kenty D. Path of David and Dressed in Hermes need to prove they will handle the dirt. Laoban could find the distance too far in this company.





Gulfstream Park

2016 Holy Bull Stakes – Mohaymen Puts Perfect Record on the Line

A small, select field of six colts are set to contest the first of three Florida prep races for this year’s Triple Crown Trail in Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Since 2000, only two colts who have hit the board in the Holy Bull did the same in the Kentucky Derby. Barbaro in 2006 and Closing Argument (2nd) in 2005. Two contenders from last year’s Holy Bull, Frosted and Keen Ice, matured later in the year to finish second and third in the Belmont Stakes. All of the colts in this year’s 1 1/16 mile contest are coming out of races at a mile or farther, so distance won’t be an issue. The first four finishes will earn entry points towards the 2016 Kentucky Derby.


The Favorite

MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) will be the overwhelming favorite. The pretty gray colt is undefeated and untested in three starts. He proved middle distances were within his scope in the 1 1/8 mile Remsen Stakes. Mohaymen’s dam, Justwhistledixie is a multiple graded stakes winner who captured Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin prepped Mohaymen with a solid 5F :59 breeze, so the colt should have no excuses. Mohaymen is a half brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero New Year’s Day and their dam captured the 1 1/8 mile Bonnie Miss (G-2). Additionally, Mohaymen has Rasmussen Factor inbreeding (inbred to a blue hen within five generations) to Foggy Note through the full siblings Relaunch and Moon Glitter. Inbreeding to a blue hen has proven to be a positive breeding factor resulting in many high level stakes winners.



On His Heels

Conquest Big ECONQUEST BIG E (Tapit – Seeinsbelieven, by Carson City) was tossed into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile directly after winning his maiden. The task was too daunting for the pretty gray colt, and he tired to finish eighth. Conditioned by Mark Casse, the son of Tapit returned a month later to dominate allowance runners by two lengths and the confidence booster should help. Conquest Big E is a half to Aquapazza, a stakes winner at Evangeline Downs. Their dam hit the board in 7 of 18 starts as a sprinter. Conquest Big E may find 1 1/16 miles at the top of his distance range. The colt’s speed figures have improved in each start and he has a strong breeze pattern. Mike Smith flies in from California to ride.




GREENPOINTCRUSADER (Bernardini – Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance) is a full brother to the lightly raced and talented 2016 Freshman Sire Algorithms. His dam is in line for blue hen status, as she’s foaled the colt’s half brothers, G1 winning sprinter Justin Phillip; G2 sprinter Keyed Entry; G3 miler Successful Mission and turf stakes winning turf filly Alex’s Allure. Greenpointcrusader won the Champagne Stakes (G1). In his next start in the BC Juvenile, he was far back early and made a belated eight-wide move. He gained a little ground, but was no threat. The Dominick Schettino trainee shows a slow to middling series of works at Palm Meadows. The one run closer may be at a disadvantage in this short field unless an unexpected speed duel develops.



Hoping to Place Fourth

FRONTIER RANGER (U S Ranger – Earthly Angel, by Crafty Prospector) may be the best of the second level trio. I’m not convinced that dirt or two turns is his game. The gelding recently raced twice at 1 1/16 miles over good turf and fast dirt. He closed strongly over the turf to just miss by ¾ length, in a contest filled with glacial fractions. Frontier Ranger made another decent move in his last race, making another late run to miss second place by ½ length in an allowance race. Holy Bull contender Perfect Saint was in the same race and finished a far back eighth.


PERFECT SAINT (Pleasantly Perfect – Santa Gertrudis (IRE), by Machiavellian) has won once in five starts. The only two times that he hit the board, the Dale Romans colt pressed the pace. Perfect Saint has been far back in the rest of his starts and he’s either too slow or just not interested in being that far back. The colt may need more distance and possibly another try over the turf. His third dam Dahlia was a champion turf mare and a blue hen. However, this particular branch hasn’t lived up to the breeding.


FELLOWSHIP (Awesome of Course – Go Girlfriend Go, by Demidoff) has hit the board in five of eight starts, mainly against state-bred company. However, in his last start in the Mucho Macho Stakes for open company, trainer Stanly Gold had to send a search party out to find Fellowship, who finished 16 lengths behind. There’s some minor blacktype in Fellowship’s distaff line and the colt could develop into a nice state-bred winner. However, he’s outclassed here.



