Saturday Stakes Preview: In the El Camino Real Derby, Motion’s Tusk an intriguing longshot

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>>Go to the PPs for The El Camino Real Derby| Post Time 3:45 PST Saturday

The Triple Crown trail makes its way to Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, with a field of 14 three-year-olds entered to go a mile and 1/8 over the synthetic surface. The field is led by Frank Conversation, who won the California Derby in professional fashion a month ago.

According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, four horses will be engaged for the early lead at the opening half-mile mark: Mr. Coker, Touched by Autism, Frank Conversation, and Algenon.

The fastest Late Pace rating in the field, a 100, belongs to Tusk.

Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:

Kelly With a Twist (30-1): He labored before finally breaking his maiden in a  maiden claimer. Then he jumped to a figure of 88 while winning a starter allowance that received a Race Rating that is 15 points lower than the preliminary Race Rating for today’s race. Makes route debut today and needs another big jump to hit the board. Gelding is developing nicely, but this seems a bit of a reach.

Kasseopia (7-2): British colt  showed promise on synthetic as a two-year-old. Then he shipped to Woodbine and ran second in a Grade 2 while earning a 100. Switches to Graham Motion and comes in off a gap. Motion gets a solid 84 rating off layoffs of comparable length. Lasix is reportedly being added. Motion knows how to handle horses like this one. The little bit of added distance should prove no obstacle. Exits a race that was of similar quality to this one. A contender, to be sure.

Touched by Autism (30-1): Facing much tougher today. Speed figures are flat, which is a mild negative, and slow, which is a big negative.

Mr. Coker (9-2): Son of Candy Ride makes route debut and synthetic debut for Hollendorfer. His breeding, while splendid, slants more toward dirt than synthetic. Hollendorfer is great (97 rating) with first-synthetic, but we don’t love the risk here, stretching out and trying synthetic, at what figures to be a relatively short price.  Nice looking horse though. Certainly a contender.

Oscar Dominguez (15-1): Will need to run a lot faster here than he did in Ireland, where his top was a 77.

San Dimas (20-1): Too slow on our numbers, and we see little reason to expect a giant jump today.

Marqula (8-1): Ran second to Frank Conversation in the CA Derby while running a lifetime top speed figure of 102. He is developing nicely, but he is also beginning to develop the look of a rock-solid trial horse. He is a logical contender about whom we have a difficult time getting excited, given his relatively stingy morning line odds.

Tusk (15-1):

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Another trained by Graham Motion, he makes his synthetic debut, and does so with breeding well-suited to the task. Deep closer has the fastest Late Pace rating in the field and will benefit if the pace gets hot. Has a pretty pattern of speed figures and is not much slower than the fastest of these. He is an interesting longshot.

Algenon (15-1): The second-most experienced horse in the field, he is another who fires shot after shot. But the front end may be crowded today, and he has ended up on the wrong end of clashes with several of his opponents. One to include underneath in exotics.

Diplodocus (15-1): Made a big jump as soon as he got on grass. His synthetic breeding is good. He has never gone backwards. But he was well beaten by Tusk on SA grass, and Baze (who attracts too much attention) is riding. We are inclined to pass.

Go Long (20-1): Too heavily raced for us to like the chances that the requisite large improvement is coming today.

Frank Conversation (2-1): Throw out his debut, and this colt has fired every time, regardless of surface. A very professional winner of the California Derby, he is in decent hands and should have no trouble with the added distance. But this post position figures to ensure that he gets a more punitive trip than he got a month ago. A worthy favorite who will go off at unexciting odds.

Mana Strike (15-1): Lucarelli gelding ran better than it looks last time, regressing by only three points in what was admittedly a very dull looking performance. Figures to be coming from way back today. Remains lightly raced and has a competitive top of 100.  Lucarelli (a quality trainer) has struggled at the meet, but if this race happens to collapse late, Mana Strike could make the last run at a fat price. Definitely a horse to consider.

Giopress (20-1): Has a pleasing pattern of speed figures (66 73 76 85 91) despite the surface switches. This pattern is auspicious because it shows that he has taken every improvement in stride. No effort has set him back. This strongly suggests that quite a bit more improvement is in his future. But it need not come today. In addition, he is still slow next to many of these, and his running style leaves him exposed to a lot of potential groundless from this post position. Still, we would not quarrel with anyone who thinks he is a good exotic inclusion at a giant price.

The Play:

We will roll the dice with Tusk at 15-1 on the ML and pray that he gets the setup he needs.

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