Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Drought Report 2/16 - San Vicente Stakes & Robert Lewis/El Camino Real recap

Some surprising results occurred this weekend, as the search for "The Drought Breaker" moved into full swing with two graded stakes and the first three-year old allowance on the main track this meet. In each of the three races, the heavy favorite went down to a feisty upstart. Steve Asmussen won one of them, but not the one most people expected. A new star may have emerged up north, and a Cal-bred hope emerged. A recap of these races plus a preview of the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, that will be run on Sunday. First, let's recap the allowance race.

The first open allowance race for three year olds on the dirt at the Santa Anita meet ran on Friday. It was thought to be a match-up between the fast Baffert trainee Da Ruler and the swift Mandella filly Rumor. However, Rumor scratched out of the race when a filly-only version of this condition filled on Sunday. That plus another scratch left a compact field of 4 going 6 furlongs. Da Ruler was a heavy favorite, and pressed a hot pace set by the other two horses in the race. He took over at the top of the lane and looked strong. However, he was run down late by Bench Points (right) in a swift 1:08.22. This undefeated son of Benchmark ran his lifetime record to 4-for-4 by making his 2011 debut a winning one. He won both Cal-bred stakes at Del Mar, the I'm Smokin Stakes and the Graduation Stakes, last summer. This Tim Yakteen-trained gelding will have no problem as the distances increase, as his sire won going a 1m & 1/8, and his damsire Free House won the Santa Anita Derby, the Pacific Classic and the Santa Anita Handicap, the latter two at a 1m & 1/4. His likely next start is the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes March 12th, his first start at two turns.

Saturday brought two races that were thought to help crystallize the picture out here, yet caused more chaos instead. Here at Santa Anita, the Grade 2 Robert B Lewis Stakes going a mile and an eighth was thought to be nothing more than another notch in the belt for Tapizar, especially after Comma To The Top chose to run in the El Camino Real Derby instead (more on that in a minute). Unfortunately, things did not work out like that, as Tapizar was very rank in the early going, dragging jockey Garrett Gomez to the lead under swift fractions. He tugged and tugged so much that he had nothing left in the stretch, finishing a distant fifth out of seven runners. In a sustained stretch drive. Anthony's Cross (right) held off the multiple-graded stakes placed Riveting Reason for the win. This son of Indian Charlie avenged his loss to Tapizar in the Sham and won his first stake of his career in a slow (for this track) 1:48.63. His trainer Eoin Harty has not decided whether he will run in the Grade 2 San Felipe or wait until the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby for his next race, or maybe even ship out of town. This proved to be Tapizar's last race for a while, as he emerged from the race with a chip in his knee, and is sidelined indefinitely.

About an hour later and 400 miles up the 5 freeway, the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields was run. The heavy favorite was Comma To The Top, who chose this slightly "easier" spot instead of the Lewis. Jakesam set the pace, with Comma drafting behind. Turning for home, Comma attempted to take command, but flattened out and drifted out in the stretch. The winner was Silver Medallion, who this blog had touted as a horse to watch last week. This son of Badge of Silver completed the mile and an eighth in 1:50.45, grinding out a win after having to check early and swing well wide into the stretch. The Steve Asmussen trainee could head to any one of four spots for his next race, including halfway around the world in Dubai for the UAE Derby. This blog is very high on him and hopes he ships stays local and runs in the Santa Anita Derby instead. Comma To The Top came out of the race well, but his performance may been a harbinger for his future performances at this and longer distances.

News and Notes
  • The Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes will be run this Sunday going 7 furlongs. Entries will be taking tomorrow, but probable for the race, making their 2011 debuts, is G3 Hollywood Prevue winner (and this blog's choice to end the drought) Premier Pegasus (right) and G2 Best Pal Stakes runner-up Sway Away. Other notable probables for the race are sparkling debut winner The Factor and San Pedro Stakes winner Indian Winter.
  • On Friday (2/11), the Asmussen trained Astrology continued working towards a start with a slow 4 furlong work in 51.20, the 38th best out of 42 works at Santa Anita.
  • Jaycito worked towards a start in the San Felipe Stakes on 3/12 with a 7 furlong work in 1:25.40 on Tuesday (2/15).

