24MARFirst run in 1972, the Spiral Stakes has been the spring fixture for Turfway Park, located in Florence Kentucky. First run at the one mile distance, the race was elongated to a mile and an eighth in 1988 and has been run at that distance since. Notable winners of the Spiral include Broad Brush (1986), Summer Squall (1990), Hansel (1991), Lil E. Tee (1992), Hardspun - a personal favorite (2007), and Animal Kingdom (2011) who was the last Spiral Winner to go on to capture the Run for the Roses. While Animal Kingdom was able to translate his polytrack form over to the dirt, Spiral winners tend to be horses more geared to the turf and less so to classic dirt tracks. The race, however, does offer 85 qualifying points for the Derby, with 50 points going to the winner in case those getting their picture made in the winner’s circle catch Derby fever.This year the Spiral has a full field of 12 three-year-olds looking to pick up the winner’s share of the $500k purse. Morning line favoritism lands on Kitten’s Point (4-1) for trainer Joe Sharp. The son of Kitten’s Joy has been a stellar turf performer winning three of his seven turf starts. In his last race, he ran a good second in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He should be sitting a pressing or stalking trip behind the early speed of Fast and Accurate (15-1) and En Hanse (15-1). He is a deserving favorite and a must use for your multi-race bets. However, I believe his odds will float down from the morning line and there are others in this race that entice more.There are four other entries in this race that offer a bit more value and have an opportunity to cross the wire first. Soglio (6-1) ships in from Santa Anita for trainer Graham Motion. The Scat Daddy colt has hit the board in five of his six career starts. He broke his maiden at Del Mar in December overcoming the far outside post while beating a field of 12. In his last two races, he finished third and second respectively and was closing in at the wire to only run out of real estate. He gets more ground to work with today stretching out to a mile and an eighth, a distance that suits his pedigree being out of the Seattle Slew mare, Sea of Showers. Motion flies in Trevor McCarthy to take the reins.Giant Payday (8-1), a son of Giant’s Causeway is interesting in this race. The Ian Wilkes trainee may get a bit lost on the tote board in this highly competitive race. Giant Payday finished off-the-board in the Palm Beach Stakes but was swung four wide coming off the final turn and was closing down the stretch. If you watch the gallop out after that race he stretched out nicely, indicating he may have needed more ground to work with. His best races have come on turf yet he did not disgrace himself in his two dirt tries finishing second in both. This will be his third start off the layoff and I expect him to improve in this race.Parlor (5-1) is a lightly raced Lonhro colt with only three career starts. He came off a five-month layoff in February to win going away, while under wraps, in an allowance race at Tampa. He broke his maiden at Ellis Park beating the morning line favorite in this race. He could easily be undefeated as he just came up a neck short in his second career race at Kentucky Downs. The sky is the limit for Parlor and he looks extremely live in this race.The last horse of mention and the one I may end up keying in my vertical wagers is King and His Court (5-1) for trainer Mark Casse. By Court Vision, the three-year-old gelding sold for a bargain price of $2,500 (yes read that again) yet has earned nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Toss his last race at Tampa where he obviously hated the dirt track and you have a horse that loves synthetic surfaces, winning three of seven on this surface and finishing in the money in six of those starts. He is the only horse in the race to already win at today’s race distance which adds to the appeal. The price will be right and in a race where you have to guess which horses are going to like the synthetic surface, I’ll go with the one who is already proven on it.A great betting race and plenty of value to be had in the pinnacle race of the Turfway Park meet.
Sand racing may not be for everyone, and it is arguable the dirt track at Meydan has proven to be even more one-dimensional than ever this season, but the best horse in the world, Arrogate, will be stepping on it at 12.45pm (ET) and for the credibility of the meeting, that was vital. Listening to Bob Baffert, you do get the feeling it was not exactly at the top of his wish list, and previous quotes such as “we bought the horse to race in America” back that up, but they are here with seemingly everything running smoothly, and it is hardly stating the obvious that he will be very difficult to beat. There is no point trying to oppose him, and I cannot even come up with anything worthwhile for place purposes, so on we go.
