2015 Santa Anita Handicap Day Stakes Preview

After a lighter weekend on the national racing stage last weekend, the action picks up this weekend, particularly at Santa Anita.  Saturday’s card at Santa Anita features four graded stakes races, including two Grade I races.  The handicap division takes a swing at Shared Belief in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI); turf milers test their skills at the highest level in the Kilroe Mile (GI).  Three other stakes races take place on Saturday, as well: the San Felipe (GII) for three-year-olds on the Derby trail, the San Carlos (GII) for the older dirt sprint set, and the China Doll Stakes for sophomore fillies on the grass.

In addition to Big ‘Cap Day at Santa Anita, Picks and Ponderings also checks in with three-year-old prep races going on around the country.  Paul Mazur takes a look at the Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct as well as the Honeybee Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn; Nicolle Neulist heads down to sunny Florida for the Tampa Bay Derby (GII).

Authorship of each race in this piece is denoted by initials at the end of the piece, PM for Paul Mazur and NN for Nicolle Neulist.  All races in this preview are slated for Saturday March 7.  Selections in turf races are given “turf only”. At publish time the turf rail is set to the zero position.

Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will provide live audio coverage of the Frank E. Kilroe Mile and the Santa Anita Handicap along with tape-delayed coverage of the San Felipe Stakes in a program set to air from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm ET (3:30 to 5:30 pm PT).  The program airs live on its site and on Sirius 136.  CalRacing.com also offers free live video streaming of these races, and all racing days at Santa Anita.

Edited on March 6 to update the Sirius channel on which Santa Anita coverage will be broadcasted. Edited on March 7 to reflect the scratch of CHITU from the San Carlos.

Santa Anita — Race 7 — G2 San Felipe Stakes– One and One-Sixteenth Miles on Dirt– post time 3:00 pm PST

The San Felipe Stakes will be run for the 78th time this year.  It is a Road to the Kentucky Derby race, with not only a $400,000 purse up for grabs but also 50, 20, 10, and 5 Kentucky Derby points available to the top four finishers.  Originally inaugurated in 1935 for colts and geldings aged three and up, the race was restricted to three-year-olds starting in 1941, and opened up to fillies as well starting in 1952.  Run at distances as short at six furlongs during its history, it has held steady at its current 1 1/16 mile distance since 1952.  Over the history of the San Felipe Stakes, five winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby later that year: Determine (1954), Affirmed (1978), Sunday Silence (1989), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and California Chrome (2014).  Currently Charlie Whittingham and Bob Baffert are tied for the most San Felipe wins by a trainer with four, though Baffert has two chances this year to take that mark outright: Dortmund and Lord Nelson.

California Chrome wins the 2014 San Felipe Stakes by 7 1/4 lengths over Midnight Hawk, achieving his first open stakes win.

DORTMUND has been the talk of the west since a strong maiden win in November, and took Brinks trucks full of money in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool after crushing an N1X allowance at Churchill on November 29.  His two stakes starts have provided more of a test, but both times he has gutted out a head victory over Firing Line.  That rival has decided to wait until the Santa Anita Derby to face DORTMUND again, but a new challenger arises here: OCHO OCHO OCHO.  Like DORTMUND, OCHO OCHO OCHO is undefeated, though has been tested.  In his last start, the Delta Jackpot (GIII), he outgamed Mr. Z to prevail by a nose.  Though Mr. Z’s penchant for coming in second makes that feat not as impressive as it would otherwise be, it was still proof that he could face a challenge, and also proof that he could win at the same distance as the San Felipe.  Mike Smith also returns from that ride, hopping off of BOLO to reunite with the Jackpot winner.  In terms of the pace, both DORTMUND and OCHO OCHO OCHO should be stalking early, but not likely to get embroiled in a pace battle with BOLO, LORD NELSON, and SIR SAMSON.  They are, based on what they have shown so far, the fastest horses in the field.  Though DORTMUND will go off the heavy favourite, he has one advantage over OCHO OCHO OCHO that makes him impossible to ignore on top: race fitness.  Though OCHO OCHO OCHO has been working, he has not raced since the Delta Jackpot in November.  Since then, DORTMUND has raced twice, including an impressive re-rallying victory in the Lewis (GIII).  OCHO OCHO OCHO could win if he is ready to fire first off the lay, and will go off at longer odds than DORTMUND.  However, trainer James Cassidy’s 10% win rate off of three month or longer lays is hardly impressive, and his 6% rate in graded stakes does not excite.  In short, all roads to glory in the San Felipe lead through DORTMUND.

