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Monday Odds and Ends

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-Mike Watchmaker has nice piece over at DRF.com discussing Soldat's performance in that allowance race on Friday afternoon (Soldat? Skeptical).  I agree with his conclusion that the race ended up a bit weaker due to the scratch of Dialed In and the sloppy surface makes it difficult to assess how good of a performance it was.  The Beyer fig came back very large (102) but I think a lot of people have a "wait and see" attitude with this colt.

-It was noted a week or so ago that Santa Anita was going to add some sand to the main track in the hopes of replenishing the surface after the heavy rains earlier this month created a bit imbalance in its composition.  I don't know if they've completed that task or not, but if they have it did little to slow the track down.  Saturday's Grade 2 Palos Verdes, which was won by Euroears, saw the following fractions during the race:

21.56, 43.47, 1:07.23

Euroears set all of those fractions on his own and easily beat took down his other five rivals, including Smiling Tiger.  Below is a comparison of the finishing times for all main track sprints at Santa Anita over the weekend, along with the running style of the winners:

Day

Race

Class

Dist.

1/4

1/2

Finish

Style

Sat

2

8k Clm

6.5

21.91

44.50

1:15.66

Stalk

Sat

3

40k MdClm

5.5

21.77

44.97

1:04.16

Wire

Sat

7

G2 PalosVerdes

6.0

21.56

43.47

1:07.23

Wire

Sat

9

MdSpWt

5.5

21.55

44.70

1:02.92

Closer

Sun

1

16k Clm

6.5

22.12

44.67

1:15.38

Wire

Sun

3

30k MdClm

6.0

22.23

45.55

1:10.52

Mid

Sun

6

20k MdClm

6.0

22.00

45.06

1:09.55

Wire

Sun

7

Alw/OC 40k

7.0

22.48

44.83

1:20.31

Wire

Sun

9

25k Clm

6.0

21.34

43.52

1:08.11

Wire

The class of races and their relative finishing times makes sense from the perspective that most of the higher class races show the faster times.  We would expect horses in a Grade 2 to run significantly faster than those in a Maiden Claimer.  But there are also some races where the ridiculous speed nature of the course is readily apparent, such as the ninth race on Sunday where $20k claimers zipped through six furlongs in 1:08.11, less than a second off of the Palos Verdes the day before. 

The running style of the winner follows the pattern seen at Santa Anita since opening day: get out on the lead early.  The one closer to win a sprint race on the weekend (Hout Bay in the night cap on Saturday) didn't exactly loaf along in the early stages (22.89 opening quarter).  For the most part, you ain't winning if you ain't on the lead at Santa Anita.

As for the Palos Verdes and the performance of Euroears, I'm going to take it with a grain of salt for the time being.  I suppose it's the nature of the horse player to always question the validity of a winner, but I just can't completely accept that this colt could come in off of a six month lay-off and put up fractions like that without considerable help from the surface.  Obviously, since he's trained by Bob Baffert, he'll get more opportunities to run over this surface in the future.  But if the changes that track maintenance are performer begin to affect the dominance of front-end speed, he could be vulnerable.

The word today is that Euroears may try the Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup day for his next start.  

-I wish Stradivinsky could have done at the Breeders' Cup what he did in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on Sunday.

-Saturday is the annual Sunshine Millions program between Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park, a program that I think has lost a bit of luster the past few years.  I don't have any idea what the field sizes will look like for the card but I hope the races offer something decent from a betting perspective.

-Gulfstream will run the Holy Bull this Sunday and Nick Zito's Dialed In is expected to enter the field following his scratch from that allowance race last Friday.

-The first weekend in February proves us with our first multiple Grade 1 race weekend of the year (finally!).  Gulfstream will run the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.  They will also run the Grade 3 Suwannee River.  Out at Santa Anita they'll run the Grade 1 Las Virgenes along with the Grade 2 Strub and Grade 3 Thunder Road.