FRIDAY, MARCH 14
There was a mild speed bias on Friday, which was likely caused by strong winds blowing at horses down the stretch. The day’s races were characterized by fast early fractions in sprint races and universally slow final quarter miles.
Race 8: Chrisandlorisposse (#5)
Chrisandlorisposse (#5) was one of the few horses on the card to successfully mount a rally from the back of the pack. While he was the odds-on favorite in this race and therefore expected to do well, it’s reasonable to assume that anyone who wagered on him was ready to rip up their tickets after the start. Chrisandlorisposse had formerly been a horse who needed to be on the lead to produce a top effort, but he showed a new dimension in this race. He broke about a length slowly and the horse breaking to his outside immediately dropped over into this path. Emanuel Esquivel was forced to take a hold of his mount and ride him as a closer. He bided his time at the back of the pack, well behind the field and made an eye-catching four-wide run around the turn to reach contention. Chrisandlorisposse flattened out late, but this was still a very strong effort, which suggests that this horse has significantly improved since entering Mike Hushion’s barn. (watch replay)
Race 9: My Savannah Belle (#6)
As mentioned above, final quarter mile times were slow throughout Friday’s card. The only horse to really buck that trend and actually accelerate through the final quarter mile of a race was My Savannah Belle (#6), the winner of the finale. This George Weaver trainee was making her first career start for a $20,000 tag, but is apparently worth significantly more than that after destroying this group of overmatched opponents. While she got a perfect trip, what interests me is the way she finished up her race, getting her final eighth of a mile in 12.66 seconds. Quite notably, according to Trakus information, she was the only horse on the card to record a final eighth in under 13 seconds and she did so in a race that featured a legitimate pace.
My Savannah Belle was claimed out of this race by trainer Assaf Ronen and I assume she’ll be moved up into a protected spot next time. I’m actually hoping they try to stretch her out in distance eventually since the way she finished this race suggests she wants more ground and her pedigree corroborates that idea. My Savannah Belle is by decent stamina influence Afleet Alex out of an unraced dam who is a three-quarter sister to stakes winner Angliana, a route/marathon specialist who placed in both the Brooklyn (12 furlongs) and Gallant Fox (13 furlongs). (watch replay)
SATURDAY, MARCH 15
There was a strong inside bias on Saturday. Horses did not have to be on the lead, but merely had to spent a significant amount of time on the rail to be successful.
Race 7: Brass Pear (#6), Wild Finish (#8)
Brass Pear (#6) chased the pace two-wide against the grain of a heavily biased surface and actually hung on comparatively quite well in the stretch to be fourth. He had previously broken his maiden impressively with a bias in his favor, but he may just be improving overall and should be given strong consideration in a similar spot next time.
Wild Finish (#8) sustained a three-wide trip and horses simply could not make any sort of impact after racing that wide on Saturday. He also may have needed this race as Wesley Ward’s horses often do when returning from long layoffs. I believe that he possesses the most raw ability of any horse coming out of this race and he could be ready to show it on a fair surface next time. (watch replay)
Race 9: Make Your Point (#8), Agate (#9), My Won Love (#11)
There was a lot going on here in a race where a number of runners did not have the opportunity to get anywhere near the rail. I’ll be focusing on three of those horses, two of which were making their first career starts.
Agate (#9) is in a separate category from the other two fillies I’ll discuss as she undoubtedly ran the best race in finishing an excellent fourth. She made an eye-catching middle move through the pack after breaking slowly and had every right to flatten out late while racing well off the rail. I’m guessing that many handicappers will have taken note of this debut and she could quite deservedly be a relatively short price next time. This New York-bred may have some talent.
Make Your Point (#8) and My Won Love (#11) did not run very well here, but they never had a chance given their trips. Make Your Point was pushed out on the backstretch and forced to race four-wide for the entire run around the far turn. My Won Love was racing to the outside of Make Your Point early and entered the far turn in the five-path. Her jockey tried to angle her inside midway around the bend and she took a lot of dirt in her face as she struggled near the back of the pack. Make Your Point had a run a couple of times previously, but is better than she looks on paper after this race while My Won Love may have needed this race anyway and could benefit from this initial experience. (watch replay)
SUNDAY, MARCH 16
The strong bias we saw on Saturday continued into Sunday.
