Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fountain Of Youth Stakes Racing Roundup

The 68th edition of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) is the marquee race on the card today at Gulfstream Park and with the entries of Algorithms, Discreet Dancer and Union Rags, the race is shaping up to be one of the most exciting to date on this year’s Derby trail.

While it remains to be seen whether a Kentucky Derby winner will emerge from the field of eight young Thoroughbreds competing for the $400,000 in graded stakes earnings, in years past the Fountain of Youth has produced several winners that went on to achieve classic fame and glory – Thunder Gulch (1995), Bet Twice (1987), Spectacular Bid (1979), Kauai King (1966) and Tim Tam (1958).

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send the duo of Algorithms, the 8-5 morning line favorite, and Discreet Dancer, the 3-1 third-choice, to the starting gate. I wrote about them in my 2012 Kentucky Derby Outlook and I’m looking forward to see how well they perform. A win by either of them would not be surprising.

Undefeated in three starts, Algorithms is a speedy colt with a combined win margin of 11¼-lengths and if he is anything like his sire, Bernardini, then he shouldn’t have a problem carrying that speed to route racing – especially 10-furlongs.

Bernardini did not race as a 2-year-old but at the age of three, he was a fast colt that won races from a mile to 10-furlongs. Notable races that Bernardini won en route to becoming the 2006 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male include: Withers Stakes (G3, 8-furlongs), Preakness Stakes (G1, 9½-furlongs), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2, 8½-furlongs), Travers Stakes (G1, 10-furlongs) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1, 10-furlongs).

One of the things I look for when evaluating classic potential is multiple generations of Classic Champion Thoroughbreds and Algorithms has that feature in his sire line with Bernardini, A. P. Indy and Seattle Slew. In addition, both Bernardini and Algorithms were bred on an A. P. Indy-Fappiano, Mr. Prospector nick.

Cryptoclearance, the damsire of Algorithms, was a good middle-distance runner that won the Florida Derby (G1), finished second in the Belmont (G1) and Travers Stakes (G1) and finished third in the Preakness (G1) and Jim Dandy Stakes (G2). As a 4-year-old, Cryptoclearance won the 10-furlong Budweiser-Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G2).

At stud, Cryptoclearance sired Victory Gallop, winner of the 1998 Belmont Stakes (G1).

Avatar, the sire of Algorithms’ second dam, won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) and finished second in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

The tail-female line of Algorithms descends from Belvoirina (Family 5-e) and that line produced Belmont winner Gallant Man (1957) and Needles, winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby and Belmont.

The lightly-raced, undefeated Discreet Dancer also has good speed and he’s been impressive winning his first two starts by a combined 15¼-lengths.

Discreet Cat, the sire of Discreet Dancer, also was a late bloomer winning his only start as a 2-year-old in a 6-furlong sprint at Saratoga Racecourse. At the age of three, Discreet Cat was a speedy colt whose best distance was at a mile but was able to stretch out and win the 8½-furlong UAE Derby.

Gone West, the damsire of Discreet Cat, adds speed and stamina to the pedigree and notable offspring include Zafonic, winner of the 1990 English 2,000 Guineas (Group 1) and Commendable, winner of the 1997 Belmont Stakes (G1).

In addition, Gone West is the grandsire of the 2008 Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe winner, Zarkava, and Smarty Jones, winner of the 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1). In addition, Gone West is the damsire of Motivator, winner of the 2005 Epsom Derby (Group 1).

Discreet Dancer is a tail-female descendant of Mayonaise (Family 3-l) and that line produced the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Silver Charm and Triple Crown winner Citation.

Lassie Dear, the fourth dam of Discreet Dancer is a Reine-de-Course mare and the second dam of Preakness Stakes (G1) Summer Squall and the Belmont Stakes (G1) winners A. P. Indy and Lemon Drop Kid. Missy Baba, the sixth dam of Discreet Dancer, is a Matriarch of the Turf.

Buckpasser, the sire Lassie Dear, is a tail-female line descendant of La Troienne (Family 1-x) who was a Matriarch of the turf and an influential foundation mare of the tail-female line that produced the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Super Saver, Smarty Jones, Go For Gin, Sea Hero, Prairie Bayou, Personality and Bimelech.

Union Rags, tagged as the 2-1 morning line second-choice, is also capable of running a good race and appears to the best classic prospect that trainer Michael Matz has had since he guided Barbaro to victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby.

However, Union Rags hasn’t raced since his narrow loss to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) and the question that remains to be answered is whether he’ll be ready to return to the winners circle off of a three-month layoff.

In his debut as a 3-year-old in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), Hansen was soundly defeated by Algorithms who cruised to a 5-length victory. So Union Rags will need to improve his game, considerably, if he’s going to win today.

Union Rags already has enough graded stakes earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate and a win in today’s race is not necessary. He’s been working out steadily and a bullet work out on February 6 could have him primed to run a good race.

