Four very nice Grade 1 races are on the schedule for today: the Man o'War, the Princess Rooney, the Triple Bend, and the Hollywood Gold Cup. Below is a quick look at each race in the order that they'll run in today.
5:17 EDT: Man o'War Stakes - Belmont Park
Usually the Man o'War Stakes will draw one or two European shippers that are looking to test the North American waters with an eye on a possible start in the Breeders' Cup. This year, however, we have a field that is comprised entirely of North American based horses.
(You gotta love spellchecker when you're trying to write about horse racing; the suggestions that I get for "mis-spelled" horse names are hilarious. "Man o'War" should be Man O'Hare. "Gio Ponti" should be "Goo Ponte". And "Gayego" is suggested to be" Gaye Go". Spellchecker also doesn''t like the words "exacta", "trifecta", or "superfecta". Perhaps I should pitch an idea to Microsoft for a horse racing-based word processing program as I'm sure that would be a money maker!)
I really can't blame anyone that will go all in with 8-Gio Ponti (1/2) today as you figure he's going to get back into the winner's circle at some point soon. The draw should give him a bit of a cleaner trip than he received in the Manhattan when he drew along the hedge. He didn't get an awful trip that day but the little bit of traffic he did encounter was probably enough to allow Winchester to nip him at the wire. Gio Ponti ran the final ¼ mile of the Manhattan in a sparkling 22.07 seconds; if he does that again in this race he'll be incredibly tough to beat.
I wrote the other day that if I had to take a value play in this race I would lean towards 3-Strike a Deal (10/1) who I think might just get a perfect trip behind 5-Mission Approved. If he's able to slow thing down on the front end perhaps he can hold on to the 2-spot and generate some value in the exacta.
5:41 EDT: Princess Rooney Handicap - Calder Race Course
My ability to handicap a race at Calder rates somewhere below that of a two year old; for some reason I've never been able to consistently get a handle on what to look for at this track. Perhaps today will be different but I'm pretty sure that what I'm about to write will turn out to be completely opposite of what happens on the track. Despite that, I'll still give it a shot.
Todd Pletcher's 4-Hour Glass (5/1) draws my interest a bit due to her great form at six furlongs (5-4-1-0) and a solid effort in her last race, the Grade 2 Vagrancy at Belmont. The Vagrancy had a small field of six horses but it's turned out to be a very, very strong race as two of the fillies have come back to win stakes races in their next start. 2nd place finisher Rightly So won the Grade 3 Bed Of Roses at Belmont on June 5th with a 96 Beyer, while 5th place finisher Malibu Prayer won the Lighthouse at Monmouth on June 26th with a 98 Beyer. I like previous race strength like that and think Hour Glass could be a great play at 5/1.
Normally I wouldn't touch a mare like 8-Dubai Majesty (8/1) as she's a horse that drifts in and out of form pretty rapidly from start to start. Given her most recent performance, a win in the Grade 3 Winning Colors, I'm a little concerned that she'll revert back to a borderline listed stake contender in this race. On the other hand, while this field is full of quality fillies and mares it's not dripping with Grade 1 talent; perhaps this is a spot that she can run a second consecutive strong race.
9-Warbling (7/2) had a bit of a tough go in the Humana Distaff on Derby day but I'm not sure she loved kicking around in the slop that afternoon. She gets Leparoux back in the saddle for this race and the wide post position should keep her free of anything too rough in the early stages. I'd hate to take a favorite in a 13-horse field, but 7/2 isn't bad odds for a filly of Warbling's talent in a spot like this.
12-Nicky Boy is 99/1 on the morning line. I suppose she could win but that doesn't mean she has any business running in this race. If she finishes within 39 lengths of the winner she'll have run the best race of her career.
I'm going to go with Pletcher's Hour Glass in this race, followed by Warbling as my 2nd choice.
3:41 PDT: Triple Bend Handicap - Hollywood Park
4-Gayego returns from Dubai and gets all the love from the morning line odds makers at 9/5; those are some pretty low odds for a horse coming off a trip like that, even if he has been back in the States for a few months.
6-Sangaree (7/2) has run good races time and time again, but his only wins in the last year+ have been in a listed stake and an N2X event. This horse is another that I think the odds are a bit too low on.
3-M One Rifle (4/1) hasn't been at the top of his game in his first two starts of 2010 after winning the Grade 1 Malibu the day after Christmas. He should love the extra furlong he'll get today as he's a solid 3-2-0-1 at the distance. Toss in Mike Smith and I'll take this gelding as my value play at 4/1.
4:41 PDT: Hollywood Gold Cup - Hollywood Park
3-Awesome Gem (10/1) just hasn't had it going for quite some time now; he won the Hawthorne Gold Cup last October and since then has been unable to find the winners circle. Unless he's able to pull a quick form reversal I think he'll be an outsider once again.
4-Richard's Kid (5/2), like Gayego in the Triple Bend, returns to North America following a trip to Dubai in March. And just like Gayego, I'm hesitant to get onboard with this colt until I've seen him start a race back here in the States. Not all horses have a tough time shipping long distances so it's possible that he could come back and turn in a big effort. At the same time, drawing into a field that contains Rail Trip is a tough task, even without the journey halfway around the world.
6-Rail Trip (4/5) certainly has all the markings of an odds-on favorite in this spot. He's in great form, he sports a great record at Hollywood Park (7-5-2-0), he's got tactical speed that should keep him involved early on, and he's got a jockey and a trainer that are using Hollywood as their own personal playground this summer. It's tough to make a case for anyone else with all that Rail Trip has going for him in this spot.