The Grade 2, $200,000 Charles Whittingham has a field of 5 horses going a mile and 1/2 on the grass. The race will start up the chute used for the 6.5F grass race and will be run around three turns.
Like many turf marathons, this one is devoid of true frontrunners. The TimeformUS Pace Projector shows Ashleyluvssugar in the early lead. He is closely followed by Divine Oath. Then there’s a gap back to Ganesh and Crucero. The Pace Projector makes no projection for Going Somewhere, who has been showing minimal early speed while racing in France.
Now let’s take a look at the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Divine Oath (5-2): Pletcher colt is 5 for 11 lifetime on the grass. He has won three Grade 3s but has yet to do better than third at the Grade 2 level. According to our Race Ratings, he is taking a drop in class today, from a race rated 120 to a race rated 113. His speed figures fit in here, and Pletcher has lured Rafael Bejarano to ride (they get a 100 rating together). However, Pletcher gets only a 57 rating at Santa Anita. Our best guess is that Divine Oath will find himself stalking Ashleyluvssugar in the early part of this race. Obvious contender.
Crucero (20-1): 1 for 14 lifetime, and that win came in a bottom-level maiden claiming race on the dirt. Was competitive on grass against entry-level allowance foes two back, and in his most recent race, he ran a decent third in a starter allowance designed to attract maiden claiming graduates. His speed figures are way too slow in here. Pass.
Ganesh (5-2): Bred in Brazil and raced in South America, this six-year-old has now made two starts at Santa Anita. He earned a speed figure of 118 in his US debut, in a minor stake run at a distance that was probably too short for him. Then he returned in a Grade 3 at 10F and saw his figure regress by one point as he finished second. Ganesh has won four times at today’s distance and will be making his third start off the layoff for Richard Mandella, who gets a perfect 100 rating with Flavien Prat, who has become his go-to rider. Ganesh is an obvious contender, but he may be at a disadvantage from a pace standpoint, and we were a little disappointed that he didn’t move forward in his second start in this country.
Going Somewhere (7-2): He, too, was bred in Brazil, and he raced in both South America and France. He is proven at today’s distance and beyond. Indeed, he ended his 2014 campaign in a Group 3 run at two-and-one-half miles. His top speed figure in France is a 123, which he ran twice, once on yielding turf and once on soft turf. A Group 1 winner in Argentina, he managed a second-place finish in a Group 1 in France. So he is a fit on speed figures and a fit on class. But his trainer, Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale, gets only a 43 rating off of layoffs of comparable duration, and he hasn’t had a lot of recent success with shippers to the United States. It looks as if this one will be racing without Lasix. Our strong inclination is to watch a race from him over this turf course before possibly getting involved.
Ashleyluvssugar (6-5): The hot horse, this four-year-old gelding has come into his own in his last two starts. In his most recent race, he won a Grade 2 at today’s distance while earning a lifetime-top speed figure of 118. That race received a Race Rating of 116. Today’s race receives a preliminary Race Rating of 113, which indicates that Ashleyluvssugar is taking a small drop in class today. Trainer Peter Eurton gets a Trainer Rating of 85 when attempting a repeat victory and 69 with race spacing comparable to today’s. As mentioned above, Pace Projector shows him on the early lead today. The only time he raced on the pace, he recorded a victory in an allowance race. Ashleyluvssugar has trained steadily for this race, and he is a strong contender.
The Bottom Line:
Ashleyluvssugar looks like the most likely winner to us, but, frankly, we have no desire whatsoever to bet this race.