Tag Archives: Oaklawn

JOCKEY FEATURE: LUIS SAEZ

When you think of the best jockeys in the country, who comes to mind first?  Stevens, Smith, maybe Castellano, Rosario or Bejarano?  The media coverage of the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup helped elevate Smith, Rosario and Stevens to be recognized by even fair-weather race fans.  Stevens’ epic wins on Oxbow and Mucho Macho Man; Rosario’s Kentucky Derby win on Orb; and Smith’s amazing Breeders’ Cup success and, of course, on Palace Malice.  It might take the average fan a while to recognize Eclipse-winning jockey Castellano’s name, but only needs to be reminded of the infamous nudge in the Breeders’ Cup and his win by DQ on Ria Antonia before you get see the recollection set in.  Bejarano has been dominating the southern California racing circuit for years, winning riding titles like they were gifts, and of course riding Goldenscents to victory in the Breeders’ Cup.

Will Take Charge
Will Take Charge

For many race fans, it’s the name of the horse that sticks with them, not necessarily its equine pilot.  You remember Will Take Charge.  The power horse, trained by the incomparable D. Wayne Lukas.  Will Take Charge was freakishly good in 2013 winning the Travers, the Clark, the Pennsylvania Derby and missed winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic by literally the hair on his chin to Mucho Macho Man in one of the most thrilling Classics yet.

A young jockey by the name of Luis Saez has rode Will Take Charge in every victory, and will guide him again in Saturday’s Donn (Gr. 1) at Gulfstream Park, his home track.  Saez is an accomplished rider in his own right.  At 21-years of age, he has won 25 graded stakes races. Most recently, he won the Awesome Feather aboard Munnings Sister at Gulfstream on Feb. 6.  He finished 9th in the earnings standings and 36th for wins in 2013.  Saez, ironically, has also accumulated quite a list of second place finishes, but people barely remember the place finishers let alone the jockeys.  Saez not only finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he also finished second in the Filly and Mare Sprint aboard Judy the Beauty.

Cairo Prince
Cairo Prince

If you only remember the name Luis Saez from piloting Will Take Charge, you’re about to hear his name a lot more in the months leading up to the Kentucky Derby.  Saez will take get the mount on not only a Derby contender, but the possible Derby winner, Cairo Prince.  Saez has been blessed to have ridden Cairo Prince to victories in the Nashua Stakes and the Holy Bull.  Cairo Prince has only one second place finish of his career and that was to Honor Code in the 2013 Remsens Stakes at Aqueduct.  The jockey?  Luis Saez.

Luis Saez
Luis Saez

The Panamanian jockey honed his skills at the Pincay School in Panama City.  He arrived in the United States in 2009 at the age of 17 and quickly set up shop in Florida, winning the riding title at Calder in 2011 and 2012 and received an Eclipse apprentice nomination in 2009.  Saez’s graduating class contains an impressive list of riders such as Abel Lezcano and Ricardo Santana, Jr.  Santana (no surprise) was the leading apprentice jockey at the school.  He is currently riding at Oaklawn.  Abel Lezcano is riding at Aqueduct.  The Pincay School has produced successful riders like Eddie Castro, Jose Lezcano, Gabriel Saez (a cousin to Luis) and Elvis Trujillo.  Veteran riders such as Alex Solis, Martin Pedroza and Cornelio Velasquez (all of whom are still riding) are graduates of the school.

Luis Saez and D. Wayne Lukas
Luis Saez and D. Wayne Lukas

If you do an internet search for Luis Saez you will need to scroll down a few pages to get past the media overload regarding an alleged incident involving Will Take Charge and Moreno in the Travers.  The trainer of Moreno accused Saez of using a shocking device on Will Take Charge, advancing the horse rapidly to the lead and defeating Moreno.  The New York Gaming Commission reviewed the incident and cleared Saez of any violations and called the allegation “unsubstantiated.”  The young jockey was shaken by the accusations and emphatically denied that he had done nothing wrong.  D. Wayne Lukas, the Hall of Fame Trainer of Will Take Charge, stood by Saez’s side during the investigation.  Lukas never gave up on Saez and continues to give him the Will Take Charge mounts.

