Friday, October 29, 2010

Pinch Hitter connects in fifth at-bat

In his fifth trip to the plate, Pinch Hitter swung wide and made a bold run for home Friday to win a maiden-claiming race at Philadelphia Park, becoming the 36th member of my sales-tip Class of 2010 to score.

The dark bay Vindication colt was the furthest outside in a wall of five horses vying for the early lead, a group that included 1/2 favorite Diski Dance and another of my 2010 juvenile sales selections, Lookin At Options, who was nearly 38/1. The five were separated by only a half-length in an opening quarter run in 23.11, but were finally stringing out a bit by the half (47.55), which found Pinch Hitter and eventual runner-up Crockefeller left to go head-to-head.

Pinch Hitter prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:13.17. A 20/1 shot, Son of Posse, got up over Lookin At Options for third, but my bargain-basement sales-pick ($8,500 at EASMAY) did manage to salvage fourth and a $1,680 paycheck in a much-improved effort over his debut in maiden special weight company.

Pinch Hitter was bred in Kentucky by Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds, who couldn't get him sold as Hip 115 at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training, where the colt was a $45,000 RNA. He was trained for this win by Ronny Werner and ridden by Frankie Pennington. Pinch Hitter runs his lifetime earnings to $20,998.

I handicapped KEEAPR, so to speak, after the fact, accumulating lists of "Steals," and "The Surreal," in addition to the group in which this colt was included, "Possible Second-Chance Deals." One might have been able to purchase him privately after the sale, or, I reasoned, he might be entered again in a later sale.

He becomes the second member of that 11-horse Second-Chance Deals list to break his maiden. The other is the filly Evangelical (Speightstown-Evangelizer, by Saint Ballado), who didn't meet her reserve despite the bids reaching $100,000. She was second in her first two efforts and broke maiden in her third, at Belmont, earning $47,000 so far. Four others from that 11 have started without winning.

I considered Pinch Hitter a possible "deal" based on the brilliance of his fragile (four lifetime starts) and ill-fated sire, Vindication who died at stud when only 8 years old, combined with the female-family appeal of dam Solid Eight (Fit to Fight-Greenness(ARG), by Swallow the Sun). Solid Eight was a multiple listed-stakes winner (though of only 11 starts) who had already produced nine winners from 12 older foals. That group includes: EUCHRE (G2/G3, $900K); LOUIE THE LUCKY (14 wins, $258K); and C. C. ON ICE ($207K). Pinch Hitter's modest-winning half-sister Ale Eight Woman is the granddam of WAYZATA BAY (G2, $718K). Unraced half-sisters Solid Claim and Gretel Girl are minor stakes-producers. Pinch Hitter's granddam was an Argentine G1 winner.

Hurting Pinch Hitter's price might have been the fact that his dam was 22 at foaling -- very advanced in age for a broodmare -- and a mare's later foals often seem to be not as talented. That could be evidenced in this family, as in the decade since foaling Band Aight (Dixieland Band) who won five of 11, but in modest company for less than $32,000 total, Solid Eight produced a one-race War Chant colt, three by Unbridled's Song who went 3-for-16 between them for about $76K earned, and a 2007 Roman Ruler who is yet to race.

Still, this colt breezed a capable 10 2/5 and looked reasonably good doing it. And when other horses (on my surreal list, for example) sold for prices soaring above $300,000 without looking substantially better on paper or in their breeze, Pinch Hitter seems like a value.

He did have to drop in for $25,000 to get a win. But he's been improving, and if they can keep this son of Vindication sound, I think he'll continue to compete successfully when properly placed.

Pinch Hitter's win means that, through Friday's action, 19.3 percent of my juvenile sales-tips have managed to break maiden; that's 36 percent of the 100 to race. The group has made 301 starts and collected 48 wins, a strike rate of 16 percent. With 60 place-finishes, the class finishes in the exacta 35.9 percent of the time and an additional 29 "show" finishes make for an in-the-money rate of 45.5 percent.

Group earnings total $2,041,253. That rounds to $6,782 per start, and averages to $20,412.53 per runner.

Follow both my recommended horses and those I took a stand against in this comprehensive list.

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