In what appears to be the longest race on the two-year-old calendar so far, fourteen talented runners will take to the grass in Paris on Saturday in the $750,000 Group I Saint Cloud, which is set at a mile and a quarter. Just like trying to figure out which horses will like the added distance in the Bluegrass Derby, here we have even younger horses stretching out to an unfamiliar distance. Many of these horses have good distance pedigrees, which will be key in getting to 10 furlongs.
(1) GURKHABONE (owner ksparrow22, 9/1) comes into this race on relatively short rest by modern two-year-old standards, having raced just under three weeks ago in Dubai in the Making the Cat Turf Juvenile, where he posted an impressive SP number of 90 en route to winning by a quarter length. He’s taken a somewhat unusual path to a Group I, starting off in a maiden hot race in early September. After winning there, he finished sixth in an allowance race despite only being a length and a half back. Despite this, owner ksparrow22′s confidence in the horse paid off with the ungraded stakes win next time out. The colt leaves Dubai for the first time, and will try to capitalize on recent sharp form and an impressive distance pedigree.
(2) WOOD DRAGON (owner nepenthe39, 13/1) is by Ivawood, a second-year sire that has already produced a graded stakes winner in his last class. The colt picked up a check by finishing fourth in his last start, the Group I Middlepark Stakes at Surrey. While the horse has not been able to finish in the money in either of his two graded starts so far, the line two back is notable. Sandwiched in between his two graded starts, he ran in a local restricted open allowance race in Ireland in late August, which is the only route he has run so far in his career. Wood Dragon was in total control of this race and won by open lengths, which suggests he likes the longer distance. The horses that finished behind him in that race have not impressed in further starts, which makes me wonder if the SP# of 79 was a result of being geared down in the end. He is by Ivawood, who had a tremendous 2-year-old campaign. In addition, he is out of the stakes-winning mare RAGE DRAGON, who did well at 9-10 furlongs, so I like his chances to be involved at a price.
(3) KLASSIC MANIC (owner millview15, 19/1) took four races to break his maiden, facing solely Irish-breds on his path to doing so. He got to the winner’s circle in a 7.5 furlong maiden special weight back in July, and has taken two shots at graded company since. The first was in the Group II Jimcrack at Surrey, where he finished tenth out of twelve in a six-furlong race. Last time out, he found a liking to the firmer American turf, finishing second to the favorite in here, LUXURY COMEBACK, in the Grade III Founders at New York in late September at 19/1. He likes to sit in the absolute back of the pack during the first half of the race before making a hard charge for the finish. His two longer racing lines show that the extra ground helps him get close to the front, so he will be one to keep an eye on.
(4) PROVE THE TRUTH (owner mickyb, 8/1) has really not been racing against much stakes company, but has put up a couple of impressive owner-restricted races Down Under. Back in September, he finished second in a seven-furlong affair at Victoria. He stayed there and posted the best SP# in this field last month, scoring a 93 on the way to winning the Ruby Slipper, an open allowance at Victoria. He has actually already raced in Paris before, winning an allowance sprint back in June, although the going was softer than what he’ll find today. Despite failing to hit the board in his only ungraded stakes race in July, the recent form and talent in the bloodline hint that he will be a contender in here.
(5) CLOSING THE DOOR (owner murray1, 8/1) makes his first adventure across the pond from the United States, where he has finished first or second in five out of six starts. The son of Frankel actually began his career on dirt, breaking his maiden in May at California. After an ensuing effort that ended in a disappointing seventh-place finish, owner murray1 tried the turf, and he responded with a second and then a victory against non-winners of two lifetime. The colt traveled to Kentucky last month, finishing a solid second in the 8.5 furlong Grade III Wooden Reserve. Now it is worth noting that the winner of that race, LEMON KID AGAIN, has since finished last in a Group I event at Surrey a couple of weeks back. That makes me wonder how good that run was. He’ll be another one that starts toward the back and will try to take advantage of any hot pace up front.
(6) REDWELLLRANDRY (owner pastures3, 13/1) tries stakes company for the first time here and has caught a tough field. Even so, that last race was certainly good enough to catch some eyes, running an SP# of 92 against non-winners of two last month in Germany at 8 furlongs. He has yet to finish worse than second in his four lifetime starts, and will try to be the first stakes winning offspring of El Romeo, a son of Storm Cat. The gelding has had a nice run of races through the summer and fall, but the question remains whether he can step up in class against these tougher horses. Like others in here, it doesn’t appear that distance will be a big issue. Also like others, he’ll likely be coming from the back.
(7) KYCKER (owner lightng112, 19/1) has already appeared in four graded stakes spanning Europe, North America and Australia, but has only had limited success. That success was last time out, finishing third in the Grade III Summertime at Ontario last month at 14/1. In his previous three graded starts, he failed to crack the top-5. This is another horse, like CLOSING THE DOOR, that broke his maiden on dirt. The switch to turf has led to some better results at times, but I’m not sure he’s good enough to beat these. A complicating factor is the distance – I don’t believe his pedigree is suited for this, as he is by Kyllachy, whose offspring have seen most of their success at sprint distances. Also, he started to fade in the final strides of his last race. I don’t think the extra quarter mile will help here.
(8) SPIRIT POWERED (owner rcdlogan, 9/1) is the lone filly taking on the tough challenge of facing the boys in here, but she has together a nice resumè coming into this race. She’s coming off of an open-length win in the ungraded Toms Stay All Day Turf Juvenile Fillies at New Zealand last month, and had a couple of impressive races before that. This is not a pedigree that screams 10 furlongs, but after beating a solid group of fillies last time out at 8.5 furlongs, she’s hard to completely throw out here. Another horse coming from the back, she’ll have to take a step up here to get in the mix.
(9) VOULEZ VOODOO (owner thunor, 9/1) comes in off of a trip to Kentucky last month, finishing third behind CLOSING THE DOOR in the Grade III Wooden Reserve. Before then, he tried two Group II events in Australia and Ireland, finishing third and sixth, respectively. The extra distance seemed to help this closer hit the board last time out, and the pedigree suggests the South African-bred will be able to handle 10 furlongs. The last few lines show me that he may not be quite as good as the top tier in here – I suspect he’ll end up in the middle of the pack.
(10) CARMA CREST (owner lightng125, 14/1) will try to break his maiden in a Grade I, as he has yet to visit the winner’s circle yet. In fact, he has never even faced maidens. He started his career finishing second against non-winners of two, and then finished a close second in an overnight stakes event. After a third-place effort in the Group III Salisbury Medallion at South Africa in May, he has put up a seventh, sixth and seventh in his subsequent graded starts. Given the recent form and relatively low SP numbers compared to others in this field, I’m not sure he’ll be able to keep up with the top horses.
(11) IRISH FRENCH (owner beepee, 18/1) has already raced nine times in his young career, and is another horse that got his start in hot races. He raced twice within a week back in January, but didn’t break his maiden until March at Victoria. Since then, he has added an allowance race and overnight stakes race to his win column, and finished a decent fourth two lengths back last time out at Newmarket in the Group II Vintage. That race was back at the end of July, so after getting to nine races pretty quickly, he comes in here on a three and a half month layoff. In addition, his brothers and sisters have struggled in races of this distance, and he has yet to even run a mile. I’ll be surprised if he’s with the leaders by the end of this one.
(12) LUXURY COMEBACK (owner tullbrink3, 5/1) is the favorite in here, being the only graded stakes winner in the field. In fact, he has won two graded stakes – the Group II Champagne Mile at Victoria in July and the Group III Founders at New York in late September. He is ranked number 4 in the 2-year-old turf division, but owner tullbrink3 decided to bypass the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile Turf for this race. In the end, it may be a good decision, as the purses for the two races are the same. In addition, the open-length victory last time out in a 9 furlong race suggests that he will like the distance in here. He is clearly the horse to beat, although I would like to see him a little closer to the front in this race to keep the pace honest.
(13) SMOKE GRENADE (owner jockeymax7, 8/1) is coming off a third-place effort in the Group II Royal Dodge at Surrey in September, a race that included a few other graded stakes winners. He is out of a Grade II-winning dam I AM TITANIUM, and already has three wins out of five starts. He has shown steady progress so far in his career, and seems to be built to go long distances like this race. The colt was a closing third last time out, and gets another quarter of a mile in here. If this horse takes another step forward on Saturday, he could certainly be in contention.
(14) I OCTANE (owner silversun26, 8/1) is lightly raced, but comes into this event with an impressive set of three running lines. He broke his maiden in his first start back in April, and then went on to win an ungraded stakes in his next start at this track in June. After this solid performance, owner silversun26 decided to keep I Octane in France, running next in the Group I More Nay at Deauville in August. He finished a very respectable second in the six-furlong race. Obviously this race is a huge jump in distance, as he’ll have to run another half mile, and do it from the outside post. Even so, this is a pedigree that oozes distance, as I Octane is by King Kamehameha, with A.P. Indy and Sadler’s Wells farther down the bloodline. Relatively unknown Massachusetts-based jockey B Oston is a favorite of the silversun stables, and gets the mount here just like in the last race.
The thing that sticks out to me is the lack of early speed in this race. Many of the top contenders like to come from the back, so if a pace horse can get up front and set some soft fractions, they could be tough to get by in the end.
(2) WOOD DRAGON (13/1) – I really like that race two back, and think he wants to go longer. He is one of the few in here that doesn’t mind being at the front in the early stages. If he can set a soft pace, I like his chances. New York-based jockey Z Ayya picks up the mount for the first time.
(12) LUXURY COMEBACK (5/1) – On paper, the best horse in this race. Looks like he’ll enjoy the extra furlong and certainly should be in contention to win.
(14) I OCTANE (8/1) – This horse is intriguing to me. Hasn’t raced anywhere near this distance, but appears to be built for it. Add in the light racing schedule and minimal travel, I think he could spring the mild upset in here. Is MA-based jockey B Oston up to the challenge of winning a Group I?
(4) PROVE THE TRUTH (8/1) – The question is how good those owner-restricted allowance races were. The SP numbers suggest they’re good enough to be in the mix here.
Good luck to all!