The Vanderbilt Handicap (Grade 1)- $350.000 Purse
SAR- For Three Year Olds and Upward
Six Furlongs on the Dirt
August 1, 2015
We’re racing now at beautiful Saratoga, and with the Dandy highlighting this weekend’s races at the Spa, we’ll still be treated to plenty of good racing, including some of the best sprinters in the country. The Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap has been a mainstay within our game, and this year will be the twelfth running of the event. Several good ones have won the race, but to find the most successful winner, you have to go all the way back to the inaugural running in 2004, when Ljosalfar crossed the line first. That gelding just missed $5,000.000 in career earnings, winning 36 of 75 career races. At the time, it was his 3rd graded stake victory, and he would go on to win many more. Recent past winners have been excellent, don’t get me wrong, but the list lacks a bit of the wow factor. Domination Nation, last year’s winner, was in action last week out in DMR but was just 7th of 12 in the Grade 1 Crosby. This year, we will see the return of Kiwiw Ripoff to the track, a horse that has been off since winning the Grade 3 MD Sprint Handicap. As good as he has been, he is one that would love to add a Grade 1 win to resume. Others in this field will be saying the same thing, and we should be in store for a good race. Nine go to the gate, let’s meet the field.
#1- Masterpiece Five (Razorback Racing, ridden by R Santana Jr)- A four year old colt by Five Daddy Five who is having the best year of his career so far. Heading into the 2015 season, he had earned a respectable $248.000 for his career, but he has taken the next step in his career, for sure. In March, he won the Grade 2 GP Handicap down in Florida, then on the KYD undercard at CD, he took the Grade 2 CD, where one of the horses he beat was last year’s winner, Domination Nation. His last race, on the fourth of July was not good (10th of 12 in the Grade 3 BEL Sprint Championship), and the trainer will be hoping that can be a throw out for him here. His bigger wins have been at seven or eight furlongs, but he has enough good experience at this distance to where I am not concerned about that. There’s very little in the way of public works in 2015 to go by, but he seems as though he is ready to bounce back. Note that he is the highweight, at 122 pounds, here.
#2- Investment Grade (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by E T Baird)- Has one big thing in common with Masterpiece Five, and that is he is also trying to shake off a poor run in the BEL Sprint Championship in his last outing. That was the first race in a while that we did not see bute added to the horse, and if you were expecting to see it added back here, you will be a little surprised so far. Prior to that last run, he ran off a streak of three straight second place finishes, coming in the Grade 2 San Carlos and Grade 2 Kona Stakes, both at SA, and the NY-bred Commentator at BEL. Last Thursday, he put together a bullet work here at SAR for 5F, so he’s one to watch, but maybe more for exotics then to put on top.
#3- Kiwiw Ripoff (Threshold, ridden by J R Leparoux)- Back in March, Kiwiw Ripoff set the track record at AQU for six furlongs en route to winning the Grade 3 Fool Handicap. That was the first graded win of his career, and at the time it extended his winning streak to three. Critics could have looked at the 115 pounds he carried there, but in his next race, while carrying 123, he was third in a 3-way photo for the victory in the Grade 2 Kona Stakes, where Investment Grade was a nose in front of him. Then, on the PRK undercard at PIM, he was victorious in the Grade 3 MD Sprint Handicap. He has not been back to the track since then, as the trainer looks to get Kiwiw Ripoff his signature win. A win in a Grade 1 should convince many that this is one of the top sprinters in the game. He only has one public work since that last race, but it was nearly the exact same time. I believe he picks up that win here.
#4- Astrobound (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- Astrobound makes an astroleap into graded stake competition, as Mb Stables shows his confidence in the Ironbound colt after two good looking wins in his last two starts. They were not stakes class wins though, coming in a claimer at WO, then a starter allowance at AP. If he is ready to make the move, then there is no reason to think that he can not be a factor in this race. One thing I like about his chances is that he looks like he wants to come from off the pace, and I can see fast fractions being set in this one. Astrobound has certainly earned the right to compete at this level, and the fact that he has not yet may be more because of the depth of his trainers barn. He is working well coming into this.
