TOP HARBOR DEFENDS TITLE ON SATURDAY IN EL DORADO SHOOTER STAKES
This Saturday, three-time stakes winner Top Harbor makes his 2023 debut in the feature race of the four-day race week at Golden Gate, the $75,000 EL Dorado Shooter Stakes for California-bred or sired sprinters at six furlongs. Top Harbor also seeks to win his second El Dorado Shooter, having won the 2021 rendition as a 3-year-old facing older rivals.
Top Harbor was last seen in November defeating open company in the Oakland Stakes on November 19. That day, he stalked a slow pace and powered home for a three-quarter length victory. He was making his second start off a layoff, having just been seen finishing as the runner up behind Psycho Dar in the Harris Farm Stakes at Fresno. Psycho Dar finished third in the Oakland-his most recent afternoon appearance.
Trainer Tim McCanna is confident 3-time stakes winner Top Harbor can get the job done this Saturday.
“He’s been working great,” said Tim. “He’s a really nice horse. We tried to get him in some races here, but the races never filled up. So, we had to train him into this race. He’s extra ready to run.”
Top Harbor possesses the genes to be a good racehorse. His mom, Reba Is Tops, was a 5-time stakes winner herself who earned $464,267 in a thirty-race career. She was victorious in fourteen of those races. Top Harbor’s sire, the late Harbor the Gold, was one of the leading stallions in the Pacific Northwest for many years.
Although Top Harbor’s best effort certainly gives him a good chance to visit the winners circle again, he’s far from a cinch. Trainer Sammy Calvario sends out a strong 1-2 punch in stakes winners Psycho Dar and Ultimate Bango. Grey gelding Psycho Dar hasn’t competed since a third-place finish in the Oakland. His 3-length victory in the Harris Farms Stakes at Fresno was a career best. Ultimate Bango makes his second start off a three-and-a-half-month layoff. In his most recent start, he rallied wide but was out finished late in the game by stakes winner Rager.
“Ultimate Bango ran well last time,” said Calvario. “He grabbed a quarter coming out of the gate. That might have hurt his chances a little bit [from winning]. He is ready. Training Psycho Dar into this race was Plan B, but we couldn’t find a race for him. The owner didn’t want him in for a tag if we ran him in a second level allowance for $62,500. He’s had a few works and he’s doing good.”
The Jack Steiner stable has a terrific 21%-win rate with runners making their first start off the claim for the barn. This makes Bettor Trip Nick an intriguing prospect considering Steiner claimed the 6-year-old gelding for $20,000 in his most recent start on January 29. What’s more: Bettor Trip Nick won this race last year. That day, the son of Boat Trip went to the lead, set fast fractions, and gamely held off the runner up finisher in a game effort. After time on the sidelines, Bettor Trip Nick ran very poorly in two consecutive high-level races.
“He’s training really well,” said Steiner. “I’m hoping that $20,000 win gave him some confidence.”
Southern California invader Burnin Turf is likely to garnish heavy support in the wagering. The Dan Blacker trainee had won three races in a row before finishing third, beaten a length to race winner Bran in the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes last May at Santa Anita. Burnin Turf makes his first start in over eight months in the El Dorado Shooter and enters the race with a sharp 59 and 3/5-seconds workout leading up to the race. Another Southern California invader, 6-year-old gelding See Through It, has won six races in a row, including a $50,000 sprint stake for mixed breed thoroughbreds and quarter horses at Los Alamitos. He makes his 2023 debut for trainer Milton Pineda.
Other contenders include Highland Ghost, who finished fourth behind Rager and Ultimate Bango in the second level allowance race in January. Jimmy Blue Jeans cuts back from a route to a sprint and has had much success in two-turn races, winning the Snow Chief Stakes as a 3-year-old and finishing as the runner up in the Sam Spear Memorial last summer. He comes off a poor showing in the Joseph T. Grace Stakes on Tapeta in November. Bobby’s Alibi finished off the board in the Oakland Stakes and is projected to be a big price. He completes the field.