UK racing is still very much in jump mode, but such as Aidan O’Brien, John Gosden, Roger Charlton, Henry Candy and many more will be using Dubai as a springboard to their spring/summer campaigns. O’Brien sends over his biggest team of runners, nine to be exact. His son, Donnacha, describes the raid as being reflective of the strong team of older horses at their disposal this year.
As with any big meeting, rumours can spread like wildfire and a possible injury to Ertijaal seems the biggest non-story. Well, we assume and hope it was a non-story. The favourite for the Al Quoz has proven nigh-on unbeatable down the straight track, albeit over 5f, and the only question mark that hangs over him is his ability to be as effective over 6f. He was before but is undoubtedly quicker now. I think he will be. He fits the brief of many of the favourites on the card: solid but at a price that isn’t going to pay for the wife’s birthday, but perhaps one of the more vulnerable market leaders is Vazirabad in the Dubai Gold Cup.
He won the race last year, but a shallower version, and many in the field are closely matched through various pieces of form. He was also beaten in the trial and looking through his record, he has hitherto largely bypassed all the main staying contests, the Group Ones in France not comparing to those in England in my opinion.
So with many of these on a par, where does the extra edge lie? Tactics are the obvious starting point and for that reason I am siding with Big Orange, who ran second to Vazirabad 12 months ago. He seems the only sure to go from the front with Frankie Dettori (his sole ride on the card) a master at the waiting ride in front. He was softened up a touch last year by Certerach, which left him vulnerable come the finish but hopefully that will not happen again and he looks the value.
On to the UAE Derby and Thunder Snow will need to be a very, very good horse to win from stall 13. We already know he is a very good horse but there is enough against him to suggest he won’t achieve that extra very here. The dirt didn’t seem too much of an issue when he won the UAE 2000 Guineas on his reappearance, but that was a nine-runner race and this will be a different kettle of fish. Bee Jersey has the best part of six lengths to find with him, and indeed he has a similar distance to find with Fawree, but I am quite happy to believe he can. Firstly, Bee Jersey has only had three starts and can/will still improve, while he made a big move at halfway in that Guineas and it left him empty for the finish. He was also drawn in stall nine of nine on that occasion and is in seven now, so at the very least should bridge the gap.
Zarak looks banker material in the Dubai Turf such was the impression he made when landing the Dubai Millennium Stakes during the Carnival. He was still someway short of fitness that day, both in appearance and at the suggestion of his trainer, yet he won on the bridle beating Earnshaw by a length and three quarters, that horse getting to within a length and a half of Decorated Knight in the Jebel Hatta. His form behind Almanzor last season is top drawer stuff and he very much strikes as a horse that is about to come of age.
One more selection and that is Jack Hobbs in the Dubai Sheema Classic who, in a similar vein, has form behind Almanzor and strikes as the type to fulfil all his potential as a five-year-old. No horse has impressed more in appearance than Jack Hobbs, very much confirming the opinion of John Ferguson when he bought the horse, that he would be one that blossomed with time under his belt. That time was rather enforced following injury, but it should prove to be a blessing in disguise and this long-striding sort should be well suited by the Meydan track.
Stephen Molyneux's Dubai World Cup bet selections:
8:50am (ET) Meydan: Big Orange
9.25am (ET) Meydan: Bee Jersey
11:30am (ET) Meydan: Zarak
12:05pm (ET) Meydan: Jack Hobbs
From Dubai Racing Club:
Arrogate (USA) - Powered down the Meydan stretch before dawn in what trainer Bob Baffert said was an approximate 800m breeze, going at an easy clip under exercise rider Dana Barnes before exiting the track in big, springing strides and with his ears pricked.
Baffert said he did not have a stopwatch on the colt but probably went in about 50 seconds for the distance, just enough of a move to sharpen him for Saturday.
“He’s handling everything really well,” Baffert said of how Arrogate has responded to the long journey from his base in California and the adjustment to the Meydan quarantine stabling and the racetrack surface.
“He looks good to me.” Baffert said Arrogate will walk in the stable area on Tuesday morning and return to train on the main track on Wednesday.
While the only trainer not employed by Godolphin to win more than one Dubai World Cup, Baffert is keen to win more. “I’ve never won it here (at Meydan), and it’s totally different. I really liked that old track (Nad Al Sheba), but this is totally different (with) tighter turns. You need a lot of racing luck to get away from the gate. It becomes a jockey’s race.
