Race of the Week – Stephen Foster

FortLarnedThe Downs After Dark card for Stephen Foster Saturday is a little light on numbers but long on star Power, with a competitive but compact feature. The Foster may not make you millions but it’s a heck of a race. The field’s earned nearly $10,000,000; with likely favorite or second choice Successful Dan ranking fifth in the group. THAT’s how good they are. Let’s take a closer look and bet from there.

Golden Ticket – He seems to be one of a couple in here entering with their local record in mind rather than current form. He’s sort of resting on his laurels as well, with the real claim to fame being a dead heat win in the Travers last summer alongside Alpha. Ken McPeek’s colt has hit the board in three of four at Churchill, with the elusive win coming last time around against optional claimers. The problem is that his last two wins have come at that level and at slightly shorter distances. While 1 1/8 miles is not out of his scope, at this level many distances are. He’ll need his A-game and then some in this spot but with a limited field and his home court in play, taking a shot isn’t the worst idea in the world.

Fort Larned – The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, pictured above, is an easy one to find on paper although his race in the Oaklawn Handicap leaves something to be desired. How can one’s form reverse so drastically in so short a time?! Obviously he was cranked on March 9th, but winning without the jockey is still losing so it’s all for not. He likes Churchill just fine as well, and while he’s lost to a couple in here in front of the twin spires he became too good at the end of his four-year old year to leave out here. He’s very quick and versatile, but will the price be too short in a spot that’s not the eventual goal? The good news is that his off efforts don’t typically come often or in streaks, so expect a rebound here. Whether that’s good enough at this time remains to be seen. He’s the best horse in the race probably in the long run but this could be the time to catch him.

Ron the Greek – Is he up to it? When the answer’s yes he’s damn near impossible to hold off, but of his eight wins less than half have come in the past two years. Last year’s Santa Anita Handicap was one of the softer editions in this handicapper’s recent memory, and the classy Floridian capitalized. Conversely, that late kick of his was good enough to run down eventual horse of the year Wise Dan in the Foster, so what gives? He blew out a field of fellow state-breds in the Sunshine Millions to start his year, but would that margin have been so gaudy if Mucho Macho Man hadn’t thrown in the towel so abruptly? Certainly not. He’s pretty reliant on pace and the riders up front most likely will not be in too much of a hurry – Things will need to break just right for Ron’ and Lezcano but it’s not out of the question.

Take Charge Indy – Holy Alysheba! That race last time out on Derby day was a home run (replay below), but was it too much? Hard to find a horse that can top his career beyer with ANOTHER one, and that’s exactly what the royally bred son of A.P. Indy is being asked to do here. I liked him a lot Derby day but it’s hard to adorn the same confidence on him in this spot despite the field shrinkage. Rosie gave this horse an outstanding ride, and while he let a longshot take the lead from him on the inside they managed slow down some of the interior fractions before EXPLODING home to their six length win. He’s a big notch below if not kept in close attendance to the pace, but he should get a pretty cozy trip outside of Fort Larned as long as ‘Dan doesn’t come and mush him in the middle. I personally don’t think anyone has much room to regress in this spot and still compete, so I may let him come back to Earth and play him another day when the competition isn’t so stiff.

Pool Play – He, like Golden Ticket, is one not really entering off the attractiveness of his recent races. Take nothing away from Mark Casse, as he is a top-notch trainer and managed to bring Pool Play back from an injury that cuts many careers short. He managed to garner another graded win in last year’s Hawthorne Gold Cup, but that’s been his only win since 2011 with nary a sniff outside of it. It was only a six-horse field that day as well, but take that running line completely out of the equation and he really doesn’t fit all that well with this group. He’s eight, his stud career is looming, and without much outside of that Foster win to print in bold on his stallion register page he isn’t going to attract all that much attention. I don’t blame the connections for running in here (goodness, Farish has enough good horses to fill many graded races) but I won’t be using the Canadian.

Successful Dan – He has the biggest shoes to fill of any equine in this field, and this could be the best possible way to do it. With his little brother tasting defeat in this race at the hands of Fort Larned, could a better revenge story be written in a horse race? He’s another horribly fragile animal among friends here, but no one can take his “recent” form away from him. He’d won three of his last four but the grade one title has eluded him thus far. DQ’d from his Clark win in 2010, that was the last we saw of this half to the horse of the year until last spring. If the Alysheba is any indication of how this race will go, he’s the one to beat. He used his tactical advantage and versatility that day to top the eventual exacta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but then had the tables turned on him in Iowa. He and Fort Larned pick up the rivalry again today but this one’s prep could not have set up him up any better. Yes, it was not a quick race nor a taxing pace….but he managed to stay up and run his race. I’m guessing that Fort Larned has worked well leading into all of his wins AND losses, so I’ll believe the afternoon running over the morning hype. Watch for Leparoux to take it a bit more to the aforementioned runner early, and give us a great duel down the stretch.

