Gotham Stakes (G3) Cheat Sheet

Track: Aqueduct

Purse: $300,000

Distance: One Mile

Points: 50-20-10-5 to first four finishers

With all the speed horses in this race, the closer Haikal could get the perfect setup to pull a major upset.  Instagrand is good and he could just as well be much faster than the other runners, but he will face a lot of pace challenge and has a lot of things going against him like shipping, the distance and his layoff.  Much Better can sit off the pace and be successful, and with Baffert and Smith teaming up I would not count this horse out.  Mind Control hasn’t been getting as much attention, but this is his home track and it is his ideal distance.

1 – Family Biz (30/1)

  • Fed Biz – I’mclassyandsassy by Master Command
  • Edward Barker / Kendrick Carmouche
  • Running style: closer
  • 7-1-2-2
  • 3rd by 5 ½ lengths in 1-mile Jerome
  • Most recently 4th by 4 ½ lengths in 7 furlong Jimmy Winkfield
    • Facing several of the same challengers again
  • Would need very fast pace to be a major factor
  • Faces major class challenge

2 – Knicks Go (12/1)

  • Paynter – Kosmo’s Buddy by Outflanker
  • Ben Colebrook / Jose Lezcano
  • Press the pace
  • 7-2-1-1
    • Great juvenile season winning G1 Breeders’ Futurity by 5 ½ and 2nd in BC Juvenile
  • Looks to be going downhill since his juvenile season
    • 11th by 18 ¾ lengths as favorite in G2 KY Jockey Club in slop
    • 5th by 13 lengths as favorite in G3 Sam F. Davis
  • Cutting back in distance, but will have a lot of pace challengers to deal with
  • Needs big time rebound to prove he can still compete at this high level

3 – Mind Control (9/2)

  • Stay Thirsty – Feel That Fire by Lightning N Thunder
  • Gregory Sacco / John Velazquez
  • Pacesetter / press the pace
  • 5-3-1-0
  • Won 1-mile Jerome at Aqueduct by 1 ½ lengths in 3yo debut
    • Same conditions as this race
      • Mile seems like his best distance
    • Tougher field than he has faced with a lot of early speed to battle
    • Two year old season: Won G1 Hopeful in 3rd start before troubled trip led to 7th in G1 BC Juvenile
    • Contender

4 – Much Better (10/1)

  • Pioneerof the Nile – Dust and Diamonds by Vindication
  • Bob Baffert / Mike Smith
    • Duo rarely defeated together in NY and Baffert rarely send horses to NY to lose
  • Pacesetter / press the pace
  • 5-2-1-1
  • Stakes placed on turf, but looks to prefer dirt
    • Debut winner on dirt as a 2 year old at Del Mar
    • Never outside of the money on dirt
    • 3rd in the Sham (G3) after being near the hot pace
  • Recently front running 3 ½ length winner of allowance sprint at Santa Anita
    • 2-for-2 sprinting and 0-for-3 going long
  • Can perform well sitting off the pace, so if he does that he can hit the board

5 – Haikal (6/1)

  • Daheer – Sablah by Distorted Humor
  • Kiaran McLaughlin / Rajiv Maragh
  • Closer
  • 3-2-1-0
  • Won or lost by a neck in all three races
    • Broke maiden before winning the Jimmy Winkfield in last start
    • All starts have been at Aqueduct
  • Stepping up in class while stretching out to a mile for the first time
  • Projected speed in this race will set up his strong closing move, making him a live longshot

6 – Instagrand (1/1)

  • Into Mischief – Asset of War by Lawyer Ron
  • Jerry Hollendorfer / Javier Castellano
  • Pacesetter
  • 2-2-0-0
    • Undefeated
  • $1.2 million 2yo purchase won 2 sprint races by combined 20 ¼ lengths including G2 Best Pal
  • First start since August, going past 6 furlongs, and shipping outside California
    • Distance wise this race is good move to test his distance ability, but will be facing several other horses who prefer to run near the lead
      • Might just be faster than challengers given what we saw last year
    • Has had several solid workouts leading up to this and is the top choice, but not worth the price

7 – Not That Brady (5/1)

