Posts Tagged ‘Empire Way’

Grading the Kentucky Derby 2012 Preps: Creative Cause Wins San Felipe

The West Coast sophomores moved one step closer to Kentucky Derby 2012 on Saturday and Creative Cause emerged victorious in the G2 San Felipe.

G2 San Felipe (3-10-12): 102 BSF (Creative Cause)

Creative Cause

Creative Cause now has $686,000 in graded earnings - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Creative Cause sat the perfect tactical trip at the Great Race Place on March 10 and he wore down a game Bodemeister to grab the $180k top prize. Mike Harrington’s winner was gawking and wandering in the stretch and needs to get rid of those bad habits before the first Saturday in May. He is now a 2-time graded route winner and looks like the best of the west at this point.

Bodemeister probably ran the best overall race at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. He did all of the pace dirty work in his first start against winners. He was also an unraced juvenile so the Baffert trainee was giving up a huge seasoning edge to the winner. He owns dangerous early-pressing speed and looms a serious threat in the Santa Anita Derby if he goes that route.

Midnight Transfer did well to land the show in his first two turn test. I am not sure how much further he wants to go but he deserves a shot in the Santa Anita Derby.

Liaison rallied to finish an even 4th and was followed across the line by Rousing Sermon, Blingo, American Act, Tiz Point, Empire Way, and Groovin’ Solo.

San Felipe Grade: B

 

San Felipe 2012 Preview: Creative Cause vs. Bodemeister

The Southern California road to Kentucky Derby 2012 heats up on Saturday with the Grade 2 San Felipe and morning line favorite Creative Cause is back around two turns at the Great Race Place.

Creative Cause Kentucky Derby 2012 contender

Is Creative Cause the best out west? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

#7 Creative Cause (5-2) has fired Trifecta shots in all six career outings and exits a needed show finish in the G2 San Vicente at seven panels. He won the G1 Norfolk at this trip and projects a decent tactical journey under Rosario. He has dropped two straight and three of his last four and has plenty of graded earnings for the first Saturday in May. The obvious contender will not offer much value on top.

#4 Midnight Transfer (6-1) looked great in his last two local sprint wins including a minor stakes tally in the San Pedro on Jan 22. Carla Gaines is a sharp conditioner and he figures to stalk the pace under new rider Victor Espinoza. He is an interesting player if able to navigate two turns.

#3 American Act (8-1) beat Creative Cause and Bodemeister in his last pair and looms a pace factor at the very least under Pedroza. He is bred to go this far and might get brave if able to shake loose early.

#1 Blingo (8-1) is training well for Shirreffs. The lightly raced colt graduated in his turf route bow and ended up a respectable 6th of 13 in the G1 CashCall Futurity on Dec 17. He has not been seen since but is training well for this and can rally for a share under Mike Smith.

#2 Bodemeister (3-1) was clearly second best behind American Act in his local sprint bow and ran off the charts in his local flat mile maiden win Feb 11. He will need to earn better Pace Ratings to make a dent in his first start against winners but the promising son of Empire Maker might be up to the task for Baffert.

I was not impressed with the G2 Robert Lewis so I will toss all four rivals exiting that heat. #5 Groovin’ Solo (20-1) was disqualified for causing #6 Liaison (6-1) to clip heels that day but the latter was going nowhere fast prior to going down. #8 Rousing Sermon (8-1) was placed 3rd but had a flat performance and might be better on synthetic. #10 Empire Way (6-1) rallied for the place and is slowly improving for Harrington. Royal Delta’s late striding brother needs to get away from this speed conducive oval.

#9 Tiz Point (20-1) exits a local turf route entry level wire job. He will need a new rider because Garrett Gomez called off his comeback yesterday after experiencing pain in his heel.

The Plays:

$18 to win #4

$10 to win #3

$1 Trifecta 3-4/7/ALL ($16)

$1 Trifecta 3-4/ALL/1 ($16)

Grading the Kentucky Derby 2012 Preps: Robert Lewis, Sam Davis

The road to Kentucky Derby 2012 made stops in Florida and Southern California on Feb 4 and the G3 Sam Davis and G2 Robert Lewis Stakes both produced surprising results.

