I had initially hoped that this ridiculous pandemic, resulting in the shutdown of virtually everything but virtual sports and horse racing, would force recalcitrant eyeballs and gambling dollars to be funneled back towards the ponies – resulting in a new Golden Age where teenagers skipped 7th and 8th period to catch the late Pick 4 or the nightcap from their local oval.
Alas, the holdouts are being shut down as everyone and their momma tests positive despite having no symptoms, and the masses continue to defy the instructions of the professionals (or instead heed the verbiage of nincompoops). Dude, stay home. We want racing back! And restaurants. I can only handle SO many microwaved meals and consecutive waking hours with my family.
Nevertheless, I decided to write a preview of a pretty good race, into which I entered a reasonably good horse, but don’t really know his chances. I’ll handicap and write this preview in real-time, after which you can roast both my commentary and lack of prognostic acumen.
Irish 2000 Guineas Trial
3 year olds, Grade 3, One Mile, Turf
#1 CADET HALO
Exceed and Excel x Smart Strike x Halo
Grade 1 placed in October, he failed to fire in The Futurity while taking a small step back in speed form. Cadet benched him for 12 weeks and it worked, having fired a 100 SP in a mile allowance. Colt’s he-mom, a Given trainee, was a dual Grade 1 winner at 6 ½ furlongs, including the 2017 BB Turf Sprint. It might not be crazy to think he fits in this spot and could win, but also might be even better at shorter distances down the road.
#2 MORE THAN HANDS
Exceed and Excel x More Than Ready x Seattle Slew
Ace’s nice son of MORE THAN HIS (winner of the G3 Snaggin’ Wagon) is definitely getting good at the right time and place for a big effort. After breaking his maiden vs. winners in May, a premature Graded appearance (unplaced at 6f) was quickly forgotten when effectively stretched to 7 and 7.5 furlongs, with plenty of rest between starts. Start #6 came as a 3yo, off a 3 month layoff, and he walloped an 8f listed stake like it was no big thing (101 SP). Fun fact: This is the second foal of the dam, whose first offspring won a first-out maiden race as a 2yo in 2012, and nothing else (see: one hit wonders). I’ll bet Ace is glad she gave the mare another crack after a 9 year hiatus!
#3 KING SADLERS
Kingman x Kingmambo x Sadler’s Wells
Well-bred Edski colt is not lighting up the teletimer, but he has the most experience of this group at today’s 1600m distance. After the obligatory 6f debut victory, he went right to 8 furlongs in September, and has not turned back since. It took until start 4 to get win #2 in a December conditioned allowance, but he ran that right back with a solid listed stakes score in February. Stamina should not be an issue for this promising guy.
#4 ROWDY TESTA REEL
Highland Reel x Testa Rossa x Falbrav
Already a grizzled racetrack veteran of 9 lifetime starts, the Simhorse scratch-bred entrant is one of a few here who have tried distances further than today’s jaunt, with mixed results. His close-but-no-cigar late kick was effectively employed on his first route stretch out, beating an 11 horse field in a listed stake in December. Adding another furlong next out, he could not replicate the kick and was a well-beaten 4th with some obvious speed regression. Simhorse quickly right the ship when cutting back to 8f, and a lifetime best 99 SP earned “Rowdy” another stakes placing. He returns to the same course as his initial stakes victory, but the waters may be deeper this time around.
#5 DC SWAMP
Washington DC x Dubawi x Pivotal
Trainer Jastables must have drained some serious gene pools to create this interesting son of Washington DC (Zoffany), who at publication could be had for 27 BPs. From a simulated first crop of 43 foals, “Swampy” is the only stakes-placed runner of the bunch, that coming in his last start. It was also his first at the 8f distance, where he was narrowly defeated by a solid Dubawi colt named PRINCE DESTINY. His resumé before that doesn’t look like much, some tactical speed in turf sprints, so it may belie his ultimate effectiveness at this level. If you’re looking for more clues, the dam was a cheapish 8.5-9f performer on turf, and hasn’t thrown any siblings of note. This guy is already an overachiever, but I’m not so sure if you should get off the bandwagon just yet.
#6 BUSC WITH AB
Redoute’s Choice x Dylan Thomas x Deputy Minister
Now here’s a weird one. This guy wins, in order, debut maiden, allowance 2 life, listed stake, G3 stake. Steadily increasing speed figures and distances. 4 starts, 4 wins. The bay colt from the cuetec barn made the logical progression to the G1 Futurity (see #1 CADET HALO) and promptly bounced. Hard.
After a 3 month break (there must be a template for this, I am thinking) he returned in the G3 South African Guineas and was a non-threatening 7th. The 94 SP will not get it done today, but which one is the real “BUSC”? Was it a one-off anomaly and a prep race, or is he simply a 2yo sensation that has seen his best efforts? Family records don’t tell a clear tale, but there are sibs who won at 3 and 4, and the pedigree doesn’t seem like a burnout is eminent. Could surprise.
US Navy Flag x Pivotal x Smart Strike
5-1 favorite, and he has a lot of credibility. His list of priors includes a G1 placing, a listed stakes win at the distance last out, and a G3 win. He’s never been worse than second. His dam HELLSTRIKER won a G1 sprint on dirt and a G2 on turf, but a mile was still in her wheelhouse. His 99SP win in the listed stake last out isn’t stellar, but he won by open lengths, suggesting he was on cruise control. Any modest improvement will place him in the exacta again today… the question is, how much of a leap will the opponents make? Simsters would have a real Guineas prospect with a solid placing today.
