The Gumbo Got Ya
When researching for the LeComte, I looked deeper into the Saturday card at Fair Grounds in Louisiana, there are several notations I’d like to make. First, Mike Smith is not in Louisiana for gumbo, well, maybe, but probably not. He has more mounts than just the LeComte on the card. Second, it’s good to see the young jockey Denny Velazquez on the card at Fair Grounds. Denny took a nasty spill at Canterbury Park last summer and ruptured his spleen. I am happy to see the talented rider back in the saddle and picking up mounts for trainer Gary Scherer. Third, Eden Prairie. I’m still sore at Paul Allen for making the football reference to the Eden Prairie High School football team at Canterbury Park last year when this “ho hum” horse ran in the Lady Canterbury, but I quickly got over it. Eden Prairie is entered in the Marie Krantz Memorial at Fair Grounds on Saturday. This horse just likes to finish third. I mean, she likes to finish third. This well-traveled mare has been to Arlington, Canterbury, Kentucky Downs, Keeneland, Delta Downs and Fair Grounds and has been quite content to just barely get on the tote board. In this stakes race, however, she’ll get the enthusiastic yet patient Florent Geroux in the saddle. Florent finally got his accolades when he guided Work All Week in the Breeders Cup and has been a long-time pilot of The Pizza Man, but The Pizza Man and Work All Week are gifts, compared to the complacent Eden Prairie. Good thing for Florent, Eden Prairie loves Fair Grounds. In fact, it’s the only track where she actually knows how to find the Winner’s Circle, and she is the defending champ of the Marie Krantz Memorial. Florent will really need to get this horse motivated with the likes of Notte d’Oro, Kitten’s Dumplings and Every Way pushing her.
The Grade 3 LeComte has early Derby Points on the line (10 points to the winner). I saw the video of Runhappy at Turfway Park and the horse ran like an out-of-control toddler jacked up on Mountain Dew. He missed the break, and then caught the field on the rail, ran passed the entire field with ease, then ended up four lengths ahead of the field in an insane fraction at the half, went wide on the turn and was still eight lengths ahead going into the stretch. The stretch run was really something to witness, as Runhappy truly fits his name. He looked like he was chasing butterflies in a field! The jockey was doing everything he could to hold this horse straight, and failing, miserably at that! In fact, when the jockey got out the stick (and seriously, 8 lengths ahead!), the horse slowed down when he felt the whip. Chaos. Wi all that being said, this horse is FAST, and if I’m seeing the charts correctly, runs without medication (well at least the kind you can put on a chart). Buckets of Mountain Dew with his hay is not a required notation. Let’s take a look at the field.
International Star–trained by Mike Maker, a rare non-kitten for the Ramseys. This one is out of Fusaichi-Pegasus. Has grade 1 experience in the Breeders Cup but finished 9th in that top class field.
Tiznow R J – trained by Steve Asmussen. Has no graded or stakes experience but is a perfect 3/3 and coming off a win at Fair Grounds.
Four Leaf Chief – Colt out of Looking at Lucky, Florent Geroux in the saddle. Last time out finished third behind War Story at Fair Grounds.
War Story – trained by Tom Amoss and gets the help of leading Fair Grounds jockey, James Graham. 2 starts 2 wins, last out at Fair Grounds where he was bumped out of the break.
Hero of Humor – longest shot on the board. Does not take well to stakes company.
Savoy Stomp – Mike Smith/Todd Pletcher/Team Valor, and the pedigree is even better Medaglia d’Oro – Crystal Current, by A.P. Indy. Untested, but showing improvement. Mike Smith should help.
Runhappy – (See Above) One start, one win – and first in all current works. They’ve been hiding this Super Saver colt at The Thoroughbred Center, and unleashed him at Turfway Park. He is so green, but so exciting. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan better hang on.
Killingit – Was doing fine until he got to Turfway Park with a disappointing sixth. He is a training mate of Runhappy at The Thoroughbred Center. Killingit at least has racing experience 3/4 on the board. Neither run with medication.
Dekabrist – Trainer Dorochenko has Hero of Humor as well. Both are long shots. This horse has been struggling for a while. Been entered in a lot of stakes races and just seems to get in the way rather than in the winner’s circle.
Another Lemon Drop – Out of guess who? Lemon Drop Kid. Gets the help of veteran Calvin Borel. Has experience on the race track and has hit the board 3 out of 4 starts but no stakes experience. A contender nonetheless.
Eagle – This colt of Candy Ride is also 3 out of 4 starts on the board but with a third place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club, a Grade 2 stakes race, puts this entry as the morning line favorite.
If you’re going for experience against graded company, International Star is your top choice. Savoy Stomp has the full package for me: trainer, owners, jockey and breeding. Savoy Stomp on top for me followed by International Star and Another Lemon Drop, and I’m very excited to see Runhappy. I’ll throw some money down and hold my breath. Numbers to play: 1, 6, 10. Good luck in the LeComte!
Turf Paradise: Playing a Power Pack
On Saturday, Turf Paradise has two stakes races on the turf and some familiar names to the Canterbury regulars appear as very competitive in both. The $75,000 Cotton Fitzsimmons for the male turf milers and the $35,000 Glendale Handicap for fillies and mares.