If any of the speed brigade survives, BOLO seems most likely.  Though there is other speed in the field, he has shown in both of his wins that he can slug it out on a contested lead and remain full of run late.  He will need that with the likes of LORD NELSON and SIR SAMSON in the field.  BOLO tries dirt for the first time here..  He has been impressive in his last two starts over the grass, and working well over dirt.  His breeding also suggests he could handle the dirt, with two other runners out of his dam having won over dirt.  Surface questions aside, BOLO is a known quantity at two turns.  He broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles over El Camino Real Derby winner Metaboss, and then winning the Eddie Logan at a mile.  He has been on the shelf since winning the Eddie Logan, but the worktab is sharp, and trainer Carla Gaines wins at a perfectly decent 14% rate off similarly long lays.  He loses rider Mike Smith from his previous starts, but rider Victor Espinoza should be able to suit his frontrunning style.


#3 DORTMUND (8/5)


#7 BOLO (6/1)

Longshot: #6 PROSPECT PARK (4/1) found a tough introduction to stakes company, but if he is going to be a Derby prospect, this is the time to prove himself.  He has run well going two turns at Santa Anita, both in a hotly contested maiden win at 1 1/16 miles as well as a runaway allowance victory over the likes of St. Joe Bay and THE GOMPER.  He will have to take another step forward to be a large threat here, but the form of that last race was franked to an extent at the Fair Grounds.  St. Joe Bay returned in the Risen Star to finish a respectable fourth off of a very pressured pace, suggesting something for the form of a horse who beat him so soundly.  He gets rider Kent Desormeaux back, who has been aboard for both of his victories.  Also, the price on PROSPECT PARK should be right in light of more stakes-proven types like DORTMUND, OCHO OCHO OCHO, BOLO, and LORD NELSON in the field.  — NN

Santa Anita — Race 8 — China Doll Stakes — One Mile on Turf — post time 3:30 pm PST

Restricted to three-year-old fillies, the $75,000 China Doll Stakes will be run for the thirteenth time this year.  Itself a minor stakes on the schedule, it serves as a local prep for graded turf stakes for three-year-old fillies later in the meet, including the Providencia (GIII), the Honeymoon (GII), and the Senorita (GIII).  Last year’s China Doll Stakes winner, Diversy Harbor, hit the board in five graded stakes at Santa Anita after her win in this race.  Last out, she garnered her first graded stakes win; she defeated Illinois-bred Grade I winner La Tia in the Buena Vista Stakes (GII) on February 16.  Diversy Harbor is a daughter of Curlin, just as Curlin’s Fox is.  Curlin’s Fox also has another China Doll Stakes connection on the underside of her pedigree: her dam Foxysox won this race in 2006. Foxysox then proceeded to win the Providencia and the Senorita, two graded turf miles later that Santa Anita meet.

Diversy Harbor rushes in late to win the 2014 China Doll Stakes.

On a day when several races have huge, looming favourites, the China Doll may well be the best betting race among the stakes at Santa Anita.  It is wide open, having drawn a mix of runners who are proven in smaller stakes as well as runners who are showing enough against allowance company or restricted stakes company that a step up to open stakes company makes sense.  Most attractive here is a a pace-versatile runner who makes another attempt at open stakes company after beating Cal-breds at this distance last out: SINGING KITTY.  She has won races on the lead, from just off the lead, or from a handful of lengths off.  She sent to stalk Pankhurst in nigh-on insane early fractions in the Blue Norther two back, but held on a lot better than that adversary.  Though she crossed the wire seventh, she was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths by LUTINE BELLE, and only a length and a half from hitting the board.  That Blue Norther was better than it looks in a past performance line, and bettors will likely ignore her on the rise back to open company.  Her Cal Cup Oaks win last out with Aaron Gryder in the irons for the first time was a race that would not put her far off from what this open stakes field can muster.  Gryder returns here, and this race is over the same surface and distance.  If she runs back to last out or takes a step further, she could win this at huge odds.

