Thursday, March 31, 2011

Drought Report - 9 Days To Go

As the list of horses who will line up to carry the hopes of ending the drought seems to grow by the minute, here is a quick blurb about each of the probable entrants as of now for the Santa Anita Derby, listed in alphabetical order.

Anthony's Cross (right) continued his swift preparations by working a bullet six furlongs at Hollywood Park on Monday (3/28) in 1:12.20, the best of 5 works that morning. The winner of the Lewis looks to be coming into the race well.

Bench Points worked on Saturday (3/26) at Hollywood Park 5 furlongs in 1:01:00, the 9th best of 20 works at the distance. This Tim Yakteen trainee looks to improve off his third-place effort in the San Felipe Stakes.

Celestic Night worked on Sunday (3/27) at Hollywood Park 6 furlongs in 1:13.60, the 3rd best of 8 works at the distance. Claimed by Mike Mitchell for $80k out of a race down the hill, he will be taking a steep step up in class.

Comma To The Top worked on Wednesday (3/30) at Hollywood Park 4 furlongs in 49.40. His trainer Peter Miller announced that the Kentucky Derby is not in the plans for his horse, as he will struggle with the distance.

Indian Winter worked on Sunday (3/27) at Santa Anita 7 furlongs in 1:23:80. He looks to bounce back from a no excuse second in the Turf Paradise Derby last out. Patrick Valenzuela will have the mount in the Santa Anita Derby.

Jaycito (right) hasn't worked since last week's work at Hollywood Park. He will probably work on Friday. He is on the fence on whether he will run here or in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on the same day. (This blog will update this post with his work when it occurs.)

Mr. Commons has continued to work a hole in the wind in preparation for the race. He worked on Monday 7 furlongs in 1:23.80 at Hollywood Park. The effort was a tag-team work, as he started with one workmate, then had another join in during the work. Private clockers have been raving about him, and the buzz will only increase for him.

Offlee Wild Boys has been working at running and working at Golden Gate for the race. He worked there on Sunday six furlongs in 1:13.40, the best of 11 works. He and Comma To The Top share the most career starts made by any horse in the race with 12.

Premier Pegasus has been galloping since his win in the San Felipe Stakes. Based on previous experience, he should be working Saturday in his last work for the Santa Anita Derby.

Silver Medallion worked on Tuesday at Santa Anita 7 furlongs in 1:23.60. He will have the services of Garrett Gomez for the race.

One of the ones who will be not running in the race is Riveting Reason, who is off the Derby trail due to an injury. We wish him a speedy recovery

So there is a quick recap of those who will be pointing to the race. Who will take the win and carry the hopes of ending the drought? We shall see. Good luck everybody.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Drought Report - 3/24

This week's drought report is rather light, so well go all bullets with it.

  • Possible Santa Anita Derby horses The Factor and Sway Away ran in the Rebel stakes last week with mixed results. The Factor won, while Sway Away finished off the board while losing a tooth. It looks like both will be headed to the Arkansas Derby instead, according to their trainer's comments
  • Silver Medallion is being pointed to the Santa Anita Derby, and Garrett Gomez
    will have the mount in the race. He worked out on 3/23 (Wed.) at Santa Anita 5 furlongs in 1:02.40, the 56th out of 76 works.
  • Mr Commons, who won a first level allowance last out, has thrown back-to-back bullets, the latest being 6 furlongs in 1:11.80 at Hollywood Park on 3/22 (Tue.)
  • Jaycito worked at Hollywood Park in his first work since the San Felipe 4 furlongs in 48.40 on 3/22. Baffert says that he could be headed to the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on the same day instead.
  • Anthony's Cross, winner of the Robert E. Lewis, continued working towards the Santa Anita Derby with a bullet 4 furlong work in 46.8 at Hollywood Park on 3/20 (Sun.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Interesting Sunday at Santa Anita

This Sunday at Santa Anita, The Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes will be run. But that is not the focus of today's post, as the impending bad weather will affect this race in some major way, whether it is a less-than-firm turf course or taken completely off the turf. Instead, the focus will be on the three undercard races instead. In the 3rd, a field of five three year olds run in a maiden race, which marks the return of a $2.3m purchase. In the 5th, an allowance race marks the return of an undefeated horse who this blog has high hopes for going forward. The 8th race will be the Santa Paula Stakes for three year old fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs. Let us go through these races in the order they will be run, so let us start with the 3rd.