Union Rags should be competitive in today’s race and if he returns the form of his win in the Champagne Stakes (G1), he’ll be tough to beat.

A long shot I like is Casual Trick (8-1). He has the breeding to be a factor, but, he’ll also need to improve his game if he’s going to make it to the winners circle.

Like Algorithms, Casual Trick also was sired by Bernardini. Casual Look, the dam of Casual Trick, was an English classic winner of the Epsom Oaks and Red Ransom, the damsire of Casual Trick, was considered by many to be a strong contender for the 1990 Triple Crown before he was retired due to an injury.

Manila, the sire of the second dam, was the 1986 Eclipse Champion Turf Male with over $2.6 million in career earnings and the 2008 inductee into the National Museum of Racing of Hall of Fame.

General Assembly, the sire of the third dam, was a multiple graded stakes winner that finished second in the 1979 Kentucky Derby and set a new track record of 2:00.0 in the 10-furlong Travers Stakes (G1).

With some improvement, I believe Casual Trick could be competitive. Trainer Nick Zito knows how to get young colts ready for big races and a bullet work out on February 10 could have Casual Trick ready to run a good race.

Only time will tell.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Risen Star Stakes Racing Roundup

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send El Padrino to the starting gate today as the 2-1 morning line favorite in the 39th running of the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds Race Course.

In four career starts, El Padrino has established an impressive racing record – he has two first-place finishes, one second- and third-place finish. El Padrino has never lost by more than three-quarters of a length and his worst effort was a third-place finish in the Remsen Stakes (G2) last November at Aqueduct.

His win margin for the two races he’s won is a combined 14¾-lengths – both on sloppy tracks – and in his 3-year-old debut last month at Gulfstream Park, El Padrino scored a 2-length win in an 8½-furlong optional claiming race.

That performance earned El Padrino a whopping 111 Brisnet Speed Figure which is the highest of any 3-year-old on the Derby trail and he looms as the colt to beat in today’s race.

Trainer Larry Jones will send the coupled entry of Mr. Bowling and Mark Valeski to the starting gate as the 4-1 morning line second-choice. With a third-place finish in the Iroquois Stakes, a win in the Dover Stakes and Lecomte Stakes (G3), Mr. Bowling is the more accomplished of the two.

Mark Valeski has two wins in three career starts, he’s never run in a route race and he’s taking a big step up to graded-stakes competition. However, Jones must have a lot of faith in this young colt and high percentage jockey Anna Napravniks picks up the mount for today’s race.

The pedigree of Mark Valeski indicates that he should be able to handle the jump in class and stretch out to route racing.

Proud Citizen, the sire of Mark Valeksi, won the Lexington Coolmore Stakes (G2) en route to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Fortunate Prospect, the damsire of Mark Valeski, is also the damsire of Musket Man who proved to be a good middle-distance runner that finished third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).

The tail-female line (family A1) of Mark Valeski also has some good influence. Silver Fog, the fourth dam of Mark Valeski, was the fourth dam of Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol and the line traces to Ballet who was the ancestress of the classic champions Exterminator and Regret.

Shared Property (6-1) is a young colt I liked in the Lecomte Stakes where he finished third – a half-length behind Mr. Bowling. Shared Property traveled wide the entire race and I look for him to run better in the second start of his 3-year-old season.

Scat Daddy, the sire of Shared Property, was a precocious 2-year-old colt that won the Champagne Stakes (G1) and Sanford Stakes (G2). As a 3-year-old, Scat Daddy won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1).

Belong To Me, the damsire of Shared Property, was a multiple graded stakes winning sprinter but at stud he sired some notable middle-distance runners such as Forever Together who was a multiple graded-stakes winner with over $2.9 million in career earnings. Belong To Me is also the damsire of Circular Quay, winner of the 2007 Louisiana Derby.

A long shot I like is Afford (8-1) who comes into the race off of a narrow win in his 3-year-old debut at the Fair Grounds. He’s never been out of the money in four starts and with the Kentucky Derby winners Street Sense as his sire and Unbridled as the damsire, Afford has the breeding to be a factor and I look for him to be competitive.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Southwest Stakes Racing Roundup

It looks like several of the 3-year-old Thoroughbreds shipped in for the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park may have the potential to earn the all-important graded stakes money necessary to qualify for entry into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

With an overflow field of 21 horses, the Southwest Stakes has been split into two divisions and will be run as races eight and nine on today’s race card.

Longview Drive, the lukewarm 5-2 morning line favorite, was one of my picks in the Sham Stakes (G3) and he heads a field of 11 juveniles that will vie for graded stakes honors in race eight.

In six career starts, Longview Drive has never been out of the money and he comes into today’s race off of a very game third-place finish to Out Of Bounds in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park on January 7. Longview Drive only lost by one length and the final time of 1:34.56 is the kind of performance I like to see in a young colt.

