Thursday, August 16, 2012

Clarifying The Point

My analysis of the Sword Dancer Invitational for the Handicapper’s Corner @ThoroFan and why the Black & Cherry colors could have a big afternoon.
One of two Grade 1’s at Saratoga on Saturday, let’s take a look at the 38th running of the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at a mile and a half on the grass. It is most certainly a stepping stone to the BC Turf in the fall.

From the rail out:

Al Khali - Six year old rig, trained by Bill Mott, he has earned $750,000 without ever winning a Grade 1. While he’s a useful sort, he has never won at the distance.  

Point of Entry – Co- highweight, in with 123, he is picking up 5 lbs from his last effort. Coming off 3 straight victories, including the Grade 1 Man ‘O War, he has the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez.  Great family and the Dynaformers only get better with age. He is two-for-two at the distance and is, without a doubt, the horse to beat.

Tahoe Lake (Brz.) – Eligible for NW 3, but this horse gets better as the distances get longer. Tough spot, but he always finds a way to hit the board. He has been beaten by the top choice every time they have met (twice at equal weights) and now gets 7 lbs from that one.   He would have to take a step up.

Newsdad – The OTHER Mott horse, who has won twice at the distance, including the Grade 2 Pan American, (4 horse field) this horse has shown signs of talent from day one, and finally showed some consistency at Gulfstream this winter. This will be a second start off a freshening, with a rider switch to Rosario. 

Game Ball – Don’t want to criticize a winner of 10 of 22 races, but don’t think this Grade 1 is the spot for this former claimer.

Center Divider – Second to Point of Entry when leading the way in the Man ’O War, after a 3 month freshening. He has been beaten by others in here. Has Rosie in the saddle, likes to relax on the engine, but may not be the only one up front.

Hailstone – Always tries, but doesn’t appear to want to go this far with Grade 1 types.

Brilliant Speed – the other Dynaformer and I have always thought highly of this million dollar Grade 1 winner on synthetic. Good third in the 2011 BC Turf, but has yet to run back to that effort. HE IS one-for-one at Saratoga however, and gets a rider switch. Could be a factor and gets in light.

Turbo Compressor - He is the speed, but has never been this far. Breaking from the outside he will have to use a little bit of that speed to secure his position. He is 3 for 4 on turf, including the grade 1 United Nations. Is the co-highweight with 123, and is Pletcher- trained- but can he hang on?

The Pick: Point of Entry

Point of Entry is coming into this race off 3 wins and his numbers are improving with every race. By Dynaformer out of Matlatcha Pass, by Seeking the Gold, he is a half to multiple Grade 1 winner Pine Island, and his dam is a full sister to Stakes winners Pleasant Home and Country Hideaway.  He is bred every which way for turf, for distance and to be a top class racehorse. If the race unfolds like the Man ’O War did, he should be stalking a moderate pace with his tactical speed, and will once again, make his move on the leader(s). This horse looks like the real deal and with a win here, he will be on his way to the Breeder’s Cup Turf this fall. If you are looking to play any exotics I would look to the horses that have been successful at the distance. Most modern day American horses want no part of a mile and a half. Look to those who have shown that they do.

Trainer Shug McGaughey, with primary owner Phipps Stable, could have a big weekend with 3 horses in 3 Grade 1’s on Saturday, all with good chances. The improving filly Sea Island looks to step up and stretch out in the Alabama and Boisterous has a very good look in the Arlington Million, especially with some “give” in the ground.  A win by Point of Entry in the Sword Dancer, could start a pretty nice day for the black and cherry colors of the Phipps family, one of the last breeding/racing dynasties left in this country. Good luck if you are wagering and safe trips to all our equine friends!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Little Karma and the Fourstardave

The Fourstardave Handicap is on tap for Saturday at Saratoga. It is a Grade 2 for 3 year olds and up, over the inner turf course. The race has always been run at a mile and 1/16th, but the distance has been changed this year to a mile. The track record for the original distance is 1:38.91, from 1991, set by – you guessed it- Fourstardave.

Previously known as the Daryl’s Joy, (and while no horse deserves to have his name taken away from a prestigious stake – as racetracks frequently do) , it was renamed the Fourstardave after he won it twice. The NY bred won a race at the Spa, every year from 1987 to 1994. Remarkable indeed, and because Fourstardave “owned” the track for so many years and was such a fan favorite, he was given the nickname the “Sultan of Saratoga.”

