Lots to like about Vi­brance

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - BYRON KING

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When horse­play­ers open the past per­for­mances for Satur­day’s Grade 1 Star­let at Los Alami­tos, the last-out third from Vi­brance in the Breed­ers’ Cup Ju­ve­nile Fil­lies will un­der­stand­ably gar­ner at­ten­tion, hav­ing come in the classi­est race for 2-yearold fil­lies on dirt all year.

That is not the only ba­sis for that race to com­mand re­spect, how­ever. So, too, did it im­press me from a trip per­spec­tive, with Vi­brance man­ag­ing her third­place fin­ish de­spite some chal­lenges that aren’t noted in the com­ments of her past per­for­mances or in the chart it­self.

She ex­pe­ri­enced trou­ble – not ob­vi­ous trou­ble, such as be­ing checked or hung wide – but trou­ble nev­er­the­less. I made notes of her break­ing about two lengths be­hind the lead­ers, ad­vanc­ing ea­gerly to play catchup, and then run­ning evenly from an in­side stalk­ing po­si­tion while never fully in the clear.

This was not a dis­as­trous trip, but was not the type of jour­ney that typ­i­cally re­sults in suc­cess, es­pe­cially for an in­ex­pe­ri­enced run­ner. A young horse who be­comes ag­gres­sive fol­low­ing a tardy begin­ning might re­cover to reach con­tention only to back up in the lane af­ter eat­ing dirt down the back­stretch.

It is to her credit that Vi­brance did not. In­stead, she kept bat­tling all the way to the fin­ish, with Rest­less Rider need­ing the full stretch at Churchill Downs to edge past her by a half-length for the run­ner-up spot be­hind fron­trun­ning win­ner Jay­walk. Plus, Rest­less Rider had the more fa­vor­able po­si­tion, be­ing on the out­side.

All that said, I must ad­mit I was sur­prised to see Rest­less Rider sub­se­quently beaten when sec­ond in the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs, though per­haps an ag­gre­sive cam­paign and racing over an off track were con­tribut­ing fac­tors to her up­set a cou­ple of weeks ago.

Re­gard­less, Vi­brance’s Breed­ers’ Cup per­for­mance, com­ing un­der less-than-ideal cir­cum­stances, leads me to be­lieve she is the most likely win­ner of the Star­let. Though value is tough to find in a six-horse field, I am hope­ful she will of­fer at least a palat­able price due to the pres­ence of the Bob Baffert-trained stakes-win­ning duo of Mother Mother and Chas­ing Yesterday, plus Oxy Lady, win­ner of the Grade 3 Tempted in her last start.

Oxy Lady owns the top Beyer Speed Fig­ure, a 94, com­pared to the 84 Vi­brance posted in the Breed­ers’ Cup, but I’m du­bi­ous Oxy Lady can repli­cate that fig­ure af­ter leap­ing for­ward 25 points upon her prior top. She seems ripe to regress.

As for Mother Mother and Chas­ing Yesterday, they are good fil­lies. How­ever, they will likely be over­bet due to Baffert’s Hall of Fame achieve­ments and his dom­i­nance in these ma­jor ju­ve­nile stakes at Los Alami­tos in re­cent years.

In my view, Baffert’s hand is stronger in the Los Alami­tos Futurity, where he has en­tered Im­prob­a­ble and Mu­cho Gusto. Both colts are 2 for 2, each hav­ing won his de­but fol­lowed by a stakes.

Al­though Mu­cho Gusto was gritty in win­ning the Grade 3 Bob Hope over fel­low Futurity en­trant Sav­agery, Im­prob­a­ble is my choice to win the Futurity. He im­pressed with an em­phatic 7 1/4-length vic­tory in the Street Sense on the un­der­card of the first of the two Breed­ers’ Cup days.

Still, it is dif­fi­cult for me to fore­see a sce­nario where Im­prob­a­ble starts at a back­able price in the Futurity. The Futurity, like the Star­let, drew only six en­trants, and it seems to have less top-to-bot­tom com­pet­i­tive­ness, lead­ing me to be­lieve that Im­prob­a­ble will be 4-5 odds, maybe even less.

That makes it a race to watch, but not wa­ger, for this horse­player. This is an all­too-com­mon oc­cur­rence for me when it comes to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia racing. As much as I ap­pre­ci­ate the tal­ent of its top horses, I grow frus­trated by the lack of depth in races there, even when there is Grade 1 pres­tige on the line.

This con­di­tion is not unique to Cal­i­for­nia, though it does seem worse out West – lead­ing in part to nine Grade 1 races on dirt in Cal­i­for­nia this year be­ing won by horses that were even-money or shorter odds.

On Satur­day, I will be hop­ing for more than even-money if I am right about Vi­brance in the Star­let – she is the 5-2 third choice on the morn­ing line – though Cal­i­for­nia his­tory has taught me to tem­per ex­pec­ta­tions.


Vi­brance (left) could po­ten­tially of­fer some value in Satur­day’s Grade 1 Star­let.

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