Sunday, 1 June 2014

Featured Event: The Eclipse + Ajax Downs Selections

Woodbine's second Grade 2 event of the weekend is the $200,000 Eclipse Stakes. The Eclipse is a 1 1/16 mile race for older horses on the polytrack. Today's blog will also feature my program selections for Ajax Downs. Another fun day of racing awaits!

The Eclipse
We have an interesting ML favourite here. #2 Stealcase is certainly logical, but you don't see a horse who finished second behind two of his competitors in his last two races made the favourite. In the prep for this race, he closed into Alpha Bettor's slow fractions, but came up a 1/2 length short. In the Ben Ali at Keeneland, there was no chance of him catching Frac Daddy. But that doesn't mean Stealcase can't win. The pace setup could work out for him, and he likes the Woodbine polytrack. In his other local start, he won the G3 Ontario Derby fairly easily. To his inside is the more likely post time favourite, #1 Alpha Bettor. He started the year out with a win in the aforementioned prep, making a slow lead in a four horse field and holding on. However, that less than impressive win doesn't take anything away from this horse; he is all class. Last year all three of his wins came in Graded Stakes company, including a win in this company. He inherited the lead last time, but he doesn't need it at all. He's best as a stalker. The concern is whether Stein sends him to the front from the rail post. Riders like to do that. Ken McPeek ships one up here, #5 Frac Daddy, who dominated the Ben Ali two back at Keeneland. His race in the G1 Man O' War was respectable as well. In fact, he's run five very credible races in a row. Also note that he's two for two on polytrack. You have to wonder whether he goes to the front or stalks the pace, he's a bit of a wildcard there, although both running styles work for him. The only other horse I see as a win threat is #7 His Race to Win. The only poor race he's run on the Woodbine poly was in the Queen's Plate last year, when the rain poured and he had no shot of making up any ground. That entirely forgiveable. His most recent start was a win in a high level Allowance on the turf at Keeneland. I don't know if he's as fast as the others, but he loves this surface and his trainer is on fire. He's not going to be my pick, but I would put him in the exotics for sure. There really aren't a lot of interesting long shots in this race. #3 Are You Kidding Me is making his first start since winning the G3 Kent down at Delaware, but that was in September and this is a lot tougher. #4 Peyton just doesn't seem like he's capable at this level. You could argue for #6 Really Sharp, he exits win in the G3 Vigil going seven furlongs, he should be a speed factor. I don't think he's as good at this distance though. One you could argue for the exotics, certainly. #8 Awesome Overture was a horse with a lot of hype when he started running against Stakes horses, but he's been nothing but a disappointment. Finally, #9 Hampstead Heath is a nice turf horse, but he's not as good on synthetic and his recent form at Gulfstream raises some concerns. There really aren't any price horses I like a lot. I'm making #5 Frac Daddy my pick due to his impressive Ben Ali win, and his ability to both be a front runner and a stalker. This looks like a fairly chalky race to me.

Ajax Downs Selections
Race 1: 3-5-6
#3 Bye Me One Kool Bud is a Stakes winner who runs well fresh. He won his career debut,  won the Fort Erie Futurity off of a month and a half layoff, and then won his 2013 debut against Nw3 competition. Can he keep his off the layoff streak going? #5 Piranhaaa is also a Stakes winner. He spent the winter racing at Hialeah, where he ran some very good races. He could potentially have a fitness edge. #6 McM Tres Episode ended 2013 finishing a 1/2 length behind Piranhaaa in the Ajax Derby Challenge. He's won half of his local starts and draws outside for hot connections.

Race 2: 6-2-4
#6 Eyesa Zoomn loves Ajax Downs, winning 8 of his 16 local starts with 4 runner up finishes. After a winter at Hialeah, he should be a big factor in this race. #2 Channelislandsflyer also wintered in Florida. He's notorious for finishing 2nd, 7 runner ups in 18 starts. He draws the rail post and should run well. #4 Ourfirstorphan ended 2013 in very good form with a pair of wins and a close second. He fired a bullet 220 yard work on April 28th and could be a factor.

Race 3: 5-6-3
#5 Make Me a Miracle didn't run a particularly great race to kick off 2014, but should improve second time off the layoff. She was quite impressive breaking her maiden back in September.  #6 Fast and Rare Love showed that he has some ability when he qualified for the Alex Picov Futurity. He draws outside and shows a very nice gate work on May 28th. #3 Fastaz Task won his career debut with a solid late rally. In four starts after that he managed to pick up a couple of thirds. I'm not convinced he's as fast as some of the others, but he did run his best race fresh.

Race 4: 7-4-9
#7 Cash in for Sugar ran a good third to start the 2014 season. With an alert break and some improvement second time out, he should be tough in this spot. #4 Ima Good Karma is an unknown in here, making her first start since July 2012. Her career debut was solid, and she's worth a look for the Wilson/Rose combo at 8-1. #9 Sofar Gone finished 5th in Cash in for Sugar's race. He picks up Brian Bell and can improve today.

Race 5: 3-2-6
#3 Streakinlilsis didn't run fantastic in her local debut, but makes her second start off the layoff and catches several Ontario bred/sired class droppers today. #2 Runaway Cause ran some decent races last year, including a trial fast enough to qualify to the All Canadian Futurity. She shows two good works and should run well today. #6 Real Wild finished 6th in the Cash in for Sugar race mentioned earlier. Watch #7 and #9 in a Race 4 to judge how the runners from that race fare.

Race 6: 2-3-5
#2 Catch a Heart hasn't run since 2012, when he was competing in Louisiana. He won the Alabama Bred Futurity. He returns here for Renee Wilson and shows a very fast workout on May 7th. #3 Silken Memories only missed the board once as a two year old, hitting the board in two Stakes. I don't see why this horse should be 10-1. #5 Theydontlikemyname is the only horse in the race with a start this season, and it was a good second. There's no reason why this horse couldn't win today second off the layoff. This is a pretty competitive race.

Race 7: 4-2-6
Today's feature is a nice open Allowance for fillies and mares. #4 What Ta Wear was a dominant winner on opening day. She's a mare with plenty of talent and has the edge of a recent start over her main competition. She could definitely double up in this race. #2 All Wacked Out is a very classy mare. Last year she beat some of Ontario's best in the Ajax Downs Maturity. She's earned over $217,000 in her career and shows no sign of stopping as a 7 year old. #6 First Down the Track almost always runs a solid race, ending the year with a nice win against similar company at this distance. You can't toss her.

Race 8: 3-4-5
#3 Tres Okie won his 2013 debut. The 10 year old palomino has hit the board in 28 of his 53 starts, and still runs solid speed figures. Hopefully he can get career win #10 today. #4 Hi N Dry wintered at Hialeah, ending that meet with a pair of runner up finishes. She's a deserving favourite in this spot. #5 Cole Miner won his 2013 debut easily, albeit against easier competition than he faces today. He's hit the board in 18 of 32 starts. He shows a nice work, and is another addition to a very competitive Optional Claimer.

Good luck to everyone playing today!

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