By John Fredericks
MORNING LINE ODDS
Virginia Lt. Governor – Republican
Steve Martin 3:1 – Seasoned and tested, this veteran is at first blush the horse to beat. He’s run some big races over a long career and he’s the lifetime earnings leader of the field. Back in 2000 he lost a barn-burner by a nose on the final stride to Eric Cantor in a ferocious stretch battle. Cantor is now a Triple Crown contender, so he’s competed against the top horses and held his own.
But he’s very vulnerable in this race. He’s not been battle worthy for a while, and other problems abound. Boyd Marcus, who also handles Bill Bolling in the feature race, trains him. Marcus has a history of his horses going lame in big events. That’s spells trouble for Martin.
Martin has been under tight wraps of late, and scuttlebutt in the backstretch is his ownership group is short on cash. His team didn’t pay the racing entry fee, which is why he automatically drew the 7th post-position, a definite disadvantage. He’ll start from behind, and need a big kick coming out of the first turn. He’s got a top jockey in Socon Evangel, and that helps. The question is: does this old warhorse have one more swan song left in him? Martin is anything but a sure bet.
Susan Stimpson 7:2 – This little filly is all the rage.
Nicknamed the “Stimpson Miracle” by her loyal followers, at three years old she has only one race under her belt – a convincing win in a mid-level overnight conditioned race at a little known racetrack outside of Fredericksburg, Stafford Downs. This is a huge step up for a filly with only one win on her chart — but her handlers think she walks on water. It’s all about her speed, they claim. And speed she has. She’ll likely rip to the front in blazing fashion and try to wire the field, while attempting to hang on for dear life in what is sure to be a grueling stretch battle with her more seasoned foes.
Can she steal the race? Maybe, but their strategy could be upended by another speed demon with little staying power in the race: EW Jackson. If Jackson presses Stimpson into lightening fast early fractions, they’ll both be faced with the prospect of fading into oblivion in the last furlong.
Owned by T. Party and trained by Jamie Radtke — who is desperately seeking a big race win to get off the shnied — Stimpson is ridden by the legendary jockey from Texas, Ron Paulies.
Truth be told, this filly’s barn is a whirlwind of activity. She has a loyal, almost evangelical following and her legions of enthusiastic fans are sure to show up at Richmond Downs and cheer their horse on.
But we’re told her stable has not raised the money they said they would, and her last few workouts in front of a fawning media were lackluster and unimpressive, and she underperformed.
Her trainer Radtke has since closed her workouts to the press and we have also learned she may have some lameness issues, but this is unconfirmed.
I’m not buying the press release hype. This filly may be a lot of show and not much go. Is she ready for prime time? Not with my money. At 7:2, and the second choice on the board, she’s a classic overplay in my book. I’ll pass.
Pete Snyder 9:2 – This is the most exciting horse in the field. A maiden at five years old, this racehorse is an anomaly, as he’s never competed on the big circuit. But we have seen tapes of him racing on the under-card at various state fairs around Virginia, and this bad boy is a monster when he gets it in full gear. We’ve never seen anything quite like him. He’s a thunderbolt. His trainers say they don’t really know how good he is.
His barn is very young, but they’re relentless and workaholics. He’s got a ton of money behind him from the true believers, which makes us take notice. His workouts are an incredible thing to behold. He’s got the rare combination of early speed, stamina and a late kick to boot.
If he gets out of the gate cleanly, it could be lights out. He’ll likely tuck in third behind the speed-duelers Stimpson and Jackson, and once they fade he could circle the field and win in convincing fashion. But maidens can be a tough bet in a big race. At 9:2 he’s worth a decent shot at the windows.
Corey Stewart 5:1 – The up and comer, Stewart keeps winning by larger and larger margins in his racing class. A solid runner from Prince William Downs, this is his first foray into a large stakes race. It’s a significant step up in class for this spirited gelding, which gives us some pause.
But he’s proven to be a tough competitor. His ownership team — Developers R Us –- has sunk a boatload of money into this race, and they’ve hired a stable full of caretakers who have fanned the state looking for ways to craft a winning race strategy for their horse.
One potential problem is his older jockey, Imma Gration, whose time may have passed. But we like his trainer, Pat Rick, another young gun in the racing game.
Stewart is a feisty stalker, and he’ll likely menace the leaders the whole way. If he can rumble from the outside around the three-quarters poll, he’ll put a world of hurt on the front-runners. Don’t count this horse out. He’s tougher than meets the eye, albeit his jump in class poses a real challenge.
His rider Imma Gration is what concerns me most with this horse and I’d be more comfortable if he changed jockeys, but trainer Pat Rick says he’s sticking with the one who brought him to the dance.
Jeannemarie Davis 6:1 – This veteran mare simply cannot be ignored. She’s competed against some top stallions, and held her own, while posting several big wins and paying long odds on the tough-to-navigate Northern Virginia racing circuit. She’s also taken her share of lumps along the way.
Owned by Bloomberg Stables out of New York, she is trained by the infamous Tom Davis of RHINO Racing, Inc. fame. Her rider, Cole Muzio, just finished a distant second while guiding Radtke, another long-shot mare in last year’s big Commonwealth race.
Her barn says she’s a workhorse, and they claim she’s sound now. One of two ladies in this race, she’ll bring a large contingent of NOVA track followers to the big event in Richmond, and that will keep her odds lower than normal. This mare has shown both poise and grace, and if she can tumble with the leaders at the top of the lane, she’ll be right there. Her biggest risk is being shuffled back early and then getting boxed in when she tries to make her move. If she shakes free in the lane, she’s a terror. I’ll put her in my trifecta box.
Scott Lingamfelter 10:1
If you are looking for a legitimate long shot, here’s your play. At 10:1 Lingamfelter is solid hedge bet in this race. He’s got the pedigree, and he’s shown uncanny consistency throughout his career. Not a flashy racer, he’s just a solid gelding that hangs around much of the race and sneaks up on you once in awhile along the rail. His percentage of finishing in the money is very robust. To win this race his barn has a simple strategy: get off clean, hug the rail, save energy, tuck until the last eighth mile, wait for the speedsters to spit the bit and come on with a late rush in between a tiring field to take the prize. It’s the last horse standing strategy. Yes, it’s a long shot. But long shots do win once in awhile.
E.W. Jackson 25:1
He’s the fun and gun horse in the race. Possessing blazing speed, he’ll blast out of the Richmond Downs gate with thundering hoofs pounding and kick up turf that will be flying everywhere. This stallion is eight years old, yet not been gelded, so you never know exactly what he’ll do.
His trainer says he has a mind of his own, and his jockey can’t even handle him.
Here is my take: Jackson is fun to watch, but has no shot to win this race. His past performances don’t show he has the stamina down the stretch for this enduring of a match. He’s still worth the price of admission — just not my betting money.
He’s also Stimpson’s worst nightmare. He’ll press her for every inch of turf for the first half-mile, and likely wear the filly down early. The only way Jackson wins is if there is a pile up at the quarter-mile pole that clears the field. He would have been better served entering a smaller race with lesser competition than he faces here.
You can always check at the real horse happenings at Colonial Downs: http://www.colonialdowns.com
John Fredericks is syndicated radio talk show host in Virginia and can be heard M-F 6-9 a.m. on WTNT –AM 730 & 102.9FM in D.C., WLEE AM 990 in Richmond, WHKT AM 1650 in Tidewater and WBRG AM 1050 & 104.5 FM in Lynchburg – Roanoke or streaming online at www.thejohnfredericksshow.com