“And you never know until they start turning for home – is the horse going to show up? As a trainer, you’re just hoping that at the quarter pole, they’re moving.”
Baffert said all the signs are positive but he pointed out that there is added pressure. "Because I brought this great horse over here and I don’t want to mess it up. It’s still a horse race, and when it’s a major race, I go into it focused. I don’t take anything for granted.
He also made a special point of saying it is a “greatest honour — like being inducted into an international hall of fame” to be associated with Juddmonte Farms owner Prince Khalid Abdullah.
“He’s been a pleasure to work with,” Baffert said. “I can’t believe they had a horse like Frankel, the best horse they’ve ever seen in Europe, and then they get a horse like Arrogate. (Prince Khalid) is doing something right. I’m just glad to be part of it. And I’m counting on Arrogate to get it done” and win the Dubai World Cup.
Hoppertunity (USA) - Arrived at the main track just after 7am. He picked up a gallop on the backstretch and accelerated around the far turn and down the stretch, going about 800m to tune up for Saturday’s race.
“He felt great,” exercise rider Dana Barnes said after the brief drill.
“Hoppertunity has been training better than he ever has, and he really loves it here,” said trainer Bob Baffert, while comparing the six-year-old horse to the arcade game character Pac-Man. “He just keeps coming and gobbling up ground and getting checks, and you never know—one day he could get there (to win).”
Keen Ice (USA)—Now trained by Todd Pletcher, who sent the five-year-old out on Monday to gallop approximately 2200m under exercise rider Nick Bush. Pletcher’s assistant Ginny DePasquale said: “We’re very pleased with him,” she said. “Mentally, he’s completely changed.”
Neolithic (USA) - Galloped about 2200m and continued to appear alert and eager in his exercise.
“He’s been on his toes ever since he arrived,” said Ginny DePasquale, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “It seems like he’s adapted unbelievably well.” DePasquale said all three of Pletcher’s trainees that have traveled to the UAE for the Dubai World Cup Carnival will continue to gallop during the week and will not have any speed drills.
Gun Runner (USA) - Breezed 800m in 49.4 seconds on Monday morning just after 5am at Meydan. Exercise rider Carlos Rosas was aboard and assistant trainer Scott Blasi accompanied the pair to and from the racetrack aboard the stable pony.
Rosas, who exercised 2008 Dubai World Cup winner Curlin (USA) for trainer Steve Asmussen, said: “He’s little but he’s all heart. He can really run.”
Special Fighter (IRE) – Jockey Fernando Jara sad: “Obviously he was fourth in the race last year, having won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Super Saturday, but did not run again until that same race this year after a slightly troubled preparation.
“He will have needed that run quite badly so we had to be delighted he was second and he is certainly fitter now. It is a tough race, as you would expect, but it is great to be involved with a horse who has a chance of a big run.”
Furia Cruzada (CHI) - Trainer Erwan Charpy said: “We are delighted to be running in the Dubai World Cup and it is very rare for a filly or mare to do so but she is a very good performer who deserves her chance as she has done nothing wrong.
“She won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 on her debut for us and was a bit unlucky on Super Saturday but was making up ground at the line and should run a big race.
“The likes of Arrogate will obviously be hard to beat but we are very pleased with her.”
Mubtaahij (IRE) - Trainer Mike de Kock said: “He won the UAE Derby two years ago and was second in the big race itself last year so conditions are clearly not an issue.
“We were very pleased with his comeback run when he was giving a lot of weight to some very good horses. Ideally we would have preferred two runs before Saturday but it was not feasible the way things panned out.
“His preparation at home has been very good and we are expecting another big run but Arrogate is obviously a genuine contender and the one we all have to beat.”
Long River (USA) – Trainer Salem bin Ghadayer said: “We always knew he had the ability to win a big race so we were not overly surprised he won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Super Saturday.
“He remains in great form but we know Saturday is going to be a much bigger test.”
Gold Dream (JPN) - The Group 1 February Stakes winner had a light work over Meydan’s dirt course early Monday morning in preparation under groom Hiroya Kinoshita, who said: "He was a little tired when he arrived but as of today he is back to normal. He cantered a lap and a half today and will gallop on Wednesday."
