Sunday, 27 July 2014

Featured Event: The Haskell Invitational + Ajax Downs Selections

So I didn't pick the winner of the Jim Dandy yesterday, shockingly enough, but I'm back again to try to pick a winner in the Grade I, $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational from Monmouth Park. And then try to pick ten winners at Ajax Downs! Let's start with a look at the Haskell.

Here's a race with several horses that seem to have some hype behind them. First off, the filly taking on males #7 Untapable. She's looking for her fifth consecutive win, exiting romps in the Grade I Mother Goose at Belmont, and the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. There are a lot of things going for her in this race, she's got a great stalking style that will allow her to take advantage of a quick, contested early pace, she knows how to win and can do it easily, her speed figures are all big. The thing you've got to question is can she beat the boys. I don't think she'll have a problem taking on males, and I do think she's the most likely winner of this race. However, the 2-1 ML estimate is entirely too high in my opinion, you're looking at probably 4-5 on her. As a gambling proposition, in the off chance she is overwhelmed by males, I wouldn't want to take that. If she does go off at 2-1, I think she's very playable, but since that's so unlikely I think you have to look elsewhere. The other big hype horse is 5-2 ML second choice #2 Bayern. The first thing about this horse to note: he's very quick early. It's almost certain that he will be very involved in the pace of this race. The second thing to note is that he's yet to find success going further than a mile. In the Arkansas Derby he set the pace, but had little to offer in the final furlong, finishing third by 5 1/4 lengths. Two starts later, he tried to change his running style in the Preakness. That didn't work out at all for him, offering nothing at any point in the race, finishing second to last. However, he was very impressive when cutting back to seven furlongs in the Woody Stephens. He went a suicidal opening quarter taking pressure, got clear after that, still going ridiculous fractions, and drew off by over seven lengths. And Belmont was not super speed favouring that day. It was a stunning effort. But coming off such a huge race, stretching out to a route again, and catching a race with other speed, can I endorse him? Nope. I don't like him here at all. I think yesterday's Amsterdam at Saratoga would have been a better option, but I understand why the connections are trying him here. Who else is potentially a part of the early pace? To Bayern's inside is #1 Encryption. He set the early fractions in the Pegasus and the Long Branch, a well beaten second in the Pegasus and third by three lengths in the Long Branch. He's not a win factor in my opinion, his role is to duel with Bayern. That's about all there is to say about him. #6 Social Inclusion is a bit of a question mark as to whether or not he'll show early speed. He's definitely fast, but I feel the connections want him to settle a bit. They're taking him off lasix, a move I fully endorse, and he didn't make the front in the Woody Stephens, but that may have been caused by his wide post. Based on his Preakness run I think they're trying to make him get comfortable coming from off the pace. However, if Edgar asks him too he can show the speed he needs to be on the front here. I think a stalking position is more likely. #8 Wildcat Red is the final speed ball of the race. Besides a try in the Kentucky Derby, he's raced exclusively over the speed-favouring Gulfstream oval, where he's found plenty of success. At Gulfstream he's been able to take a lot of pace pressure and hold on, but will he be able to do it without a super speed friendly surface? And will he be able to do it if he's four-wide early? I'm not a huge fan of his chances today. We've got four horses left. #3 Albano exits a romp in the Pegasus here at Monmouth. He stalked the pace, made a move and drew off. Looks great on paper, but it was a five horse field. Pass at 6-1. #4 Irish You Well was running well in Graded Stakes before breaking his maiden, third in the Illinois Derby and the Peter Pan behind eventual Belmont winner Tonalist. He came to Monmouth in June, scored an easy maiden win, then held off Just Call Kenny to win the Long Branch. I'm a bigger advocate of #5 Just Call Kenny, he hadn't run since January when he ran in the Long Branch, he sat in a good spot and he ran a very game race. He makes his second run off the layoff here, he should like the extra 1/16th, and as a lightly raced horse you have to think there's potential development to be had. Finally we come to #9 Medal Count, my horse in the Derby and the Belmont. He ran a very nice race in the Belmont to be third by a length. His run in the Derby was very nice too, he was starting a nice rally but got cut off by Danza. He's definitely a horse with talent, and I would like to see him win to avenge the other times I've picked him, but I don't like horses coming out of the Belmont. I find a lot of horses don't fire coming out of that race. I also think his 8-1 ML is a bit higher than what he'll actually go off at. So I'm jumping off the bandwagon today. I'm going to make Just Call Kenny the pick here. Untapable looks very tough, I said earlier that she's the most likely winner and I stand by it, but if I had to bet this race Just Call Kenny would be my horse. He's got potential to move upwards, he'll offer a decent price, he has a local race. We'll see how much talent he has.

