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Roll Call: Who Will Continue to Improve?

Wise DanSometimes it’s a feather in the cap on a racehorse’s career, other times it’s the last time their names will be mentioned in the same breath as their competition. Winning an Eclipse is great for the connections, yes, but gamblers can’t win a dime on these awards – Who can they bet on in the coming year? Who should they bet against? Each prospect has a different answer, so let’s dig in.

Wise Dan (Older Horse, Turf Male, and Horse of the Year) – If he’s anything like his predecessor in the three-bagger category (John Henry), you can bet this one for a looooong time to come. The key is him being a gelding, and with the versatility he’s shown this is either a year to repeat the process or try new things. Either way, he’s improved with age and every new task he’s tried. There probably won’t be much value to him unless he hits a long distance on the dirt again, but sometimes a free space on the bingo card can come in handy.

Royal Delta (Older Female) – She’s been a force from day one. Royal Delta has two ninth place finishes to her credit but no other real blemishes to report in a stellar (and continuing) career. With Dubai clearly dancing in their heads again, the connections are picking the beat up right where they left off last year. She’s at Payson Park with the ever-patient Bill Mott revving up for a 5-year-old campaign that will be hard pressed to duplicate her previous body of work. She keeps coming up with ways to win though, and despite different pace scenarios and surfaces she seems to get a little better each time. Good luck with tossing her outside of another World Cup disaster.

Zagora (Turf Female) – Fahgetaboutit. For $2,500,000 she’d better be pregnant tomorrow.

Shanghai Bobby (Juvenile Male) – Can’t fault the campaign he put together, it won him the award by a landslide. Yours truly thought the story ended at the top of the lane in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he showed another gear in drawing away while aided by the inside running. I, like many others, question his ability to go much further in star status or distance than he’s already shown. That’s not to say he can’t handle the distances put forth early in the spring, but there is an entire year of classic distances awaiting the son of Harlan’s Holiday. He’s a fine mix of pure sprinter and route horse, but the route horses in his pedigree weren’t exactly shouting for a mile and a quarter… and isn’t that the goal? The horse that made him run down the stretch, He’s Had Enough, also took a healthy beating at the hands of another Pletcher runner named Violence. He won a four and one half furlong race to kick off his career, and while he stretched his speed from there how far can it stretch? Todd Pletcher has also voiced that Violence is pointing towards the Fountain of Youth… wouldn’t that be the preferred target for your two-year old champion? Hmmmmmm…

Beholder (Juvenile Female) – No question, she is a very, very nice filly. She’s come to hand rather quickly for a Mandella trainee, but the win in the Juvenile Fillies could not have been more in her wheelhouse. She has boatloads of speed and Mandella is no fool – With the track behaving as it was that weekend speed was your greatest asset. He was aware that the speed from the east wasn’t quite as quick as she was, and that Executive Privilege had perhaps plateaued and would be a vulnerable favorite. The rail draw sealed the deal that day, and wire to wire she went. Don’t judge harshly on the first race off the layoff – Not many from this barn fire right off the shelf but she put in a gutsy enough performance to hold second. She was, however, beaten by a filly that’d danced every dance and lost each time – Tyler Baze also lost the whip on Renee’s Titan and she got the job done anyway. She also appeared gassed around the 6 furlong mark. I’ll be using Beholder on Santa Anita’s surface, but I will not be singling her. As with most leaving Arcadia, I don’t usually bet horses leaving that track for another surface until they’ve had a run over it. The dirt is simply not tiring compared to other tracks and tends to run into them around the 1/8 pole.

I’ll Have Another (Three Year Old Male) – He earned it. What a spring campaign for this horse, with great prices along the way. But, unless you’ve got the yen to pluck this horse out of retirement good luck.

Questing (Three Year Old Female) – It was the closest race and I’m frankly not a fan of the outcome. I realize that she put in an entire years worth of work, but I wasn’t on the premises for all of these “Breathtaking” scores so I guess I missed out. My Miss Aurelia looked ultra-impressive and GAME in gutting out a filly with that much more foundation under her….but it’s all for not. Questing doesn’t strike me as one who will improve leaps and bounds until she relaxes….and it’s obviously been a battle for two trainers now. She may have banged up her eye at Santa Anita but she just got outrun at Parx. With the fields no longer limited in age she’ll have a full helping of Royal Delta, Aurelia, etc through her four-year old year. She didn’t beat shlubs in New York but Zo Impressive did get hurt, In Lingerie ended up on the turf in her final start of the year, Grace Hall beat her in California, and Via Villaggio’s greatest lifetime win to this point was a four-horse race. Not sold until she shows capability of relaxing.

Trinniberg (Male Sprinter) – At least he’s only four, but his division has so many new faces on a daily basis it’s hard to say how his year will go. The Parbhoo stable just isn’t predictable when it comes to their spots for horses (see this horse in the Kentucky Derby), so who knows what direction he’ll go this year. He definitely didn’t duck anyone this past year so give credit where credit’s due, but he too was aided by a speedy main track Breeders’ Cup day. He’ll ship wherever, run different distances and fight to the end. But, he is on the one-dimensional side so rabbits are sure to be entered by trainers with closers at some point. The prices may not be there this year either. This is the division that has only seen one back-to-back winner in the Breeders’ Cup too, and Midnight Lute was an oddity. Demand a price if he defends his crown.

Groupie Doll (Female Sprinter) – Oh duh. Yes, she is a must use until a jockey shows a propensity for falling off. She’s been a machine since the addition of blinkers and lost by a scant nose in the Cigar Mile against males. Buff Bradley is connected in many ways with this filly and knows her like the back of his hand. She’s a fun one to follow but another one that provides peanuts in the payoffs.

Overall, this year’s batch of winners are a usable bunch in the coming year, some more than others. Best of luck to you in 2013 and may these champions have a safe and successful year at the races!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann is entering her third year in 2013 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.