• The Rematch

    POSTED Sep 15, 2011
    Shortly after Hungry Island inhaled Winter Memories like something passed around at a Bob Marley concert in the Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 21, the excuses began.

    Jose Lezcano, rider of the heralded three-year-old lass some had called the best turf horse in training, was cast as a modern-day Ronnie Franklin — a bumbling idiot who got Winter Memories into traffic jam after traffic jam and who many felt was ultimately responsible for the filly’s defeat that day.


    The truth is Winter Memories was simply beaten by a better horse in the Lake Placid — a horse that may be better, period. In any event, the two rivals are scheduled to meet again in Saturday’s Grade I Garden City Stakes, an outstanding race that drew eight confirmed starters and one MTO (main track only) entrant.

    Below is a look at the field:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    1-MORE THAN REAL (8/1 morning line odds)
    If you’re looking for an upsetter, this gal is a pretty good candidate, as I suspect she’ll move forward off of her last race in the Lake George on July 27. In that affair, she raced wide and was beaten 5 ½ lengths by Winter Memories. However, the Todd Pletcher trainee did defeat “Memories” in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November… and she figures to be a square price this weekend.
    Fair Odds: 6-1

    2-SALARY DRIVE (20/1)
    Her last race produced a 97 Brisnet speed figure (BSF), which is very good (today’s par is a 101), and a –8 late speed ration (LSR), which is very poor for this group. I’ll pass.
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    3-HUNGRY ISLAND (3/1)
    Her LSRs have been incredible, matching the visual impression I’ve had of her on the track. The only concern I have regarding Hungry Island is what kind of punch she’ll show following a more taxing opening half; clearly the one to beat.
    Fair Odds: 5-2

    The question here is not whether Winter Memories can win the Garden City — she can; the question is at what price? Personally, I think the morning line is absurdly low, though it may be accurate. The truth is, just as I said prior to the Lake Placid, the daughter of El Prado simply doesn’t have the speed and pace figures to justify her reputation. And, that alone, makes her worthy of a bet-against.
    Fair Odds: 3-1

    5-ARCH SUPPORT (20/1)
    That was a nice allowance win last time out and makes this filly and interesting longshot proposition.
    Fair Odds: 15-1

    6-KATHMANBLU (8/1)
    This gal’s a tough call. She’s certainly capable of springing an upset with her best, but her latest efforts hardly get the pulse racing.
    Fair Odds: 8-1

    Daughter of Bernardini was a surprise — and ultimately disappointing — entrant in the BC Juvenile Fillies on dirt after placing in the Group 1 Meon Valley Stud Fillies' Mile at Ascot on the grass last year. This year, she returns to the states on her preferred surface and rates a long look as a European lawn lover that figures to get first run on both of the highly touted American runners.
    Fair Odds: 7-2

    8-PINCH PIE (10/1)
    Mixed signals with this Anthony Dutrow trainee. Obviously, Dutrow is a plus; and her race at Monmouth Park was pretty good (85 BSF, +3 LSR); but the Delaware race on May 25 gives me pause (-9 LSR) given that Belmont Park is not especially kind to frontrunners over this course and distance.
    Fair Odds: 15-1

    Facts On Fairplex

    Just like every baseball park has its own idiosyncrasies and charm — the ivy at Wrigley Field, the Green Monster at Fenway Park, the falling roof tiles at the old Kingdome — so too do racetracks. Of course, most of us can easily identify the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs, the vast expanse that is Belmont Park, or the odd configuration of Kentucky Downs, but few tracks are as unique as Fairplex Park.

    To begin with, Fairplex is a bullring. No, not the kind that features matadors, capes and a dazzling display of sequins — the folks at PETA would love that, wouldn’t they? It could be called Dollywood Park. In the horseracing world, a “bullring” is any track with a circumference of less than a mile.

    Fairplex, or Pomona as many still call it, is five furlongs.

    As a result, most races are contested around multiple, sharp turns and, as is the case at other bullrings such as Charles Town and Hastings Park, the emphasis is often on early speed. Riders renowned for getting their mounts out of the gate quickly — “gate” jockeys — often have great success at California’s premier fair meeting.

    Listed below are some additional tips:

    1) Because Fairplex is so different from other tracks in the Golden State, many top trainers aim specifically for the 16-day meeting. Thus, it is wise to be less rigid regarding long layoffs, surface switches and the like; the combination of speed and class — or top connections — often trumps those factors.

    2) While it certainly pays to keep an eye on high-profile conditioners like perennial top dog Doug O'Neill, remember the “little guys” too. Every year, it seems, one of these unheralded trainers gets hot and has a great meet. Last year, Peter Miller and Adam Kitchingman combined to saddle eight winners in 13 tries; this year, Craig Lewis has visited the winner's circle fives times (with just eight starters).

    3) Any horse ridden by David Flores, Tyler Baze (when/if he starts riding again) or Martin Pedroza is a contender — even if it shows up in the paddock looking as nervous as a Notre Dame football fan in the fourth quarter.

    4) Horses that have shown an affinity for Fairplex in the past, should be considered in the present (yeah, I know, it’s sounds like a fortune cookie — but it’s true).
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