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Race of the Week: Awesome Again

DSC01825Santa Anita’s made its way back into the picture, as their fall meet begins this Friday. While the opening day feature, the Eddie D., is an intriguing race, we’ll focus on Breeders’ Cup Preview day on Saturday.

I mention the Eddie D. because of its significance as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Keep in mind that odd configuration in Arcadia and the distance that comes with it. Many of the stars that show up for the Turf Sprint are used to a bit less real estate than they’ll see at the Cup, and the jockeys/horses familiar with the hill showed last year what an advantage they hold. That’s not to say they’ll sweep the tri again, but the winner of the Eddie D. must be considered come November.

Now, back to the Awesome Again. The Classic prep formerly known as the Goodwood has a notable absentee, Game on Dude. He’ll opt to train up to the race but Baffert still has some bullets to fire while trying to capture his fifth edition. It’s hard not to root for Paynter but with that one likely to be a huge underlay there are some possibilities around the field for value. I won’t cover each slot in the gate but there are certainly a few that should be mentioned.

Liaison – The rail runner is the first of Baffert’s three in the Awesome Again, and he’s the least fancied by many. He’s not a bad horse but he’s basically in an equine version of senior slide. Those last two races at Del Mar were a far cry from the first three of his year at Hollywood and Santa Anita, and Liaison missed the board for the first time on a synthetic surface two back. He’s standing at Spendthrift in 2014 no matter what, so the main goals now are to keep him healthy and find reasons to raise his stud fee. I’d have to guess that the first is of greater importance and calls for greater caution in all aspects of his races. There’s already plenty on his resume: 12 of his 17 races have come against graded company, he won stakes at two and four, etc. Perhaps they’re looking to skyrocket the stud fee here, but it sure looks like Baffert is throwing a couple against the wall to see if they stick.

Take Control – Here’s the other one in that column. While the bills stacking up with him would probably bankrupt most of us, he’s obviously made progress and lands in DEEP water off the shelf. The morning drills are what you want to see out of a Baffert and Take Control’s won off a THREE year layoff in the past… but this is still not all that likely. I’d use him over Liaison, but this spot is still way ambitious for a fourth time starter. If Liaison’s on senior slide, Take Control is that sports car that’s always in the shop. Shah paid a pretty penny for the son of Azeri, and when that car’s out of the shop you want to drive it where everyone can see it.

Paynter – It’s so hard not to root for this horse. I am plenty guilty of making emotional bets at Canterbury, but with this horse I will pass. He’s got a chance, but he needs to step it up if he hopes to beat Mucho Macho Man. I shall try to explain this without being harsh… I apparently saw the Woodward a lot different than most. Yes, he hit the gate but he wasn’t out of the position he wanted to be most of the race. Paynter was hustled out of the gate, was mildly urged to keep up through modest fractions and just died down the stretch. Can a G1 horse suddenly run like a G3 animal simply because of a sloppy track? If he’s proven he hates it, yes. If his only other race in the slop was a hard trying third in a grade three coming from nearly the same place he traveled in the Woodward? No. Every brand of slop is different, but I hesitate to listen when Bejarano says he never felt comfortable right AFTER he was out of horse at the half mile pole. No connections of this courageous horse will want to come right out and say he got outrun by the four others. The trip home should cure his ills but that may not be enough.

Mucho Macho Man – He might just be the slightest cut below the best right now in his division but that very well could still trump this bunch. Typically I favor East Coast turf horses over their western counterparts, but it’s a little more even in the dirt ranks. However, this race does not feature much outside of Paynter as far as dirt stars in California. MMM obviously likes Santa Anita, but isn’t exactly in the same form that he was the last time he raced over it. He’s always full of questions because he always gets lots of rest between his races. They’ve still geared his campaign towards the BC Classic and this is a great place to prepare. The healthy ‘Macho works like he’s been working and the outside post works to his stalking style. He’s not a clever pick but he is the battle tested, classy vet that has found a nice spot to try and get his first W of 2013.

You Know I Know – After the standouts the rest of them are a very puzzling bunch of turf horses and synthetic specialists for the most part, and this guy is no exception. He only gave the dirt a try very early on in his career, and if Sadler’s going to take another swing at G1 company it bears notice. He was a heck of a claim out of his first start by Sadler, who’s tried a number of things with him and pocketed a lot of cash along the way. No one was close to The Dude in the Pacific Classic, but this horse outclosed now-retired Richard’s Kid on his favorite surface – a tall task. The longer the better it seems for You Know I Know and that isn’t a common theme in this field. There should be plenty of pace to propel his rally, but watch the early part of the card & Friday to gauge the dirt. It can be a very speed-favoring surface (even more so than most dirt), and if it appears to be a conveyor belt toss this one right out.

One More Thing…

If anyone listening to the musings between Mr. Gelfand and me, you know his favorite horse on the grounds. Mister Bernstein is going to race on closing day at Arlington Park in the 9th race, a starter/optional claimer on the grass. His last post-Canterbury venture was a complete FLOP in 2012, but he was favored that day in September at Delaware Park. MB has raced well on Arlington turf in the past and is in fine form after facing toughies in similar races up here. He’ll at least be a price. My Friday night partner in crime would absolutely bring it up on opening day 2014 if I didn’t mention his beloved Mister Bernstein.

May Super Saturday bring all of you nothing but winners!!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.