Titans Clash in Sand Castle Turf Classic

The best turf horses in the SIM have flown into Dubai, passed through quarantine, avoided COVID19 (it doesn’t affect horses right?), found their barn assignments, then discovered they would be facing two titans. And I’m not talking some flashy CGI reboot. This is the real deal. Perseus and Calibos. Andromeda and the Kracken. Pegasus and Medusa. Or, in our case, Bolden Bidder and Mihali the Great. Both have taken home a HOY trophy. Both have $10 million in earnings (don’t rules lawyer me!). Both racks up G1 wins like the Polar Bear swats dingers. These horses are FIERCE.

As the older of the two, we’ll take a look at Bolden Bidder first. He is the race favorite at 5/1. Trained by champions he is an expertly, lightly raced gelding by Teofilo. He is riding a 4 race winning streak and has won seven of eight. Oh, by the way, all those are G1 races. In fact, Bolden Bidder’s only defeat came on an off-track where he finished 4th. He won the Ark last year, along with this race and what sets Bolden Bidder apart is the manner in which he wins these races. He crushes the competition. Bolden Bidder ran a 120 here last year winning by 5. He ran a 119 in the Ark winning by 4. He’s trashing the best fields in the SIM like he’s running in a claiming throwaway race in Ohio. What sane trainer would face such a behemoth? Any hope of think he’s lost a step in his 5-year-old season was dispelled back in February when Bidder won his 2020 debut race, the G1 San Francisco Captain Handicap, with a 117 winning by 3. This is King Kong, Godzilla, Optimus Prime, and Drogon all rolled into one. With another season like last year, Bolden Bidder has a realistic shot to become the SIMs second $20 million dollar man.

Because of Bolden Bidder’s dominance, much credit must be given to trainer lawdro for bringing Milhali the Great to this race and setting up the clash. He could easily have dodge this race, there is another G1 at 12 being run on the schedule. Despite Bolden Bidder’s accolades, it is Milhali who is the #1 ranked horse in the division and he wants to prove he deserves that ranking. Mihali dominated the 3-year-old division last year winning five straight including the English Derby and the French Grand Prix. He ran into a tough two-race stretch over the summer but has since rebounded and proven his mettle by beating older horses twice in G1s. Both those wins, in the Winter Cup and the New Zealand Darby, were dominating performances. And so both Mihali and Bolden Bidder will each enter the Turf Classic in excellent form. They have faced each other only once before in last season’s Japan Classic. Bolden Bidder finished first, passing Mihali the Great in the stretch with his patented closing kick. Mihali ran third and will be looking to turn the tables here.

These then are the titans. But the field is a full one and it contains five other G1 winners and six other millionaires. Can one of these horses spring the upset in the Turf Classic?

Contenders

Six horses are clustered together at odds from 7/1 to 11/1. If one of these horses wins the race it would be a surprise but considering the field is deep enough that a super horse like Bolden Bidder is only 5/1 (great value btw) the oddsmakers don’t think it’s impossible. Moving from the inner post position outward we have Gigantomachy a son of Giant’s Causeway trained by 4wide. The 4yo has won half of his 14 races achieving his G1 win at 10-furlongs versus older horses in scintillating fashion running a 121 SP in the Fall Tent Show. That race was the culmination of a three-race win streak. After a pair of losses, he came back in 2020 to win the G2 Kyoto Handicap at 11. Gigantomachy seems somewhat nebulous on what his preferred distance happens to be. Is he a 12-furlong horse or is he better suited for 10? Trainer seems equally perplexed running four times at 12 then three times at 10. If 11 is the sweet spot that is problematic since all the juicy races are at the latter distances. Mihali beat him by 5 in the French Grand Prix.