Track bias: Pace setters/pressers win 75% of the races held at 1 1/16 miles. Horses that have a previous race over the track do well in the Holy Bull.

It’s hard to see past Mohaymen. It’s a small field and he can easily control the pace. Conquest Big E might run with him, and the two Tapit colts could make a race of it. Mohaymen should be stronger the farther he goes while Conquest Big E may find 1 1/16 miles at the top of his range. If Greenpointcrusader sits closer to the pace or Conquest Big E tires, Greenpointcrusader could take aim on Mohaymen. Frontier Ranger could clunk up for fourth far behind the top three. Let’s make it a Tapit one-two.


#2 MOHAYMEN (6-5)




Aquduct starting gate

2016 Withers Stakes – Will Flexibility make it 2 for 2?

The 2016 Withers Stakes (G3) is the second of four Kentucky Derby prep races that are contested in New York. The Withers Stakes hasn’t produced a Triple Crown contender since Bernardini won the Preakness in 2006.

Early February is when the less precocious runners begin to mature and improve. Last out maiden winners are tested against one or two graded stakes winners and a handful of minor stakes types looking for their class niche.   This year’s field of seven colts and geldings is no different.


The One to Beat:

FLEXIBILITY (Bluegrass Cat – Santa Vindi, by Vindication) appears to stand head and withers above this field and was designated the morning odds favorite. The Chad Brown trainee finished second in the Nashua and Remsen Stakes behind Mohaymen last year and in his first start of the season, Flexibility dominated the Jerome Stakes by over four lengths. Flexibility’s pretty gray rival is favored in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and will face a tougher field than the Withers. Flexibility benefited from a sharp second to last four-furlong bullet and should be on his toes.




SUNNY RIDGE (Holy Bull – Lignum Vitae, by Songandaprayer) ran a monster race in the Delta Jackpot, missing by a bare neck to Exaggerator. The pretty gray Sunny Ridge holds the distinction of having the highest late pace speed figure and the only one with a triple digit speed figure in the field. He’s the first blacktype earner in two generations of his distaff line and Sunny Ridge’s third dam was the popular stakes veteran Bodacious Tatas.



DONEGAL MOON (Malibu Moon – Perfect Cause, by Giant’s Causeway) face planted at the start of the Jerome Stakes last time out, losing Manny Franco. Franco departs for Sunny Ridge and Aaron Gryder takes over today. Donegal Moon has a perfect pedigree for classic races. Donegal Moon’s second dam is the 1995 Champion Turf mare Possibly Perfect, so if he isn’t competitive here, there’s always the chance of a surface switch. Donegal Moon could jump to the lead from his rail position and his last two late pace speed figures are better than most of this field’s. Pletcher won the 2012 edition of the Remsen with the pace-pressing Overanalyze.



Minor Award Candidates

VORTICITY (Distorted Humor – Tar Heel Mom, by Flatter) fought head and head with Flexibility in the Jerome Stakes and was soundly put in his place. The well-bred colt certainly has the pedigree to relish two turns. His dam is a multiple stakes winning veteran sprinter, who incidentally, is a half-sister to 2005 Wither’s Stakes winner Scrappy T., who finished second to Afleet Alex in the Preakness after failing to trip his rival. Vorticity could benefit from an off of the pace running style as races get longer. Vorticity is looking at a minor award, unless he can sit off what could turn out to be a heated pace.


ADVENTIST (Any Given Saturday – Sharp Minister, by Deputy Minister) towered over a field of maidens in his debut, finishing 11 lengths clear of the field. He’s bred to go longer and the offspring of Any Given Saturday improve with age. The well-bred colt is a half-brother to the multiple stakes veteran Isn’t He Clever, who won up to 1 1/16 miles; He’s also a half to Group 3 winner Dijeerr and listed winner Sharp Writer. Their dam is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes winning turf router Flag Down, who was second or third in six G1 events. It’s hard to say what Adventist will do off of a maiden sprint victory. He has a couple of stamina breezes under his girth, but trainer Leah Gyarmati has a 5% win rate with horses stretching out. Adventist could spoil somebody’s superfecta.



Not Going to Get Them Today:

KING KRANZ (Munnings – Queen Congie, by Henny Hughes) is a tough colt with some ability. He needed six tries to win his maiden, but picked up some listed blacktype earnings along the way. He finally won his last start in the Lost in the Fog Stakes. His pedigree screams sprinter and he may find the Withers a tough spot to make his two turn debut, if he even wants to go that far.


