6/3/2017 Santa Anita Park-Race 7
The Shoemaker Mile-$400,000—Grade I
1 Mile on Turf for Three-year-olds and Upward
Post Time: 4:00 P.M. PST
Analysis by Michael Patricks
Here we sit, one week away from the final jewel in the Triple Crown series with the Belmont Stakes fast approaching. Unfortunately, there is no potential for a thirteenth Triple Crown winner as Always Dreaming’s chances of joining racing immortality went up in smoke before he arrived at quarter-pole on Old Hilltop. The good news for horse players spanning the globe is that the racing is shaping up to be ultra-competitive with thirteen horses listed as probables, including: Classic Empire (4th in Kentucky Derby and 2nd in Preakness), Irish War Cry (second choice in Kentucky Derby while finishing 10th), Lookin at Lee (2nd in Kentucky Derby and 4th in Preakness), Senior Investment (3rd in Preakness), along with the immensely-talented Tapwrit from Todd Pletcher’s stable and Japanese-based Epicharis who finished second to Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby. Classic Empire figures to be favored based on his credentials of consistency but given his recent racing luck and penchant for smaller awards, the Belmont Stakes figures to be anyone’s ballgame.
A lighter Stakes schedule this weekend with Penn National showcasing as the purse headliner. We’ll keep the analysis regionally-based for the Saturday write up with the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita.
1-Heart to Heart 5/2 ML- Deserved favorite, shows up at Santa Anita with his usual rider at the signals after a heartbreaking defeat to American Patriot at Keeneland in the Makers 46 Mile. Heart to Heart was favored in last year’s installment of the Shoemaker, but pulled from the inside slot at odds-on before giving up the ghost in his worst performance of 2016. Going into last year’s Shoemaker, Heart to Heart had four straight triple-digit Beyer figures and rebounded off his poor effort with his fifth triple-digit Beyer in six starts. His only other start at Santa Anita came December 26, 2014 in the Mathis Brothers Mile where he attended the pace before briefly grabbing the lead at the top of the stretch, only to be overhauled late by Alert Bay and company when fading to fourth. This horse typically fires big off the layoff and there are three maintenance drills over the Belmont sod—two of them with the dogs out. Expect Leparoux to put him in the race after the memories of last year but What a View figures to be his pace partner and tooth and nail challenger heading into the lane. As mentioned, he’s the deserving favorite but would much prefer him drawn outside the other main speed; Leparoux is forced to play a tricky hand.
2-What a View 3/1 ML- Cal-bred gelding unquestionably feels he has home court advantage whenever he faces starter Jay Slender at Santa Anita and he merits deep consideration once again. Speed is his primary asset and even though he won races off the pace in years past, he appears happiest when he puts the head in front early and can play leader of the pack. What a View heads into the Shoemaker off a very facile win over Cal-breds in the Crystal Water, beating three rivals in the process. Tyler Baze sticks with him over Farhaan (or so it appears) and that will inspire his backers to reach a little deeper into their pockets in hopes of meeting up with him for a payday. All of his Santa Anita races (with the exception of the Breeders’ Cup Mile when it looked like he was going 870 yards at Los Alamitos leaving the gate) have been very good ones. Heart to Heart may make life miserable for him on the front end and it’s quite possible a speed duel could ensue. The horse that survives the expected battle will no doubt struggle in prevailing in the eventual war against the balance of this talented cast. What a View did stop a seven-race skid last time but he didn’t beat much. His recent history shows his predilection of teasing over pleasing; must avoid getting the late-race wobbles.
3-Bal a Bali (Brz) 3/1 ML- Boasts an impressive 14 wins, but be advised that most of them were racked up in his home country and most notably he’s been victorious only once in his last eight races, though that was an impressive score in the Kilroe Mile at 9/1 where he hung it on What a View and Bolo (both rivals he’ll face again on Saturday). As has become his modus operandi, Mike Smith cherry picks this mount for Richard Mandella which should trim down some of his para-mutuel value. His performance in the Turf Classic at Churchill was quite underwhelming and even though the surface was listed as good, I’m quite sure we can all recall how much moisture and cut was in the ground on Derby Day at Churchill. The Brazilian enjoys looming up but has a tendency to hang just a bit so it will be on Mike Smith to deliver a run at the most opportune time. The one mile distance appears to be his sweet spot and a bounce back effort is likely in the cards from my vantage point; putting him in the fold.
