My 2016 wagering strategy got off to a solid start last week, and so the pressure is slightly on to continue the positive results as we go into the second weekend of the year.
This is a relatively quiet weekend for stakes of all kinds, and again there are several favorites I’m not too keen on opposing. The honors this week go to La Verdad in the $100,000 Interborough at Aqueduct, Power Alert in the $100,000 Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs, and California Chrome in the San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita.
The year is long, so I’m not too disappointed to find only a couple betting interests in Saturday’s features.
All Included – $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (G2) (GP Race 10, 6-1) – He was strongly-backed to win his first stakes in the November 21 Tropical Turf H. (G3) at Gulfstream Park West, but unfortunately found himself running in monsoon-like weather that hit the track shortly before post time. Both man and beast played it safe negotiating the 1 1/16 miles on a course still rated firm — :25 1/5, :53, and 1:18 4/5 — and this lightly-raced five-year-old was having none of it in those conditions. His two outings prior to that were not winning efforts, but solid enough to win at this level. The best of the two was a third to the swift Ironicus in a course record-setting performance in the Bernard Baruch H. (G2) at Saratoga. Luis Saez takes over the reins, and he’s been an effective pilot aboard Todd Pletcher trainees at this track in the past year.
Let’s Meet in Rio – $100,000 Sham (G3) (SA Race 6, 6-1) – In a race where the favorites have yet to distinguish themselves on dirt, I’m siding with potential over experience. This Juddmonte homebred is among the better-bred three-year-olds you’ll see. His dam is a Storm Cat half-sister to the brilliant English miler Kingman, and his second dam, French 1000 Guineas (G1) winner Zenda, was a half-sister to European sprint champ and noted sire Oasis Dream. This female family has also produced the likes of Irish Oaks (G1) winner Wemyss Bight, the dam of multiple Grade 1 turf winner Beat Hollow. Let’s Meet in Rio is by Flatter, whose best sons (Flat Out, Upstart) improved with age and distance, and it appears this colt was destined to develop in the same fashion after two nondescript efforts in sprints. Off slow in his six-furlong debut and then leaving his race at the start after an early stumble in his 6 1/2-furlong follow-up, the Bob Baffert trainee finally put it all together when taking a one-mile maiden by 1 1/2 lengths at Los Alamitos last time. Kent Desormeaux retains the mount.