Resurgent Mr Utah Has Good Shot in EVD Turf Sprint

EVD Turf Sprint- $300.000 Purse
EVD- For Three Year Olds and Upward
Five Furlongs on The Turf
May 30, 2015

The EVD Turf Sprint debuts in our virtual racing world for the first time, and it provides a fantastic opportunity for those sprinty grass specialists.   It is an ungraded race in classification only, as the purse level and quality of field would certainly be worthy of a graded distinction.  It’s a great field, having a pair of entrants who were in the BC Turf Sprint, one that ran in the BC Mile, the 2nd place runner in the Grade 1 Vosburg on the dirt, and then a horse on a seven race winning streak!  There will be nine going to the gate, and here is the field!

#1- Spanish Destroyer (Double Cross Ranch, ridden by D E Centeno)- The eight year old gelding by Spain has never been better, and this will mark the 58th race of his career.  He has won seven in a row, coming off a win in the Grade 3 TS Turf Sprint, topping the likes of Sweeping and Mr Utah.  That was a gutsy race placement by trainer Double Cross Ranch, as before Spanish Destroyer was essentially a bottom level TUP claimer for his entire career.  He started with Blushing Meadows, auctioned to Quintis Racing, claimed by Doocy Racing Stables, claimed by Fratton Farm, claimed by Simmer Down Stable, re-claimed by Fratton Farm, claimed by Stald Gullis, and then auctioned to Double Cross Ranch for $1.350.  All he has done with Double Cross Ranch is win, as the trainer moved him up to a starter allowance, to a high claimer, to the aforementioned graded stake, which he won.  The best may still be yet to come.

#2- Larry Bird (Halo Thoroughbreds, ridden by R E Eramia)- Larry Bird has missed his last couple shots, and needs to come up with a big race here.  The Celtic foal had been struggling with route races, including a disappointing stretch where he had two fifths and a seventh, and was no closer then four lengths back.  Following those races, the trainer adjusted his game, and Larry Bird set a track record just two weeks ago at AP in winning a starter allowance.  That is a nice rebound for him, but the competition here will be much stronger then it was at AP.   It is also fair to wonder how the short turnaround will affect him.  I’ll pass.

#3- Barring Tor (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by J L Castanon)- A career earner of over $1,100.000, this seven year old gelding comes into the race in very good form.  If you throw out his last race, which was an attempt at the main track, Barring Tor has a pair of wins and a second in his prior three starts, and they were done at the highest level.  In April, he was victorious in the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes at SA, and prior to that he won the Sensational Star Stakes, for CA-breds.  Be mindful though that those wins come at 6 ½ furlongs, and in those he races he came from behind to win, so there will need to be some tactical fine-tuning for him here.   He hasn’t been as good of a frontrunner in the past.  I sense a mid-pack finish.

#4- Big Bird (Blushing Meadows, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Blushing Meadows is trying his three year old gelding out on the turf for the first time after a failed attempt at the TC chase.  Looking at his works, it may have just been a matter of time before he was put on the grass, and he should not be disregarded.  He is one of two three year olds in this field, so getting the five pound weight allowance will come in handy.  Given the level of competition here though, and his being a non factor in his last two races, I can’t put the kind of support behind him as I might like too.  However, if his odds climb, take a shot.

#5- Balai Yeux De Feu (Drabfantasy, ridden by M A Pedroza)- 2014 was a great year for this four year old colt, which culminated in a second place finish in the BC Turf Sprint at SA.   To get there, Balai Yeux De Feu won a pair of graded events, highlighted by the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes at WO.  Despite that, we have not seen this horse in a turf sprint since the BC.  Immediately after, he was sent real long, to the tune of 12 furlongs in the G2 HOL Turf Cup, and was second, but after that he was sent to the main track.  Finally, he is back where he has been most profitable, and his works show that he is ready to roll.  Expect him to be a major player.

#6- Quasi Normal (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Maragh)- This five year old gelding has been on the turf, but it’s been a long time, and he has never run on the grass for his current trainer. Quasi Normal had success sprinting on the main track during 2014, including a pair of wins in ungraded stakes, the $75.000 In Spirit and the $125.000 Providence Stakes a for ON-breds.  Later on, he recorded a 100 SRF in a second place effort in the Grade 1 Vosburg at BEL, beaten only by eventual BC Sprint Champion Bold Star.  He hasn’t hit the board in his last three starts, but he has been painfully close each time.   The trainer hopes that putting him on the grass will be the difference.  I don’t know how much I want to read into a workout at FE, but if that is an indicator I am not terribly optimistic.  We know Quasi Normal has speed though, and that alone makes him a contender.

#7- Mr Utah (Downwind Stables, ridden by M G Pino)- Around this time last year, Mr Utah could not be beat.   He ran off an impressive streak that included a win in the $250.000 American Turf on KYD Day in 2014, then followed it up with a second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.  But as the summer began to heat up, Mr Utah seemed to struggle.  His early wins got him into the BC Mile, but he was never a factor.   An adjustment was needed, and Downwind Stables turned him into a sprinter this year, and has been rewarded, winning the Grade 3 Shakertown in April, then placing second to Spanish Destroyer in the TS Turf Sprint earlier this month. Mr Utah is a horse with rediscovered form, and as I expect him to continue that into this race, I am making him my pick to win.

#8- Jus Blazin (Sanny Village, ridden by J Alvarado)- While it might seem inevitable that a horse named Jus Blazin would find the grass eventually, this will be the first turf sprint of the gelding’s career.   His finishes are a little too all over the place for my liking, but what I can be high on is a recent work on Memorial Day.   He is coming off the best SRF of his career, though finished 4th in an open allowance at GP going long on the turf, so there is a lot to like.  He has tried a couple graded stakes in his part, including the Grade 2 Jerome last year, but he has not seen the quality he will see today since then.

#9- Romantic Beaver (Drabfantasy, ridden by C J Hernandez)- The second of two three year olds in this field that will benefit from the five pound weight allowance, but Romantic Beaver doesn’t have the resume that Big Bird does.  He has only raced twice, both in three horse fields against fellow LA-breds, where he has a win and a second.   With Drabfantasy, you always have to be wary of this type of horse though as he is one of the best in the game at getting all he can as quick as he can.  Romantic Beaver did put forth a nice work at CD, so there’s plenty of ability here.  This is just an awfully difficult assignment.

Prediction: 7-5-1-3

Categories: NG Stakes

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