“This is Metaboss’ coming out party.” – Matt Bernier, Player Development Handicapper for Daily Racing Form, analyzing the El Camino Real on the DRF Players’ Podcast.
The Road to Kentucky contest moved north last week from Santa Anita to Golden Gate Fields. The featured derby prep race was the El Camino Real. The Golden Gate surface is called tapeta, a synthetic surface, and the El Camino Real field was comprised of horses that were accomplished on dirt, turf and synthetic. It made for an interesting handicapping puzzle!
The maximum score this week was 2,470 points. The top two horses to find were the 22-1 winner in Race 6 named Headin’ to Hap’s, worth 692 points, and the El Camino Real winner Metaboss worth 556 points due to the double bonus. Headin’ to Hap’s was making his fifth career start and showed three strong workouts since his last race four weeks earlier. He had gotten pretty good support at the windows in his first three starts, going off at odds below 4-1, but had not delivered. On Saturday, he rallied through the lane to get up at a big number. Metaboss had broken his maiden at the 9 furlong distance over the Santa Anita turf course, and had a strong closing kick. He flew home to win by open lengths at 6-1, passing most of the field in the stretch run. Expect the winning score to be in the 1,500 point range this week and congratulations if you had either one of those winners!
Metaboss was on my short list of contenders for the El Camino Real, but I ultimately selected Ernest Shackleton, who ended up 8th at 40-1. I was hoping for a front running trip on a slow pace, but my selection was caught between horses on the backstretch and my hope for a good trip didn’t materialize. My internal debate between Metaboss and Ernest Shackleton was decided when I noticed that trainer Doug O’ Neill was 10 for 22 at Golden Gate Fields. At his projected odds I couldn’t pass up the chance. In hindsight, it was frustrating to not use Metaboss when I respected him as much as I did, but I don’t regret the strategy of reaching for a higher priced horse. At the time, I was concerned that Metaboss might go even lower than the 6-1 he ended up at, and I would not have had a winning score even if I had selected him. These are the kind of post-mortems that contest players go through, trying to figure out which fork in the road not taken might have led to the correct destination. My 576 point total included an 11-1 winner and a few minor placings on the day.
Saturday the contest track is Fair Grounds for the featured Risen Star and there is also a bonus race at Gulfstream Park, the Fountain of Youth. Hope to see you here!