The Player’s Edge – January 18, 2013: Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita

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Matt Carter

January 18th, 2013



photo: Matt Carter



Fair Grounds – Lecomte Stakes

Fair Grounds – Louisiana Handicap

Gulfstream Park – Sunshine Millions Classic

Santa Anita – Palos Verdes



Fair Grounds – Lecomte Stakes
Three-Year-Olds On the Derby Trail

A great card of racing on Saturday at Fair Grounds with five stake races highlighted by the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes. The $200,000 race drew a field of nine three-year-olds looking to make a splash on the trail to the Kentucky Derby.

Avie’s Quality gets top billing in the race making her first start on conventional dirt after four starts on synthetic and turf north of the border at Woodbine. The Elusive Quality colt has won two races including the $150,000 Display Stakes in early December. She is bred for the dirt and has been working over a dirt surface in Florida at Palm Meadows.

Malibu High, Golden Soul and Ive Struck a Nerve have won over the Fair Grounds strip and look like the main dangers to the favorite.

Malibu High will break from the rail in the LeComte and comes in off a three-quarter length win over a sloppy and sealed track. It was his second straight win after breaking his maiden at Churchill in June. Look for the Malbu Moon colt to be sent early.

Golden Soul has a lot of things going for him in his third career start. He skipped all the short races and made his debut at one mile at Churchill Downs. While he fell just a head short that day, Golden Soul came right back and won going away in a two-turn race at Fair Grounds by over seven lengths. The final thing is a solid four-furlong drill last Sunday. All systems go.

Ive Struck a Nerve is a long shot, but has been running against some top competition in California and Louisiana. He was thought enough of to run in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity at a maiden and ran a very good second last out in the Sugar Bowl Stakes. Post nine does him no favors so look for jockey Kent Desormeaux to drop back and make one late run.

Circle Unbroken has won two of his first three races and makes his first start since finishing second, beaten a neck, in the Mountaineer Juvenile in early August. Perhaps the layoff is by design and he has been stabled at the track since December. His January 13 bullet drill jumps out of the page.

Circle Unbroken and Malibu High may be disputing the early pace as will Heitai and Oxbow. Fear the Kitten was fifth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill in November and goes first out for Mike Maker, who is hitting at 45% at the current meet. The son of Kitten’s Joy will be doing his best running late.

Hawaakom will also be running late and did break his maiden over the track, but the feeling is he is a cut below the others. His speed figure is 22 points less than Avie’s Quality top.

Post time for the LeComte on Saturday is 5:55 ET and is the start of the lat, 50-cent pick-4.

Fair Grounds – Louisiana Handicap
Great Field of Eight

The first of the stake races on Saturday at Fair Grounds is the Louisiana Handicap for older runners and while it is not graded, it’s a beast of a race.

Mark Valeski will take the lion’s share of the wagering even though he is making his first start since the Peter Pan last May. The Proud Citizen-colt made his name last year at Fair Grounds, winning an allowance then finishing second in both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. The connections then decided to skip the Kentucky Derby and pointed him to the Peter Pan, where he won with ease.

Valeski has been working very well in the mornings over the track with four bullet drills showing. He may; however, need a race off the long layoff, this is not the ultimate goal and the field is deep.

Hurricane Ike and Brethren ran one-two, separated by a neck, in the Tenacious Handicap last month, which is the local prep for Saturday’s race. Hurricane Ike made every pole a winning one that day with Brethren breathing down his neck. The scenario may once again play itself out as they look like the pace of the race.

The trip horse is Infrattini, who can adapt to any pace scenario and brings his race track with him. The five-year-old gelding has five career wins over four different tracks including Fair Grounds. He has three dirt wins, two synthetic wins, one win from four lengths off-the-pace, three wins from just off the pace and one win on the lead. Odds of 5-1, all day long.

Mark Valeski, Hurricane Ike and Infrattini drew posts one-two-three with Brethren breaking from post five.

Others to consider underneath are Wash Park, Raison d’Etat and Self Control.

Wash Parkhas not run around two turns on dirt in his career and only once since June 2010 has he run around two turns on any surface. He is a late running sprinter, but is five-for-six at Fair Grounds.

Raison d’Etat was impressive in his last start, but that came back in July at Saratoga. He was trained by Bill Mott then and now shows up under the care of Wayne Lukas. Not sure what to make of that.

Self Control also has a trainer switch going from Chad Brown to Wayne Catalano, who is not having a good start to the Fair Grounds meet. Self Control has been in-the-money in eight of his 13 career starts with his best a third place finish in the Grade 3 Skip Away in March 2012 at Gulfstream Park. The winner that day? Fort Larned.

First post on Saturday at Fair Grounds is 1:30 ET with the Louisiana Handicap off at 4:55. It starts a pick-3 which includes the Silverbulletday and ends with the LeComte.

Gulfstream Park – Sunshine Millions Classic
Mucho Macho Man’s 2013 Debut

Mucho Macho Man ran six times in 2012 with three wins, two seconds and a third. His two seconds, combined, were by less than a length and his third place finish was behind Successful Dan and Fort Larned, who went on to defeat Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That was MMM’s last race in 2012 and he comes back this year looking to repeat in the race that started his spectacular year.

