By Michael Patricks
Next stop, New York. The Bob Baffert-trained Justify emerged from the fog on Old Hilltop victorious in the Preakness Stakes last Saturday, and so the Scat Daddy colt will arrive at Belmont Park looking to become the thirteenth winner of racing’s hallowed Triple Crown. Justify was sent off at odds of 2/5 in the Preakness and narrowly prevailed over the fast-closing Bravazo with Tenfold close in tow. Those two will be looking to play spoiler once again in the Belmont Stakes along with Hofburg (7th in the Kentucky Derby) and Blended Citizen (winner of the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont).
Audible (3rd in the Kentucky Derby) will miss the Belmont Stakes as trainer Todd Pletcher stated on Friday that his colt was not training forwardly and that he will instead be pointed for other races this summer. Audible and Justify are co-owned in partnership by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing, thus his defection is a great source of disappointment heading into the 150th Belmont Stakes.
Head on down to the Jockey Club at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 9th to watch and wager on the Belmont Stakes. Doors open at 9 a.m. and post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for 3:37 p.m. Tables are on sale now–call 707-524-6340 for all the information and reserve your spot to witness history in the making. Tell your friends and make plans to join us as the Adonis-like Justify attempts to stride forward into racing immortality.
Like what you’re reading? Each week I post a racing-related article that includes free analysis and race selections to The Grapevine, the official Blog for the Sonoma County Fair. Access The Grapevine at https://sonomacountyfair.wordpress.com/ and stay informed of all the news and events surrounding the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. You can also reach me directly at email@example.com
Justify fell in to win the Preakness at 2/5, as “Nostradamusly” predicted by yours truly in the weekly comp selection. Hats off to Bravazo. Anyone who reads my write ups with regularity knows I have been pretty hard on him and happy to bash him whenever I could. Well, I was about two jumps away from having to eat some crow a la mode, as Bravazo was jumping out of the ground at Justify in the dying stages of the Preakness, nearly getting up to play spoiler. The truth is that Bravazo has been a formidable customer in four of his last five races and he appears to do his best work in the slop. Bravazo earned a 96 Beyer figure in the Preakness, just one point off Justify’s 97. To Bravazo, the 82 years-young D. Wayne Lukas and the rest of his staff, I salute you.
Just as the Golden State Warriors are returning to California to take on the Houston Rockets in a do-or-die Game 6, I’ll return to the golden state of California for a preview of the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday.
The Gold Cup (Grade I)
1 & ¼ Miles on Dirt for 3 y/o & up
Race 5- Post time: 2:30 PST
1-Little Scotty 15/1 ML- You really have to admire this gray son of Paddy O’Prado who has seemingly found a new lease on life with the transition from turf-to-dirt. He’s 2-for-2 over the Santa Anita main track and has won both his starts by better than 12 lengths. The upshot: in Little Scotty you get 15/1 on the morning line with a horse who won over this surface and distance last time out by seven lengths. The downside: this will be a titanic step up in class and he figures to be hounded early on by Dr. Dorr with Accelerate and City of Light nipping his heels all the way down the back stretch. He’s also gotten in light with the bug boy the last two starts and will be even weights with all but Accelerate. He has one way to go, but given a razor sharp Dr. Dorr will be riding shotgun up the back side, I want no part of him when the real race begins at the 3/8ths. Not trying to disparage him, but the Claiming Crown Jewel would be an ideal spot to target at Gulfstream Park later this year if he can continue building on his last couple of starts.
2-Accelerate 2/1 ML- Sent off at 6/5 in the Oaklawn Handicap compared to 9/2 on City of Light. On Saturday, Jon White’s appraisal is 2/1 and 9/5 respectively. So, what does that tell you? Accelerate has more intrinsic betting value than City of Light this go around and so he’s worth diving deeply into as a prospective selection. In Arkansas, Accelerate was making his first start outside of southern California along with City of Light and was also giving a few pounds to him. This will be Accelerate’s third try at 10 furlongs and City of Light’s first try. City of Light is a fresh, formidable and improving horse whereas Accelerate is much more of the established veteran runner and proven commodity. I want that type of runner in this race as Accelerate figures to get a ground saving trip with cover over a track he’s performed quite well. After shipping across country, being difficult to load, spotting weight and even then still almost winning from a wide post, I want him even more with eyeballs now being shifted to City of Light; the choice.
3-Prince of Arabia 12/1 ML- Another runner who has shown improvement with the shift in surfaces, Prince of Arabia shows up on Saturday coming off a second place finish behind Dr. Dorr where he edged past a couple rivals in the last couple of jumps but was making no impression on the winner. He’ll have to turn the tables on Dr. Dorr and be better than Accelerate and City of Light all on the same afternoon. His top Beyer figure is a 96 in his most recent start, and since Accelerate and City of Light have strung together big numbers in their prior starts, I can’t see him in the picture when the real running begins. Demand twice the price of his morning line before you invest your hard-earned, though he could scrape up underneath if you’re playing Tri’s and Super’s.
4-City of Light 9/5 ML- Stretched out brilliantly in the Oaklawn Handicap. For more on the comparative analysis between him and Accelerate, see above. He’s going to enter this race as the favorite off his string of big performances and he’s earned the role of top billing, but this will be his first try at 10 furlongs. I’m quite high on him, and any horse who can beat Bobby Abu Dhabi (arguably the best sprinter going) and Accelerate (one of the best older horses in training) in consecutive efforts is a legit race horse. So this really comes down to value, and even if it’s a fractional difference on the dollar, I believe the value rests with Accelerate on Saturday, it could be another memorable stretch run between these before it’s all said and done; his mojo must continue to rise.
5-Dr. Dorr 5/2 ML- He’s as sharp as a ginsu knife these days and should be involved in the fray from the sound of the starter’s pistol. He’ll be adding a furlong in distance off his dominant front-running effort in the Californian and now faces the toughest runners on the west coast. He’s been dominant so I can’t fault those who have fallen in love with him, but he’s going to get tested stringently for class in his first Grade I. Baffert has been high on him since the very beginning but he’s going to have to do more than take care of Prince of Arabia this time around as City of Light will not make life easy for him; must avoid bouncing like a rubber ball off the huge effort; logical fit given connections as Baffert splits his Aces by sending Mubtaahij to Lone Star Park for their big race Saturday.
6-Pavel 5/1 ML- Returns from Dubai and jumps right back into Grade I waters…the first race back from Dubai is always a tricky assignment. On the tale of the tape, he’s got open lengths to make up on both City of Light and Accelerate with each of them already having their way with him at the “Great Race Place”. Team O’Neill was originally talking about running him on grass before opting for the Gold Cup, most likely the big purse/short field combo being the overriding factors in their decision (plus the ability to run out of their own back yard). The bottom line with Pavel is that it’s been a long time between victories for him (September 2017), and he needs a confidence boost at this point, …and this isn’t likely going to be the race to give him said newfound confidence; demand better pari-mutuel value before backing.
7-Full of Luck (Chi) 15/1 ML- According to my research department, Full of Luck will be scratched from both races he’s cross-entered in on the Santa Anita program and instead will run in the Lone Star Park Handicap on Sunday as a 7/2 third choice.