#5- Steadyashegoes (Sanny Village, ridden by R J Albarado)- The four year old gelding was lightly raced as part of the Tirstar Stables, but had always showed potential. One of those earlier wins came right here at SAR, in a statebred allowance against two other rivals. This talent was noticed by Sanny Village, and the trainer purchased him in private sales for $100.000 in late May, and immediate went to work in gelding him. He won his Sanny Village debut, another race in which he needed to beat just two others. That still encouraged him to be sent Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at BEL, where he was 7th. Now, he gets a similar type of race but one not nearly as long as the 10-furlong Suburban. There’s potential here, but I am hesitant to put too much faith in him here. I will be very interested in how he responds in this race, though.
#6- Ginsoaked Muse (Barcelona Farms, ridden by J Graham)- The six year old gelding will be making his stake debut after winning eleven of 16 career races. Now, none of those races are going to particularly jump out at you, and three of them were at MNR. Others were in mid-level claimers. Then in April, the trainer took a shot at a high end $75.000 claimer at GP, and he just missed out in a second place finish. This led to higher placement, better wins, and impressive SRF figures. If you like consistency, you will like Ginsoaked Muse, as his last four races have seen SRFs of exactly 98 or 99, and one of those numbers can win this race. The patience in which Barcelona Farms has had with those horse is quite amazing, and it’d be a nice little story if he came away with a win here.
#7- K T (Downwind Stables, ridden by V Espinoza)- K T is the leading earner in this field, having career winnings of over $1,100.000. However, six races in 2015 have only earned him $48.000, and his past accolades were forgotten by bettors so much in his last start, that he went off at 662/1 Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap last month. Those who remembered were rewarded if they put him across the board, anyway, as he finished third. K T never should have went off at such high odds that day, because even though he isn’t winning, he is usually in the mix of things, and turns out consistent SRF figures in the upper 90’s every time he is out there. Prior to the Smile Sprint, he was actually coming off his first 100 SRF of his career, and he still went off at those odds? Well, you aren’t going to see anything that high again, but just in case, be ready to take advantage if there are still non-believers out there. This race should run faster then the Smile Sprint, but K T can take advantage. He’s not my top pick, but he wouldn’t surprise me.
#8- Caymanas Park (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Maragh)- Back in November, Cayamans Park gave his trainer a strong run in the BC Sprint, placing third and only missing by about a length. Wins in a pair of Grade 3’s, the Jersey Shore at MTH and Gallant Bob at PRX is what got him to that race. Since then, Caymanas Park has only briefly flashed that talent, coming in a win in the Fleet Sprint Handicap at OP in April. That earned him a 100 SRF, the third time he has hit that figure, and if he can duplicate that performance, then he should win this race. The question is, can he duplicate it? That win is surrounded by three fifth place finishes, and he’s been up the track a little in his last two. He has a lot in common with Masterpiece Five and Investment Grade, in my opinion, and simply needs to bounce back here.
#9- Slow and Slower (Blushing Meadows, ridden by J R Velazquez)- I’m guessing he was named this as this is what he feels about his rivals as he passes them, because it certainly has nothing to do with his own ability. The five year old gelding has been around a while, and career start number 27 will be his stake debut, and takes that all the to SAR in a grade one to boot. After toiling around free tracks and lower tracks for a while, Slow and Slower is a lot like Ginsoaked Muse in that only recently have we seen their placement become higher. For this one, it took a $20.000 private sales purchase by Blushing Meadows to do it. He’s won three in a row, and looked real good in a WO starter allowance victory last month. We’ll see how he does here, I’m interested in just the battle between he and Ginsoaked Muse, myself.
Categories: Grade I