The 3rd is a maiden race for three year olds going a 1m & 1/16th. A compact field of 5 entered the race, but this race is not lacking in high quality animals. Four of the five runners were purchased in the ring, all for more than $100,000, with the only one being the 4/5 morning line favorite Midnight Interlude. This Arnold Zetcher homebred has run twice, just missing at this condition going a mile last month. He worked twice in the interim, and this son of War Chant should do well at this distance. The $2.3m purchase I mentioned earlier is Brock (right). This son of Distorted Humor finished behind future graded stakes winner Stay Thirsty in his debut, and has not run since. He has been training well over the winter at Santa Anita for most of the winter, with a 4 furlong blowout work coming into the race. With this being his first race since August, and his first route, this race will be a good spot to being his 2011 campaign. The others in the field all have started already. Southern Sculptor was a $300k weanling purchase in 2008, and ran 5th in his debut behind Fusa Code, who won the Borderland Derby next out. $500k purchase Grip Hands stretches out to a route for the first time. $115k purchase Big Business has finished behind Midnight Interlude in both starts.

The 5th race is a second-level allowance for older males going 6 1/2 furlongs. This race marks the 2010 debut of Capital Account. This 4 year old son of Closing Argument is an undefeated 2-for-2 in his career, after winning both his races in fast times. He is the highest selling son of Closing Argument, having been bought for $330,000 as a yearling back in 2008. Off since his win at Del Mar, he comes back with some stylish works, typical for his trainer Bob Baffert. He figures to be on or near the lead. With his 2011 debut today, he is added to the Ten's Top T-Breds list on the left side of this blog. His main danger figures to come from his stablemate Irrefutable. This son of Unbridled's Song is coming off a disappointing 5th place finish in an route turf race last out. He cuts back to a sprint, which he won in fast time two race back over this track. He might have some soundness issues, considering he is making only his 6th start at the age of five, but he does have some talent. Stacy's Hope drops out of graded company after finishing 5th in the Grade 2 San Carlos. He defeated Irrefutable at Hollywood Park last December.

The 8th is the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes for 3yo fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs. The favorite is the Carla Gaines-trained Mildly Offensive. This daughter of Sharp Humor won her debut last out on a wet fast track last month going gate-to-wire in an impressive effort as the favorite. The second place finisher Home Sweet Aspen came back to win well. Mildly Offensive has thrown two swift works since the race, and looks very tough in here. California Nectar cuts back to a sprint after dueling into the ground in the Grade 1 one mile Las Virgenes Stakes. She won two sprint stakes at the meet already, the Cal Breeders' Champion Stakes and the Santa Ynez Stakes. She bounce out that effort with 3 works, though it take her a month work after that race. Hout Bay won a maiden race in fast time in January, and has kept a steady work tab since. She closed from well out of it going 5 & 1/2 furlongs in that debut.

Today figures to be a sloppy day of racing at the Great Race Place, but some good performances should appear. The 3rd, 5th and 8th races all have horses in them who could have a bright future in front of them, including a date with grade one races. Will they live up to the hype? Only time will tell. Good luck today everybody.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Drought Report - PrePeg Sprouts Wings in the San Felipe

The Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes appeared to be a tough race on paper. With two grade one winners, a pair of Bafferts, an abundance of speed and contenders stretching out to a route for the first time, there were many ways to go in this race. This blog hoped that a star would burst onto the scene to lead the charge in the search for the "Drought Breaker". But even this blog could not believe just how this leader emerged, with a devastating performance over his rivals. Furthermore, this blog was in shock that it was the horse that was the one pegged to do so that was doing the winning.

