Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready to celebrate Justify at Santa Anita.
The big news for Saturday is not a horse that is racing, but one that is not. By now, everyone knows Justify will be making a modeling engagement at Santa Anita. Should be somewhere between 1:45 and 2 p.m. He will start in the paddock, then to the track and finish up in the winner’s circle.
The track is distributing 4,000 posters of Justify to paying customers, and jockey Mike Smith will be in the West Paddock Gardens to sign them between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.
Now, the reason you should go is there really is no scenario where you will ever see him race again at Santa Anita. And, it’s pretty iffy that you’ll ever see him run in Southern California. You might be able to see him work or gallop in the morning, but he’ll be one of many horses then, and not treated like equine royalty as he’ll be on Saturday.
Justify’s next race hasn’t been announced, but it’s likely to be back East. The logical spot would be the Haskell at Monmouth on July 29, followed by the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 25. It would lead him to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. Justify likes Churchill, having won the Derby there and spent a lot of time training there.
The only other possibility would be the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 18. The problem with that is he would be racing older horses, including his stablemate West Coast. Trainer Bob Baffert is very likely to try to keep Justify, West Coast and, eventually, McKinzie away from each other, at least until the Classic.
McKinzie, if he’s ready, could return in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 28, or if he needs more time, there is always the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 22. McKinzie could return as a 4-year-old, if the ownership sees fit to do it.
There is little to no chance that Justify will run at 4, excluding maybe the Pegasus in January, and even that’s no certainty.
So, all of this means if you want to see a Triple Crown winner in the horseflesh, Saturday is your day at Santa Anita.
Our handicapping lesson
Here’s our weekly contribution from Rob Henie of the WCHR (West Coast Handicapping Report) and the ECHR (East Coast Handicapping Report). The thinking is if you can know and understand the strategies, it will make you a better handicapper.
Today’s lesson is from the first race at Santa Anita. The floor is yours, Rob.
“Closing weekend from the Great Race Place kicks off with an optional $75,000 claimer at 6½ furlongs on the turf. Rather than focus today on a handicapping angle, let’s show you how we methodically break this race down. We’ll start with the rail horse, #1 TRAVIEZA. Her flat mile effort last time out was ‘even,’ but with the 9-5 morning line and close second, it’ll attract money. We’re trying to beat. Her own splits last time out were as follows: :23.1 / :23.3 / :24 / :25.1. While the shorter distance will aid in the stamina department, we would rather have seen a quicker final ½ than :49.1, especially considering those :23 and change splits weren’t exactly flying. We’re looking to beat. Then, #2 CUTE KNOWS CUTE runs for ‘super feed’ trainer Peter Miller, stringing three races together, which is a good thing, but, after taking a shot in a minor stakes race last time out, they now hang a $75,000 price on her, and though a nice claim check to collect, it’s not exactly a sign of confidence, especially with Del Mar just a month and 100 miles away. Now, #5 MISS PRETTY is a sharp one-time cheaper No. Cal runner, the type of horse we love to back in $10,000 to $20,000 down here, usually facing regressing higher classed sorts with a touch of value attached. But, this is a good group, and it’s likely Ari Herbertson is allowing her to lose confidence today, NOT the way you’d like to see your horse enter in to the summer months. #6 KATHERINE was headstrong off the time away, and though she lasted, it was more the type of effort off the time away, which stressed ‘well meant,’ meaning, likely tough to improve off that effort with everything falling so well into place, a group that was lesser than this one. That leaves us with our two choices, top pick in FLAMMETTA (#4). Anytime you notice a horse pop up with a huge effort in their first try over this unique course, it’s worth noting, now back right on schedule with a pair of works, of which, we love that recent slow :51 drill, telling us they didn’t need anything more from her while waiting this next start, with Flavien Prat back for ‘super feed’ trainer Richard Baltas, likely sitting behind the early speed, and just off the flank of ROCKIN READY (#3), a horse who’s been our top pick in all four starts to date for ‘super feed’ trainer Phil D’Amato (email us for more info if wanting to understand the ‘super feed’ contents, though explained in our daily report), including that debut loss by a nose at 6-1 when hitting the wire with Toinette, who’s turned out to be a nice one, including a $76,000 allowance race at Keeneland. Look for Geovanni Franco to get a really nice trip off the front runners, likely taking over at the top of the lane before having to deal with our top choice, with both runners coming home in around :28 to :28.3, which gives them both the edge here today.
Win Contenders (order of preference): 4-1
X Out Runners (eliminating on the win end): 5
Morning Line Underlays / Overlays:
4 Flammetta - Morning Line 4-1 / WCHR Line 5-2
TOP PICK: FLAMMETTA (#4 4-1 Prat)
SECOND CHOICE: ROCKIN READY (#3 2-1 Franco)”
The West Coast Handicapping Report can be found at http://www.westcoasthorseracing.com It has been endorsed by leading trainers, handicappers and industry sources.
