Today in Racing, Feb 28, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.48.25 AMHappy Friday everybody, and a reminder for anyone who has, for some reason, not yet tried our past performances, that Friday is a perfect day to try our three-day trial plan, for just $2.99, giving you every race to be run all weekend.  More details by clicking or tapping the box to the right.

One new product feature to point out: when a horse is claimed, we are now showing the former trainer’s overall trainer rating. It’s a relatively small addition, but we hope it will add some context, especially if you are handicapping a track, or encountering a trainer, that you are not familiar with.

In this example below, Myperfectvalentine, who had shown some really nice improvement for Dominic Galluscio since he claimed her, was claimed again out of her last race.  While Galluscio has a rating of 80, the new connections are not quite as accomplished with a 36 rating, and just one winner from 37 starts in the last year.

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– I see that Ria Antonia has been transferred to the Baffert barn after her disappointing effort in the Rachel Alexandra last weekend. Gotta feel bad for her former trainer Jeremiah Englehart, who was so excited about her prospects when interviewed on HRTV before the race. However, her owner, Ron Paolucci, told Marcus Hersh of the Form: “The second work before the race, I could tell she didn’t have her legs under her yet.”

Oh. Well, nobody told that to the bettors who made her 2-1! She’ll make her next start in the Santa Anita Oaks on April 4 and I guess the Derby plans have gone by the wayside.

We have our preview of the Swale Stakes up here at – along with those for the Gotham, Tom Fool, and the Santa Ysabel – and a further note on the much-hyped No Nay Never. One might have presumed, as I did, that his return to these shores for the Swale is intended as a springboard to some bigger three-year old events in this country. However, trainer Wesley Ward, who calls the son of Scat Daddy “the most talented horse I’ve ever had,” will send him back to the UK to run on the grass at Ascot after the race. A dirt race at Gulfstream sounds like an extremely unorthodox manner in which to prepare a horse for grass races in England. If the horse is as good as he’s reported to be, then perhaps he’ll handle the surface the way he has in his workouts and turn Havana into a rolled cigar. But at low odds and without experience racing on dirt, we just think he’s a bad betting proposition in this spot.

– We have two maiden races for you as our free races of the day today, both pretty inscrutable betting propositions, and for different reasons. The 6th at Aqueduct is a highly rated affair (a race rating of 91) with a wide open field of some very interesting runners.  Killer Crossover (3-1) is the morning line favorite, for Pletcher.  Even while tanning in Florida and dominating the Gulfstream meet, the Toddster has still managed to win with a quarter of his starters at the Big A.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.19.19 AMMaking his debut around two turns, this son of Indian Charlie closed very well for second despite a wide trip. That race was rated even stronger than this one, at 93; and the first horse to run back from it won with an improved speed figure.

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Away Game (7-2), just 3/4’s of a length behind Killer Crossover that day, saved some ground in relation to that one, and cedes ground at the start here, having drawn the 8 post.

Engine (7-2) disappointed as the 8-5 favorite in his last, his first effort around two turns. One might conclude from that race that he can’t handle two turns. However, note that trainer Chad Brown added blinkers for that effort, and promptly removes them here.

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Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.29.34 AMThat’s an equipment change that this barn has not employed too often, as shown by the white box for the trainer rating; but it has obviously been a successful one when used. Judging by his pedigree rating of 85, for dirt routes, the distance shouldn’t really be an issue for this son of Mineshaft, who descends from the female family of Big Brown. He has the top late pace rating in the field (100), and deserves another shot here.

Winter Games (8-1) also looks a bit interesting for the aforementioned Jeremiah Englehart. He’d finished third, ahead of the aforementioned Chad Brown horse, two races back, and then ran into an extremely hot-paced affair in his last.

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That race has come back extremely strong thus far, with all three horses who have run back improving their figures and running first or second.

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Today, Englehart adds blinkers, and he has a rating of 100 with that move.

[UPDATE: Winter Games wins and pays $26.80. Think it’s now fair to say that the Jan 20 race is quite the key race; may be worth tabbing others to follow up.]

And finally, there’s Againsome (8-1), the “other Pletcher.” He’s back from Florida after running into his very well-regarded stablemate Hartford, who ran off from the field at 2-5 in his debut.

On the other coast, we have the 7th at Santa Anita, a maiden race on the grass with a field which is not quite as talented. In fact, the top spotlight rating goes to none other than Little Unusual (6-1), the six-year old professional maiden going to the post for the 36th time.  [UPDATE: This race has been taken off the grass, and the #3,5,6,9 horses are scratched.]

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In fact, that figure of 84 was earned in a race in which she finished more than two lengths in front of A Little Luckier (3-1), who has lucked into the role of morning line favorite here. There often comes a time when a horse such as Little Unusual finds a field of horses that it is simply faster than, and that it can’t help but beat! Could this be the day for Little Unusual? Perhaps. You guys can bet your money to find out though. Good luck and have a great racing day.

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