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Commentary on Potential Early Favorites for Championship Day Races

by Ron Kuehl

NOTE – on 8/15/09 Bella Notte, Chick Fight, Bluming Beauty, and Pretty as a Smile are all entered in the same race (6 ½ Fs on the dirt). Also, same day, Sir Tricky, Wally’s Choice, Captain Canaveral, Suddenly Silver and Nomorewineforeddie are entered in the Kenny Schoepf Stakes (6 ½ F on the dirt).

CLASSIC. ’08 Winner: Suddenly Silver.

SUDDENLY SILVER exploded on scene last year as a 1-1 favorite destroying the field by 13 lengths (Wally’s Choice ran 2nd). Since then, things haven’t been great for Suddenly Silver: Wally’s Choice avenged his loss two weeks later (8/1/08) with Silver finishing 5th. After the winter layoff, Suddenly Silver started off the year as co-favorite in a nice field (Perfect Bull winning) and finished a disappointing 5th, taking the early lead but fading badly (5/17/09). After taking some time off he ran again 7/12/09 at 11-1 and took the lead only to fade badly again (6th). Silver then shipped to Arlington for a claiming race (7/25/09) and her only race ever away from CBY and at 19-1 odds secured the lead but faded in the 2nd turn, finishing last. Silver has to hope to regain the magic on Championship Day and needs to take the lead with a very slow pace to have any shot for a repeat; to her credit her 4 races since that big win seem to have been against good company, but she was far from competitive.

PERFECT BULL. Perfect Bull has 2 wins in 3 starts this year at CBY, including a 4 length victory in the MN Derby at 1.3-1 odds (8/1/09, I’d guess his last race before Championship Day on 8/30/09). While he could also possibly run on the turf, Perfect Bull fits well in this race and could become only the 4th 3 year old ever to win this race in 15 years (JP Jet ’02, Wally’s Choice ’04, Rock ‘N Fire ’06). He has tremendous momentum and will be running from off the pace here. We’ll see what beyer he posted in the MN Derby but my sense is he’ll be a very trendy pick come Championship Day.

WALLY’S CHOICE. The ’04 and ’05 Classic winner (and ’08 runner up) is back again after running a distant 2nd last year (14 lengths) to Suddenly Silver. After taking the fall / winter off, Wally started the year in a tough race (5/23/09) against the likes of Heza Wild Guy and Lovango; at 6.5-1 he was beaten soundly finishing last. Taking a month off, Wally came in 6/21/09 in what essentially was a preview of / prep for the Blair’s Cove and surprisingly took the win, closing soundly at 4-1 against CBY’s best: Joni’s Justice (2nd by a length at 2.3-1) and Sir Tricky (3rd by 1.5 lengths at 1.9-1). Wally was back! 7/3/09 was a huge day for Wally as the 7 year old and ’05 / ’06 Blair’s Cove winner was out to prove he was back in full form by yet again taking the Blair’s Cove title. This result was the opposite: Wally, running 2-1 odds as a semi-co-favorite to Joni’s Justice and Sir Tricky, finished last. He’s been working (7/31/09, 4F 47 1 breezing) and is surely targeting this as his 7th CBY stakes win, which would put him closer to Crocrock’s record 9 (based on my stats). Similar to Perfect Bull, Wally needs a little pace to close into and it’s not clear there will be much speed here. It would be great to see the 7 year old Wally (and his ~$500k career earnings) go out in grand style with a win and retire rather than go out after an endless string of losses like Lt. Sampson and Vazandar did. If not, it might be nice to see Perfect Bull out close Wally and have the torch passed establishing Perfect Bull as the preeminent male route runner at CBY for some time to come.

PREDICTIONS: (1) Perfect Bull, (2) Wally’s Choice, (3) Suddenly Silver or someone else

Sprint. ’08 Winner: Sir Tricky.

SIR TRICKY. The venerable Sir Tricky is likely among the top few legends that are still running at CBY. With 6 lifetime CBY stakes wins and almost $300k in career earnings (almost all of it in state), the 8yo Sir Tricky has been a staple at CBY for 6 summers (took all of ’05). His battles with Careless Navigator over ’06-07 are career highlights. Tricky is versatile, having won with the Sprint and Turf races on championship day. I expect him to show back up as defending champ in the Sprint, particularly given the dearth of competition and his couple losses on grass this year. He started the year strong winning the 10,000 Lakes (5/16/09) for the 2nd time in his career and then took 3rd on the turf (6/21/09) as the 2-1 favorite behind Wally’s Choice and Joni’s Justice. Then two weeks later (7/3/09) he took 3rd again on the turf (as 2-1 favorite), this time in the Blair’s Cove behind winner Joni’s Justice and Cubfanbudman; Tricky won the Blair’s Cove in ’08 and was 2nd in ’07. While versatile, Tricky’s closing style in sprint races has served him well (much like Vazandar) and this is his race to lose; primary risk would be that a lone speed horse gets out front on a very modest pace. He just worked 4F on 8/6 so he looks to be gunning for Championship Day. He won’t be running forever so I’m going to enjoy him every time he goes out.