#8 MUHARRAR’S HUMOR
Muharrar x Redoute’s Choice x Distorted Humor
Stockswami takes a leap of faith and enters his lightly-raced homebred into this viper’s den, having only a maiden win at 7.5 furlongs under his belt. He’s progressing the right way, but has not threatened to have his picture taken in proceeding allowance and listed starts. What he has going for him is a turnback from 9 furlongs, a health 2 month break since the last outing, and he didn’t have to ship for this contest, if that means anything. The joke’s on you if you discount his chances based on his 84 speed rating at the distance… that was in September.
Zarak x Nathaniel x Green Desert
The second French-bred of our field heralds from the deeprock stables, famous for obscure sires and when-you-least-expect-it graded stakes triumphs. You get a little bit of both here with the homebred son of DARK GREEN BLAZE, who, um… went 0 for 13, earning $4,248. The sire is a true bargain 10 BP stallion, who actually has a decent 3 stakes winners from 100 starters (that’s 3% for you non-maths people). In true legendary deeprock fashion, this runner never appeared in a maiden race (he won an N1x first out), turned back from 8f to win a 6f listed stake, is already G1 placed, and prepped for this effort with a trouncing in the 9 furlong G1 Vermont is for Lovers. He doesn’t look like a threat here & may just be a nice sprinter… a win here would be a spot where I least expect it. So that means…
#10 BASKET OF FRUIT
Carvaggio x Tapit x Redoute’s Choice
So here’s the guy that’s the cause of your pain, if you’ve happened to read down this far, and you have, because that’s how sentences work. Despite two early micro-sprint victories, he failed miserably in two subsequent listed turf sprints. I stretched him out to 7f and dropped back into allowances, and he came running for 2nd. The flat mile was even better, a 98 SP fig. Here’s where it gets weird. I got Derby Fever, and had nothing resembling a classic dirt horse… so he got a crack at a short field allowance on dirt. He crushed that, but his lead dwindled some after opening up 4+ lengths. Needing some points to make a true Derby prep appearance, I tried the Hutchinson, a 7.5f Grade 2 dirt sprint. It’s a long sprint. He ran evenly, not close enough to get points and also not fast enough to think he could be a real Derby horse, or competitive dirt horse. So we’re back to trying the turf, in a massive step up, and he’s likely not up to the task. With no allowance conditions left, it is definitely just ‘taking a shot’, but I’m hoping he enjoys the trip to the land of his simulated birth.
#11 SAKURA BATH LV
Epiphaneia x Invincible Spirit x Stormy Atlantic
The bizalls gelding (the only fixed lad in the starting gate, assuming all simulated assistant starters are intact) has the best last race effort of the bunch. He came from the clouds to score a G3 victory with a 102 SP, the first race of the 3yo portion of his career. He may be a bit pace-dependent, and this race does come up surprisingly light in the speed department, but there’s only been 2 races he hasn’t had his photo taken, from 7 tries. I like those odds, and I like the prospects of BASKET OF FRUIT getting ‘the snip’ if he doesn’t finish ahead of this exciting prospect.
#12 WATT IS THAT
Churchill x All Too Hard x Dance In The Dark
18-1 entrant of the doomngloom / thunderjnse stables has a lot to offer, including good tactical speed and an unblemished record at the distance (1 for 1). The only ‘bad’ race on his form was a 7.5f allowance bid where he chased a loose-on-the-lead type; both ultimately faltered. The book is still out, and I don’t think his career will be defined by what happened today, but I am curious to see if he can sustain his effort without being far in front. Class check in real time.
#13 NO NAY FIRE
No Nay Never x Lion Heart x Seattle Slew
Jonesstables’ veritable monster 2yo is the #5 ranked router and #7 ranked sprinter in the 3yo turf ranks. He’s done little wrong and a whole lotta right, culminating with a G1 victory in the 8f High Flyer Stakes, where he opened up a massive lead and hung on to win by a head (CADET HALO a close third). He lost a similar lead when turned back to the 6.5 distance of the G2 Young Gentleman in December. Perhaps that was an attempt by trainer davarto at some late-season ranking boosting, but we haven’t seen him at the post since. It may seem slightly unorthodox to bring such a successful horse back at this spot after nearly 4 months away, but he’s the only one in the field with a G1 win. Can’t knock it until you’ve tried it… or in this case, earned it. Dangerous with one big question mark.
Sebring x Street Cry x Danzig
This is the last horse I’ll write about for awhile, and is that really fair? He drew the outside post and the last smug yet oversimplified preview blurb provided. I guess I could have done them in alphabetical order. Maybe in decreasing order of earnings. Nevertheless, davarto’s OTHER entry here (he must not be pleased with the racing office) comes in off three consecutive route races, the last of which was a solid 98 in a listed stake. His dam HOMESTYLES won the G1 Queen Ascot Stakes at this same 8f distance. Farouche is her 3rd stakes winner from 4 foals, and just look at that pedigree. Now look again. The conspiracy theorist in me says bet this 10-1 shot, not the other 10-1 half of the uncoupled entry.
In conclusion, I am really thinking if you run 1-2 in this deep, deep field, you should be looking at a G1 in your next start – maybe even the Irish Guineas, for which this is an intended preparatory race. It seems a lot tougher than a standard G3 for 3yo, and I’ll be watching to assign “key race” status to this one as we proceed. As for my horse? I got the preview I craved, although now that I’ve handicapped the field I think BASKET OF FRUIT’S true chances are nearly rotten, a spoiler at best.
I hope this madness ends soon, or at least subsides. With all sincerity, best to you and your families and friends. In many ways, our simulated horse society is far superior to the ‘real’ one. I hope we can make a better humanity from this mess, but I’m not counting on it.
Oh, me beating your talented horses? That’s just bananas.