Six Up and Comers Do Battle in La Jolla

La Jolla Handicap (Grade 3)- $150.000 Purse
DMR- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and One Sixteenth on the Turf
August 9, 2015

This Sunday at DMR we will be treated to the 13th running of the La Jolla Handicap, a Grade 3 event for three year old turf routers.   Upon looking at these field, I was very impressed with the quality of runners, not because we have one or two monsters in the field with everyone else trying to prove that they can beat them.  Instead, we have a field of six horses, all of whom seem to be on the rise and on the verge of potentially doing great things.  While only one of them will leave DMR on Sunday with a trophy (unless there is a dead heat, of course, can’t leave that out here!), do not be surprised if you see a bunch of these in bigger races by the end of the year.    The race has had quite a few successful winners in the past, with the highest earners being 2006 winner Meadowbrook Parkway, winner of over $2,200.000 and most notably 2011 winner Square Box, who won over $3,400.000.  For both, the La Jolla win was their second graded stake win of their careers, and each would be Breeders Cup runners later in that season.  Square Box of course, eventually won the BC Turf in 2012.   Last year, the race was won by Duca Di Toscana, the first graded win of his career.  He has since won three more graded events, including the Grade 1 Foster Handicap just two months ago.  So while you may not have heard of many of these yet, you will.  Sit back, enjoy the race, and get ready for the race to get referenced in many future articles.

#1- Panther Cat (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by Mar Garcia)-   The trainer felt good about this Pink Panther colt right from the start, thrusting him into the Grade 2 Summer Stakes and Grade 3 Bourbon right after breaking his maiden as a two year old.  Those races ended up being a little too much for him, and the expectations were lessened a little, into high track allowances.  Competing in those races allowed for Panther Cat to show his abilities more and the trainer was rewarded with consistent in the money finishes.  Last month, he returned to graded competition and got up for fourth late in the American Derby.  I recall being quite impressed with his closing bid that day, but he’s going to have to make the run sooner then he did in that as there’s a couple others here also that may have the same idea.  If he does, don’t rule him out.

#2- Game Onn Dude (Kingelleinc, ridden by J Talamo)- It took four tries for Game Onn Dude to break his maiden, but once he figured out how to win, he hasn’t stopped doing it (with one exception, a race in which is a complete throw out for this one)!  He is currently riding a four racing winning streak, and has overall won six of his last seven.   It was here at DMR where that stretch started, but for the most part the horse has been seen at LS.   Last month, the trainer brought him back to California and entered him in a stake for the first time.  He ran in the $80.000 Wickerr Stakes, and came from behind to win by a length.  Sunday we will get a chance to see if he can continue this progress into graded competition, and if runs as he did in the Wickerr, where he earned a 99 SRF, he has a great chance.

#3- Lucky Spaniard (Nakamura Stables, ridden by E Maldonado)- After modestly winning his first two starts at bottom level tracks and a third in the unheralded Hall Stakes, the trainer tested his luck and entered him into the $200.000 GS Juvenile for CA breds at SA on BC day.  In the shadows of the many great horses that would run later in the card, Lucky Spaniard barely missed victory, placing 2nd in a photo.  From there, Nakamura Stables knew he had a keeper.   Since then, his past performance lines are not going to impress you, but they do show that he is consistently in the mix, and he turns in consistent mid-to-upper 90’s in SRF figures.   We last saw him in the $100.000 Manila Stakes at BEL where he made a strong closing bid, but missed by a length.  A little better luck might make up that length, but there seems to be a few others here too which may be planning closing bids.

#4- Scaffolding (Mb Stables, ridden by M E Smith)- The first three times that Scaffolding hit the track, he was on the dirt, and he did not do much for Mb Stables, finishing no better then fourth.  Then, just a few days after Christmas, the trainer put him on the turf for the first time.   It was a modest race at TUP that probably not too many people paid attention too, but what it would do is kick off a four race winning streak.   Yes, Scaffolding has not lost since being on the turf that day, and every race has been progressive improvement from the previous to the tune of 2 SRF points.  Most recently, he earned a 96 SRF in an optional claimer with a sub 1:33 time for the one mile on the turf.  On Sunday, Scaffolding gets to race in a stake for the first time.  Like the others in this field, he has paid his dues and has earned this right.  There is every reason to believe that he can win this race, but even if he doesn’t, we should still keep an eye on him.  His last two races have shown him winning by coming from behind, something he might want to be cautious about here against Panther Cat and Lucky Spaniard.  Scaffolding has also won wire to wire, so he could be anywhere at the start!

#5- Stonecold (Waldo, ridden by V Espinoza)- This gelding has a little more experience then the others racing at the graded level, but because all of those races have been on the dirt, it’s fair to call him an up and coming turf star as well as long as he shows the ability to translate his form onto the grass.  Stonecold only has one public turf work that we can look at, and it came back in September of 2014.  In looking at that work, I can see his potential to be a better turf horse, but you can’t put too much stock in an 11-month old work.   There’s been plenty of time between his two prior works to have plenty of farm turf works that likely has Waldo very confident.  I have to share that confidence, because otherwise I don’t see why you move this horse to turf for the first time immediately after winning the Grade 3 Affirmed at SA in his last race.   If that’s the case, then Stonecold could be the horse to beat.

#6- Cue (Threshold, ridden by G Stevens)- A little more then a week ago, Cue fired off a bullet work at DMR for six furlongs on the turf.   It is the only turf work that we can publicly see for him, but you have to give it some respect.  Cue has never raced on the turf before, and quite honestly, he hasn’t really done much over the course of his career, either.  He’s won two of seven career races, both at the not very prestigious FON race track.   In his most recent race, at BOI, he was third and six lengths off the pace.  Just looking at those lines will have anyone wonder what he is doing here.  But that work on DMR.  That was impressive, and you have to believe that Threshold has more farm works for Cue on the turf that lead to him having full confidence in him to put him into this race first.  From a betting standpoint, it’s a tough sell.  But, don’t count him out either, here.

Prediction: 2-4-5-1


— NS

Categories: Grade III

1 reply

  1. Thanks for noticing that bullet work that Cue did. He backed it up on the farm too and I was pretty confident of a big run. I looked at many runners from other ‘bigger’ stables and they had had success in handicaps with similar horses that had showed vast improvement in works on a different surface.

    However, I have learnt my lesson. The fact that he ran 7 tenths slower than his 6 furlong work and was weakening like he had been shot at six furlongs suggests to me that this type of entry only works at a certain stable level and I haven’t reached that level.

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