This is the time of year that I really appreciate the most when it comes following 2-year-old thoroughbreds. A lot of the sprint races have been ran and the 2-year-olds begin to stretch out to route races to prepare themselves for their 3-year-old campaign.
On tap, a couple of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You Are In” races highlight today’s stakes racing action for 2-year-old thoroughbreds.
Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert will send 8-5 morning line favorite Lookin At Lucky in the $300,000 Norfolk (G1) at Santa Anita and Todd Pletcher sends out 5-2 favorite Interactif in the $150,000 Pilgrim Stakes (G3) on the turf at Belmont. Both races are run at 1 1/16 miles and the winner will stamp his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Turf races in November.
Undefeated Lookin At Lucky comes into the Norfolk with a pair of stakes wins in the Best Pal Stakes (G2) and Del Mar Futurity (G1).
Baffert holds the record for the most Norfolk wins with four to his credit and he should have Lookin At Lucky ready for a good effort. His sire, Smart Strike, is the sire of Curlin and his damsire, Belong To Me, is the sire of the multiple Grades Stakes Champion filly Forever Together so the distance should not be a problem.
A couple of horses I like in here to perhaps give Lookin At Lucky some competition is the John Sadler-trained Dave In Dixie (9-2) and Carla Gaines’ John Scott (6-1).
Dave In Dixie comes into the Norfolk with an impressive maiden debut win August 29 at Del Mar and, by the way, the Wynn Las Vegas Race and Sports Book has Dave In Dixie currently tied with multiple graded stakes winner D’ Funnybone at 50-1 odds for the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
His sire, Dixie Union won the 1999 Norfolk and he also sired Dixie Chatter who won the Norfolk in 2007. His damsire, Wavering Monarch, is the grandsire of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Interesting to note, Dave In Dixie’s grandsire, Dixieland Band, was the sire of Monarchos’ dam Regal Band.
Undefeated in two starts, John Scott comes into the Norfolk with a win in the I’m Smokin Stakes and retains regular rider Victor Espinoza who won the Norfolk in 2002 aboard Kafwain and Flame Thrower in 2000. John Scott’s sire, Bertrando, won the Norfolk in 1991 and his damsire, Deputy Minister, adds stamina to the pedigree.
At 20-1 morning line odds, Seattle Ruler is an intriguing long shot. His trainer, Mike Harrington, won the Norfolk in 1998 with Buck Trout. His sire, Roman Ruler, won the the 2004 Norfolk and his damsire, A.P. Indy, is the grandsire of 2001 Norfolk winner Essence Of Dubai. After five previous attempts, Seattle Ruler finally broke his maiden in a three-length victory in the Barretts Juvenile Stakes September 20.
If I play this race, I might put a small win, place bet on Seattle Ruler and use him with Dave In Dixie and John Scott in the exacta and trifecta. Or, I may use those three with Lookin At Lucky in a superfecta box.
At 15-1 morning line odds, Shrimp Dancer looks like he could be a very live long shot in the Pilgrim Stakes. Shrimp Dancer is trained by David Donk who has won the Pilgrim a record three times and he retains regular rider John Velazquez who has the most Pilgrim wins with five to his credit. His sire is the 2004 Eclipse Turf Male Kitten’s Joy and his damsire is the multiple grade one champion Formal Gold.
Three other horses that I like in this race are Billions Boy (9-2), Eskendereya (8-1) and Mr. Vegas (12-1).
After two previous attempts, Billions Boy finally broke his maiden last out going gate-to-wire in a 1 1/16 mile turf race on firm ground September 7 at Saratoga. Making his maiden debut in that race, Eskendereya finished second to Bullions Boy tracking the leader behind traffic on the rail in fourth but he finally got clear and finished a fast closing second.
Mr. Vegas has never ran a route race but with Freud who is a full brother to Giant’s Causeway as his sire and Epsom Derby winner The Minstrel as his damsire he should not have a problem stretching out to a route.
Mr. Vegas was steadied and checked multiple times in his maiden debut last out but still managed to take first place honors with Edgar Prado on board. Prado also rode Eskendereya in his maiden debut but he will maintain the mount on Mr. Vegas for the Pilgrim.
Here’s the chart call for Mr. Vegas debut win:
“MR. VEGAS checked after breaking slowly, raced well back, was blocked in traffic on the turn, steadied while gaining at the three-sixteenths pole, checked in midstretch, split horses a sixteenth out and finished with a flourish to win going away.”
At 12-1 morning line odds, Mr. Vegas may be worth a small win, place bet. If I play this race, I’ll probably put a small win, place, bet on Mr. Vegas and Seattle Ruler and use them with Eskendereya and Billions Boy in the exotics.