Oaklawn Park Race 10 Rebel Stakes
All eyes this weekend will be on Oaklawn Park for the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, the second leg of Oaklawn’s three-year-old Kentucky Derby prep races. First run in 1961 and won by Bass Clef, the Rebel Stakes has been a popular prep for horses with Derby dreams. This year's edition has drawn a strong field of 11. On paper, this race has a ton of early speed. Those horses that like to lay the heat on the front end include Silver Bullion (30-1), Uncontested (10-1), Malagacy (4-1), and Royal Mo (9-2). If they all blast away from the gate, the early fractions could be blazing which should set the race up for a horse from off the pace. That is not to say Uncontested and/or Malagacy could not wire the field but I think the pace may be too hot early for one of them to hold one for win honors.
Morning-line favoritism in this race falls on American Anthem(2-1) for Mr. Rebel himself, Bob Baffert. Baffert has an incredible record in the Rebel Stakes winning it six of the last seven years. His winning Rebel resume looks like this:
2010 – Lookin at Lucky
2011 – The Factor
2012 – Secret Circle
2014 – Hoppertunity
2015 – American Pharoah
2016 – Cupid
While not all these horses went on to be classic winners, it is obvious that Baffert knows what type of horse will excel at Oaklawn Park going 1 1/16th miles. This year he ships in the lightly raced American Anthem. The three-year-old colt by Bodemeister broke his maiden at six furlongs in his first start at Delmar in December. It was an impressive maiden win as he was marooned out in post 11 and showed maturity, being able to establish a stalking position before going on to win by a neck.
Baffert thought well enough of him after that start to run him in the Grade 2 Sham Stakes a month later. In the Sham, he was sent from the rail over a muddy track and came up a head short to Gormly at the wire. While he did not win the race, the tenacity he showed battling down to the wire against a horse that had a lot more experience should pay dividends in this race. It was a educational loss and it must not have taken a lot out of him, as he returned to the work tab just 10 days later working four furlongs in 48.3. He has maintained a strong workout pattern since and looks to be coming into this race in top form. I expect Mike Smith to set up shop right behind the early speed and make his move turning for home. While the morning line is short on value (and I don’t even know if we’ll get 2-1), American Anthem looks primed to keep the Baffert winning streak alive in the Rebel.
So how do make money playing with a short-priced favorite? Let’s try to key and wheel American Anthem with two horses who should also be sitting off the early speed. Petrov (9 -2) and Untrapped (8-1) both have running styles that fit the pace dynamics of this race. Petrov, trained by Ron Moquett, has been the bridesmaid his last three races running second to One Liner, Uncontested, and Even Thunder. In those races, he did a bit of the dirty work keeping the pace horses honest throughout the race. With other speed signed on in this race, Petrov should be able to run his own race. His speed figures have improved with every start and being by Flatter, should only to get better with each and every race. Moquett put a sharp work into him on March 4th when he went five furlongs in 59.3, signaling all systems go.
Untrapped ships into this race from Fair Grounds for trainer Steve Asmussen after running second in two consecutive Derby prep races, the Grade 3 Lecomte and Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. He too, has increased his speed figures in every start and always seems to be running on strong at the end of his races. You get a jockey change to Irad Ortiz Jr. and I like the confidence Asmussen shows shipping him over off only three weeks rest. While I’m not sold Untrapped will be a classic distance horse, being by Trappe Shot, the 1 1/16th miles of this race is well within his scope.
If playing trifectas and supers you may want to include Silver Dust and Lookin At Lee both at (15-1) on the bottom of your tickets. Another outstanding Derby prep race and the best of luck to all.
From Santa Anita
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 8, 2017)–Jimmy Jerkens’ Shaman Ghost and Phil D’Amato’s Midnight Storm head a competitive field of nine older horses in Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at a mile and a quarter. America’s longest continually run “hundred grander,” the Big ‘Cap, which was first staged in 1935, will be run for the 80th time at The Great Race Place.
A solid second to the mighty Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park, Shaman Ghost will be stretching out a furlong for Jerkens, while Midnight Storm, a winner of five out of his last six starts, including his last two, will try to stretch his speed out off a front-running tally here in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 1.
