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Another California Stakes, another Bob Baffert favorite! Dream Tree, owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III, will stretch out to two turns for the first time in the Grade 1, $300,000 Starlet Stakes on Saturday. The Uncle Mo-sired $750,000 yearling purchase scored by a nose over Midnight Bisou in her debut at 6 furlongs, then defeated the same rival by the same margin 22 days later going 7/8 of a mile in the Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar.
Her main competition will come from Pieidi Bianchi, the class of the field. After breaking her maiden at Del Mar in a maiden special weight, she hit the board in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes. Recently, she finished fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, beaten 5 3/4 lengths.
Exuberance, who was a 6 1/2-length winner over maidens in her first start around two turns on October 13, makes her graded stakes debut for Seltzer Thoroughbreds and trainer Ian Kruljac. An Archarcharch filly out of the D’wildcat mare Wild Forest Cat, Exuberance is one-for-three with a bankroll of $49,200. She finished third in the Barretts Debutante on September 16 in her previous appearance at Los Alamitos.
Trainer Simon Callaghan, who won the 2016 Starlet with Abel Tasman, will try for a repeat with Yesterday’s News. Owned by J. Paul and Zillah Reddam’s Reddam Racing LLC, the New Year’s Day filly out of the Broken Vow mare West Coast Gal has one win in five starts with earnings of $53,245. The last trainer to win the Starlet in consecutive years was D. Wayne Lukas, who scored with Sharp Cat in 1996 and Love Lock in 1997 at Hollywood Park.
From inside out, the field for the Starlet will be: Exuberance, Piedi Bianchi, Dream Tree, War Heroine, and Yesterday’s News.
#4 War Heroine – A 6-length winner on debut at Del Mar on November 12th, she’ll now try to go from a debut maiden score to a Grade 1 winner. In her maiden romp, she got out to a 3-length lead and then poured it on to win by over 6 lengths. The final time of the race wasn’t overly fast, but she was well in hand as she hit the wire. The potential with this horse seems to be high, and I like her going two turns a little better than the Baffert-trained Dream Tree. These are strong connections that you can feel good about betting as well.
#3 Dream Tree – She has back-to-back nose victories over a pretty nice horse in Midnight Bisou. She’s probably the most talented horse in the race, but the big concern here will be the stretch out in distance. Both of her wins came in one-turn races, and both times she seemed to be running out of gas late in the race. There’s no doubt that she’s the fastest horse in the race, but I’m very skeptical that she will be as good going this far. However, she is a must-use in multi-race tickets based on her connections and undefeated record.
#2 Piedi Bianchi – She seems to be an honest horse, and there’s no doubting that she’s the class of the field after running well in three straight Grade 1s. She’s the logical choice to win this race, but I’m skeptical that her talent level is that high. I think she might be more of a hard-trying grinder that sticks with the leaders as long as she can. She will be a factor here without a doubt, but I’m taking a shot with a couple of others that might have a bit more upside.
#1 Exuberance – She won very impressively at Santa Anita last time out in a maiden special weight when stretching out in distance for the first time. The margin of victory was over 6 lengths, but it’s a bit strange that neither the final time or the speed figure came back strong. Perhaps she was just lucky enough to catch a weak field that day. Regardless, her win going two turns makes her a player here, and she could make it two-for-two at a decent price.
#5 Yesterday’s News – Callaghan will look for back-to-back Starlet victories, but this horse may be better when running on the turf. She did pick up a maiden special weight win on the dirt at Del Mar, but since that win, she’s tried the turf twice and has had faster speed figures than her dirt efforts. However, there are no monsters in this race, so she’s not without a chance.
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