|A closer look at Saturday's big stakes
|By: ST-Publishing Staff, 08-12-2006
|The Special gives detailed analysis of major stakes during the meet. The idea of the these previews is to go through and make comments horse-by-horse and try to come up with a loose value line to guide your betting. Some horses get dismissed rather quickly, but this exercise can really help illuminate contenders and knock vulnerable favorites.
The Sword Dancer Invitational. Grade I. Inner turf course. 1 1/2 miles. 3&up. Purse: $500,000.
The picks: RELAXED GESTURE, GRAND COUTERIER, WILD DESERT.
SILVER WHISTLE: He went to Chicago last time, ostensibly to the prep for the Arlington Million. But following his unexcused off-the-board finish at even money, seems like his connections decided to regroup and try this seemingly easier spot. This son of Alphabet Soup is game, but I’ve never been a big fan. He’s been nibbling against lesser and I’d be pretty surprised to see him win today. 20-1.
RELAXED GESTURE: Unlike so many others, this one seems to have come back from Dubai in fine form. The lone Grade I winner in the field is reportedly doing better than he was before the United Nations, and the third race off the layoff often leads to a big run. He should be able to work out a good trip and catch the speed around the pace call. With his quality and the way the Christophe Clement barn has been going, the most-likely winner. 7-5.
SILVERFOOT: That last race has the look of a peak effort, and even that wasn’t good enough to get by the rival to his inside. He’s a good Grade III turfer but I fear this field has a couple of higher caliber. Can’t fault any who want to use him underneath or even on wider “Pick Whatever” spreads, but I’m pretty much against. 12-1.
GO DEPUTY: It’s his second race off the layoff and he’s trained by a certain Mr. Pletcher, which are certainly positives. He has plenty of good runs on his chart and the distance is a non-issue. I presume he’ll be farther off the pace today than he was in the Bowling Green – he’s not real speedy, the pace that day was just glacial. May not be Grade I quality, though. 8-1.
RAMAZUTTI: Certainly a pace factor and speed has held in some lesser turf races this meet (as it did Thursday). But wiring the field doesn’t happen much at 12 furlongs in Grade I company. Besides, I don’t think he’ll be loping along alone out there. Several of these have punched his clock and I’d call him 25-1.
WILD DESERT: This $40,000 yearling has done himself proud, and his second-place effort in the Suburban was sure flattered by Invasor’s Whitney win. Wild Desert’s dirt form is pretty good, but he hasn’t raced on the lawn since October 2004 (when he finished fifth) and I’m guessing that he’ll be prompting or setting the pace today. His other turf outings were OK, but don’t suggest he’ll thrive in this spot. Still, he’s developed a lot in the interim and I’m tempted to make a case, but I just can’t get too excited on the win end. I recommend trifecta players fool around with him underneath. 8-1.
GRAND COUTURIER: That this 3-year-old ends here instead of the Secretariat – where he’d be racing against his generation – is, to quote Arte Johnson, “Very Interesting.” You have to think he’d look pretty good there based on form. He’s picked a tough place to tackle his elders for the first time, although for whatever reason, European equines seem to make that switch more easily than our horses. Those were pretty nice stakes efforts in at Longchamp and the Timeform ratings suggest he can hang. He relishes the distance and I’m going to call him a major player. 7-2.
CROWN POINT: Got a Grade II placing behind Go Deputy in the Bowling Green last time. Appears he wants to sit a little off a slow pace and run on late, and it’s worth noting that while he does tend to finish fairly close up, he doesn’t hit the board that often. One for the bottom of trifectas. 40-1.
– Pete Fornatale
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And let's not forget the Arlington Park, which is available via simulcast at Saratoga.
The Beverly D. Grade I. Arlington Park (Race 8). Turf. 1 3/16 miles. Fillies and Mares. $750,000. Post time: 4:42 p.m. EDT.
THE PICKS: HONEY RYDER, GORELLA, LIVE LIFE.
GORELLA: The talents of both this filly and her rider Julien Leparoux were on full display in the Grade II Just A Game. Belmont Day bettors who made her 3-5 got a scare when this French connection still trailed by 8 lengths and had yet to make a move turning for home. But Leparoux showed his uncanny sense of pace, thrilling the crowd with a measured neck score. There’s much more where that came from, she’s been working bullets at Turfway Park since and is drawn inside. The one to beat. 9-5.
SHARP LISA: Returns to turf following a Grade I placing on dirt. Scored on the sod going slightly longer in the Grade II Santa Barbara three races back, but she was allowed to set a ludicrously slow pace that day, and had no excuses in her subsequent outing. There’s not tons of speed in here, but she’s still unlikely to see the front for very long. 18-1.
CHIC DANCER: This 5-year old mare makes like Ginger Rogers over the Arlington course. She’s a neck away from seven consecutive wins at this track, with her most recent score coming at this distance (over soft ground) in the Grade III Modesty. She’ll need jets in her dancing shoes to compete at this level, however. 30-1.
RISING CROSS: The only 3-year old in the field, this filly didn’t disgrace herself against the imposing Alexandrova in the English and Irish Oaks, finishing second and third respectively in those Grade I tests for her age group. She faces older foes for first time and shortens up from a mile and a half. She’s get a six-pound break from the other ladies today, but what she probably needs is a few more furlongs and a softer field. 12-1.
WEND: Beaten favorite in her last two, and though she had excuses in each, both efforts were disappointing. Has the tactical speed to get position here, but she’s faded late in her two Grade I tries beyond 9 furlongs, and I can’t help but think that she prefers less ground. 10-1.
