A Vegas Weekend

Robert Laberge

A quick look at some of the stakes action this weekend.

Greetings from Sin City! I'm spending the weekend down here in Vegas primarily to attend the NASCAR race on Sunday (my first every live NASCAR race), so I'll be in and out of the comments all weekend (and hopefully can get the races streamed to my phone at Las Vegas Motorspeedway this weekend).

Anyway, I spent the flight down to Vegas drinking Scotch and handicapping Saturday's cards at Gulfstream and Tampa; it remains to be seen how effective a combination that is!

Some quick thoughts on some of Saturday's action:

  • I can't wait until the Hillsborough at Tampa on Saturday afternoon as I think 5-Foreces of Darkness (IRE) is a fantastic play. She's 9/2 on the ML (although I'm naively hoping she drifts up just a tad from that number) but she's the kind of Euro shipper I simply love to play in the U.S. First, take a look at her firm ground/synthetic form in Europe (those races on "Fast" tracks in France are on the "standard" or synthetic surface). Every time she's run on firm ground she's given a good account of herself, including a ½ length defeat in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp last May. When she gets heavy or soft ground her form dips noticeably so if Tampa stays dry she should love the going.

    Second reason I really like Forces of Darkness is if you look at her running line notes she tended to show some speed over in Europe. And while that won't translate to speed in the U.S., given the much quicker pace scenarios over here, I think she'll at least be able to sit mid-pack with this field which should give her plenty of chances in the stretch.

    And finally, I like the fact we get Johnny V. on board for the first time AND that this filly is drawn in the middle of the gate. Johnny V. should have plenty of time to tuck this filly under some cover, which is where most of the Euros want to be in the early stages.

    Needless to say, I'm running to the windows to bet Forces of Darkness.
  • As for the Tampa Bay Derby, we've got a ton of horses trying two turns for the first time which could make things interesting in the early stages. The pace appears to be strong, at a minimum, with horses like Verrazano, Offlee Fast and Falling Sky fighting it out in the early stages. As a result, I like Honorable Dillion due to his ability to come from off the pace and his 6/1 morning line odds. We'll see if those hold up at all once the betting opens.
  • I don't really have much of a pick in the San Felipe; this is more of a race to watch and learn for me as I want to see how Flashback runs in a race with a bit more speed and a more respectable field than the Lewis.
  • There is a nice looking first time starter in the 8th race at Gulfstream on Saturday, 1-Jet Force (6/1). A son of Candy Ride (one of my favorite sires) out of a Seeking the Gold mare, this gelding has the pedigree to win early. Michael Matz doesn't typically score with first timers so I'm leery to play this guy unless I can get those odds up to the 10 to 12/1 range, but I'm intrigued.

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