Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two tough days and another graded near-miss

The week that started well on Wednesday and Thursday with sales-pick winners in maiden races at Camarero and Fairplex is straggling home a bit with only Sunday's racing left to go. Even the favorites are falling short or outright flopping, though at least the Class of 2010 has added another graded stakes-placer, the fourth, to its roster.

Rough Sailing (pictured), an impressive maiden winner around two turns on grass at Arlington Park, was sent off as the 9/5 favorite off a 4/1 morning line in a switch to the synthetic main track there for the Arlington-Washington Futurity-G3. As in his debut, the Mizzen Mast colt tried to close late for the win, but this time he came up short, losing by a length to a More Than Ready maiden, Major Gain, but persevering on the rail to nip 5/2 morning-line favorite Caleb's Posse in a photo for second.

Jockey Michael Baze said Rough Sailing got a good trip this time, but just has a better kick on turf. I hope that means we might next see Rough Sailing in a race like the Oct. 10 Bourbon S.-G3 at Keeneland, back on the grass and with another sixteenth in which to close.

I tabbed Rough Sailing as a "Priority 1" horse for a client seeking bargain runners at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training this past May. I liked the colt, who was Hip 250, fairly well on paper (his dam is a half-sister to WILD ZONE, STRIKE ZONE and Snow Eagle), very much admired his 23.2/35.2 breeze over a slow dirt track that isn't his preferred surface, and honestly never figured we'd get him in our price range, though he was just a $12,000 yearling. Consignor True South LLC urged me to look him over thoroughly and keep him on our list, but I was right, his $40,000 price -- while an undoubtable bargain at this stage -- was more than we came to pay.

The consignor commented that the colt later to be named Rough Sailing was "a nice horse" and "very aggressive." I liked his front end considerably, his back end a little less so, and remarked in my notes (with underlining): "Big feet." A large hoof is considered by some the hallmark of a grass horse, and with this colt being by Mizzen Mast (a better dirt horse, but from the Cozzene/Caro turf line) and out of a Woodman mare, his turf aptitude doesn't surprise me. Not being huge behind also might hint at why he's been a little slow in the early going of both races -- not a blast-from-the-gate, sprinter type -- and that he's best-suited to covering a bit of ground, another trait that makes sense considering his pedigree.

As I confided to my friends on Twitter, it is stirring and rewarding to realize you've laid your eyes and hands on such a horse before he's ever raced a step and concluded, "This one is the type."

Other Saturday action saw 5/2 morning-line favorite Reward the Lady -- second in her debut -- disappointing with a sixth-place finish among MCL $25K-$20K fillies at Philly. Penny's Boat, a debuter and good-driller, was sent out for her first start on turf at Belmont, where she straggled home seventh behind a blazing 1:09 for six furlongs run by Atlantic Voyage, a full sister to Grade 1 winner Stormello. I'm a bit puzzled by the connections choosing grass in the first place for the bow of Penny's Boat, a daughter of Songandaprayer out of a Valid Wager mare; watch for her to improve on the main track. And, what I thought was a live filly at 6/1 in her debut, After Words, was vet-scratched at Monmouth.

On Friday, what I thought were four strong chances for wins turned into just three placing. Among them, What's the Rumpus picked up a third at Fairplex and Reprized Halo finally hit the board with a second place in a $25,000 maiden-claimer at Calder. I liked Reprized Halo enough to tip him at OBSAPR, but his connections have done the colt no favors. He came close to placing at the maiden special level and they've since thrown the boy to the wolves in a pair of stakes races. On Friday, he managed to strike the lead in the stretch but couldn't hold on. At least it appears those ill-considered stakes beat-downs haven't completely broken the horse's resolve.

I was disappointed Friday evening when the connections of second-time-starter Lost Webos (fourth at the maiden special level in his debut) opted for a $25K maiden-claimer at Penn rather than the maiden special on Saturday at Philly for which the horse was cross-entered, and he still couldn't hit the board. Lost Webos was a close-up fourth at Penn Friday, but that was less than I (and gamblers) expected.

