There is a lot of racing action across the country this weekend, especially on Saturday. I was most interested in the card at Santa Anita, but there is something for everyone across the board.
I am going to look at three races, the Santa Anita Handicap or Big Cap, as we like to call it. I’ll also look at The San Felipe and Tampa Bay Derby.
Let’s start with Tampa before we move out west.
Tampa Bay Downs never seems to get the credit it deserves in my opinion. I have felt for a long time it is an excellent track to get legged up over, and horses run very well coming off of it. Just look at what Known Agenda did at Gulfstream after running poorly in the Sam Davis where I liked him a lot. True he dropped back to allowance company, but I have no question that race was stakes caliber.
The Tampa Bay Derby goes through Bill Mott’s Candy Man Rocket who is improving like a good three-year-old should. He won the Sam Davis right off his maiden win and was flattered in a big way by Known Agenda’s race at Gulfstream. He is working well and possibly meeting softer company than he did last out. I have to think he is too tough to beat in here. Tough, but not impossible.
Promise Keeper ships over from Gulfstream for Todd Pletcher off a sloppy track maiden win. He lost his debut to candy man Rocket but responded to the off track and just as importantly the stretch-out in his second start. He is by hot Constitution and is an up and comer for a dangerous barn. Luis Saez makes the trip with him, and that is a positive in my book.
Helium is a new three-year-old and has two nice races on synthetic at Woodbine on his resume. He has every right to be as good as these if he handles the surface.
In the San Felipe at Santa Anita, I don’t think they can beat Life Is Good from his rail draw. I think he is the fastest horse in the race and likely the best, at least at this point. I know they are training him to relax early and finish stronger, and that may alter his pace advantage, but I doubt it. I think Roman Centurion is a legit Derby-type horse. I like him a lot, and I won’t be shocked if he wins on Saturday. I think it is more likely he completes the exacta. If this was a mile and an eighth as opposed to a mile and a sixteenth, I would feel differently. It isn’t, and I don’t. If things get interesting on the front end however, well, then there you have it.
Of course, we all know you always, and I mean always have to respect the other Bob Baffert horse, or in this case Medina Spirit who is no slouch by any means, but I’ll go with my gut here and take my chances.
The Big Cap is most interesting to me. Maxfield will put his undefeated record on the line, and I think he just may get beat. The race becomes wide open if you get past him.
Maxfield is five for five but has never been a mile and a quarter. Yes, he is bred for it, and it looks like it should not pose a problem, but the fact remains he has yet to try it and will be a short price. He was rushed in my opinion to try and make the Derby early in his career and was hurt. He was hurt again after the Matt Winn. Now he goes cross country after two easy wins, and I have a few questions. I respect the connections; I just don’t love the spot.
Express Train looks serious to me and has the home-field advantage. He has yet to try this distance also, but the odds will be higher, and he is playing in his own backyard. John Shirreffs is pretty sharp stretching out, and I really like his last two races since he went turf to dirt.
Idol will get his share of support off the rider switch to Joel Rosario. I can see it, but don’t think it will be enough to handle Express Train.
Tizamagician and Kiss Today Goodbye are both eligible. Again, I don’t think they get to Express Train, but would be no surprise for those so inclined.
Independence Hall will have his share of support as well. Personally, I think this is a bit farther than he wants to go.
I think we will have an exciting Big Cap and Express Train will give Maxfield his first real fight.
Enjoy the races!