Deep But Tricky Field in The Fourstardave Handicap

The Fourstardave Handicap (Grade 1) (BC)- $500.000 Purse
SAR- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile on the Inner Turf
August 12, 2023

Named for one of the biggest legends of all time at SAR, the Fourstardave Handicap provides an automatic spot into the BC Mile in just three months. The race first appeared on the schedule in 2003 as a Grade 2, and was won by one of our own legends, the great Alpha Ultimo. It would not be until 2012 where the prestige of the race took major leap, becoming a Grade 1 and seeing the purse move from $150.000 to $500.000. Other past winners of the race include Se Magnifique and Sir Tom. Last year, a horse whose longevity would make Fourstardave proud as the eight-year-old gelding Lets Do It Big Boy did indeed do it for RNP Stables. He is still active, but as much as I hate to say it, he may be done. After 71 races, he’s certainly entitled to retire! The gate is full for this year’s race, and here is a look at the field!

#1- Hawaiian Lord (Our Athletes, ridden by T Gaffalione)- This five-year-old horse has been consistent over his career, but not necessarily for winning. He’s been second in 11 of 29 starts, including a runner up finish in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at BEL in June. Following that, he came here to the Spa, and just missed out on the exacta by running third in the Kelso Stakes. Other than a brief rut in his career last year, Hawaiian Lord has done well and belongs in this race. Our Athletes, however, would love to make more frequent trips to the winner’s circle with him. Just three wins so far, and none at the stake level.

#2-Valvano (Royalty Stables, ridden by D Davis)- After a strong three-year-old season that included winning the $400.000 Lafayette at KEE, Valvano has struggled to get going in 2023. He’s hit the board just once in five starts, when he was third in the mud at the San Carlos Stakes. Unlike Hawaiian Lord, he does not have the same level of consistency when he is not winning the races. Royalty Stables would love to see a few more second places out of this one, after all. Valvano has mainly been a dirt horse, but has turf starts sprinkled in that have gone decently.

#3- Commanding Officer (Winning Link Stables, ridden L Dettori)- Ran here last month in the Kelso Stakes, but you would have been forgiven if you never noticed he was there. He was better, but still missed the board, in the race before that, the Poker Stakes at BEL. In those races, he was not near the front early and earlier in his career, though in less prestigious races, he was better when near the front early. What we do know is that he just expects to break out of post #3. He has done so in 7 of his 11 races, but not the last two. Maybe that threw him off.

#4- Deactivation (Mb Stables, ridden by P Lopez)- Another participant from the Poker Stakes, and that’s a race that Mb Stables would like to deactivate from his memory. Going longer for the United Nations at MTH last month did not help matters but he has been a lot better in his career overall. Almost like Hawaiian Lord in being a horse that likes to finish second more than win. The Mb Stables graded stake wins counter is presently at 991, so that big milestone is getting closer.

#5- Oh Brother (Spankys Barn, ridden by L Saez)- Picked up by Spankys Barn in the June auction for $45.010, and is actually a horse that has not raced since March. There was nothing wrong with his form before running fifth in the Muniz Memorial Handicap, but he is a horse that is inconsistent. It will be up to the new trainer to try and change that, and getting a win here would be a good start, but even if he did, he would still need to follow that up well, too.

#6- American Grandeur (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by M Franco)- This is the only three-year-old in the field, and he will be looking to being the version of himself that we saw in the Grade 1 Jaipur at BEL. He was only second there but earned an impressive 102 SRF in the effort. That made the next start more of a surprise, when he struggled in the Grade 3 Manila. Was it because he was carrying a little more weight? We might be able to make that a throw out, but even if we do, American Grandeur has not been consistent when running against the best.

#7- Angel Code (Smokey Stover, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- Around this time last year, Angel Code was getting started at the graded level, but after losing by five lengths in the Grade 2 DMR Derby, he has been exclusively running in overnights. It seemed to be a good spot to run him in mid-level optional claimers, as Angel Code did well to pick up some portion of the purse, but after a win at WO, Smokey Stover wants to see if his gelding can step it up. A handicap like this presents a good spot to try and do that in. Not one of my picks but will be interested in seeing how he fares.

#8- Insist On Perfection (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by J Lezcano)- Just a couple weeks ago, this gelding ran in the Grade Connaught Cup Stakes at WO on yielding turf, and was second best. He has plenty of experience with running on off tracks, as six of his last nine starts have been. On Saturday as of press time, there is a 72% chance of rain and if that were to play out, Insist On Perfection may be the most excited to see it. Other than once as a two-year-old, he has not raced on this type of short rest before, but I am not worried about that part of it.

#9- Certified Yank (Threshold, ridden by A Beschizza)- In March, he was picked up by Threshold for just $15.000 in the auction, which may prove to be quite a steal. This gelding is no stranger to running in big races, and the Grade 1 SAR Derby last year here is one of them. He finished third in that race, as well. A month before the auction he was a non-factor in an open allowance at HOU, and that likely led to the sale price. Went wire to wire for Threshold in May at FE in an open allowance and has been idle since then.

#10- Absolutely Grande (Grimley, ridden by F Prat)- Back in May, Absolutely Grande had a great race in the $300.000 Opening Verse, finishing second behind Commanding Officer and ahead of Deactivation in a three-way photo. That has not led to bigger things as of yet for the horse, as Absolutely Grande has struggled in both the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and then last month in the Kelso Stakes. He saw a couple of these in the latter, including Commanding Officer again. It’s important for him to rebound here with a productive effort.

#11- Miami My Amy (Mb Stables, ridden by D E Centeno)- Arrived with the trainer in late September with a $250.000 private sales tag. Looked good right away after that but never really got going after the Shadwell Turf Mile. He’s only made four starts since then, so that is part of it, and all three of his races this year are in overnights, so it does raise some curiosity as to why he has not been in a stake in 2023 yet. Is it just because of the depth of the stable he is in? A 102 SRF in an open allowance on yielding turf at WO gets him this chance to prove himself, perhaps to the trainer, first.

#12- Immookielee (Smokey Stover, ridden by J R Velazquez)- About as consistent as a horse can get, in 26 races, Immookielee has won eleven times, but has also been able to hit the board in 21 races. Furthermore, she has only finished outside of the top four once over her lifetime, so Smokey Stover has been able to count on getting something out of every race. Was more of a fixture at the stake level in 2021 and early in 2022 and has otherwise been dropped into overnights. That can help the winning percentage when you have the talent, she does but fortunately she was back into a stake last month for the Grade 3 Wise Dan. Finished third on yielding turf in it.

Prediction: Honestly, this is tough to find a horse to put on top. I like several, but none stand out as my favorite. I’d want to put Hawaiian Lord first, but I just can’t do it. We’ll go with this: 7-1-4-12 If it’s an off track, it changes to 8-1-12-11

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

%d bloggers like this: