Sueno No Bueno, Here Comes The Sunland!

23 Mar

By Lucky Kalanges

I didn’t have a strong opinion in the Louisiana Derby, although I did end up putting $20 on the nose of Sueno after I caught a glimpse of him on the racetrack. I’m no expert on physical handicapping, but I thought he looked dynamite on the track.

No Bueno.

Aside from Sueno, my biggest failure was not giving any thought of Gabriel Saez, the regular rider of my longshot pick, Mr. Money (50/1), moving over to the other William Calhoun entry, By My Standards. When By My Standards got up to win by 3/4 of a length at 22/1 odds, it was time to go back to the DRF PPs to see what I had missed. Beyond the rider switch, which was huge given the horses were coming out of the same barn and Saez had ridden Mr. Money in all five of his starts, there were a couple more reasons to like him.

First, he had never finished worse than third in fields of 10 or 11 horses in each of his four starts. I tend to elevate a horse who has competed well in – fields compared to fields of just five or six. Second, he had split next out winners in his debut, and had competed against next out winners in his next two starts before finally breaking his maiden impressively in his fourth try. Finally, his maiden breaking speed figure of 78 was only a point shy of Mr. Money’s last out 79.

The clues were there, I just didn’t look hard enough.

Still, it’s never easy to back a maiden winner in the last Derby prep of the season at any track. This serves as another reminder of how wide open this Kentucky Derby picture is with just six weeks before the first Saturday in May.

Here Comes The Sunland

I’m kind of excited to see the locally trained Antohertwistafate (3/1) try the traditional dirt again in Sunday’s Sunland Derby. He could not have been more impressive in taking the El Camino Derby at Golden Gate in mid-February. He clearly has a high cruising speed and figures to have a big say in the outcome of New Mexico’s richest thoroughbred race if he can avoid running a clunker on dirt, as he did in his six furlong debut at Santa Anita.

Unfortunately, he has other speed to contend with on either side of him in the starting gate, the primary concern being Bob Baffert’s second stringer, Mucho Gusto, who’s been installed as the 8/5 favorite breaking from the rail. Mucho Gusto owns the best last race dirt Beyer, a 90, and jockey Joe Talamo will probably have to hit the gas pedal right out of the gate to establish position heading into the first turn.

Adding potential fuel to the pace fire is Mine That Bird winner, Hustle Up, who has won eight of 10, is four for four over this track, and also does his best running on the front end. With all three horses hell bent on getting the lead, a hot pace seems likely to unfold.

With that in mind, I am going to look to the outside of the speedballs breaking from the first three gates for a potential upset winner. That horse is #5 – Cutting Humor (8/1).

I like this guy for some of the same reasons I could have liked By My Standards. First, Todd Pletcher ships him in after a 7th place finish in the Southwest Stakes, in which he ran behind eventual Rebel winner Long Range Toddy and yesterday’s third place La. Derby finisher, Sueno. He actually went off favored in that race at 2/1, so he was well-regarded in the betting.

Next, in his race two back he finished second to Bourbon War, who came a couple of jumps short of winning the Fountain of Youth stakes in his next start. Finally, this is his third start off a layoff, he gets Johnny V. and should be able to work out a perfect stalking trip breaking from post five behind the early speed to his inside.

I’ll back him to Win at his morning line of 8/1 or better, and I’m going to try to get the Baffert favorite out of the Exacta, using Anothertwistafate, Wicked Indeed (6/1) and the deep closer Pasamonte Man (20/1) underneath my top choice.

That should wrap up the weekend for me.

Just as a reminder, Santa Anita resumes racing on Friday, March 29, and with the cancellation of racing at Los Alamitos this weekend, we will again be offering FREE NIGHT ADMISSION this Sunday night, with $3 Nightlines. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our night crew who kicked off this weekend by betting 67% and 19% more than they did last year on the same Friday and Saturday nights, even without Los Alamitos!

Thanks again for playing with us at Pleasanton OTB.

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