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The Strub: A wide open affair
by Geir Stabell ( / Globeform (
Last update: 2007-02-03 07:50:34 (First published: 2007-02-03 07:39:11 )

Santa Anita 3 February: The Strub Stakes (G2) is a wide, wide open contest.

The first four from the San Fernando Stakes (G2) meet again, as the distance is now 9 furlongs, half a furlong further than when Awesome Gem got up to deny Midnight Lute last month. Brother Derek was a good third that day, with Arson Squad back to form in fourth and Spring at Last well below his best in sixth.

This is a tricky race. The distance will probably be a crucial factor, but also the pace scenario. Will we get a strongly-run affair, to set it up for the closing Awesome Gem again? Or will this pan out just perfectly for the front running Brother Derek, who won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) over course and distance last year?


Santa Anita 3 February 2007 – 1 1/8 miles dirt

Top ranked horse based on Globeform ratings
on 100, with others ranked down in pounds.
1 lengths = 2lbs. Horses presented with sire and rider.

A ”+” after horse indicates improvement expected.

100 – MIDNIGHT LUTE (Real Quiet) / V Espinoza
..99 – SPRING AT LAST (Silver Deputy) + / C Nakatani
..98 – BROTHER DEREK (Benchmark) + / A Solis
..93 – AWESOME GEM (Awesome Again) + / T Baze
..93 – ARSON SQUAD (Brahms) / G Gomez
...? – FAIRBANKS (Giant’s Causeway) D Flores
..88 – OBJECTIVE (E Corredor) / J Chavez

Midnight Lute’s best performance was his win in the Perryville Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last year, and he did not run up to that figure when second in the San Fernando (G2) over 8.5 furlongs last time out – when beaten a nose by the fast finishing Awesome Gem. While Awesome Gem ran much like horse who will love further, Midnight Lute seemed to run out of stamina. The latter is now four pounds better off at the weights. That equals two lengths over today’s distance, and he must have a chance of reversing the form. Though only if he sees out the trip, and if Awesome Gem has stopped improving. The last if seems most unlikely. Awesome Gem is a really progressive type, he took a big step up when winning the San Fernando, and he is sure to be up with the best at the wire once more. He has a much tougher weight this time, however, and this really is a wide open affair.

Awesome Gem, a fast finishing second to Kip Deville in the one-mile Sir Beaufort Stakes (G3) two starts back, will be popular in the betting here – but will he get a good pace to close into? He came from nearly last to beat all but the winner in the Sir Beaufort and ran a similar (only better) race to win the San Fernando.

Midnight Lute looked seriously good in the Perryville (G3) over 7 furlongs on Polytrack at Keeneland in October, but was unable to follow up in the Malibu (G1) over the same distance here at Santa Anita in December – where he was third, 2 lengths behind Latent Heat, though only a head behind the runner-up Spring At Last. They were both giving 2lbs to the winner. Midnight Lute’s Keeneland form was markedly better, and whether it was the change of surface, or simply the step up in class, that caused this, is hard to say. One can assume, however, that a 12-runner Grade 1 over 7 furlongs, is a tough task for such an inexperienced horse.

The Real Quiet colt, making his first start over an all-weather track, produced GF 118+ at Keeneland. He had been well prepared (working at Hollywood Park), and he outclassed his ten opponents. It was one of the best 3yo sprinting performances of last year, as he beat Lewis Michael by nearly five lengths. Court Folly, who had been 6 ½ lengths behind Henny Hughes in the King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga – also over seven panels – was beaten 8 lengths into third behind Midnight Lute at Keeneland. Midnight Lute’s previous form has also worked out really well, and he is an exciting prospect for 2007.

That’s easy to say of course - but what about today’s distance? Will he stay? As he is a strong finisher, and has a relatively stout pedigree, there is a good chance of that. Though as his lifetime best came over a sprint, and he did tire in the last 50 yards of the San Fernando.

Spring At Last was the disappointment in the San Fernando. He was soon beaten and came home in sixth, over five lengths beaten. Doug O’Neill fits blinkers to the colt today, he has a nice weight, and it is tempting to take a chance on him once more. Not least since he has the pedigree, and has been running like, of a horse that will stay 9 furlongs. He improved considerably when running second to Latent Heat in the 7-furlong Malibu (G1), where he was stepping up to stakes company for the first time – and racing for only the sixth time of his career. Spring at Last had changed barns from Todd Pletcher prior to that event. Pletcher trained him to win twice from five runs, and he was an impressive 7 ½-length winner of a mile allowance race at Aqueduct in November. Always close to the pace, he outclassed the subsequent winner Barcola (who runs in the Donn today) in a good time. He was a bit further back in the early part of the Malibu, which was natural as he was cutting back, but ran a really solid race throughout. As he has already won over a mile, and has also tried 1 1/16 miles (4th in minor stakes on turf), Spring At Last is interesting in this longer race.

Brother Derek produced the best rating of these when they clashed in the San Fernando (G2), as he was third carrying top weight. He was 1 ¼ lengths behind Awesome Gem, who he was spotting 6lbs. Today, he is only giving 2lbs to that same rival, but he is no better off with Midnight Lute, who also beat him by 1 ¼ lengths.

There are factors in Brother Derek’s favor, however. Firstly he is returning to 9 furlongs – meaning he is tackling the very same trip as he did when winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) last spring. Secondly, and may be even more important, he finds himself in a relatively small field – for the first time since his game second to Lava Man in Last year’s Goodwood Handicap (G2). Brother Derek is quite likely to get a comfortable lead here, and that could make him a very hard horse to beat.

He was fifth in the Malibu (G1) – 5 ½ lengths behind the winner Latent Heat – so he has suffered two defeats against his own age group at this meet. Maybe he will be a square price this time? This Santa Anita specialist had excuses in the Malibu; he was taking a sharp drop in distance, trying 7 furlongs after having run the race of his life to finish fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) over 1 ¼ miles. Also, he suffered a terrible run – was completely blocked when full of running in the straight. He would not have won, but a clear run would have seen him finish a lot closer. He was also giving 6lbs to Latent Heat, and did not run a bad race at all. And don’t forget, he ran with great credit when fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Beaten by Invasor, Bernardini, Premium Tap (who impressed in the Clark, G1, next out) and Giacomo, the one-time Kentucky Derby favorite ran an excellent race at Churchill Downs in October. He won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) here in the spring, when racing with great zest over 9 furlongs. We noted him as a potential top class miler after that race but the Triple Crown series proved too tempting. At last, at long last, this colt will be allowed to do what comes most natural to him. Let’s see him over 8 and 9 furlongs only this year, please. Brother Derek was also very promising in the 9-furlong Goodwood (G2) here at Santa Anita a month prior to the Breeders’ Cup – finishing second to Lava Man. He is most effective when allowed to use his tactical speed early, and one worry here is the fact that he is not at all the lone speed in the race. He may, however, be the only speed that can last.

Arson Squad was eighth in the Malibu, just a nose behind Brother Derek, and ran better when fourth in the San Fernando (G2). Having won on 4 of his 10 starts, he ran a solid race to beat Turnbolt by a length, with Cause to Believe back in third (both disappointing next out) in October. That was over 6.5 furlongs here at Santa Anita, following a two-month break since the La Jolla (G2) on turf, where Arson Squad performed below his best to be fourth behind A.P. Warrior. Bruce Headley’s charge had beaten A.P. Warrior readily into third place when he won the Swaps Stakes (G2) over 9 furlongs at Hollywood Park in July. Arson Squad raced in the first three for most of the way, and got up for a length-win over Point Determined. It was his lifetime best performance.






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