How to bet the Nearctic Stakes
Holding Gold captures the Colonel Power Stakes over Fair Grounds' turf to kick off his five-year-old season in February (c) Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
by Dick Powell
A field of 11 has entered the Nearctic Stakes (Can-G2) going six furlongs on the turf at Woodbine on Saturday afternoon. With the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” series concluded this week, the Nearctic might still have an impact on the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) but its winner will not have an automatic bid.
HEMP HEMP HURRAY (#1) (20-1) comes in off two straight second-place finishes against stakes foes over Woodbine’s Tapeta going this distance. He has a couple of wins on turf and adds blinkers, which should keep him involved early from post 1. The bay son of Artie Schiller is training extremely well and gets Rafael Hernandez back aboard – 18 percent with his overall turf mounts this year.
KITTEN’S CAT (#2) (12-1) has been racing against allowance foes at Woodbine in his past four starts and gets a class check moving up to Grade 2 company. One of three in here trained by Mike Maker, he’s running well but nothing indicates to me that he is going to run better.
YORKTON (#3) is the 5-2 morning-line favorite who was second here in the Vigil Stakes (Can-G3) two back before returning to capture the Bold Venture Stakes (Can-G3) by 5 1/4 lengths when he gunned to the front and never looked back. Both of those came on the Tapeta and he shows up here off a bullet, fastest-of-85, half-mile breeze in :46.60. Yorkton could be the one to beat if he breaks alertly with regular rider Jesse Campbell.
HEMBREE (#4) (10-1) beat allowance foes going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park, then was an even fourth going two turns at Saratoga. He came back and won at Kentucky Downs going seven furlongs and that effort should have him primed for a big effort. The Proud Citizen colt has never raced at six furlongs and gets Irad Ortiz Jr. back aboard – 23 percent with his turf mounts this year.
BUSHROD (#5) (20-1) won the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express going five furlongs at Canterbury Downs two back when he gunned to the front and held on. Last out, the five-year-old gelding was a sharp winner at Kentucky Downs coming from off the pace and should be fit and dangerous from those two efforts. I like how he was able to handle firm ground and then good ground going longer.
LADY ALEXANDRA (#6) (5-1) captured the $100,000 License Fee Stakes going this distance on the turf at Belmont Park in good time in late April. She came back against males in the Highlander Stakes (Can-G1) and missed by a neck after opening up a clear lead in the long stretch. Last out in the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (G2) on the Tapeta, she pressed a suicidal pace from post 11 before tiring. Jose Ortiz rides back for Graham Motion.
HOLDING GOLD (#7) (7-2) rallied for third in the Highlander three back before going to Saratoga and finishing fifth in the Troy Handicap (G3) after racing evenly while stuck down on the inside on very soft ground. Back at Woodbine last out, he raced evenly going seven furlongs on yielding turf and should benefit if the turf comes up firm for this one.
CONQUEST PANTHERA (#8) (6-1) has won twice at Woodbine over the years, including scoring his only stakes win to date in the Play the King Stakes (Can-G2) in August 2017 going seven furlongs in fast time. He has a strong kick and should be fit from his last race, a seventh-placing when beaten only 1 1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3) after being shuffled back from post 1. Joe Bravo picks up the mount – flat-bet profit with his 257 turf rides this year.
IKERRIN ROAD (#9) (20-1) was an even fourth in this race last year run over soft turf in very slow time. He has not been able to regain last year’s form and moves up in class off a win over optional claiming foes last out on the Tapeta.
SWEET LITTLE MAN (#10) (10-1) is a horse for the course who has won four times on Woodbine’s turf. He was a good third in this year’s Play the King three starts back and would need a hot pace to set up his late kick. The eight-year-old gelding is trained by Jim Ensom, who wins 27 percent with his overall turf starters and the last 79 of them show a flat-bet profit.
SINGANDCRYINDUBAI (#11) (20-1) is a speedball breaking from the outside who could have something to say here at long odds. I like that he raced only 14 days ago and won going seven furlongs on the turf here. Yes, he’s a big question mark with the move up in class but if he breaks running, the gelding could still be out with the leaders to the final furlong.
Holding Gold has run his best races when the turf is firm and he should get that in this spot. His two recent races can be dismissed and, if he runs back to his third-place finish in the Highlander three starts ago, he will be tough in here. Johnny Velazquez has ridden him regularly and he should take advantage of the long homestretch on the turf course.
Yorkton breaks from the inside and has terrific speed. He won here last out on the Tapeta, which should have him fit and ready. Conquest Panthera has a good late kick and gets big-money rider Joe Bravo aboard for the first time.
20-cent Trifecta: #7 with ALL with ALL
20-cent Trifecta Box: #3, 6, 7, 8, 10