Friday's biggest hopes in my mind rested on an 8/1 morning-line shot, first-timer Surprise Strike, whom I couldn't believe was sent off at 20/1 in maiden special company at Presque Isle Downs. The Stormy Atlantic colt rated early, came through on the rail, and just missed by a half-length, finishing second in his debut in a six and a half-furlong race run in a pretty fair (for 2-year-olds) 1:17 and change. He will not be 20/1 next out.

I remember Surprise Strike well as Hip 380 at that same Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training, the first (and presently only) auction at which I've worked as a hired bloodstock advisor. When I asked consignor True South LLC to see the horse, and he was led from the dark of his stall, as his shoulders hit sunlight, my first muttered words were, "Holy shit!"

I loved that the colt was short-coupled, with a nice shoulder and great withers. He was lighter in the hind than I would prefer, but might fill out. The consignor assured me that the son of a stakes-winning Unbridled mare was better even than his pretty fair 23-flat move would indicate, saying the horse was (literally) snake-bitten on the muzzle the morning of his drill, and had swelling in his face and throat.

The colt was a $34,000 RNA at EASMAY, and now is trying to prove on the track that he's worth more than that. Friday's debut was a pretty fair start.

And on Thursday, hoping for my third consecutive sales-tip winner in two days, and at a huge price, Thistoo Shall Pass was sent off at 47/1 at Woodbine on the grass. Though sixth, she still was beaten less than four lengths. She's yet to hit the board in three races up in Canada, but is always within hailing distance of the winner, so I have the feeling her connections will keep trying Thistoo Shall Pass at the maiden special level rather than dropping her in class for a win.

Among my four sales tips in for Sunday are two more morning-line favorites, Delightful Mary in a two-turn allowance on the main track at Woodbine, and On Appeal dropping for a $12,500 maiden tag at Calder. Both have stories behind them.

Delightful Mary was the $500,000 sales-topper at OBSAPR and won for fun her first out in Canada, covering six furlongs on synthetic in 1:09 and change without much being asked. And, much like his Calder-mate, On Appeal hit the board a couple of times among maidens before his connections made the ill-conceived choice of running him in stakes company, where he finished behind everyone, including Reprized Halo.

I honestly expected Delightful Mary to turn up next in a stakes race; after her debut, I wouldn't even have feared running her in Sunday's Swynford at Woodbine, against colts. Perhaps this two-turn test is a prep for the Oct. 9 Mazarine Breeders Cup. S.-G3 for fillies at Woodbine.

As for On Appeal, if his connections didn't break him by sending him out against stakes horses, he really should win now that he's been dropped like a stone to maiden $12,500. Look for him to be right there at the finish or nowhere, and if it's nowhere, I'd blame the clubbing he took in that recent stakes race.

Also in action Sunday are Z Breeze, a live debuter at 6/1 in Race 4 at Calder, where he gets a top rider in Manoel Cruz, and Kuhlu, 5/1 in Race 9 at Arlington. Not much of a fan of Kuhlu in this spot, as a daughter of Ghostzapper being sent out on grass. If that race somehow washes-off onto the main track, I think it helps her.

Following Saturday's action, the sales-tip list of maiden-breakers remains stuck at 26 of 187 horses recommended, or 13.9 percent. With 31 wins from now 178 starts, their strike rate has dipped to 17.4 percent. With 30 places and 17 shows, the ITM rate continues to hover around 44 percent, at 43.8.

The Class of 2010 has seven stakes horses, or 3.75 percent. The other six besides Rough Sailing include: two-time stakes winner GOURMET DINNER ($137,390); FISCAL POLICY ($54,080); Saratoga G1/G2-placed Alienation ($104,000); Del Mar G1-placed Rigoletta ($60,820); Spa G3-placed Stopspendingmaria ($59,167); and non-blacktype stakes-placed Blue 'em Away ($14,574).

The class has earned a combined $989,242, which averages to $5,557.54 per start.

Follow the entire class in the list at the end of this former post.

(Thanks to Jamie Newell for the Rough Sailing photo from the Arlington-Washington Futurity. Check out Jamie's blog and her stellar photography at, Flickr and Facebook. You can't miss her at a racetrack; she doubles as the turf-photography world's loveliest hat model.)

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