Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spa Watch: Travers Week

--Brian DiDonato

Race 9 - GII Bernard Baruch H., 3yo/up, 1 1/8mT
The result of this race will depend almost completely on the pace scenario--which is very muddled. If favored Get Stormy (Stormy Atlantic) is allowed to get loose, he'll win--he's just too good for his opponents without early pressure. But if the deserving chalk is pestered, it'll be a wide open affair late. While there are no other confirmed frontrunners in the Baruch (like there was last time when speedy Get Serious {City Zip} hounded Get Stormy into a third-place finish in the June 12 GIII Monmouth S.), there are a number of stalker/presser types who could keep things honest up front if their pilots realize they can't allow Get Stormy to waltz along on the lead. This race, therefore, is one to be played with conflicting race shapes in mind. Get Stormy is a must-use in vertical wagers (Pk3s/4s), but one should also include other runners whose chances of winning depend on a drastically different pace scenario than what will benefit the favorite. Under the pace collapse possibility, Paris Vegas (Maria's Mon), the longest shot on the morning line at 30-1, has a live look. A minor stakes winner in France last winter, Paris Vegas showed flashes of ability at varying distances and surfaces upon his arrival in the U.S., but only tried the grass once while under the care of Fabrice Chappet. That one turf attempt came when he was sixth of six in last year's GII Hall of Fame S. here while rank and unrate-able. The grey was privately purchased and turned over to astute horseman Tom Voss this spring, and after a very poor effort on the dirt at Pimlico in May, he has shown new life returning to the sod. The 4-year-old was a late-running second with trouble in a 7 1/2-furlong allowance at Delaware in June, and was the horse most victimized by a laughably run, merry-go-round renewal of the GII Fourstardave H. July 31 (TDN Video). Paris Vegas was in last place early behind a half in :50.49, and was pinned inside when trying to rally. He never found a seam, ducking in at one point and brushing with another rival before finishing sixth of seven. His finish was deceptively strong, however, and he covered the final five sixtheenths in :28.39--a fifth of a second faster than anyone else in the field. Paris Vegas still might not be good enough, and he might not get the set-up he needs, but he'll offer exceptional value on top and underneath.

Race 10 - $35K CLM, N2L, f/m, 3yo/up, 1mT
Demure Halo (Quiet American) will return to turf first off the claim for Mike Maker, and she has deceptively strong back class. The bay began her career last year at two with a fourth and two thirds over the lawn in Kentucky, beaten only 3 1/4 lengths by subsequent MGSW Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat) July 17 and two lengths by GII Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf fourth-place finisher Forest Legend (Forest Camp) Aug. 15 at Ellis. Neversaidiwassweet (Eurosilver), the sixth-place finisher from that Aug. 15 heat, would go on to score in the GIII Miesque S. over the Hollywood lawn that November. Demure Halo finished off her juvenile season with a sixth-place finish in a tough Polytrack route at Keeneland, and returned for trainer Eddie Kenneally to break her maiden sprinting on the main track at Churchill Downs June 26 for a $30K tag. Maker and Ken and Sarah Ramsey picked up the sophomore for $25K off a fifth-place run sprinting in the mud here Aug. 8. Her conditioner sports exceptional stats first off the claim--he's 31% with a $2.07 ROI over the past five years overall, and has connected at a 38% clip with a $3.47 ROI when switching his new acquisitions from dirt to turf. Tapaway (Tapit) broke his maiden easily at 6-1 despite serious trouble with very similar-looking form and the same trainer angle for the Ramseys last Saturday--a repeat seems much more likely than what Demure Halo's odds will reflect. I'll also use Frontaine (Lemon Drop Kid), who has a chance to go gate to wire.

Race 2 - MSW, 2yo, 6f
Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher, who unveiled Uncle Mo on this card last year, send out a well-bred coupled entry that could dip down below even money. Neither runner figures to be particularly precocious based on pedigree, however. Fire On Ice (Unbridled's Song) is a very intriguing alternative. The $160,000 FTKJUL yearling RNA'd for $190,000 at KEEAPR after working a quarter in :21 3/5, but the grey never looked completely comfortable over the Polytrack--he was spinning his wheels noticeably (Video)--and will probably prefer the conventional stuff. Fire On Ice is out of an expensive unraced Storm Cat mare who is a half-sister to champion sprinter Squirtle Squirt (Marquetry). He has been working steadily for John Kimmel, who co-owns the grey along with Eli Gindi, and appears to have prepped in company with Vexor (Wildcat Heir), a front-running winner here at second asking Aug. 10. Vexor earned an 80 Beyer for his graduation score--three points above par for this level--and Kimmel has hit the board with two of the four juveniles he has unveiled so far this meet.