9 races comprise the Saturday program. First post is 12:45 PM.
Race 8 on Saturday: the $75,000 EL Dorado Shooter Stakes (for California-bred or sired 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on Tapeta)
#1 Psycho Dar (Jockey Armando Ayuso…Trainer Sammy Calvario…Morning line odds of 7-2)
#2 See Through It (Brayan Pena…Milton Pineda…8-1)
#3 Burnin Turf (William Antongeorgi III…Dan Blacker…5-2)
#4 Ultimate Bango (Catalino Martinez…Sammy Calvario…6-1)
#5 Bettor Trip Nick (Santos Rivera…Jack Steiner…10-1)
#6 Bobby’s Alibi (Irving Orozco…Faith Taylor…20-1)
#7 Top Harbor (Frank Alvarado…Tim McCanna…9-2)
#8 Highland Ghost (Edwin Gonzalez…O.J. Jauregui…15-1)
#9 Jimmy Blue Jeans (Assael Espinoza…Andy Mathis…6-1)
CHASE THE CHAOS OFFICIALLY ON KENTUCKY DERBY TRAIL WITH EL CAMINO REAL DERBY WIN
An emphatic winner of the 2023 El Camino Real Derby for 3-year-olds last Saturday, Pennsylvania bred gelding Chase the Chaos is officially on the Kentucky Derby trail. Per the Daily Racing Form’s Steve Anderson, trainer Ed Moger Jr. reported that Chase the Chaos came out of the El Camino Real Derby in good shape and would be supplemented to the Triple Crown nominations list by owners Bill Dory and Adam Ference.
Chase the Chaos, who sat off the pace before rallying down the middle of the track to win the El Camino Real Derby by a length and a half, was not nominated to the Triple Crown races for $600 last month when the initial nomination phase took place. Connections who wish to nominate their 3-year-old to the Triple Crown nominations list in a second phase of “late” nominations must do so by March 27. The cost to supplement is $6,000.
Moger also relayed to Anderson that Chase the Chaos could make his next start in either the $1,000,000 RUNHAPPY Santa Anita Derby on April 8 or the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes at Turfway Park in Kentucky on March 25. Both races award the winner 100 Kentucky Derby points, 40 points for the second-place finisher, 30 points to third, 20 for fourth and 10 for fifth. With the El Camino Real Derby win, Chase the Chaos picked up 10 Kentucky Derby points and an all-expenses paid, free berth into the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
The Santa Anita Derby is run on Santa Anita’s dirt course. Chase the Chaos is by the Medaglia D’Oro stallion Astern, an Australian bred who competed strictly on turf. The dam of Chase the Chaos, the Uncle Mo mare Live the Moment, broke her maiden over a dirt surface by over 10 lengths. Chase the Chaos raced once over a muddy wet dirt track at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, finishing second, and has run exclusively on turf and Tapeta since then. The Jeff Ruby Steaks is run over Turfway’s Tapeta track. Both the Santa Anita Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks are run at the El Camino Real Derby one mile and an eighth distance.
“We need to get some points somewhere,” Moger told Anderson. “I think he’s that kind of horse. I’ve been thinking he’s a Derby horse.”
Chase the Chaos, a $10,000 weanling purchase at Keeneland in 2020, has earned $123,000 so far for his connections. From six lifetime starts, he has won 3 races, with 2 seconds and 1 third place finish.
ALWAYS SEEKING COMING INTO MAJOR CLASS TEST WITH CAREER BEST FORM
The Larry and Marianne Williams homebred Always Seeking has wracked off two consecutive first level allowance wins in her last two races. With that, it’s time for her to step up in class for her toughest assignment yet this Friday: a second level allowance sprint for fillies and mares. With her good recent form in mind, morning line maker Jacob Shephard has tabbed Always Seeking as the 9-5 morning line favorite.
