Santa Anita Park–Race 8–The Frontrunner (Grade I)
1 & 1/16th Miles on Dirt for Two-Year-Olds
Analysis by Michael Patricks
It’s opening weekend from “The Great Race Place” and that means a bevy of Breeders’ Cup prep races will be run on Saturday’s 11-race program from Santa Anita, with post time set for 12:30 p.m. Five Grade 1 races are on the docket, including four in succession, giving punters a bonanza of opportunities to isolate some winners of value and quality. With the two-year-olds beginning to step out and declare themselves as possible stars of tomorrow, the weekly analysis will focus on the Grade 1 Frontrunner Stakes which has drawn a competitive field of nine in this two-turn sojourn.
1-Zatter 5/2 ML– Baffert part one: He’s drawn the cozy outside slot in both of his starts, leading to a comfortable victory in his debut and a solid runner-up finish in the Del Mar Futurity behind today’s favorite in Bolt d’Oro. Third place finisher Run Away came back to win at Los Alamitos last Saturday, closing from the parking lot in the Barretts Juvenile to get up in the shadow of the wire. Zatter gets an extra tip of the cap for defeating St. Patrick’s Day in his debut who is well thought of himself. Zatter goes from two outside draws to an inside stall for this assignment which is his two-turn debut and that could prove to be a bit more tricky. Zatter was overhauled late by Bolt d’Oro and must avoid dueling and running hooked every step of the way. An old axiom I subscribe to is to never take too short price on a horse who is doing something for the first time. Given the post switch and two-turn debut, I’ll try and beat him at the odds; probably an underlay, and there is a chance he may scratch to run back east anyway.
2-Take the One O One 15/1 ML– Trainer Brian Koriner has always been high on him and this Acclamation son took the long way home in his two-turn and turf debut, beaten just two lengths while taking on open company for the first time. His maiden score was done professionally and without extraordinary effort, but note the Cal-bred’s six furlong time of 1:11.3 is about seven lengths slower than Zatter’s maiden time of 1:10.1. The two-turn experience should be a feather in his cap but further note the winner of his last race is 8/1 in here and so it’s difficult to look at Take the One O One on paper and put your finger on something tangible that leads you to believe his time is now. Perhaps there is something in the mist with him I’m failing to see, but it looks like he’ll be sitting in stop-and-go traffic while his competitors take the diamond lane at the top of the stretch; looks a cut below.
3-Ayacara (GB) 10/1 ML– Redeemed himself in start number two after a very pedestrian debut which saw him get beaten double digits in a small field. The move to two turns did him many favors and Ayacara fought on valiantly to win a three-horse battle to the wire. The 20 point lift in Beyer speed figures is a positive sign and Ayacara’s sire, Violence, is off to a very hot start as a producer. Prat bails for Solomini and Kent D. shifts over to ride for his brother Keith in start number three. If he steps forward again, he’s a player. But if his pedestrian work tab in the interim is a reflection of where he is heading into his Grade 1 debut, he’s going to have a tough time overcoming the also-ran tagline; looks iffy and he may be better on grass.
4-Bolt d’oro 2/1 ML– Your likely chalk, ‘Bolt got the gold medal in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity when he was able to sit in the ideal slipstream behind his embattled foes and pounce on them collectively as they were softened up in the final furlong, left unable to offer much in the way of resistance. Zatter may have been too close to the fire himself in the Del Mar Futurity and in fact it was probably a blessing for Bolt d’Oro that he missed the break somewhat, thus forcing him to time his run from off the pace. The pace scenario may have made this colt look better than he actually is on paper, and while he remains the one to beat, he must prove he’s a two-turn pony and can upstage two of Baffert’s bullets to get the candy; questions abound as to whether he steps forward once again; obvious contender but the concerns are outlined.
5-City Plan 20/1 ML– Got up by a desperate head at Los Alamitos at a healthy number after appearing to hang somewhat in the lane. He was “name your price-to one” in the debut and completely manhandled by Zatter back in August. His trainer is definitely cagey and to be respected, and for that reason it’s my opinion he’s not entirely hopeless, but one must wonder if this entry isn’t perhaps to pacify the deep-pocketed ownership group than it is a legitimate entry to garner black type on Saturday. The breeding is there in his pedigree and he could stick around for a while if he can step forward off his maiden tally. On paper though this is a tough ask. It’s one thing to re-rally against Dark Vader at Los Al, but it’s a totally different animal touring with this cast in their last stop heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar on November 5th; iffy city.
6-Texas Wedge 6/1 ML– Blew their doors right off in his unveiling and paid $10.00 in the process, looking like he should have been odds-on through the lane. There is a steady string of drills for the cagey Peter Miller on display and he can brag about having the top Beyer speed figure in the field, even if it came by way of a $50,000 maiden claimer. Can he carry his speed an extra three furlongs off the layoff with the step up in class? If anyone can get those types of results it’s his trainer, showing flat-bet profits with two-year-olds and layoff horses. These Colonel John’s can sometimes be quite precocious out of the gate; don’t sleep on this guy.
7-Encumbered 8/1 ML– Second son of Violence in the cast, he took the grand tour of the Jimmy Durante turf course at Del Mar, but nevertheless battled his way to victory in the Del Mar Juvenile while giving up ground at every turn in the process. He was pasted quite comprehensively in his debut by Run Away who came back to finish third in the Del Mar Futurity before his Barretts score. Two turns appears to be what he enjoys the most and he’s the only one in here with said two-turn victory. If he can pick his feet over the dirt he rates as a solid contender and one to fear in the lane as his rider knows him well; joins favorite as one of the two, two-time winners in the race; he’s a player.
8-Solomini 4/1 ML– Baffert part two: He took his debut on talent and conditioning alone, tracking the leaders throughout and reeling in Bahamian with relative ease, the two of them better than eight lengths clear of third. Solomini came home on the wrong lead and was fairly green throughout, but the talent truly oozes off this individual and it’s worth noting that Prat merely gave him a hand ride through the majority of the stretch. The outside draw is key on Saturday as well for him. He will be able to sit outside as he did in his debut, and when the time comes he should be in the clear and able to bring his long, sustained, grinding type of run. By Curlin, and out of a Storm Cat mare, Solomini should relish the added distance and with three solid works between races, it tells me he’s thriving in Baffert’s baby boot camp; the pick.
9-Continental Divide 15/1 ML– Cal-bred fetched $245,000 at auction in May of this year and has been taking turns with his state-bred friends in sharing the top honors in the revolving doors of victory. He was sent off as favorite in the I’m Smokin but really didn’t do much of anything and was summarily dispatched as the 2/1 favorite. Now he leaves state-bred company, raises up to Grade 1 competition, goes sprint-to-route, and draws widest of all heading into the clubhouse turn. He’s got some talent but it appears to be laying largely dormant to this point. The barn is 1-for-30 with two-year-olds, so I wouldn’t blame you at all if you choose to take a knee over going to the window to back him in earnest; I’m not feeling it.