Saez is quickly moving up the jockey standings at Gulfstream, currently in third behind Castellano and Paco Lopez.  He has 10 mounts in Saturday’s 12 race card at Gulfstream and 8 mounts on Sunday including Will Take Charge in the Donn.  Joel Rosario is riding Lea in the Donn, a horse that Saez rode and won with in the Hal’s Hope Stakes in January 2014.  The victory gave Saez his 1,000th win of what looks to be a very promising career.

Transitioning from the Terrible Twos

Every two-year old racehorse becomes a three-year old, whether they like it or not.  They are part of a master agenda and occasionally test the boundaries and push the buttons of those in charge of their destiny.  With so many three-year olds chasing after the ultimate prize (to be wearing a blanket of roses on the first Saturday in May), there needs to be strategic stakes races in place to decipher the posers from the legit contenders.

Aqueduct:

Withers (Grade III):  This is a points-earning (10) race to qualify for the 2014 Kentucky Derby.  I like @racing_dudes (www.racingdudes.com) picks in this one, #5 Samraat, ridden by Jose Ortiz.  This horse is 3-for-3 and loves the speed.  The #1 Uncle Sigh is 9/5 on the early ML and takes a jump in class here.  I’ll take #4 Classic Giancnroll to fill it.  I agree with the Dudes, 5, 1, 4.

Busher Stakes:  Non-graded points-earning qualifier for the 2014 Kentucky Oaks.  The winner gets 10 points here too.  I’m gonna make it two for Jose Ortiz, who’s on the filly #2 Fierce Boots for Todd Pletcher, owned by Bobby Flay.  Pletcher saddles another one, #8 My Jimmy Chew Girl but is 20/1, obvious money going to the rider/trainer/owner connection on #2 Fierce Boots.  The early favorites in this race are the #9 Vero Amore and the Darley Stable owned #5 Ballylee trained by Albertrani and ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.  I’m taking the Ortiz brothers 1 and 2; good mounts on a home track where they dominate.

Gulfstream:

Hutcheson (Grade III):  One of my horses to watch in 2014 is entered in the Hutcheson at Gulfstream, #3 Mighty Brown, trained by Tim Ice, and ridden here by Joe Bravo.  The pedigree is so good on this horse, but unfortunately for Mighty Brown, this is a deep field.  Pletcher again saddles two, #10 Vinceremos and #8 Trail Blaze with the brilliant Joel Rosario in the irons.  John Velazquez is on #7 Long on Value for Bill Mott, and Eclipse winner, Javier Castellano, rides for Garoffalo on #5 Wildcat Red, a serious contender, and the favorite behind Trail Blaze.  I’d do an exacta box with the #8 and #5, and not count out #4 C. Zee or #6 Gambler’s Ghost, although I’m hoping to see Mighty Brown crossing the wire in 4th or 5th.

Santa Anita:

Las Virgenes (Grade I):  A field of three-year old fillies going a mile at Santa Anita for the $300,000 purse.  Hollendorfer has two good ones here:  #7 Taste Like Candy with Bejarano for Bad Boy Racing, and #4 Artemis with Eclipse-deserving rider Mike Smith.  Artemis is good at this distance and so is Mike.  Harty puts Nakatani on #3 Arethusa and Espinoza on #6 Sushi Empire.  However, Baffert brings in the much-anticipated favorite, #8 Streaming with Martin Garcia getting the call.  Another one of my horses to watch in 2014 is entered in this race, #2 Fashion Plate.  This time Gary Stevens gets the leg up as Bejarano, her usual jockey, is on #7 Taste Like Candy for Hollendorfer.  I like Fashion Plate, a lot, but Streaming is too good.  8, 4, 2.