CARDS OF STONE (Bustin Stones – Shuffle the Deck, by High Yield) couldn’t beat state-bred optional claimers last time out.




Track bias: Early speed rules on Aqueduct’s inner track. 22% of the meet’s winners at a mile and beyond have wired the field. Pace pressers have finished first 46% of the time. Naturally, every horse in the race is either a speed freak or a pace presser.

Sunny Ridge isn’t a need the lead type. He’s successfully sat off of the pace and makes a huge run. If the pace is torrid, look for him to beat the track bias. Flexiblity is another one who can sit back early. He’s the class of the race, but we might get better odds with the pretty gray gelding. 15-1 morning line on a Pletcher horse? Toss Donegal Moon into the mix! Adventist is intriguing and his family likes to win. This is a good learning experience for him and a huge step up, but he could round out the superfecta.


#7 SUNNY RIDGE (5-2)


#1 DONEGAL MOON (15-1)

#6 ADVENTIST (5-1)



Bypass Favorites in Sham Stakes

Santa AnitaThe Sham Stakes (G3) was named in honor of the 1973 underdog who chased Secretariat through the Triple Crown and ultimately had his heart broken in the Belmont Stakes. The well-bred colt finished second to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby, despite bashing his head against the starting gate so hard he lost two teeth. Sham’s time under the wire was a sub 2:00 and faster than Monarchos’ winning time in 2001. In any other year, Sham would have been a Triple Crown winner. Sham was a superstar in his own right, equaling the track record for 1 1/8 miles in the Santa Anita Derby.

Winners of the two-turn mile event haven’t had much impact on the Kentucky Derby. Since the Grade Three race was first contested in 2001, only two colts have hit the board in both races; Empire Maker finished second in both races and in 2005, Giacomo was third in the Sham before a successful trip in the Derby.

Overall, the Sham Stakes victors, with the exception of Colonel John, have continued their careers as sprinter/milers.


This year, a field of nine three year old colts will face the starter. A third of the field is trained by Doug O’Neil, while two others are conditioned by Bob Baffert. Since 2001, Baffert has visited the Sham Stakes winner’s circle three times, the last was in 2014 with Midnight Hawk. O’Neil’s sole Sham victory came the year before with Goldencents.


The Favorites:

The two morning line favorites last raced in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) over the lawn and will attempt to transfer their form to dirt.

COLLECTED (City Zip – Helena Bay (GB), by Johannesburg) has pressed the pace in both of his starts. He grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch of the one mile Cecil B. DeMille, but couldn’t hold off Dressed In Hermes, who bypassed him to win by 1 ¼ lengths. Although Collected has a strong turf pedigree, his full brother Zip It Up managed to win once in five attempts over the dirt. However, as is often the case with turf horses, the win was over a sloppy track.


DRESSED IN HERMES (Hat Trick (JPN) – Elusive Fashion, by Elusive Quality) has carved out a nice little career over the lawn as a stakes miler. He sandwiched a fifth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvie Turf between victories in the Zuma Beach and Cecil B. DeMille. The fashionable colt’s initial start over the dirt resulted in a distant fourth place finish behind Exaggerator. Although two of his half siblings won once each over the dirt, Dressed In Hermes’ distaff line is solid turf. The colt has a chance to hit the board, based on his class.




Can pull the upset:

Found Money

Found Money

FOUND MONEY (Square Eddie – Chanel My Belle, by General Meeting) has the best chance of the O’Neil trio to find the winner’s circle. The son of Square Eddie has won or placed in six of seven starts, all over the dirt and he’s 2-2 at Santa Anita. In fact, he set a new stakes record for 4 1/2 furlongs in 50.89 in his debut. Found Money’s sire Square Eddie owns the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.11.  Found Money’s only off the board placings were against 2YO Champ Nyquist in the Best Pal and behind Exaggerator in the Delta Jackpot. There are no colts of that caliber in the Sham. Found Money owns the only blacktype in three generations of his distaff line and owes his class to his sire.




SEMPER FORTIS (Distorted Humor – Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song) has the best pedigree in the bunch. He’s a half brother to last year’s Blue Grass Stakes (G1) hero Carpe Diem, Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity winner J. B.’s Thunder and to the multiple Group winner Doncaster Rover. The O’Neil trainee needed some time to get his act together. After off the board placing in his first three starts, Semper Fortis won a maiden claimer at Del Mar and came back to win an optional claimer at a mile by a measured ½ length. The dark bay colt owns the highest late pace speed figure in the race and could take another step up here.


