By Michael Patricks
The racing landscape shifts this weekend as Santa Anita Park opens up their Fall 2018 meeting with five weeks of racing through “National Horse Racing Hangover Day” on Sunday, November 4th. That’s because Breeders’ Cup Weekend is that foregoing Friday and Saturday from Churchill Downs and the following Sunday all horsemen, handicappers, and track employees alike are all running on fumes. Golden Gate Fields’ closing day is this Sunday, September 22nd featuring an 11-race card. Fresno opens Thursday, October 4th and goes through Sunday, October 14th. Golden Gate Fields will reopen on Thursday, October 18th, once again running in concert with Santa Anita. We also will be open for Columbus Day racing on Monday, October 8th. A reminder, we will offer free admission into the facility on that Monday.
Breeders’ Cup tables at the Jockey Club go on sale Thursday, October 4th and tables run $50 in overall cost. A limited group of special seats are available in the Turf Club for $15. The purchase of a Breeders’ Cup table provides a group of up to four people a tremendous view of all the Breeders’ Cup races for both Friday, November 2nd and Saturday, November 3rd boot strapped with table service as well. Call the Sonoma County Jockey Club at 707-524-6340 for all the details.
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McKinzie got the chocolates in last weekend’s Pennsylvania Derby to the tune of a $6.00 win mutuel. As everyone knows, I hate playing chalk and am always trying to beat the favorite. But sometimes when things just seem obvious–they actually are. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Why try and reinvent the wheel?… Point taken…not to be confused with Point Given!
Unfortunately, I was unable to hook McKinzie up with Axelrod in exacta wagers. Axelrod ran well at 10/1 while beaten less than two lengths and spruced up the Pa. Derby verticals. It was seven lengths back to the balance including 81/1 Trigger Warning who was a length clear of Hofburg at 5/2. Doing an autopsy of this race, you have to say that Hofburg was a horrendous wager at 5/2. My concerns with him were outlined in last weekend’s write-up and he had no trouble living down to my expectations. We’re still waiting for that breakthrough sort of effort that stamps him as a major contender heading into the Fall. It’s reasonable to wager on that taking place if he’s say 8/1 or better, but asking him to be a superhorse in a Grade 1 at 5/2 is a bridge that’s just way too far for him to reach at this point. I’d recommend putting Hofburg in abeyance until you see added signs of life percolating from him.
Big weekend of racing on tap as this is “Breeders’ Cup Preview” weekend. Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park all have banner programs in the offering.
Instead of doing a full write-up on one race, I’ve nabbed a couple spot plays which should present value on the weekend slate.
Belmont Park Race 8
12 Furlongs on Turf $500,000
The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1)
Post time: 1:42 PST
#1 Robert Bruce leads the charge as the 2/1 chalk off his score in the Arlington Million. His ledger speaks volumes and he’ll be a big factor in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in five weeks, but I’m not entirely convinced his ‘Million was as good as it looks on paper. Race favorite Oscar Performance was eased during the Arlington MIllion but vindicated his name two weeks ago in the Woodbine Mile. Can he win? Absolutely. But Robert Bruce has little appeal in terms of value and you have to swallow that pill with full knowledge that his true goal comes in just five weeks time so I’ll try and beat him this go around. #3 Sadler’s Joy fits on paper but he hasn’t won in quite some time and has been stuck on minor awards of late. These types of animals can take you to the poor house quickly and it reminds me of going on a second date with a girl when you really weren’t that into it on your first date. Asking yourself afterwards, “Why did I do that, again?” #8 Channel Maker at 9/2 looks intriguing for Bill Mott with Joel Rosario up. However, he’s run clunkers on this turf course in both his efforts and could be hindered by a wide draw without much cover. #4 Carrick is a sophomore installed at 8/1 on the morning line who arrives off a big upset in the Grade I Secretariat for three-year-olds. He’s taking on the big boys for the first time in graded-stakes company but do note that he came home in 2:01 flat whereas Robert Bruce prevailed in 2:02.1 on the same course the very same day. Carrick should not be confused with British vocalist Paul Carrack who wrote the 1975 hit-single “How Long” and later followed that up with “Don’t Shed a Tear for Me” in 1987 which hit #9 on the Billboard Top 100. Nevertheless, the equine version has a fighting chance in this group.
After all this obiter dictum, I’ll be rolling the dice with #6 Spring Quality at 4/1. Love his streak of four-consecutive triple digit Beyers and he’s done damage over the Widener course. Spring Quality has run real well second off the shelf in races past and the work tab is spot on. Trainer Graham Motion is one of my favorite trainers to back for a bit of extra value over the week-to-week name brand connections you see here. Also, this is probably Edgar Prado’s best horse he is going to be riding at this point of the year. In my opinion, with all of Spring Quality’s racing being done in New York, he’d be a bit of an unknown shipping in to Churchill in five weeks and something tells me deep down inside that this race is the one he’s being geared up for over the BC Turf. Spring Quality beat all the main players home in the Manhattan at 18/1 and I’ll be looking for a similar storyline in the Joe Hirsch.
Churchill Downs Race 8
1 Mile on Dirt for 3 Y/O & UP
Post Time: 6:39 PST
According to the printing of my past performances, #6 Seeking the Soul and #7 C Z Rocket are co-morning line favorites at 2/1. As a morning line maker, this is something that is highly unusual which borders on taboo and it makes me think perhaps there is a typo. The points add up to 129 which is a bit on the high side. My guess is that one of the top-two choices should really be listed at 5/2, hence bringing the points value down to approximately 124.
As for the skirmish, I really like Seeking the Soul in this spot. He’s a Grade I winner at Churchill Downs and comes off a disappointing Woodward effort at 9/2. He goes from a Grade I to a $100,000 one-turn mile and absolutely finds his friends today. He runs well at Churchill, draws well, and reunites with a rider who gets along with him. Warrior’s Club and C Z Rocket should do battle early and that likely puts Seeking the Soul in the perfect spot turning for home. #2 Giant Expectations is 3/1 on the line shipping out from California. I understand the reason he’s being supported in the program since he’s been taking on the best runners in training at the classic distances out west. I’ve yet to see him ship and run well however, and even though he gets away from Accelerate and West Coast who are competing at Santa Anita, there are still question marks surrounding him in this spot. In my mind, he’s a risk and I don’t like backing risky propositions in the 3/1 neighborhood. By comparison, Seeking the Soul is a known commodity at a substantially similar price point and so he’s my selection in the Ack Ack.