Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sales-pick exacta provides winner No. 17

I was looking forward to Wednesday evening's fourth race at Hoosier Park, because I was convinced one of my 2010 juvenile sales picks was gonna run away and hide with that one. And I was right.

But I had the wrong horse.

Pulgarcito, a first-timer from the barn of Steve Asmussen, broke from the 1-hole, bolted to the lead under Victor Lebron, and sailed around the rail to victory by five and a quarter lengths. He set blazing fractions, especially for a first-time starter, of 21.80 for a quarter and 45-flat for the half, posting a final time of 1:04 flat for five and a half furlongs.

Trailing from gate to wire was the horse I thought was going to win, another sales pick of mine, Category Killer. Trained by Tom Amoss, Category Killer had been working more briskly than Pulgarcito leading up to their mutual debut race. Consequently, he was sent off as the favorite at about 3/2, while Pulgarcito posted odds of better than 5/1 and paid $12.80 to win. (A rare, generous payout, I should think, for an Asmussen horse making his debut at a track like Hoosier.)

Finishing third, another two lengths behind Category Killer, was Finding Paradise, the second choice in the odds at a little less than 2/1 after he debuted with a second-place finish at Churchill on July 2.

Had you boxed my "sales-pick exacta," you'd have collected $37.20 for each $4 wagered.

Pulgarcito (Greatness-Cat Attack, by Storm Cat) was bred in Florida by Edward Seltzer and Murray Durst. He is owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable. The colt was a $37,000 RNA as Hip 849 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training.

I'd normally ignore the get of unraced stallions, or those -- like Greatness -- who only won a couple of races and were never stakes performers. But Greatness is a son of one of the 20th century's true prepotent sires, Mr. Prospector, and his dam Harbour Club was a track record-setting stakes winner. While those genes didn't amount to a splendid racehorse in Greatness, for whatever reason, he's passed a few good qualities along to his get. Through three crops of racing age last year, Greatness has sired 75 percent runners and 53 percent winners from all foals, although just one stakes winner. He's upgraded his mares, with a 1.26 Average Earnings Index vs. a 1.07 Comparable Index.

So when this fellow -- whose dam was a G3 winner at 2 and a proven stakes producer -- blistered 10-flat through an eighth, I took notice. Pulgarcito also already had a juvenile-winning full sibling in Great Attack, who won two of three starts last year at age 2. So the stage was set with this one for an early win, and he got it (earning $21,000) in his first out.

"Another likely FL-bred winner by this over-achieving sire," I predicted.

But I didn't predict that he'd win Wednesday.

While Pulgarcito had drilled no quicker than 38.60, 50-flat and 102.20 for Asmussen, Category Killer had worked sub-24 for two furlongs in May, quick as 46.60 for four furlongs in July, and most recently ran 1:00.40 just 10 days prior to this start. I thought the son of Officer-Dial a Trick, by Phone Trick, was the sharper of the two.

I thought wrong.

Category Killer did earn $7,000 for his owners, Klaravich Stables Inc. and W.H. Lawrence. A half-brother to G2 winner EYE OF THE TIGER, G2-placed WILDWOOD FLOWER and stakes-placed stakes-producer Expanse, the colt was a $70,000 purchase as Hip 957 from the same OBSAPR sale that produced Pulgarcito. He drilled 9.4 in the under-tack show, and I suggested his price, despite being roughly double the sales average, could prove to be a bargain.

And it still might, because the colt got taken down Wednesday by an obviously super-sharp horse from one of the nation's most successful strings. I have to think Category Killer's chances are even better his next time out.

Also Wednesday, I had a firster from my sales picks making a start among NY-bred maiden special weights at Saratoga. There Goes Molly (Chief Seattle-Hey Darla, by Evansville Slew) was a $6,000 RNA at Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training this past May. I thought she might outrun her odds -- which were 12/1 on the morning line and nearly 18/1 at post -- but she pretty much lost all chance when she broke through the gate before the start and had to be reloaded. That's never a good omen.

Through Wednesday's racing, my 187 juvenile sales tips have made 110 starts, producing 17 winners (9 percent), 18 victories including stakes winner GOURMET DINNER (16.4 percent wins from starts), and 28 other placings (41.8 percent in the money). The Class of 2010 has earned $572,928, for $5,208 per start.

Track the progress of all 187 sales picks, plus a few "pans," at this former post.

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