Arcadia (Grade II).  This one is not for three-year olds, but wanted to mention the Super Jockey Kent Desormeaux makes his return to Arcadia, California and is aboard Unbridled’s Note for Asmussen here.

Oaklawn

Martha Washington:  This non-graded stakes race is also a points-earning qualifier for the 2014 Kentucky Oaks.  (Three-year old fillies going a mile.) There are some good ones here, and hard to call, starting with #5 Ireland, owned by Calumet Farm, trained by D. Wayne Lukas.  Israel Ocampo gets the mount (Minnesota connection).  This is the Hall of Fame trainer’s only entry and Ireland  is 4/1 in the early ML.  Asmussen, on the other hand, entered two, and they are both favored:  #7 Street Story (Ricardo Santana, Jr. is Asmussen’s go-to jockey at Oaklawn), and #1 Euphrosyne, ridden by Channing Hill.  #4 Kiss Moon and #8 Cheerful Contender both landed in the mid-level betting lines, but are good enough to keep it interesting.  Allen Milligan saddles two here as well, #2 Racing Holiday, ridden by Alex Canchari (Minnesota connection) and #10 Redgrass Cat.  The field is stacked, but I think this comes down to #5 Ireland and #7 Street Story, with Street Story getting the points.

A Super and Surreal Saturday

Gulfstream Park highlighted the most talked about stakes race of the week, the Holy Bull.  Whenever you get potential Derby runners in a stakes race, the anticipation of the emergence of a super horse is palpable.  The Holy Bull provided just that.  A super horse did indeed emerge.  With cockiness, confidence, and a “bully on the block” attitude in the form of Cairo Prince, whose broodmare sire is the namesake of this race, rose to the top of the 2014 earnings category.

Cairo Prince
Cairo Prince

As impressive as he was, there was another horse in a non-stakes race at Gulfstream that caught everyone’s attention.  In Race 4, a contender ran forth to push the “bully” back a few steps: Top Billing.  With the brilliant Joel Rosario aboard, Top Billing was strong and matter-of-fact about his win.  These two are a team to be reckoned with, and made their mark on this Saturday.  A super jockey and a super horse, a combination better than waffles and Nutella.

Joel Rosario on Top Billing
Joel Rosario on Top Billing

But the Super Saturday didn’t end there ….

Santa Anita brings a bit of the surreal to this day.  It was California Cup at Santa Anita which boasted six stakes races on a 10-race card.  In Race 10, the California Cup Derby, the busiest riders were the outriders.  California Chrome ridden by Victor Espinoza won the $250,000 race in star fashion over heavy favored Tamarando, certainly garnering some attention.  However, three horses didn’t finish the race.  Around the last turn, Gary Stevens pulled up Aotearoa and was led off the track by an outrider.  Then in deep stretch, Electric Eddie, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, broke down and tossed Gutierrez.  With a serious injury to his front left leg, Electric Eddie veered into the #1 horse, Oh Billy Billy, ridden by Martin Garcia, trained by Bob Baffert, and knocked them into the rail, dismounting Garcia.  Oh Billy Billy crossed the finish line without a rider, as did Electric Eddie but with a visible limp.  The horse was vanned off the track.  Garcia and Gutierrez were taken to the jock’s room for evaluation.

As reported by TVG through Twitter, veteran jockey Patrick Valenzuela pulled a Garrett Gomez and didn’t show up at Santa Anita for two days.  He allegedly sent a text to his agent saying he was “done riding.”  Enter Kent Desormeaux.