  • Big Brown – Lisa’s Booby Trap by Drewman
  • Rudy Rodriguez / Reylu Gutierrez
  • Pacesetter
  • 6-2-2-0
  • 3 length winner of Damon Runyon Stakes for NY breds before 2nd by head to Tax in G3 Withers
    • Cutting back in distance here
  • Had uncontested pace in last 4 starts, but he will not get that here
  • Needs to take step forward to win this against improved competition, but drawing outside of the other speed horses will help him
  • Has dealt with a quarter crack between races

8 – Tikhvin Flew (12/1)

  • Street Sense – Chatique by Deputy Minister
  • Steve Asmussen / Dylan Davis
  • Press the pace
  • 2-1-0-1
  • 1 ¾ length winner in debut before 3rd in Jimmy Winkfield by 2 lengths with both at Aqueduct
    • Home track advantage
  • Lackluster performance against NY-breds in last start
    • This will be first time running against open company
  • Has talent, but faces major class jump and this race seems like a tough test for him

Tampa Bay Derby (G2) Cheat Sheet

Track: Tampa Bay Downs

Purse: $400,000

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Points: 50-20-10-5 to top 4 finishers

At Tampa Bay this meet – pacesetters and pressers have won 66% of race, mid-pack runners 20%, and closers 14%.

Well Defined got an easy wire to wire win in the Sam F Davis, but I’m not sure how he will handle Zenden challenging him.  Win Win Win has won from both the front end and the back so the pace won’t be the issue, but I have a hard time going with a horse when they choose a big stakes race to attempt two turns for the first time.  Given how he dominated in such an easy fashion last time out, I’m tempted to go with Dream Maker over the other two favorites.

1 – Admire (12/1)

  • Pedigree: Cairo Prince – Visavis by Indian Charlie
  • Trainer: Dale Romans / Jockey: Robby Albarado
  • Running style: Mid-pack runner
  • Race Record: 3:1-0-0
  • Cutting back 1/16th of a mile to try and rebound from 5th in Withers (G3) at Aqueduct
    • Raced wide and didn’t have anything left at the end, so inside post will help
  • Nice workouts so might have an improved effort, but don’t think its enough to win

2 – Sir Winston (12/1)

  • Awesome Again – La Gran Bailadora by Afleet Alex
  • Mark Casse / Julian Leparoux
  • Stalker
  • 6:2-0-1
  • Looks to prefer the synthetic at Woodbine over dirt – hit the board in all 3 starts there
    • Won the Display S. at 1 1/16 miles
  • Finished 4th in Withers (G3) in last start

3 – Lord Dragon (30/1)

  • Oxbow – Broken Spell by Broken Vow
  • Jordan Blair / Jose Bracho
  • Closer
  • 6:1-2-1
  • Has improved in past two starts at this track and broke his maiden in 6th attempt last time out
  • Toughest field he faced was in 1 1/16th mile Keeneland maiden where he finished 10th
  • Big jump in class for him and I think its more than he will be able to handle

4 – Dream Maker (4/1)

  • Tapit – To Dream About by Monarchos
  • Mark Casse / Florent Geroux
  • Stalker
  • 4:2-0-0
  • Won two-turn Fair Grounds optional claimer by 8 ½ under hand ride in first start after a layoff
    • Horse he beat, Courtyard, came back to win allowance – him and 2nd place finisher were 13 ¾ lengths ahead of third place
  • Looks to be getting better at the right time and should improve in second start off layoff
  • Win contender

5 – Well Defined (7/2)

  • With Distinction – Fru Fru by Medaglia d’Oro
  • Kathleen O’Connell / Pablo Morales
  • Pacesetter
  • 7:3-1-1
  • Homecourt advantage – won Sam F. Davis (G3)
    • Given he didn’t do well in previous races against non-stake breds this win was a surprise
  • Will have more pace pressure here
  • As a 2 year old won the Florida Sire In Reality Stakes by 7 ½
  • Win contender

6 – Outshine (8/1)

  • Malibu Moon – Life Lesson by Unbridled’s Song
  • Todd Pletcher / Joel Rosario
  • Mid-pack runner
  • 3:2-0-0
  • 2 length winner of Gulfstream allowance optional claimer after being 4 wide in turn
    • First start after 8 month layoff, so should improve in this start
  • Needs a big improvement, but don’t underestimate Pletcher in this race
  • Could hit the board

