Racing Roundtable: Gin Gin's win in the Busanda, Book'em Danno's dominance, and Lecomte Day

January 16th, 2024

This week, the Racing Roundtable discusses Gin Gin's win in the Busanda S. and Book'em Danno's dominance in the Pasco before looking ahead to Lecomte Day at Fair Grounds.

What did you learn from the Busanda Stakes?

James Scully: Gin Gin opened her three-year-old season with an encouraging performance, overcoming a tough inside post and offering a nice move off the far turn to take control in the 1 1/8-mile Busanda, but she tired late and netted only a 91 Brisnet Speed rating. Demoiselle (G2) runner-up and odds-on favorite Shimmering Allure was never a factor finishing a dull third, and I’ll need to see more from Gin Gin next time. Silverbulletday S. winner Alpine Princess rates as the top Kentucky Oaks (G1) prospect for Brad Cox presently, but Gin Gin remains a promising type following her first stakes win.

Vance Hanson: Given the conditions of the track and the spread-out nature of the field at the finish, we probably didn't see a true performance by some of the vanquished. I highly doubt we will see any major Oaks contenders emerge from this race at any rate, but Gin Gin's victory does give a form boost to Intricate, who defeated her and others rather soundly in the Golden Rod in November. Intricate just got back on the work tab last weekend at Fair Grounds, and barring anything unforeseen, might be ready in time for the Rachel Alexandra (G2) next month.

Ashley Anderson: Brad Cox runner Gin Gin entered the Busanda off a 7 3/4-length fifth in the Golden Rod, following a distant second in the Rags to Riches, but excelled on the stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles. However, Gin Gin only faced four rivals over a sloppy (sealed) Aqueduct track in the Busanda, rallying to win by a length over runner-up Princess Mayfair.

Post-time favorite Shimmering Allure failed to show up, and the competition, in general, was a bit suspect. If anything, I'm looking more at Princess Mayfair's solid showing in her first try on dirt after racing on Woodbine's Tapeta in her first three starts. Princess Mayfair is by West Coast, who currently has three daughters on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard; the other two are Cox trainees West Omaha and West Sunset.

In total, Cox also has seven fillies with points toward the Oaks field — Gin Gin, West Sunset, Alpine Princess, Youalmosthadme, West Omaha, Emery, and Caldwell Luvs Gold.

Will Book'em Danno be among the season's top three-year-old sprinters?

JS: I like his chances. Bred for sprints top and bottom, the New Jersey-bred gelding flashed talent winning his first three starts convincingly, including a pair of stakes, and Book’em Danno continued to show more in his three-year-old opener, offering a powerful turn to blow past the competition and score by 12 1/2 lengths in the seven-furlong Pasco S. The stalker’s Brisnet Speed ratings figure to keep increasing, and while connections may take a shot at longer distances in the immediate future, sprints will ultimately be his game. Book’em Danno has established himself as a towering presence among three-year-old sprinters early in the season.

VH: Connections appear practical about their ambitions with Book'em Danno (trainer Derek Ryan has seemingly ruled out entering the Kentucky Derby fray). However, it does sound like they'll be pursuing the lucrative Saudi Derby over a one-turn mile next month. If he makes the trip, how he does in the sprinting division the remainder of the year will, of course, depend on how well and how quickly he recovers from the overseas excursion. Book'em Danno appeared to pass the eye test more than the time test by his easy victory in the Pasco on Saturday, but he does appear to be a potentially major force in the division. His proven stamina over seven furlongs and nearly up to a mile gives him plenty of options down the road.

AA: He certainly deserves respect after winning by 12 1/2 lengths in the Pasco. In his four starts at sprint distances, Book'em Danno has won by a combined 30 1/2 lengths, and his lone loss was by three-quarters of a length racing at a mile in the Nashua S., where he was forced to set the pace. His Brisnet Speed figure came back a 92 in his Pasco victory, a bit lighter than the 96 he earned when winning the Futurity S. at Aqueduct last October, but I expect his Speed figures to increase going forward. Trainer Derek Ryan will point him toward the Feb. 24 Saudi Derby (G3) at a mile, and we'll know a lot more about Book'em Danno's potential after he races overseas next month.

What are you looking forward to seeing on Lecomte Day?

JS: My focus will be on Track Phantom and Nash in the Lecomte (G3). After faltering at odds-on in the Gun Runner S., Nash will likely show speed from the gate, and Gun Runner winner Track Phantom should be up-close as well. Track Phantom is certainly a candidate to carry his form forward following a sharp performance last time, and I won't be surprise to see Nash rebound at Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile distance. But I have concerns about both colts at longer distances. Can Group, winner of the Bourbon (G2) on turf and a fast-finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) following a troubled trip, will look to make an impact from off the pace on the switch back to dirt. And I rate Next Level, a Grade 1-placed juvenile who removes blinkers after a rank trip in the Gun Runner, as an intriguing longshot for the vertical exotics.

VH: I'm interested in seeing how last-out maiden winner Ethan Energy stacks up against the Lecomte heavy hitters Track Phantom and Nash. He broke his maiden rather impressively on the same Dec. 23 card as the Gun Runner S., rallying from from midpack on a day when it was better to be rating closer to the pace than not. While his 1 1/16-mile time was two-fifths of a second slower than Track Phantom's Lecomte, Ethan Energy was only making his second career start and first around two turns. He's by Uncle Mo and his dam has already produced a graded stakes-winning sprinting filly, so Ethan Energy has a lot of inherent class going into the Lecomte.

AA: Three prominent three-year-olds from last season will make their four-year-old debuts in the Louisiana S. (G3) on Saturday — Red Route One, Confidence Game, and Saudi Crown, who was last seen finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

Saudi Crown, one of the two early pacesetters in the field, opened as the 8-5 morning line favorite and has a chance to go gate to wire while trying 1 1/16 miles for the first time. The Brad Cox pupil wired the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles last September and has consistently posted triple-digit E1 and E2 Brisnet Speed figures.

But 9-5 second choice Smile Happy has the late kick to rally late here, and he's 3-for-3 at today's distance. Neither are an enticing price, so if you're looking for a longer shot, consider Red Route One. The Steve Asmussen runner may be 0-for-6 at 1 1/16 miles, but he's likely to get a hot pace to run into, and he's recorded Late Pace ratings in the 102-116 range in his last three. He also drew the rail post, which is winning at a 33% clip this meet at Fair Grounds, and his 105 BRIS figure two back in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) ranks as one of the top speed figures posted by anyone in the field.