Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 12/8/14
With some 20 stakes races being run thorough out the country this Saturday, it was rather difficult to choose exactly which race should be our Horse Racing Race of the Week. I choose the 2014 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in Queens, New York, where the unbeaten and untested Samraat will spearhead the field of eight and (just five minutes later) the 2014 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, where Noble Cornerstone has been listed as the tepid 7/2 morning line favorite. Amongst those 18 other stakes races being run Saturday, more than half of them are being run at Delta Downs in Louisiana. Delta Downs will be running a bonanza of races in what they call their “Louisiana Premiere Night”. A few other major stakes races being run Saturday include The Hutcheson Stakes at GulfstreamPark. “The Hutch” is a seven furlong sprint for three year olds for $200,000 and is one of my favorite races run during the year. This year’s renewal will feature Wildcat Red, who suffered his first career defeat in the Gulfstream Park Derby while battling every step of the way before coming up a head short on the wire and C. Zee, who was a late running second in the Spectacular Bid stakes at six furlongs. The stretch out in distance makes him a logical contender. The featured race this weekend out at Santa Anita is the Las Virgenes Stakes, which is a Grade: 1 race for three year old fillies going a mile for $300,000. The highly touted and unbeaten Bob Baffert filly Streaming will be making the third start of her career. This well bred filly (Smart Strike-Teeming by Storm Cat) came from behind to win her debut on Nov 15, then bounced back just three weeks later to win the Grade:1 Hollywood Starlet also while coming from behind early. I’m very excited about this filly….can’t wait to see her run again, she might be something special.   Aqueduct – Saturday, February 1, 2014 Race 9 – 4:20 PM     Withers Stakes (Grade: 3) Purse $250,000 For Three Year Olds One And One Sixteenth Miles     P# PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1 Uncle Sigh 3/C L P Morales 116 G C Contessa 9/5 2 2 Street Gent 3/C L I Ortiz, Jr. 116 L Gyarmati 12/1 3 3 Scotland 3/C L K Carmouche 116 A W Dutrow 8/1 4 4 Classic Giacnroll 3/C L C H Velasquez 116 L Guerrero 5/1 5 5 Samraat 3/C L J L Ortiz 118 R A Violette, Jr. 7/5 6 6 Honorable Judge 3/C L J Bisono 118 R E Reid, Jr. 15/1   Analysis: 1) Samraat- exactly how good is this colt? I mean, what are we looking at here? One of the reasons why I love this sport is the intrigue horses like this produce. Unbeaten and untested, this colt by Noble Causeway has never been behind at any call in any of his three previous races. Let’s examine those races, shall we? First off, in his debut (Oct 23), he rocketed out of the gate and quickly established a clear (two length) early lead.  He gradually opened that up to 3 ½ lengths down the stretch and won easily. His second start, against allowance NW1x (Nov 22), he replicated his debut race by busting out of the gate and quickly established (one length) the early pace on the rail thru a half mile in :46.2. At the quarter pole, jockey Jose Ortiz shook the reigns a couple of times and this colt glided away from his 6 other competitors to win by 5 ½ lengths. His last race, the Damon Runyon Stakes (a week before Christmas) was obviously his coming out party. The dark bay colt exploded out of the gate once again and was cruising on the (albeit slow) early lead….he opened up 2 lengths after the first half mile, 8 lengths as he turned into the stretch and, with Ortiz not moving a muscle, he lowered his head, leveled out and won by a titanic 16 ¾ lengths. Trainer Richard Violette gave him several weeks off (from the races, more on that in a second) and brought him to Palm Meadows Training Center. “He had a few races close together and ran such a big race in the Damon Runyon, and because the Damon Runyon had been delayed it seemed like the (Jan. 4) Jerome would be back too quick,” Violette said. “We sent him to Florida, and it seems like that’s been the right move with the way the weather has been (in New York). He’s been doing great, as usual.” Violette added that he believes, and this is huge, Samraat does not necessarily need the lead to win. “I think he has been faster (than his opponents), he’s obviously pretty quick, and showed it when he went to the lead from the inside in a sprint (in his debut). If others want to be more aggressive, he can (be taken off the early pace) let them do that.” After shipping to Florida and giving a couple of weeks off, Violette then put two strong one mile breezes into him (1:41.4 on Jan. 17 and 1:46.3 on Jan. 24). The bottom line is that we still don’t know exactly