Premier Pegasus (right) won the race with a spurt of pure power turning for home. He dropped back off the hot pace set by Albergatti, Runflatout and Comma To The Top. PrePeg moved passed his tiring rivals with a strong burst turning for home, getting lengths of separation in the span of a quarter-mile. In the end, he won the race by 7 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:41.23. His sire Fusaichi Pegasus also won this race before going on to win the Kentucky Derby in 2000. Now many will point out that he did receive a great set-up with the swift fractions, and the fact that he tired late. This blog does not disagree with either statement, but the counterpoint to that is that it still takes a good horse to get that kind of separation that quickly. Also, he was making his first start routing off a 20 day layoff with only one work in between, and only 3 works before the previous race, which was be preceded by a 3 month layoff. He had every right to get tired at that point, and he was not really asked in the final 1/16th. This blog is sky high over the performance, as he has been the choice to break the drought and win the Kentucky Derby since October of last year. (Full disclosure: This blog managed to get into the winner's circle picture for the San Felipe, so I am admittedly somewhat biased on my thoughts of this race about PrePeg.)

Second-place finisher Jaycito (right) was making his first start back since his disaster of a race in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He dropped way back and rallied on for second. It was a nice building block for the future, which figures to be the Santa Anita Derby and a rematch with Premier Pegasus. His pedigree indicates that he will have no problems with the distance, and his run on Saturday answered the lingering dirt questions that surrounded him after his BC disaster. He will have to improve to catch not only PrePeg, but the ever-looming Uncle Mo as well. His trainer Bob Baffert has won several Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby trophies, but never in the same year. Will this be the year?

The third-place finsher Bench Points (left) had some minor traffic problems when he made his move to inside as PrePeg was launching on the outside, but was no match for the winner and barely made it by Comma To The Top, who ran a game 4th after being a part of those wicked fractions. He proved that he can handle the dirt just fine but the percieved distance limtations may be a reality. The connections could point to a race like the Met Mile, where his speed and determination will be an asset. The massively hyped Runflatout, who was bet down to the 5/2 second choice, finished last, being done in by the wicked fractions that were heavily predicted. Hopefully his connections will regroup with him for a summer campaign.

News and Notes

  • Silver Medallion, the El Camino Real winner, had a majority interest in him sold, and will most likely be running in the Louisiana Derby for his last Derby prep instead of the Santa Anita Derby, where the chance to stay alive for the Preakness 5.5. existed. He worked 6f in 1:12.80 over the Santa Anita dirt on Monday (3/14), the 6th best of 14 works.
  • Another Asmussen trainee, Astrology, is headed to the Sunland Park Derby for his first start of the year. He worked 7f in 1:25.20 on 3/15.
  • Robert B Lewis Stakes winner Anthony's Cross worked across town at Hollywood on Monday, working 6f in 1:14.60, the 5th best of 6th works.
  • Also working at Hollywood, but on Tuesday (3/15) was allowance winner Mr. Commons. He popped a bullet 5f work in 59.2, the fastest of 27 works that day.
  • San Vicente runner-up Sway Away worked on 3/12 at Santa Anita, going 7f in 1:23.6 in preparation for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park this weekend. He will be going with the winner of that race The Factor, who also worked on 3/12, going a bullet 6f in 1:12.2, the best of 11 workers. Either one of them could be a player in the Santa Anita Derby.

Saturday saw a horse charge to the lead of the division with a burst of speed. Can Premier Pegasus be like his father and win both the San Felipe and the Kentucky Derby? Can PrePeg be like Sunday Silence and win the San Felipe, the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby? Can PrePeg be the one who can finall break through and match the feat of the legendary Affirmed, who won the San Felipe, the Santa Anita Derby and then the elusive Triple Crown? We shall see. Good luck everybody.

Friday, March 11, 2011

San Felipe Stakes - Schooling Shots

This post will share some of the shots taken over the last two days of most of the runners in the grade 2 San Felipe Stakes being run this Saturday at Santa Anita. If you wish to know my thoughts about the race, including who I picked and who I think the main dangers are to that pick, please go to the Thorofan Handicappers' Corner. Now, this blog was unable to get a shot of every horse schooling, as circumstances prevent this. (Some horses do not have a name on the halter, some may have not schooled or they may have sneaked by in plain sight.)