Race 9 - GIII Victory Ride S., f, 3yo, 6f
Hot Summer (Malibu Moon), two-for-three at this distance last term, returns off a three-month break and turns back to her preferred one-turn trip. The David Fawkes trainee took the one-mile GIII Comely S. at Aqueduct two back in an effort that was subsequently flattered by her competitors. Runner-up Her Smile (Include) annexed the GI Prioress S. two starts later, and fourth-place finisher R Holiday Mood (Trippi) scored in the Miss Preakness S. over a good field next out. Comely show horse Ava K. (Dixie Union) won a pair of stakes two and three starts later. Hot Summer's last performance--a well-beaten third in the GII Black-Eyed Susan S. after setting a hot pace--looks better after the fact. Both winner Royal Delta (Empire Maker) and runner-up Buster's Ready (More Than Ready) are now Grade I winners. Hot Summer has worked well here in the interim, possesses a good stalking style in a race with some speed, and should be a generous price.

Race 11 - GI King's Bishop S., 3yo, 7f
Obviously, any discussion of this race begins with champion Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie)--if he were back to being the horse he was at two, he'd be very tough to beat in this spot. But there's certainly no guarantee of that, regardless of the bullet drills and positive reports. At 9-5 on the morning line and likely to drop from there, Uncle Mo is a significant underlay, and his presence will inflate the odds on almost every other runner beyond what they should be. A case can be made for everyone in this field, and this might be a spot to hit the "ALL" button on some tickets, but the two biggest overlays appear to be the two closers--Caleb's Posse (Posse) and Cool Blue Red Hot (Harlan's Holiday). Caleb's Posse's romp in the GII Amsterdam S. last time was simply excellent. He closed from dead last behind a slow pace, and earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. A repeat of that effort is probably good enough to win this race seven times out of 10, and there's no obvious reason to think Caleb's Posse can't duplicate it. Cool Blue Red Hot will make a similar turnback to the one Caleb's Posse made for the Amsterdam. His fastest race from a Beyer standpoint came in his debut going a one-turn mile at Belmont last October when he dropped a tight one to recent runaway allowance winner Buffum (Bernardini), and he has run well in his last three efforts back at one turn despite poor pace set-ups. He had no chance to win from dead last behind a glacial pace in the GII Dwyer S. last time, and to run third with a 92 Beyer was an accomplishment. It does look like he hung after looping up to join the top two in upper stretch, but he had to work hard just to catch up with them and his kick was probably dulled slightly by the distance. He'll be able to relax and move when ready here with plenty to close into--Cool Blue Red Hot is the longshot play in the King's Bishop.

Race 12 - GI Travers S., 3yo, 1 1/4m
Stay Thirsty (Bernardini)'s last race was a big step forward, and he deserves to be favored off of that effort. His previous races make him only one of a number of contenders, though, and to take too short a price on him would be a mistake. Raison d'Etat (A.P. Indy) was all the rage following a 7 3/4-length maiden-breaking romp at Belmont June 18 in his third  career start, but appears to have fallen out of favor a bit after finishing a well-beaten second at 9-5 in the Curlin S. here July 29. That effort was much better than what he has been given credit for, however. Unhurried behind a pacesetter who had everything his own way, the Juddmonte representative rallied up wide and easily swept by everyone but the leader (TDN Video). Winner Turbo Compressor (Halo's Image) just had to keep going--he had done nothing early to tire himself out--and he and Raison d'Etat both finished up well to earn 101 and 97 Beyer Speed Figures respectively and late Moss Pace Figures that fall into the "very fast late" category. Raison d'Etat was very green in the stretch of the Curlin--he reacted sharply to Eddie Castro's reminders as if he were on a slalom course--and, with only four starts under his belt, he has plenty of room still for improvement and maturity. The 10 furlong distance of the Travers adds to Bill Mott's charge's upside, and the son of A.P. Indy out of seven-time GISW Sightseek has been working a hole in the wind since his last race. Raison d'Etat is similar to GI Alabama S. winner Royal Delta (Empire Maker) in many ways, and Mott just might find himself in the winner's circle for the second consecutive Saturday following a Grade I for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles.

*All trainer stats courtesy of DRF Formulator.

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