G3 Sam F. Davis (2-4-12): 81 BSF (Battle Hardened)

Kentucky Derby 2012 logo

Saturday’s Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs did not look strong on paper and eventual winner Battle Hardened was a maiden coming in and got the job done in slow time.  He is out of strong route sire Giant’s Causeway and trainer Eddie Kenneally is back on the Triple Crown trail after catching Derby fever with Santiva in 2011.

Three noses were on the wire for runner-up honors with Prospective edging out Reveron and Ravelo’s Boy. Prospective won the G3 Grey at Woodbine as a juvenile and Reveron was last seen capturing the Gulfstream Park Derby.

State of Play set the pace and faded to 7th for Team Valor and Graham Motion. Look for him to return to the sod in the near future.

Sam Davis Stakes Grade: D

I'll Have Another

I'll Have Another goes next in SA Derby - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

I’ll Have Another made the most of his first start in five months at Santa Anita on Saturday, posting a surprising $88.60 upset in a strange renewal of the Lewis.

G2 Robert Lewis Stakes (2-4-12): 96 BSF (I’ll Have Another)

Sprinter Isn’t He Clever set the pace with I’ll Have Another tracking him intently. The early leader faded after six panels and the eventual winner inherited the lead and was never seriously threatened in a relatively easy 2-3/4 length tally.

Liaison was the solid favorite for Bob Baffert but was never traveling comfortably and fell in the stretch after clipping heels with Groovin’ Solo, who crossed the line in 3rd but was place last via disqualification.

Royal Delta’s brother Empire Way was up to finish a clear 2nd and Rousing Sermon was elevated to 3rd.

It was double disappointment for Baffert as Sky Kingdom failed to get involved. Chips All In failed to lift a hoof.

The number from the Lewis came back solid enough but the race was dominated by longshots and did not look strong from a visual standpoint. I’ll Have Another is expected to go next in the G1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

Robert Lewis Stakes Grade: C

Robert Lewis Stakes 2012 Preview: Four-bagger for Liaison?

The Kentucky Derby 2012 trail heats up in Southern California on Saturday with the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park and morning line favorite Liaison seeks his fourth straight win for Bob Baffert.

Liaison

Is Liaison beatable on Saturday? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

#2 Liaison (9-5) landed the show in his flat mile bow and Del Mar and it has been all smiles ever since. He graduated in a seven panel event at Santa Anita Park, and proceeded to win back-t0-back stakes races in the Real Quiet and G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. The hard knocking Baffert trainee owns fine tactical speed and is training well for this. This is a starting point to his sophomore campaign and he is already sitting pretty on the graded earnings list so he does not have to win this at low odds.

Liaison’s stablemate #5 Sky Kingdom (6-1) was my top choice in the aforementioned CashCall Futurity and he was hardly disgraced in a 4th place finish. He exits a facile allowance route win at the Great Race Place and appears poised to make a splash in the graded ranks.

#6 Rousing Sermon (5-2) finished 2nd to Liaison in the Real Quiet and CashCall in his last pair. He won the CalCup Juvenile at Santa Anita and will be finishing under Talamo. He needs a fair racetrack and some pace help.

#8 Chips All In (6-1) has a nose for the wire and should sit a decent outer tactical trip if he can avoid getting hung out to dry. The Mullins runner gets tested for class.

#7 Empire Way (6-1) is slowly improving for Mike Harrington. Royal Delta’s brother tries conventional dirt for the first time and will try to get involved late under Rosario.

#3 Groovin’ Solo (12-1) took to the local oval like a duck to water in his recent flat mile graduation run Dec 30. He sports two local bullets for this and is getting better but class is a cloud.

#1 Isn’t He Clever (6-1) is a New Mexico shipper with a hint of ability. The gelded son of Smarty Jones will probably flash speed from the rail under Nakatani. He will get a distance and class challenge.

#4 I’ll Have Another (12-1) would appreciate a speed favoring oval. He ran well in a pair of synthetic sprints last summer and has not been seen since struggling in the Saratoga slop last September.

