• Tackling the Test

    POSTED Aug 4, 2011
    For some time now I’ve wanted to dedicate a column solely to handicapping one or more of the big weekend stakes events and this is definitely a great weekend for just such an undertaking.

    I’ll start with the Test Stakes — a Grade I, seven-furlong contest for three-year-old fillies, scheduled to be run on Saturday at Saratoga:

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    1-AVA K. (20/1 on the morning line)
    Although regular rider Ramon Dominguez sticks with trainer Michael Hushion’s other entry, Roman Treasure, I actually think this filly has a better shot of posing for pictures in the Saratoga winner’s enclosure this weekend. Her speed figures are less-filling, but her late speed rations (LSRs) taste great and I think “Ava” may be capable of upping her game in this, her first Grade I try.
    Fair Odds: 8-1

    2-AMERICAN LADY (5/1)
    This lightly-raced filly has a lot going for it. To begin with, she is trained by Bob Baffert, a guy who has a 36 percent winning average with horses switching from a synthetic surface to a dirt surface over the past five years, according to Daily Racing Form Formulator. What’s more, the daughter of Stormy Atlantic looked like a whale amongst minnows in her latest, swallowing up her older rivals in the stretch like they were plankton (how's that for an obscure — probably for a reason — analogy?).
    Fair Odds: 7-2

    3-ROMAN TREASURE (15/1)
    Frontrunning horses on dirt are almost always dangerous and this filly is no exception. However, there are other speed horses in Saturday’s field, most notably Savvy Supreme, so I expect the pace to at least be reasonable (I’m guessing an early speed ration of -8 or thereabouts). Hence, I would insist on a price if playing Roman Treasure.
    Fair Odds: 12-1

    4-COAX LIBERTY (12/1)
    I make it a habit to avoid late-running horses with poor LSRs like I avoid movies about cars that turn into killing machines (not that such a cartoonish theme would ever make it to the silver screen).
    Fair Odds: 20-1

    5-SAVVY SUPREME (15/1)
    I believed that this lass possessed the running style to be effective in the one-mile, Grade I Acorn run at Belmont Park on June 11. She did… unfortunately she lacked the talent and stamina. Last time, the Todd Pletcher trainee dropped into an ungraded sprint and was beaten once again — this time as the 8-5 favorite. Somehow I don’t think another Grade I race is the tonic she needs.
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    On the positive side, Turbulent Descent is undefeated at the Test distance of seven panels and her 104 Brisnet speed figure last time was a lifetime best and came in a race that saw the winner (It’s Tricky) annex the Mother Goose in her very next start. On the negative side, the daughter of Congrats has lost her only two races on dirt, may not appreciate a fast pace and has just so-so LSRs. Oh, and did I mention her trainer, Mike Puype, is 1-for-15 with horses coming off of a layoff of seven weeks or more in graded stakes events over the past five years?
    Fair Odds: 5-2

    Amy Tarant-trained filly lured jockey John Velazquez from Savvy Supreme, who he’d ridden in all five of her career starts — that’s a positive. On the minus side, this daughter of Pomeroy has recorded just mediocre LSRs (see Coax Liberty).
    Fair Odds: 10-1

    8-HER SMILE (4/1)
    I have a new strategy for evaluating Todd Pletcher-trained horses that has worked amazingly well this year: I consider his charges if they have competitive speed figure, but ho-hum pace figures; and I discard them if both the pace and speed numbers are good. By those rules, Her Smile is a strong contender on Saturday, especially since both her ESRs and LSRs have been steadily improving.
    Fair Odds: 9-2

    9-SALTY STRIKE (12/1)
    After two solid efforts at Churchill Downs, including a victory in the Grade 3 Dogwood, “Salty” struck out in the Mother Goose after attending a moderate pace (-6 ESR). This weekend she cuts back in distance and has definite “rebound” potential at what is sure to be a nice price.
    Fair Odds: 8-1

    WAGERING STRATEGY: First and foremost, I would toss TURBULENT DESCENT if she is anywhere near her morning line odds come post time. Secondly, I would use AMERICAN LADY (at odds of 7-2 or greater) in all my wagers and toss in various exotic combinations featuring SALTY STRIKE, AVA K. and to a lesser degree (depending on price) HER SMILE.

    BET(S): WIN on 2 at odds of 7-2 or greater.

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    Hambletonian On Tap at the ‘Big M’

    Among the other big races on Saturday, is the $1.5 million Hambletonian for three-year-old standardbred trotters. The “Hambo” is the 9th race on a special 15-race afternoon card at the “Big M” and is scheduled to go off at 3:44 p.m. ET.

    Of course, it goes without saying that one should check out Frank Cotolo’s poignant analysis of the big events or participate in the Player’s Pool that Frank will be heading up to get all of his stellar insights; however, if it’s non-stellar insights that one seeks… hey, I’m the man.

    Below are my top Win Factor contenders for Saturday’s Meadowlands program (as always, I suggest using the fair odds as a guide to your betting):

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    The_Knight_Sky said...

    Should the field stay intact, a pace meltdown looms, if it helps bring down Turbulent Descent to the place (or better yet show spot) the vertical payoffs could get interesting.

    Good luck.

    Anthony said...

    Thanks Derek for pointing out the quality of American Lady's allowance win - Martin Garcia never set her down and she still romped.

    I think at the odds I can still give Pomeroy's Pistol a chance with the jock switch. She wasn't in the bridle early in the Prioress, which makes her LOOK like a closer. I think PPistol needs to be closer to the pace, and she WILL be closer to the pace in the Test. Coupled with the wide trip I still think she's better than Her Smile, although on the numbers alone that may be difficult to assert.

    Finally, I think your ML on Turbulent Descent is spot on. I had her at 5/2 on my line.

    Here is my line for the Test:

    TurbD - 5/2
    American Lady - 7/2
    Pomeroys Pistol - 5.5/1
    Her Smile - 6/1
    Salty Strike - 10/1

    My main assumption here is the one-dimensional speed horses (Roman Treasure, Savvy Supreme, and possibly Ava K., if she is sent from the rail) will have a slugfest on the lead.

    Anthony Kelzenberg

    Derek Simon said...

    I am REALLY curious about that 3f work for Pomeroy's Pistol. I know you like it "Knight Sky," as you posted:


    But I'm not so sure. I just don't see what such a fast, yet short work accomplishes in this instance, but I'm fascinated to see how it turns out.

    However, the bottom line is we MUST make money if Turbulent Descent loses as a heavy favorite, because all of us think she's a potential underlay in this spot.

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