As of this writing, Scott Stevens leads the jockey standings at Turf Paradise by one over Giovanni Franco, followed by Jorge Carreno. It’s a long meet but Stevens and Franco have almost 20 wins over Carreno to top the standings.
In the trainer standings, Robertino Diodoro is just engulfing the other trainers with 68 wins, nearly 50 more than his closest competitor, Dan McFarlane. Both Diodoro and McFarlane train some of my favorite horses. Diodoro covers both stakes with Rock and Glory, Ricsprentiousgal, She’s Stella Marie, Storm Power and Twelve Tribes. McFarlane enters Red Zeus and Az Ridge in the Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile.
First up, the Glendale Handicap: There are some seasoned runners in this race and all of which have an opportunity to hit the board, which makes the odds very unappealing and little money to be made. Diodoro has three in the seven horse field. He should hit the board with two: Ricsprentiousgal and Rock and Glory. However, trainer Valorie Lund has two entered, one of which is a very good turf horse. Lady Rosberg has never raced anywhere but on the desert turf in 2014. She has four races on the turf and four times in the money, winning the Queen of the Green Stakes at Turf Paradise. Beware the bounce. She’s coming off a third place finish in the Kachina Stakes on December 20 at Turf Paradise, beaten by … Rock and Glory.
Lady Rosberg has put in good works since her third place finish in the Kachina. In fact, Lady Rosberg has not finished out of the money since 2013. She did have a disappointing run in the Kachina, though, as she fell back in the stretch as Rock and Glory and Maker or Breaker were dueling it out up front. Without Maker or Breaker in the race, Rock and Glory should be on the front and game down the stretch. Rock likes to go head to head, so I am hoping to see her stable mate Ricspretentiousgal give it to her. Unfortunately for Rock and Glory, her stable mate is piloted by jockey Giovanni Franco, who also likes a duel down the stretch. Rics finished second to Lady Rosberg in the Queen of the Green, followed by Rock and Glory. These three apparently like to race each other and share the victories as well. They are usually 1, 2, or 3 in nearly every turf race at Turf Paradise.
Diodoro’s 7-year old mare Rock and Glory started 2014 with a sixth place finish in the Paseana Stakes at Santa Anita, but let’s just put a line through that and move on. Since the Paseana, Rock and Glory has only been entered in stakes races at Turf Paradise, but has never made it to the Winner’s Circle. She inches closer and closer each race and I believe the Glendale will be her chance to finally pose for the camera.
Interesting that Scott Stevens jumps off Rock and Glory and gets on the third Diodoro entry, She’s Stella Marie. At a morning line of 8/1, Stella is my long shot best play in the Glendale.
Numbers to play: 3, 5, 6. I know it’s the three favorites but to not get booted out of the first leg of the Pick 5, I’ll play them without shame.
Let’s move on to the highlight turf race, the Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile. Dan McFarlane and Diodoro train some of my favorite horses. McFarlane has two of my favorites in this race, Az Ridge and Red Zeus, and they usually race against each other with Az Ridge coming out on top. Az Ridge has been racing consistently since winning the Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury Park, but will have to be more than just “consistent” to get in front of this field.
Diodoro enters Storm Power and Twelve Tribes, and he puts his “go-to” jockeys on each. Storm Power, with Giovanni Franco is the overwhelming favorite, and will be bet so low that I would put him on my Pick 5 ticket but look elsewhere for a price. Storm Power is a very strong horse and has the racing chops to back it up. Since breaking his maiden at Santa Anita in June 2014, this horse has been running like a powerful storm. He has faced tougher competition on the California circuit, and since settling at Turf Paradise, he won the Hank Mills, Walter Cluer and Beinvenidos stakes. The only three races he’s been entered in at Turf Paradise. Yes, the others should seek shelter when he hits the turf. However, there is another power moving in from the West that could make it much more challenging for Storm Power to swallow up the usual competition. That horse is Power Ped. Accomplished trainer Neil Drysdale ships over Power Ped after an impressive third place finish in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita. Flavien Prat keeps the mount for Drysdale and Power Ped should take nicely to the turf in Phoenix. Power Ped’s only poor finish was a 9th at Keeneland in 2014. He obviously prefers the warmth of the West Coast. He’s the class of the bunch.
Another big-name trainer ships one over from California as well. Richard Mandella brings in Trend, who gets the hand of Scott Stevens. Trend has not had the same success in his races in California that Power Ped has. This horse is morning line 10-1, and should be, there’s really nothing remarkable about him, other than Scott Stevens in the irons, of course.
But, I digress, let’s get back to Diodoro. Twelve Tribes has won all four of his last four starts including two stakes races at Turf Paradise. Apparently after this horse got into the Winner’s Circle at Canterbury Park on closing weekend, he liked it … a lot! Twelve Tribes keeps usual pilot Jorge Carreno. I’m not a fan of Carreno on the turf but since I’m a little on the fence about Az Ridge, I might put Twelve Tribes in my Pick 5 ticket. These California shippers are tough company for the Turf Paradise regulars. But never underestimate the home field advantage. I’m gonna play a Power Pack: Storm Power over Power Ped in the Fitzsimmons. Will play Az Ridge and Twelve Tribes underneath.
Numbers to Play: 1, 3, 7.
Best long shot bet: Mandella/Stevens and Trend (8) in the Fitzsimmons.
.50 Cent Pick 5: 356/26/345/13/35 $36