AP Million Should Be A Great Race

AP Million (Grade 1) (BC)- $1,000.000 Purse
AP- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Quarter on the Turf
August 11, 2018

A berth in the BC Turf is on the line this Saturday in the 14th running of the AP Million, which will see a full field head to the starting gate in a ten furlong thriller. The race features many of the top stars in the turf division, as not only is this a “win and you’re in” race, it also has a pretty nice purse that goes along with it. It is a race that has seen many past greats of the game pick up a win, including Bronze Sabre, who went back to back in both 2009 and 2010. Those would also be the two years that he would win the BC Turf. Two others have won both the AP Million and the BC Turf in the same year. Dogma did so back in 2006, but it was also done as recently as last year, when Clockwork Chai for Mb Stables completed the double. He is not here today, having opted for a $23.000 allowance last week at LAD instead of trying to join the likes of Bronze Sabre as back to back winners. That trainer does bring a past winner to the race though, as 2014 AP Million winner Spanish Showboat is in the field. Also here is 2016 winner Lunar Blaze, and they are just part of the expected strong field for the race. Let’s take a look at it!

#1- Decibel (Threshold, ridden by J L Ortiz)- The trainer will be glad to not have to start from the outside with his Decima gelding, as he draws the rail for the race. He has been lightly raced this year so far, with just three starts, with one of them a victory. That came about six months ago to the day, back in the GP Turf Handicap. More recently, he ran fourth in the Grade 1 Manhattan, but was within a length of the victory. Lately, he has taken a liking to running in a stalking position, so if that happens again, its hard to see why he would have any trip excuses here. The race may set up quite well for him.

#2- Banshee Star (Joseph Racing, ridden by A A Gallardo)- After running in the BC Dirt Mile last year, Banshee Star was moved to the grass for his four year old campaign. It has worked out pretty well, as he has picked up three wins in five starts. Back in early May, one of those wins came at CD in the Grade 1 Woodford Turf Classic. As impressive as that is, every now and then, he seems to throw up a dud, though never seems to do that in two consecutive races. His last effort may not completely qualify as a dud, as he was still sixth and just two lengths off in the Grade 1 Manhattan, but Banshee Star usually recovers well from races like that.

#3- Lunar Blaze (John Henry, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- One of several in here that is coming off of the Grade 1 Manhattan at BEL in June. For Lunar Blaze, the 2016 winner of the AP Million, that resulted in a 7th place finish, but was just two lengths off in a very similar race line that Banshee Star had. Since that AP Million win, he has one victory in sixteen starts. That was two races ago, at the Grade 3 American Stakes in April at SA. Though he does not win much anymore, he has still been able to finish in a top four spot, allowing him to get some sort of earnings. Tough horse to put on top, but definitely easier to put in exotics.

#4- Spanish Showboat (Mb Stables, ridden by D E Centeno)- It is not often that I talk about the 2014 winner of a stake still being a part of the race, but Spanish Showboat is back for more. The now eight-year old gelding continues to win at the graded level, and is very capable of pulling off the win again. He has appeared in this race two other times, placing 8th in 2015, and 3rd in 2017. In 2016, he opted for the Pacific Classic in August. He has also been a part of the BC every year since 2013, but has not won any of them. Looks as though he is on the right track this year to return to the BC. A winner of over $4,000.000, that seems to be the only thing really missing on his resume.

#5- Condo (Diablo Diablo, ridden by R J Albarado)- This one looks to burst onto the scene of this division here in the AP Million. So far, he has predominantly run in allowances and optional claimers, but does have one graded attempt. He ran into soft turf at the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap in May, but still finished third in a race that saw many scratches. His last race saw him dropped back into an allowance, and he ran third at WO, though that race may have been a little too short for him. Condo can be competitive here, but as always with horses like this, I want to see a race first before picking him against this type of crowd.

#6- Early Retirement (Mb Stables, ridden by L H Colon)- Proving the strength that the trainer has in the turf division, he does not even need Clockwork Chai to run here. Early Retirement, after all, only comes off a win in the Grade 1 BEL Derby last month. The second Decima gelding in the field, the three year old Early Retirement has been on a great run of form lately, showing no difficulty with the advancement in class to the graded level. This will be a test much like the BEL Derby, and it may just be that his biggest challengers in the field will be the ones wearing the same silks. A stalking trip like he had last time should work well in this race.

