Sunday, October 3, 2010

Run tell that! ... Sales-tip Rigoletta at nearly 33/1 upsets odds-on Tell a Kelly in Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes

When odds-on favorite Tell a Kelly tried to bull her way through between the leaders and onto the lead at the top of the stretch in the Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood Park Sunday afternoon, track announcer Vic Stauffer said the Darley Debutante champion "(had) momentum."

But 33/1 Rigoletta was having none of it.

The Dan Hendricks-trained, David Flores-ridden underdog battled back on the outside (as did early leader Indian Gracey on the rail) and it was a three-horse head-knocker to the finish. The eighth-mile gut-check was won by the long-shot, Rigoletta, by a half-length, making her the first graded stakes winner of my sales-tip class of 2010 -- and a Grade 1 winner at that. (Race video at

I was shocked when the morning-line odds were posted for this race. Rigoletta was installed as the co-long-shot at 12/1, despite her third place finish behind Tell a Kelly in the aforementioned Darley Debutante. Izshelegal, a graded-placed maiden who was fourth in the Debutante, was just 4/1 on the morning line. And that was just the beginning.

I e-mailed a friend about the race; subject line: "WTF on odds for the Oak Leaf?"

I understood 8/5 on Tell a Kelly. I could get that Rigoletta's fellow sales-tip, Alienation, was 7/2, although I thought she'd be a bad bet here. That filly's early speed was likely to be tested by Indian Gracey (but wasn't, since Alienation made an awkward break and never quite caught up to the pace). But my mind was boggled that G1-placed (on synth) Rigoletta would have the same odds as Fairplex maiden-breaking stakes-winner True Way of Grace, whom Rigoletta defeated (considerably) in breaking her maiden.

And there was simply no possible explanation for why Pacific Pride was 4/1 on the morning line off 78 and 79 speed figures at Del Mar in finishing fourth and first at the maiden level. Rigoletta debuted at Hollywood with an Equibase speed figure of 68 when she was unplaced at first asking. But her maiden-breaking win at Del Mar scored an 81, and she improved to 89 in finishing third in the Debutante. (By contrast, Tell a Kelly scored a 101 for her Debutante win.)

As I told my friend, in essence, if Rigoletta kept improving as she had each race prior, and Tell a Kelly bounced even a little, an upset wasn't out of the realm of possibility.

Imagine my amazement as I watched the Oak Tree meeting live at and Rigoletta drifted higher and higher -- at one point not far from post time sitting at 44/1, highest on the board, while a horse she'd beaten in their mutual last race, Izshelegal, was still at 6/1.

Rigoletta ended up going off as the second-longest price at 32.7/1, while True Way of Grace was 34.5/1. Tell a Kelly was sent away at 1/2.

When the gates opened, Indian Gracey sprang to a length and a half lead, aided in no small part by Alienation's clumsy beginning. Rigoletta, who had closed from deep to break her maiden and to place third in the Debutante, was running second in this one. I thought Rigoletta might be closer to the pace in this race, as she'd been working very quickly of late. But even Hendricks and Flores were surprised at how keen she was to go on.

"She was in the bridle the whole way," Flores said. "She's got one of those long strides, so I was surprised she was so aggressive early."

Alienation pulled at Martin Garcia and hustled her own way into third, but would eventually fade to sixth of seven. Indian Gracey was game on the rail, but couldn't quite keep up. And while Tell a Kelly did gain a momentary lead, it was Rigoletta who prevailed.

"When Tell a Kelly bumped her, it got her into the race more," said Flores of Rigoletta. "... She got aggressive and fought back. I thought I was going to get beat, but that seemed to make her madder."

And "madder" made her a winner.

I recommended Rigoletta on this blog before she sold for a comparatively affordable $35,000 as Hip 726 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. She was bred in Florida and consigned to the sale by Ocala Stud, and now races in the colors of Thor-Bred Stable LLC.

I was drawn to the daughter of Concerto-Almost Aprom Queen, by Montbrook, for several reasons. Most eye-catching was her 21-flat breeze for a quarter. But just as important, she already had a stakes-placed full brother, Evening Concerto, and their dam was a winning half-sister to 10-win, G3-placed SEA OF GREEN ($651K) and LADY GIN ($227K).

This also happens to be the female family of another of my sales tips, GOURMET DINNER (Trippi), whose dam, Potluck Dinner (Pentelicus) is likewise a winning half-sister to Rigoletta's dam and the aforementioned stakes horses. Gourmet Dinner so far is 3-for-3 with victories in the Dr. Fager Stakes and the Affirmed Stakes, both at Calder, for $137,390. That colt, campaigned by Our Sugar Bear Stable, was a bargain just like his cousin, costing $40,000.

"Pretty much a racehorse family," I wrote in recommending the filly who later would be named Rigoletta.

And it's pretty much a good year for this accomplished, under-valued, Florida-rooted female family.

Rigoletta's victory qualifies as a "win and you're in" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But there's a catch. She isn't Breeders' Cup-nominated. So Thor-Bred Stable will have to foot a supplemental nomination fee equal to 9 percent of the race's total purse -- that is, $180,000, since the race is valued at $2 million -- if they want their girl with the automatic bid, to actually be allowed to use it.

"My vote is we run. No guts, no glory," said her trainer, Hendricks. "You're going for the championship. I'd love to go."

And of course, I'd love to cheer for Rigoletta at Churchill.

I also hope to see Alienation there, but I think Bob Baffert should switch his wife Natalie's horse back to the grass, where she broke her maiden. Alienation, a $60,000 OBSAPR buy, was G1- and G2-placed on dirt (once in the slop) at Saratoga, as well. The sixth-place finish Sunday, when she was compromised a bit at the start, is the first time she's finished worse than second in four starts. But I think the daughter of Rock Hard Ten-Alienated, by Gone West, stands a better chance in the Juvenile Filly Turf, where her early speed might control the race, than in the Juvenile Fillies, where there's always one or two or three others who are likewise quite keen to go on early.

Rigoletta's victory means my 187 juvenile sales tips of 2010 now boast their third stakes winner. Apart from Rigoletta and Gourmet Dinner, FISCAL POLICY is the other black-type winner. Alienation (G1, G2) is one of five stakes-placers, three others also graded, including Rough Sailing (G3), Stopspendingmaria (G3), still-a-maiden Rockin Heat (G3), and non-blacktype-placed Blue 'em Away.

The victory by Rigoletta is the 41st from 229 starts by the Class of 2010, a strike rate of 17.9 percent. The selections have also placed second 42 times, or 36.3 percent in the exacta. With 22 show finishes, the in-the-money rate for the group is 45.9 percent.

Combined earnings have now reached $1,423,282, or $6,215 per start.

Follow the progress of all 187 sales picks, and a few pans, in the list at the bottom of this former post.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.