Hallandale Beach, FL, March 2, 2023 – The momentum of significant prep races continues Saturday with three major fifty pointers: Gulfstream’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, Santa Anita’s Grade 2 San Felipe, and the Grade 3 Gotham from, well, Gotham City.
All-Weather fans won’t be left in the cold as Turfway Park renews the Battaglia Memorial which has gotten plenty of support from major outfits–14 entrants including also-eligibles–and while all races feature solid favorites on paper, all fields are sizable provide value opportunities galore.
We will begin with our local track that will offer no less that eight stakes on a 14-race program, seven of which are graded. The lynchpin will be the finale, a field of 10 and one that marks the return of the 2022 juvenile champion, three-time Grade 1-winning Forte. Here goes:
G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes Race 14
The Skinny: There is no question that Forte is the most accomplished with his triad of Grade 1s. A mid-pack racer with a big kick, he is drawn mid-gate with Irad Ortiz Jr. and will need an alert break for the short run into the first turn. Obviously fresh and training well, that should be of little issue.
What Forte (7-5) has going for him is that there is plenty of speed signed on to set the table but, as if a making a season’s debut over experienced rivals with recency isn’t enough, there will be that target on his back. He will need some forward position nearing headstretch for a winning run at the first-finish line.
Blazing Sevens (7-2), winner of the G1 Champagne prior to his tough-trip try when fourth to Forte in the Juvenile, is also making his first start this year and it will be a question of trainer intent in terms of readiness.
Both runners have done enough fitness work but what of sharpness and trainer intent? Both own the fastest figures on the Thoro-Graph scale, the champ’s developmental pattern being more forward than this rival’s. A long-striding galloper, Blazing Sevens rates to be better with a run under his girth.
The best recent Gulfstream form belongs to several others, including the Bill Mott tandem of Rocket Can (8-1) and Shadow Dragon (10-1), the exacta finishers in the Holy Bull Stakes, and General Jim, a sharp winner of the G3 7-furlong Swale last time out.
Both Mott runners are late rally types, so they will require a solidly contested pace. To this point, Rocket Can is the handier of the two. With respect to trips, Shadow Dragon had a lot more to do in the Holy Bull than his winning mate and did quite well to get within 3/4s of a length following a late lead change.
General Jim (6-1), once again with pole position, has a chance to be the pocket rocket, assuming a clean break and clear run to the first turn. He will be sharp coming out of a recent sprint after his horror-show outing in the Mucho Macho Man. Luis Saez rides him like he owns him.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Forte
VALUE PLAY: General Jim to win at 9-2 or greater
EXOTICA: Using Forte’s rivals named above as exotic fillers, adding the good-race/bad-race potential rebounder, Cyclone Mischief (12-1), to the mix.
AQUEDUCT RACE TRACK
G3 Gotham Stakes Race 9
The Skinny: There’s so much happening it’s hard to know where to begin. Eight of the 14 that have drawn into the race can win it. If that were not difficult enough, there are a couple of ex-Bafferts—for different trainers yet—and a couple of Parx shippers that were both very pleasing to the eye. But what about today’s one mile trip and class rise, which of the two are better and what did they beat? And did we mention both are 4-for-4 lifetime! Further, there are two more with two starts that also are unbeaten. Figures-wise, the eight are separated by two Thoro Graph points. So, what to do?
Brad Cox, that’s what to do. Premier linemaker David Aragona landed on Eyeing Clover as 4-1 early line Gotham favorite. We must have been watching the same replays because, while there are a handful-plus that made a good impression, only one earned a “wow” comment from us—you guessed it, Cox’s Lookin at Lucky colt, who is kin to seven winners from seven other starters, including three stakes winners, and who will be handled by stable rider Florent Geroux.
Sadly, Eyeing Clover is a likely underlay despite the fact he’s never run beyond three-quarters of a mile., But he won his second start by 9-3/4 lengths at 3-10 last out at Fair Grounds. These are our trip notes: “Showed excellent speed, rider standing in the irons on backstretch, took lead mid-turn on own, separated himself when only ridden out upper stretch, continued to draw out on own inside the eighth pole mever asked. Dominating!”