how good this horse is. Yes, he hasn’t ventured out of NYSB races yet and that Damon Runyon obliteration was after setting fairly slow early fractions but still…. winning his first three starts by a combined almost 26 lengths is something that has to grab your attention regardless of who it was against and what the fractions were.       2) Uncle Sigh- is another intriguing colt with just two races under his belt. In his racing debut (Dec 7) over a muddy Aqueduct strip, he rallied from 6th position early to take the lead at the top of the stretch but, after battling all the way down the lane, this colt by Indian Charlie was out-bobbed at the wire and lost by a head. He came back just about three weeks later (at Aqueduct) and won by a colossal margin (14 ½ lengths) to break his maiden under a hand ride.   “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a horse who broke his maiden so impressively,” said trainer Gary Contessa. “His first two weren’t just visually impressive, but the numbers back it up. This is the logical next spot. You’re not going to find many multiple winners in the race, and most will be eligible for an entry-level allowance.” Good looking colt recorded three good works since that runaway maiden win (Jan 10- 5F- 1:00.1, Jan 18, a stamina building 6F in 1:16.4 and Jan 26- 5F- 1:01 flat) and if Samraat “stubs his toe” this colt shouldn’t be hard to find. “Honestly, I’m hoping somebody keeps Samraat honest,” Contessa added. “If nobody else wants to go with him, I’ll tell my rider to go out with him. I’m not looking at it as us having to beat one horse because we have to beat all the horses, but I’m not going to let Samraat get an easy lead this time.”   3) Classic Giacnroll- this stretch runner, by Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, gets the call to hit the board based off his laudable consistency. He sports a 6-2-2-1 record and he ran especially well in his last two races. He finished a very good second (beaten just 2 lengths) after having to go 3 wide on the first turn and 4 wide on the second turn in the Jan 4, Grade: 2 Jerome and, before that, was a hard charging third, beaten just 2 lengths, after being forced 5 wide on the turn for home over a muddy Laurel surface….vastly under-rated rider gets the call….looks best of the rest.   Honorable Mentions: Scotland is actually still a maiden but finished right behind the third choice in the Jerome and shows back to back bullet 5 furlong works (Jan 18- 1:01 flat and Jan 26- 1:01 flat) over the notoriously deep Fair Hill Training Center synthetics…closes and has a chance to run well at what will, most likely, be sky high odds.         Tampa Bay Downs – Saturday, February 1, 2014 Race 9 – 4:25 PM     Sam F. Davis S. (Grade: 3) Purse $250,000 For Three Year Olds One And One Sixteenth Miles   P# PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1 Harpoon 3/C L L Saez 116 T A Pletcher 4/1 2 2 Noble Cornerstone 3/G L K J Desormeaux 116 W A Ward 7/2 3 3 Imaginethatmom 3/G L A Jaen 116 M Yates 15/1 4 4 Vinceremos 3/C L E S Prado 116 T A Pletcher 6/1 5 5 Cousin Stephen 3/C L D Centeno 116 C C Brown 3/1 6 6 Asserting Bear 3/C L J Rocco, Jr. 120 R Baker 9/2 7 7 School On a Hill 3/C L R D Allen, Jr. 116 W M Catalano 12/1 8 8 Matador 3/C L J R Leparoux 120 M E Casse 6/1   Analysis: 1) Noble Cornerstone- won his racing debut at Aqueduct vs. maidens impressively on Nov 3. In that race, this bay gelding by Noble Causeway assumed a three wide, stalking position early, took command at the three eighths pole and roared down the stretch to “draw clear” of his competition by 5 ½ lengths. His connections, trainer Wesley Ward and owner My Meadowview Stables, then aggressively (stretched him out two furlongs and jumped him way up in class) placed him in the Dec 15, $250,000 Springboard Mile Stakes at RemingtonPark. He was probably more impressive in the Springboard (in defeat) than he was in his debut as in the Springboard; he broke towards the back, inched his way up (four wide) on the turn for home before unleashing a furious stretch drive to miss getting up by a neck. His speed figures are as strong or stronger (89 and 91) than then anyone else in the field and he’s had three solid, if not spectacular, works since the Springboard.     2) Harpoon- started his career with three consecutive, bang up second place finishes (including one behind recent dominant Holy Bull winner Cairo Prince) before he finally broke thru and blew out a field of maidens at GulfstreamPark in his last. In that maiden breaking win (Dec 26), he laid fifth early on before coming with a four wide, sweeping move to the lead and “drew away” down the lane. Well bred colt (Tapit-Christmas Star by Star de Naskra) out of the Pletcher barn also shows three good works since his last race, has improving speed figures and appears to have a bright future…..should go well on Saturday afternoon   3) Imaginethatmom- is just 1 for 5 in his career but takes after his daddy (Imperialism) with that late running style. Be sure to notice that one win he recorded was the only time he ran on a fast, dirt track (all his others races were either on a wet track or on the grass).   Honorable Mentions: Asserting Bear is a Canadian shipper who has improved dramatically in his last three races but steps out of the “restricted” class and tries the conventional dirt surface for the first time after 6 career races.  The well named Matador has a Resume’ similar to Asserting Bear’s as he too ships down from Canada after having good success on the turf and on synthetics in his four prior races. Note, he was impeded badly at the quarter pole in his last so you can probably draw a line thru that race and also note the three strong works at Palm Meadows (all in the month of January)….long-shot possibility here.   2014 Record: 3-5= 60% 2013 Record: 20-59 = 34% To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form   Little Bets N’ Pieces   **** Mr. Speaker will return to turf following a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes, his first start on dirt, last Saturday at GulfstreamPark, trainer Shug McGaughey said. Speaking the day after the Holy Bull (last Sunday), McGaughey said he felt that Mr. Speaker “did not transfer his strong grass form to the main track”. “I was a little surprised that he was up that close (to the early pace), but the winner was sitting right on his tail,” McGaughey said. “I think at this point he’s going to be better on the grass, so we’ll go back to grass. I think the (3-year-olds) back around here are pretty good.” McGaughey mentioned the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes March 1 as a possible target for Mr. Speaker. Not is all lost for the McGaughey barn however. Earlier on the card, Top Billing, who was making only his third lifetime start, went from last to first by circling an allowance field on the far turn and then was hand-ridden to an almost three length victory. The son of Curlin was timed in a solid 1:42.3, and earned a strong 90 speed figure. “I’m not sure who was behind him,” McGaughey said. “On paper it looked maybe better than it was, but for him to get back and make a run like that…he was an easy winner. I was impressed with him.”   “I’ll have to see how he comes out of it and I’ll speak to (owner) Mr. (Will) Farish the first of the week,” McGaughey said. “I’ll figure out what he wants to do and how much pressure (Farrish) wants to put on him.”   Top Billing was impressive in an allwance win at Gulfstream last Saturday   **** Cairo Prince, dominant winner of the 2014 Holy Bull Stakes last Saturday, came out of that race “super” according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin “Cairo came out of the race great” McLaughlin said, who took the winner back to Palm Meadows Training Center on last Sunday morning. “He ate up well and is happy, sound and healthy this morning, so we’re very pleased with that,” “It’s exactly what I wanted to see”. McLaughlin added. “He ate up everything and he’s bright and happy. He couldn’t have come out of the race better. He is perfect this morning, so that’s all we can ask for.”   McLaughlin, who has taken four horses to the Kentucky Derby (finishing second with Closing Argument in 2005 and fourth in 2006 with Jazil, 14th in the 2006 with Flashy Bull, and 11th with Soldat in 2011), thinks Cairo Prince represents his best chance of winning the Derby he’s ever had in his career. “There’s no question he’s the best one,” McLaughlin said of Cairo Prince. “We haven’t been in this position before, ever. The most important thing is he doesn’t have to improve. He doesn’t have to do anything but stay the way he is, and that’s all we hope for is for him to stay healthy and happy.” McLaughlin said the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Feb. 22 is the next logical spot for Cairo Prince, followed by the $1 million Florida Derby March 29. “This horse, he even makes me say things that I don’t normally say because I like to let the horse do the talking on the track. He’s a really, really nice horse, the kind everybody gets up early every day to come out and train. He makes our job easy.”   