Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sophomore Spotlight: Lexington and Jerome Analysis

--Brian DiDonato

Saturday’s Lexington at Keeneland lost a bit of its intrigue when Jaycito was ruled out, but it could still have Derby implications as Silver Medallion looks to amass the necessary earnings to jump into the top 20. The Steve Asmussen trainee should prove dangerous in this spot as he gets back to his preferred surface. Silver Medallion was fourth last out in the Santa Anita Derby, earning the field’s co-highest last out Beyer with a 91, but hung pretty badly in the stretch and just couldn’t quite run with the top two despite a fairly easy trip. He’ll face a much easier group this time, however, and his El Camino Real Derby win was flattered by show horse Positive Response, who took the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway by seven lengths before fading to eighth as a pace casualty in the Spiral. Silver Medallion is a deserving Lexington favorite, but the short turnaround from the Santa Anita Derby and a quirky surface make him far from unbeatable.

Silver Medallion                     (c) Horsephotos
There are two viable alternatives to Silver Medallion--one who’s sort of obvious and one who certainly isn’t. The obvious one is Prime Cut, who defeated impressive debut winner and “TDN Rising Star” Bind by 3/4 of a length in a Fair Grounds optional claimer Mar. 26, earning the field’s other last-out 91 Beyer. He enjoyed a very easy trip, stalking from third behind a longshot pacesetter and a head-strong stretching-out Bind, but closed well to run down Bind, who figured to win easily, and who could still be very talented. It was 12 lengths back to the third finisher (pacesetter Hydro Power), who came back to take a state-bred allowance at Hawthorne by 11 1/2 lengths with a new speed figure top. The biggest question for Prime Cut is the surface--it’ll be his first try on Polytrack, and he’s never raced on turf. I’m not sure what to make of his work tab, as he worked at Churchill Apr. 5, then Keeneland Apr. 12 and back at Churchill Apr. 19, but conditioner Neil Howard has won with 23% of his runners trying synthetic for the first time at Keeneland over the past year (stat courtesy of DRF Formulator), so there’s reason to expect a good showing over the strip. Hurricane Lake isn’t interesting so much because of his recent efforts (despite taking back-to-back allowance races at Golden Gate), but because of his connections. He’ll be sent out by Jeff Bonde, who boasts an impressive win rate in graded stakes. According to DRF Formulator, the west coast-based conditioner has scored with 26% of his graded stakes runners over the past five years (42% over the last year, but that stat is a bit skewed by Smiling Tiger) and has hit the board 58% of the time. Sunland Derby upsetter Twice the Appeal had very similar looking form before his big win, and shares at least one owner with Hurricane Lake. Expect Hurricane Lake to outrun his odds, and don’t rule him out for the top slot.

Headliner Astrology seems vulnerable in the Jerome. Illness has precluded him from being able to stay on his Derby-minded schedule all season, and his connections have re-routed to this spot because he’s not ready to run in the big one. Obviously this one-turn mile is less demanding than the Derby, but he might not have been good enough to beat this field is he was 100%. He was slow from a speed figure perspective at two, and while he had a pretty tough trip when second in the Sunland Derby to the aforementioned Twice the Appeal, he’s facing a completely different class of animal here.

Astrology Runs Second to Twice the Appeal         (c) Coady
Cal Nation might just be too talented for this group. The 93 figure he earned on debut when romping by 7 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream would be enough to win this, and while his nose loss to stablemate Dance City in an allowance over this trip was disappointing at the time, Dance City’s solid third in the Arkansas Derby last week casts the quality of Cal Nation’s allowance performance in a totally different light. The bounce theory is terribly overused, but horses who run relatively high numbers first out usually come back down to earth a bit in their second starts before returning back to their tops or higher in subsequent efforts, so look for the half-brother to Bluegrass Cat to run something in the 90s. While Adios Charlie’s 82 maiden-breaking figure last time doesn’t match up well with this group or with the visually impressive nature of that run, he was up on a very fast pace. He should improve second off the bench; trainer Stan Hough has been a 23% trainer off a lay-off over the past year, but a 38% trainer second after a break (courtesy of DRF Formulator). Adios Charlie has enough speed to clear early here, and if allowed an easy lead he should have plenty left late. His stakes-winning dam (at a mile on turf) is a full to the Grade I winning turf router Teaks North, and a half to Wooden Phone (Pick Up The Phone), who upset Tiznow in the Strub and finished second in the Big ‘Cap in 2001.

No comments: