By J.N. Campbell

Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Friday's John Battaglia Memorial Stakes (100k) @TP

By J.N. Campbell
Mark Casse sends Gretzky the Great into the Battaglia Memorial Stakes in search of Derby Points. Can he win off the bench for the HOF trainer? Have a look at our horse-by-horse analysis, below...
Mark Casse sends Gretzky the Great into the Battaglia Memorial Stakes in search of Derby Points. Can he win off the bench for the HOF trainer? Have a look at our horse-by-horse analysis, below...

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1 1/16th (AW), John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, Purse $100k, 3

This race, named for one of the cornerstones in the development of racing in Northern Kentucky, carries Derby Points with it. 10-4-2-1, in that order, will go to the winner through 4th place… In the not so distant past, this race has served as the springboard to progress elsewhere, instead of along the Derby route. Two years back, Somelikeitbrown was the hot commodity for trainer Mike Maker, and he used that momentum to go on to win the Jeff Ruby Stakes, which is the natural progression at Turfway Park.

Now, let’s find out about this full field…

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#1 Gretzky the Great (Jky: G. Corrales/Trn: M. Casse):

There is no reason to expect that this son of Nyquist will not take royally to the AW surface @TP. The real question is will he be sharp enough off the bench for trainer Mark Casse? It has been woefully cold up in NKY, and we know that he just shipped in this week. Granted, he is a horse that hails from the North Country of Canada, but I am just a touch skeptical. After such a fab 2-yr-old campaign, I was convinced that he was one of the contenders in the BC Juvenile Turf @KEE but ended up 6th. I would use him in the exotic plays, but not sure that he is a clear winner. Getting one of TP’s leading riders in Gerardo Corrales will be major asset.  

Grade: B

 

#2 The Predictament (Jky: R. Hernandez/Trn: T. Hamm):

Trainer Tim Hamm’s record in these types of contests is not too shabby. He has the perfectly bred horse for an AW contest in Gemologist. Looking over this gelding’s record, he clearly likes the AW @TP. He is going to get the chance to redeem himself, after this gate mate, Twirling Mamba #3, bested him last time in an OC50k event. It is a plus to get Rafael Hernandez to ride in here, but it may not be enough, especially since Hamm’s entry is pretty short on class.

Grade: C+

 

#3 Twirling Mamba (Jky: A. Jimenez/Trn: J. Ortiz):

Here is one of my favorite sires that is represented in this John Ortiz’s barn member. Twirling Candy’s offspring run well on the AW and the turf, and I do not see why this talented colt cannot raise his game further with this opportunity. I know he is short on class (that was part of my critique of #2), but I liked that last performance so much because it was a brilliant rail ride by Albin Jimenez. He is back in this spot, ready for action. Since that score, his work tab looks agreeable, after one @TP and the other @KEE. If he can get this route distance, I think he has a major shot to move forward.

Grade: B+

 

#4 Like the King (Jky: R. Bejarano/Trn: W. Ward):

You knew that if there was a Turfway Park “Non-G” contest, Wesley Ward would show. He brings this son of Palace Malice into this spot with hopes to score a victory for the home team. That last effort at 1 Mile was stout considering it was a wire-to-wire victory. At Turfway, that is not an easy thing to accomplish, and you have to have the right fractions, plus a field that is willing to let you get away with it. No one would doubt Ward’s power to get them ready, and with Rafael Bejarano as pilot, he should have a good chance. I am a little concerned about him getting over bet, plus that engine style is not particularly advantageous on this track. Tote watch, commence… 

Grade: B

 

#5 Kinetic Sky (Jky: D. Parker/Trn: B. Cox):

When it comes to members of Brad Cox’s stable, they now command respect wherever they ship. I am sure there was a time not so long ago when his name appeared on the form, and bettors scratched their heads, wonder who the heck he was coming into their domain. Those days of anonymity are gone. This time around Cox is sending this colt into Turfway with hopes that he can raise his game. It will not be easy considering the hike class-wise, and there is just no way to know how he will handle the AW. I am sure the folks behind Runhappy are interested as well because their victories at this level have been few and far between. This particular runner has an interesting 3-race history down at the Fair Grounds—Cox’s winter base. There he ran against Proxy, who has acquitted himself well in 2 Derby Trail tries, namely, the Lecomte and Risen Star. Will that kind of experience assist here for a colt that cost $450k? He is also doubled entered in the Black Gold Stakes on Saturday at the Fair Grounds. Stay tuned…

Grade: C+

 

#6 Pico d’Oro (Jky: /Trn: W. Morey):

The Morey Barn brings 2 entries into the Battaglia, and both look like inviting prospects, but for different reasons. This son of Curlin has a win over the Turfway AW surface, after a nicely rated performance back in mid-December. Then he headed up Aqueduct for a “Non-G” affair in the Jimmy Winkfield 100k. Though failed as the favorite (finishing 3rd out of 5), his talent is undeniable. John McKee is an experienced TP rider, and if he can stay in striking distance, I think this is one to watch. What will his price be come post time? I would be happy with 5/1 or above. Anything like that, to me, is an overlay.