#7- Name Drop (Mb Stables, ridden by F Pennington)- In the BEL Derby, I went for Name Drop to be the one to beat, and while he would run well, he was beaten by his stablemate. Name Drop did it from coming from well off the pace, closing hard to get up for third behind both Early Retirement, and another one time stablemate, People Doubted, who is running in the race just before this, the Secretariat (for three year olds exclusively). With the services of the amazing F Pennington as a jockey, Name Drop may have what it takes to beat his stablemate, even though Early Retirement has another great of the game, L H Colon.

#8- The Joker (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by E Maldonado)- Well, let’s not go giving the win to Mb quite yet. For as good as his hand looks in this race, there may be a joker in the deck. The Joker will make his debut for D J C Racing Stables here, having been acquired from Maxmillion Farm on the first day of July for $800.000. That’s quite a price for D J C to pay, so we know he loves this horse. And why wouldn’t he? The Joker has back to back wins in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial and the Grade 1 Manhattan. In the Manhattan, as has been mentioned, he beat many that sees here again today. That’s quite a chunk of change though to be paid for him, and it’ll be interesting to see if it’s a long term bargain, or if Maxmillion sold him at the perfect time.

#9- Lets Do It Big Boy (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by J Valdivia Jr)- In late July, Team 7 Illusions picked this one up for a $35.000 claiming tag in what was just his second start. It has proven to be successful, as after four straight runner ups, he started this year off by winning an optional claimer. He has since run in several graded stakes, including both the Grade 1 Woodford Turf Classic and the Grade 1 United Nations, but is still looking for his signature win. The interesting race to look at, though, is the Grade 2 Whittingham from May where he ran second to Spanish Showboat, also at ten furlongs. I expect to see Lets Do It Big Boy to tactically run just as he did there.

#10- Sean Hannity (Estero Farms, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- Former trainer Maxmillion Farm made nearly $1,000.000 in selling The Joker and Sean Hannity, combined. Sean Hannity was sold for less the 25% of The Joker’s price, going for “just” $150.000. I think Estero got a steal here, because he has not been bad this year. He has run third three consecutive times, and his last two races, the Grade 2 Brooklyn and Grade 3 Stars And Stripes, the latter coming right here, saw him be just a length from victory. He will like this being a bit shorter as well. While this might not end up as a win, over the long haul, Estero will look good with his purchase.

#11- Neon Wolf (Smokey Stover, ridden by R Bejarano)- This one might still be catching his breath, having run just two weeks ago in the Grade 3 Amsterdam. He was well rested prior to that, so I am not concerned about that aspect. This race is obviously much different then the Amsterdam in pretty much every way, and Neon Wolf has never gone long on the grass before. He only has one start, which came early in his career. Neon Wolf worked nicely at MTH earlier this week, and it shows he can be up to the task. He will represent himself well, but beating the monsters that he faces here is a whole new challenge.

#12- Serious Cobra- Scratched

#13- Blue Eight (Blushing Meadows, ridden by J Talamo)- There was a time that Blue Eight was on the cusp of greatness. He has had a successful career, but has never been able to win a graded stake. He has been in quite a few, and has been in the money in races like the Grade 1 Foster Handicap, but its fair to say that he has been an underachiever at this level. Recently, he has been seen in open allowances, and after beating three others in such a race two and a half weeks ago, he attempts the biggest challenge of 2018.

#14- Controlled Power (Spankys Barn, ridden by C S Nakatani)- One of the best turf horses in the game, it is a bit of a shame that he has to start on the outside like this. Hopefully for the trainer, he can channel his inner Pretty Ferro from the KYD and overcome the odds and get a win from this post. Since mid-December, he has been outstanding, winning four in a row, which included both the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile and the Grade 1 Makers Mark Mile. Don’t be fooled by thinking he needs to run a mile though, as he has been just as good running a distance like he sees here. Ran fifth in the Manhattan in his last start, so he is poised to bounce back well here. Can he do it from this post, though?

#15- Suspicious Native (Wil Mac Racing, ridden by ME Smith)- Drawing in thanks to the scratch of Serious Cobra, Suspicious Native makes quite a leap. He won four straight free track races this spring, which interestingly were all on off tracks. Off of that, the trainer took a shot in the Manhattan. Nothing wrong with that, but he did not beat anyone there. A race later, in the AP Handicap, he was again a non-factor, though not dead last. He has not shown yet that he can be competitive at this level. Add in this post, and he’d be a good survivor pick if this was that race.

Prediction: 8-7-14-1

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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