7 – Win Win Win (5/2)

  • Hat Trick (JPN) – Miss Smarty Pants by Smarty Jones
  • Michael Trombetta / Irad Ortiz, Jr.
  • Closer
  • 4:3-1-0
  • Set Tampa Bay track record with 7 ¼ length Pasco S. win and only career loss was by 1 ½ lengths
  • Will be first two turn start against toughest competition he has faced
  • Win contender

8 – The Right Path (15/1)

  • Quality Road – Always Trouble by Bernardini
  • Jorge Duarte, Jr. / Joe Bravo
  • Press the pace
  • 2:1-1-0
  • Won debut at Aqueduct in November and was 2nd in optional claimer at Gulfstream last month
    • Elevated from 3rd to 2nd after a disqualification
  • This will be his first time around 2 turns
  • Others in the field I like better at high prices

9 – Dunph (20/1)

  • Temple City – Skymynx by Sky Mesa
  • Mike Maker / Daniel Centeno
  • Stalker
  • 5:2-0-1
  • Won Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion S. by 7 ¾ lengths in October
    • Since then: 2nd in Springboard Mile, 9th in KY Jockey Club (G2) on sloppy track, and faded to 11th in Risen Star (G2)
      • Needs to prove he is still at the same level as his big win
    • Carrying 123lbs will not help him

10 – Tacitus (12/1)

  • Tapit – Close Hatches by First Defense
  • Bill Mott / Jose Ortiz
  • Mid-pack runner
  • 2:1-0-0
  • First race since November when he won 1 mile maiden at Aqueduct by a neck
    • Finished 4th in debut at Belmont against good competition like Kentucky Wildcat
  • Unproven at this level, but has some of best connections in field
  • Has been working well, but might need this race from a fitness standpoint

11 – Zenden (8/1)

  • Fed Biz – You Laughin by Sharp Humor
  • Victor Barboza, Jr. / Samy Camacho
  • Pacesetter / press the pace
  • 3:2-1-0
  • Has done little wrong with his career
    • Won first two starts sprinting at Gulfstream, including Buffalo Man Stakes
    • 2nd to sprinter Call Paul in Swale (G3)
  • Will be first race around 2 turns against tougher competition
    • Tough task from this post

Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) Cheat Sheet

Track: Turfway Park

Purse: $200,000

Distance: 1 1/8 miles on the all weather track – a turf win is good sign when switching to synthetic

Points: 20-8-4-2 to top 4 finishers

At Turfway Park since November: Front runners (never farther back than 2nd or 1 length off lead) have won 65.2% of the time, stalkers 19.5%, mid-pack runners 9.6%, and deep closers 5.4%.  Favorites have won 36.9% of the time and have been in the money 71.8%.

Somelikeithotbrown and Skywire look like the two to beat.  I feel like even though he has less experience, Skywire might be able to step up and win this race.  I’m expecting Five Star General to improve after his last race and he should do well with the surface switch, so expect him to be a factor and be up there with Somelikeithotbrown and Skywire in the end.

1 – Dynamic Racer (15/1)

  • Pedigree: Run Away and Hide – Biogio’s Gift by Any Given Saturday
  • Trainer: Ronald Kahles / Jockey: Euclyn Prentice, Jr.
  • Running style: pacesetter
  • Race Record: 6 starts: 2 wins – 2 place – 2 show
  • Runner up in John Battaglia Memorial – local prep for this race
    • Good effort – led until mid-stretch before losing by 3 ½ length
  • Might be able to set soft fractions if he gets easy lead, then could be capable of hitting the board

2 – Moonster (20/1)

  • Malibu Moon – Mema by Unbridled’s Song
  • Dale Romans / John McKee
  • Mid-pack runner
  • 7:1-0-1
  • Has no turf or synthetic starts and hasn’t been competitive in 3 dirt stakes starts
    • 8th in Sam F. Davis (G3) and 10th in Breeders’ Futurity (G1) – might not be up to this level

3 – Five Star General (6/1)

