The so-called "feature" race on the card--i.e., the best race--usually is the next to last race on the card. The race with the best purse on Monday's card is actually the Evan Shipman, a NY bred stakes race, but it's the 3rd race for...actually, I'm not sure why. But the feature race is a nice little optional claimer/non-winners of 3 (see yesterday's post for the explanation) at 6 furlongs on the dirt. It's a field of 7, and let's get to it.
1. Congor Bay. This horse should be better simply based on his breeding: Speightstown was a champion sprinter (and a well bred one at that) and Pico Teneriffe was a multiple stakes winner on the grass and dirt. His half brother, Marchfield, was Canadian horse of the year in 2008 and 2009. But this guy's never won anything of note and now makes his dirt debut after having 14 starts on the grass and synthetics. He doesn't match up on GSF's, but the dirt breeding and connections (Tommy Albertrani, who's good, and Rajiv Maragh, who's having a nice year) are solid enough that you'd like to think about him a bit more.
2. Endless Circle. He's won 5 of his last 6, and his trainer Rudy Rodriguez is simply on fire this year, winning with 36% of his starts. Still, something just doesn't quite compute here. He was losing against $16,000 claimers in Aqueduct 6 months ago, and now he's a borderline graded stakes winner? To top it off, his GSF's have improved 3 straight times. I don't have the stat handy, but something like 94% of horses off a triple improve regress in the 4th race. I don't like him to buck those odds.
3. Rollers. On his best day he's probably the best horse in the race, what with a 107 GSF in his last race, a 10-4-4-0 record on fast dirt, a win in the Gallant Bob at Philly Park and a 2nd in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector. And he's a "horse for the course": he's got 3 wins and a second in his 4 starts at the Spa. The problem is he hasn't run in over a year, and his prior return from a 9+ month layoff in 2008 was not encouraging--he ran ok, but a non-threatening second in a state-bred race. Shouldn't it be tougher to come back now from a longer layoff, especially because he's older?
4. Checklist. The probable favorite with the Pletcher/Velazquez connections and the huge 104 GSF in his win 3 races ago at Gulfstream. The thing is, that 11 1/2 length romp at Gulfstream looks like the exception, not the rule. I'll give him a pass for prompting the pace in the True North two races back and finishing third behind the good Bribon; I will not give him a pass for a blah 4th at Monmouth against nobody special last time out.
5. Dr. W. A solid enough citizen who's made almost $350,000 mostly in state-bred races, he has zero upside and even on his best day, is no better than Checklist.
6. Hamazing Destiny. This guy's capable of firing a huge effort--he did exactly that in his last race; his race before that was a good win under very similar conditions, and his November '09 romp was also impressive. All three of those races have one thing in common: they were are Churchill Downs. Since we're talking about a race in upstate New York, I'm less interested.
7. Hull. The lone graded stakes winner in the field, he won the Derby Trial last year before running a goofy 4th in the Woody Stephens. I say "goofy" because I remember the race well--I had the trifecta--and his jockey, Mario Mena, had no idea what to do with him, be it press the pace, sit back, whatever. The result was a beaten 4th to the very good Munnings and Kensei. He took the rest of '09 off and came back to run poorly in a synthetic allowance race and worse in the ambitiously placed Churchill Handicap on Derby Day. But this is probably the first sensible spot this guy has run in this year: dirt, one turn, 6 furlongs, fast track, optional claimer...it's a good place to get him back on track. Additionally, he gets back Robby Albarado, who at least is competent in the saddle. And he's been working up an absolute storm, with two bullet workouts. Hmmmm.
Selections: There are enough question marks surrounding Checklist and Rollers that this looks like a good spot to go value hunting. Hull and Congo Bay are the two most obvious spots, both getting fast dirt for either the first time in over a year or ever, respectively. Plus Hull may well appreciate the cutback in distance and class more than anyone else here. For the third slot, I'll go with Checklist, who may fade from the front end but is unlikely to simply drop to DAFL.
1. Hull 2. Congo Bay 3. Checklist
Mrs. Blog's Pick: Checklist. "If you bet Endless Circle that's stupid. All circles are endless."
Yesterday's Results: Pick Followmyfootsteps stalked a moderate pace and took over midstretch to win at 13-1. Our other picks did little or nothing, but a $29 winner is nothing to sneeze at. Hope someone reading this cashed.
Results to date: Followmyfootsteps' win puts us well in the positive for now. But let's not stop now and keep this going.
1st: 3/1-2-0, +$23