The top three in the Sweet Life Stakes return here: SHE’S A BIG WINNER, BOBBI GRACE, and SPIRIT OF XIAN.  All three deserve some respect here, and are in with a shot, but it is Sweet Life winner SHE’S A BIG WINNER who looks like the one to take from that race.  That decision was made mainly on pace: she seems the one in the entire field most likely to send to the front, and could be lone speed if neither INTO OBLIVION nor SINGING KITTY presses her.  INTO OBLIVION adds blinkers, and ran a perfectly decent second in the Barretts Debutante S. the one time she sent to the front.  If INTO OBLIVION does not send, and instead added them to maintain focus (since has been off the pace in all four other career races), SHE’S A BIG WINNER could threaten to lead them all the way around.  Her form is improving, and even though this will be her first route race, her breeding (Bellamy Road out of a Ghostzapper mare) suggests she can do it.  Trainer Peter Eurton has also been sharp, firing at 19% this winter at the Great Race Place.  Finally, CURLIN’S FOX is attractive on the stretchout, with stakes day star Mike Smith back in the irons.  She scratched out of the Santa Ysabel (GIII) last weekend to run here instead, and this spot should fit her better.  She motored home late to win her debut down the hill last out, and she should love the added distance.  In addition to her star two-turn sire Curlin, her dam Foxysox was a multiple graded stakes winner at two turns on the green stuff.  The only concern here is the pace, since she ran a closing style last out, but she stayed in touch with the pack last out.  She should not need to come from the clouds.

MAYBELLENE is one other horse who intrigues here, and should be considered at least for exotics.  Though trainer Bob Baffert’s 8% record with first-time turfers is a bit anemic, her breeding suggests she should be able to handle it.  Her dam Greathearted produced West Birch, a turf winner, and the Lookin at Lucky babies have won at a 23% clip first-time turf.  Her Las Virgenes (GI) flop was not promising, but she dials back a bit here in class to make her turf debut, and turned in a sharp move over the turf leading up to this race.  Her class and breeding suggest she is useful in exotics, and her stalking style should be helpful as well.




#5 CURLIN’S FOX (5/2)

Longshot:  In an extremely not-shocking development, Jerry Hollendorfer has two runners in this race.  LUTINE BELLE returns here from the dirt, but expecting lightning to strike again with Alex Solis in the irons (he won the Blue Norther aboard her, his only win in 43 starts this Santa Anita meet) seems less than exciting.  Instead, consider his uncoupled second entry: #9 MINKS APRISE (20/1).  She was fifth behind SHE’S A BIG WINNER in the Sweet Life last out.  Her stalking to midpack style suggests that she should be able to stay in touch with the pace, helpful since there does not stand to be a plethora of front-end zip.  Speedwise, she does not need a huge step forward to contend with this crowd, based on what she mustered in her maiden win.  Best of all, MINKS APRISE stretches to a mile for the first time here.  Her pedigree screams distance: she is by Northern Afleet out of an El Prado mare, Couturier, who was herself unraced but from the family of two-turn graded stakes winners like Turbulent Descent and Gorgeous.  Bolstering the stretchout angle, The Dorf wins at a healthy 25% with first-time route runners.  — NN

Santa Anita — Race 9 — G2 San Carlos Stakes– Seven Furlongs on Dirt — post time 4:00 pm PST

First run in 1935, the San Carlos was turned back from a mile and a sixteenth to seven furlongs in 1940, the distance it’s been ever since and is today. Shelved during World War II while Santa Anita served a dubious honor as an internment camp, the race came back after the war, traditionally in the first quarter of the year. The race has maintained a Grade Two ranking or better each year since the 1970s (a few years in the 2000s saw it contested as a Grade One) and remains a Grade Two. At seven panels, it’s the only stakes for male sprinters at seven panels during Santa Anita’s (traditional) winter stand. Notable winners of the San Carlos include Hall of Famers like Native Diver (1965 and 1967), Ack Ack (1971), and Ancient Title (1975), all with (or formerly with) stakes in their name in Southern California. The honor roll also includes present Santa Anita namesake Kona Gold (2001) and recent double winners Surf Cat (2006, 2008) and Sahara Sky (2013, 2014). A quarter million dollars is the purse.

