By Michael Patricks
What a memorable Breeders’ Cup Weekend it turned out to be from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club as Gun Runner cemented himself for 2017 Horse of the Year honors with a brilliant workmanlike score, taking care of business in the 34th Breeders’ Cup Classic. As for Arrogate’s third consecutive disappointment, some believe he simply does not enjoy the Del Mar surface, while others believe his best days are behind him. After witnessing his brilliance at Meydan in the Dubai World Cup, my feeling is more to the latter. Many horses have returned from the UAE and just not been the same animal on return. The fact he reeled in Gun Runner with devastating ease after the trouble he suffered at the beginning of the World Cup was the most impressive display I had seen on a racetrack since Arazi’s move leaving the 3/8th’s in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
Putting a ribbon and bow on Breeders’ Cup 34, it has to be pointed out what a beautiful wagering weekend this was. Friday’s average win mutuel was approximately 6/1, or $14.80 from the four races and Saturday’s was 16/1, or $34.00 from the nine Breeders’ Cup races. For chalk players, this amount of carnage was truly epic and as such will be the cause for many sleepless nights. Happily suffered a nightmare trip in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and never threatened, Mor Spirit was done by the quarter-pole in the Mile, Mendelssohn got the candy in the Juvenile Turf and did go favored at a luke warm 9/2 but certainly was not easy to find. Elate was a fairly nondescript fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 2/1 (in fact, I don’t really even remember seeing her in the race.)
Saturday was only a slight variation on a similar theme: Moonshine Memories didn’t have it in the Juvenile Fillies, Lady Aurelia was never comfortable at odds-on in the Turf Sprint, Unique Bella went down in flames after a one-horse speed duel in the Filly & Mare Sprint, Lady Eli was listless in the Filly & Mare Turf and Drefong was virtually legless in the sprint. World Approval prevailed as a soft favorite in the Mile but Bolt d’Oro was bizarrely handled in the Juvenile at a short price, Highland Reel was a respectable third at 7/5 in the Turf and as well all know by now, Arrogate was just not himself once again at 2/1 in the Classic. Let this be a lesson to one and all that Breeders’ Cup Weekend is truly Paradise Island for value hunters, while it’s much more like Alcatraz Island for those with fixation issues on short prices.
With the Breeders’ Cup in the rear view mirror, it’s time to turn the page forward and so we’ll keep it local as we focus on the Golden Nugget from Golden Gate Fields with a condensed analysis of the race.
Golden Gate Fields-Race 7
6 Furlongs on Tapeta for Two-year-olds
Post Time: 3:48 P.M. PST
The Golden Nugget is a salty little race on paper and San Jose Sharks fan (morning line odds maker) Steve Martinelli has installed # 2 Intimidate as the 9/5 favorite. He’s an unblemished 2-for-2 and showed a little resilience in his prior start to gut it out through the lane, whereas in his maiden victory he led by open lengths at every call. He’s drawn nicely to the outside in both prior efforts and should get some pace pressure to the quarter from his outside on Saturday.
#4 Runaway Ghost is tucked in nicely as the 2/1 second choice installment to Intimidate and figures prominent. The ‘Ghost has been unseen since ghosting his rivals back in June at Santa Anita and has been popping off bullets in front of the San Gabriel mountains the past couple of Sundays. He appears to be razor sharp and ready to roll off the bench and being by Ghostzapper, he figures to only get better with the added distance and note he’s already toppled Serengeti from the Baffert barn. He looks to be the one to beat on paper if he takes to the Tapeta.
#1 Generally Lucky at 3/1 appears to be a solid conveyance in this spot. The Cal-bred had a difficult start in his career due largely to having his struggles at the gate and melting down before his races. Trainer Steve Specht got away with running him for $16,000 at Pleasanton back in July and since then the chestnut has been in strong form. After a brief freshening, ‘Lucky took back-to-back starter 40’s and when taking on better quality performers last time, he acquitted himself quite nicely with a third place finish as jockey Rocco Bowen got a chance to know him. The rail is no horse’s best friend, but he’s one of the ones.
# 3 Soul of Discretion enters the starting gate as a 6/1 wild card type. He blew the doors off his foes at Canterbury but then was served a dose of reality in his follow up try and stakes debut. He did finish fourth in that race, but the top two were 18 lengths clear of him and the other also-rans back with him. The question has to be asked just who he was competing with in Minnesota. Jeff Bonde has had him for just the one race and he was summarily dispatched in a So Cal six pack with very little problem. Now, Soul heads north in an effort to find his friends and restore some confidence. This jockey/trainer combo has done great work in years past, but given this is his first time stepping onto this surface and he’s in a bit of a freefall on paper, he’s not for me.
# 5 La Waun at 8/1 and # 6 Go Bobby Go at 12/1 will be handled as a packaged deal. The former ran a three-wide, middling effort in his last start and was defeated by Intimidate and Generally Lucky in the process. His big number two back came on dirt and even though he comes from a largely successful and yet somehow unpublicized barn, he seems like he needs to step it up. The latter takes a big step off his maiden breaking effort. ‘Bobby looks destined for a wide trip from the outside stall and should have plenty of work to do turning for home while facing winners and making his overnight stakes debut in one fell swoop; he’s biting off more than he can chew.
Intimidate and Runaway Ghost should be sounding the alarm early and confirming a brisk early tempo. Given that the ‘Ghost should be into the bridle early coming off the layoff, it’s reasonable to expect Intimidate will feel a bit pinned down from the inside and that should take some starch out of him. Waiting in the wings will be Generally Lucky. He’s the only three-time winner in the field and Bowen should have a better idea with him after last time. Tab the General to get the chocolates on Veteran’s Day Weekend at Golden Gate Fields. We’ll catch up with everyone next week. Good luck at the windows!