SA Handicap – Grade I
SA Race #9 1 1/4m Dirt Graded Stake
Purse $600.000 For Four Year Olds And Upward.
1 How To Laff, trained by Serenity Stables
Looked to be heading for the TC chase when winning the Gotham and finishing a close third in the Wood Memorial but missed out on the KYD because of a wide draw and his trainers belief that the trip may be too far for him. Sold for $400.000 his new owner tried the Preakness and the Belmont but in both cases he didnt really show up. After a close second in the PA Derby he ran pretty well in the BC Classic when running on late to be beaten just two lengths. His seasonal reappearance saw him beaten just a nose in the Pegasus World Cup which was a big effort and he gets the same draw today to try and go one better. He gets in here with a winning weight but i just worry he may be beaten in the end by a better turn of foot.
2 Kiss The Snake, trained by Nakamura Stables
Nakamura’s purchases are few and far between and the fact that he paid $200.000 for this one just before Christmas should be seen as significant. The fact that he hasnt won beyond six furlongs is worrying but then he has only ever raced once over what could be considered a route trip so it is clear that his owner believes that he could make a big splash on this division. No doubt he has speed but if he has the stamina it will be sorely tested against the cream of HRP’s routers.
3 State Police, trained by Team 7 Illusions
This one has been laid out for this race since being purchased for $300.000 last December. Another that has spent a long time as a sprinter he was close up in the SA Sprint Championship before finding the rather extravagant price a race later. The significant thing about him is that he is three from three in routes and his last win over a mile and sixteenth certainly gave the impression that his future may lay over this sort of trip. With no weight on his back he could easily be the dark horse in the race and i rather liked his Valentines day work of 1:36 2/5.
4 Lord High Admiral, trained by John Henry
His races have been pretty mixed with some efforts just a pound or two off the very best and some looking pretty ordinary. The downside is that the ordinary has come in his last two starts but he hasn’t run over his favoured trip on a sound surface in those two races so we may see a return to form today. That great form included a win in the AR Derby, close thirds in both the Haskell and the Travers and of course his best effort of last year when third in the BC Classic. surprisingly for a horse with that sort of form he gets in here with just 118 lbs which seems silly but i have given up trying to work out HRP’s handicapping system so i will just say he is very nicely handicapped on his best form.
5 A One, trained by Eastern Equine
This horse has won more money by a long way than anything in this race has won or could dream about winning. I dont know where to start with the superlatives but after he won the Preakness and placed second in the Belmont many raised an eyebrow when Eastern Equine paid $1,400.000 to steal him away from Sanny Village. That price has looked cheap since as he went on to finish third in the 2015 BC Classic. At four he won the CT Classic and the Woodward before running fifth in the BC Dirt Mile and then as a five year old after taking the Gold Cup he went onto a career best neck second in the BC Classic from a horrible draw. Now a six year old he had a seasonal debut in the Pegasus World Cup where a wide speed push saw him go to the front and fade into seventh which i think we can safely ignore. I dont see any decline in his works so the only thing that can stop him will be top weight of 123Lbs although from this good draw even that may not stop him.
6 Dr Carson, trained by TwinTowers Racing
Its hard to see a horse with twenty starts and just two wins troubling this sublime field but a 1:36 flat work at SA at the end of January says otherwise. With just 116 lbs and a bullet work like that i hate to sat he has a real winning chance but he does in HRP land and if you are looking for one to really upset the apple cart this would be it.
7 Chrystal Pip, Mb Stables
His trainer is pretty excited by this six year olds chances in this race especially with just 117 lbs. The winner of the BEL Derby at three he had run most of his races on the dirt and thus earned a tilt at the BC Classic where he ran a respectable seventh. Bought for $600.000 by Mb Stables he went on to prove just how versatile he is with a win on the turf in the garde one Man O War and then the Gold Cup on the dirt also at grade one. In a fairly short four year old season he also won the Hirsch Turf Classic but was rested after an average run in the BC Turf. He struggled a little last year and was unable to win a race but did finish a close third in the Manhattan and second in the Man O war. After throwing in some very fast dirt works and a smooth win in an open allowance on that surface in February he looks set up for this race and if his trainer is confident it pays to take notice.
8 Steel Will, trained by Defoe
I must admit to liking this horse a lot and after a funny year last year the way he came out and ran a brilliant third in the Pegasus World Cup i think this may be the year for him. Owned by Australia Wide he won the Vanderbilt Handicap out of the blue over six furlongs and then was controversially entered in the pacific Classic where he actually ran a very good race from a nasty draw to be fourth. That really muddied the trip waters as far as he was concerned but when he ran third in the JC Gold Cup after being bought for $250.000 it looked like his future may be over the longer distance. Having qualified for the BC Sprint he took his chance and ran Ok to be seventh but i think after his seasonal reappearance in the Pegasus we can now safely say his sprinting days are over.
9 Hidden Slew Laff, trained by Gdp Inc
Hit to form as a three year old when he won the OH Derby and then finished a close fifth in the Haskell but he has struggled in the top grade to make his mark since. He ran well in the Pegasus World Cup to be sixth and wasnt beaten far but he wold need a career best effort and then some to beat this very good field today.
10 Major Weiner, trained by Night Rider Stables
When he won the Super Derby and the Pacific Classic his owner was singing his praises and very bullish about his chances in the BC Turf but he ran a bit flat that day and that may have been the start of the trail that led him back to the dirt for this race. He ran OK on seasonal debut to be third in the San Marcos and that will have sharpened him up so i think he will be ready for a big run in this race. I am not too worried about the draw as he won the Pacific Classic from a wide gate and as for the switch to dirt you have to remember that he ran third in the SUN Derby last year so its clearly not a big problem.
11 Laffin Parrot, trained by Mo Mentum Farm
This is another horse that i like very much and one that i feel has been underated for much of his career. His stunning eight length win in the Queens Plate was put down to the soft ground and the funny results it can throw up on HRP but he is much better than a mudder. He is working better than ever this year and a decent third in the San Pasqual on seasonal debut will have him ready for one of the biggest tests of his career. His gate will be tough but it would be great to see him run well.
12 Surprising, trained by Threshold
Rather aptly named because if he wins from gate 12 with very little form to go on it will be a big surprise
As usual this is laughingly called a handicap when the only horse that is actually handicapped is A One. He may still win but its a tough ask to give weight to some very good horses. Mb Stables is pretty confident in Chrystal Pip but there are many chances in this race and i am more tempted to go with a little value. So its a bit left field but i think Steel Will may run big.