NYRA take note: Don’t ever change the name of this race.

Fourstardave started 99 times, with 21 wins, 18 seconds and 16 thirds, with 15 of those wins on turf. He accumulated over a million and a half in earnings. At the age of 12 he participated in the High Hope Steeplechase, at the Kentucky Horse Park, and finished second, for charity. He even has a street named after him, next to Siro’s restaurant.

At the age of 17, he was preparing for New York Showcase Day, in which he was to make an appearance in the post parade. He suffered a heart attack, and the son of Compliance out of Broadway Joan was laid to rest at Clare Court. That in itself was an honor, as he is one of only three horses ever to be buried there.

This year’s renewal of the Fourstardave is contentious.

Let’s take a look from the rail out.

Data Link – Janney owned, Shug trained, this colt by War Front is a Grade 1 winner on turf. He has never run over the Spa turf however, but is coming off a win at Monmouth and has been freshened up for this. Nice maintenance works since then, with a bullet work last Sunday. He is sharp, but will need to get the trip and the pace should set up well for him. He is the high weight with 121 lbs, and goes back to former rider, Solis. More on this, later….

Wise Dan – This million dollar earner is a versatile sort, with Graded Stakes wins on dirt, turf and synthetic. He can just flat out run on anything. Another that has been freshened; he sports a bullet from July 30th of 58:2, best of 52 turf works that morning. He has tactical speed to sit right behind the pacemaker. He secures the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who is a neck shy of 4 wins in a row on him.

Get Stormy - He is the class of the field, with money won and Grade 1 Stakes wins. He won this race back in 2010, and his connections would love to win it again. He loves to run and loves to go to the front. He has 4 wins and a second from 5 tries at the Spa. He is coming off a tough beat to Data Link at Monmouth but he is coming into this sharp and ready. Shortening back up, this horse is the speed of the speed and never easy to get by.

Guy’s Reward – This Dale Romans’ trainee has finally come into his own, with 3 wins in a row, against lesser. He is a tryer, and always has a nice kick in the end. Do not leave out of exotics.

Right One – He is a Clement trainee, and this distance seems to suit. Not sure if he’s the “right one”, but he will be a little price, and he gets in light. Never underestimate C.C. He and jock Julien Leparoux have been clicking at this meet.

Surfrider – Trained by Eddie Kenneally, his best efforts have been going shorter. He is lightly raced, and his last win was a conditioned allowance race, but another trainer that you can not underestimate. This colt was well thought of in France last year, and was 3rd to Goldikova‘s second, in the Prix de la Foret. He will be a price in here, gets in light and could light up the tote board.

Corporate Jungle – He is one-for-one over the Saratoga lawn. Trained by Chad Brown, he is a consistent sort. He did not disgrace when going to the West Coast for the Grade 1 Shoemaker mile. Might appreciate being back on home turf.

Upgrade – Colt by 2005 Horse of the Year, St. Liam, he has been brought along slowly by trainer Michelle Nihei. Draw a line through the Fort Marcy, when he encountered soft turf and he is a sleeper in here. Add to that, the addition of the hot riding Joel Rosario. Worth a look at a price.

Yield Bogie –Sturdy eight year old, winless in two years, but coming in with a bullet work. Could catch a piece with a well-timed ride, but this is a tough bunch.

Crossbow – MTO- nice Darley colt, will only start if race is taken off the turf.

That being said, the weather forecast is calling for some rain. Always check the turf condition, if the race stays on. And always take the MTO seriously, if the race comes off the turf and onto the dirt.

You have some proven class horses (Data Link, Get Stormy, Wise Dan) that on any given day could be 1-2-3 in here, in any order. Corporate Jungle is turning out to be a very nice horse, Upgrade has the potential to improve, Surfrider and Right One are the question marks. Guy’s Reward can pick up the pieces.

I may play this race looking for a little jockey “karma”. This weekend, John Velazquez will finally be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame. He has ridden both Data Link and Upgrade to victories, but yet is aboard Wise Dan, once again. He has won SEVEN Fourstardaves’, and his father-in-law, Leo O’Brien, was the trainer of the “Sultan”. The weekend might just belong to Johnny V and I think he has a good chance to win this race for the eighth time aboard Wise Dan.