Nobody likes international racing more than I do, and I have the stamps on my passport to prove it. On a dozen trips abroad, I've cashed and ripped tickets on four continents. From Chantilly to Sha Tin, from Rio de Janeiro to Ireland, I've chronicled my wanderings and totaled up my losses. Been there, bet that, so what?
When horses converge from around the globe for a major race, usually I'm all over it. For me, pages of past performances filled with exotic place names are as irresistible as an Easter bunny for a chocolate addict or a bottle of scotch for a boozer. Even though I'm usually just stabbing, I love to play.
But on Saturday I'm going to make a rare exception and skip the Dubai World Cup card. After spending a confused hour going through the PPs for the $5-million Dubai Duty Free Stakes and the $6-million Dubai World Cup, I gave up. I decided I had no clue about how to grade the relative merits of unfamiliar horses based in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Europe and the Middle East and decided to pass the races. I'm looking forward to watching ABC's taped coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET, but I won't have any action.
Such logic is rare for me. Too bad I wasn't so prudent about the Dubai extravaganza for the past 10 years, because I would have saved myself a lot of money. I tried and failed to beat Cigar, Silver Charm and Roses In May in the World Cup. I've hit a few times in the world's richest race and on its undercard, but not for much.
So instead of the City of Gold on the Persian Gulf, I will turn to Turfway Park, in highly unglamorous northern Kentucky, for some stakes action. Longshot candidates for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby will go in the Grade III Bourbonette Breeders' Cup Stakes and the Grade II Lane's End Stakes, and ESPN2 will provide coverage from 5-6 p.m. ET. I'll also take a shot at the last race on Santa Anita's card, a maiden special for 3-year-olds on the turf.
Last week: Was nowhere, going 0-for-5 in my worst weekend of touting in many months. My turf filly Laurafina was off the board at Tampa Bay Downs, and Achilles of Troy (Gotham Stakes), Bluegrass Cat (Tampa Bay Derby), Bob And John (San Felipe Stakes) and Steppenwolfer (Rebel Stakes) all went down. If you boxed my three picks in the San Felipe, the A.P. Warrior-Point Determined exacta paid more than $70. I didn't play it, but at least I threw something out there that could have made you some money. So my advice wasn't totally worthless, right?
8th race, Turfway, Bourbonette Stakes (1 mile)
Sabatini has been a minor buzz horse ever since she won her career debut by 5 lengths at a mile in November at Churchill Downs. She's run respectably twice in two stakes, and she's been training very well over Turfway's Polytrack surface. She gets the rail and hot rider Julien Leparoux (26-percent winners) and doesn't have a lot to beat. Her main rivals appear to be horse-for-course Classical Ryder (4-for-4 at Turfway) and Coronado's Vision, who's quick and 2-for-2 at a mile.
1. Sabatini 2. Classical Ryder 3. Coronado's Vision
10th race, Turfway, Lane's End Stakes (1 1/8 miles)
This is a rather uninspiring renewal of the Lane's End, won last year by Flower Alley. For a half-million dollars, you'd think there'd be a much more talented field. To make matters worse, likely favorite Strong Contender was scratched Thursday. I don't expect anything in here to be a serious contender in Louisville on the first Saturday on May, but Laity could be the best of a mediocre bunch. He won his 3-year-old debut over the track three weeks ago and his three wins came at a mile or longer. His pedigree (by Pulpit out of a Forty Niner mare) says 9 furlongs won't be a problem, so he's the pick.
Superfly has lost four in a row but he's working well, has a lot of speed and has chased top colts (Stevie Wonderboy, First Samurai). If his price is in the 5-1 or 6-1 range, he's worth a bet. Pair Of Kings is 3-for-7 with two seconds at Turfway and has a good closing kick. Despite being stuck out in post 11, he should be used in exotics.
1. Laity 2. Superfly 3. Pair Of Kings
10th race, Santa Anita, maiden special weight (1 mile, turf)
Take The Ribbon ran his final quarter-mile in less than 24 seconds in his grass debut, when he was third by half a length. I think he'll improve in his second turf start for Wally Dollase. Feel The Rush battled on the lead for most of the way in a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint (he finished third) and might be able to set an unpressured pace while going longer. Charming N Lovable overcame a slow start and made up a lot of ground late to be fourth, just behind Feel The Rush, and also could move forward in his second lifetime start.
1. Take The Ribbon 2. Feel The Rush 3. Charming N Lovable