Saturday, Aug. 29, Saratoga
The Low-Down: This 7-furlong dirt dash for sophomores attracted a field of nine with eight betting interests. A distant third last out behind racing's queen Rachel Alexandra in the G1 Haskell over 9 sloppy furlongs at Monmouth, MUNNINGS cuts back to what he does best -- sprinting. The winner of the pair of G2, 7-furlong stakes at Belmont earlier in the summer, MUNNINGS is likely to go favored for trainer Todd Plether, who won the '00 edition of the King's Bishop with a similar type horse in More Than Ready. The task will not be an easy one, as CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN and BIG DRAMA both sport serious creds, and VINEYARD HAVEN, a multiple G1 winner at age 2, returns to action off a 6 ½-month vacation.
Our Eyes: MUNNINGS was sensational in both the Stephens and the Tom Fool, winning in stalk and pounce fashion. He ran well enough in the Haskell experiment, but the connections are now accepting of his sprint status. A big horse with a long stride, the rail post is probably not optimum, and it may be what gets him beat. CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN is perfect from three starts at the 7-furlong distance. He swings back off a solid second-place run behind Sunday's G1 Travers favorite Quality Road in the G2 Amsterdam, and he's posted three useful works since. There's no reason to think he won't run another big race. VINEYARD HAVEN looked like a superstar in the making here last fall, rolling to consecutive G1 wins. He skipped the Breeders' Cup, and ran a distant fourth behind stablemate Desert Party in the UAE Guineas. He missed the Derby trail due to injury, and now resurfaces off a string of forward drills. He's coupled with EVERYDAY HEROES, who has proven no match for MUNNINGS or CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN in recent encounters. Much like MUNNINGS, BIG DRAMA may simply be a sprinter. He's won around two turns, and narrowly missed victory in the G2 West Virginia Derby last out, but his talents seem best suited to one turn. This price play could be FLAT BOLD. He's shown steady progress during the course of his 3-year-old campaign for Kiaran McLaughlin, who took down the '06 King's Bishop with Henny Hughes. He's learned how to rate, and cuts back off a couple of stamina-building routes.
The Bottom Line: MUNNINGS is squarely the horse to beat, but I'm not a fan of the rail post for him. BIG DRAMA swings back off a taxing West Virginia Derby, and may not be at his best. There's no way I could back VINEYARD HAVEN off the layoff. That's leaves me with CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN, a ridiculously consistent horse who loves 7 furlongs. Let's keep this simple: $25 to win and $75 to place on CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN.
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