  • Distorted Humor – Party of Interest by Bernardini
    • WinStar homebred
  • Arnauld Delacour / Declan Cannon
  • Pacesetter/press the pace
  • 4:2-0-0
  • Lacks synthetic or turf starts, but two wins came in off-the-turf events at Laurel and Aqueduct
  • Led all the way in Central Park victory at Aqueduct before a 6th in the Sam F. Davis (G3)
    • His works have improved since that race
  • Expect better performance than Sam F. Davis, so capable of being a factor and hitting the board

4 – Dabo (10/1)

  • Temple City – Sullied But Sweet by Conveyor
  • Dale Romans / Luan Machado
  • Closer
  • 4:1-0-1
  • Closed well to be 3rd in John Battaglia Memorial after making wide move
  • Ran dull 5th in Gulfstream turf event before that
  • Has a win over synthetic with career debut at Arlington in maiden sprint

5 – Baytown Jimbo (20/1)

  • Artie Schiller – Whispered (GB) by Medicean (GB)
  • Paul McEntee / Alexis Achard
  • Closer
  • 8:1-1-1
  • Has synthetic experience, but faced extremely slow fractions in past two losses at Woodbine
    • Being a closer that hurt his chances
  • If fast pace early this colt could pick up the pieces
  • Has some promising works recently

6 – Skywire (3/1)

  • Afleet Alex – Meandering Stream by Gone West
  • Mark Casse / Gary Boulanger
  • Stalker
  • 2:2-0-0
    • Undefeated
  • Won by 6 lengths in off-the-turf Gulfstream optional claimer last time after hitting gate at start
    • Gulfstream shippers won every year from 2010-2015
  • Has synthetic experience with debut win in Woodbine sprint 3 months ago
  • Big win contender

7 – Counter Offer (10/1)

  • Tapizar – Donate by City Zip
  • Ian Wilkes / Malcolm Franklin
  • Mid-pack runner
  • 7:1-1-0
  • 4th in Sam F. Davis (G3) by 13 lengths
  • Lone win by neck margin came over soft Churchill turf course
  • Overall seems too slow against this level

8 – Twelfthofneverland (12/1)

  • Istan – Deep in December by The Daddy
  • Raymond Handal / Sheldon Russell
  • Stalker
  • 7:2-1-0
  • Has two off-the-board finishes on turf
  • Lost by nose at Aqueduct on dirt in last start, but in a starter optional claimer
  • Big jump in class and I don’t think he’s up to the same level

9 – Curlin Grey (10/1)

  • Curlin – Surf Light by Malibu Moon
  • Ken McPeek / Brian Hernandez, Jr.
  • Closer
  • 7:1-1-1
  • 3rd behind talented Global Campaign in Gulfstream optional claimer
    • Awesome D J (4th) off the board in next start – questions quality of other horses
  • Dropped to maiden claimer two starts ago – red flag
  • Lacks synthetic experience and had dull effort on turf in career debut

10 – Somelikeithotbrown (8/5)

  • Big Brown – Marilyn Monroan by Tapit
  • Mike Maker / Tyler Gaffalione
    • Maker going for 3rd win in past 4 years and 5th overall
  • Pacesetter/press the pace
  • 6:2-2-1
  • 4 length winner of John Battaglia Memorial
  • 3rd by ¾ of length in BC Juvenile Turf and 2nd in Pilgrim S. (G3) at Belmont and With Anticipation S. (G3) at Saratoga – shows his class level
  • Tyler Gaffalione giving up mounts at Gulfstream to ride him – good sign
  • Big win contender

11 – Speed App (30/1)

  • Flatter – Skipstone by Montbrook
  • Wayne Lukas / Walter De La Cruz
  • Closer
  • 7:0-1-1
  • Has never won, but finished distant second at Oaklawn Park last time out
  • Looks in over his head and highly doubt he will improve enough to win a graded stake
    • Could improve with change to synthetic, but don’t think it will be enough

