The Hanshin Cup (Grade III)

Well, it’s now in the history books as Justify made it an undefeated 4-for-4 with his determined two-and-a-half-length score in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, prevailing in a long and unsullied drive ahead of Good Magic and Audible.  Justify’s win gave trainer Bob Baffert his fifth Kentucky Derby tally and jockey Mike Smith his second as well (Giacomo 2005).  Did you know?  Bob Baffert has now won the Kentucky Derby with every color horse: Silver Charm (grey/roan), Real Quiet and American Pharoah (bay), War Emblem (dark bay) and he completed the “color crown” (not to be confused with the homonym — colored crayon) with Justify (chestnut).  Justify now plots his course for Old Hilltop in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course, to be run Saturday, May 19th.

Make sure to come on down to the Jockey Club at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds next Saturday to watch and wager on the Preakness Stakes.  Tables are on sale now–call 707-524-6340 for all the information.  Doors will open at 9 a.m. on Preakness Saturday, so tell your friends and make plans to join us as Justify looks to take another step forward in becoming racing’s thirteenth Triple Crown winner.

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As predicted by yours truly, Justify was the winner of Kentucky Derby # 144, paying $7.80 on a $2 win ticket.  Let’s see if we can keep the momentum going with a look at the Grade III Hanshin Cup from Arlington Park on Saturday.

Arlington Park—Race 7

The Hanshin Cup (Grade III)
1 Mile on Synthetic for 3 y/o and Up

Post Time: 2:41 PST

Racing is back in the greater Chicago area as Arlington Park re-opened its doors for its 2018 season this past Friday, May 4th.  The Hanshin is a one-turn mile for older stock and this event is an interesting race on paper that should yield a decent win mutuel.

# 1 Ghost Hunter is the 3/1 luke-warm morning line favorite.  Even though the old adage states that it’s a foolish to try and (mess) with a grizzled veteran, I’m going to tempt fate in doing so.  Ghost Hunter has a long resume that must be respected which includes 18 wins from 51 starts.  Even though you can’t quibble with his overall ledger, you have to wonder if perhaps Father Time may be close to setting in.  Sure, he ran his eyeballs out in this race last year as a small favorite and posted a 98 Beyer, but the horses at Presque Isle Downs he has lost to on synthetic would not be considered world beaters in this spot. Finally, the last time he wore Blinkers was in 2013 and 2014.  In both those races, he was essentially distanced.  I’ve got to take a stand against him in this spot so I’ll be tempting fate by tugging on his grey beard in the center of the ring, hoping I don’t pull out his inner-Captain Lou Albano with his signature diving elbow drop.

# 5 Wellabled is the tepid 7/2 second choice and is likely to be sent off as the betting favorite in my opinion.  His sizzling sprinting speed and success on synthetic surfaces stamp the Shackleford son as the strong selection to sledgehammer his speed-chasing, sporting-rivals.  Wellabled ran a winning race when hooked sprinting in the Lost in the Fog at Golden Gate, but was collared late by Tribal Storm who was subsequently haltered in his next race by the cagey Ari Herbertson barn.  He’s won a Grade III over this surface by better than seven, so you have to respect him.  The distance is the primary question however, and I’m hoping he’ll be a bit too far out over his skates in the final furlong; he’s a heavy hitter, regardless.

# 8 Goneghost will have his share of supporters at 9/2.  The Illinois-bred is 10-for-13 lifetime, but this is a big class call for him heading into a graded-stakes event for the first time.  The grey grandson of Cherokee Run has plenty of speed and should be ‘up and on the early gallop’ to quote track announcer John Dooley.  I’d like to see the ‘Ghost and Wellabled hook up approaching the half-mile pole, ensuring a solid tempo for the back markers.  I want to see him prove it on this stage and so logically he’ll be a play against for me.

# 9 Master Merion lures the serves of Corey Nakatani and is 5/1.  He’s competed exclusively on grass and comes out of a race at Keeneland where he dueled tenaciously before being collared late.  He’s another who I think wants to be close up, but if Nakatani can get him to settle just a bit, he could get the first jump on some deeper closers.  The barn does well on this surface.  # 3 Christian C is 6/1 and could sit a solid trip for Mr. Chicago, trainer Wayne Catalano. The five-year-old chestnut is an Illinois-bred who has enjoyed most of his success in state-bred races.  He also has not run since November and shows only two works for his comeback race.  Tab the tote for more clues coming out of this camp, but I’m going to operate under the assumption that he’ll need the race and try to beat him.

# 6 Crewman at 20/1 is out to defend his title in this race but has been a man overboard that’s lost at sea since he won this race last year.  If lightning can indeed strike twice, then you’ll need to throw me a life preserver.

I’m going to try and light up the board with # 7 Harmac at 20/1 on the line since I see many up arrows that inspire playing him.  First off, he’s got the right running style to be effective on Saturday, since in all of his wins he’s found cover before coming through for victory.  He’s 1-for-1 on synthetic and has won at Arlington going this distance with his highest lifetime Beyer figure of 89.  This is his second start off a layoff as a four-year-old and the last time he stretched out to a mile off a sprint, he won with a nice 86 Beyer at Ellis Park.  I recognize that this isn’t Ellis Park and that he broke his maiden for 50 sellers, but if you look at his last race at Keeneland which was strictly a prep for this, he swam home like Michael Phelps in the final quarter-mile, gaining thirteen lengths in the final ¼ mile, without being asked the question by James Graham’s persuader.  This horse never gets bet, and if you’re willing to toss the Indiana turf debacle… bombs away; I’ll be betting him across the board.

# 2 Matrooh at 20/1 must show he can handle synthetic while climbing the ladder on the stretch out; I’d side against.  # 4 Great Wide Open at 15/1 has competitive Beyers on grass but lacks any real identity in the running style department to suggest supporting him at the window.  # 10 Western Elegance at 12/1 has done quality work over this surface but has a bad tendency to hang when it matters.  He must avoid going around the cape in a race he figures to need off a six-month absence.

Selections: 7-5-9-8 in the Hanshin.