Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bout of near-misses ends with a winner: Blue 'em Away becomes 14th sales tip to break maiden

Headed into the weekend, more than a dozen horses from my 2010 juvenile sales tips had chances to reach the winner's circle at tracks across North America, and even (on Sunday) in Korea.

It was a disappointing string of days and races until Saturday night, when a horse broke through that, to me, seemed one of the least likely going into the weekend.

Blue 'em Away, a colt by Bluegrass Cat-Alcina, by Kingmambo, managed to win in his fourth start, and his second since being banished to Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg after starting out his career in Kentucky. Jockey Vicky Baze "forced the pace" from the outside, according to the Equibase chart, and defeated short-price favorite Three Mile Tough by two on the wire.

The colt, bred in Ireland by Runnymede Farm, earned $6,913 for the victory, bringing his lifetime earnings to $8,702. He is now trained by Chad Torevell.

Despite his win on dirt, covering four and a half furlongs in a fairly pedestrian 54.80, I still think his connections, Arnason Farms, are missing the boat with this horse. He breezed a credible 10.2 over the Polytrack at Keeneland before selling for $20,000 at the April sale, prompting me to label him among the "steals" of the auction. (I also named a list of "potential second-chance deals" from the sale, that is, RNAs one might be able to buy privately later, and "surreal" prices, figures that I deemed too much to pay for a given horse.)

I noted that I might rather have seen a turf-raced sire bred to the Kingmambo mare, but there is dirt performance in the family. Alcina is a half-sister to four-time stakes winner CAMELLA (Housebuster) and 11-race stakes winner STONE CANYON (Mt. Livermore) -- both of whom were G3-placed -- and of Mamalik (Diesis), who was G1-placed on grass in France. But the second dam was a stakes-placer by noted turf sire Roberto.

The colt breezed a credible 10.2 over the Polytrack at Keeneland before the sale. I was further encouraged when the colt rocketed to 48.80 and 47.80 works from the gate at Keeneland. Later works of 49.40 and 1:03 flat were acceptable, albeit not outright fast.

The connections shipped the horse to a pair of races at Churchill, where he twice disappointed on dirt. Then, off he went to Winnipeg, where he posted his slowest-ever breeze (51.60) before failing as the favorite in another dirt race -- dirt being the only surface at ASD. (He's breezed more briskly once since, 37.60.)

So, honestly, I had low hopes for Blue 'em Away going into Saturday's card. Frankly, I don't think he's a dirt horse. He's breezed anywhere from "all right" to extremely well over Polytrack at Keeneland. After running dull on dirt at Churchill, I can't fathom why he got punted all the way to Manitoba rather than just up the road to Arlington Park in Chicago, where he could try a synthetic track (or shelved until the Keeneland and Turfway meets).

With as much grass as there is in the female family, and a Storm Cat-line stallion on top (certainly a sireline capable of getting a turf runner), the colt also merited at least one chance on the lawn, perhaps at Ellis Park, before being banished to confines where the only grass around is for eating.

The connections' apparent early dismissal of the colt as a Kentucky-class racehorse aside, he's now a winner, regardless what I think, and the 14th of my sales-tip class of 2010. ... But please, bring him back in the winter and let him run on Polytrack at Turfway. I really think he'll improve on something other than traditional dirt.

Our winner now duly credited, the near-misses began with a third place finish on Thursday by Admitit, a bargain-priced filly ($20,000 at OBSAPR) who finished third, again, at Woodbine, this time on the grass. She's raced three times, has a third and another second on her record (both over the all-weather track) and has earned $18,760 toward repaying her purchase price, all without winning. And Woodbine, with its lofty purse structure, has become one of the more competitive tracks in North America.

On Friday night, two selections from Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic sale in May appeared in the same maiden special weight race at Charles Town. A $10,000 EASMAY purchase, Grand Giana, showed speed, but faded to fifth, while sales-mate Sultry Gibson led until the last instant, losing by a neck to Cuttin Edge Kitten. It was the second time Sultry Gibson had placed from four starts, her first three races being at Calder in Florida. She's earned $7,590. Grand Giana has earned $2,100 from three unplaced starts.

On Saturday, the missing got even nearer in one race, as first-timer Dangerous Ghost closed fast at the end but failed to get up in time and lost by a nose to 3/2 favorite Class E Holiday in a maiden special weight at Canterbury Park. I tipped the Ghostzapper filly from OBSAPR.

Two other maiden starters this weekend ran further in arrears in races on Saturday at Presque Isle Downs; Tale of the Tiger in her second start (an MSW) and R Canadian Academy (maiden-claimer) in her debut. Another scheduled starter, Soldier's Tune, was a trainer scratch at Calder from a $32,000 maiden-claimer in which he was the morning-line second choice at 3/1.

Through Saturday's racing, 56 of my 187 sales tips have gone to post at least once (30 percent), and the class has crested the century mark in combined starts. The class has won 15 of 102 starts (14.7 percent), placing or showing another 26 times (40.2 percent in the money). GOURMET DINNER ($75,390) is the only two-time winner, and is also the group's first stakes winner. Stopspendingmaria ($57,500) is Grade 3-placed at Saratoga. Combined earnings are now $487,644, or $4,781 per start.

You can track the performance of all 187 of my 2010 sales tips here.

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