It was set to be the Malibu redux as CHITU and CONQUEST TWO STEP square off again going seven panels on the dirt.  The morning-of scratch of CHITU due to sickness (per Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman) means this space defaults to CONQUEST TWO STEP.  He blew up the tote at 73-1 in the Malibu and nearly missed in that event.  Then he validated that performance with a win at six furlongs in the G2 Palos Verdes. CONQUEST TWO STEP makes sense in this spot, as the Joe Talamo/Mark Casse team-up won the G2 Palos Verdes last time out while getting some swift sprints to close into, And CONQUEST TWO STEP nearly won the Malibu at ginormous odds.  Third off the layoff is in play, and that’s a 22% win rate for the trainer.  CONQUEST TWO STEP gets the fast pace from EL NINO TERRIBLE or from MAJESTIC CITY.  WILD DUDE emerged from the witness protection program last time out to be third in the Palos Verdes closing off the fast (sub :22 quarter, sub :44 half) early splits in the Palos Verdes last time out.  WILD DUDE goes second off the layoff for Jerry Hollendorder, and (shock!) is one of two in this race from that conditioner.  Six of eight in the money over the Santa Anita dirt, though he may be better at six or six and a half panels (won Palos Verdes, second in Protero Grande) than at seven panels (three starts, one third place and two fourths).  The scratch of CHITU radically alters the pace complexion of the San Carlos.  Now speed runners like EL NINO TERRIBLE could get a free lunch on the front end with CHITU breating down their neck.  EL NINO TERRIBLE turns back to seven furlongs (a 19% wins/51% in the money proposition) after two races at a mile, one where he cleared a second-level allowance and the other being the G2 Arcadia. Pace pressure did him in the Arcadia and such pressure might not materialize in the San Carlos.  He did win at Del Mar going six and a half, showing he can handle an elongated sprint if he’s left alone on the front end.



#7 WILD DUDE (3/1)


Longshot: #2 OUTSIDE NASHVILLE (12/1) probably wished he was outside Nashville and not at Laurel Park after they ran the General George on President’s Day.  Nothing went right on that snowy day for OUTSIDE NASHVILLE, who shipped cross-country to the G3 General George.  There, when Javarre broke from the gate there he veered to his left, right into OUTSIDE NASHVILLE.  That compromised his chances as he fell back through the field and became a non-factor.  He did post a mild wide rally, however.  It’s enough to give OUTSIDE NASHVILLE another chance on dirt.  There is another dirt start in OUTSIDE NASHVILLE’s career, and it was a second place finish.  While he falls into the “longer price of the uncoupled entry” file, he fits further as he goes third off the layoff.  –PM

Santa Anita — Race 10 — G1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile — One Mile on Turf — post time 4:30 pm PST

This year marks the 56th running of the Kilroe Mile. This year’s edition offers a $400,000 purse, a $50,000 increase compared to last year’s. Originally christened the Arcadia Handicap in 1960, the race was renamed in 2000 in memory of racing executive Frank E. Kilroe. Kilroe started his racing career working in the racing office at Jamaica Race Track in New York, and by the 1950s he was splitting his time managing racing in New York in the summer, and at Santa Anita in the winter. He relocated to the west for good in the 1960s, and by the 1970s had built Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Hollywood Park into a coherent yearlong circuit. Originally a 1 1/4 mile race on the grass, it was shortened to its current one-mile distance in 1987 and was first granted Grade I status in 2005. Champions who have won the Kilroe Mile include Australian and German champion Strawberry Road (1986), prominent sire Leroidesanimaux (2005), and 2009 Arlington Million winner Gio Ponti (2009). Only one horse has won the Kilroe Mile twice: Ga Hai, who won in both 1975 and 1976.

Despite the fact that this is a Grade I race that drew twelve entrants, one of them stands head and withers above the rest: SUMMER FRONT.  He is the fastest horse in the field.  He has five wins in eight starts going a mile on the grass, and his only off-board finish at the distance was a strong 4th behind Karakontie in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) last out.  All Grade I races are not created equal; what SUMMER FRONT faced there was tougher stock than he confronts here.  Pacewise, he is an off-pace type, but does not have to be far off the pace to run his race.  He will not be compromised by his style here.  The pace in this race will not likely be blistering, but should at least be honest given that WINNING PRIZE and HOLY LUTE both look likely to send, and RING WEEKEND, ZA APPROVAL, and DIMENSION have shown some desire to be forwardly placed.  Though none of them are can’t-rate types, there should be something for SUMMER FRONT to roll into late.  The only thing that gives a bit of pause is that this is his first race since the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but trainer Christophe Clement wins at 21% with runners off lays of three months or longer.  Furthermore, Summer Front himself has turned in sharp efforts off of long layoffs before.  He is the one to beat, and he does not look likely to be defeated here.

