Friday, June 3, 2011

Sophomore Spotlight: North of the Border

--Brian DiDonato

A trio of interesting stakes for sophomores will take place at Woodbine Sunday, and all three should offer good wagering value.

Inglorious, undefeated over the track, is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks and, for some reason, is considered the early favorite for the Queen’s Plate against the boys in three weeks. She’s certainly talented and is probably the most likely winner of Sunday’s event, but she is far from unbeatable. Her Beyer Figures are no better than most of her competitors and, as a daughter of Hennessy, she might be stretching her pedigree slightly at 1 1/8 miles. Her dam was a stakes winner at nine furlongs, however, and her half-brother Sebastian’s Song (Cherokee Run) was third in the Plate Trial--he did seem to have some distance limitations, though.

Marketing Mix has a ton of upside and will finally get to go two turns--she’s by Medaglia d’Oro out of the Kris S. mare Instant Thought, who is a daughter of MGSP turf router Nimble Mind (Lyphard). The dark bay came with an impressive late run to graduate at 6 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland in her second race Apr. 10 and show horse Divalarious (Distorted Humor) was a very impressive graduate on the Belmont sod a week and a half ago. Marketing Mix was left with far too much to do last time in the Fury S., but put in a solid late run to cut the margin between her and Roxy Gap--who probably doesn’t want to go this far--to 3/4 of a length. The 6-1 morning line quote on Marketing Mix is more than fair, and she’d be worth a win bet at 7-2 or better.

Bear’s Chill is a suspect favorite in the Plate Trial. While he has been very impressive in his last two efforts, both came in sprints. He went 8 1/2 furlongs on the grass at Gulfstream before that, and was fourth as the chalk--the only time he has ever finished off the board. He might have needed a race off the bench, his sire was a MGSW at the distance and GISP going longer and his dam was second in the Woodbine Oaks and GSP at 1 1/4 miles but, considering what price he will be, it makes sense to play against Bear’s Chill. Second choice Check Your Soul is a much more likely winner than the favorite. He is proven around two turns--having broken his maiden at 1 1/8 miles on the grass at Keeneland before taking the Wando S. here last time in fast-closing fashion. He traveled his final 5/16ths in a speedy :29.37 while last behind an early pace that came up about as slow as you’ll see on the Moss Pace Figure scale. As if it were earned in a slow-paced turf race, the 74 Beyer Check Your Soul earned last time is not indicative of the quality of his performance because of how slow they went early.

The two maidens in this group are also dangerous and will offer good value both on top and, probably more realistically, underneath. Speed Ring, who I’ve mentioned here before, set the pace on an anti-speed surface at Keeneland when unveiled in April and was taken very wide in his second start here while bet off the board to be the more-fancied half of a 4-5 entry. He finished third, but covered so much more ground than the winner that it can be argued he was best. He’s a full to a Canadian champion 2-year-old filly out of a champion 3-year-old filly and, as a son of A.P. Indy, might have needed a few races to show his best. This is a very aggressive move by trainer Mark Frostad, and it appears that Speed Ring is primed for a big effort against a group that isn’t overly intimidating. Imhotep was a very nice second first out on the turf at Gulfstream, but was caught extremely wide as the favorite over the Keeneland poly while being rushed up early, and understandably tired to fifth in the lane. According to Trakus Data, he traveled 61 more feet than the winner, which accounts for all but a half-length of the 7 1/2 lengths Imhotep was beaten that day. Todd Pletcher is seven-for-19 (37%) on the Woodbine main track over the last five years (stat courtesy of DRF Formulator). I’ll make a small win bet on Speed Ring, but will focus more of my attention on exactas of Check Your Soul over Speed Ring and Imhotep. I’ll also play the reverse combos and the all maiden exacta for less.

If the morning line odds hold up in the Alywow S., Speightstown Lady will be a very significant overlay. She was a sharp debut winner on the main track here Apr. 3, and set an extremely fast pace before getting passed by Bibi’s Doll, who came from last, in an allowance 20 days later. She’s the speed of the speed here, and her dam, a MSW and GSP sprinting, won her turf debut at a mile at Keeneland.   

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