The Plays:

$20 to win #5
$8 to win #8
$1 Trifecta 5-8/2-5-6-8/2-5-6-8 ($12)

Grading the 2012 Kentucky Derby Preps: CashCall Futurity

The G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec 17 was the last major  Kentucky Derby 2012 prep of the current racing season and at this point I would say that it was not a strong renewal.

CashCall Futurity (12-17-11) – 91 BSF (Liaison)

I wrote a CashCall recap in my latest Kentucky Derby 2012 contenders blog and below is what I said about the players. The top seven finishers were separated by three lengths so the overall strength of the race is a bit suspect, especially with a CA-bred finishing 2nd and a maiden landing the show. The top two (Liaison, Rousing Sermon) also finished 1-2 in the Real Quiet Stakes (C- grade). Maybe the Real Quiet should have been rated higher, or we have a mediocre West Coast group on our hands. I have a feeling it is the latter. Grade: C

The road to the 2012 Kentucky Derby made a pit stop at Hollywood Park last weekend and Liaison got the job done in a professional manner for trainer Bob Baffert.

The son of recently deceased sire Indian Charlie owns fine tactical speed and has a nose for the wire. He once again got the best of Rousing Sermon and the top two validated the strength of the Real Quiet Stakes.

Maidens always seem to make some noise on the Derby Trail. In 2009, Make Music For Me placed behind Lookin At Lucky in a pair of graded events and graduated in a grass stakes event the following year. Santiva landed the place in the 2010 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland before earning his diploma in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. At this point in 2011, the talented maiden award goes to Brother Francis.

The son of Lion Heart, trained by James Cassidy, followed up a rallying place finish in the G3 Hollywood Prevue with a solid show finish in the CashCall Futurity. Will he return to the maiden ranks or continue to compete against stakes foes?

Sky Kingdom was bumped at the start and missed the CashCall show by a ½ length. The Baffert trainee was hardly disgraced in his first start against winners and remains a decent long range prospect.

Empire Way was 5th in the CashCall and should continue to improve with added ground and experience. Blingo was a nose behind him in 6th for John Shirreffs, followed by Handsome Mike (pressured throughout), Cozzetti, and a badly tailing off Drill.

Majestic City attended the pace before faltering to finish 10th. He is clearly best sprinting. Basmati checked in behind him and solidified the weakness of the Delta Jackpot.

CashCall Futurity 2011 Preview: Majestic City Seeks Better

The Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park gives 2012 Kentucky Derby hopefuls an opportunity to earn a nice chunk of change at the end of their juvenile campaigns. Morning line favorite Majestic City has already garnered $245,570 and tries to add to his bankroll on Saturday.

Majestic City

Majestic City loves Cushion Track - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Trainer Peter Miller captured the CashCall Futurity last year with Comma to the Top and he is back for more with the aforementioned Majestic City. The fleet son of City Zip is 3-for-3 at Hollywood Park and recently hot Aqueduct jock Ramon Dominguez flies in for the mount. Distance is the major hurdle as he has yet to win beyond six furlongs. He removes the hood and is firing local bullets for this.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert takes three cracks at the $750,000 pot and Sky Kingdom looks like an interesting contender. The $180k son of Empire Maker, out of a Kingmambo mare, figured to relish two turns and showed marked improvement on the stretch out in a sharp course/distance maiden breaker Nov 24. Garrett Gomez hops aboard and he fired a strong six furlong bullet at Santa Anita on Dec 11.

Liaison shoots for his third straight win for Baffert. He looked good in the Real Quiet Stakes here last time and tries to win one for his sire Indian Charlie, who succumbed to cancer earlier this week.

The third and final Baffert entrant is Drill, and the enigmatic sort exits back-to-back disappointing efforts in the G1 BC Juvenile and G3 Delta Jackpot. He is reportedly training well and both wins occurred on synthetic but he is hard to recommend in his current form.

John Shirreffs rarely strikes with a first time starter but he did just that with Blingo, who rallied strongly to capture his flat mile turf bow by 2-1/4 lengths. He has the Zenyatta connections in his corner and could easily be this good.