HONEY RYDER: Todd Pletcher has accounted for eight graded-stakes wins on the turf in 2006, two of them with this always-there 5-year-old mare. She’s won six of her last seven, with her only loss coming at a 1 1/16 miles. Today’s distance may be a bit short of optimal, but she won a Grade I at Woodbine at a mile and a quarter, making her the only Grade 1 turf winner in this field apart from Film Maker. John Velazquez has made the trip from Saratoga and should get good position in the long run to the turn; watch out for this honey in the stretch. 7-2.
LIVE LIFE: This 4-year-old French-bred has shown an affinity for distance in four excellent tries at 10 furlongs since coming from overseas, including a Grade II score. Going shorter in her last, she bobbled at the start and was wide both turns, yet missed by just 2 1/2 lengths. Could get involved early with a cleaner start and perhaps stick around for a piece at a price. 15-1.
MINGE COVE: Has shown flashes of improvement after a switch to the Steve Asmussen barn last spring, but is placed rather ambitiously today. 50-1
ROYAL COPENHAGEN: The house horse did win the Grade III Pucker Up here last year, but probably should sit this one out. 99-1
RICH IN SPIRIT: Extremely honest performer has hit the board in 11 of 15 starts, but she doesn’t seem to be any faster at 4 than she was at 3, and there’s little reason to think she can be competitive today, especially from this post. 30-1
FILM MAKER: This wonderfully consistent mare, with 20 of 24 finishes in the money, showed that she stills loves the game at 6 when she sprinted home in 34 1/5 seconds in the stretch of the All Along in June. Her last Grade I win came in 2003, though, and she’s been falling just a bit short at this level and distance, and may do so again here from a bad post position. 9-2.
– Alan Mann
• • •
The Arlington Million. Grade I. Arlington Park (Race 9). Turf.
1 1/4 miles. 3&up. Purse: $1,000,000. Post time: 5:42 p.m. EDT.
THE PICKS: THE TIN MAN, CACIQUE, ENGLISH CHANNEL.
MAJOR RHYTHM: Local boy broke a 14-race losing streak in his last, the Grade III Stars and Stripes at a mile and a half over this very course. Two in a row is asking too much. 40-1.
THE TIN MAN: This gelded son of Affirmed seemed to be rusting a few years ago, but Richard Mandella has the 8-year-old well-oiled now. Even after a trip to Dubai, he signaled his sharpness with a handy tune-up in the Grade II American at Hollywood Park. With English Channel and Cacique stuck on the outside, he should lead the way while saving ground into the backstretch. His figures are competitive, he can get the distance and I think he’d be a value at 8-1.
ACE: Kieren Fallon won’t be riding the son of Danehill this time, so Garrett Gomez has the call instead. The 5-year-old has been a bit of a disappointment overseas this year, winless in four starts, and proving no match for Ouija Board, Electrocutionist and Shirocco. He showed an affinity for U.S. racing last year with two excellent Grade I efforts, including a second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. But he had far better form then; given the decline since, I’d demand at least 8-1.
TOUCH OF LAND: French-bred 6-year-old has won two of his last three, but was thrashed by The Tin Man in Dubai in between those scores. He comes out of the same prep for the Million as he did last year when he finished an even fifth. I wouldn’t expect him to do much better this time. 15-1.
SOLDIER HOLLOW: Showed good form in Germany and Italy, winning a Grade I in each of those countries. Tough to gauge this one; Timeform ratings fit with the other tourists, but the competition presumably was weaker. We’d need 20-1 to become interested.
PHOENIX REACH: World traveller has visited the United Arab Emirates, England, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada in his 14-race career. A three-time Grade I winner, including the 2003 Canadian International at Woodbine, this 6-year-old comes into the Million off a 13-month layoff after suffering a leg injury in last year’s King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but trainer Andrew Balding has insisted he’s fit. If he’s right that he’s right, Phoenix Reach can finish close with his late run, but I’d want at least 8-1 after such an absence.
COSMONAUT: Beat a decent Grade III field in the Arlington Handicap, but the purse is five times as large today, and the field might be that much tougher. Moscow, we have a problem. 35-1.
BETTER TALK NOW: Rallied to take a thrilling edition of the Dixie in his 2006 debut, but the 7-year-old followed that with a disappointing fifth in the United Nations behind the two outside horses here. He loomed large when rallying wide in last year’s Million before fading to third, and sandwiched that effort between two Grade I wins. He can take this on his best effort, but that last race will have me looking for at least 8-1.
GO DEPUTY: Also entered in the Sword Dancer; likely scratch.
CACIQUE: Bobby Frankel trainee conceded positioning to English Channel in the United Nations, with that one grabbing the rail trip from the inside post. Still, he yielded grudgingly, and put in a courageous performance going longer than he ever had before. Breaks from the 10-hole (but inside of his main rival) under Edgar Prado, and the jock could make life difficult for John Velazquez on his right. Without much speed between he and The Tin Man, Prado should be able to establish position and save some ground. Cacique will be tough to deny. 7-2.
ENGLISH CHANNEL: Todd Pletcher’s turf star never seemed comfortable prompting Cacique through the slow pace of the Manhattan two back, and was more at home with a target to run at in the U.N. If he doesn’t lose too much ground from the outside post, he’ll have Cacique and The Tin Man to run at this time. Always encouraging to see a horse continue to improve at 4; there’s little to fault other than his post and his price. Try to beat him if he’s 5-2 or less.
– Alan Mann