Mucciolo: Tamarkuz gets the nod in Dirt Mile

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

November 1st, 2016

Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) is the opening leg of a very challenging late pick-4 sequence at Santa Anita and I think we can start it off with a price.

There is no doubt Bob Baffert’s Grade-1 winner Dortmund is the one to beat on class and given his superb 6-5-1-0 record on Santa Anita’s main oval. The son of Big Brown has had the misfortune of running into some monstrous foes in preparation and it’s impressive to note that in his five losses, the winner each time was either American Pharoah or California Chrome. The chestnut colt has trained well all campaign and is clearly a must use on most or all tickets.

With that said, I hope to knock off the favorite.

Tamarkuz is a high quality runner from the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin who could be ready for a peak performance in his third start off the layoff. The son of Speightstown has plenty of back class and really found his stride in 2015 at Meydan, when he ripped off four wins in succession including the Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2) in game fashion. Though winless since arriving in the U. S., the six-year-old enters the Dirt Mile in a nice form cycle, recording a pair of fine runner-up showings, and a move to the warmer climate could also suit the Kentucky-bred given how Tamarkuz thrived in the desert last spring. The chestnut looks very live with “Money” Mike Smith in the controls.

I will also spread in multis with Vyjack, who tuned up for the Breeders’ Cup with a commendable turf score in the City of Hope Mile (G2). Transferred to Phil d’Amato this summer, the Into Mischief gelding has run a pair of good ones since coming to the Golden State and similar to Tamarkuz, the 6-year-old could be ready for a peak showing in the third start back after a freshening. Vyjack is a Grade 2 victor on the dirt and has trained in sensational fashion since arriving in California, according to reports. Versatile Kentucky-bred draws the rail and could save all the ground to the top of the lane under the guidance of the patient Flavien Prat.

In a race where the early tempo should be very fast and possibly contested, it seems more than possible that a horse from off the pace will make a big impact inside the final furlong. While I am not discounting the chances of Dortmund, champion Runhappy or the consistently good Gun Runner, I will seek to gain pick-4 separation by focusing on Tamarkuz, and to a lesser extent Vyjack, to start my play. 

Tamarkuz photo courtesy of Robert Mauhar/Adam Coglianese Photography