Kent Desormeaux
Kent Desormeaux

Kent Desormeaux, who has been racing mostly on the east coast and in Florida, injected himself into the Santa Anita jockey colony on Saturday like a bolt of lightning.  Everything Desormeaux did on Saturday was on point.  The only thing missing was his red cape.  Today at Santa Anita there is a carryover of over $430,000.  You can thank Desormeaux for that.  You can also thank him for the surreal (and unconscionable) payouts in the $200,000 California Cup Oaks.  On a genius ride, he flew by favorites Swiss Lake Yodeler, Princess Geneviev and Rovenna to bring in a very long-shot Susans Express, trained by Jorge Periban (ever heard of him?) for a $132.40 win.  Anniversary Kitty, Rovenna and Harlington’s Rose rounded out the superfecta which paid …. $1,235,437.40 on a one dollar wager.  Yep, it’s an actual payout.  This just shouldn’t happen like this.  No “proper” handicapper would ever put these four horses in a super!  But indeed, Desormeaux brought in the most unlikely of winners, and the “Super Superfecta” was born.  Unfortunately for the horses, they will forever be overshadowed by that number.  In a week or two, we probably won’t even remember their names.

As for the rest of the Cal Cup, the much-hyped Teddy’s Promise, trained by Ron Ellis, finished what I’m sure for all the connections was a disappointing third in the Grade 2 Santa Monica.   Scherzinger did get the win over Iotapa and Teddy’s Promise with Heir Kitty filling the superfecta (which paid $144 … ho hum).

Unusual Hottie was also disappointing in the $125,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.  She finished fourth behind Tribal Spy and Marks Mike.  The winner of the race was Ciao Bella Luna guided by The Super Jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won his first stakes race since 2009 on the daughter of Shadow of the Moon and Tribal Rule.  This was his first win of the day, only to be followed by the upset in the Cal Cup Oaks.

Another surreal event at Santa Anita, Joe Talamo actually does know where the Winner’s Circle is, and he found it twice.  He won a non-stakes, maiden special weight with Ron Ellis trained Sea John’s Spirit.  He also won the California Cup Turf Classic on an off-the-radar horse named Weewinnin, which paid $44.80 for the “winn.”   A skilled horseplayer could probably have picked this superfecta considering the jockeys on the top four finishers were Talamo, Espinoza, Stevens and Smith.  However, I had Summer Hit, ridden by Rafael Bejarano who had a “sidekick” kind of day.  Desormeaux was definitely Superman, but Superman didn’t have a sidekick, so it’s possible that on this day Bejarano was Robin, or maybe even Barnacle Boy.  Sorry, I’m a little upset with Bejarano since I was doing well with my picks until Summer Hit didn’t hit.  I failed to get my picks into DanonymousRacing.com for his handicapping contest which benefitted the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund but by this point in the card, I was glad I didn’t.  Due to the poor performances of Summer Hit and Cyclometer my chances of winning those nifty goggles signed by recently minted Eclipse Award-Winning apprentice jockey Victor Carrasco were crushed.  The apprentice jock notched another victory to his stellar record by winning the $100,000 Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park on Bold Curlin and finished third in the What a Summer on Vicki’s Dancer both run on Super Saturday.

I don’t want to even talk about what happened with Mike Smith and Cyclometer in the Valpredo Sprint, other than to say that Bejarano did win this on Big Macher and Desormeaux brought in Coach Bob for second.  Coach Bob?

A couple stakes races were taking place in Texas and Arkansas as well.  Julien Leparoux had a good day in Houston winning the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf aboard Admiral Kitten, trained by Mike Maker, and owned by the Ramseys. Admiral Kitten has 11 career starts and 10 finishes in the money, including winning the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington.

Down in Oaklawn, the non-graded $100,000 American Beauty Stakes was won by a horse that I probably should have put on my “Diamonds in the Rough” list – Apropos.  This was an amazing stretch run by Ricardo Santana, Jr. to squeeze through horses just before the wire, narrowly avoiding, I might add, inquiry by the stewards.  Apropos, a four-year old mare owned and bred by Clairborne Farms, whose broodmare sire is A.P. Indy, has nine career starts, five wins, two places and only one show.  I hope Santana keeps the mounts on Apropos.  He was very confident with this horse, more so then with any other he rode that day.

