Change is in the air. The final days of the year are upon us, Hollywood Park (I refuse to refer to it as Betfair posthumously) has made its final race official, and a new era of racing in California has begun. Santa Anita has taken its short strolls through the spring/fall and made their season into a road trip… and that’s where the final In the Money contest of 2013 will take place this Saturday. The card is not anything that will set an attendance record at the Great Race Place, but there are a couple of stakes worth a glance. Their grass will take the stakes cake on Saturday with the features being the Eddie Logan and the Daytona. Though they’ll take place on the same course, they’re two very different races so let’s dig in:
The Eddie Logan (Race 4) – In recent times, this race has actually not been a euro-dominated event. I don’t say that because a $75,000 listed stake is supposed to draw the cream of Europe, but they are constantly bet in these types of races and the morning line favorite is trying the grass here for the first time. The same goes for a couple of others in this field, but do not be afraid to take a chance on a US based runner with some experience here. None of the invaders did much overseas with the exception of Craftsman, and he should be in the neighborhood of 8/5 or perhaps less with his connections and grade 3 win. However, Simon Callaghan has started four imported two year olds in the past five years and none have won. Three of them made their stateside debut in stakes and none were over 7-1. For purposes of In the Money, the play is probably Enterprising. He should be at least the second choice in wagering despite only a maiden win to his credit due to his connections. Proctor & Stevens’ numbers speak for themselves, but they’ve really been consistent lately. In the recently concluded Hollywood meet they only missed the board twice in eight starters. Furthermore, in listed stakes over the past few years they’ve hit the board with four of five starters, the only miss being Procurement (narrow runner-up on opening day.) The rate-able colt drew perfectly in a field that seems to have plenty of pace to it and with a family that includes Stravinsky & Moscow Ballet the first start on dirt can be excused. Remember, prices are not as important as staying alive in this contest. Do not try to get cute with a kill-shot type of horse this early in the contest–Bragging rights over a longshot are for real money, not contest money.
The Daytona (Race 8) – Ah, the Hillside. These races are some of the most fun to play due to the close finishes & unique course, but the stakes take that fun up a notch due to fresh faces usually giving it a go for the first time. Next Speaker is the only one of this group doing that, but he’s a talented horse with a bright future. I’m inclined to give him one and pass on using him for contest purposes, but there’s something to be said for the quality of horses he’s faced simply due to geography. This is still such an adjustment for horses used to racing on flat courses that it usually doesn’t work out the initial try. If Chips All In or Unbridled’s Note miss the board, the contest could be over in the 8th. The chances sit somewhere between slim & nil of that happening, but if you’re looking to separate yourself from the competition at this point (if you think you’ll have a ton), there are other options.
Gallant Son hasn’t missed the board all year and is an obvious alternative but one I’d use with caution. Those winning races in Southern California are getting further away… his year started in a five horse field that was basically a two horse race between the winner & runner up. Something must have gone wrong in 2012 with only four starts and no wins, but he’s rebounded nicely in the confines of northern California. The problem is, all the same names show up in his running lines and some of them are up there because they couldn’t cut the mustard in SoCal. I will go against all normal logic of the hill and give El Commodore the slightest of chances to hit the board–He is too interesting at what will likely be higher than 5-1. I do NOT play the rail at 6 ½ but the rare exceptions are pure speedballs with jockeys that know this course well… check, check. The optional claimer he exits featured many a stakes runner or nice allowance horse, and he sizzled through the first part of the race only to get nabbed by a classy/delicate runner in Dubai You X Y Z. His fate will be determined a few steps out of the gate, for Gary Stevens has to know that he is aboard basically a one trick pony. In his six wins, El Commodore has not been behind a horse at any point of call. Most of his starts have been routes, but keep in mind that over this course two back on the flat, Gary got this horse to hang 1:09 and 2/5 in the Lure before folding late. He is a six year old now, perhaps age is just catching up with his old bones and sprinting may be all he wants to do anymore. Don’t be misled by the long races, this horse is quick. Looking through his works in the past couple of years is like taking a glance at the side of Bonnie & Clyde’s car.
For more details on how to play In the Money, click here. Hope to see you out here Saturday and Happy New Year!