The Mr. Devious will be for the older turf sprinters, and is named after Mr. Devious, a warrior horse who won 27 out of 55 lifetime starts between 2005 and 2010. He was the winner of five G1 races, and hit the board in two Breeders’ Bowl races. He racked up $5.8 million for owner londoner.
This race is set at 6 furlongs on a firm turf course at South Korea, and will feature a rematch of some G1 winners, as well as some new faces that could spoil the party.
(1) BARB CAN’T RECALL (representing Pastures of Green, owner barbheff, 25/1) has been a machine at winning ungraded stakes, racking up eight of them in 16 lifetime starts. In total, he’s won 12 out of 16 races. Despite the ungraded success, he’s only started in one graded stakes race, which was a victory in the Group III Canterbury Tales in Australia last March. He’s wrapped up 2017 with two wins in September and October, before finishing a close second with a career best SP of 107 in November. Coming in off a 3+ month layoff, we’ll have to see if that’s a plus or minus. The 6 furlong distance seems to be what he prefers, and while this is his first effort against older horses, any improvement in form puts him at least in the conversation to be a factor in the minor prizes.
(2) GHOST AVENUE (representing Elite, owner summerset4, 10/1) was putting up decent races back in 2016, but struggling to rack up many wins late in his 3-year-old season. After owner summerset4 switched him over to the turf last January, the light bulb went off and he quickly rattled off two wins, which were then followed by three on-the-board finishes in graded stakes races. This included a victory in the Group II Len Knocks in the UK. After a solid second in the Group I Sprint Cup, he faded badly in his two most recent races after being up close to the pace early, finishing ninth and thirteenth. It’s hard to explain the sharp drop-off in form, and it’ll be tough to predict how he will fare here.
(3) ARAM HALO (representing GR Simsters, owner givenfinal, 6/1) is one of three G1 winners in this race, and he has two to his name, the MGD Special in France last July and the Breeders’ Bowl Turf Sprint in November. His only race since then was in the King Kong Sprint back in December, where he never really fired and finished 5th. After a lot of globetrotting in late 2017, he has a relatively short trip up here to South Korea. He is definitely one to watch – if you throw out his last race (which he only finished 3 3/4 lengths back despite finishing 5th), he has been ultra consistent. If he runs his best effort on Saturday, he’ll have an excellent chance to win.
(4) FEASTING (representing Blazing Saddles, owner mainsequence, 7/1) is still searching for his first graded stakes victory, despite some close calls recently. He finished third in the Grade II Near Tic at Ontario in October, and then finished a close second in the Group III Japan Sprint in November. He followed that up with an open allowance race last month, where he won easily by nearly 3 lengths. He has been very consistent since moving back to the turf in September, and this seems to be the best distance for him. That was a nice prep race last time out, and he could easily be contending for a medal here.
(5) SUR LEMON DROP (representing EWC, owner booberry, 9/1) has won 12 out of 23 lifetime starts, but will make his first G1 start here. He’s coming off two solid wins in ungraded stakes races in December and over this turf course in January. He has had some more mixed results in his G2 and G3 starts, but still has several on-the-board finishes, including a victory in the Group III Bally’s Chorus over in Ireland last June. It looks like sprint races are more up his alley than the races closer to a mile, so he should like the cutback is distance today. His consistency makes him a player in here despite the sizable step up in class.
(6) KAATERSKILL FALLS (representing ESR, owner chloedawg1, 6/1) will make his ninth straight G1 start, and usually either fires in these races or doesn’t. He has won 3 out of the 8 times, finished second once and finished off the board the other four times. The last line is certainly a solid win, as he took home the Group I Pekays Remembrance Stakes down in New Zealand last month. Looking through the past performances, though, you notice that he has never put together two on-the-board finishes in a row in G1 races. With that in mind, while this horse definitely has the talent to win this race, I have to wonder if he’ll be able to find the winner’s circle given the recent pattern.
(7) SKOWHEGAN (representing URC, owner newmarketstud, 12/1) has been rounding into somewhat better form of late, finishing third in the Group III Desert Airport Trophy back in September. He followed that up with a win next time out in a Group III in Italy. After a nice ungraded stakes win in December, he never really fired on a yielding turf course last month in a Group III race. He’ll make the jump to G1 company in this race. While he has certainly made some nice strides in the past 4-6 months, I still think he’s just a cut below the top horses in here. Even so, running a race like that G3 win in November would at least put him close to the lead group.
(8) HOLES IN MY PANTS (representing ASR, owner krustyk, 6/1) has been very sharp over his last few races, and he’ll be looking to continue that into this race as one of the favorites and the leading earner in the field. After a solid second in November’s Breeders’ Bowl Turf Sprint, he went on to win the Group I King Kong Sprint in early December. To prepare for this race, owner krustyk shipped him in early enough to get a tightener race in – an allowance race last month, where he went off as the heavy favorite and did end up with the victory, although he did have to work hard to get by stubborn WUZ UP HANK in the stretch. If he runs like he has been lately, he should be charging hard at the end.
