With three graded stakes races in New York, I thought I would be deciding between the races at Belmont Park this weekend, but the 100% forecast for rain and likely scratches have taken me over to the $100,000 G3 Hanshin Cup at Arlington Park. The race has 11 expected starters and will cover 1 mile out of the chute over Arlington’s all-weather surface.
The Arlington meet kicked off last weekend and current track bias stats are unavailable, but if we look back at the last 50 routes we see that a whopping 43% have been won wire-to-wire and the inside is the place to be. Inside and up close.
The first thing to note about this race is that there are no consistent speedballs. The best route runner speed comes from the 11 post with Wesley Ward’s Hootenanny, the 3-1 morning line favorite and 2014 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf champion. Hootenanny has not raced since October and while he has been training well, his better workouts have come over Keeneland’s Turf course, with no recent poly-track works.. His dirt works are average at best. With a win and 2nd in two lifetime AW starts, he is to be considered but I will search for a better price.
Ready to be on the pace with Hootenanny are Crewman, a need-the-lead type who faded after setting a slow pace at Keeneland, AW specialist Ghost Hunter, and Valiant City. Valiant City was recently claimed for $40,000 from the Scott Becker barn. Becker is a 28% trainer while his new connections are 0/22 this year.
Ghost Hunter is an interesting horse who is 8 for 12 lifetime on the AW. His most recent start was over a yielding turf course at Laurel where he finished 3rd by ½ length in an ungraded stake at 20-1. His early speed figures may not be what I would like but 8 for 12 cannot be argued with.
The 5-1 morning line 2nd choice is the #10, Ken McPeek’s Rated R Superstar, with Channing Hill aboard. Rated R Superstar was laid off from last November thru April where he returned to the track at Keeneland in an $80,000 optional claiming event. He ran wide around that dirt oval chasing a brutally slow pace (set by #9, Crewman) and just couldn’t close. That race looks like a nice tightener and he looks pointed to a better effort, but he is making only his 2nd AW start (AW 1-0-0-1) and may be too far back.
Stalking the pace will be Dac, with Cory Orm in the irons. Dac has 4 wins in 6 career starts on the poly and must be considered but his running style is a concern. He won his last race over Turfway’s poly track, coming from 5th in a 5 horse field where the leaders set a les than moderate pace. Also note that Dac was the $0.70-1 favorite in that race. He has the ability to close and breaking from the rail will be an advantage, but he may be too far back to overcome Arlington’s front-end tendencies. I still like Dace and with a 10-1 morning line he should be used in the gimmicks.
The horse I landed on is Wyeth, who will break from post 8 and is 10-1 in the morning line. Wyeth will get the services of Jose Valdivia Jr. who is winning at a 31% clip at Arlington Park so far this spring. While Wyeth is making his debut start on the AW, he has 3 wins in 7 career turf starts and is 1 for 1 on a muddy track. His last 4 starts have all be sprints, with 3 of them coming on the turf. In those sprint races he has always closed hard while winning twice and never losing by more than ¾ ‘s of a length. His sprint experience should keep him forwardly placed, if not on the lead, and his ability on turf and the mud lead me to believe that he will handle the AW just fine.
The bottom line is that I will take Wyeth for the win at a price.