Handsome Mike drew the rail and figures to play catch me if you can under Corey Nakatani. The recent Reddam/O’Neill private purchase is on the upswing and showed high octane speed in his G3 Generous show finish at a flat mile on the turf last time.

Rousing Sermon, the CalCup Juvenile winner, always runs his race and exits a place finish behind Liaison in the Real Quiet. Joe Talamo got to know the Hollendorfer trainee last time and the hard knocking CA-bred is a proven router and can make an impact at 6-1.

Dale Romans has been a fixture on the Triple Crown scene in recent years and he hopes to enjoy another wild ride with Cozzetti. The juvenile son of Cozzene exits a romping maiden win in the Churchill slop and worked over Cushion Track on Dec 11.

Basmati returns to SoCal after landing the place in the G3 Delta Jackpot but the number from that $1 million showcase came back light. He handles synthetic ground and must work out a trip from a tough post under profitable rider Hector Berrios.

Brother Francis is still a maiden after two starts but did flash ability both times including a fine runner-up effort in the G3 Hollywood Prevue. The ambitiously placed non-winner tries two turns for the first time and is listed at 20-1 on the line.

Royal Delta’s baby bro Empire Way was visually impressive in his local bow but did not earn much of a number. He came back in less than two weeks and beat one horse home in the aforementioned Hollywood Prevue. The longer the better for the stretch runner and he should continue to develop but he has not run fast enough to be competitive in this type of race.

Desormais is an overseas transplant now under the care of Paddy Gallagher. He can run on day based on his ten furlong synthetic score in France on Nov 15 but landed the unlucky thirteen hole and could not have found a tougher spot for his US bow.

Speaking of maidens, Groovin’ Solo finished out of the top three in both Del Mar sprint starts. The 50-1 outsider removes the hood and needs an easier spot.

The $40 Play:

$20 to win Sky Kingdom

$10 Quinella Sky Kingdom/Liaison

$5 Quinella Sky Kingdom/Handsome Mike, Blingo

Grading the Early Kentucky Derby 2012 Preps

The unofficial road to the 2012 Kentucky Derby began with the Breeders’ Cup in early November and now that we have multiple graded routes in the books it is time to rate the quality of the preps so far.

2012 Kentucky Derby

BC Juvenile Sprint (11-4-11) – 95 BSF (Secret Circle)

Not sure about the overall strength of the field but winner Secret Circle is arguably the fastest juvenile in the land with 97-97-95 BSF’s in his three winning races to date. He owns three of the top ten BSF’s for juveniles as of 11-29. Grade: B-

Secret Circle had every right to fold after dueling through quick splits of :20.96 and :44.55 but the Baffert trainee gamely held off overseas filly Shumoos to remain undefeated. He has route influences in his pedigree and might try two turns in the G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on 12-17.

G1 BC Juvenile (11-5-11) – 94 BSF (Hansen)

The deepest juvenile prep race of the season with seven Graded/Group winners in the starting gate. Hansen went all the way, becoming the eighth member of the field to make the grade. The number came back solid if unspectacular and the top three were well clear of the rest. Grade: B

Hansen

Is Hansen a legit Ky Derby threat? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Hansen kept his perfect record intact with a game wire job head victory. He has never been headed in three career starts and it remains to be seen how he will react to serious pace pressure. Mike Maker’s talented colt is wintering in Florida with the Gulfstream 3-year-old preps on his radar screen.

Union Rags tasted defeat for the first time but was probably best after breaking 12th from post 10, racing wide, and wandering in the stretch. He is also spending the winter in Florida.

Creative Cause ended his productive juvenile season with a solid show finish in the BC Juvenile. He will likely resurface at Santa Anita in 2012 with the G2 San Vicente at 7f on Feb 19 a possible starting point.

Dullahan was bumped at the start and rallied to finish a respectable 4th. He graduated in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and might be better on turf/synthetic.