Here are my selections for today's card of racing at Ajax Downs!

Race 1: 5-2-4
Short field of five to kick off the day, and we have a horse who looks like he should be a runaway winner. #5 Rising Up the Charts has run two solid races against tougher company this year, and now gets a field he looks like he can beat up on. His class rating is the highest in the field by 21 points. He's drawn outside. The only knock against him is that he has not won since 2012, but neither has anyone else in this field. #2 The Choochinator is a horse you have to cheer for, he's a 12 year old who has been racing here since the track was still called Picov Downs. He's lost his winning form, but last year he did qualify to the Ontario Sired Maturity where he ran fourth, which gives him a class edge over most of these. #4 Eye Paid is only two for 39 in her career, but she has finished second or third 16 times. Her three starts this year have been okay, she should be good enough to round things out.

Race 2: 6-5-4
We've got a full field of two year old maidens to wrap up the early Double and to kick off the early Pick 3. #6 Cc Fire N Ice was sent off as the favourite in her debut on July 13th and ran a respectable fourth. Chelsey Willick, currently the second leading rider and winningest jockey percentage-wise, takes the mount today. This gelding can definitely improve second time out. #5 Down On Cash debuts here for trainer Kim Ito. She shows three gate workouts prepping for this, most notably 13.86 on June 17th. Her dam was a multiple stakes placed winner of eight races who earned $97,518. There's some potential here. #4 Super Sweet Herman has raced twice so far, showing nothing in his debut, but improving to be third on July 6th. Helen Vanek takes the mount today; she won three races last week including the John Deere Juvenile Challenge.

Race 3: 3-9-2
#3 Fastaz Task kicked off the season with a very game fourth place finish against open allowance NW2 company. Today he takes a significant drop back into Ontario Sired company, and drops in for the $5,000 claiming price he broke his maiden at. In his second start off of the layoff he's definitely a factor. #9 Wild What finished fourth in an Ontario Sired NW2 allowance last time, breaking from the same outside post he gets today. The class drop into $5,000 claiming should be beneficial. #2 Sun N Ice finished sixths in the same race Wild What finished fourth in last time. Prior to that start this filly broke her maiden for a $10,000 tag. She will find success in the claiming ranks. I just question if she can beat the top two today.

Race 4: 3-5-1
Today's feature is an open Allowance for Ontario breds going 400 yards, and we've got a tough looking favourite here. #3 Caraway Blue ran a good second behind a horse called Country Boy Deluxe last time. Country Boy Deluxe came back to win again last week. Caraway Blue won two stakes races last year, has missed the exactor once in seven tries going 400 yard, and just appears to outclass this field. #5 Andaley Okey has won two of her four starts this year, and actually managed to finish ahead of Caraway Blue back in October. However, her races this year have been against much easier company, and she will need to step her game up to pull an upset here. #1 Carter's Secret was the star two year old of 2012, but his three year old campaign left something to be desired and this year has not been any better. He has picked up a pair of show cheques this year, and I don't see why he can't hit the board today. Don't forget that this race kicks off the $.20 Pick 4.