Albergatti (Thursday)

Awesome Patriot (Thursday)

Premier Pegasus (Friday)

Bench Points (Friday)

Jakesam (Friday)

Jaycito (Thursday)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Drought Report - San Felipe Stakes

As the final stakes prep for the Santa Anita Derby arrives this weekend, most of the big guns show up to continue their preparations as the first Saturday in May draws ever closer. One of the leaders of the division makes his seasonal debut out of a new barn, and some fast maiden winners step up to stakes level in the Grade 2 $250k San Felipe Stakes. We shall also recap the Santa Anita Oaks, and catch up on some of the workers who are not running this weekend, but still might be a part of the Santa Anita Derby in a month's time. Let's start with a brief recap of the SA Oaks.

The Santa Anita Oaks field of five was made up of three Grade 1 winners, a stakes winner and a well-fancied runner. May Day Rose set sensible fractions on the front end, with sitting in 2nd. Behind her was A Z Warrior. Kilograeme sat third, with Turbulent Descent (right) fourth and Zazu trailing the field, and it stayed that way through the first half of the race. As they turned for home, Kilograeme dropped back to last, with Turbulent Descent and Zazu closing in on the front pair. With a 1/16th to go, Turbulent Descent and Zazu had both passed A Z Warrior, with May Day Rose backing out of the picture. At the wire, Turbulent Descent held off Zazu by a neck, with 5 & 1/2 lengths back to A Z Warrior in third. This was the second Grade 1 win for TD, and would put her in great position for the Kentucky Oaks on May 6th, But her connections have decided that this race proves that this distance is her upper limit. She will be kept in one-turn races, with the Grade 1 Acorn being a possibility. Zazu will probably ship out of town for her next start, either the Fantasy S. at Oaklawn or the Ashland S. at Keeneland.

Now we move onto this Saturday's San Felipe Stakes. A field of 10 comes together for the race, with the likely favorite to be Jaycito. This son of Victory Gallop was last seen taking the scenic route in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last November behind Uncle Mo, bolting in the first turn before rallying for a distant 5th. Since that race, he has changed barns, now residing in the Bob Baffert barn. He has worked superbly towards the race, and this former grade 1 winner at the distance will have to earn this victory. The other grade 1 winner in the field (also at the distance) is Comma To The Top. This son of Bwana Charlie looks to bounce back from a dull 4th in the El Camino Real Derby last month. He's had two steady works since the race, and will go off at much higher odds than he has in last three starts. Premier Pegasus looks to build off his third-place effort in the San Vicente Stakes on President's Day weekend. He may have tipped his hand about his readiness with a swift 5 furlong bullet in 57.60 last Saturday. Bench Points (right) brings his undefeated record into the race as he stretches out for the first time. He ran a smashing race in his first race this year, winning in strong time. Runflatout ran what may have been the fastest 6 furlong debut win EVER (according to the Illman blog on in January and steps right into stakes company, as does Albergatti, who broke his maiden in only his second lifetime start. This will be a very tough race that will hopefully help clarify the jumbled picture.

News and Notes
  • El Camino Real Derby winner Silver Medallion worked at SA on 3/7 6 furlongs in a 1:12 flat, 3rd best of 14.
  • Robert E. Lewis winner Anthony's Cross worked over at Hollywood Park, going 5 furlongs in 1:01, earning the rare Breezing designation for the work.
  • The runner-up Riveting Reason worked 5 furlongs on 3/5 at SA, going 5 furlongs in 1:00.80.
  • Mr. Commons, who won an allowance race going a mile on 2/26, worked 4f in an easy 49.2 over at Hollywood Park
  • Sway Away worked 5f in 1:02.80 in preparation for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park next weekend, but still could run in the Santa Anita Derby.
So the last stop on the prep train arrives in the continuing search for the Drought Breaker. Can someone separate themselves from the pack and take control of the search? We shall see...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Big Cap Full of Controversy

The 74th Santa Anita Handicap had it all: drama, action, controversy, and in the end, a ground-breaking victory. A four-year old won the race as expected, and a horse who is eligible for a non-winners of two lifetime was second, but neither spot was filled by the horse expected to fill it. The favorites were off the board, and a parade of longshots filled the superfecta. Instead of the sweet coronation of Twirling Candy, the other "Dude" from the Bob Baffert barn hit the wire first over the horse who everyone last year was gaga over not being in the Kentucky Derby. Let's break down this scrum of a race.

