Saturday, March 3, 2012

Big Cap Day

Santa Anita Handicap day has arrived with three grade 1 races in tow. They anchor the card as the last three races of the day, with the big one going off as the finale. Along with a food truck festival and other good things in the infield, it figures to be a good crowd on hand. Here are some brief thoughts on each stake:

Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes - One Mile - 3yo fillies

The first grade one on the card is for the fillies. This is the first grade one in the division this year and a prep for the Santa Anita Oaks next month. The wagering will be all over place with many options to place your wager. A 3yo race this time of year in SoCal without a Baffert trainee would be like a Los Angeles summer without sun (i.e. a shock). His charge is Eden's Moon. She won a maiden race by open lengths when stretched out to this distance last time out. She was forced to miss the Saint Ysabel S. due to minor illness, but she has worked swiftly since with several bullet workouts. But she will not get the lead. That will be Reneesgotzip. This daughter of City Zip has shown blazing speed each time out. She will be stretching out around two turns for the first time today. Made To Love Her finished behind Renee last time out in the Santa Ynez. She tries two turns on dirt for the first time today as well. Killer Graces is a grade 1 winner across town, but she seems to run better at Hollywood Park then on the dirt. This blog is going to pick Made To Love Her to take a stab at a price. In past years, this blog's pick has been finished second in this race more often than not, so maybe a backwheel exacta is in order?

Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile - One Mile (TURF) - 4yo & up 

Mr. Commons figures to be a heavy favorite against this field of eight. He has been well liked and well-championed by people as the "next big thing". He has strung together two straight wins at the meet, winning the Sir Beaufort (over Big 'Cap favorite Ultimate Eagle) and the Arcadia last time out, winning his first race against older. Jeranimo has beaten the favorite on this course at this trip just back in October. He has been working across town in steady fashion. He does need to come back off a subpar effort in the San Gabriel Handicap, though he was in an uncustomary spot (the lead) early on in the race. Mega Heat is 5-for-9 lifetime and improving each and every start after being dropped in for a tag back in August. Compari figures to be on the lead for today, and he has shown that he has no problem leading the field on a futile chase. The pick is Jeranimo, as he will be a better price and is probably as good an animal as the favorite. Mega Heat can offer value underneath.

Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap - One Mile & One-Quarter - 4yo & up

Setsuko. A horse whose name has been cursed, bellowed, and defamed over the last two years as his near misses in and exclusions from races have caused strife from others. This blog has witnessed this from afar as the horse, while talented and a real looker, never really interested as a betting concern. This blog has witnessed him school & race for three seasons now, but not until before his last race was their a change. Setsuko was gelded after his loss in the Pacific Classic. With that simple act, it seems that light has finally come on mentally for this horse. From the way he schools to the way he acts in the paddock, there is a subtle change for the better in his mannerisms. His "hanging" problem has seemingly been cut away with the ultimate equipment change. This blog witnessed  (and had video of before his camera was stolen) him bouncing back to the barn after his win last time out, acting like the race took nothing out of him. His energy levels caught the eye of everyone who saw him cross their path as they were heading out for the night. The distance is not a problem as well. All of that is why he is the "ALL IN" pick. Either this blog will go home happy or broke.

Good luck folks!


  1. Thanks for the info on Setsuko. I do believe a horse is who he is after a race. You can see the mental attitude, some physical problems and whether or not much was taken out of them. Didn't know he was gelded then either.

    He also has two very nice works since his last race. My negatives on Setsuko are he only has two wins,though having won last race is always a plus. His being 5 years old, though Pleasantly Perfect"s take some time to grow up and he beat absolutely nothing last time. Victor seems to get the maximum out of him.

    I see a longshot possibility in Boxer des Rues. However, in his last he also raced against a very weak bunch. My comment on him was "feeling he might turn out to be a good one". He is a tryer, has a more than capable jockey, and a bullet five furlong.

    If Martin Pedroza makes a mistake with Ultimate Eagle and tries to rate behind a horse or two, this will turn into a good betting race.

    Ron the Greek, with his newer running style, also has a big chance. However, he too has not raced against top competition lately.

    Good luck to us both.
    Ron Zuercher

  2. Eden's Moon looks like a legit Kentucky Oaks prospect. She's tall, lanky, and has a solid distance pedigree. She just looks like 9 furlongs should be no issue. And she possesses that greatest of commodities, speed. Reneesgotzip will test her even more on the front end in the SA Oaks, but I don't believe Eden's Moon is a need the lead type.

    I have no problem with someone giving Reneesgotzip another shot at the grade 1 level. She blew the first turn, was rushed to get up to 2nd, bumped the winner in upper stretch when closing the margin, and then was possibly hit with the whip of Garcia on Eden's Moon. Either the body shot she took or getting struck with the whip are valid excuses for backing up in the stretch.

    However, I think it's also quite possible she just can't hang with Eden's Moon past 7 furlongs. Reneesgotzip's pedigree is sprint dominated and suggests a mile might be her limit, and physically she has the look of a sprint type, small with short legs. The difference in size between her and Eden's Moon was evident in how each responded to the bumping. Ultimately, her grade 1 races might be the La Brea and Santa Monica, not the SA and Kentucky Oaks.

    In the Kilroe, Willyconker exposed Mr. Commons as less than world class. Here's some stats to chew on:
    Mr. Commons is 1 for 5 against open company and 0 for 3 in grade 1s.

