The Jury: Bets and fades for Jan. 7
The first Saturday of 2023 will offer plenty of stakes action and more from coast to coast. The TwinSpires Jury of Kellie Reilly, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson dive in with their best opinions on an interesting day of racing.
What is your best bet?
Kellie Reilly: #6 Souzak (9-2) makes his U.S. debut in Saturday's Dania Beach S. at Gulfstream Park after selling for nearly $400,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale. A consistent campaigner in France, the well-bred son of Kodiac took a while to get the winning habit but ultimately reeled off three in a row. Souzak arguably saved his best for last, upsetting the Aidan O’Brien-trained favorite, Denmark, in a valuable sales race on Arc weekend. From the productive family of champion Stacelita, he likely has scope to progress for new trainer Graham Motion.
Vance Hanson: #9 Erna (4-1) jumps up from a narrow maiden victory last month into stakes company for Saturday's Ginger Brew at Gulfstream Park, a tough spot that has attracted the Breeders' Cup-placed Cairo Consort. However, in a race without much speed, Erna should trip out well either on or close to the pace, and she's been battle-tested to an extent already by a graded quality filly in Liguria, who beat her by only a neck first out and later won the Jimmy Durante (G3) at Del Mar.
Ashley Anderson: #7 Coach (7-2) will attempt to defend last season’s Pippin S. title on Saturday at Oaklawn and has a chance to get back to the winner’s circle while stretching back out to 1 1/16 miles. Last out, the Brad Cox pupil finished second to Lovely Ride, who re-opposes here, in the one-mile Mistletoe S. at this track on Dec. 10, but can improve with the added distance. Three back, the Commissioner mare finished second by 1 1/4 lengths to next-out winner Battle Bling in the 1 1/16-mile Twixt at Laurel Park while posting a 98 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest speed figure at today’s distance among the field. For her career, Coach owns a 7-2-1-2 record at today’s distance and a 7-2-2-1 record at Oaklawn, while Cox has two wins and a second in six races over the last 14 days.
Who is the horse to fade?
KR: #9 Cast Member (5-2) brings a perfect 3-for-3 record into her turf debut in Saturday’s California Cup Oaks, and pedigree suggests she’ll handle the surface at Santa Anita. The caveat is that she’s facing a couple of fillies with graded or open-company stakes form on turf who are now dropping back into state-restricted ranks. Chief among them is #8 Sell the Dream, runner-up in the Surfer Girl (G3) at this course and one-mile distance and third in the Jimmy Durante (G3). Also exiting the Durante is #7 Quickly Park It, who didn’t do herself justice with a slow start, but had previously crushed the Pike Place Dancer S. at Golden Gate Fields. #1 Carole Lombard, another invariably well-named Nick Alexander homebred, and Cast Member’s familiar rival #3 Cholly, who stands to benefit from the added ground, are others worth a look.
VH: The regally-bred #5 Cawkab (2-1) steps up to N1X allowance company in Saturday's sixth race at Oaklawn following an impressive maiden win over the same track and 1 1/16-mile distance in his second career outing. However, the late developing son of Curlin is facing a far more experienced group of rivals and figures to be a bit of an underlay for the Brad Cox stable. However, if there's any four-year-old in the country inherently destined to be a graded stakes horse later this season, it would be Cawkab. Note his dam has already thrown Grade 1-level stars Girvin and Midnight Bourbon, as well as Grade 3 winners Cocked and Loaded and Pirate's Punch. But I'll be standing against Cawkab in this spot.
AA: #6 Pappacap (2-1) in Race 10 on Gulfstream’s Saturday card. The four-year-old Gun Runner colt drops in class after finishing a distant fourth in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga last July and will stretch out to a mile, a distance from which he finished second by nearly four lengths to Jack Christopher when running the Pat Day Mile (G2) last May. He’ll add Lasix in his first start in more than five months and is vulnerable against a competitive field of seven. I instead like both Saffie Joseph runners, #2 Twelve Volt Man (9-2), who is 2-for-3 at today’s distance, and #7 Picking Up Pennies (6-1), a worthy longer shot who flashed a 102 Brisnet Speed rating when romping to a five-length win in a one-mile allowance optional claimer at this track in October. He’s 2-for-2 at today’s distance, and Joseph is a 23% winner with horses that won their last race.
What else is worth noting?
KR: Saturday’s Jerome S. is not only a test of the Remsen (G2) form, represented by excellent runner-up #6 Arctic Arrogance. The Aqueduct feature could give another line on Victory Formation, who raised his profile as a Kentucky Derby contender in the Jan. 1 Smarty Jones S. Jerome contender #4 Lugan Knight comes off a third to Victory Formation in an allowance on the “Stars of Tomorrow II” card at Churchill Downs. The close runner-up that day, Two Eagles River, has since come back to miss narrowly in the Renaissance S. at Oaklawn. Lugan Knight has to up his game in the Jerome, but the son of Goldencents and the well-bred mare Sly Roxy (a daughter of Speightstown and Canadian champion Roxy Gap) has potential for Michael McCarthy.
VH: The one-mile Jerome S. at Aqueduct will kick of the 2023 New York road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) on Saturday, and second-time starter #1 Neural Network (7-2) looks well spotted by Chad Brown. A graduate against New York-breds in mid-November, Neural Network nonetheless looks like a good fit against this group and might receive an ideal trip from just off the pace in a race that has plenty of speed elements to it. By Cloud Computing, who Brown trained to a win in the 2017 Preakness (G1), Neural Network hails from the female family of fellow Preakness winner and champion Bernardini.
AA: Bolt d’Oro continues to lead the rankings in progeny earnings by 2022 first-crop sires, and one of his top performers, Major Dude, will attempt to add to his stakes resume while kicking off his three-year-old campaign in Saturday’s Dania Beach S. at Gulfstream. The Pletcher trainee was last seen winning the Pilgrim (G2) and finished third in the Sapling S. at Monmouth in August. Bolt d’Oro also recently earned a Grade 2 stakes victory from three-year-old son Instant Coffee in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. on Nov. 26 and a non-graded stakes win from Corona Bolt in the Sugar Bowl S. at Fair Grounds. Both horses are trained by Brad Cox.