First, here is the replay:

This blog watched the race from the walkway that separates the two levels of box seats on the finish line. The fractions were quick early on, with First Dude and Aggie Engineer on the lead after a half-mile, with Game On Dude just off. A tugging Twirling Candy and Setsuko (right) sat right behind them. After three-quarters, Game On Dude had moved up on the leaders, and Twirling Candy was four-wide a length back, with Setsuko on his outside. As they turn for home, First Dude and Aggie Engineer back out of it, with Game On Dude taking the lead four-wide. Twirling Candy and Setsuko made their move even wider out, and that is where the drama begins. The bumping that ensues will lead to a decision that will be debated for years. At the wire, Game On Dude just hangs on over Setsuko, with Quindici Man finishing third, Soul Candy fourth and Twirling Candy fading to fifth.

The inquiry light went up, and the replay repeated over and over on the jumbotron. The crowd buzzed with people arguing whether or not someone should be DQ'ed. This blog engaged in a lively discussion with several of his friends and some complete strangers about the incident, including one man who offered a proposition of $100 that the horse would be taken down. (This blog declined) After a lengthy inquiry, the stewards decided in a split decision that there would be no change to the order of finish. A cascade of boos rained down from the grandstand as Game On Dude (right) entered the winner's circle. Miss Sutherland required a four-guard escort back to the jocks room. The post-race interviews were drowned by the continued jeering of the crowd.

But this blog feels that the lack of a DQ was the right call. Why?

First, let's establish the runners at the 1:49 mark of the video. Game On Dude is on the inside, Twirling Candy is in the middle and Setsuko is on the outside. As the trio turns for home, Twirling takes a wider arc coming out of the turn than expected, causing him to push Setsuko slightly out. This kind of move happens in racing every day without disqualification. However, it is important to point out. Game On Dude takes the turn normal, and there is about a path of separation between him and Candy. As they straighten out in the stretch (4:30 mark on the video), Setsuko is bumped slightly by Twirling Candy. Rosario then pulls Candy towards the rail (and Game On Dude) to straighten out the horse and more importantly, to get Candy to change leads. This causes Candy to slowly drift to the right. When Rosario attempts to switch leads and Twirling Candy's back end comes around slightly, he and Game On Dude make contact at the exact moment G.O.D. is being whipped left-handed by Chantal, at the second whip strike. This leads to Twirling being pinballed between the two and backing out of the race.

Now, the fact that Twirling Candy had been pulling for most of the race up until that point lends to the belief that he was already giving his all when they turned for home. This is reinforced by Candy floating wide through the turn, with the subsequent bump with Setsuko as they straighten out, aiding this belief. When Rosario attempted to initiate the lead change, Candy's body reacted by drifting more than normal, causing his back end to lean further towards Game On Dude. This meant that when the contact was made, it caused G.O.D. to spin out more than normal. This exacerbated the visual effect of the bumping for the crowd, leading to the obvious negative reaction. Candy backed up, but this blog believes that too much of his problems were caused by him to warrant a disqualification. While this bump did affect Setsuko, he had every chance to win the race after the incident. If he maintains a straight course, he probably beats G.O.D. to the wire. But he lugs in from the 6-7 path all the way to the 2-3 path by the time they reach the wire. This ducking in cost him more ground than what he was beaten by at the wire.

There is my take. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below. For a different take on the race from someone else who witnessed the race live on track, please visit my fellow TBA blog member Amateurcapper, who states that G.O.D. should have been DQ'ed all the way to 5th, behind Twirling Candy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Santa Anita Handicap / Kilroe Mile

The first Saturday in March brings along one of the tent poles of the Santa Anita meet, the Grade 1 $750k Santa Anita Handicap going a mile and a 1/4 on the main track. Such superb horses such as John Henry, Alysheba, Affirmed, Seabiscuit and Spectacular Bid. In recent times, horses such as Tiznow and Lava Man have won the race. This is the classic test for older males in the winter, and this year's rendition brings together an interesting lot with a potential superstar in the making in the race. The undercard has two more Grade 1 races, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile at a mile on the grass, and the Santa Anita Oaks going 1m & 1/16th on the main track. Since we touched on the Oaks in the Drought Report, we'll begin the discussion with the Kilroe Mile.