A changing of the guard took place last weekend, with a stable losing a strong hope, yet finding another. Favorites went down, prices reigned, and new challengers abound. What will this week hold? Will someone shine in the San Vicente and factor into the breaking the drought? We shall see.


  1. Hey Dime -

    Your pictures are awesome in this piece. WTG !!

  2. The more I reflect on the result of the San Vicente, the more I am encouraged by the top 3 finishers. Each had valid reasons for being less than 100% yet still turned in strong performances.

    First, The Factor. His win in the San Vicente was not nearly as dominating as his maiden score, and he struggled in the stretch with a 13 second final eighth. The San Vicente raised as many questions as it answered concerning The Factor's ability to get a classic distance. But distance concerns aside, it was a very good effort.

    First, even though The Factor was running a furlong further in the San Vicente than his maiden race, his half mile split in the San Vicente was over 3 lengths faster than the corresponding fraction in that maiden event. The Factor was really blazing in the San Vicente, and he had to contend with City Cool. The Factor would have needed to be Spectacular Bid incarnate to finish really fast after a 43 and 2 half.

    After shrugging off City Cool, The Factor was immediately tackled by the previously undefeated Premier Pegasus. The Factor had the needed response, turned back Premier Pegasus, then opened up a clear lead before Sway Away made his late run to close within 3/4ths of a length at the wire. The 13 second final eighth led to a final time of 120 and 1, with a 6 furlong split of 107 and 1 that makes The Factor competitive with the fastest older sprinters on the ground. Dealing with such a pace and still holding off quality challengers is a sign of a top talent.

    And The Factor had every reason to "bounce" a little after his record setting maiden score that earned a 108 Beyer. Even the greatest horses ever, would regress every once and a while off top efforts. Yet, even with a regression, The Factor was still talented enough to win this gr.2 stakes.

    Third, Baffert wasn't able to get in all the works he wanted for The Factor to be at his peak for the race. In fact, The Factor had worked only 3 times since that December 26th maiden win, and just twice in the month of February as Baffert gave the horse's ailing feet a break. Baffert simply couldn't have had The Factor cranked up fully for the San Vicente, and he admitted as much following the race, declaring that the horse won largely on pure speed and talent. By the way, the speed figure for the San Vicente was a solid 102.

    I am skeptical that The Factor wants 10 furlongs, but I am confident he will be better for his next start, whatever the distance.

    Sway Away ran a remarkable race to close 10 lengths on The Factor and lose by less than a length. Sway Away was coming off a 6 month layoff, so he had every right to need a race. With excellent route breeding, being by Afleet Alex out of a Seattle Slew mare, Sway Away has every right to stretch out effecting. If he is able to show the same explosiveness around 2 turns, Sway Away, like his papa, could be a serious horse for the Triple Crown series.

    Finally, there is PrePeg. I am very encouraged by PrePeg's 3rd place run, which earned a Beyer of about 95. Given he had only worked twice this year, it was actually a remarkable. Yes, PrePeg faded a little in the stretch, but he was a completely short horse; this race was a means to an end. Given such shallow preparation and the fact PrePeg was right off a burning pace, it's actually quite impressive that he finished as well as he did. If PrePeg can run a 95 Beyer with such little foundation, the sky is the limit when he is fully cranked up. What's more, being by Fusaichi Pegasus out of a Summer Squall mare, PrePeg should be well suited for 2 turns.

  3. By the way, PrePeg is an absolute physcial specimen. I can now fully understand why tencentcielo has such a thing for him. He's Riveting Reason 5.0 or Riveting Reason +5, meaning he's at least 5 lengths superior to his gr.1 placed stablemate.