This has to be one of the more interesting fields of older horses that I have looked at, as horses from all backgrounds will meet in this Saturday’s San Francisco Capitan Handicap at California. Many of the favorites in this race have not been in the best form of late, so that may open the door for some price horses to finish well. The race will be for the older horses on the grass, going a mile and half. Some much-needed rain is expected in what has been a very dry winter on the West Coast, so the turf will be listed as good.
(1) UNQUESTIONABLY (owner corza2, 21/1) is searching for his first graded stakes win, having failed to hit the board in his previous 3 graded starts, all G2 events. In the middle of those graded starts is a dominating win in an ungraded stakes in November, where he stormed home to win by 2 3/4 lengths over in France. That being said, the horses in that race that finished behind him have not made much of an impact in subsequent races, so that win may not stack up as well in a field like this. If he races here like that ungraded event, then maybe he has a chance to hit the board. Given his recent graded form, though, this looks like too tough of a task.
(2) RUNNING ON EVIL (owner simsters8, 11/1) has never finished off the board in 8 career starts. He got started on the track midway through his 3-year-old season last year, and has never raced less than a mile and a quarter. After a blowout win in a NW2L allowance race last August by nearly 5 lengths, he finished second at 33/1 in the Group I Coalminer Cup in Australia the next month. Since then, he’s been stabled here in California, where he finished third an owner-restricted turf race and then romped as the heavy favorite in two allowance races, leading by 12 1/2 early in that last race. He could be sitting on a nice race, and I like his chances to make some noise here.
(3) CAPE VAN ICON (owner alagon, 370/1) is certainly a bit of a head-scratcher in here. Out of 5 career starts, 4 or those were in maiden races, finally getting that first win on the dirt at New Mexico back in November, although that was only against a few other horses. Last time out, he returned to the turf in a 7 furlong, NW2L allowance race at New Mexico, where he faded badly to finish 7th out of 8, nearly 15 lengths behind. While the multiple pedigree ties to Galileo and Sadler’s Wells suggest he may like the big stretchout to 12 furlongs here, the horse has shown nothing so far to suggest he could be remotely competitive in stakes races.
(4) TIZ SILENT LAW (owner oldmoonfarms49, 6/1) has been here in California all winter long. After a few ungraded wins last year, he tried the Grade II Carlton Fisk at Delaware, and beat a short field by open lengths. He then came out here to California in December for the Grade I Los Angeles Turf Cup, and finished a hard-charging third. His last race was a disappointment, never really firing and finishing 8th. That was a 10 furlong race, and his best races have come at this 12 furlong distance, so the stretchout should help. He might be a bit of an underlay here at 6/1, but some of his graded races in the past would make him competitive here.
(5) DIRE WARNING (owner gattaca, 7/1) has been absolutely dominating his opponents since moving to the 12-furlong distance last fall. In those 4 races, he’s won all of them by more than 2 lengths. In October, he put up an eye-opening SP number of 120 in a NW4L allowance race. Following that impressive win, he took care of an ungraded stakes field and a Grade II race in Florida, where he won by 2 1/2 lengths at 15/1 odds. WV-based jockey S Tate was on board for that Grade II win, and will make the trip to ride again today. In a race where many of the top contenders have been inconsistent recently, I really like this colt’s chances on Saturday.
(6) ZARAVEEN (owner housearrest, 8/1) dazzled in his last race, winning a 16-furlong overnight stakes event by 7+ lengths back in December. Before that, he had a sneaky good performance in a Irish-bred stakes race, which was ungraded, but he beat 19 other horses at Saturday’s distance. That being said, his graded form has not been the best, only hitting the board in 1 out of 4 graded starts. That one start was also at 12 furlongs, so this may be the distance he runs his best at. This will be his first start in a G1 race, but given some of his past performances, I could see how he plays a factor in this race.
(7) LOST HER BEARINGS (owner imagipper, 8/1) is the lone mare in this field, and will take on the boys for the first time in her career. This may prove to be a tall task, given that she has only raced in one graded stakes before against mares, which was a Grade III last April where she finished sixth. The line that really stands out in the past performances is that line from an ungraded stakes race at Pennsylvania in December, when she won by 3 lengths with an SP number of 118. However, none of her other races from last year resulted in SP numbers even close to that – most were in the 100s. If she can run like the race two back, she has a shot against this bunch. Otherwise, I suspect she’ll land around midpack.