The Frank E. Kilroe Mile is the first Grade 1 on the grass on the west coast, and the field of ten is a competitive lot. The favorite will probably be Caracortado, who last time out won the Sunshine Millions Turf last out. This son of Cat Dreams has transformed from a front-runner earlier on in his career to now a deep-closing type. He is cutting back an 1/8th of a mile today, and brings three swift works in tow. Fluke looks to improve of his narrow loss last year in this race, and looks to maintain his fine form. He won the prep for this race, the Grade 3 Thunder Road. He figures to get a good stalking trip off the leaders. Jeranimo (right) looks to shake off his poor effort in the Sunshine Millions Turf last out. He was found out to be a little sick after the race, and with the additional issue of his sale falling-through, this blog believes that race was just too bad to be true, and he is the selection. With 3 good works since the race, he appears to have bounced back fine. Though he loses his jockey to Fluke, he has a more than adequate replacement in David Flores. Also in the race are graded stakes winners on the grass Liberian Freighter, Acclamation and Gallant Son.

The favorite for the Big 'Cap is Twirling Candy (right). He is trying to join such recent horses such as Rock Hard Ten and Southern Image, who won both the 7 furlong Malibu and the 10 furlong Santa Anita Handicap in the same meet. This son of Candy Ride effortlessly beat his competitors in his prep for the race, the Grade 2 Strub Stakes. He has trained well since the race, with 3 good works. He is facing older for just the second time in his career however, with his first start being a disastrous fourth in the Goodwood Stakes last October. The first half of the powerful Sadler punch will be sitting just off the pace. This blog believes he has matured since that race, and he appears to be ready to take the last step towards his ascent to the top of the older male division.

The Bob Baffert barn has four shots to defeating the favorite. First Dude is the new shooter, having been recently transferred into the barn after a fourth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park. Baffert hopes to shake up him out of his non-winning rut, with this son Stephen Got Even almost earning $900k without winning nothing more than a maiden race. He has three typical snappy works since joining the barn, and with last year's winning jockey Martin Garcia (aboard Misremembered) in the irons, maybe he'll finally get his elusive stakes win. Game On Dude returned off the layoff from his 4th-place finish in the Belmont to win an allowance race last time out, and this blog think he has a big chance to be the "dude" with the best finish behind Twirling Candy. Tweebster finished second behind Twirling Candy in the Strub Stakes last out, but looks to be in tough. Spurrier hopes to be making an effort from the back of the pack, though the track's current nature is against him.

Among the rest, the other half of the strong Sadler two-step is Gladding, who won the Grade 2 San Antonio last out over fellow entrants Spurrier, Pode Ir, Quindici Man and Aggie Engineer and looks to have the best chance among the field to defeat his stablemate with a similar trip to Twirling Candy. The Gallagher barn has two shots with the stretch-running Soul Candy and the multiple graded stakes winning Aggie Engineer, who suffered through a questionable ride in the San Antonio.

Today is a big day for the Southern California racing scene. A strong field in the Kilroe Mile and an interesting field in the Santa Anita Oaks helps support an already great card anchored by the Santa Anita Handicap. Can Fluke avenge his narrow loss, or will Jeranimo jump back into the picture? Will Twirling Candy live up to heavy favoritism and assert his claim to the older male title, or will a Dude upset the plans? We shall see. Good luck everybody!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Drought Report - Santa Anita Oaks Preview / San Vicente Stakes Review

The Drought Report returns after a one week absence to recap the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes from President's Day weekend. This race looks like it may produce at least one horse pointed to the Santa Anita Derby with some "buzz" around them. Looking forward, this blog shall look at this weekend's Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, which could possibly produce a Santa Anita Derby starter. Let's get to the recap. (I apologize for the lack of posting, but some personal issues came up that prevent me from posting)

The Factor (right) won the San Vicente by going fast early (but slow late). He blazed through early fractions of 22.20 and 43.41, and finished in a slow (for that track) 36.93 seconds the last 3 furlongs. He snatched the lead early away from City Cool, disposed of that rival, kicked clear, then held off Sway Away's late stab. It was a solid effort from a horse who had only worked twice (at Hollywood Park) since his record-setting win on opening day. (He had been galloping during the interim). His connections have decided to try a route of ground in his next race, but it will not be at Santa Anita. They will instead point him towards the Grade 3 $800k Sunland Derby on March 27th. While this blog does not think he will last the Derby distance, he would have been a major factor (no pun intended) in the San Felipe Stakes.