“I was surprised to see her at 9-5,” said Steiner. “She’s doing really well though.”
Always Seeking, who has won four of 10 lifetime starts, earned an 82 Beyer speed figure for a first level allowance win in December. Last month, she won at the aforementioned condition again and received a 79 Beyer. Both speed figures are her top two career best figures.
“We’ve had to work with her,” said Steiner. “She can be a bit temperamental. It’s like she’s always in season. The last month or two, she’s been doing really well both physically and mentally. She’s always had talent, but it just took her a little while to put it all together. She’s got her game face on now.”
A half dozen runners are entered in the featured event on Friday, which goes as Race 5 on an 8-race program. Along with Always Seeking, Luxury Liner is a multiple first level allowance winner that takes the next logical step up in class. Trainer Jonathan Wong sends out a duo of runners: Hiis Reina, who makes her first start of the year after a gate to wire victory at the first level allowance condition last fall, and That’s Amare, who cuts back from a route to a sprint and makes her second start for Wong since moving north from Southern California trainer Phil D’Amato’s stable. Carolina Mia has yet to win over Tapeta in 13 lifetime starts but finished second or third on six of those occasions. She is stakes placed on turf. Code Ribbon has finished behind Always Seeking the last two times they faced off, but Code Ribbon got the better of Always Seeking in a race on September 3. The daughter of Desert Code rounds out the field.
First post on Friday is 12:45 PM.
Race 5 on Friday: Second level allowance (for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at six furlongs)
#1 Hiis Reina (Jockey Frank Alvarado…Trainer Jonathan Wong…Morning line odds of 5-2)
#2 Code Ribbon (Catalino Martinez…Jacqui Navarre…6-1)
#3 That’s Amare (Armando Ayuso…Jonathan Wong…8-1)
#4 Always Seeking (William Antongeorgi III…Jack Steiner…9-5)
#5 Carolina Mia (Assael Espinoza…Felix Rondan…5-1)
#6 Luxury Liner (Santos Rivera…Steve Miyadi…7-2)
Below is a list of claims from last week:
Race 3: Noshewon’t (New trainer Ed Moger Jr…new owner Steve Moger)
Race 4: Magical Lady (O.J. Jauregui…Danny Eplin)
Race 8: Mary Walker (Dan Markle…Len Strandley Jr.)
Race 2: Lil Miracle Man (Victor Trujillo…Laurie Syvrud and Trujillo)
Race 9: Lady in a Hurry (Simon Hobson…Peter McGoldrick)
Race 9: Secret Square (D. Wayne Baker…Richard Barton)
Race 1: Vanisky (Simon Hobson…Amy Hobson)
Race 6: Borkan (Ed Moger Jr…Al Pitchko)
Race 6: Harbor Sky (Jonathan Wong…MJVET Stables, Hon Cheung Kum and Hsui Mei Tsai)
Race 6: Sproston (Jonathan Wong…Madden Racing and MJVET Stables, Hon Cheung Kum and Hsu Mei Tsai)
Race 7: Miss Ever Ready (Ed Moger Jr…Al Pitchko)
FINISH LINES: Live racing on Sunday begins at 12:45 PM. Trainer Manny Badilla has 7 runners in on the day led by 2022 Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap winner Lammas, who competes in Race 4, an open allowance race. The main threat to Lammas appears to be American Farmer, coming off a smashing allowance win against second level allowance foes last month…Also on Sunday, three maiden special weights (Races 1,2, and 4) and a first level allowance (Race 9) comprise a high-quality, nine-race card…2022 Bear Fan Stakes winner Chancery Way ships south and faces four others in the $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares. The race is run at six furlongs on dirt. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith rides for trainer Jamey Thomas and owners Andy and Rob Smolich…Nine races made the overnight for a Presidents Day Holiday live race card at Golden Gate this Monday. First post is 12:45 PM…$13,098 is carried over into the Rolling Super High five bet for the first race on Friday.