(8) FLAB BAY (owner puka, 9/2) gets the nod as the favorite and is the oldest horse in the field at the ripe old age of 7. He’s the epitomy of letting a horse develop in the sim – he didn’t make his first stakes start until his 15th race. Despite the age, he was in perhaps the best form of his career last summer and fall before taking an extended break over the winter months. He’s a two-time defending champion of the Grade I Roberto Clemente at this track, and has another Grade III win on the resume as well. Some questions linger, though. How good will he be off the long layoff…and the good track? His only other start over a good turf course resulted in an 11th-place finish. How does he handle the stretchout? His pedigree suggests he’ll do fine at 12 furlongs, but I’m not sure I’ll take the short price here.
(9) NO MORE ROCK (owner goldsmith, 6/1) has been racing in plenty of graded stakes competition of late, but his form has tailed off some in recent months. He’s failed to hit the board over his last 4 starts, losing by double digits in 3 of them. His last win dates back to June, when he won the Group II Einstein Stakes by open lengths. Even before that win, his form was pretty inconsistent, constantly alternating between good and bad races. This field is certainly not full of giant killers and you have to wonder if he is going to wake up at some point and surprise with a good race, but there are still others I would prefer to take ahead of him.
(10) THE NEVER LANDS (owner whoami1, 30/1) has the second-most earnings in the field and actually had the most entry points to get into this race, but yet is one of the longshots in this race. Most of those earnings came from two races last year – winning the Group I Irish Derby and finishing second in the Group I Saint Legend. Despite those impressive performances, he’s never really been able to take that next step up, and has lost badly in his last 3 races, all by double-digit lengths. With most of his SP numbers in the 100-105 range of late and his recent results, he seems like more of an allowance horse to me at this point in his career. Barring a big step up, I just can’t see him competing much with this group.
(11) YOU WERE ON FIRE (owner willyam13, 6/1) is another horse who is looking to turn things around after a couple of rough starts in Japan, finishing 9th in the Japan Classic and last of 14 in the Winter Cup, both Group I events. He is, by far, the leading earner in the race, mostly thanks to winning the $3 million Group I Coffeefields Cup in Australia back in October. This is another horse that I’m not exactly sure what to expect from in this race. That October race puts him at least in contention here, but those last two lines, especially the true clunker last time out over in Japan is concerning. Probably not a great chance at winning, but could be in play to hit the board.
(12) POWER OF DOOM (owner deyoto, 21/1) returns to graded stakes action after heading back to the allowance ranks to get back on track. His first Group I event, which was in the Adelaide Derby at Queensland in June, was a tremendous win over a turf course listed as good, besting a field of 14 by nearly 6 lengths. After a couple of disappointing finishes off the board in Group I races, owner deyoto went back to some allowance ranks, which has led to an uptick in SP numbers and while he hasn’t recorded a win, he seems to be rounding back into decent form. Good enough form that I think he could contend for some minor money in this race.
(13) ZABLINGTON (owner frontrunna, 9/1) has been enjoying the California sunshine and warmth since last August, but has yet to record a win in the 3 starts since he’s been here. His first start was promising, with a close second in the Grade II Del Web Handicap, but finished a well-beaten 6th in the Grade I Roberto Clemente, behind FLAB BAY, who won that race. In his last start, he finished 5th out of 8 in an owner-restricted stakes race. Like many others in this field, he’s looking to regain better form that he showed last year. Just like many of the others, I wouldn’t be surprised if he contends, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes well back.
(14) POINT OF CONTROL (owner goody2, 24/1) enters graded stakes competition for the first time, coming into this race off two ungraded stakes races. The first was an owner-restricted race here at California in November, where he finished a close second. He then went across the country to the east coast to race in another 12-furlong race, but faded to finish 8th out of 10. Given that he had lost the lead in the two starts before his last race, I wonder if he would prefer a cutback in distance – he’s never raced between 9 and 11 furlongs. It appears that this horse has some nice talent, but I’ll look elsewhere in this race.
(5) DIRE WARNING, 7/1 – Red hot right now and has met each of the challenges he’s been up against as he’s climbed the class ladder. Most of the top contenders in here don’t have the best recent form, so I’ll take a shot with him, who will try to win his fifth race in a row.
(2) RUNNING ON EVIL, 11/1 – Impressed in his first and only graded stakes start in September, and has since been honing his craft in the allowance and ungraded ranks. The last two victories are impressive, and I think he could step up here.
(8) FLAB BAY, 9/2 – Comes in on over four months rest, but that last race was a win in a Grade I race at this track. Not sure the stretchout or the damp turf will help, but this field didn’t come up too strong, so he could should contend.
(12) POWER OF DOOM, 21/1 – Had a blowout Group I win over a turf course with some moisture in it last summer. It’s not out of the question that he could hit the board here.
Best of luck to everyone!