Longview Drive is a full-brother to Pyro who won the Louisiana Derby (G2), Risen Star Stakes (G3) and Northern Dancer Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G3) as a 3-year-old. Longview Drive also looks like he could develop into a decent middle-distance runner and time will tell if he has any classic potential.

If Longview Drive repeats the form of his performance in the Sham Stakes, he will be tough to beat.

Castaway (5-1) is another California runner that ships in for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert. After five previous attempts, Castaway finally broke his maiden in his debut as a 3-year-old and he could be improving at just the right time of year.

In his last race, Castaway led from gate-to-wire and won by 2¼-lengths covering the 8½-furlongs in a very nice time of 1:41.83. His time for the mile was 1:35.19 and for that effort he earned a 102 Brisnet Speed Figure. A repeat of that performance will make him very competitive in today’s race.

Unbridled’s Note (10-1) has not raced in over three months and he’s never ran in a route race but trainer Steve Asmussen must have a lot of confidence his young 3-year-old to enter him in today’s race with only a maiden win to his credit.

Time will tell just how far Unbridled’s Note wants to run but with Unbridled’s Song as his sire and Siberian Express as his damsire, he should not have a problem stretching out to a mile and the 10-1 odds looks very good.

Local Hero and victor of the Smarty Jones Stakes, Junebugred (7-2) will have to improve on his game if he is going to claim graded stakes honors. Junebugred broke his maiden in his second start going a mile 1:36.72 at Aqueduct last November and he’ll have to, at the least, repeat that form if he’s going to make it to the winners circle.

However, with a win at Oaklawn going a mile in the Smarty Jones Stakes and a recent bullet work out, Junebugred appears ready to run a good race.


Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert will send Secret Circle to the starting gate in race nine as the even money favorite.

Secret Circle has never been out of the money in four starts and his most recent effort was a second-place finish to Out Of Bounds in the Sham Stakes. Secret Circle was one of the horses I liked in that race and I like him in the Southwest too.

Secret Circle earned a 105 Brisnet Figure for his effort in the Sham and I think that a mile is probably his optimum distance. He’s been working out good and if he repeats his performance in the Sham he looms as the horse to beat in Division II of the Southwest Stakes.

Adirondack King (6-1) was a young horse I liked in the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes and I like him in today’s race too. He was gaining late in the Pasco and the stretch out to a mile will probably be a better fit for this young colt trained by John Servis who trained Smarty Jones to Kentucky Derby fame and glory.

Lawyer Ron, the sire of Adirondack King, excelled on the Kentucky Derby trail as a 3-year-old, winning the Southwest Stakes (G3), Risen Star Stakes (G3), Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2). Brocco, the damsire of Adirondack King, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) and Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Jostle, the dam of Adirondack King, was an outstanding racer with over $1.3 million in career earnings and winner of the Alabama Stakes (G1), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2), and Cotillion Handicap (G2) during her 3-year-old season.

It remains to be seen if Adirondack King has any classic potential but I look for him to be competitive in today’s race.

Honorable mention goes to the local runners Cyber Secret (4-1) Apprehender (10-1) and Pee H Dee (15-1) who look like they could hit the board and be a factor in the exotics.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

San Vicente Stakes Racing Roundup

Like a lot of folks, I’ve been waiting to see the 3-year-old debut of Creative Cause who will go to the starting gate today for trainer Mike Harrington as the 3-5 morning line favorite in the 7-furlong, $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

Creative Cause has been on my watch list since last summer and he was one of the young colts I profiled in my 2012 Kentucky Derby Outlook. Despite the three month break, I’m looking for him to run a good race and with two recent bullet work outs it looks like Harrington could have Creative Cause ready for a good run.

A win by Creative Cause would be great, however, the 7-furlongs may be too short for him coming off a layoff and it looks like his fiercest competition will come from the speedsters American Act (4-1) and Smoking G (8-1).

Both colts are recent maiden winners and are taking a big step up to graded-stakes competition. But if they repeat the form of their last race, they will be tough in the San Vicente.

American Act, trained by Jack Carava, comes into today’s race with a two-length maiden win over Bodemeister who later came back in his next race to break his maiden by nine lengths. Bodemeister is trained by Bob Baffert and I’m very interested in how well he progresses on the trail. If Bodemeister lives up to his breeding, he may have classic potential.

Trained by Peter Miller, Smoking G has been running mostly on the turf. But he’ll be tough to beat if he repeats the form of his last race when he broke his maiden and covered 6½-furlongs in a time of 1:12.24.

Since then, Smoking G has fired a bullet work out at Hollywood Park on February 12 and he could be primed to run another good race.

Of the six young horses entered in today’s race, Creative Cause is the one I believe may have some classic potential and time will only tell how well he performs on the trail to the Kentucky Derby.

Good luck with your picks today!