Race 2: Spartiatis (#4)
Spartiatis (#4) is already on my Horses to Watch list and he’s going to stay there after this performance. I thought that he was better than he looked after his eventful trip going two turns last month and he certainly proved me right on Sunday. He was three-wide early while never near the rail and still ran away from a decent horse, Cost Affective, who had ridden the gold rail for most of his trip. This win is much more impressive than the 80 Beyer figure it received would attest and I expect to hear more from this horse as racing switches to the main track. (watch replay)
Race 5: Purling (#6)
Purling (#6) finished fourth here, but was undoubtedly best after she was forced to race four-wide run down the backstretch before attempting to loop the field while still in the four-path on the far turn. She flattened out late, but according to Trakus, actually ran a faster race than all three horses who beat her once ground loss is factored in. That, combined with the fact that she raced against a strong rail bias, suggests that she is far superior to this group and I expect her to prove that next time. (watch replay)
Race 8: Pass the Coffee (#4), Lawmaker (#5)
It seems remarkable that, in a five-horse field, a horse could still receive a four-wide trip on a day with a pronounced rail bias. That’s exactly what happened to Lawmaker (#5), who clearly had no chance given the way that his trip transpired. He may not be stakes-quality, but he’s a lot better than his performance in this race would suggest.
Pass the Coffee (#4), on the other hand, raced two- to three-wide throughout and actually was running on very well through the stretch. He was perhaps best on the day given that the two horses who finished ahead of him raced on the rail for much of their respective trips. This horse began his career humbly for a $16,000 tag, but he’s steadily improved with each race culminating with a 78 Beyer speed figure for this effort. It appears that Nick Zito has a decent three year-old here. (watch replay)
Race 9: Stenson (#5), Startripenterprise (#11), Bad to the Roan (#12)
Much like the finale on Saturday, there’s plenty to see in this New York-bred maiden race. I should say as a preface that I’m concerned that the race may not be very strong overall since the winner only received a 57 Beyer speed figure, but at least three horses had their chances severely compromised by their trips.
Stenson (#5) was a first time starter for Debra Divitto who took no money at 44-1, but he ran well enough to suggest that there might be some ability here. He was forced out on the backstretch and entered the turn in the four-path. He made a wide run into second place by the top of the stretch, but flattened out late from his early exertions. Stenson actually has plenty of pedigree to stretch out further since he’s a half-brother to stakes-winning router Lauren’s Tizzy and multiple route winner Sound of Drums.
Startripenterprise (#11) broke to the outside, exchanging some hard bumps with Bad to the Roan. Rather than being sent up towards the front, Startripenterprise was taken back to race in the middle of the pack. He squeezed through between horses entering the backstretch and was three-wide for much of the run around the far turn. He raced closer to the rail in the stretch, but had his chances compromised earlier by his run down the backstretch. I think this was actually an improved performance for new trainer Nick Esler.
Bad to the Roan (#12) took quite a bit of money in this race as he was making his first start for George Weaver. After being bumped to the outside at the start he chased very wide down the backstretch and entered the far turn racing five-wide outside of Stenson. He continued to take the overland route into the stretch and did well to stay on for fifth. (watch replay)
MONDAY, MARCH 17
The gold rail that was observed over the weekend was still in evidence through the beginning of Monday’s card. However, about halfway through the day (by the time the fifth race was run) the bias was apparently beginning to dissipate. By the time the ninth race was run there was no longer any strong evidence of a bias. If one were to consider the final five races on the card in isolation, any objective observer would have to characterize the surface as fair.
Race 2: Holy Invader (#7)
Holy Invader (#7) is a horse who has probably seen better days, but he did sustain a four-wide trip early on Monday’s card when the track was still heavily favoring horses who raced on the rail. He lost by quite a ways, but he did travel a staggering 62 feet farther than the winner on a day when you wanted to be inside. (watch replay)