Well, that clearly wasn’t one of the better handicapping weekends I’ve ever had. Never has the phrase “loose on the lead” been more accurate than this past weekend at Santa Anita.
In the Las Virgenes, Beholder showed that she is quite the classy filly. Maybe the throat ulcer combined with her first start off the layoff is to blame for that dull effort in her first start as a three-year old, because she clearly showed that she is much more than just the precocious two-year old we all saw last year. The pace wasn’t blazing by any stretch of the imagination, but it was honest. Maybe Beholder is just that much better than her competition on the West Coast at the moment? It will be interesting to see how she fares should she make it to the gate the first Friday in May in the Kentucky Oaks. As for my choice, Speedinthruthecity, she sat in the second flight of horses for the majority of the race, only to lose ground down the stretch and finish fifth. All in all, I thought she ran a solid race for this being her first of the season, off a nearly six month layoff, and against Grade I company. I’d expect her to take a significant step forward in her next race – maybe against some easier competition.
Suggestive Boy is a very nice turf miler, but the star of the Kilroe Mile has to be the up and coming Silentio, who nearly nipped Suggestive Boy at the wire. Honestly, I can also say that I think this was a very nice debut on the turf for my selection, Fed Biz, especially considering I thought Mike Smith should have had him on the engine from the gatebreak. When he was taken back to a stalking position, I thought he may be in some serious trouble, but he put in a nice rally to finish a decent third. Out of the whole lot, one has to believe that Silentio is destined to be a serious, serious force in the turf division. I’m not about to say he’s capable of running with the likes of Wise Dan right now, but if he continues to progress this way, the sky is the limit for this son of Silent Name. As for Suggestive Boy, he ran another quality race in victory. There is nothing to knock about him, however I really don’t think there is anything to get too excited about. I think what you see is what you’re going to get from him, and there’s obviously nothing wrong with being a Grade I stakes winner. He’s going to be a major player throughout the year, but I don’t think he’ll be any better than this…and that could be a bit of a concern if Silentio continues to mature and develop the way he has so far.
The most dangerous handicapping angle in horse racing is a horse that is going to shake loose on the lead and have the front end all to themselves. Pace makes the race, and Game On Dude had the Santa Anita Handicap handed to him on a silver platter. This isn’t meant to sound like I’m bashing him, but I can’t help but think this race would have unfolded a bit differently if ANYONE had gone to put some pressure on Game On Dude throughout the early stages of the race. Who am I to question the tactics and game plans of owners, trainers and riders…but were the instructions for Mario Gutierrez aboard Handsome Mike really to sit two lengths off Game On Dude the entire way around, even when you know GoD is a beast when he has things his own way? No question the race shape compromised the chances of a horse like Ron The Greek, who ran a mediocre fourth. I wish there was an excuse for my choice, Stephanoatsee, but there just isn’t. For whatever reason, Stephanoatsee didn’t run a step on Saturday, which is a humble reminder that no matter the owner, trainer, rider or surface…the horse will ultimately decide whether or not the connections will be celebrating in the winner’s circle. I’m not ready to give up on Stephanoatsee just yet, because he’s definitely better than what he showed on Saturday afternoon. At the end of the day, Game On Dude had the best race set up imaginable, but it’s hard to knock a horse that wins one of the premier races in the United States by 7 1/4 lengths. A great win by a great gelding.