As you sit down to make your picks for the carryover at Santa Anita today, look to the Clocker’s Corner Stakes in Race 8.  Gutierrez and Garcia both have mounts in this race, so I’m happy to see they are cleared for riding after the nasty incident yesterday.  A few familiar names show up here, Boat Trip, Drill, Handsome Mike and El Commodore.  Talamo, coming off a great day, is on Boat Trip.  Martin Garcia, if truly healthy, is aboard Drill.  A couple notable three-year old races here as well.  In the 7th, Mike Smith gets a mount for Ron Ellis aboard Surfer Moon; Garcia gets the Baffert toddler, Superlooper.  Gary Stevens gets the post position on Chelios for Tom Proctor.

Race 6 has three-year old fillies and mares for six and half on the turf.  Baffert has #1 Morning Star with Garcia aboard.  Bejarano rides for Doug O’Neill on #7 Bird in Love and the super combination of Mike Smith and Mike Puype have #11 Pragmatical for Little Red Feather Racing.

Desormeaux has one on the card at Santa Anita – Race 4, and then back to Gulfstream on the 29th.  The Super Jockey flew in, took control and exits as fast as a speeding bullet.  It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  Nope, it’s just Kent Desormeaux.

Kent Desormeaux

What’s the Saturday Special? Stakes.

Image

Gulfstream is Serving Surf and Turf

Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff:  $300,000, four year old fillies and mares going 1 1/8th.  Todd Pletcher has #1 Sweet N Discreet here with Joe Bravo in the irons. Paco Lopez gets the mount on #5 Sky Skier and I have to go with Eclipse nominee Joel Rosario on #4 Devil’s Cave, the current favorite.  The only thing that makes me nervous is that Jose Ortiz kid is on #2 Toasting for trainer Albertrani and West Point Thoroughbreds and could be the spoiler. (1, 5, 4 and maybe 2)

Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf:  Proctor flies in Gary Stevens for a couple stakes mounts on Saturday.  His first is on #3 Wishing Gate in this race, and she’s a good one.  Pletcher also has #5 Silsita entered here with Eclipse nominee Javier Castellano in the irons.  I’ll fill the Trifecta with #1 Parranda.   NOTE:  #7 Millennia finished fourth in this race last year. (3, 5, 1)

Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint:  Six furlongs for $150,000.  For me, there’s only one clear winner in this and that’s #4 Ullapool – Peach Tree Stables, Kenneally and Lezcano.  Pletcher has Sweet N Discreet listed in this one too, if she’s in I’ll take her, but if not I’m going with the #1 Salamera who has a win at Gulfstream, her only race and only win in 2013.  Castellano gets the ride … and your luck gets better.  From there, I’ll take #5 R Free Roll to fill the Trifecta. (4, 5, 1)

Florida Sunshine Millions Turf:  $150,000 on the turf for four year olds and up.  This is Stevens second stakes ride for Proctor on #10 Old Time Hockey.  He might get caught by Rosario on #7 Bad Debt.  Kenneally and Lezcano team up again on #5 Star Channel and should be in the pace.  I want to take the Sadler horse, #2 Spring Up, so I might take a Superfecta.  (7, 10, 5, 2).  Can I give a shout out to the #9 here?  Racing Aptitude… which we all should have.

Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint:  Six furlongs for $150,000 on the main track.  You can have some of the best jockeys in a race but the fact remains someone has to lose.  I’m sticking with Paco Lopez, Rosario and Luis Saez in the Sprint.  Paco has won on #3 Ribo Bobo and knows this horse well.  Rosario is a brilliant rider and has #7 Star Harbour in this one.  Luis Saez, who recently celebrated his 1,000th win, is on #8 Apriority, and I think Saez will make this stakes race a priority.  Hopefully, this is a good battle between these three. (7, 3, 8)

