Potential "CAP" horses at Santa Anita on Saturday
by Scott Shapiro
Saturday marks the second of three days at the National Handicapping Tournament (NHC) at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.
With only the top 10 percent advancing to Day 3 of the NHC, picking double-digit winners will be at a premium during the second half of Saturday afternoon, especially for those that have ground to make up on the leaders if they want to move on to Sunday.
Santa Anita is one of the eligible racetracks and, since it is on the West Coast, it gets off to a later start than most other venues. It is fair to say that the races at “The Great Race Place” could end up making or breaking the chances of several of the more than 600 handicappers in search of the $800,000 grand prize.
As Ed DeRosa, director of communications at Twin Spires, discovered in his research of the event, Santa Anita is not a track that historically produces a high number of “CAP” horses in February. “CAP” horses in this environment can be defined as a winner that rewards the contest player with the maximum number of points, 64. That means the horse has to be at least 20-1.
DeRosa’s study unveiled only 58 “CAP” horses in 24,812 races conducted in February at Santa Anita dating back to 1999. That number pales in comparison to both Gulfstream (96) and Tampa (89), where $40 plus winners have been much more frequent.
Despite the statistics and a Saturday card which has several races that are unappealing to tournament players, here are a couple of horses who could make a huge difference to NHC competitors.
Liberation (#4) has been on the sidelines since breaking slowly and failing to be a factor in a five-furlong affair at Santa Anita on October 29. The son of Malibu Moon has not finished better than fifth since breaking his maiden on July 3, so he is unlikely to take significant support off of his 15-1-morning-line price.
It is definitely understandable that most handicappers will side with more logical runners, but there is a case to be made for this Val Brinkerhoff trainee.
The five-year-old gelding should get a contentious early pace to run into given the presence of Kaboom (#3), Gusty Streak (#6) and Rocky’s Show (#8). Furthermore, his two best races have come over this racetrack.
If apprentice Maria Falgione can avoid another slow start from Liberation and can find a comfortable spot off the early pace he should have plenty of run late in this six-furlong dash.
The final race on the 10-race card is a maiden special weight event down the hill. With the two favorites on Jon White’s morning-line being horses that have had a ton of chances already to earn their first career victory, this race could be ripe for a long shot winner to close the day.
I made Frenchmen Street (#5) the top pick on my Daily Selections on Brisnet.com, but he is also far from a cinch at 6-1, so let’s look to Desolation Sound (#3) as a potential “capper” in this one.
The son of Super Saver has failed to pick up his feet in each of his first three starts for trainer John Sadler, but those all came over the dirt. Sadler moves the $160,000 OBS April 2017 purchase to the turf for the initial time in hopes the surface switch will wake him up.
The three-year-old colt does not have to take to the lawn, but he certainly could much like his stakes-placed half-brother Gold Megillah did. That gelded son of Purim won four of 24 and earned just over $103,000 routing on the sod during his 45-race career.
Sadler adds blinkers on Saturday, which has been a move that has worked for him of late, with four of his last 13 finding the wire first for a positive return on investment of $3.37.
Obviously, there are holes to poke like there are with any 20-1 shot on the morning line, but it would not shock me if this colt got the best of this group of protected non-winners.
Good luck to all those playing in the NHC. Have fun in Vegas!