    It doesn't look like Jeranimo will ever get his grade 1. Four times a grade 2 winner, Jeranimo was meeting about as shallow a grade 1 field as you are going to find, and even with Mr. Commons being exposed he still found a way not to win. He's going to be given a break with designs on the BC Mile, but things would have to fall perfectly for him to win a race of that magnitude.

    Mr. Commons certainly didn't disgrace himself in running 2nd by a nose. Yet, if he really is a horse that can compete with the top milers in Europe and Asia, he HAS to beat Willyconker in the Kilroe, and he didn't.

  3. After the lone shipper in the Big Cap field, Ron the Greek, won off by himself, the big question I had was why was he the only horse to ship from back East? Given that without Game on Dude the Cali handicap contingent does not feature any other horse of national reputation, where were the likes of Mucho Macho Man, Alternation, Redeemed, distance loving Ruler on Ice, Mission Impazible and others? Much credit to the connections of Ron the Greek to be the only Easterners willing to roll the dice. And now, in addition to winning a grade 1 and the $450k first place cash, they know their horse should be just fine with the BC Classic being run at Santa Anita.

    Nothing against Ron the Greek, but as a local it was a little deflating when he crossed the wire. To see the horses I follow on a daily basis and who I have seen run in person so often handled so easily by a relatively unestablished Easterner spoke to the weakness of the handicap division out here. It reminded me of when the unheralded Fair Grounds based horse, Milwaukee Brew, came out for the 02' Big Cap and, running first time for Frankel, won by 5.5 lengths. Like this year, the local hopes in that Big Cap took a huge hit with the defection of the top contender(Mizzen Mast). I was also reminded of the 92' Hollywood Gold Cup, when the solid but unspectacular Sultry Song pulled away for a 3.5 length win in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Some might think Cigar and Skip Away crossed my mind, but those 2 were legit GREAT horses who most everyone fully expected to win.

    This is not to say Ron the Greek is some mediocre runner. For he's not. Ron had been steadily running better and clearly peaked in the Big Cap; he ran a very solid race on Saturday. A horse that does have tactical speed, Ron was versatile enough to be taken well off the pace early when Lezcano correctly sensed a suicidal speed duel up front. Well back after a ridiculous half, Ron turned in a 22 and change 3rd quarter to move right off the flank of his main competition, Setsuko. Ron then "turned off" the 4th quarter, simply maintaining position(a 25 second quarter). Then, as the speed stopped and Setsuko slowed, Ron the Greek grinded away with a personal 25 and 3 final quarter. Uh Oh Bango and Holladay Road were closing as well, but the difference is that Ron had the tactical speed to stay closer through that first half and then move quickly when asked in the 3rd quarter. That ability to accelerate will come in handy the rest of the year.

  4. Setsuko ran well for 2nd. Although he just barely held on for 2nd, in my opinion he was CLEARLY the 2nd best horse in the race. Of the top 5 finishers, Setsuko was the only one within even 12 lengths of the lead after the first half. That half, in 44 and 2, was insane, and absolutely toxic. It distorted the race severely. Although 5 lengths off that pace, the tempo was so rapid that even then Setsuko was forced to run his personal first half in 45 and 1. In last year's Big Cap, he had been 2 lengths off a 46 and 3 half; that means he ran 9 lengths faster this year through the first half than last year, even though the track was, if anything, slower this year. Setsuko is a stalker/closer, so that 45 and 1 had to really take away some of his punch. The fact he went so fast early but still held off everyone except Ron indicates to me that Setsuko ran every bit to your expectations; it was a quality effort on his part.

    What's next for the Cali handicap division? Well, there's not much on the schedule until the Hollywood Gold Cup. Will Game on Dude be able to make that race? In his absence, the Mervyn LeRoy and Californian should be weak affairs. Will anyone ship for the Gold Cup? Let's hope. As bad as the Big Cap was for the locals, it's not like there are horses in the allowance ranks or on the comeback trail that can save things; pretty much what we saw in the Big Cap is what we have out here.

    In contrast, every week a new "star" from last year is returning with promising efforts back East. There's been Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man, Pants on Fire, Soldat, Nehro, and Alternation. There's also the Donn horses, like 1-2-3 finishers Hymn Book, Mission Impazible, and Redeemed as well as the Preakness winner, Shackleford, and Belmont winner, Ruler on Ice. Still to return are grade 1 winners To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty. And this doesn't include the wonderful miler, Caleb's Posse. The only big horse scheduled to return later is Acclamation, and he is a turf/synth runner. I can't believe I'm saying this about a 9 year old, but we could really use Awesome Gem sometime soon.

  5. Jordan, I firmly believe that Jeranimo had something go awry in his last two. When he's right, he clears that field by a length or three and he either offered no fight (the San Gabriel) or no punch (the Kilroe) in them.

    Ultimate Eagle may yet prove a top gun, if he's given a race where's not harassed into a marginally faster half mile than Nick Hines chugging after the Grilled Cheese truck.

  6. "I'm on the Bill Daly but I haven't given up the ghost. WAAAAAAIT UP!"

  7. Jeranimo has had the talent to win grade 1 races, and yes he clearly is tailing off. In last year's Kilroe he was given a poor ride, taken way back before rallying to be 3rd beaten a half.

    But unless Pender brings him back in time for the Eddie Read, there's no grade 1 out here for him before the Breeder's Cup, and I don't see him winning the BC. Already 6, last week's Kilroe was likely his best shot to get that grade 1. The timing just wasn't right for the horse.

    And while Jeranimo has struggled so fiercely for a grade 1 the last 3 years, Willyconker gets hot and swoops in and is now a grade 1 winner.