Cairo Prince was a smashing winner of the Holy Bull Stakes   **** Two-time champion Groupie Doll breezed five furlongs at GulfstreamPark last Saturday in preparation for her final career start in the $150,000 Hurricane Bertie Feb. 9. The 6-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band was timed in 1:00 4/5 after getting the last quarter of a mile in a smoking :23 3/5. “She looked like she did it very well. We wanted to have a little easier work this week without pushing her. Last week (She worked 5F in :59.4), she saw some company in front of her and ran them down,” trainer Buff Bradley said. “We just wanted to get a nice easy work and get some distance in her. She galloped out really strong.” “We’ll probably breeze her next Sunday and go a half, hopefully, a sharp half,” added Bradley   Two time champion Groupie Doll is preparing for her career swan song   **** 2013 Jim Dandy and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice worked a half in :50.2 this past Saturday and continues to progress towards his 2014 debut which will most likely be in the March 29 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course.   2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice is getting cranked up again **** 2013 three year old male champion Will Take Charge worked a six furlongs from the gate at Oaklawn Park last Sunday in 1:14.4 and remains on course for his four year old debut in the $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park Feb. 9, which was moved one day from its original scheduling—to Sunday instead of Saturday—in order to kick off the Jockey Club Tour on Fox television. “(Trainer D.) Wayne (Lukas) says he’s in the best shape he’s ever been; he’s just continually getting better,” owner Willis Horton said. “We gave him a little time off after the Clark Handicap and then we’ve just been getting him back in shape, ready to run.”  ”I talked to Wayne, of course they changed the date of the Donn, so he’s going to work him Sunday (Feb. 2) and ship him out on Monday (Feb. 3),” Horton said. Horton also said Lukas and he “all but ruled out the $10 million Dubai World Cup” for their chestnut colt as well. “I really think we’re going to wind up going to Santa Anita Park (for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 8),” he said. “A lot of horses that go to Dubai, they don’t come back in as good of shape as they left in. So more than likely—it’s not set in stone yet, but more than likely—right now we’re going to go to Santa Anita, and after that race probably come back to Oaklawn to run him in the Oaklawn Handicap.”…wise choice sir.   2013 three year old colt champion Will Take Charge   **** 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana is likely to make his 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park March 1, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Havana is also under consideration for the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (Feb. 22). However, Pletcher said Wednesday that he’s leaning toward the Swale, which is run at seven furlongs rather than the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth. “I think I’m going to be in the Swale with him,” Pletcher said. “I just missed too much time and got behind schedule a touch. I’m hoping to make the work tab with him probably later this week and then point for the Swale.”   Pletcher said Havana, who hasn’t recorded a published workout since returning to training, is still a candidate for the Kentucky Derby. “If he were to run well in the Swale and then come back, I think that gives him time for two preps,” he said. “Only one of them will be around two turns, that’s all.” The speedy Havana’s three year old debut will have a slight delay…  **** 2013 Remsen winner Honor Code is unlikely to go in the Feb. 22 Fountain of Youth Stakes at GulfstreamPark, trainer Shug McGaughey said on Wednesday. The stretch running son of the great A.P Indy had only his first work of the season about 2 weeks ago (Jan. 18) going three furlongs in :38 flat  at Payson Park in South Florida, but suffered what McGaughey called “a minor setback.” “I had a little bit of a setback with him and lost about 10 days of training with him so chances are he won’t make the Fountain of Youth,” McGaughey said. “Maybe it will be something in New York like the Gotham (at Aqueduct Racetrack March 1) or something like that as we go along but I won’t make the Fountain of Youth with him.” “We had a little setback. He’ll go back to the track on Friday (Jan. 31),” McGaughey added “He bruised up his back ankles a little bit. I think he’ll be fine. I wasn’t sure about what was the matter with him. Now I think we have it pinpointed.” “I don’t think he lost a whole lot (training wise) but I don’t think I can have him ready to run in three weeks,” the trainer told the Herald Leader. “I told everyone that with Orb last year, everything went right. We developed him the right way, he didn’t get a bruised foot or anything, everything went right. We’ll just have to see if everything goes right here. I don’t think he (Honor Code) is out of the picture yet.”   ..as will the talented Honor Code’s.   As always, thanks for reading…

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