By Michael Patricks
Happy Black Friday to everyone. Many consumers are out and about with umbrellas and raingear trying to get the jump on the best holiday sales possible. That’s never been my speed and doubtful it ever will be. Paying for parking and standing in long lines has never been a passion of mine. So here’s a toast to online shopping and the ease and convenience in which retail therapy can now be accomplished while sitting at the desk through the use of merely one’s fingertips.
The racing calendar is winding down with three more weeks of racing at Golden Gate Fields and four more weeks of racing from southern California before California adjourns for its annual winter break. Racing will resume the day after Christmas (as per usual) for Santa Anita’s opening day Malibu Stakes program, along with Golden Gate Fields’ opening day card. The Jockey Club will be closed from Monday, December 17th through Tuesday, December 25th.
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Three out of four in last Saturday’s late Pick-4 from Del Mar. I failed to go one step deeper in the nightcap which would have cost me an extra $6 on my ticket, yet would have returned better than $120 at the windows. Multi-race tickets sure can torment your soul and are not for the faint of heart. This is why I’m more of a vertical man (Win Place, ITM player) as opposed to a horizontal man hell bent on cashing multi-race wagers (Daily Doubles are about the extent of my comfort zone).
Back to the more linear way of things this week by taking a close up look at the Kentucky Jockey Club from Churchill Downs on Saturday. It’s a full field of 14 and that means value can be had at almost every turn. Let’s break down these future stars of tomorrow.
Churchill Downs Race 11
The Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II)
1 & 1/16 Miles on Dirt for 2 y/o’s.
# 1 Signalman is installed as the second-elect at 5/2 and that appraisal is based merely on his third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he ran on fairly well from a wide draw. That pace was fast and furious and after covering extra ground he did flatten out some through the lane. He goes outside-to-inside here but with so many young horses vaulting into the first turn, he could be in store for some real traffic problems from the outer flow. He was 67/1 just three weeks ago and now I’m supposed to swallow 5/2 in here? I just can’t do it.
# 2 Tracksmith is 20/1 and comes from the same running lines as # 9 Current at 15/1. The question with both of them is their ability to transition surfaces to dirt. Current should be a shorter price than Tracksmith, but they each come from very strong outfits and their preexisting two-turn experience should only help their chances. Current had a tough trip in the BC Juvenile Turf and note that Velazquez moves over to King for a Day. I actually fancy Tracksmith over Current at the higher odds.
# 3 Manny Wah is 20/1 on the line. His best races have come with his head in front early and if that’s what he is intent on doing from the dispatch, then just know right now he’s in deep water. This is a very difficult assignment and I think he’ll likely bid a hasty retreat leaving the half-mile pole.
#4 Dunph is getting some morning line respect at 6/1 and has some hype around him. Trainer Mike Maker is the king of the circuit but I just wonder who he’s beaten at Penn National and in a restricted event last time over the course. His confidence should be soaring high as he enters the starting gate but he’s not going to be handed this one on a silver platter as he was in his first two races. I’d include him as part of the mix in vertical tickets.
# 5 Plus Que Parfait 20/1 Likes to be forwardly placed and just got his nose down on the wire in order to graduate. He could factor in with a step forward, but a step backwards off the narrow graduation score looks far more likely. The amount of pressure he will feel in this spot is much different than what a horse typically feels in a maiden race.
# 6 Blue Steel is my upset special at 15/1. On paper, he looks every bit as strong as Dunph and he’s also being presented at better than twice as much as that one’s price. He was favored in his debut here but had a tough time leaving the gate. To his credit, he rebounded quite nicely from the rail in start two (extra points) and then manhandled his competition while drawing away with authority. By Will Take Charge, he’s bred for the two turns and should love the added distance. Albarado knows him and Romans has lots of success with horses on the rise stretching out. Great post to boot; I’m on board.
# 7 Limonite and # 10 Roiland exit the same race and appear to be the same horse on paper. You have to either use them both or toss them both—I’m just not into either of them as the Beyer improvement appears to be gradual between them at best.
# 8 Royal Urn is 30/1 on the line and has done his best racing in Florida. He got crushed here in the Iroquois in a Grade III, so why would today be any better against better in a Grade II? His turf score while holding on for dear life doesn’t get me feeling giddy with anticipation.
# 11 Mick’s Star is also 30/1. He finished behind Current at Keeneland back in October and has been freshened up since. He ran okay on grass and his trainer is very good. If you’re going to take a flier on a 30/1 shot in this race, I prefer him over the other bombs.
The aforementioned King for a Day is # 12 and sits at 8/1 on the line. He’s got a ton of speed and should be forwardly placed for Pletcher and Johnny V. His draw is a bit tough and # 13 race-favorite Knicks Go is right next to him looking to get out to the lead. Have a feeling King for a Day could call it a day when the real running begins, especially since it’s tough to see him getting any sort of breather with the favorite all over him like a cheap suit.
# 13 Knicks Go (2/1) was 1,000,000/1 in the Breeders’ Futurity and spread-eagled the field. He came back and ran a bang up race finishing second to Game Winner here at Churchill in the BC Juvenile, but one has to wonder if perhaps the last couple races have taken a toll on him and for the first time since his debut, he will be supported at the windows with expectations. He will need to step forward AGAIN to win this. Is it possible? Sure, it’s possible. Is it worth backing at the odds and at the risk of being left holding the bag at 2/1? Absolutely not.
# 14 Topper T rounds out the cast. He has been unable to break 70 in the Beyer arena and should be set to take a tremendous beating in this race given that he’s spotting his foes talent, racing experience and extra ground into the first turn. Other than that, he looks plenty capable to me.