I’ve got one “Horse to Watch” entered today and it requires a little trip down to the Fair Grounds:
Fair Grounds, Race 5: The Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
I know this field looks pretty evenly matched on paper, but I believe “Horse to Watch” Skyring (#6) is the class of the race and has a serious pace advantage over his main rivals. The fact of the matter is that he has just run much better than it appears on paper in three of his last four starts. First of all, watch his coming out race in the Saranac Stakes (G3) from September at Saratoga, a performance that really speaks for itself:
He sped off to an eight-length lead early through some swift fractions for the distance and had every right to throw in the towel at the top of the stretch. Unbridled Command came at him with a rush and claimed the lead, but Skyring wasn’t done yet. He gamely tried to come back on the rail and battled the winner all the way down to the line before settling for second. Unbridled Command’s subsequent exploits, including a win over Grandeur in the Hollywood Derby (G1), only make Skyring’s performance all the more impressive.
Following that race, Skyring was thrown to the wolves in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and was no match for a field led by Wise Dan at a distance that is probably just a bit short for him. Next time out, back in with three year-olds in the Commonwealth Turf (G3) at Churchill Downs, he had to break from post position 12 and was forced to endure a four-wide trip around both turns. He actually made a strong wide move to get into second around the far turn before understandably flattening out in the stretch. Lukas then brought him back just 8 days later in the River City Handicap (G3) where he was forced to once again tackle his elders. I knew how strong his recent races actually were, so I played him at 50-1.
Skyring again ran his heart out in defeat chasing a legitimate pace the entire way and then battling head and head down the stretch with the classy Boisterous, who would be odds-on in today’s race. The winner, Keep Up, came from out of the clouds to surprise both of them, but Skyring lost the whole race by only a half-length at huge odds and notably was the only horse who contested the early pace to be around at the finish.
A true iron horse, he is now making his 16th start of the year (you can’t say these English Channels aren’t durable) and appears to be in the best form of his life. With no clear pace scenario in this race, he should have more than enough speed to put himself in front early I believe he is classier than the Woodbine invaders James Street and Hotep. James Street has never even finished in the money on the turf and Hotep may be compromised by what figures to be a slow early pace in here. If Skyring is anywhere near his 5-1 morning line, I’ll be making a big bet.
$20 Win 6
Also at the Fair Grounds today, Bind is making his much anticipated (by me at least) return at the end of the day in the tenth race on the card. I’m not betting the race because I doubt there will be much value in playing him, but I’m very interested to see how he fares. When he made his debut here in February of 2011, he looked like he might really be one of the great ones. The word was out well before the race and he was bet down to even money. From the moment he stepped out onto the track you could tell that this horse was special–he just had that look to him from his large stature to his distinctive facial markings. This strapping son of Pulpit broke away from the gate in good order and took up a position stalking the leaders early. Then he started to move up on the turn and drew alongside the pacesetter at the to top of the stretch before quickly disposing of him. But the way he was striding powerfully away from the field through the final furlong with little encouragement from Rosie Napravnik literally gave me chills and conjured up memories of videotapes of his great-grandsire Seattle Slew’s early races. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but watch the race and you’ll see what I mean.
The facts were that he had run the six furlongs in a meet-best 1:08 4/5 seconds and earned a whopping 105 Beyer speed figure. Unfortunately things didn’t pan out as he had trouble settling early when the runner-up in two subsequent route races and then was shelved for 19 months. But now he’s been working steadily for his return and is asked to go the same six furlongs of his debut. I certainly hope he finally delivers on the promise than he initially displayed.
[4:13 p.m. update] – They go to the quarter in 25 seconds and 51 to the half and the naturally speedy Skyring is being rated off the pace. I’m at a loss. He still ran on well to be a close fourth, so my faith in him is not diminished, but it would have been nice if John Jacinto had given him a chance.
[December 23rd update] – Bind returned a winner with a very professional 2 1/2 length allowance win. He ran the six furlongs in 1:10 1/5 seconds, which, while not comparable the time he posted here 22 months ago, was easily the fastest clocking of the day. I’m interested to see where he goes from here and whether or not Al Stall, Jr. stretches him out in distance again.