The Skip Away – Grade III
GP Race #5 1 1/8m Dirt Graded Stake
Purse $100.000 For Four Year Olds And Upward.
Traditionally the four year olds struggle at the start of the year as they lose their weight allowance and improvement slows down so this is an interesting race that may set the scene for the first part of the season. Will it be the same as all the other years or were last years three year olds really that much better?
1 Ironbound Dancer, trained by Esteron Farms
This son of Iron kaki won 5 races as a three year old including a statebred stakes race but like many others he struggled through his four year old campaign managing just the one win and eventually getting claimed. Again like many four year olds his form came back at the end of the year ending up with a strong second in the CC Jewel. I am terribly wary of five year olds in January and this one threw a decent mile work recently suggesting that he may be coming back to the type of form he showed as a three year old.
2 Skeleton Balle, trained by Oval Express Farms
No doubt a classy type his wins include 3 grade three’s and a BC Marathon but he has run some of his best races in defeat including a nice fifth in the Pacific Classic last year. His only win came last season was in a little race at PM, some would say that was a confidence booster, some would say it was sandbagging but either way that was his only win of the season. A 1.36 and 2 work suggests he is just as good as last year so he should give a good account of himself as usual.
3 Swept Twice, trained by Gdp Inc
A lightly raced four year old he showed some drastic improvement last year winning the PA Derby Champion Stakes a little out of the blue and then running a big second in the grade two Fayette. That success could be put down to the three year old weight allowance but i feel he is a little better than an opportunist and must be given a chance in an even looking field.
4 First Rebellion, trained by Hambletonian Stable
Like most horses in his previous stable he was placed to win races and has a great record of 11 wins from 18 starts. Most of his wins came at a lower level but he was stepped up last year and took three black type races including the San Diego Handicap. He is a better horses when allowed to run just off the pace so this draw should help him. Hambletonian bought him in September last year for $100.000 and got most of that back in his subsequent three races including a win in the Empire Classic where he had Zombie Tomb Raider behind. A solid chance in an open race.
5 Zombie Tomb Raider, trained by Night Rider Stables
Went from claimer to stakes winner in a couple of races for the owner but struggled to repeat that giant leap for the rest of the year. Suffering a bit from the four year old voodoo i expect him to win some good races this year but he has something to find on First Rebellion on the Empire Classic form.
6 Brain Power, trained by Nakamura Stables
He was a Bel Derby runner as a three year old but struggled a little to keep up with the other three’s and then found being a four year old a bit tough after that. He is much better than his form suggests and now he has hit his fifth year i feel we may see the best of him. The stable is in great form and this one is working well enough to make him a true dark horse in a tricky race.
7 Carlos La Verdad, trained by Nakamura Stables
He ran some nice races last year most notably winning the Real Good Deal Stakes and on his last start a pretty competitive open allowance. Its true he would’ve enjoyed the three year old weight allowance but he looks like an improver and is working well enough to put him in the mix without the few pounds he wouldve got last year.
8 Face Your Fear, trained by Luz International
A nice winner last time out of the Native Diver Stakes but he gets a penalty for that and it may be enough to put him out of contention in this race.
9 Tekkers, trained by Fractious
As so often happens a lightning work coming into a race is offset by a bad draw and here we see a horse working much better than anything else with a nightmare alley and no real form to speak of. Three wins for $75.000 in purse money and he works a sub 1.36, only at HRP ay! It is really hard to work out where this one sits in this field, on most of his form he would have no chance but that work is lurking in the background and you have to think he may have been sprinkled by some of that HRP fairy dust. A gamble if you pick him, he could win by six or finish last.
10 Cube Zero, trained by Aml Racing
A horrible draw for this promising sort. Although he has only won one race he ran a huge race to be second in the Pacific Classic and on that sort of form would go very close despite his stall number. Sub 1.37 works meet the criteria too but he has the disadvantage of being a new four year old and drawn out so i am struggling to be over confident about his chances.
An interesting race as the new four year olds have the better work times but without the weight allowance they got last year it remains to be seen whether they can beat their elders. You have to look seriously at Tekkers just on the strength of that work and Cube Zero’s second in the Pacific Classic was pretty good too but i am sticking with history and going with the five year old in First Rebellion.