Among the rest, WINNING PRIZE looks like he has the best shot.  He won this race last year, and is not without a chance to join Ga Hai as a two-time winner of the race.  He looked great in both the Arcadia (GII) and the Kilroe Mile (GI) last year, and boasts a sparkling 7-5-1-0 record going a mile on the grass. Rafael Bejarano returns to the iris; he has won both times Bejarano has ridden.  He is the class of the speed, but even if HOLY LUTE manages to outgun him out of the gate, he does just as well from a stalking place as he does right on the lead.  Though WINNING PRIZE has been on the shelf since a flat sixth in the Play the King at Woodbine last year, he has been working well and long, and has won first off an even longer layoff before.  MEGA HEAT also intrigues here.  He is a horse for both the course (10-5-2-0) and the distance (9-7-1-0).  He comes in off a string of two straight wins in allowance company going a mile at Santa Anita, beating the likes of HAY DUDE and Power Ped.  Since that race, Power Ped has franked its form quite well, hitting the board in both the San Gabriel Stakes (GIII) and the San Marcos Stakes (GII).  In terms of pace, MEGA HEAT has some versatility.  Though he typically closes, he has also shown the ability to run well from a stalking place.  He gets rider Corey Nakatani back from those last two wins, and trainer Peter Eurton has been a solid 19% on the Santa Anita meet.  Though this race is a large step forward classwise, his current form makes it a logical move, and the price should be more than square.

Two against whom it seems worth taking a stand are RING WEEKEND and ZA APPROVAL.  RING WEEKEND is the bigger play-against of the two.  Even though he has fired some competitive speeds and his stalking style should suit the race well, he has not raced since failing as the favourite in the Twilight Derby (GII) in October.  Nine furlongs may be more his game than ten, and this race looks like a fairly tough ask for his first try against older.  ZA APPROVAL is a closer question, and may require some tote board scrutiny.  He showed signs of life last out with the rider switch to Mike Smith, finishing second behind Avanzare in the Arcadia (GII).  Still, his price is likely to be short based on the horse he was a year and a half ago, and this space is still not convinced he is the same ZA APPROVAL.




#7 MEGA HEAT (8/1)

Longshot:  #2 HAY DUDE (8/1) has not won yet since shipping across the pond, but has shown enough affinity for the Santa Anita lawn to suggest he could be a useful longer shot.  His first race off the ship, in the Lure Stakes, was less than impressive — but, it was also his first race in almost a year.  Since then, he has hit the board in all three starts with speeds that put him right in range of this crowd, and not beaten more than a length in any of those starts.  He twice finished behind MEGA HEAT going a mile in allowance company; last out, he shortened up to six and a half furlongs and finished second behind Pure Tactics in the Clocker’s Corner.  In terms of pace, he is a closer, but should have pace thanks to WINNING PRIZE, HOLY LUTE, and anyone who decides to tangle with them early.  The humans behind him make him particularly attractive.  He gets Kent Desormeaux back aboard, just as he has had in his last three starts.  His trainer, Philip D’Amato, has not only been firing at 22% on the Santa Anita meet, but has strongly positive ROIs in both graded stakes (+$2.47) and stretches from sprint to route (+$1.86).  He will go off at long odds here, and though he will need some serious help (a career best plus SUMMER FRONT faltering) to win, his form is good enough to suggest he could invade the exotics at a price. — NN

Santa Anita — Race 11 — G1 Santa Anita Handicap — One and one-quarter miles on Dirt– post time 5:00 pm PST

