Friday, September 30, 2011

Analysis: 'Super Saturday' and Beyond

--Brian DiDonato

Race 2 - MSW, 2yo, 1mT - Dendrite (Rockport Harbor) had an interesting trip on debut and should be better prepared for his second start. Trainer David Donk wins with just 3% of his firsters, but with a better, albeit still average 10% of his second timers*. Let go at 59-1 when unveiled here Sep. 17 (TDN Video), the bay loped along in mid-pack before making a wide move to challenge for the lead coming into the stretch. He flattened out after that, but showed enough interest and potential to give him a second look here in a race with no obvious killers. Note that Dendrite’s second dam Savina (Nijinsky II) took the GIII Miss Grillo S. over the Aqueduct turf as a juvenile way back in 1989.

Race 7 - GI Vosburgh Invitational S., 3yo/up, 6f - Force Freeze (Forest Camp) appears overmatched from a speed figure perspective despite his impressive upset score in the Teddy Drone S. at Monmouth on Haskell Day (TDN Video), but there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Beyer he received was as many as 10 points lower than it should have been. Here is the Beyer figure change for the nine Teddy Drone also-rans from their previous starts: -21, -2, -9, -10, -12, -10, -30, -35 and -12; and here’s how much the also-rans improved in their next starts on the figs: +10, +12, +6, 0, +5 and +7. Determining exactly how many points “off” the figure might be requires a more nuanced examination of track variants and other factors, but such a uniform discrepancy in figures between the Teddy Drone and a much larger sample size of races seems like solid enough evidence to view Force Freeze as capable of running a competitive figure. The 6-year-old also appears to be doing very well--he has turned in two blazing-fast bullet drills since the Teddy Drone, including one at Monmouth that was 4/5 of a second faster than last weekend’s Parx track record-breaker Royal Currier (Red Bullet). Force Freeze is one of quite a few with a chance in this event--which is by far the most competitive of Belmont’s “Super Saturday” races--but he’ll be the most undervalued thanks to his low last-out Beyer.

Race 10 - GI Jockey Club Gold Cup, 3yo/up, 1 1/4m - There are some reasons to play against Travers winner Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) facing older horses for the first time, and while Flat Out (Flatter) is the horse to beat here, he hasn’t gone this far and may not get much pace to run at. Rodman (Malibu Moon) will be providing what little pace there is. Trainer Mike Hushion has hinted that his horse will be sent to the lead, and the veteran horseman isn’t winning at a 30% clip on the year by spotting his horses incorrectly or employing the wrong tactics. Rodman’s eighth-place run in the GI Whitney H. last time in an obvious toss, as he engaged in a prolonged wrestling match with rider Edgar Prado after wanting to do more behind a soft pace (TDN Video). He set an average to slow pace when finishing third behind Flat Out two back in the GII Suburban H. July 2, but the Barry Schwartz colorbearer did have to rush up after a poor start. Rodman earned a 108 Beyer for his against-the-grain second in the GI Met Mile behind Tizway (Tiznow) here in May, and while some may view that as evidence that more distance is the last thing he wants, Rodman did win the 1 3/16-mile GIII Queens County H. in eye-catching fashion back before a very long lay-off in 2009.

Race 12 - GII Indiana Derby, 3yo, 1 1/16m - The two headliners in this race are very shaky, and trying to get them both out of the exacta looks like it’ll be a profitable play. Shackleford (Forestry) is better-suited to this distance, but he has had a relatively tough campaign and his Travers performance was very poor--it’s entirely possible that he’s over the top, and he has several horses capable of showing speed drawn to his inside. Caleb’s Posse (Posse) should be in the Vosburgh, where he’d have a big chance and a shot at further building a case for champion sprinter honors. The three I will box are Windswept (Arch), Populist Politics (Don’t Get Mad) and Wilburn (Bernardini). Windswept has plenty of upside with just three prior starts under his belt. He won a key maiden race at Churchill Downs July 4, and closed very quickly to be second behind Malibu Glow (Malibu Moon) when stretched out at Saratoga July 30 (TDN Video). He came home in :12.76 that day--half a second faster than the winner--and another step forward from his 92 Beyer makes Windswept very competitive. Populist Politics made a crazy, very wide move in the Sept. 10 GII Super Derby, and may have won with a better-timed ride (TDN Video). Wilburn is simply very logical and offers lots to like--especially with the presence of the two favorites to inflate his price.

Race 6 - Maryland Million Nursery S., 2yo, 6f - Glib (Great Notion) was very impressive romping by 7 1/4 lengths in the slop on debut at Charles Town Aug. 27 despite being a fairly dead-on-the-board 9-1 with an uninspiring worktab (TDN Video). He showed uncommon acceleration for a sprinter on dirt after stalking a loose leader who finished third, and built up his advantage in the blink of an eye. The slop is certainly a knock against him, but considering he’s 8-1 on the morning line there’s no need to be too harsh. The bay has a nice win early pedigree--his sire does extremely well with young horses despite flying completely under the radar--and his dam is a half to the dam of this year’s SW and GISP juvenile Judy the Beauty (Ghostzapper). Trainer John Robb is 3-for-9 with debut winning 2-year-olds making their second starts with two more that hit the board, and Glib has a stamina-building six furlong work as well as a sharp five-furlong bullet on display since his debut.

*All trainer stats courtesy of DRF Formulator.

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