Chrystal Pip Defends Man O War Crown

The Man O War (Grade 1)- $400.000 Purse
BEL- For Four Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Eighth on the Inner Turf
May 13, 2017

Long turf runners will have their chance to shine in the 15th running of a race named after one of the greatest real racehorses of all time.  Perhaps fittingly, this race has also been won by some of the greatest virtual horses in the game as well.  The 2006 and 2007 races were won by the great Dogma, and then in 2011, none other then Bronze Sabre won the race as part of his nearly $12,000.000 in career earnings.  Other recent winners do not quite have the accolades of those two, but not many will.  Both Ashkalani and Spanish Showboat won in recent years, and last year it was Chrystal Pip winning for Mb Stables just a week after he purchased him in private sales for $600.000 from Chili King Stables.  Now, with a full year together, Chrystal Pip will look to join Dogma as the only two-time winners of this race.   He’ll definitely have a great shot to do so, but there will be five others who will look to dethrone him here.  Let’s meet the field!

#1- Bay O Fire (Oval Express Farms, ridden by F Pennington)- The veteran five year old has enjoyed a successful career running in the allowance and optional claiming ranks, but recently the trainer has bigger aspirations for him.  On New Years Eve, he became a stake winner, winning the $100.000 Jerkens at GP.  That is sandwiched by two graded attempts, which has seen him fail to hit the board, but be within two lengths each time.   Advancing him to this race makes for a tough call, and while I do think he could win a smaller graded event, he’ll have his hands full here.  Speed figures are good, and you can never count on the horse on the rail.

#2- Dogs Dragon (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by E Maldonado)- Another fine turf horse that Maxmillion has in his barn, and Dogs Dragon is running as good as he ever as right now.  He has won two of his last three, which are the only two times he has gone twelve furlongs, taking the Grade 2 HOL Turf Cup in November, and the San Luis Rey, also a Grade 2, in March.  He’ll only have eleven furlongs here, but he definitely is one that loves these longer distances.  That 101 SRF in the San Luis Rey certainly gets your attention for this 2016 BC Mile participant, and it should make him the horse to beat here.

#3- Chrystal Pip (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- Last year’s Man O War winner would be honored to share a distinction with the great Dogma to win this race a second consecutive time.  His chances look very good to do so.  Since that win, he has won two others, the Grade 1 Gold Cup on the main track at SA, and The Hirsch Turf Classic against the best in the business right here at BEL.  This earned him a berth in the BC Turf last fall, and he finished in the middle of the field.  In 2017, we have not seen him much with just two starts thus far, both competitive third place finishes.  He has a great shot, and while I am looking elsewhere, don’t be surprised to see him win again here.

#4- Steel Kelp (John Henry, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Making his 55th start, this eight year old gelding is a nice throwback to some of the other older horses that kept on going and going.  He picked up his first career win on January 21st, 2012, which would have made him old enough to race against Bronze Sabre.  The best part about this is that he is in the best form of his career right now, with Serenity Stables doing a particularly outstanding job with him.  He ran second to Chrystal Pip in the Man O War last year, so if there is one in here that is going to knock him off, you know that Steel Kelp wants to be the one. In December, John Henry picked him up in the auction for $17.770 (where was everyone?)  and a month later he won the Grade 3 McKnight Handicap at GP while putting up a 103 SRF.  Should bounce back from an uncommonly tough outing in his last start in this race.

#5- G Honkus Brown (Spankys Barn, ridden by C S Nakatani)- The autogen made a stunning jump in his last start, going from a $6.250 claimer at TAM, winning it, and the going right to the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano a few weeks ago at SA, and he nearly won the race, finishing second.  There was one other graded attempt, about a year prior to Saturday’s race, but other then that G Honkus Brown has been a fixture in claimers and starter allowances, winning 8 of 28 career starts. As good as the San Juan Capistrano result was, this is a far superior field overall, but maybe something special will happen again.  Nakatani returns to ride again.

#6- Mean Street (Nakamura Stables, ridden by L Saez)- The winning trainer of the KYD looks to win another big one this weekend, and this seven year old has gotten it done in the past.  His career earnings sit just over $1,000.000 with ten wins in 35 career starts.  Going exactly eleven furlongs has been kind to him, with four wins in five career starts at this distance, with the other result being a second in a photo finish.  All those races have been among his last eleven starts, so we’re not digging deep into his past for races that don’t mean much now.  Those wins include the Grade 2 Bowling Green at SAR (sidenote: are we really just 2 ½ months away now from racing at the Spa.  Wow!), and the Grade 2 Diarmida, where he beat Chrystal Pip.  He may have them right where he wants them here.

Prediction: 2-6-3-4

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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