Sway Away (right) rallied from far back to finish second. He was further back than normal coming off the layoff, and that is what may have cost him the victory. This son of Afleet Alex made his first start since finishing second to J P's Gusto in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes last August at Del Mar. His pedigree suggests that he should not have an issue with any additional distance. His connections have not made a firm decision on what his next race will be, but they have narrowed it down to either the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes next weekend or ship out for the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park the following weekend. Both races are at a mile and one-sixteenth. Either race could be used as a stepping-stone for the Santa Anita Derby.

Premier Pegasus (right) stalked the pace but gave way a little late, staying on for third. He was making his first start since his win in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue last November. His effort was rather good for a horse who only manages to get in three works in preparation for the race off the three month layoff. This blog's pick to win the Kentucky Derby ran about as expected in the race, and it should set him up well for whatever his next race will be. One would assume that his next start would be in the San Felipe as well, but no word has been given if it will be. The San Felipe could be the deepest Derby prep so far, with Sway Away, Jaycito, PrePeg, Albergatti, Runflatout and Comma To The Top (plus whomever else enters) all run as expected. That race figures to be a great betting race as well as a guide to help sort the pretenders from the pretenders.

News and Notes
  • Awesome Patriot (who could also run in the San Felipe) has continually worked since his allowance win opening week, with his latest spin being on 2/28, going 6 furlongs in 1:13.20 at Santa Anita. This Baffert trainee has been on the sidelines, waiting for the right stake, either here or out of town
  • Albergatti, pointed to the San Felipe, worked a steady five furlongs on 2/28 at Santa Anita, going 5 furlongs with 59.80.
  • Jaycito worked towards his 2011 debut with a sparkling 5 furlong work on 2/28 at Santa Anita, coming home in 58.60, the third best of the day.
  • Comma To The Top looking to bounce back from his poor effort in the El Camino Real Derby in the San Felipe, worked 5f at Hollywood Park on 2/28, sizzling home in 58.8, the 2nd best work of 37.
  • Runflatout, who ran the fastest debut win EVER (according to the Illman blog) in his maiden win on Sunshine Millions day in January, worked on 2/28 7f in 1:24.20 at Santa Anita. He will make his stakes debut in the San Felipe.
  • El Camino Real Derby winner Silver Medallion worked on 2/28 an easy 5 furlongs in 1:01.40. His next start is still up in the air.
  • The Steve Asmussen trainee Astrology will point to the Rebel instead of the San Felipe, paving the way for Albergatti to stay here. (He is also the trainer of Silver Medallion and Albergatti.)
The Santa Anita Oaks has produced starters for the Santa Anita Derby in the past. The last runner to do so was Sweet Catomine, who lost in the Derby as the even money favorite after winning the Oaks in her previous start. Only one Triple Crown nominee, Turbulent Descent. The grade 1 Hollywood Starlet winner ran an okay second in first start of her 2011 campaign in the grade 1 Las Virgenes Stake, who was by Zazu, who she takes on once again. Zazu looks to keep her momentum going out of that race for her well-known owners Mr & Mrs. Jerry and Ann Moss. May Day Rose also comes out of that race, and looks to try to take them wire-to-wire once again. Another grade 1 winner also goes in the race in A Z Warrior. This daughter of Bernardini has not started since her off the board finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. She previously had won the grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park. The only horse who has not won a stake, nor even started in one, is Kilograeme (right). This daughter of Graeme Hall won her debut race sprinting at the beginning of the meet, then came back and defeated the highly regarded Rumor in allowance race three weeks ago. She steps up into graded stakes company, and figures to get a good stalking trip sitting right behind May Day Rose if she can handle the the class hike.

So as the halfway point of the Santa Anita meet comes and goes, the picture still remains rather muddled on who will step up and be the one to attempt to end the drought. Will a filly step into the picture? Can those coming back return or surpass their previous form? We shall see. Good luck everybody.