Thursday, April 3, 2014

Handicapping the Transylvania

--Brian DiDonato

   Keeneland’s Spring Meet kicks off with a particularly interesting renewal of the GIII Transylvania S. Friday. A total of 12 sophomore turfers line up for the 1 1/16-mile feature, and a trio of longshots caught my eye. 
   Irish import Can’thelpbelieving was second in his first North American start for Graham Motion going an additional sixteenth of a mile here in October, and broke through with a very impressive turn-of-foot while adding blinkers and Lasix at Gulfstream Jan. 11 (video). Stepped up for that venue’s GIII Palm Beach S. after that Mar. 1, the bay was asked to close over a surface that had been playing extremely kind to speed, and could only muster a close fifth while covering his final furlong quicker than every rival but one (video). Can’thelpbelieving might prove more effective over longer distances than he’ll get to work with here, but he figures to get plenty of pace this time and his 8-1 morning-line quote definitely offers value. 
   Another intriguing off-the-pace chance is Woodfield Springs. The son of MGSW Communique (Smart Strike) (winner of the GIII Bewitch S. here in 2008) ran on well to finish third over yielding Gulfstream grass first up Dec. 28. Switched to the main track Jan. 25, the G. Watts Humphrey, Jr. homebred set the pace before settling for fourth—not bad considering a pedigree that definitely leans heavily toward turf and synthetic (he’s by Raven’s Pass). Rusty Arnold gave Woodfield Springs Lasix for the first time before a Mar. 1 return to the turf, and while the bay did enjoy an easy ground-saving trip, he looked very good reeling in the pacesetter en route to a 1 1/2-length graduation (video). Connections were considering the GI Blue Grass S. for Woodfield Springs, but I wouldn’t necessarily take this decision to play it conservative as a negative—they likely just believe that his future is on the lawn, and they’re probably right. 
   Medal Count broke his maiden by daylight on the Ellis main track in September, but it would come as no surprise if the son of Dynaformer proved best on the lawn. His lone grass attempt was a victory, albeit by dead-heat against a fairly average group of optional claimers in Hallandale Jan. 12 (video). It seemed as if the 2-1 favorite was ridden a bit over-confidently that day, and he likely would have won by a more comfortable margin if asked earlier and if not for some mild interference. Thrown back in the deep end after that in the GII Fountain of Youth S. Feb. 22, Medal Count was fifth while improving by four points on the Beyer Speed Figure he earned for the Jan. 12. optional claimer. I like that progression considering Medal Count was probably in too deep and on the wrong surface last time, and there’s no reason he can’t step forward returning to the grass. 
   The play: I’ll bet #12 Can’thelpbelieving to win at 6-1+, use 1,3,12 in pick 3s and 4s, and box all three in the exacta. 

Follow Brian on twitter at @BDiDonatoTDN

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