Florida Sunshine Millions Classic:  Oh that Mucho Macho Man loves the Classics!  Kathy Ritvo and Gary Stevens team up again to attempt to recreate the magic they had in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Going for the $400,000 a 1 1/8th on the main track shouldn’t have the nail biting finish that the Breeders’ Cup Classic had, but who knows!  Mike Maker has #5 Bernie the Maestro for the Ramseys (a rare non-Kitten) ridden by Rosario to give “The Man” a challenge.  After that, the rest of the field would have to sprout wings to beat MMM.  I hate the name of the #6 in this race, Gourmet Dinner, but this this lucky horse has the top jockey in the country on his back, Javier Castellano, who might be enjoying a gourmet dinner himself after picking up his Eclipse award later that night.  (4, 5, 6)

Image

Santa Anita is Serving Black and Blue

The Megahertz:  A mile on the turf for $75,000.  Seven of the best trainers and jockeys in the business.  Santa Anita is tough.  However, Proctor, Mike Smith and a European horse bred for turf, yeah, I’m going with #1 Gulsary.  Has races all over California in 2013, four starts and three in the money, including a 3rd place finish in the Bobby Frankel Stakes in December at Santa Anita.  Gary Stevens usually rides Gulsary, but he’ll be in Florida for Surf and Turf.  Mike Smith certainly has a good record on the turf at Santa Anita so this should work out just fine for Mr. Proctor.  From there, I’ll take #2 Moone’s My Name with Bejarano in the irons.  I usually don’t give Bejarano second chances, but I will in this race.  This horse has excellent past performances and can do better.  The #4 Dancingtothestars has the loyal combination of O’Neill and Gutierrez but that’s about it.  There’s no argument that Gutierrez has been on a less-than-glorious journey since I’ll Have Another, but Mario is one of the most well-liked jockeys out there and I’m gonna keep giving him a chance as long as Mr. O’Neill does.  I looked at the Baffert horse #5 Lady Ten but this horse has two starts in 2013 and two fifth place finishes.  Can’t do it.  (1, 2, 4)

Oaklawn is Serving Razorback Ribeye

The Pippin:  $100,000, four year olds and up, fillies and mares, going 1 1/16th.  Asmussen and Casse each have runners in this race.  Ricardo Santana, Jr. rides #1 Sister Ginger for Asmussen and Eurico Rosa De Silva rides #6 Dixie Strike for Casse.  I’ll take them both.  All Kentucky bred except for Dixie Strike (ironic).  #3 Don’t Tell Sophia is the favorite in this race and Channing Hill gets the leg up. (3, 1, 6)

Fair Grounds is Serving Cajun 5 Ways

The Louisiana Handicap:  $100,000 for four year olds and up going 1 1/16th on the main track.  Asmussen has #4 Prayer for Relief for Zayat Stables in this one, ridden by Rosie Napravnik.  Greg Geier has two here and both are good, #1 Fordubai and #3 Street Spice.  Robby Albarado rides on Fordubai, but I’m going with Street Spice.  The #5 is Voodoo Storm, and being in Louisiana, I would guess this horse will get bet down on Saturday.  But I’ll go with the Thomas Amoss horse #6 Grand Contender to fill the board.  Grand Contender is listed twice on Saturday’s card but is bet 3/1 in this race.  If he scratches, I’ll take the #5.  (4, 3, 6)

The Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap (Gr. III):  $125,000 for four year olds and up going 1 1/16th on the main track.  Full field of 12.  Although, Agent Di Nozzo and Grand Contender are listed in the Louisiana as well.  Asmussen and Napravnik team up again for the #9 Daddy Nose Best.  Everyone will be watching this horse.  As noted above, European horses on turf … so #10 Speaking of Which is bet to 4/1.  Christophe Clement and Shaun Bridgmohan should have a good run with this horse.  #3 String King is also getting some play.  The Minnesota connection here is Alex Canchari who takes a break from Oaklawn to ride for Hugh Robertson at Fair Grounds.  He’s on the #2 Slip and Drive.  It seems like all these other random horses will just be in Daddy Nose Best’s way.  (9, 10, 3)  NOTE:  #8 Zenji is owned by Sheikh Abdullah Almaddah. 

