April emerges and Cal Expo continues harness racing with programs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The post for these programs is 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, 6:30 p.m. Eastern. TwinSpires harness blog dedicates itself to the Cal Expo programs until the scheduled end of the meet.
Watch for the Weekly Update to be posted on Wednesdays.
Cal Expo / Races 1—10
Wednesday / April 1
Marys Pretty Girl will be embraced by the majority for obvious reasons. Robert Corbin’s mare has found this class of conditioners her kind of game and the other six at the gate will have to find her soft spot to beat her here.
June Morning has a shot at her, even though she lost against her on March 28. She made a courageous but unsuccessful move on the outside to catch her. It is one of the strongest challenges given Corbin’s femme.
The unknown factor and leap-of-faith winner, however, is Souldust.
Gordon Graham, one of the top trainers in Sacramento since he brought Canadian stock to Cal Expo, sends Souldust to post after that one campaigned at Fraser recently, before it closed. Souldust is zero for nine on the five-eighths oval in British Columbia but appears an equal of these conditioners. Graham could have Souldust ready to go on a two-turn mile for the surprise. She’s a big way to start the Pick stream.
Six three-year-old filly pacers bred in the wilds of the West take flight in a California Sires Stakes (CASS) affair worth $7,000. All but one of these gals raced last time in the same CASS race—a non-betting event.
Prom Queen has been dominating the division so far this season, with three CASS wins in six starts. It is not unusual for a CASS-eligible colt or filly to dominate the competition because CASS-eligible horses don’t race much, no less do they take on other divisions. As well, there are not many state-breds, because the California standardbred breeding business is meek.
The other obvious contender is co-favored Debit Or Credit from Gordon Graham’s barn. She beat Prom Queen in their last meeting on March 20 by sitting in the catbird seat, pulling late and getting to the wire first by a neck.
The lone filly outsider in the division is Sierra Mystique, trained by Greig Watson. Not raced at two, Sierra Mystique debuts on the racetrack after qualifying once. In that four-horse test for time only, she stayed flat and finished fourth. Her time met the standards, though it was a full second more than the winner.
Most interesting is which filly could win as Debit Or Credit did last time? With a morning line (ML) of 15-1, that filly may be Winihavetime. Three events ago she went off 5-2 against the top two here. Then she broke while trying to get into the catbird seat on March 13. Gordon Graham’s other filly (“Debit” is his, too) could do it and we need to bet on that possibility for price and purpose.
Here is that rare Cal Expo Open Trot, ruled these days by Pridecast and Mandeville, at least among the six involved.
Last week in the Open Trot, we took a shot with Windsun Galaxie. Few else did; he went off at 50-1. Jessie Pacheco’s trotter had a few good things going for him from past races this season and his start in the March 21 race began well, placing him in a good spot to lurk. However, he broke stride and was eliminated. If he is no so debilitated, he is apt to race his bet stride, which would definitely put him in the mix, if not over the wire first.
This is why we will defy the best of the bunch here and try again with Windsun Galaxie in this win-bet only affair.
A CASS for glamour-boy pacers bred in the Golden State includes just four, led by Its Pointless, a soph who reigns the division, having not lost in four starts at three. To turn the obvious phrase against the obvious choice for chalk players more interested in cashing than chancing an upset—betting against Its Pointless is not pointless.
Good To Be Glad was the best second to Its Pointless. He returns after a rest from a scratch and the race before that he got a good start but broke to ruin it. A good gait today and he could draft behind Its Pointless while that one gets challenged by another, giving the “saving ground” factor to Good To Be Glad. The value involved works for any type of wager.
This is one motley crew where what at first seems to obviously be the best starts to look so sketchy that the eye jumps around until it’s dizzy thinking some other factor must be present somewhere.
That being said, let’s look at two of the mysterious clues, those which come in the forms of Zachariahs Honor and Stylemaster. It’s painful to put a focus on these two—that’s how disjointed is this race. Zacharians Honor’s third race back (all three end finishing off the grid in sixth) shows strength most others here do not show. At 11-1 he rambled in an overland route with intent to continue, though he was nabbed and faded in the stretch. Still, after that his support while dropping in class, improved.
The other possibility, though he failed on us before, is Stylemaster. He has been, as the race chart indicates, “used hard,” even though his support reduces as he continues to perform. Those two may perform well enough, along with the obvious Imma Tank, to form some toteboard alliance when the smoke clears.
The lure of Royal Mistress will hover over chalk players in this conditioner, but one of her challengers from last week will be rallying to get to the wire first and at a better price. That mare is Getter Queen Flush (GQF). Grazing on the outside through three-quarters, GQF was, for the second race in a row, in thundering pursuit of the lead while giving cover to Royal Mistress. GQF should be in a better spot this week, getting some cover herself from all the cheap speed that will burn by the half.
Sing Along should also catch early lickers and pick up an exotic spot, which, sans Royal Mistress, will offer good coin.
In last week’s field mess of a conditioner that went to a 40-1 shot when the dust settled, Reys N A Ruckus managed to sustain more trauma than most. Taking off early, Phillip Knox’s gelding skipped his gait and lost ground at the half while traffic developed around him. Still, after losing precious steps, “Reys” continued forward motion, ending up fourth with all fours intact. It’s strange that we would follow a horse for the third time after two losses but Reys won’t always pace into plundering path, so we want to be there when he wins and makes the wait worthwhile.
It’s time for Bunkerhill Bill to punch into the win spot after shying away from the destination for too long. Why is George Reider’s pacer always a co-star? Certainly, some handicapper’s will use his recent history for exotic wagering purposes—but not on top—since he seems to have formed a habit. That is just the time, however, to strike for the contradiction. None of his foes, after all, show his kind of consistency to be a part of the purse-earners.
A significant change in the class scenery for Mister Hat could be the most important alteration for a major contender in this field than anything else. The wayward son of Mister Big, a monstrous elder pacer from a few years back, was matched with a Cambest mare to produce a stalwart performer. At eight, Luke Plano makes the most of Mister Hat’s bloodline and lets this guy loose when possible. Here, I wholly expect he will attempt to dominate the field from beginning to end and be worth the price he pays.
A valued partner in exotics is Fox Valley Hoss. The Illinois-bred is also a member of a good-earning bloodline and recently he has picked up pieces of purses, but here he should race more like he did on Feb. 28, grinding into a generous exacta.
Wizard Of Odds should have earned a better ML than 10-1, but we will take such a bloated offering with glee. Last week, at this level, “Wizard” was 7-2 and races as well as could be expected, just short of winning.
Closely admired is Rue Hanover, with a ML of 6-1. James Lackey’s mare is only four and bred with some classy flesh. A daughter of Betterthancheddar from a Western Hanover mare that winds up at Cal Expo is bound to make some money. Forgive this gal for her recent two losses and watch her riddle most of the competition as she improves to race even better than she did before her “injured” scratch.