LET’S MEET IN RIO (Flatter – Rio Carnival, by Storm Cat) may be Baffert’s best shot of adding another Sham Stakes trophy to his collection. After two off of the board finishes in sprints – in which he had good excuses, the son of Flatter stretched out to win his maiden at a mile. His dam was off of the board in two starts in England, yet she’s a half to a French Group 1 winner and an English Group 3 router. The colt’s second dam Zenda won a French Group 1 stakes and finished second in the Q.E. II Challenge (G1) at Keeneland. Despite all the turfy-ness in his background, Let’s Meet in Rio may do well over the dirt and can step up here. He worked a second to last bullet 4F and should be sharp for Baffert. His late pace speed figure is equal to that of Found Money.


Filling out the Exotics:

LAOBAN (Uncle Mo – Chattertown, by Speightstown) is still a maiden after two attempts. After setting the pace at a good clip in his last start at a mile, the son of leading freshman sire Uncle Moe tired badly, blowing a five length lead to finish second to Let’s Meet in Rio by 1 ½ lengths. Laoban’s dam is a stakes placed sprinter. She’s a half to That’s How I Roll, a stakes winning sprinter and to Santa Ysabel Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Chatter. The second dam Chatter Chatter is a multiple stakes winning sprinter and she’s a half to the dam of Grade 1 winning veteran I’m a Chatterbox. Laoban has two stamina breezes under his girth and he should be fit to handle the distance, if he wants to run that far. He could improve enough to grab a piece of the pie.


SORRYABOUTNOTHING (Repent – Royal Card, by Chapel Royal) was beaten by a determined neck in his second start after having to steady. He was placed first through DQ. After that strong effort, O’Neil tossed the colt into the Los Al Futurity where he was never a factor. Sorryaboutnothing’s dam is multiple stakes placed and there’s minor stakes winners scattered throughout the colt’s pedigree. The dark bay gets first time blinkers and he could bounce back to earn a minor award.


Not today:

I’MALREADYTHERE (Crown of Thorns – Wildfire Ruby, by Wild Event) has hit the board in five of six starts, but his only win came in maiden turf sprint at Gulfstream Park. He was outclassed by five lengths in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes by Hollywood Don, but did return with a good effort in the Zuma Beach Stakes. I’malreadythere hasn’t proven as effective over the dirt. He’s been beaten a combined 18+ lengths in three starts over the dirt, including his last start, a 7 ¼ length drubbing by Mor Spirit in the Los Al Futurity. Previously, he was third, four lengths behind Towes On Ice in the Bob Hope Stakes. I’malreadythere owns the only blacktype in two generations of his distaff line. He’s a nice colt, but Hollendorfer is trying to make I’malreadythere into something he’s not. The colt has the willingness to try and could pick up a check for third or fourth place.


RARE CANDY (Twirling Candy – Bold Pegasus, by Fusaichi Pegasus) won and placed in two maiden sprints over the lawn, but he just isn’t stakes race caliber. He was tossed into the deep end in his initial dirt attempt, which was the Los Al Futurity. He managed to finish fourth, a half length behind Hollywood Don in third, but both had a fading view of Nyquist and Swipes hindquarters. Rare Candy’s second dam Bold Lady Anne won the Churchill Debutante and placed in the Spinaway (G1) at two, and did well in stakes as a three year old, however Rare Candy’s dam is unraced and his and half siblings haven’t shown a whole lot.



The day may be overcast, but no rain is in the forecast. The track should be fast.

Since the inception of the Sham Stakes, all winners have finished fourth or better in their prep race. Nine of the last ten winners won their last start. Let’s go with an O’Neil exacta.

#4 FOUND MONEY (6-1)


#3 LET’S MEET IN RIO (6-1)

#9 COLLECTED (3-1)



$100 to bet:

$10 WP #4 (at 4-1 or higher)

$10 WP #5 (at 4-1 or higher)

$10 WP #3 (at 4-1 or higher)

$2 Exacta box ($12): #4, #5, #3

$2 Tri box ($12): #4, #5, #3

$0.50 Super box ($12) #4, #5, #3, #9

$1 Super Keys ($28):

#4/ #5, #3/#5, #3/ #9, #6, #7, #8          

#5/#3, #4/#3, #4/ #9, #6, #7, #8

#3/#4, #5/#4, #5/ #9, #6, #7, #8

Total: $94, $6 left for a drink