Before we get started with the addition of sprinter, Trinniberg, to the likely starters of the Kentucky Derby, I think the likelihood of a very deep closer winning the Derby has gone way up – enough, in fact, for Dullahan to currently be one of my top three horses in the Run for the Roses. If the fast pace materializes in this race , it is likely that this year’s winner could come from as far back as 15th or even 20th in the pack. I will definitely be double keying this race (see blog titled Double Key).
Thursday kicks off the Hollywood Spring/Summer meeting. Here are some things to look for:
First and foremost, this is a synthetic all-weather track. It’s not like dirt (Santa Anita and Fairplex), and it’s not Polytrack (Del Mar); it is somewhere between the two. Closers clearly have a better shot to win here than they did at Santa Anita. All distances on the main track, aside from the two year old races at 4.5 to 5.5 which are dominated by speed, tend to play that way. Approximately 10% more races will be won by horses more than three lengths of the pace at this track vs. the track at Santa Anita.
One unique sprint distance that runs at this oval is at seven and a half furlongs. Surprisingly, this one has been a real fair distance. These races used to be dominated by closers; however, that has certainly changed. Speed horses do really well at this taxing distance. Route runners with speed can be especially effective here on the cutback.
One small thing to be aware of is that the main track can change here and with a few days off. It seems like we had several Thursdays that were closer bias racetracks. However, as the week goes on, the track seems to even out and becomes more fair. As far as the best path goes in sprints, the outside generally has a slight advantage (as expected). Routes are really pretty fair here with only a slight edge to the inside path around the first turn.
Horses that have been working at Hollywood Park will have a decent advantage over the horses working at Santa Anita. There will be some form reversals simply due to the switch in surfaces. This is clearly a case where horses for courses will come into play.
The grass course plays pretty similar to Santa Anita. Usually, early in the meet, the off pace runners will have a slight edge. As the course gets worn out, speed horses will have the edge. The grass sprints are unique. At six furlongs, there is a slight left hand turn fairly early and of course the regular turn coming for home. As always, rail position can be vital. (Remember – the further out the rail is, the harder it is for horses to find room on the inside.) A general rule I use: rails at 0’ – cover trip inside; rails way out (say 30’) – best trip is on the lead or more outside in the clear. Keep an eye out on the grass course as it was completely brown last fall. Hopefully, they have that under control for this meet.
Here are a few riders to watch other than the obvious. David Flores rode this track really well last year, and he brought in several nice price horses. He may not get many mounts, but he is worth watching. Joe Talamo may get off to a great start because he’s been hot, and the big boys will be out of town riding in the Triple Crown races. As for a wait and see approach, P. Val returns for comeback number???????? He may struggle to start, and he may be great. I heard he was on a new diet and is in great shape; however, he may be rusty.
Trainers sure play a big role in the outcome at Hollywood Park (as they do everywhere). Peter Miller was quiet at the end of the Santa Anita meet. I expect him to come out rolling, especially with the two year old races. Marty Jones will most likely generate a flat bet profit for the meeting, and he may be the only trainer you can bet blind every starter and make a profit. Michael Pender and Art Sherman are stabled here and both guys can train and win here with price horses. Walter Solis always does well here with the two year olds. It will be easier to go against Bob Baffert’s runners as he will be focusing on the Triple Crown races and getting ready for Del Mar. He won’t win at such a high percentage here as he did at Santa Anita.
Finally, there is night racing. Crazy things can happen with the Friday night racing cards. I like to look for a single and maybe a two or three and buy the rest in the pick four. It’s amazing how many Friday night carry-overs we had the last few years. Don’t be surprised to wake up Saturday Morning with a carryover.