It’s a familiar refrain these days but there are too many races and so little time to devote to all of them.
With the racing calendar having been condensed throughout the country, and as almost all tracks have returned, devoting focused attention to one special program is nigh impossible. Accordingly, we’ll try to make more with less.
Today’s dilemma is the mega-card from Belmont Park, their first big Saturday and Santa Anita’s iconic Derby program. But there’s also a Grade 3 at Churchill and an interesting feature from Gulfstream Park. Mercifully, we completed the Laurel work before turning the page.
In pursuit of mo’ better results, we will concentrate on fewer races. There’s only so much time one can devote to angles and performance figures, thankfully less painstaking than the time and focus required to do the video work. One can’t watch all the live horses in all the live races.
As the Belmont program closes, the meat of Santa Anita’s program begins with the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks. So let’s go west first:
RACE 5: G2 SANTA ANITA OAKS
Ken McPeek has a well deserved reputation of having his way with fillies and Swiss Skydiver (6-5), protem favorite for the Kentucky Oaks, ships in for this having won two of three at the trip, the only loss her two-turn debut. Mike Smith gets the call. Only concern is that last was a big forward move and this is a filly shipping cross-country. Still, she will be a very tough out.
What to do with Merneith (2-1), who won her three year old debut by 10, sprinting in the slop at Oaklawn Park? Trained by Bob Baffert, 31% effective with this spacing, you box the exacta.
Speech (8-5) was narrowly beaten going long behind Baffert-trained Gamine at Oaklawn but looms underlay at early odds; second only for me. Odds dependent, we’re boxing the exacta and using both fillies in horizontals, extra with ‘Skydiver’.
RACE 6: Maiden Allowances
Cezanne (4-5) was a $3,650,000 two year old sales purchase last year. You think 4-5 is short debuting for Team Baffert/Prat? How about one Derby Futures book has him 25-1 after opening at 55-1. I know, cray-cray. Waiting to see what the hype’s about.
Mystery Man (5-1) big-time connections like to debut horses on mega-race days. Man-o-Mandella trains this one for Fox Hill Farms, and has a better first-out pedigree and post than does the favorite. Purposeful, well spaced work-line.
Rayray (3-1) is super sharp from white-hot connections, trainer and rider both, and is stretching out from 5-1/2 furlongs. It’s a different ballgame today but owns an experience edge.
RACE 7: Chrystal Water Stakes
The first “spread race” we’ve encountered and have left four of the eight grass milers in play, two trained by Phil D’Amato. Prince Earl (2-1) gets class relief and gelded five year old can handle these; must spot weight. Uncoupled mate King Abner (5-1) is getting Cedillo, who’s been on a stakes tear, stepping out of graded stakes and turning back to his winning one-mile trip.
Ward ‘N Jerry (3-1) may want more ground but he loves the lawn in Arcadia. Has been pandemic freshened, winning a Grade 3 in his return. This may be a bridge race, then again Prat takes the call; confusing.
Lieutenant Dan (4-1) also has recency and has made his bones sprinting but has raced well at eight and nine furlongs. Steve Miyadi is white hot and gelding has really improved at 4. The likely key for us but price will tell and would use all four horizontally.
RACE 8: Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby
On paper, and on the surface, it boils down to either undefeated Authentic (4-5) and his San Felipe runnerup. Honor A P. When they met, Authentic had a conditioning edge and was able to control the pace but this will be different with speed drawn to his inside. If he wins it will not be because he stole it.
Honor A. P. (8-5) was said to be in need of the San Felipe and ran to that assessment but looked good doing it and highly likely to benefit from it. Boxing and making an Honorable win bet. Super-exotically, using nicely developing Rushie (8-1) and enigmatic Anneau d’Or (15-1) who did his best dirt running on this track in the Juvenile.
RACE 6: G2 Fort Marcy
Pick a Chad, any Chad. Why not? He starts four of the nine here, going nine furlongs on the Inner Turf. Make a case for any of them, ranging in odds from a 7/2 lukewarm favorite to a 10-1 price shot.
He can control speed dynamics with one or two of them and finish them off with one of the others. If thunderstorms come, Instilled Regard can do dirt if need be. He was competitive with good dirt horses at three.
Or you could forsake all of them and take course loving New York-bred Gucci Factor (6-1), making season’s debut for Christophe Clement, who has come back to Long Island firing a couple of winners.
And Junior Alvarado, he of Friday’s riding triple Alvarados, has the call. So maybe I’ll do that, but need close to early line odds to win, and I’ll save in the exacta with a Chad to be named later.
RACE 7: G3 Westchester
The return of 2019’s almost three year old champion Code of Honor (6-5). He owns a huge class edge and figures that on average are superiority to the group. And Shug was touting him on a podcast this midweek. “I’m really looking forward to running him,” McGaughey said.
But that man Chad has one in here, too, well actually two in this dirty 1-1/16 miles. But one of them, Payne (8-1), ran huge last time out and returns fresh with Kendrick Carmouche.
Did you know that–according to Thoro-Graph stats–that this team is 34% when they hook up, and that’s after 140 rides? Well I didn’t, but now I do.
Seeking his fourth straight win, he makes his stakes debut here. We’re taking Payne and six pounds to win and an exact box. But 8-1 is a pipe dream; would love to get half but nothing below 3-1.
RACE 8: G3 Interborough
It’s on turf, weather permitting, and 12 older fillies have been entered, four trained by what’shisname. He has an import from France for Peter Brant, Viadera (6-1) with Rosario, and the ground is always soft there, so there’s that.
As for the trying-to find her-best-form-again or be-a-broodmare Newspaperofrecord (3-1), she would love the course wet. Well freshened, she’ll take catching over any ground.
If I’m going to gamble on this race, I will need to get paid. While she’s slower on figures than the rest, Getmotherarose (10-1) is on a healthy line, she’s fresh, versatile, and can kick on when sprinting.
And did we mention she’s won half her six starts in Elmont? She has, so we’ll take her straight and place. If perchance she’s better than 10-1, WPS seems like the right thing to do.
RACE 9 Grade 1 Carter
Think we can safely narrow this one down to two for the honors; Performer (3-1), Joel Rosario for Shug McGaughey, and Mind Control (4-1), Johnny in the boot for the Sacco brothers.
While Performer will be the steam because he’s on the rise as a first-time four year old, is fast, working like a wild horse and seeks his third straight Belmont score without defeat. But the line disrespects Mind Control.
His two Grade 1 victories forces him to give five pounds to his contemporary, but he’s far better posted to control dynamics in this seven furlong sprint and has a man who knows how to take advantage.
Our guess is that Mind Control will be a fair price while Performer will be over-bet. We’ll box the exacta, bet Mind Control to win, and try to squeeze Still Having Fun (20-1) into the super-exotics, very possible if Dylan Davis is his patient self.