Thursday, February 5, 2009

Strub Stakes Day at Santa Anita

Saturday at Santa Anita is Strub Stakes day with several top west coast based 3 year olds in action. We'll take a look at the G1 Las Virgenes with BC Juvenile Fillies winner Stardom Bound (pictured above heading to the post in BC Juvenile Filles) who could be headed to Churchill Downs, either for the Oaks or the Derby. Also on tap is the Robert Lewis Stakes (g. II) which pits the top two finishers from last years Cash Call Futurity (g. I) at Hollywood Park.

Robert B. Lewis Stakes (g. III)

Since we're focusing on the 3yo season, we'll start with the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, formerly known as the Santa Catalina Stakes, and ironically, never won by a horse owned by the Lewis'. This race features the first start of the 3 year old campaign for Zayat Stable's Pioneer of the Nile who won the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity in December. Pioneer of the Nile is trained by 3 time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert, who hasn't won in 7 years, and is one of only 3 stakes winners in this race. Baffert admittedly says "there's no urgency" for Pioneer to win this race, but he's looking to get him experience for the Derby. I think that's a key point in this race, as Pioneer is not a standout performer. Bittel Road (1 post) won his first three races of his career including the Grade III Bourbon, but was unplaced in his only non-turf start at Hollywood Park in the aforementioned Cash Call Futurity.

#9 Charlie's Moment is the other stakes winner but it was a listed stakes at Fairplex on dirt, and he's only 1 for 6 on synthetic. This race is filled with one-time winners and the most interesting to me is I Want Revenge trained by Jeff Mullins who finished only a nose behind Pioneer of the Nile in the Cash Call Futurity. Mullins adds blinkers which is a 35% winning angle the past two years for him, and he broke his maiden two back going wire-to-wire. He's getting 7 lbs from the stakes winners and looms large.

#8 Shafted, trained by Mark Casse, is a nicely bred colt by Mineshaft out of Grade 1 winning Twist Afleet who is 2 out of 3 career, all on synthetics. He needs the graded stakes earnings and could be primed to run, third off the layoff.

The Pick

I don't think Pioneer will be cranked and he's not leaps and bounds better than these. I think I Want Revenge stays close to the pace and pulls it out over pacesetter Papa Clem and closer Shafted

The Bet

$1o Win and Place on #4 I Want Revenge

Las Virgenes Stakes (g. I)

First start of the year for champion Stardom Bound. The grey filly should go off at 2/5 and win easily for new owners IEAH Stables who plunked down $5.7 large last November for her services.

Who could give her a run for the money?

I think a few fillies have a chance if SB doesn't fire, and at least should be considered for the exotics. Bob Baffert has two in this race but I think Century Park has the best chance to score. She won the Gr. III Santa Ysabel last time out going wire to wire with Tyler Baze aboard. Baze rides her again and the Baffert/Baze combo is scoring an ROI of $3.82 in 08/09. Haka is a nicely bred filly by Dynaformer who could hit the board finishing ahead of California Oaks winner Will O Way in the Santa Ysabel. Multiple state-bred stakes winner Saucey Evening should get some play, as she's 2-2 at Santa Anita and the 2nd best earner in the field, but leagues behind Stardom Bound.

The Pick

Stardom Bound cruises with Haka and Century Park battling for 2nd.

The Bet

Not a good betting race.

Strub Stakes (g. II)

This race has been won by some of the all-time greats and is the third in the "Strub Series" which also consists of the Malibu (g. I) and San Fernando (g. II). Names like Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Best Pal, Alysheba, Silver Charm fill the spots on the trophy and this race is often a springboard to the Big Cap next month.

The 2009 edition of the Strub features a single Grade 1 winning horse (@2yo no less) and a collection of mostly turf horses trying to convert their success on the lawn to the synthetic Pro-Ride surface of the main track. While I don't think there are any future superstars here, this is a great betting race with 13 entries and plenty of questions.

Dixie Chatter (#1) is the aforementioned g. I winner having taken the Norfolk in 2007. Richard Mandella conditions this chesnut colt by Dixie Union and seeks to become the only four time winner of this race. He returns to the main track after the past three races on turf winning the Oceanside at Del Mar and placing in the Oak Tree Derby (g. II) last October. He's on the improve, but will need his best to contend in this race. Absolutely would not count Mandella out.

Gio Ponti (#5), Nownownow (#7), and Cowboy Cal (#8) are all coming off graded stakes victories on the local Pro-Ride surface. Gio Ponti took to the track after the Sir Beaufort (g. III) washed out in December. His fast closing style, and his class make him a major threat in here.

Nownownow has run in the prior two Strub series races having won the San Fernando (g. II) last out accounting for Patrick Biancone's only win in 27 starts since returning from suspension. This being his third start since a layoff, I think he could be primed to run, and he won pretty easily at odds of 18-1 three weeks ago.

Cowboy Cal won the Grade II San Pasqual last month and is 5 for 10 lifetime. He'll likely be part of the pace scenario, which should be reasonably contested, so I'm not too high on his chances.

Wistful Tomcat and Slew's Tiznow are the only horses that have reached the triple digit Beyer Speed Figure level in their careers, but both were soundly beaten by Nownownow in the San Fernando.

The Pick

The 4, 8, and 9 should ensure a quick pace, and I like a closer because of it. While Gio Ponti and Nownownow fit the profile and are likely contenders, I like a longshot, the #12 Wesley out of the Mark Hennig barn. Wesley is a Grade II winner on turf and tries the synthetic for the first time. By El Prado (IRE) he shouldn't have too much trouble handling it, and Javier Castellano flies in for the race, which is a good sign. He came from the clouds off a slow pace to just miss in his last, and has shown great turn of foot in prior races as well. If he can stay out of traffic turning for home, I think he'll nip Gio Ponti or Nownownow at the wire.

The Bet

$10 Win/Place on #12 Wesley. $20 total

$2 exacta 5, 12, 7 with 1, 12, 5, 7 . $18 total


  1. you won the only race you didn't bet "Andrew". perhaps some lectures on wagering are in order? I'd hate to bore the readership with my betting prowess.

  2. Whether cranked or not, Pioneerof the Nile was the best in the Robert Lewis, passing Papa Clem and I Want Revenge, who took the lead at the top of the stretch but couldn't hold on.

    Like The E-Vat cleverly noted, I had the Las Virgenes figured out well enough but didn't bet it. Perhaps you need to put your money where your mouth is and actually produce selections or suggest wagers, before spouting off as a tout. I guess time will tell.

    The pace in the Strub proved reasonable for Cowboy Cal who laid just off it and was able to hold off longshot Blue Exit.