Many moons ago, before the advent of online past performances and, well, the Internet, numbers guys like me had to do everything manually. If we wanted to get the earnings per start for each entrant, we grabbed our Daily Racing Form, along with an abacus, a quill and a bottle of whiskey and we got started — drinking. (OK, I’m lying about the abacus and quill.)
Now, the reason I bring this up is because I relived 1990 handicapping Saturday’s Godolphin Mile at Meydan Racecourse. As I settled in my office chair to look at the races, I said to myself, “Hey, Derek, wouldn’t it be cool to produce your pace figures and full past performances for this race?”
“Yeah, Derek,” I responded, “That would be dope.” (Hey, I said I relived 1990.)
Five hours later, I was cursing the voice in my head and calling the cable company to see if I could pay a little extra this month — just because. But at least I finished handicapping the race.
So, without further ado, here is my by-the-numbers look at the Godolphin Mile (to get your FREE Pace Profile Report for the race, click HERE):
Finished second behind the front-running Heavy Metal last time, but earned a mediocre -11 late speed ration (LSR) in the process. True, Saturday’s pace is projected to be quicker, but this guy, who is winless since 2015, still appears to be on the fringes.
Fair Odds: 25-1
His race in the Derrinstown Stud Jebel Ali Stakes was just 0.54 seconds off the Jebel Ali track record. That said, the 9-year-old didn’t beat much that day, as evidenced by the fact that he was 5 ¼ lengths behind fellow Godolphin Mile entrant Fitgerald — at 20/1 — just 64 days earlier.
Fair Odds: 60-1
3-LA BERNARDIN (15/1)
He won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2), but has been awful since. His Racing Post Ratings (RPRs) are on the light side and his pace figures are really weak, failing to meet the race par.
Fair Odds: 20-1
4-GIFTED MASTER (15/1)
This guy is intriguing in the sense that his record on turf has been pretty good and his last race — a fourth-place finish in the Zabeel Mile — was pretty quick, with the winner (Championship) earning a 118 RPR (among Godolphin Mile entrants, only Sharp Azteca and Heavy Metal have earned a better number). The problem is Gifted Master is a frontrunner in a field with loaded with other speedsters, including all the top contenders. Worse, in his last race, the son of Kodiac earned a +9 early speed ration (ESR), which is about 12 lengths slower than today’s projected pace. So, not only will the Hugo Palmer trainee have to adapt to a new surface this weekend, he’ll need to adapt to faster early splits as well (he is scheduled to wear blinkers on Saturday).
Fair Odds: 20-1
5-SECOND SUMMER (15/1)
Ran very well in his Meydan debut, just failing to catch Furia Cruzada in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at 1,900 meters (approximately 9 ½ furlongs) before bouncing to the moon in his latest. On the plus side, he’s a confirmed closer in a race with a lot of early runners (if not, necessarily, early speed). On the negative side, the distance is probably not ideal, although he has won twice at a mile before (once on dirt and once on turf). He’s a contender for me.
Fair Odds: 8-1
6-SHARP AZTECA (9/5)
This guy holds the key to the race, as he appears to be the quickest of the frontrunners. In fact, in his five route tries, he has led at the first call in four of them. The only exception was the Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby Day last year, when he rallied from just off a blistering pace (-16 ESR) to win at 13-1 (I cashed on him that afternoon, so I remember the race well). However, as the Pat Day hinted at and other races confirmed, he can rate (I’d love to see this son of Freud try turf; I think he’d be great). So, here’s the dilemma: If he cuts loose early, he probably dispirits his main rivals, all of whom are frontrunners as well. However, if he uses too much gas to do it, he could open the door for the closers, like the aforementioned Second Summer.
Fair Odds: 2-1
7-NORTH AMERICA (2-1)
I love the fact that this guy will break right next to his main pace rivals (Sharp Azteca on his inside, Heavy Metal on his outside), as it makes for a fascinating early chess match. Here’s the deal: North America is good, very good. He’s 4-of-5 on the main track (non-turf) and a perfect 4-for-4 on the Dubai dirt, but (you had to know that was coming) he’s won all his races in wire-to-wire fashion and the best (quickest) ESR he’s recorded in those wins is a -1. Now, granted, there is no run-up in the races at Meydan Racecourse; hence, North America’s speed rations are not directly comparable with those of Sharp Azteca. However, as we know from witnessing countless shippers to the United States, early speed is simply not as prominent overseas. Thus, I think Sharp Azteca holds the fate of North America in his hooves (how’s that for dramatic?). If the former makes the latter stalk — especially if he must stalk wide, which is likely given the post position draw — I think North America is toast.
Fair Odds: 7-2
8-HEAVY METAL (5/1)
If North America is between a rock and a hard place due to the likely pace scenario, this guy is between a rock and a harder place… on a cliff… overlooking a moat. Look, he’s already had two cracks at North America and, after stalking once (Jan. 12) and attempting to close the other time (Feb. 11), he’s 0-for-2. On the plus side, he earned a race-best 119 last-race RPR and he did hold on for second in that first meeting with North America. Plus, his odds figure to be enticing. I’m keeping him in the mix.
Fair Odds: 12-1
This dude is one of those horses that you see in nearly every race, everywhere. He’s not great, he’s not terrible; his Racing Post Ratings are mediocre and so are his pace figures. Still, he’s got the right kind of running style and he can certainly be used at the right price.
Fair Odds: 15-1
Put in arguably the best performance of his career in winning the Curlin Handicap over World Cup-bound Mubtaahij last time, albeit getting 15 pounds from that rival (they still know how to run handicaps in other countries). Seven-year-old son of Daaher shortens up here and could make his presence felt late.
Fair Odds: 15-1
11-TRIPLE NINE (30-1)
Korean-bred son of Ecton Park intrigues me. Yes, his form in Dubai has been generally pretty dull, but the cutback in distance might be just what the doctor ordered (assuming the doctor is a horseplayer). South Korea’s 2016 Horse of the Year ran very well in his first Meydan start, the Meydan Sobha, just failing to catch wire-to-wire winner Hunting Ground at 2,000 meters. He followed that up with a decent effort as the 11/4 favorite in the Range Rover Handicap (where he finished behind Etijaah after prompting the pace) before imploding in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1). I think he can bounce back on Saturday at what should be a big price.
Fair Odds: 10-1
Elusive Quality gelding hasn’t been close to being competitive at this level, although he did record a solid 111 RPR against lesser on Dec. 15.
Fair Odds: 40-1
13-KAFUJI TAKE (15-1)
This looks like a good spot for this Japanese runner. On the plus side, he’s earned RPRs that make him very competitive against this group. On the minus side, he’s five years old with 23 lifetime starts and has never won beyond seven furlongs.
Fair Odds: 10-1
6-SHARP AZTECA is clearly the one to beat — I’ll key him on the top and bottom of my exotics and also use 5-SECOND SUMMER, 11-TRIPLE NINE and 13-KAFUJI TAKE. Without knowing exactly what the odds will be, I’m inclined to toss 7-NORTH AMERICA and 8-HEAVY METAL entirely, as I suspect both will be underlays, but that remains to be seen (certainly, given the large field, they could be worth using on deeper exotic tickets, even at less-than-desirable prices).