This week we will review some major stakes races in three prominent divisions, the three year
old colts and geldings, the sprint division and the handicap division.
In the three year old colt and gelding division we will look at three different races, two at Santa Anita
and one at Aqueduct. On Saturday February 7th, 2004 Santa Anita hosted the San Vicente, a Grade II for three
year olds to be run at seven furlongs. This short field of only six horses didn’t feature any big names on the three
year old scene but did have some talented sprinters in HOSCO and TETON FOREST both of whom were undefeated
coming into this race with HOSCO going 3 for 3 and TETON FOREST 1 for 1. After setting some solid splits early on
HOSCO was not able to last and had to settle for second to a Calder shipper named IMPERIALISM. This horse had
really come into his own of late but those races were mostly on the turf and he was turning back in distance from 1 and 1/8th
miles. However, after laying last early on he came with a strong late run to get up for an easy score despite lugging in late.
With his experience at routes he will be one to watch as the races get longer.
Moving to Aqueduct on Saturday they hosted the Whirlaway Stakes for three year olds at 1 and 1/16th miles and
featured a field of seven. The favorite in the race was QUICK ACTION, a three year old colt by CARSON CITY, who was
trying to stretch his sprint speed a distance of ground. With a few other speeds in the race the fractions were swift and the
race was won by a closer, LITTLE MATTH MAN, a New York bred who had won his only other two turn start, albeit against
New York breds. This horse will obviously have to do a lot more to be considered on the Triple Crown trail but his win on
Saturday is a start. QUICK ACTION is probably best served sticking to sprint races.
On Sunday Santa Anita hosted another three year old prep when they ran the Sham Stakes for three year olds at
1 and 1/8th miles. This race featured the return of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero ACTION THIS DAY. Despite his presence he
was not the favorite in the race, that honor went to MASTER DAVID, who was sent off at even money. Coming off an even
third in the Santa Catalina in his first start for trainer Bobby Frankel, MASTER DAVID was able to fight back for the length
score. ACTION THIS DAY, made a move on the turn to get into contention but could only mange a close-up fourth. He needed
the race and should improve off that effort.
Moving quickly to the sprint division, no pun intended, we will take a look at the Deputy Minister Handicap, a Grade III
run at six and a half furlongs for four year olds and upward. CAJUN BEAT of Breeders’ Cup Sprint fame was sent off as 4-5
favorite battled head to head for five furlongs with ALKE, before giving way in the drive and settling for second. That was
ALKE’s fourth win in a row since moving into the Todd Pletcher barn and looks to be a serious contender on the sprint scene.
CAJUN BEAT intends to go onto Dubai and race over there but that will come with a jockey change to Jerry Bailey.
Staying at Gulfstream on Saturday and moving to the handicap division they hosted the Grade I Donn Handicap. This
saw the return of MEDAGLIA D’ORO, who was making his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Classic and it also featured Kentucky
Derby hero from 2003 the New York bred FUNNY CIDE. After stalking the early pace of PREDAWN RAID, MEDAGLIA D’ORO
took over and drew off to score by more than four lengths. Obviously off one race it is hard to say who the best horse is right now
but if Frankel can keep him right and injury free they will have a tough time dealing with him this year. FUNNY CIDE on the other
hand made a weak move toward the leaders but never made an impact and will have to improve a ton to be anywhere near the top
of this division.
On Saturday at Santa Anita they hosted the Grade II Strub Stakes for four year olds run at 1 and 1/8th miles. The favorite in
the race was MIDAS EYES who was trying two turns for the first time didn’t even show his usual speed finishing an even fourth
behind the winner DOMESTIC DISPUTE. Off that race it doesn’t look like many of these horses will impact the handicap division
but it is still early in the year.
The Triple Crown trail starts to heat up on the February 14th-15th weekend, with the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream
and the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. We will review those races next week and give you our opinions.