Fountain of Youth Stakes

Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) has assembled a talented field of eleven colts and will be the best Derby prep race that we have seen so far.  There are many horses in this field that could step up and win, but I feel that #4 Bourbon War (10/1), #7 Hidden Scroll (9/5), and #8 Global Campaign (10/1) have the best chances to put themselves on the Derby trail.  Bourbon War showed talent as a two-year-old after a maiden win and fourth in the Remsen Stakes, but has dramatically improved in his sophomore season.  In his season debut, he closed from off the pace and surged clear of the field to take an allowance race at this track and the distance by 2 ¼ lengths.  This will be a big step up for him, but he has been training steadily coming into this race and should continue to improve since this is his second start after a seven-week layoff.  Global Campaign is undefeated in two starts and has the perfect press the pace running style for his stakes debut at Gulfstream.  He won his debut in January by open lengths and then took an allowance by 2 ¼ lengths at this track and distance.  Watching the races, he had two very easy wins where he was in a league of his own at the end of both and gave no other horse a chance.  This shows me that we haven’t seen the best of this WinStar bred yet and he should handle the deeper competition well that he will face in the Fountain of Youth.  Everyone has been waiting to see Hidden Scroll run again after his dominant maiden victory on the Pegasus undercard.  He beat a field of 13 horses in a sloppy one-mile race by 14 lengths while being geared down in the stretch, which was not only visually impressive but had some of the best speed figures for the season so far.  Trainer Bill Mott has been high on this horse since day one, but there are a few things that make me skeptical about him.  This will be the first time that he will run two turns and with only one easy win under his belt you must wonder if he can withstand the pressure of several other speed horses on a dry track.  While this horse has a lot to prove, very few three-year-olds this season have shown that they can run really fast over a distance and Hidden Scroll is definitely one of those horses.  This race will be a challenge for him, but if he can pull out a win like he did in his maiden then this colt is something special and will be one of my top picks going into the Derby.  There are two other horses in this field already on the Derby trail who will be some of the favorites, and those are #5 Vekoma (7/2) and #6 Signalman (9/2).  Both horses have tremendous talent and I believe could have a shot at hitting the board, but I do not think that for this particular race they are win contenders.  Vekoma hasn’t run since his Nashua Stakes win in November and Signalman last won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in the same month.  Neither horse has been that much of a standout in workouts leading up to this race, and Signalman has only has five works in his layoff.  All this combined with trainers Ken McPeek’s 1 for 27 and George Weaver’s 0 for 8 win record for horses off a long layoff makes me think both horses are going to need this race from a fitness standpoint before they get back to top form.  Good luck to all connections!

Risen Star Stakes

This weekend there are several races that are going to serve as preps for both the Derby and Oaks.  One of the more interesting ones to look at is the competitive $400,000 G2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, the first prep of the season to award 50 Derby points to the winner.  There are many horses in this field of 14 that could step up and earn points in this race, but the ones I feel have the best chances are #14 War of Will (5/2), #8 Owendale (6/1), #9 Country House (20/1), #6 Hog Creek Hustle (8/1), and #1 Plus Que Parfait (10/1).  War of Will has drawn a tough post position and will have to get going quickly to be near the lead, but he is still the biggest win contender given the ability he has shown in his recent starts.  He overcame a wide trip to dominate the Lecomte by four lengths without fully extending himself and put away five of the horses he will be facing in the Risen Star.  There is a chance for rain on Saturday at Fair Grounds, and that is no issue for War of Wills given he won by five lengths the last time he saw an off track.  Even though he is only a maiden winner and 20/1 on the morning line, Country House has a big chance of upsetting War of Will and probably will be the second choice by the time the race goes off.  He has shown dramatic improvement in each of his three starts and recently overcame a disastrous start to win by 3 ½ lengths in a powerful last to first move.  The horse he almost beat in his second start, Kentucky Wildcat, recently ran huge to get second in the Sam F. Davis, which only flatters this colt more.  Owendale is entering off a sharp 1 ½ length allowance win over Risen Star rivals Frolic More and Gun It and has the most experience in this field in two turn races.  He will need to improve to beat tougher competition than he has ever seen before, but he has shown a trend for improvement recently and should continue to improve given this is his third start off a layoff.  Plus Que Parfait had a horrible trip in the Lecomte after stumbling at the start and getting bumped around throughout, but he still made up ground late to finish 5th by 6 ½ lengths to War of Will.  He has run very well in his past dirt starts, and he could be a factor at a high price if he gets a clean trip this time around.  Finally, Hog Creek Hustle was a late running second to War of Will in the Lecomte and closed better than most of the other horses in the race.  He has shown dramatic improvement every time he has been stretched out in distance and should keep improving.  Good luck to all the connections!