4-Farhaan 4/1 ML- The light bulb appears to be on the verge of full illumination for this son of Jazil who seems to have fully discovered the fountain of middle age coming off his Grade III score in the Thunder Road over this course. Farhaan was mired in mediocrity at the non-winners of two allowance condition for what seemed like an eternity before being dropped into the claiming ranks where he got his mojo back. He appears to have taken to the Golden State like a Kardashian to reality television, enjoying his new and improved training regimen with the savvy Phil D’Amato. The come home time in the Thunder Road was :11.43 compared to the :12.02 of Bal a Bali and company in the Kilroe. Understanding that Tyler Baze lands on What a View, my confidence is only emboldened by the presence of Flavien Prat and all the success he and D’Amato have shared recently. Farhaan means happiness and euphoria in Arabic and there’s little reason to believe his backers like myself won’t be feeling the same when Prat comes calling at the eight pole; May 28th blowout seals my confidence that his second triple-digit Beyer cometh on Saturday and that be right soon; the pick.
5-Free Rose 12/1 ML- Sovereign voyage as a four-year-old and his connections have picked a difficult spot for a return to the races. A former $20,000 claimer, Free Rose had a very productive three-year-old season amassing $320,000 in earnings while capturing both the La Jolla and Del Mary Derby in the process. The turf has made all the difference for this Munnings son and it will be interesting to see if his four-year-old campaign will be as fruit-bearing for him as last year’s. As for Saturday, this is an extremely difficult comeback spot and while he does hail from a clever outfit, his races off the shelf have been just okay. Off the layoff, he’s likely to be fresh and forwardly placed but the hard hitting veterans drawn inside will assuredly do him no favors out on the front end where he likes to be. His races second off the bench have been far more impressive and I’ll be looking to kick his tires next time out assuming he’ll be more realistically spotted; outsider.
6-Gangster 30/1 ML- Much like Farhaan, Gangster had been stuck at the non-winners of two allowance condition as well before Doug O’Neill attempted to shake things up a bit by throwing him in with the wolves of the Santa Anita Handicap on dirt and seeing if that could percolate his spirit. Needless to say, he ran listlessly at a huge price and tried dirt one more time at Charles Town over a soupy surface, swimming home for seventh at yet another large price. Gangster returns to turf and that appears to be what he likes most but he’s been routinely handled by lesser caliber stabled on the backside whose connections did not consider this as a viable spot to run in. Appears he’s headed into the deep end of the pool to swim with sharks once again and I’d recommend tossing him a life jacket in lieu of following him in head first yourself. Unless 30/1 shots in seven horse fields are simply an offer you can’t refuse, I’d recommend you pass.
7-Bolo 4/1 ML- This guy has had his moments and is the two-time defending champ of the Arcadia Handicap, a Grade II at Santa Anita that’s run each February. He’s also amassed four triple-digit Beyers and was regarded well enough to go favored in the Makers 46 Mile at Keeneland. He doesn’t win as often as his speed figures suggest he should and his favorite tyro has decided to go Brazilian. Corey Nakatani gets the call, even though he is serving a suspension throughout the weekend so he should be fresh and ready to ride. Bolo sports a steady string of drills on the main track to keep up his condition and he’s undoubtedly one of the ones. Drawn widest, Nakatani will have to seek a bit of cover with him given there is so much speed signed on which seems almost dedicated to going to the front, most likely leaving him in the one-one. Bolo is an “any given Sunday” kind of animal, but I’ll be looking to beat him for top honors on Saturday, especially since Farhaan ran him over when it mattered in the Thunder Road and since the former appears to be the “now horse”; best used underneath.