Take your pick but don’t expect a price – This is just one you won’t want to miss!

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.

2012 Pennsylvania Derby: The Rematch

Round two commences at Parx on Saturday in the Grade 2, $1 Million Pennsylvania Derby. Alpha and Golden Ticket stand as the only two entrants coming from the Travers and as a result, will take the lion’s share of betting action on in the Derby. Making a case for others entered is for the most part a stretch, but a dark horse or two can be found in the field of eight.

1. Stephanoatsee – Many times lofty expectations get put on a horse with this kind of pedigree. Stephanoatsee is a half to Shackleford and three other stakes winners, but thus far hasn’t lived up to his siblings’ billing. He only has five lifetime starts, and has only missed the board in one… but this would still be asking a lot off a win in a four horse field.

2. Casual Trick – A victim of the Derby Trail this spring, Casual Trick makes his return to stakes company on a two race win streak. A breathing problem hampered the Bernardini colt this summer, but Nick Zito’s colt appears to be a new horse after two route wins at Parx. He was a $425,000 purchase two years ago. Stablemate Fast Falcon gets the nod against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but the barn’s confidence shows in stepping CT up. Gets a class test, but being the only local winner intrigues this handicapper.

3. Handsome Mike – Has the look of one that hasn’t moved forward from two to three. Turf treated him well on the west coast at two, but the pool of juvenile turf runners in California wasn’t exactly the deepest last year. Reddam has had plenty of success this year with three-year olds but this isn’t one of them. An owner that likes to dance every dance, but appears in deep.

4. Alpha – The slight favorite also rides a win streak into this for McLaughlin. Sure looked like he was going to pass Golden Ticket with a few more feet but settled for a tie in the Travers. He’s always showed promise but nagging injuries and a loathing for the gate have held him from being the dominant three-year old in America. With the classic winners enjoying retirement, it appears to be his division to take. He finally gets three races in a row without a layoff as well, and off two bullet works it appears all systems are go.

5. Junebugred – Steve Hobby’s horse isn’t exactly entering the Pennsylvania Derby with his best races in tow. Similar to Handsome Mike in coming to hand early and not progressing through his three-year old year. He’s been ambitiously placed in grade one and grade three company this year to no avail. Would need a lot of off races by the competition to make noise here.

6. Golden Ticket – The other half of the dead heat draws outside of Alpha this time. Ran his lifetime best by a mile in the Travers and did so off a hefty layoff. That was also his first fast-dirt victory, so was it a one-race wonder or has he improved that much? Was the Travers that questionable? I didn’t find it the toughest renewal but winning an 11-horse grade one race is never an easy task. He’s performed well in all scenarios (Turf, dirt, and poly), so there’s no reason to think Parx will present him a surface challenge. He still needs to show up as the Travers winner and not the runner-up in a shaky Tampa Bay Derby. We’ll see.

7. Csaba – This just isn’t my type of horse. Seven of his races (Three of his four victories) have been taken off the turf, though at one time he was tested on the Kentucky Derby trail. He took a womping in the Fountain of Youth, and then promptly returned to his on-again-off-again campaign on the grass. The Hall of Fame was a nice effort, but set up for him quite nicely with the track surface and pace setup. Unless he’s left alone on a crawling pace, this will be a challenge.

8. Macho Macho – The only other graded winner in the field was flattered by Bourbon Courage’s win in the Super Derby. Asmussen shelved the West Virginia Derby winner since August in preparation for this, and hasn’t missed the board with him since turned over from Neil Howard. He’s taken a different route to get to this race but seems to be cranked pretty tight off a strong string of works. The son of Macho Uno hit the track 9 days after his WV Derby win, and has worked a total of six times since the race. He’s a versatile sort that should be able to make a trip for himself from the outside post. Possible value to be found here.

It appears Alpha’s race to lose, but will his gate antics get the best of him? Who do you think will step up? Feel free to comment on the Pennsylvania Derby and join us for a stakes-filled card at Parx! First post is 11:25 Central, we’ll see you right out here at the Park.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann is just completed her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.