My Charmer Handicap
Saturday, Dec. 6, Calder Race Course
The Low-Down: Racing fans would be hard-pressed to find a more talented group of runners in a $100,000 stakes event all season long. This Grade 3 contest for turf mares has lured an exceptional cast of 12, including four distaffers who have been extremely competitive at the Grade 1 level this year. RUTHERIENNE is the high weight on the handicap scale at 121 pounds, unbeaten in three tries at Calder, and quickly approaching the $1 million mark in career earnings. CALLWOOD DANCER totes 120 pounds and was runner-up in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine against an international cast of stars. Meanwhile, Todd Pletcher aims for back-to-back wins in the My Charmer when he sends out Grade 1 Flower Bowl fourth-place finisher JADE QUEEN. The Pletcher barn won this race a year ago with J'Ray.
Our Eyes: Six of the dozen entrants already have a victory over the Calder grass course, so the venue should be welcoming despite a cast of characters invading from all corners of the country. The X-factor will be the filly traveling the farthest distance to compete, Northern California-based WILD PROMISES. From the same connections of Lost in the Fog, owner Harry Aleo and trainer Greg Gilchrest, these folks have successfully ventured to Calder in years past with stakes success. WILD PROMISES rides a four-race winning streak and is 14-for-15 lifetime in the exacta, winning 10 times. But she has yet to compete at the graded-stakes level or outside her home state, though she did win on the road at Hollywood Park last fall.
This field ought to be well-bunched. None of the entrants is dead-set on making the lead based on their past performances, but several have inherited leads in slow-paced races. It appears to be a log-jam situation of horses who want to sit second, third, fourth, including serious threats like WILD PROMISES, CALLWOOD DANCER, JADE QUEEN, and New York shippers WAQUOIT'S LOVE, NEVER RETREAT and JEUX DE DANSE. Look for a European-style race in which the field is all within about eight lengths down the backstretch and the horse who can produce the best stretch-running explosion will visit the winner's circle.
The Bottom Line: NEVER RETREAT appears to be blossoming since a move to the grass in the a.m. in October and already has been bedded down at Palm Meadows in south Florida for a winter campaign. She's acclimated, improving and figures to be a square price. I'll take some win-place money with her, adding in the vastly improved JEUX DE DANSE and win machine WILD PROMISES for the three-horse exacta box.
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