What the CHRB meant
On Thursday, when chairman Chuck Winner said race dates would be discussed at the next meeting on July 12, I and others thought he might be opening the door to negotiating an agreement to give Golden Gate more dates. On Friday, in Mike Marten’s summary of the meeting, he cleared up what Winner meant but didn’t say.
“… will add Northern California race dates to the agenda in order to develop contingency plans in the event PRA [Golden Gate] chooses not to comply with the conditions of the license approval.”
Clarity is always a good thing.
Who goofed? I’ve got to know
I’ll take the blame for not catching that there was a typo on the start of the Los Alamitos thoroughbred meet. It’s June 28, but I’m guessing you folks figured that out on your own.
Santa Anita review
Vale Dori had the credentials, but it was Yuvetsi who proved much the best in winning the $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares. Yuvetsi stretched out from previous efforts but ran a perfect stalking trip and accelerated down the stretch to win by 2½ lengths.
“We’ve been wanting to stretch this filly out,” winning trainer John Sadler told Mike Willman of Santa Anita. “She’s been in some trouble going short and we thought this would be a time to try two turns. She’s got a nice pedigree [out of the Speightstown mare Mother Ruth] and winning a stake is good for her. I want to thank David Ingordo for picking her out as a yearling.”
Tyler Baze rode the horse for popular owners Kosta and Peter Hronis. She paid $15.40, $6.80 and $3.60. Bernina Star was second and Val Dori was third.
Santa Anita preview
It looks as if Santa Anita doesn’t want one blade of grass left on the turf course by the end of the meeting this weekend, as it has six races on the grass on Saturday and six more on Sunday. But, hey, now is the time you would do that, since there is plenty of time to rehab it.
Saturday’s 12-race card starts at noon. There are four allowance races in addition to a major stakes, the Grade 2 $250,000 San Carlos Stakes for horses 3 and up going seven furlongs. The well-traveled American Anthem is the 9-5 favorite. He’s won four of nine races having run at Santa Anita, Del Mar, Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Belmont and Oaklawn Park. He’s been running mostly graded stakes and won his last race, an allowance at Churchill. He’s trained by Baffert and ridden by Smith.
The second favorite is Touching Rainbows at 5-2. He’s won six of 12 but Saturday will be his first stakes race. D’Amato is the trainer and Prat the rider.
Big races preview
A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Saturday. All times PST.
12:09 Belmont: $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Got Stormy (6-5)
1:04 Parx: $100,000 Turning for Home Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Aztec Sense (3-5)
1:57 Woodbine: Grade 3 $125,000 Singspiel Stakes, 3 and up, 1½ miles on turf. Favorite: Danish Dynaformer (2-1)
2:10 Thistledown: Grade 3 $500,000 Ohio Derby, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Flameaway (5-2)
3:11 Arlington: Grade 3 $100,000 Chicago Handicap, fillies and mares 3 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Union Strike (3-1)
3:28 Ruidoso Downs: $175,000 Mountain Top Futurity, NM-breds 2-year-olds, 5 furlongs. Favorite: Hustle Up (5-2)
5:11 Canterbury: $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: I’m Betty G (3-1)
5:28 Santa Anita: Grade 2 $250,000 San Carlos Stakes, 3 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: American Anthem (9-5)
5:44 Canterbury: $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile, 3 and up, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Swagger Jagger (3-1)
6:18 Canterbury: $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, 3 year olds, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Captivating Moon (7-2)
7:06 Evangeline Downs: $100,000 Evangeline Mile, 3 and up, 1 mile. Favorite: Dazzling Gem (9-5)
Bob Ike’s SA play of the day
FIFTH RACE: No. 9 Any Questions (7-2)
Sharp colt from the Dean Pederson stable is shooting for his third straight win after rattling off consecutive wins on turf. He returns south and must overcome the outside post, but leave it to leading rider Prat to negotiate a good trip. Win bet on ‘Questions and exacta boxes with Tough It Out (3-1) and Ky. Colonel (10-1).
Friday’s result: Bountiful Desert sat a good trip but had nothing to offer at top of the stretch before finishing far back in fifth race.
Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of Horsebills.com (here’s a video) and the proprietor of BobIkePicks.com (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).
Ed Burgart’s LA play of the day
SIXTH RACE: No. 7 Terrific First Down (7-2)
This well-bred filly out of productive dam Terrific Energy never had a chance to extend her stride in rugged seventh-place debut when lugging in badly to the 1/8-pole from the rail post. She was under restraint thereafter and galloped out with much energy. She now moves to post seven and her trainer, Christopher O’Dell, is winning at a 27.8 percent clip.
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And now the stars of the show, Friday’s results and Saturday’s entries.