The Marie G. Krantz Memorial:  Another full field for $75,000 for four year old fillies and mares and up going 1 1/16th on the turf.  Several Minnesota connections here.  Hugh Robertson teams up with Alex Canchari again on #9 Starry Eyed Kate, a horse Canchari has won on; Richard Scherer enters #8 Grandma’s Rules.  Unfortunately for both, the Ramseys have #11 Always Kitten trained by Mike Maker, ridden by Bridgmohan.  Calumet Farm has two entered here as well, #10 Channel Lady and #6 Starstruck (IRE).  Starstruck has impressive past perfs.  First race on U.S. soil was May 1, 2013 at Churchill Downs for a victory, and she never stopped after that, six starts and four in the money.  The other two were fourth place finishes.  #12 Eden Prairie ran in Minnesota and flopped.  However, she’s one of the favorites in this race and with seasoned rider Napravnik, I’ll try again.  Besides, my office is in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, so I’ll stick with the connection.  Since it’s a large field, my ticket’s a Superfecta.  Both #9 Starry Eyed Kate and #8 Grandma’s Rules are in the middle-range odds.  I’ll take the “Minnesota Kid” Canchari on #9 Starry Eyed Kate. (6, 11, 12, 9)

The Silverbulletday:  Three year old fillies for $125,000 non-graded stakes on the main track.  Whenever there’s a race between all three year olds, all eyes will be watching.  Speculation is this will be between #2 Unbridled Forever and #6 Divine Beauty, however, the current favorite is #4 Istanford.  Three starts in 2013 and all three in the money including a win at Fair Grounds on December 19.  I’m going with #4 Istanford over the #6 Divine Beauty.  I would really like to see the Vashchenko horse #3 Army at least to show, but is currently 20/1.  Such a strong, mighty name for a little filly.  I like it.  (4, 6, 2)

The LeComte (Gr. III):  More three year olds, this time the boys, in the $200,000 Grade III on the main track.  All eyes on #4 Gold Hawk with the team of Asmussen and Bridgmohan again and is a heavy favorite, and should be.  #6 Albano is a good horse.  In 2013, went 3-for-3 in the money.  #7 Vicar’s in Trouble is the Mike Maker horse, ridden by Napravnik, but this horse is 2-for-2 in the money and that just doesn’t seem “tested” enough for me but still a 9/2 favorite, so far.  Both #3 Got Shades and #5 Smarty’s Echo have more races under them, and could be considered the more experienced three years old in the race.  Got Shades was 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and has top 3 finishes in his other four races in 2013.  Smarty’s Echo has four races in 2013 and three top 3 finishes with his worst performance in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.  Smarty’s Echo cost me some points by finishing second in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity but I’m all about second chances today. (4, 6, 5)

Image

Turf Paradise is Serving Potatoes on the Side

The Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile:  One mile on the turf in the desert for $75,000.  This little horseplayer learned her lesson about European horses on the turf after the 2013 Breeders’ Cup.  So, as fitting as it is, I’m going with the horse from Ireland #6 Tones.  Giovanni Franco (Minnesota connection) gets the mount and has been riding well this meet.  McFarlane brings two in this race and one is my favorite big boy Red Zeus at #2.  The son of Red Sky’s – Crimson Cricket, by Crimson Slew runs well in the heat.  This will be his first race in 2014 after ending 2013 with three stakes races at Turf Paradise, winning the Walter R. Cluer Memorial Stakes and Jack Coady, Sr. & Jeff Coady Stakes and a second place finish in the Luke Kruytbosch Stakes.  I’m swaying between #3 Fire with Fire, #9 Hammers Terror and #10 For Cash, but For Cash is ridden by another Minnesota rider Scott Stevens.  The current favorite is actually the other McFarlane horse, #1 Az Ridge, at 5/2.  NOTE:  Another Minnesota connection – Patrick Canchari is riding #4 Pastero for his dad, Luis Canchari.