In the Sunshine Millions Classic last year, Mucho Macho Man was not the favorite. He was coming off a facile win in an allowance race at Aqueduct almost three months earlier and prior to that was seventh, beaten over 24 lengths, in the Belmont Stakes. However; when the gates opened, you could tell the Macho Uno colt was a much improved horse.

This year will be a bit different with the addition of blinkers, which could help a bit of a perceived hang he has developed in his last two races. Mike Smith, aboard the last three starts, once again has the call.

In front of the favorite early may be Fort Loudon and Cash Rules, both made their last start over the track.

Fort Loudon was second in a state-bred stakes at seven furlongs in his last race six weeks ago. As a three-year-old last year he ran in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby over the track finishing fifth and sixth in the graded races. This is the first time; however, he has been two turns since the Florida Derby.

Cash Rules broke from post six in his last start at a mile and one-sixteenth and with the new track configuration he had no shot. Prior to that, Cash Rules won four straight races including a state-bred stakes at nine furlongs across town at Calder. Look for jockey Luis Saez to break and send. Come and catch him.

Ron the Greek finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over a speed favoring track and was second to Mucho Macho Man in the Sunshine Millions Classic last year. He has an each way chance, but needs some major help up front if is he to run them down late.

Completing the field are I’m Steppin’ It Up, Atoned and Decaf Again with post time scheduled for 5:05 ET.

Santa Anita – Palos Verdes
Seven Sprint Six

The feature race on Saturday at Santa Anita is the 61st running of the Grade 2 Palos Verdes for older sprinters. The race drew a field of seven with six horses between 5-2 and 8-1 on the morning line.

Doug O’Neill sends out the favorite Private Zone for Good Friends Stable looking to reverse the geldings’ seconditis. In his last three starts, Private Zone was second in the Damascus on Breeders’ Cup day, second in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood at Hollywood Park and second in the Grade 1 Malibu on opening day at Santa Anita in December.

Private Zone is a front-runner as is second choice, Comma to the Top, who drew right to the favorites inside in post five.

Comma to the Top has won 11 of his 25 career starts including two-for-four at Santa Anita. He is also three-for-six at the distance. The two met in the Underwood at Hollywood Park with Comma to the Top finishing behind Private Zone in fourth. Look for the two to once again hook up early.

Next in line are Justin Phillip, Drill and Canonize; all will be doing their best running late.

Justin Phillip loves a wet track, which he is probably not going to get on Saturday when temperatures in Arcadia are expected to be in the upper 70’s. The five-year-old First Samurai horse last race was a fifth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Drill cuts back in distance after a fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Malibu, a race he had to need off the seven-month layoff. In early 2012, Drill won the Grade 2 San Vicente and Grade 3 Laz Barrera, both at seven furlongs. The Lawyer Ron-colt has been working a hole in the win in the mornings and can sit just behind the dueling leaders. He will get first run on Justin Phillip and the other closer Apriority, who is making his first venture out west since January 2011.

The interesting entrant is Canonize from the Ron Ellis stable. Canonize has not run since finishing second in the Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star park last April and while he may be better with more ground, the seven-year-old gelding is four-for-six at Santa Anita and one-for-two over its dirt surface.

Long shot Sahara Sky rounds out the field making his first start since June 2012. He gets tested for class, but does love the Great Race Place.

First post on Saturday at Santa Anita is 3:30 ET with the Palos Verdes scheduled to break from the gate at 5:34.


Thoroughbred Racing Action

Great racing action from across the country this weekend.  Watch these races all on

Saturday– January 19

  • Fair Grounds:  Lecomte Stakes - G3, $200,000, 3yo, 8f 70y
  • Fair Grounds:  Louisiana Handicap, $100,000, 4yo & up, 8.5f
  • Fair Grounds:  Silverbulletday Stakes, $125,000, 3yo f, 8f 70y
  • Fair Grounds:  Col E.R. Bradley Handicap - G3, $125,000, 4yo & up, 8.5f turf
  • Fair Grounds:  Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes, $75,000, 4yo & up f&m, 8.5f turf
  • Gulfstream Park:  Sunshine Millions, 6 races, $1.3-million total
  • Santa Anita:  Palos Verdes - G2, $150,000, 4yo & up, 6f
  • Laurel Park:  Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes, $125,000, 3yo, 7f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Pippin Stakes, $75,000, 4yo & up f&m, 8.5f
  • Sam Houston:  Star of Texas Stakes, $100,000, 4yo & up, 8.5f
  • Sam Houston:  Groovy Stakes, $50,000, 3yo, 7f
  • Sam Houston:  Spirit of Texas Stakes, $50,000, 4yo & up, 6f
  • Sam Houston:  Richard King Stakes, $50,000, 4yo & up, 9f turf
  • Sunland Park: Pepsi Cola Stakes, $100,000, 3yo, 6f

Sunday – January 20

  • Santa Anita:  La Canada Stakes - G2, $150,000, 4yo f, 8.5f
  • Gulfstream Park:  Kitten's Joy Stakes, $100,000, 3yo, 8.5f turf
  • Oaklawn Park:  American Beauty Stakes, $60,000, 4yo & up f&m, 6f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Dixie Belle Stakes, $60,000, 3yo f, 6f