Today in Racing, Jan 20, 2014

Big upset in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday….and some nice exotic payoffs to anyone brave enough to stand against the 6-5 co-favorites, Broken Sword (1.20-t0-1) and Fiftyshadesofhay (1.30-t0-1).  Pace Projector predicted that the two would vie for the lead in a slow pace which would favor either or both of their chances.

But when the starting gate opened, Fiftyshadesofhay was squeezed and steadied, leaving Broken Sword in control.  Or at least that’s what one might have thought.  Rafael Bajarano, on the favorite, made no effort to slow things down, and Martin Garcia, on Baffert’s Ondine, took off in hot pursuit of the hot pace – 22 4/5 to the quarter, and a suicidal 22 3/5 quarter to the half.  Ondine engaged the leader from there, and the two battled around the turn as they started to, predictably, slow down.  Broken Sword was done soon after turning for home, but Ondine battled on.

Meanwhile, Spellbound ($35), still dead last as they rounded the turn for home, started to gather momentum, and staged a rousing rally down the center of the track.  At the wire, she got her neck in front of 14-1 Let Faith Arise, with the gallant Ondine just two necks back.  So, while Spellbound earned a TFUS speed figure of 104 for her pace-aided victory, Ondine was assigned a much-the-best figure of 112.  As you surely know if you’re a regular around here, our speed figures take pace into account.  Still, it’s not too often that we will see the third-place finisher have the highest figure by such a large margin. But the circumstances surely warranted it in this case.

It was the first stakes win for Spellbound, a daughter of Bernardini out of an unraced Tale of the Cat mare.  It was certainly not the first stakes win for her trainer Richard Mandella, who excels in the category….particularly at Santa Anita!

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– Another day, another first-out winner for Pletcher at Gulfstream on Sunday, ho hum. It’s old hat at this point for both the trainer and the bettors, who sent Sloane Square off at 4-5.  The meet’s leading trainer has now won with five out of his last seven debut runners at the South Florida track; and those two that didn’t win ran in races in which he won with other ones!  This Coolmore filly is by Giant’s Causeway, out of Marylebone, who won the Grade 1 Matron at Belmont as a juvenile in 2003.  Sloane Square is a full sister to Bow Bells, a turf stakes winner at Monmouth last year.  And according to Coolmore’s Facebook page, Marylebone has a yearling daughter by Uncle Mo.

The thing about trainer streaks like this is that they end.  One of these days, and probably very soon, it will be worth one’s while to look elsewhere when the Toddster has a first-time going off at 4-5. Today, he has one entry at Gulfstream; Gala Award is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the 8th, on the grass, and he has already made one start, finishing second over the track in December.  A half-brother to the Grade 1 winner Stormello, Gala Award was dead on the board in his debut, going off at 10-1 despite being a $1.6 million yearling purchase by Coolmore.  He’s sure to get a lot more tote attention today.

Let’s take a look at the #1 horse, Dylan Ward (4-1).  This son of Artie Schiller has improved his figures in each start, and was an unfortunate head-bob loser in his last.  In that effort, his chances were surely compromised by a slow pace.  Below, I have the pace line set for ‘adjusted fractions’ for ‘this horse,’ and note the way he picked up the pace and finished quite strongly; and that despite a wide trip.

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Trainer Brian Lynch switches to Joel Rosario, with whom he has a perfect trainer/jockey rating of 100.  Excellent post today with the short run to the first turn, and could present excellent value if the Pletcher horse, breaking from the ten post, gets overbet, a likely proposition the way things have been going.  Best of luck and have a great day.

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