CAPTAIN CANAVERAL. While never winning a CBY stakes race (having run 7), Captain Canaveral has amassed >$170k in career earnings and consistently posts beyers in the mid-70s and above. The Captain has been a claimer for his 6yo career and runs well out front as early speed. He battled Sir Tricky in the 10,000 Lakes (2nd by 2 lengths, running at 2.6-1 odds). Captain has won his last two efforts (6/14/09 and 7/18/09) in $10-15k claimers. He’s quick and will be out front…in the absence of other early runners he could be very well positioned. A win here would be easily his career highlight.

NOMOREWINEFOREDDIE. Only once has a 3yo won the Sprint Championship (Crocrock in ’00, ever hear of him?). 3yo Eddie is fresh off running 4th in the 1 mile 70 yard MN Derby (8/1/09). If he runs Championship Day, it will be here in the Sprint. Eddie bested fellow 3yo MN sprinters BIZET and A STEEL TRAP in the Victor S. Myers $35k Stakes (7/11/09). It’s possible that all of those three 3yos (Eddie, Bizet, and A Steel Trap) run here, but with Eddie’s stakes win over the other two he’s getting the write up. Eddie likes to run out front and will be up there with Captain Canaveral. As an aside, A Steel Trap ran in the 2yo Championship race a year ago as prohibitive favorite 0.8-1 odds, laid an egg, and is back trying to redeem himself. It’s unlikely that one of the 3yos takes the prize here but they may push the tempo and set the race up for Sir Tricky.

PREDICTIONS: (1) Sir tricky, (2) Captain Canaveral, (3) No More Wine for Eddie or one of the other 3 year olds

Turf. ’08 Winner: CC Tat.

CC TAT. Where in the world is CC Tat? He’s on my DRF horsewatch list but I’ve not received any updates on him in likely 6 months. Last two year’s winners (Smithtown Bay in ’07 and CC in ’08) have mysteriously disappeared as best I can tell. Safe to assume CC is not running any more so we’ll have a new champion in ’09.

JONI’S JUSTICE. Here’s your logical favorite for this race. Joni beat an impressive field in the 7/3/09 Blair’s Cove, besting Sir Tricky and Wally’s Choice. Joni scratched from an 8/1/09 race but has been working consistently and truly is a turf specialist. While only 1 win in ’09, he’s been competitive against good fields and has been running up front, a change in style from the closing style he had exhibited previously. He wired the field in the Blair’s Cove and I imagine the field here will be weaker. Consequently, I expect that he can wire this year’s field.. After losing by 0.5 lengths last year to CC Tat as the 0.7-1 favorite, this 6yo is looking for his 2nd CBY stakes win (and 2nd this year) and likely turf horse of the year honors.

SAHM SWEETHEART (MARE). Well, here it is, I’m guessing that one of the ladies enters the turf championship that for at least the last two years has been boys only. Sahm Sweetheart and/or Minnesota Mafia could very well show up here. FYI – I’ve assumed Minnesota Mafia (despite two really impressive turf wins 6/4/09 and 7/18/09) goes to the Distaff Classic. Sahm Sweetheart has been exclusively a turf horse since her return from a lengthy layoff that commenced in ’06. Since that layoff Sweetheart has run well (11 races, 8 times either 1st of 2nd) and can get up to a beyer of 80. She was the favorite in the Princess Elaine Stakes 7/18/09 (1 mile 1/16 on the turf) but got 4 wide and lacked the closing bid. Before that race she had two nice optional claimer wins (6/18/09 and 7/2/09). She likes to press a bit off the pace and should be well positioned here to be competitive. Hey, if Rachel Alexandra can win the ’09 Preakness no reason Sweetheart can’t win (or be very competitive here).

CUBFANBUDMAN. The shocking 20-1 winner of the ’08 MN Derby likely will run here rather than the Class he ran in last year (finished 24 lengths off in 4th place, ouch!). Since then Cub Fan has been 0 for 9, but his last effort gives him some hope. At 13-1 in the 7/3/09 Blair’s Cove Stakes (1+ miles on the dirt), Cubfanbudman almost became a “two hit wonder”. He also ran decently earlier in the year in the 10,000 Lakes Stakes (5/16/09, 6F) running 3rd. I imagine he’ll try turf again and hope to compete pressing from a little off the pace.
PREDICTIONS: (1) Joni’s Justice, (2) Sahm Sweetheart, (3) Cubfanbudman or somebody else

Distaff. ’08 Winner: Pretty as a Smile.

PRETTY AS A SMILE. This has not been a great year for Pretty as a Smile. In fact, she has only 1 career CBY stakes win (’08 Distaff Classic winner, and by 9 lengths…impressively). She loves running up front and like in the Distaff last year, she can roll when not aggressively challenged. This year in her 6 efforts (3 at CBY), she has no wins. In those 6 runs, 3 of those times she couldn’t get up front and did very little, twice she got the lead was pressured and faded badly, and once she had the lead and almost held on. She has 1 CBY stakes win in 7 attempts and she’s hoping she can wire this crew and get back to her ’08 Championship Day form. Might be tough to pull that off but many of the other girls running here are more closers so it’s not impossible. She definitely likes the routes on the dirt at CBY way more than she does any other type of race.