SHAMAN GHOST: Based with Jerkens in south Florida, this 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper could rate top billing as he exits what appears to be the best race of his career in the Pegasus, a race in which he was beaten 4 ¾ lengths. A winner of the prestigious Grade I Woodward Stakes three starts back on Sept. 3 at Saratoga, he earned a career-top Beyer Speed figure of 112 in the Pegasus and will hope to be in high gear under four-time Eclipse Champion Jockey Javier Castellano on Saturday. Owned by Stronach Stables and bred in Ontario, Canada by their Adena Springs, Shaman Ghost showed good early foot in the Pegasus, easily outrunning California Chrome to the first turn. With a win and a second from three tries at a mile and a quarter, Shaman Ghost’s connections will hope Midnight Storm gets plenty of early pressure on the front end. Coincidentally, Castellano, who will be riding in his first Big ‘Cap, burst upon the national scene by guiding Ghostzapper to victory in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Jerkens, in his first Big ‘Cap attempt a year ago, was third with Effinex. Stronach Stables will be looking for their third Big ‘Cap score, as their homebred Milwaukee Brew won the race in 2002 & 2003. Shaman Ghost is 14-6-2-2 overall with earnings of $3,089,311 ($1,750,000 of which was derived from his second place finish in the Pegasus).
MIDNIGHT STORM: Thought to be most effective on turf, D’Amato shifted gears following his third place finish three starts back in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile (turf) here on Nov. 5 and tried him in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes, run at 1 1/8 miles over a “good” main track at Del Mar on Nov. 27. The result was a dominating gate to wire win by 7 ¾ lengths, which led D’Amato to begin plotting a course to the Santa Anita Handicap. A 1 ¼ length winner on a wet fast surface in the San Pasqual Jan. 1, there’s no mystery as to how the 6-year-old full horse by Pioneerof the Nile will approach the Big ‘Cap, as it’s fully expected he’ll be sent to the lead straight out of the gate. Owned by A Venneri Racing, Inc. and Little Red Feather Racing, Midnight Storm was off the board in his only career try at the Big ‘Cap distance. With earnings of $1,461,110, he has an overall record of 21-10-3-1.
IMPERATIVE: A 7-year-old Bernardini gelding, he comes off one of his best-ever performances, a head victory in the 1 1/8 miles Poseidon Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 28, which was also his first start for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. He’s another that would benefit from a fast pace as he tries to break an 0-9 slide at a mile and a quarter. Owned by Loooch Racing Stables and Imaginary Stables, he’s a sharp horse whose connection are out to prove his last race was no fluke. With one win from 14 lifetime starts at Santa Anita, Imperative is 36-5-8-3 overall with earnings of $2,240,790.
FOLLOW ME CREV: Always highly regarded by trainer Vladimir Cerin, he rallied boldly from off the pace to take a 1 1/16 miles classified allowance here on Feb. 20–overcoming a seven month respite. Owned by David and Holly Wilson, this 5-year-old Quality Road gelding was forced to miss last year’s Big ‘Cap due to a minor injury and will hope to be rolling late in his first attempt at a mile and a quarter.
THE GRADE I SANTA ANITA HANDICAP WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 10 of 11 Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PT
- Midnight Storm–Rafael Bejarano–122
- Gangster–Mario Gutierrez–115
- Shaman Ghost–Javier Castellano–122
- Isotherm–Flavien Prat–119
- Hard Aces–Victor Espinoza–119
- Follow Me Crev–Kent Desormeaux–116
- Twentytwentyvision–Mike Smith–116
- Hi Happy–Altair Domingos–116
- Imperative–Antonio Gallardo–119
AmWager is excited to announce that it will be the Event Sponsor for New Vocations' Open Barn & BBQ event in late April at Mereworth Farm in Lexington.AmWager and its parent company AmWest Entertainment has always supported aftercare programs. Founded in 1992, New Vocations has become the largest racehorse adoption program in the country and has facilities in: Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New York.The program’s mission is to rehabilitate, retrain and rehome retired Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses. In 2016, the program took in over 450 Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds and has placed close to 6,000 retired racehorses since its inception.