Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Optimizer Pursues His Grade 1 Win

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 11, 2013

optimizer I’ve become a much bigger fan of Optimizer this year than I ever was during his 2012 sophomore campaign. His record wasn’t the greatest that year and certainly wouldn’t have scared away any competition with only two wins and three additional on-the-board finishes in graded stakes races, but he ran 14 times in a single year. That’s more than many horses run during their entire careers at the top of this game so I think it’s fair to call Optimizer a rugged, talented and hard running throwback. He’s run 7 times already this year, beginning with two impressive back-to-back wins in the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap and Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap. After a 4th and 4th place finish in the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Handicap (Gr.2) and Oaklawn Handicap (Gr.2) respectively, Optimizer came back alive with a fantastic runner-up finish to reigning horse of the year Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day. After that he finished third, less than a length behind victorious Skyring in the Dixie Stakes (Gr.2) after a tight trip on the inside. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed, but each time he’s faced the best this year, he’s run his best and his runner-up finish to Point of Entry in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap on June 8th was no exception.

The Grade 1 Man ‘O’ War Stakes at Belmont Park offers the perfect opportunity for Optimizer to finally seize his elusive Grade 1 win. There’s no Wise Dan or Point of Entry to contend with and what’s more I think he’s a perfect fit for the 1 1/8 mile turf distance. This should be Optimizer’s race to lose.

His biggest challenge could come from the Shug McGaughey trained Boisterous, recent winner of the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes on June 9th and runner-up in the Bel Ali Stakes (Gr.3) to Successful Dan in his two starts this year. He finished 2012 with consecutive victories in the Knickerbocker Stakes (Gr.3) and Red Smith Handicap (Gr.2) followed by a runner-up finish in the River City Handicap (Gr.3). He seems to be improving with age and maturity and posted two good 4 furlong works in preparation for the Man ‘O’ War Stakes.

The rest of the field seems like a distant third to me. Al Khali has a resume packed with Graded stakes experience, but he hasn’t won a graded stakes race since taking the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on September 11th, 2010. Finnegans Wake and Twilight Eclipse finished 4th and 5th respectively in the Manhattan Reserve Handicap (Gr.1) behind Point of Entry and Optimizer. Of the two, Twilight Eclipse is the more accomplished, having won the Pan American Stakes (Gr.2) on March 23rd and the W. L. McKnight Handicap (Gr.2) last November. Exclusive Strike enters off two straight allowance scores, but both races were run in slow times and I think he’s a bit out of his league.


2 Responses to “Optimizer Pursues His Grade 1 Win”

  1. Brian, Optimizer certainly has a big shot coming off the top two Bris figs of his life, but I voted “no” on his chances to win a G.1 on Saturday. However, he’s a must use for those w/ price horses before/after the Man O’ War in horizontal wagers, with price horses in vertical wagers. He’s as consistent as they come and wonder what he could accomplish if D.Wayne would leave him on one circuit as Shug has done mostly w/ Boisterous. As you mentioned, Boisterous has the “home field advantage” out of Shug’s barn w/ Johnny V. His G.2 Monmouth S. win was flattered when Big Blue Kitten came back to win the G.1 United Nations last weekend. With Point of Entry at Bel in 2012, Shug sent Boisterous to AP for two races but now he runs out of his stall. He’s never been a consistent G.1 class but, like Optimizer, is hard to leave off without legitimate big guns entered. I really like two price horses: Twilight Eclipse, the world record holder and a dual G.2 winner at 1 1/2 miles, if the grass is “firm;” and Speaking of Which for Clement. I like the latter best for a win shot at 12-1. He gave Grandeur a tough race off the plane in the G.2 Twilight Derby (old Oak Tree Derby) but got a horrible trip and was shuffled back losing all chance to hit the board after stalking close up in the G.1 Hollywood Derby under European rider Smullen from the 11 hole. Grandeur was 2nd in the Hollywood Derby and won the G.1 Hollywood Turf Cup in December defeating Optimizer, who was 3rd. Speaking of Which got a confidence-building win last out which should set him up for the best race of his career at a big price.

    Enjoy the weekend racing!!!

    • Hi Rob,
      As always you present a wonderful analysis to the Man ‘O’ War! I’m not very confident about Speaking of Which in this spot, I just feel like he’s been an underachiever so far this year, but I agree with you on his performance in the Twilight Derby, very good run. Twilight Eclipse looks like the most logical “longshot” choice to spring an upset, especially at the distance. His Pan American Stakes win was really, really good! I know what you mean with Optimizer as well. Sometimes it seems like he fires his best shots when there’s a really good horse in the race, but fails to run his best against more average fields. I’m hoping he’s ready to step up and win the Grade 1 this time, I think the Man ‘O’ War is the perfect opportunity for him.

      Thanks for stopping by Rob, it’s always great to hear from you and see your insight. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the races and the same to you! 🙂

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