Banditfrank trained by banditfarm, is a great horse in his own right. He owns a $5M badge and an excellent record with 16 wins in 22 starts. Remember, Bolden Bidder has only run 16 races, the Bandit has that many wins! Something of a distance specialist, he has graded wins at both 13 and 14-furlongs. He can’t be dismissed at this distance though having multiple G1 scores at 12. Last race was a G1 at 16 so he should benefit from the drop down to 12 Saturday. The Bandit has elite speed and likes to surge toward the front. He’ll likely fight Galaxy King for the lead. Whether these two speed horses duel or if one gets away to a large lead will determine the course of this race. Either way, they will have their work cut out for them trying to hold off Mihali and Bolden Bidder. It should be pointed out that Galaxy King held on for second sandwiched between the two monsters in the Japan Classic. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least to see one of these pair hold onto part of the trifecta should they not cross the wire first. Robd trains Galaxy King and while he hasn’t had the success of others here, owning a G3 win as his pivotal achievement, his speed makes him dangerous. Unfortunately, it looks like gelding the Galileo son could have taken something out of him. He closed 2019 looking like he was an elite horse winning three straight then picking up two 2nds in G1 company. Trainer took the somewhat radical step of gelding a horse in top form and he opened 2020 getting blasted in the G1 John Scott finishing 11th from 13. That’s a huge red flag for me coming into a race of this magnitude. I can’t see him turning it around against this field, especially when his lead will be hotly contested. My guess here is that Galaxy King gets burned up by the Bandit and begins to fade badly at the 3/4 pole.

Star Writer one of two Sea the Stars in the field, looks like he peaked last year winning the G1 Classic Turf Stakes which he parlayed into a 2nd place finish in the Breeder’s Bowl Turf Classic. Trainer Cgk2 tried him in the G1 Winter Cup running 3rd behind Mihali the Great and Galaxy King and came back this year running 5th in his first effort. Star Writer is usually in the mix accumulating over $2 million in earnings but he struggles to find the wire first with 6 wins from 21 starts. In fact, he has only won one race since last April. It would be asking a lot for this to be a winning effort considering past form and his 2020 start. Even so, he’s the 7th ranked horse in the division and usually threatens.

Another horse similar to Star Witness is Fifteen Dead who is a slightly less successful version. Or maybe the New Approach version? His record is 8 for 21 giving him two more wins but he’s earned a million less having not as much vim in G1 racing. Something of a streaky horse, he won three straight giving him his first graded win, a G3 score during a May through July stretch last season. He’s riding another hot spell winning two in a row in New York last year running third in the Ark. Fifteen Dead crushed those races winning by a combined 10 lengths and picking up a G2 win. 2020 began with him taking a closing 3rd in G1 Jai Alai at 11-furlongs. He’s run 118, 117 and 116s before so he has plenty of talent. His mom, Five Dead, was a G1 winner with an A.P. Indy x Sharpen Up foundation. She’s produced three graded winners. A live contender and a horse the wise guys may end up gravitating toward.

Tengu splits the middle between the last two winning 7 from 20 starts. Although his sire, Nadeem, is the odd one out on the stallion draft sexy board. The Evil Empire runner lacks nothing in accomplishments however winning the French Grand Prix and Vicky Derby in 2018 as a 3yo then taking the G1 Sword Swallower last year. He burst into 2020 running a 115 SP good enough for 2nd in the G1 SF Captain. Tengu held the lead late before Bolden Bidder blew past him. Any sort of check puts him over $4 million. Capable, on his best days, of running a 117-118. In a lesser field, you’d love his chances, especially after the blockbusters start to the year. How does he turn the table on the Titans though? He’s 5 and we’ve seen his peak.

Frosted has been able to put together some high-quality turf horses and Frosted Trix is no exception. A G3 winner from a G2 winning mare, he’s accumulated over a million in his career. That win came last June in the Stars and Bars. Success there prompted trainer aalex to send him into G1 company and while those efforts didn’t produce wins they did result in strong performances culminating in a 3rd in the Breeder’s Bowl Turf. His SPs have taken a step back in his last two with dual 111s and he ran 5th in the Jai Alai. He hasn’t won in 9 months and won’t win here but you can’t pick up a check if you don’t run.

