-The Grade 1 Man o'War has drawn a very tough field of eight, including Gio Ponti, Grand Couturier (GB), Expansion, and Strike a Deal. Gio Ponti has been made the 1-2 morning line favorite...yikes. As good as Gio Ponti is, and he's clearly the most accomplished horse in this field, he hasn't won a race since last August in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. Since that time he's been second four times with a fourth in the Dubai World Cup. Perhaps he just needs a bit more racing luck, or perhaps he's lost a little of that competitive spirit at age five. Regardless, 1-2 is too short of a price on this horse, in my opinion.
Just on pure talent and accomplishment, Strike a Deal falls short of Gio Ponti, but the way this race sets-up might play right into this six year old's hands, so to speak. If Mission Approved goes out to set the clear early pace, which I think he will, then Strike a Deal will have every opportunity to position himself in the garden spot all the way around the track and should be able to get first jump on the rest of the field as they come into the stretch. I don't know if he's got enough to win this but I don't think he could ask for a better potential race shape. He's also 10-1 on the ML, an attractive price when the favorite is odds-on.
-The Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder features thirteen fillies and mares vying at six furlongs on the main track. Jessica Is Back, a third place finisher to Rachel Alexandra in the Fleur de Lis last time out, will try to get back to her winning ways at Calder where she is 17-6-5-1 in her career. She's not much of a sprinter (16-3-5-1), so there's a question as to whether this race is going to be a little less ground than she desires.
Dubai Majesty possesses a lot of qualities that I want to see in this spot: she's coming in off of a strong effort last time out (1st in the G3-Winning Colors), she's sports a solid record at the distance and at the track (12-5-5-0 and 8-3-2-0, respectively), she has a good amount of tactical speed
-I'm not someone that will generally question where or when owners and trainers run their horses. It's one thing to analyze their motives or methods and it another to tell them they are flat out wrong or crazy. This is one of those rare times where I have no problem stating that an owner and/or trainer is completely wrong with their choice of races for their horse, and the horse I am talking about is Nicky Boy.
If you pull the PPs for the Princess Rooney, check out the record of Nicky Boy, trained by Jesse Maldonado and (tentatively) ridden by Victor Espinoza. Maybe it's just me, but there is no way this filly should be allowed to run in this race, none whatsoever. She's run two races in her career and lost them both. Her debut effort in a Maiden Special Weight at Sunland saw her finish last and by 39 ¾ lengths. Then she ran in the Borderland Derby and finished last by 81 lengths. Two career races, two last place finishes, and a combined 120 lengths behind the winners; get this filly out of this race before we have a disaster on our hands.
Nicky Boy is cross-entered in the Grade 3 Azalea earlier on the card, so it looks like the connections are serious about running this filly against graded stakes competition. You might remember Nicky Boy from earlier in the year when NYRA barred her connections from trying to enter her in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial.
Here's a quick story from DRF.com on Nicky Boy.
UPDATE: I've got to add one more note on Nicky Boy: she's has but one published work since February and that was in late March. It's likely that she's been working at a private farm and has a bevy of unpublished works, but that's not really the point. The point is that not only does this filly not even remotely fit in terms of class, but the general public has little to no knowledge of her current fitness. Even if she were to end up winning on Saturday (a highly unlikely scenario), it's still a very risky situation.
I certainly hope the worst thing that happens on Saturday is that Nicky Boy finishes last, because if it's anything else her owners and trainer will have a lot to answer for.
-I'll take a look at the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup and the Grade 1 Triple Bend tomorrow.