Officially, the name of the race is the Santa Anita Handicap. But in racing circles, the nickname of “The Big Cap” is used, and even by Santa Anita in marketing one of its biggest races of the winter. Dating to the track’s first season in 1934-35, the Santa Anita Handicap was noteworthy from its inception at offering a purse of hundred thousand dollars – a hefty sum during the Great Depression. Shelved during the 1940s for wartime purposes, it has always been contested at ten furlongs at The Great Race Place. Like the San Carlos earlier, it went synthetic for a few years before going back to the dirt it’s been on. A Grade One race with a million dollars in purse money, the Big Cap is the richest race for the older group at Santa Anita. Not surprisingly, the list of winners in the Big Cap with honors is long and storied. From movie subject Seabiscuit (1940) to Hall of Famer Round Table (1958) to locally connected Lucky Debonair (1966), the Big Cap’s early honor roll is just an appetizer for the winners in the 1970s and 1980s, with names like Ack Ack (1971), Triple Bend (1972), and Cougar II (1973), Affirmed (1979), Spectacular Bid (1980), John Henry (1981, 1982), and Alysheba (1988). Most recent among these hallowed names is the only three-time winner, Game On Dude (2011, 2013, 2014).

Game On Dude wins his third Santa Anita Handicap in four years, taking the 2014 Santa Anita Handicap “Big Cap”.

Favorites lined at 3/5 are often the domain of a six horse field with a universal standout, not a thirteen horse field.  Even though Santa Anita’s linemaker has a reputation for morning lines as sound as a three-legged table, the idea here is that there’s a standout who should be an odds-on favorite.  SHARED BELIEF is that odds-on favorite.  He beat Califonia Chrome and Hoppertunity last time in a strong renewal of the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap, and neither of the 2-3 finishers are here in the Big Cap.  SHARED BELIEF’s only off-the-board race in his career came in the controversial Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the winner that day isn’t in this field.  He’ll concede some weight to rivals in here, but only four pounds to MORENO as the weights for this race came up favorable; he’s not asked to carry ten pounds to all the competitors like Work All Week did last summer at Arlington.  Third off the layoff as the Mike Smith/Jerry Hollendofer team work together on the Malibu winner and the San Antonio winner.  A ten-furlong winner last year, he’s the Big Horse in the Big Cap.  CATCH A FLIGHT makes a leap from a first-level allowance to the Big Cap, but if you take SHARED BELIEF away, this Big Cap field isn’t that tough and it would be a free-for-all of a race.  A son of Giant’s Causeway, CATCH A FLIGHT is a winner at a mile and three-sixteenths in Brazil and four back hit the podium in a Brazilian Grade One.  The South American form seems to be okay, as he’s hit the podium in both American starts and cleared the first level allowance condition last time out.  CATCH A FLIGHT might be on the lead, but like MORENO (who could be short in his first start back) he has the speed to be more than just flash-and-fade.  Think of him playing the role MORENO did in last year’s Whitney or Suburban: setting the pace for the long distance and getting a better-than average placing.  Newcomer HARD ACES moves from the Larry Jones barn in New Orleans to the John Sadler barn in Southern California, and is tested now in the G1 Santa Anita Handicap.  Last time on the track in the Louisiana Handicap in January, he bested next-out winner Albano and listed-stakes quality Chicago-based Fordubai in that race.  He too is stretching out to ten furlongs, but a Hard Spun can get ten furlongs (see Hardest Core).  You wonder if he can handle the new climate and you wonder if the connections aren’t trying for a quick return on the private purchase (and said purchase caused the connections to bypass the G3 Mineshaft), but in a Big Cap whose quality drops off after the top one, perhaps striking while the iron his hot makes sense. Victor Espinoza takes the call, and he’s won twice when hooking up with Sadler.



#12 CATCH A FLIGHT (12/1)

#13 HARD ACES (12/1)

Longshot: Kent Desormaeux is riding at a 19% win clip throughout the Santa Anita meet and he’s top five in the standings among runners.  Maybe this isn’t the same Desormaeux that appeared disenchanted at Arlington a couple years back. Maybe he has turned back time.  And he could find a way with #10 IMPERATIVE (30/1).  His last race didn’t feature the hot pace he needs for his best and two back he was the token American entry sent over to Japan to be mince meat for the home team runners.  If IMPERATIVE can get back to the form he had in the first half of last year, he could make noise, and such favorable scenarios for IMPERATIVE have happened when there was a legitimate pace at worst.  Between MORENO or DIAMOND BACHELOR, that should be the set-up.  He’ll be helped if the pace gets quick on the front end. –PM

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