(9) STEEL NURV (representing Racing HQ, owner acity, 34/1) will go off as one of the longer shots on the board, although he has put together some nice races of late. The question is whether he can compete at this level. He is coming off a nice wire-to-wire win down in New Zealand in a NW4x allowance. Before that, he finished second and fourth in a pair of ungraded stakes races. He’s only made one graded stakes start, which ended in an 8th place finish in the Group III Tetris Stakes last April in Ireland. While he’s been fairly consistent of late, I’m not sure he’ll be quite ready to step up to this level of competition.
(10) JOHNY BAG O DONUTS (representing Minnesota Testbarn Residency, owner cyrusbred, 9/1) is a horse who’s form has been all over the place lately while racing longer distances. In October, he easily won an open local-bred allowance race with an SP of 115, but faltered next time out in a NW2s, finshing 6th over 15 lengths back. Last time out, he fared a bit better, finishing fifth in a MNTB residency stakes race. He has visited the winner’s circle plenty over his career, winning 13 out of 25 lifetime starts, many coming in allowance and ungraded stakes races. He does have a Group III race on his resume, which was a close second at this distance back in September. Has the talent to be close here, but those last two races don’t instill a ton of confidence on the step up in class.
(11) RAYO DE SOL (representing Sim Hispano, owner argentino7, 8/1) is the oldest horse in the field, and actually competed in this very race in the last Equinics back in 2016. He struggled to keep up, finishing 18th out of 19 that day. That, of course, was a year and a half ago. This is a horse that has put in some nice races, but has struggled to get the top prize in a stakes race for some time. He comes into this race on a hot streak, winning four in a row by more than a length. These were all in allowance races, including a hot race last month at this surface to help him get more comfortable here. He’s had some great races in his career and is in nice form, but his inconsistency in stakes races makes me leery.
(12) GOVENOR DALE (representing NWRC, owner bird, 28/1) is coming into this off the best race of his career, posting an SP number of 109 in an allowance race over a good turf course last month in the U.S. He has been improving over the last several races, but is still searching for his first stakes win. He finished third two back in an ungraded stakes at Iowa, but finished off the board in the other two attempts. The California-bred has been racing at longer distances of late, generally between 7.5 and 9 furlongs. He has not raced at this 6-furlong distance since his debut race in August 2016, and I’m not convinced the cutback in distance will be a big help here.
(13) DARK GLACKZAPPER (representing Megalopolis, owner wyndaway30, 15/1) will find a new surface under his hooves for the first time in over two years, as this will be his first race on the turf since January 2016. The first few races of his career were on the grass, but he was much sharper on the dirt and had never looked back…until today. He’s had some nice races over the dirt, including a second in the Grade III Maryland Breeders Bowl last May. He’s also coming off a victory in an ungraded race over in the U.S. last time out, which was back in December. This horse has displayed some talent, but I have a hard time getting on board with no recent turf races to go off of, especially since he has seemed to to better on the grass.
(14) THE JUDGEMENT (representing Midas, owner deyoto7, 12/1) rounds out the field, and has won four in a row dating back to September. After starting his career on the dirt, he has won 6 out of 7 on the turf. Owner deyoto7 seems to have found his ideal distance, as three of those four straight wins were at this 6-furlong distance, including an ungraded stakes last time out and the Group III Zeppelin Cap down in New Zealand back in December. While against lesser company, those races stack up reasonably well against most of this field. Plus, his jockey, GD Mate, is hitting at over 30% in the past 3 months. This will certainly be a step up, but he seems very sharp right now, and I’ll take a shot with him.
(14) THE JUDGEMENT (Midas) 12/1 – A fresh face to a lot of the top horses in here – he comes into this race very sharp and really likes this distance. Post won’t be as much of an issue with the long backstretch to run, and he gets a positive jockey change.
(8) HOLES IN MY PANTS (ASR) 6/1 – That King Kong Sprint was a nice race. Had probably a tougher trip than expected here last time out in the allowance race that was a prep for this. Now, he’s had a trip over this surface, so there are no excuses.
(4) FEASTING (Blazing Saddles) 7/1 – Consistency has improved since moving back to the turf last summer. I like the freshener in Japan last month, and he should be ready to roll.
(3) ARAM HALO (GR Simsters), 6/1 – Has a Breeders’ Bowl win under his belt – just didn’t quite fire last time. If he does fire this time, he’ll be in contention for a win.
(1) BARB CAN’T RECALL (Pastures of Green) 25/1 – This horse likes to win…a lot. Most of his success has been in ungraded stakes, but he has a sneaky G3 win from last year. With up-and-coming sire I Am Invincible in the pedigree, I think he races better than his odds would suggest.
Good luck to all!