Zanotti can end victory drought
The Breeders’ Cup may be behind us but there is some fun racing to look forward to Saturday. The Grade 3, $100,000 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs is the only graded stakes event on the schedule, but Laurel has an interesting card on its Salute the Troops Day with five $100,000 stakes, ostensibly led by the Richard W. Small. Aqueduct has a turf stakes doubleheader scheduled in the $150,000 Artie Schiller and the $100,000 Atlantic Beach, while the feature at Del Mar is the $75,000 Let It Ride.
Richard W. Small Stakes
Something Awesome was good to me when he won the Charles Town Classic April at 9-1 as a Weekend Warrior play. He had previously been a nondescript performer on synthetic surfaces, but he morphed into a different horse over the winter when given an extended opportunity on dirt, and that rich score at Charles Town capped a series of career-best performances.
Unfortunately, something may have gone wrong with Something Awesome when he was eased in the subsequent Pimlico Special on May 18, and this will be his first start since. Something Awesome hails from a Jose Corrales barn that is good with layoff horses and he is clearly the one to beat here on his best. But even if I’m predisposed to like him, the six-month layoff after a bad outing makes me wary.
There are several other ways to go in this overflow field (14 are in the body of the race with two also-eligibles, just as in the Breeders’ Cup), including, among others, the steady Name Changer, who is 3 for 5 this year with two thirds, including a win in the Monmouth Cup two starts back, and Dalmore, who suitably stretches back out to two turns in his second start off a freshening, and who was second in the Cornhusker three starts back. But they haven’t been on my bet-back list for the last seven weeks as Zanotti has.
It’s usually not my style to throw in with a horse who has zero wins and six seconds from eight starts on the year, which is Zanotti’s 2018 record. But Zanotti is not a hanger. He won five of eight starts last year, and this year he has simply run into some hot horses or adverse circumstances.
No circumstances were more adverse for Zanotti than when he ran most recently in the Pennsylvania Derby Champion Stakes on the Cotillion/Pennsylvania Derby undercard at Parx Racing. As is often the case at Parx, the inside on the main track that day was dead, yet Zanotti was on or right near it all the way around the track. It was much to his credit that he managed to get second, but even that doesn’t illustrate how courageously he ran. Name Changer, who was wide and in by far the best footing, actually passed Zanotti in midstretch to take second, but Zanotti somehow fought back and reclaimed the place.
City of Laurel Stakes
Rugbyman has shown flashes of real ability and he’s dangerous in this spot despite his fading third in an allowance route at Keeneland last time out. That is because Rugbyman’s best performances – a 14-length maiden romp and a second in the Easy Goer at Belmont, and a solid allowance win over Laurel’s track two starts back – essentially came in extended one-turn events, so the cutback to seven furlongs Saturday ideally suits him.
That said, I prefer Old Time Revival. Old Time Revival was speed crazy earlier this year, running off early in the Wood Memorial, but he has learned to harness his run, as evidenced by his win last time over older Maryland-breds in the Challedon. Old Time Revival actually stalked and pounced to get up in that one, his best effort yet, and was flattered when the third finisher came back to win his next start.
Let It Ride Stakes
Aqueduct’s Artie Schiller is an interesting race, but with even more rain in the New York forecast for Friday and Friday night – perhaps more than an inch – I didn’t want to risk using that turf race, so I’ll go with this one in better weather instead.
Prince Earl won his first two starts as a nice prospect, but I’ll opt for a horse with stakes experience and go with Calexman. Calexman finished third in both the La Jolla and Oceanside over the Del Mar course last summer, and now, with blinkers on and after a sprint sharpener, he’s as loose early here as he wants to be.