SEASAHM. The 1.5-1 favorite in last year’s Distaff Classic, Seasahm got destroyed by Pretty as a Smile (Seasahm finished 12 lengths back in 3rd). Since then, Seasahm’s form has been highly questionable. She really struggled away from CBY but had a nice Princess Elaine Stakes run (7/18/09, 1+ miles in the turf) finishing 2nd by just over a length to Minnesota Mafia and at 2.2-1 odds. Note – she won that same race last year. That last effort gives her hope where in absence of that on paper she looks like she just had a good 3 race stretch in Summer ’08 (all turf races). She seems to have had her best races on the turf in the past but given there is no lady’ turf race and that she ran the Distaff last year, I suspect she’ll show up here again trying to close and get the win.

MINNESOTA MAFIA (FILLY). It’s difficult to call if Minnesota Mafia runs here or in the turf race. . While she has not run that often in her career on turf (3 of 14 races), this 4yo has had two recent and outstanding turf wins running from off the pace. She beat a who’s who of lady CBY racers last out in the Princess Elaine Stakes (7/18/09): Seasahm, Sahm Sweetheart, Bella Notte, and ’06 MN Oaks winner Chasin’ Mason. She’s clearly far better on the turf than dirt as evidence by form and beyers, but could elect here and close nicely. Not sure what pace this race will have but she’s hot and could roll here. Tough call here, but she’s been most impressive of the potential runners in this race and I’ll take her to win (if she shows up here).
PREDICTIONS: (1) Minnesota Mafia, (2) Seasahm, (3) Pretty as a Smile

Distaff Sprint. ’08 Winner: Thanks for the Tip.

THANKS FOR THE TIP. For sure Thanks for the Tip was a shock last year on Championship day. The 14-1 long shot got up front early in the Distaff Sprint and went on to win by 6 lengths (posting an 88 beyer, wow). After a very strong 3yo year in ’07, her ’08 had been uninspiring until that effort. ’09 is not dissimilar. The second place horse from last year’s Distaff Sprint was Bella Notte, the early running 0.6-1 favorite. These two squared off again on opening day in the Lady Slipper (5/1/609) with Bella Notte getting the best by 2 lengths as a slight 1.7-1 favorite (Tip was 2.5-1). In the opposite fashion from the Distaff Sprint, Bella Notte secured the lead in that race and kept Tip in 2nd the entire time. Now comes the rubber match in this 3 game series. After suffering that defeat, Tip shipped to Arlington (like she did mid-summer ’08) and has been very disappointing (just like the ’08 summer). 6/20/09 she ran in a $35k claimer and was fractious in the gate, got the lead briefly, and faltered very badly (at 9-1 odds). 7/22/09 at Arlington as the #1 post she “broke through the portable rail at the start” (? From the chart) held the lead until the stretch then faded into last (6-1 odds). Both races were sprints. Now she’s back working on the dirt at CBY (last work 8/12, 4Fs). She’s still quick enough to get the lead but has been faltering and she’ll need to get back into form quickly. All her competition in this race likes to get out front early so she’ll not surprise the field like she did a year ago. We’ll see if she can make ’09 a success with this last race.

BELLA NOTTE. She’s here, she’s gone. After an impressive win 5/16/09 in the Lady Slipper, Bella didn’t run again until 7/18/09 in the Princess Elaine (1+ miles on the turf, not her race). Despite it not being her surface or distance, Bella (lone speed in that race) got out front early and held on for 3rd in a tough field. Now she’s back in the race she wished she had won last year, as the favorite likely again (but not the 0.6-1 she was last year). She’s been working out frequently and will be gunning for this race, her race.

CHICK FIGHT. Last year Chick Fight owned Championship day…running at a 0.1-1 odds as the favorite in the 2yo girls race and winning by 10 lengths. Her last two races were the Francis Genter stakes (1st by 6 lengths at 0.8-1…82 beyer) and the MN Oaks (route race, 1st by 3 lengths at 0.5-1). My sense is she’ll sprint rather than run the route on this day. Question is: can she step up and run with the big girls? 3yos don’t win often on Championship day and this race is no exception: only two 3yos have won in 14 races. For her to complete the Genter, Oaks, and a Championship day win I think would be an absolute first. Like Bella and Tip, she likes running out front so it’ll be crowded but Chick Fight did press in the MN Oaks and that might be her style here. Be careful, we could be witnessing a 4th CBY stakes win for this amazing filly (watch out Sentimental Charm – 5 CBY stakes wins – and Glitter Star – 6 CBY stakes wins). A win here and she’s a lock for horse of the year.

PREDICTIONS: (1) Chick Fight, (2), Bella Notte (3) Thanks for the Tip