Longshots

Should one of these five horses win the race it would be considered a surprise, and that’s coming from an owner who races one of this quintet. Odds here range from 13/1 to 23/1. I can’t speak for the others, but my motivation here is two-fold – First, why play the game if you don’t try to win the big races? Second, there is no shame finishing 3rd and a third-place check in a $3 million dollar race really enhances a horse’s career earnings. Former claimer Montflug headlines this group. I always feel stories like this are what makes horse racing. To rise from the claiming ranks to the starting gate of one of the top turf races in the world is a phenomenal achievement. Trainer mlafort picked up the Adlerflug son back in May of 2018. Almost a year to the day later he won a GER local race at 16 furlongs. Using the drop-down from 16 to 12 Montflug took the G2 Longstickgoboom Stakes winning by a thrilling head. After 25 races Monflug has almost certainly peaked and isn’t going to hold up well against these beasts here but what a great story. Fantastic effort to make it into this gate.

Comfortably Buzzed has the last amount of earnings in the field with under $400,000. His 4 wins from 16 races don’t offer much confidence nor do his back to back 110 times at 12 which are about 7-10 points lower than what will be needed to win this race. And yet, you can see why trainer mjk is trying it. He HAS run a 118 before, albeit in allowance company and he finished 3rd in both of those G1 12 furlong 110s. Would it be a blinding shock for him to win? Yes. But is that impossible? I’m not so sure…

If Comfortably Buzzed has the least earnings in the field, then Raze Redeye, my runner, has the least number of wins with 3. How can you enter a horse with only 3 career wins against Bolden Bidder, Todd!? Well, the 4yo Adlerflug (shout out to him joining Sea the Stars with two entries) is deceptively competitive. As a 3yo he ran 2nd in the Japanese Derby then ran 2nd to Milhali in the French Grand Prix. He ran 2nd testing older for the first time in the G1 Grand Carlos (beating the Bandit) and after a confidence-building allowance win in January he won in a hand ride, Raze Redeye finished 2nd in the G1 John Scott. All these near misses have pushed his earnings up over $1.6 million despite the 3 wins. It would be a shock for him to win this race, a stunner actually, but can he run top 3? That might be in the cards, he gets Zeus back in the irons and if the veteran jockey can follow in Bolder Bidders wake in the rush to the front…

Cadet Allegretta trained by cadet, won the G1 Canada Turf last year. That was his 4th career win and looks likely to be his highlight. He’s been beaten by a combined 21 lengths in his last two G1 tests. The 5yo Sea the Stars gelding is lightly raced with only 15 starts leading one to believe he could still have a productive career, however, I don’t believe it will be in this race. This will be his first start in 2020 giving no meaning to the jumping on the cycle without a helmet.

Alright, I lied. Darksparkle actually has the least wins in the field with 2. But one of those is a G2 win. Crazy how some horses careers unfold isn’t it? Trainer deepesr brings the son of Choisir into the race coming off a 117 and a 118 that included a 2nd in the Jai Alai where he was beaten by a mere neck. Yes, the horse with 2 wins actually looks like the most live of lively longshots and should be rightly feared. He is a perplexing runner having only won one race in the last year and that was his G2 score coming at 9-furlongs as a 3yo. It seems completely improbable that he could pull the upset but how can you ignore his last two? Anyone betting the pick 6 is forced to include him. Sometimes a deep bomber he may have received new jockey instructions which keep him closer to the pace. He’s been near the front in a stalker position during his last two monster SP runs.

Are Bolden Bidder and Mihali the Great going to run 1-2 leaving the field to fight over the show spot? Or will Prometheus be cast down for stealing the immortal fire? What a race. Good luck everyone.

3 thoughts on “Titans Clash in Sand Castle Turf Classic

  • March 26, 2020 at 9:06 pm
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    Thanks for the writeup! Really glad to give my boy Montflug a shot in such a big race.

  • March 27, 2020 at 3:53 am
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    nice job even though you left out Darsparkle won the G3 manatee cup no complaints good luck every one

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