What was billed to be a showdown between the three Triple Crown race winners this spring only contains one, but brings much diversity in a ten horse package. Its runners made their last starts in Iowa, Maryland, New York and Kentucky – Most of the usual suspects but not always this many off layoffs. A traditional prep for the Travers, this race has been dominated by Todd Pletcher in recent times. Per usual, “We’re not just using this as a prep,” comes about but the horse’s best shot of the summer will no doubt come down the road. Without anyone willing to dominate the three year old ranks this year, why not make a case for a few others?
1. Bashaar – My Iowa Derby selection ran his race but left himself too much to do in the stretch (as usual.) He possesses a nice kick and gets the services of Castellano, but that fact in itself may draw a little too much money this way for what he’s actually accomplished. Peitz has not sent a horse to Saratoga since 2009, but even when he ran frequently he has not won at the spa in the past five years. The barn got plenty of pieces along the way but they did so with some good horses. Bashaar’s been preparing over polytrack for his first crack at Saratoga dirt, which may not greet him as much of a different surface than Prairie Meadows with the way it’s played early in the meet. There are other closers with better form against better company so demand a price if this is the corner you stand in.
2. Code West – I am usually a supporter of the west coast contingent but this horse just isn’t for me. He seems to have settled in out east a tad better than in California, but has failed his two Grade 2 tests to date. Yes, he only lost by a nose in one of them but Ive Struck a Nerve was a BOMB and was done after that. Rosario takes the mount but where are his other options in here? He’s a use underneath but this horse will not be on top of many of my tickets if any.
3. Will Take Charge – Lukas dances every dance. So why didn’t this horse dance after the Rebel? Yes, he didn’t need to to make the Derby but that was such an atypical Lukas move that I can’t see things 180-ing here. He had his share of traffic problems along the Triple Crown trail but the margins of defeat were far more than checking & bumping. The blood is there but the consistency is not. With only two published works since June you have to wonder what is going on… he’s run well fresh but breaking your maiden off the shelf is a heck of a lot different than winning the Jim Dandy.
4. Moreno – He’s another that’s made big improvement changing coasts, but if a horse can break his maiden then take a Grade 2 the quality of that field must be questioned. I wasn’t overly-thrilled with the Dwyer but the blinkers definitely added a new gear to a horse that struggled with maidens repeatedly out west. There are too many sharp connections in this field to let this horse get away up front….right? Freedom Child, in particular, may make life difficult for this son of Ghostzapper. These last two efforts of his were not baby steps either… they were leaps forward. If the hot hand is what you seek this is your animal.
5. Palace Malice – He’s easy to find on paper with the Pletcher/Smith tandem… and oh yeah, that win in the Belmont. Looks like he hasn’t lost a beat in the mornings but again, this is not the end of the line in summer stakes for any of these. Was the Belmont the exception or the new rule? Winners of the Belmont by Curlin don’t need me to boast their credentials. He’ll be the favorite and deservedly so.
6. Perfect Title – He’s one that I’m not unduly familiar with outside of watching replays of his races, so he may be one to watch on the tote board. I’m not a huge Dallas Stewart devotee but he’s another in the field that liked that new set of blinkers last time. The final time was nothing heart-stopping, but his professionalism in biding his time is a good sign for any looking for bombs. The other connections should sound very familiar, and it seems that he gets along with Bridgemohan better than any other pilot that’s been aboard. I’m not necessarily saying this is one to be included in all plays but stranger things have happened at the spa in its brief 2013 season.
7. Freedom Child – Which version do we get today? It’s hard to call horses of his obvious class and ability one dimensional, but he’s gone about his two wins in near identical fashion. He strikes me as one that still has plenty of growing up to do and may be a little more effective when he gains some tractability. That’s not to say he couldn’t run them off their feet in here (especially if Moreno decides to sit back), but his race could be over out of the gate. Saez has had a rough go of it in the early part of Saratoga, as to a degree has Albertrani. Both are due to get rolling at some point. He’s one that I don’t discount, but he’ll be an all-or-nothing sort of play in here. If playing vertically, he’d only be on the top of my tickets. He’s got a nice steady string of works to prepare for this, and one that’ll be on my radar for a while down the road as he continues to develop.
8. Mylute – Quite the opposite story comes with Mylute than FC, as he’s become much too consistent to leave out vertically. He’s usually a good price too for some reason, and a horse with his sort of versatility should enjoy the post he’s drawn. Rosie can get a good gauge of what’s going on up front, and take advantage if the pace gets dawdling. While his pedigree on the surface doesn’t scream for distance, Midnight Lutes are showing that they can handle just about anything thrown their way and this colt is a great example. Look at how many venues and distances he’s taken on…..and despite the two wins he’s still the second leading money-earner in the field. He’s no win machine but don’t these types usually get their moment in the sun… once?
9. Looking Cool – He got the jump on Bashaar in the Iowa Derby and pulled the upset at 17-1, but the water gets deeper for them both. Hard to doubt Carl Nafzger and how he handles these classy Tafel runners, but this is taking an awfully big bite. Prado has been unlucky in his limited starts at the Spa but should fit this versatile runner well. He’s still got a lot to prove.
10. Vyjack – His much publicized issues are hopefully over with. All the talent in the world but his momentum really came to a halt this spring. He was able to stretch his speed nicely in the winter but became very familiar with the groups of horses he beat up, as they rarely changed. Nice to see Velazquez take the mount on a fresh and obviously sharp horse, but has the pack caught up to him in the talent column? Seems like it. On his best day he’s a tiger but who’s to say that all of the wrinkles have been ironed out? He’s a chance I’ll be taking in horizontal wagers but don’t accept a short price.
This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 marks her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.