The Donn Handicap and All the Rest!
Posted by Brian Appleton on February 4, 2011
This weekend racing fans will be treated to a racing extravaganza and once again most of the action will be centered around Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita.
Before we get to the races I would like to share some very exciting news: Starting on Tuesday I will officially become the Kentucky Oaks Correspondent for Horse Racing Nation. Each week up to the May 6th Kentucky Oaks I will post an article on Tuesday covering some of the news, contenders and facts of the 137th Kentucky Oaks. This is literally a dream come true for me to be able to write on such a large scale and I hope I will gain much more knowledge, skill and friends through this experience. I will certainly try my very best to make the most of this opportunity and I hope everyone will continue to follow Rail Runner as well as Kentucky Oaks Runner on horseracingnation.com.
Now on to the races!
Malibu Stakes winner Twirling Candy makes his 2011 debut Saturday as the solid favorite in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes. Entering off a win in the December 26th Malibu Stakes (gr.1) in track record time, Twirling Candy faces San Fernando Stakes (gr.2) winner Indian Firewater for the first time. Twirling Candy has won five of his six career starts to date and is easily the class of the Strub Stakes field.
Indian Firewater, trained by Bob Baffert, captured the San Fernando just three weeks after Twirling Candy’s impressive Malibu win, courageously holding off Tweebster by a nose to win it at the wire. If he employs the same front-running tactics he used in the San Fernando he’s going to have to be very tough to hold off Twirling Candy.
Tweebster, San Fernando runner up last out, is also trained by Bob Baffert and looks like he could be coming into his own as a late bloomer at exactly the right time. He ran a terrific race to finish second by a nose to Indian Firewater in the 1 1/16 mile San Fernando and before that put together a streak of three consecutive wins. The extra 1/16 mile in the Strub could make a lot of different to this son of Tapit.
Undefeated sophomore filly Turbulent Descent will be a heavy favorite when she loads into the gate to contest the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr.1) at Santa Anita on Saturday. After winning all three of her starts last year, capped off by an impressive win in the Hollywood Starlet, Turbulent Descent enters her first start of 2011 with big expectations. She has already won at the mile distance of the Las Virgenes so that should be no problem for the talented filly. She will be making her first start on the dirt but if her works are any indication she’ll handle the new surface just fine.
May Day Rose, fourth place finisher in the Hollywood Starlet behind Turbulent Descent, returns for another crack at the undefeated champ. She flattered the form of Turbulent Descent quite nicely when she came back to win her first race of 2011 and dirt debut in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr.3) by 1 ¼ lengths. She only faced two opponents in her front running Ysabel triumph.
California Nectar and Zazu both return after running 1-2 in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr.2) January 15th. California Nectar prevailed over Zazu in after leading throughout in Santa Ynez to register her second consecutive stakes win. Zazu could prove to be the biggest threat the Turbulent Descent in the whole field. She overcame a bad start in the Santa Ynez to just miss catching California Nectar while posting a terrific late rally. She looks like a nicely improving filly that should run a very competitive race.
The 2011 Donn Handicap hasn’t been yet and already it looks like one of the more exciting races of the year on paper. Leading a stellar cast of older male horses in the 1 1/8 mile race are the Nick Zito trained Morning Line and Fly Down along with multiple graded stakes winners I Want Revenge, Square Eddie and Rule.
Morning Line enters off a disappointing third place finish as the favorite in the Hals Hope (gr.3) last month at Gulfstream but still will go off as one of the favorites in the Donn. He finished his 2010 campaign with an impressive win in the Pennsylvania Derby and an even more impressive second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr.1). His poor showing in the Hals Hope while unexpected should have him much sharper for the Donn.
Fly Down could become one of the best older horses in 2011 if his record from last year is any clue. With five consecutive losses entering the Donn you wouldn’t think he would still by vying for favoritism in the Donn but those five loses are much more impressive than they look on paper. Entering off a third place effort behind Blame and Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in early November, Fly Down finished ahead of a majority of the nation’s best older and sophomore colts in the Classic. He should only improve this year.
Square Eddie enters the Donn off a win in the Phone Trick Purse at Santa Anita where he broke the 6 ½ furlong track record. It’s a big step up in class and in distance. I love Square Eddie but I think this will be a very tough spot for him to win in.
Rule finished ahead of Morning Line in the Hals Hope when placing second. He has never been worse than third in eight lifetime starts. His second place finish in the Hals Hope was an excellent effort especially when you consider he entered off a 10 month layoff. He will only improve from here on out and should run very well on Saturday.
I Want Revenge finished third in both his 2010 starts. He is perhaps best known for his 2009 Wood Memorial win and for being scratched the morning of the Kentucky Derby as the favorite. If he ever regains his form from early 2009 I Want Revenge will easily become one of the leading older horses in the country.
Eldaafer won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon and enters the Donn with three straight wins to his credit. Clark Handicap winner Giant Oak is also entered in the Donn. Hear Ye Hear Ye and Ron the Greek complete the field.