Friday, March 9, 2012

Sophomore Spotlight: San Felipe, Tampa Bay Derby and Swale

--Brian DiDonato

GII Tampa Bay Derby - Cozzetti (Cozzene) fits an angle that has proven so potent over the past few years that he's a value play on it alone. Trainer Dale Romans is a master at taking turfy-looking horses and running them on the dirt to win or, more commonly, hit the board at big prices in graded stakes. Over the past five years, according to DRF Formulator, the conditioner is 6-for-32 (19%) with a $2.97 ROI switching from turf or synthetic (which I tend to treat interchangeably) to dirt in graded events. Those runners have hit the board a very solid 38% of the time, and include the likes of Derby third-place finisher Paddy O'Prado and Preakness runner-up First Dude. More recent examples are GII Remsen S. winner O'Prado Again (El Prado {Ire}) (7-1), GII Fountain of Youth S. runner-up News Pending (Harlan's Holiday) (27-1) and GIII Gotham S. third-place finisher Finnegan's Wake (Powerscourt {GB}) (25-1). Cozzetti did break his maiden in the Churchill Downs slop and he has worked very quickly on the dirt at Gulfstream, but even if he hadn't, he'd be worth a long look purely because of the stats.

GIII Swale S. - While it seems like every favorite I've tried to go against this Triple Crown trail gets the job done at a deflated number, I'll keep at it and look to beat the two favorites here in horizontal wagers with a pair of alternatives. First in regards to the chalk--the connections of both Ever So Lucky (Indian Charlie) and Motor City (Street Sense) have altered their charges' respective paths several times, calling into question the condition of both runners. It would be no surprise if either horse needed a race before showing up with their best. There also looms the possibility of a fresh Ever So Lucky getting caught up in a pace duel with Trinniberg (Teuflesberg) and Hello Prince (Halo's Image), and Motor City is better-suited to routes.
   Impressive maiden breakers Good Morning Diva (Lion Heart) and Bahamian Squall (Gone West) both possess the upside to pull off minor upsets. The former was fourth on debut in one of the hottest maiden races of the meet Jan. 5--four also-rans, including the deceptively named Good Morning Diva have returned to win, and another runner finished second next out. Good Morning Diva subsequently earned his diploma by 3 1/4 lengths going this distance in the slop Feb. 11, posting a field-best 87 Beyer Figure with a professional three-wide stalking score (video). Heavily backed runner-up Morgan's Guerrilla (Ghostzapper) returned to score at Aqueduct on the Gotham undercard after setting a blistering pace. The fact that Good Morning Diva's win came in the slop is of minor concern, but two of his dam's worst career performances came over ground with moisture in it, so the evidence doesn't suggest that he simply relished the going.
   Bahamian Squall only earned a 76 Beyer for his first-out win Feb. 5, but he did it relatively professionally (despite some issues with lead changes) from off the pace and leveled off nicely late (video). He has also been flattered by his competition, as runner-up Closerwalk (Street Sense) posted an 86 Beyer in victory here last Saturday. Bahamian Squall is a half-brother to the sometimes very fast Apriority (Grand Slam), who has displayed a particular affinity for Gulfstream. Trainer David Fawkes must think highly of Bahamian Squall, as this is only the second time in the past five seasons that he has run a horse in a graded stake off a debut win.

GII San Felipe S. - Truthfully, I'm not particularly interested in this race from a betting perspective, but I'll be watching closely to see how the two Empire Makers do, as both are high on my list of Derby horses. I advocated for using Empire Way last time in the GII Bob Lewis on the grounds that he seemed to be improving with every start and that he had an action that suggested dirt would be his preferred surface, and he took another step forward to be second at 11-1 with a 91 Beyer. He's hard to invest too much on in this spot because his style is not best for Santa Anita's incredibly quick main track and he may come up a bit short once again, but if he were to stick around his 6-1 morning line or drift at all he might be worth some win money. Either way, the full-brother to Royal Delta is one to keep an eye on as the distances get longer and the venue changes.
   Bodemeister's odds will be too short to play, but he has every right to announce himself a major Derby force. The bay couldn't have been much more impressive when stretched out to a mile here Feb. 11, as he controlled the pace before exploding in the lane under little encouragement to romp by 9 1/4 lengths with a gaudy (in this era) 101 Beyer (video). Bodemeister covered his final quarter in a very fast (not just for Santa Anita) :23.73, and third-place finisher and stablemate Stirred Up (Lemon Drop Kid) returned a winner last week. Bodemeister's pedigree screams Classic distances. His dam Untouched Talent (Storm Cat) was a SW and GSP sprinter and GSP router at two, but she was out of a MGSW turf router by A.P. Indy. Bodemeister's third dam was also a stakes-winning router, this time by major stamina influence Roberto; his fourth dam was a GSP router by Nijinsky II. By a Belmont winner with a dam side that goes Storm Cat to A.P. Indy to Roberto to Nijinsky--if that's not a pedigree for Classics, I'm not sure what is.

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