Grade: B+

 

#7 Hard Rye Guy (Jky: C. Landeros/Trn: I. Wilkes):

This son of Hard Spun is owned by Bourbon Lane Stable, and the folks over there have some good runners in their midst. They have retained the services of Ian Wilkes for some time now, and he mainly frequents the KY Circuit tracks. His winning percentages are always stable, but I would not call them tremendous. Each year he hovers around the same, never rising to the top of whatever Meet’s hierarchy. That said, he has solid ability, and I like this entry quite a bit. Just not in this spot. I am really unsure if after this many tries throughout the fall and into the new year, if a colt like this one can match up against others that are drawn in here. I could be wrong because jockey Chris Landeros has been on fire these past few months. Maybe one to put into your exotics because I would be surprised if he wins the Battaglia.  

Grade: B-

 

#8 Hush of a Storm (Jky: S. Gonzalez/Trn: W. Morey):

The other Morey member’s strong suits include 2 straight wins over the rubberized pile. They were both against sizable fields, and those efforts showed a steady progression up the class ladder. If you can move from a MSW32k to an OC50k, and score, then you are doing well. Santiago Gonzalez rides again for the Morey Trust, who apparently own this colt by Creative Cause. If his jockey can get an even greater effort out of him that the last 2 tries, then this Morey entry should vie for the lead down the stretch. I would imagine in this large field, by American standards, that the price will be right.  

Grade: C+

 

#9 Fort Moultrie (Jky: R. Prescott/Trn: R. McGaughey):

I am sure there are a number of punters out there who back on 5 Feb. in the 5th race @TP, wished they had Reeve McGaughey’s gelding on top. That night, he was 31/1, and won the race by a head. Coming into the Battaglia, he may very well be something like that again. McGaughey apparently has inherited his father’s river boat gambler mentality, or you could say that he knows how to spot one of his own. It is a positive that he already has a win over the track at this specific distance. Still, this is going to be a mountain to climb for jockey Rodney Prescott. He is going to need some help when the top of the stretch rolls around. May just be too much!  

Grade: C

 

#10 Notable Exception (Jky: D. Cannon/Trn: J. Sisterson):

Here is what promises to be a pretty high-priced runner come post time. In his 3 attempts last fall at Arlington, Santa Anita, and Churchill, it was a mixed bag to say the least. Some of those competitors that this colt faced included Get Her Number, Rombauer, Spielberg, and Ultimate Badger. Jack Sisterson is hoping that kind of class distinction will negate the layoff and send this steed to the wire in 1st place. Nothing like a Calumet Farm homebred, eh? If I was forced to choose between this entry, and any of the others that are coming off the bench, it would unfortunately not be this one. Declan Cannon has his work ahead of him, as he jumps aboard this son of Street Sense for the first time.

Grade: C-

 

#11 Catman (Jky: E. Esquivel/Trn: M. Maker):

Last out in Houston in the Texas Turf Mile, Mike Maker rolled into town with this son of Kitten’s Joy. The colt was more than a square price at 10/1 but was summarily defeated by Mark Casse’s late-running, Palazzi. That was a thrilling contest, and I expect this one to be the same. How good is this entry? Many will say… not very. He has some classy attempts, but it really dates back to Pimlico’s Laurel Futurity 150k in October when this guy won. Since then (all turf events), nothing seems to be clicking. In his defense, the Sam Houston effort was off the shelf, and against that field, it was always going to be a tough prop. If there is any trainer in this sport who can make adjustments in the face of poor performance, it is Maker. His methods are unique, and he understands fundamentally how to get the best out of his stable. Maybe the rider switch to Emmanuel Esquivel will assist? Lesson… do not count this conditioner out, as he has done it before, and will do it again. My top pick!

Grade: A-

 

#12 Warrior in Chief (Jky: R. Albarado/Trn: K. McPeek):

Ken McPeek and his signature rider, Robby Albarado, are heading into the Battaglia with this son of Kantharos. Gosh, he was good the last time we saw him back in November right before Churchill Downs closed out its Meet. That effort reflected rating ability, dirt power, and the "staying" that is needed to hold onto a lead. Like the other layoff runners, the question of fitness must be asked. I will say this… if this colt is screwed down, then he could be trouble for the rest of this field. Albarado is a pro and has been for some time. Like Casse’s entry, he has been nice and toasty down in South Florida. Those Friday night temps are going to be quite a shock to the system. Hopefully, he will be ready to run!

Grade: B

 

#13 Bakwena (Jky: R. Prescott/Trn: D. Miller): AE

The AE entry in this race does not have much class or a record that would make anyone sit up and notice. Against this large field, it will be difficult for Darrin Miller’s entry to score. Outside chance, at best, to even hit the board, after being 2nd to McGaughey’s Fort Moultrie #9 last out. Nothing to write home about, I am afraid.

Grade: D+

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