Eyeing Clover has had three strong works subsequently and his extreme outside draw gives Flo plenty of options. Don’t know the quality of his opponents either, but FG is Tier 1; Parx Tier 2.
Next in line as potential ticket toppers are Carmel Road (6-1), a game second in the Los Al Futurity and working bullets for BB prior to barn change, and Jerome winner Lugan Knight (5-1), who took pressure from a good horse throughout, would not be denied, and retains Dylan Davis.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Eyeing Clover
VALUE PLAY: Tough call between Carmel Road and Lugan Knight; board dictates.
EXOTICA: Will use Slip Mahoney (5-1) defensively, and Howgreatisnate (10-1) as exotics filler with Eyeing Clover.
SANTA ANITA PARK
G2 San Felipe Stakes Race 6
The Skinny: I can’t remember the last time I saw 11 horses entered in this event, the penultimate West Coast Derby prep. Oh, wait, I can: I’ve never seen it. For this, Santa Anita can thank Bob Baffert’s problems as horses with Derby aspirations need qualifying points. Five former Bafferts, four with Tim Yakteen, are in here and top of them are potential ticket toppers for us: National Treasure (3-1) and Practical Move (4-1).
National Treasure has been one-paced late in his races but in his most recent start, theG3 Sham, was making some headway late and galloped out past the first two finishers. He raced as if in need of the effort but should be good to go here, especially in light of his strong recent workline. We believe he’ll be at tops for this.
Mate Practical Move did run his best race winning the Los Al Futurity and Baffert has given him plenty of recovery time. Subsequently he’s ad five works for this; fast and strong, per Baffert’s style, and on a regularly weekly schedule. Practical Joke colt won his only start on this strip via DQ and finished first for the first time at Los Al. Losing Johnny V. to National Treasure may be worth a point at the windows; Ramon Vasquez is a more than able pinch-rider.
The intriguing entrant here is Geaux Rocket Ride (5-1), winner of his only start going 6 furlongs, winning by 5-3/4s and in fast time. And as a son of Candy Ride, from an Uncle Mo mare, distance will be his friend, as will the redoubtable Mr. Mandella. The Hall of Famer is not known as an aggressive shot-taking type and when a horseman shows this kind of confidence it often pays to note it as such. Flavien Prat is on the re-ride for a man who shows a lifetime profit with his runners coming off a maiden win.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: National Treasure
BEST VALUE: Practical Move to win at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box, using both former Bafferts and the present and timeless Mandella.
BIG BUCKS BATTAGLIA BONUS: We did all the work, video notwithstanding, and is the case with most races at big-field Turfway Tapeta Park, is impossible. We left eight of the 14 entered open.
Going for the gusto with a four-horse exacta box excludes Also-Eligibles but will include if they draw in: Gilmore (3-1), back quickly for new trainer Brendan Walsh off game El Camino Real placing; Bromley (5-1) excellent sprint maiden breaker in fast time here then outrun in FG G3 Lecomte; Moon Landing (12-1) prepped for this on GP turf following blowout win on WO synth in debut; Congruent (10-1) victim of series of tough trips and nicely bred for AW surface; AE-Ironsides (20-1), got rolling too late in local rep for this; AE-Clear The Air (8-1), victim of tough trip prep following fast maiden score this surface.
Suggested exotic wagers to be made at minimums available, straight wagers in $2 units
this is a live column and will be updated throughout the weekend
We might be in for a special spring with this one. He looks like he’s getting stronger and sharper mentally every week too, and Irad said his mind was way better now than it was in November. That horse looked like the executioner in the post parade.
Doc, I saw video of him schooling in the paddock. Have not seen many in 50 years that were his kind of handsome and such a beast all at once. Post race, rooting for Arabian Knight to win the Arkansas Derby because the big dance could really produce one for the ages this year. But I’ll temper my enthusiasm. As we all know, this game can break your heart…