Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spa Watch: Week 3, Part 2

--Brian DiDonato

Race 7 - John's Call S., 1 5/8mT, 3yo/up - This is a very interesting, and evenly matched group with a number of capable longshots. Of the potential price plays, I prefer #7 Sanagas. A German import who was 4-for-5 against what appear to be weak groups in his native land, he resurfaced stateside for Graham Motion in the GIII Arlington H. July 9 (TDN Video). Sanagas made a very odd run that day when finishing 7th, beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Unhurried early, the 5-year-old tried to bear out around the far turn and in upper stretch and was never really asked by Rajiv Maragh after that while making up ground and racing inside of horses in traffic. It's sort of hard to explain, so watch both the pan shot and head-on, but Sanagas never got uncorked and still came home in :23.60--third fastest in the field. "He was lugging in quite badly,” Motion explained to DRF. “The only thing I can think of is when he ran in Europe he went right-handed; maybe [left-handed] was new to him. We put an extension blinker on one side of him and he handled it very well when he worked on the grass." With all his wins coming at beyond the 1 1/4-mile distance he raced last time and his stout German pedigree, if he behaves better, Sanagas has a very good chance to outrun his odds in the marathon.

Race 8 - De La Rose S., 1mT, f+m, 3yo/up - There appears to be an abundance of speed in this race, which features the stateside debut of Deluxe (Storm Cat), a near-Group 1 winner in France out of the great producer Hasili. I'll use her, but I like #3 Prize Catch a lot more. She's 2-for-2 at this distance with a stakes win going a 1/16 longer, but was stretched out to 1 1/4 miles last time to contest the GII New York S. The pace was absolutely glacial that day, and there wasn't much change in the order of finish late, so Prize Catch was very much up against it, finishing fifth of six. Runner-up Zagora returned to take the GI Diana S. last weekend, and I expect Prize Catch to relish the shorter trip in similar fashion. While she has the type of pedigree (A.P. Indy out of a Seattle Dancer mare) and running style that would lead one to believe that more distance would be to her liking, Prize Catch performs like a closing miler. She's best when far off the pace with something to run at, rather than crawling around closer to a soft pace, and she'll get her preferred trip this time.

Race 9 - GI Test S., 7f, f, 3yo - Turn-backs are deadly in these elongated sprints for 3-year-olds--see Caleb's Posse in Monday's Amsterdam--and #9 Salty Strike fits the winning profile perfectly. The Craig Singer homebred was speedy and precocious enough to win first out going five furlongs last May, and came up just a neck short while pressing a fast pace in the GIII Debutante S. They've tried her twice going 1 1/16 miles this year (most recently last time in the Mother Goose) and she finished well-beaten fourths both times, but her most recent seven-furlong and one-turn mile tries were very good. She took a seven-furlong optional claimer by seven lengths at Churchill in May with an 88 Beyer, besting a runner that was coming out of the GI Ashland, another one who returned to beat older allowance foes with an 89 Beyer and a third who came back to score by 4 3/4 lengths when stretched out. Salty Strike then tried a one-turn mile--which doesn't play much differently than seven furlongs--back under the Twin Spires in the GIII Dogwood S. That race featured the very well-regarded duo of Fantasy of Flight (expensive purchase and impressive debut winner) and Might (full-sister to Blame), and Salty Strike went off at more than 5-1 in that spot, but she made a very visually impressive move to draw off by 3 3/4 lengths. The 92 Beyer Salty Strike earned that day fits right in with what deserving heavy favorite Turbulent Descent has earned on anything but wet dirt, and Salty Strike will be 10 times the price.

Race 10 - GI Whitney H., 1 1/8m, 3yo/up - Wow--what a race. There are a number of ways to go in here, and for Pick 4 purposes, I'll use the four horses who I believe are most capable of turning in monster efforts: Tizway, Flat Out, Rail Trip and Friend Or Foe. I've already been mocked by several of my TDN colleagues for predicting that  Friend Or Foe will be named Horse of the Year, and while I'm a big fan of him and think he's extremely talented, I'm not sure what to make of trainer John Kimmel's attempt at being conservative. Friend Or Foe was originally slated to use a New York-bred stake on July 25th as a springboard to the Woodward at the end of the meet, but he was re-routed here due to a wet track. For that reason, I won't be betting Friend Or Foe to win unless he creeps up from his 8-1 morning line to a price higher than #7 Rail Trip, who I'll bet to win otherwise. Rail Trip had excellent Grade I-caliber California form, but when he ran a clunker after being switched to Rick Dutrow for last year's GI JCGC, it appeared we may never see a return to his best on the East coast. He took an extended vacation after that, and resurfaced in the Easy Goer S. at Belmont in June to dispel any notions that he was finished. The Jay Em Ess colorbearer set an average, but somewhat pressured pace, falling just a head short of Friend Or Foe late. Both runners earned 103 Beyers, but Rail Trip earned a 111 and a 108 in winning efforts out West, so his ceiling here is probably much higher. Dutrow is most effective off of this type of break, and he has been feeding Rail Trip a steady dose of six-furlong drills in preparation for this. Look for him to be fit and ready for a big performance at a square price.

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