Real Quiet Stakes (11-12-11) – 81 BSF (Liaison)

A bit of quality in this six-pack with a pair of multiple winners including CalCup Juvenile hero Rousing Sermon. Liaison gamely edged the aforementioned CalCup winner but did not earn much of a number. Grade: C-

Liaison has now won two straight and is clearly making nice progress. He has the right connections (Baffert) and a decent pedigree (Indian Charlie-Victory Gallop). The CashCall Futurity might be next.

G3 Delta Jackpot (11-19-11) – 80 BSF (Sabercat)

Pace meltdown with morning line favorite Drill and My Adonis dueling through splits of :22.11, :45.41, and 1:11.60. Top three finishers Sabercat, Basmati, and Longview Drive rallied from 9th, 6th, and 10th while crawling home in slow final time of 1:46.62. Delta Princess winner Now I Know earned a slightly better 81 BSF. Grade: D

Sabercat was making his sixth start of the year and won his third straight route in Delta Jackpot. Improving Asmussen runner breezed an easy 4f in :53 at Fair Grounds on 11-28.

Basmati took six tries to break his maiden and earned a nice chunk of change in place finish at Delta Downs. The busy juvenile might show up next in the CashCall Futurity.

Jerry Hollendorfer’s NoCal invader Longview Drive showed a new dimension rallying for the show. The $175k Keeneland sales grad has earned his best numbers in sprint races.

Drill came back in two weeks after a failed BC Juvenile attempt and flopped once again in Louisiana for Baffert. He has dropped three straight Graded dirt routes and seemingly needs a break. Both wins occurred at Del Mar in synthetic sprints.

G3 Hollywood Prevue (11-24-11) – 83 BSF (So Brilliant)

So Brilliant gamely wired six rivals but all members of the field were eligible for their entry level condition prior to this seven furlong synthetic affair. Grade: D+

So Brilliant was hardly as secret in his winning bow and made the betting public happy again on Thanksgiving Day. Bob Baffert’s $300k purchase is bred to route and has plenty of room to improve. CashCall Futurity is on his radar screen.

Empire Way was visually impressive in his Nov 13 bow but did not earn much of a number in that event and showed nothing in his Stakes debut. He should improve next year in routes but needed to run much faster.

G2 Remsen (11-26-11) – 80 BSF (O’Prado Again)

The pace was crawling (4f – :49.97, 6f – 1:15.05) and they ran the final 3f in :37.02. Tough to get a true gauge on this event with an overall impression of something close to average. Grade: C

O'Prado Again

O'Prado Again wins his second 9f race in Remsen - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

O’Prado Again won his second straight 9f affair in the Remsen. Trainer Dale Romans has had some success in recent Triple Crown events (Paddy O’Prado, First Dude, Shackleford).

Souper Speedy set the aforementioned crawling fractions and had just enough left to hold the place. Not a bad effort considering he was coming off a layoff after graduating in his 7f mud bow at 31-1.

El Padrino is an interesting long term prospect. He graduated by open lengths in his second career start and saved all the ground tracking the pace while showing late interest in the Remsen. Todd Pletcher’s $210k purchase has a nice distance pedigree and plenty of room to develop.

G2 Kentucky Jockey Club (11-26-11) – 85 BSF (Gemologist)

This one could turn out to be a decent prep. The fractions and final time were solid and the top three ran well. One/all could be heard from next year. Grade: C+

Gemologist remained unbeaten with a sharp stalk/pounce tally. Super Saver won this for same connections (Pletcher/WinStar Farm) en route to 2010 Kentucky Derby triumph. Interesting pedigree with Tiznow on top and Mr. Prospector on bottom.

Ever So Lucky set the pace and gamely held the place. Souper Speedy had a similar effort/pattern in the Remsen but Ever So Lucky carved out stronger splits and looks like the better long term prospect for Jonathan Sheppard. Like the speed (Indian Charlie), stamina (Summer Squall) pedigree mix.

Timely Tally has clearly kicked it up a few notches around two turns. He had some traffic issues under Borel and flew late to just miss the place. Gemologist seemingly has his number but the $220k son of Mr. Greeley is coming around and could be a player next year for Ian Wilkes.

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