A happy Friday to everyone before this long President's Day weekend. There is some good racing action on tap over the next few days, including three events for Kentucky Derby prospects (G3-El Camino Real, G2-San Vicente, G3-Southwest Stakes). Additionally, 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will make his four-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park in preparation for a start in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan in March.
Let's take a look at some of the events scheduled for this weekend:
- Golden Gate Fields kicks off this weekend's stakes races for Derby prospects with the G3-El Camino Real at nine furlongs on Saturday. Jerry Hollendorfer's Russian Greek, a winner of three of his first four races (including the ungraded Cal Derby and Gold Rush Stakes) garners morning line favoritism at odds of 5/2.
Lucky Chappy (IRE), 3rd in the G3-Bourbon at Keeneland last October and 4th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, will make the first non-turf start of his career. In his last race, Lucky Chappy finished 2nd to Howe Great in the Kittens Joy at Gulfstream Park. While it would be easy to look at that last race and be disappointed that he could only muster 2nd after being sent to post as odds of almost even money, you could argue that he deserves a lot of credit for finishing as well as he did. Howe Great was allowed to set a sensible pace with the temporary rail on the Gulfstream turf course all the way out at 108 feet; that's a front-runner's dream and an off-the-pace horse's nightmare.
If Lucky Chappy takes to the Golden Gate surface (and that's a big ‘if'), he's could be awfully tough to beat.
- Animal Kingdom will attract a lot of the attention at Gulfstream on Saturday but there is a very nice graded stakes race later on in the afternoon - the G2- Gulfstream Sprint Championship. Force Freeze, defeated by Amazombie by just a neck in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, will make his seasonal debut as the 8/5 morning line favorite. He's been nothing short of excellent since coming to America from Dubai last summer, winning a stakes race at Monmouth and finishing second in the G1-Vosburgh and the Breeders' Cup Sprint. There's not a ton of blazing speed in this race which should allow Force Freeze, drawn furthest outside in stall number eight, the opportunity to get into a perfect stalking position without expending too much energy.
If Force Freeze were to come up with a clunker (however unlikely that may be), there might be an opportunity for Bold Warrior to score the biggest win of his career. A lightly raced Allen Jerkens trainee, Bold Warrior really started to figure things out while running at Belmont last fall. He's had a long stretch on the bench since his last start, so there's a bit of a concern that he'll be ready to run his best, but the cut-back in distance should really suit him.
- On Sunday, Santa Anita will run the G2-San Vicente Stakes featuring the 3rd place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Creative Cause. The odds-on favorite on the morning line (3/5), Creative Cause has won three times in five starts, including victories in the G2-Best Pal and the G1-Norfolk. (For an in-depth look at Creative Cause, check out the feature written by Jared last month.)
Bob Baffert's Drill, winner of the G1-Del Mar Futurity and runner-up to Creative Cause in the Best Pal, draws outside of the favorite and is the second choice on the morning line at odds of 9/2. While Drill began his career in fine fashion (two wins from four starts, including a Grade 1), he's struggled mightily in his last four races. He's shown flashes of talent in the past but, for me, his current form doesn't line up with odds of 9/2. I'm leery of his chances.
If Creative Cause falters, I think the winner could come from the two recent maiden graduates: Smoking G and American Act.
American Act showed good speed from the gate and could use his early pace to put pressure on his rivals in the early going. Given the general speed favoring nature of the Santa Anita main track, his ability to get to the front quickly should be an advantage.
Smoking G is making his first start on dirt after three races on the lawn and the Hollywood Park Cushion Track. Pedigree-wise (Smoke Glacken out of Broad Brush mare (Whitewashed)) the transfer to dirt shouldn't be a huge issue. He's attempting a big jump up in class but trainer Peter Miller has been successful with horses transitioning from turf to dirt in the last five years (9/34, 25% Win%, $52% In-The-Money, $2.39 $2 ROI) Smoking G is cross-entered in the second race on Santa Anita's Saturday card.
I'll take a look at Monday's G3-Southwest Stakes over the weekend.