Race 5: 6-4-2
#6 A Shore Thing finished second as the favourite last time, but it was his first start of the season; he didn't win his seasonal debut last year either. He kept some tough company last year, running in several stakes races before wintering at Hialeah Park. I'll give him the call to win second off the layoff again. #4 Eye Go Streakin exits a sixth place finish in the Picov Derby, a very tough race. He won a small stake down at Hialeah over the winter, albeit by disqualification. He definitely has a recent class edge that will make him tough here. #2 Jj Maxwell is a nice horse, he's won five times and hit the board in 13 of his 19 starts, but I have to question him a bit here. He kicked off the season back on opening day running against the top level. He returns nine weeks later and drops in for a $7,000 claiming tag. That's a bit of a red flag. Regardless, I do respect him and if he is on his game he is a factor here.

Race 6: 3-2-1
#3 Extravagant Moves has run two very good races against tougher company this year. She hasn't won in a long time, but this is an easier spot than what she's been facing, and at 5-1 I think she's got a good shot to break the losing streak today. #2 Our General Grant finished a good second in a $3,000 optional claiming field last time. That race makes him a factor here, but he's been a beaten favourite in three of his last four starts. From a gambling perspective, that's usually a sign of a bad bet. Regardless, I respect him here. #1 Winners Spirit makes his 2014 debut here for trainer Lee Baker. I question if he's as fast as some of the others, but last year he won his first start of the season breaking from the rail post. History probably won't repeat itself today, but this horse can run well here.

Race 7: 4-2-7
Here's a race that's not particularly easy to handicap, Ontario Sired $3,000 claiming maidens. #4 Im a Lil Magic always seems to break well and get run down late. She almost held on two starts ago at 300 yards. Today she cuts back to 250, and with a clean break the shorter distance may be all she needs to get the job done. #2 Mr Chicks Man put forth a career best effort in her seasonal debut on Canada Day, running a good second and beating next out winner Mommyssweetsecret. He will probably go off as the favourite, and he is deserving. #7 Intheeyeofahurricane also posted a career best effort last time, dropping to today's $3,000 tag and holding second. This group is tougher, but I think she can round the tri out.

Race 8: 4-5-1
This race kicks off the late Pick 3. #4 Eye Aint No Angel debuts here for Jason Pascoe and Cory Spataro. He shows a nice gate work in 13.73 getting ready for that, and his dam was a six time winner back. I'll give him a chance at an upset here. #5 Random Audit was my pick back on July 13th, but she was vet scratched in that race. However, they got a nice 13.79 gate work out of her on July 23rd, and she gets to face Ontario Breds in her second start. We'll see how she does today. #1 Strawflyin Bodacious ran a decent fourth back on opening day. She draws the rail today, the post where she finished third in her debut from. It's worth noting that Renee Wilson's go-to rider Daniel Rose is not listed to ride her, or anything else in this race for that matter.

Race 9: 5-7-4
#5 I Like Chics won at first asking on June 8th and came back to run a close third in a competitive group of NW2. I like this lightly raced five year old, he shows some potential to be a handy little horse. #7 Halee Hath No Fury is another Renee Wilson horse making its first start since opening day. She actually won the first race of the season after knocking on the door throughout 2013. She posted a bullet workout on July 2nd, 220 yards in 11.83, and has to be considered a factor. #4 Noisyboy debuted against I Like Chics and ran a close second. He then came back to win against Ontario Sired maidens. Today he has to face tougher company, but again, he's lightly raced and has shown some promise. Don't forget to play the Late Double!

Race 10: 10-4-6
#10 Ttt Kellys Regan debuted here back in October and finished a close second. They then took him down to Hialeah for the winter, where he ran a few respectable races. After Hialeah, he was shipped out to Louisiana Downs for a try against fellow Louisiana breds, and he ran third. They brought him back to Ontario and tried him in a Picov Derby trial. That was tough company, and he did not get a good break that day. Now he draws outside, gets back into an easier spot, and shows a nice 13.74 gate work on July 16th. My choice for a minor upset. #4 Totally Nuts has hit the board in two of his three tries this year. He's Stakes-placed, something no one else in this field can say, and is in solid form. Respect. #6 Runaway Cause finished a head in front of Totally Nuts on June 22nd and has run twice against tougher horses since then. She has shown some ability and gate speed, but I question her ability to hold the lead much further than 300 yards.

Good luck to everyone playing today!

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