Horses to Watch Feb 14 – by Rod Young Turfdom

RIRI (February 10): Four year old filly for Phil D’Amato made her return to the races in Friday’s opener at six and a half down the hill for the second allowance condition for older runners. Off at 4/1 in a field of 9, she broke well under Bejarano and settled in third coming down the hill. She was in good striking position at the top of the lane, but sort of “hung” in the final furlong and raced like a horse in need of the outing. She finished 4th but was only beaten a length and a half at the wire. This race should set her up nicely to stretch out to a mile and she’s good enough to win this second condition. She’s in the hands of the best turf trainer on this circuit. She’s a soon winner.

MERRILY MERRILY (February 10): Four year old filly for Sean McCarthy broke her maiden in her 4th trip to the post on Friday crushing a weak field of Cal breds at five and a half on the main track. Off as the odds on choice over a weak field for the level, she broke running from the rail post and never looked back under Elliott, who never moved on her once during the race. She won by three, but it could have easily been 7 or 8 lengths. It doesn’t take much to win the first Cal bred condition allowance these days, and she should be able to win again next time to the post. Merrily Merrily, life is but a dream!!

LILY’S FINALE (February 11): Five year old gelding for John Sadler found his proper level on Saturday when in for a claiming tag of $25,000 and going 3/4 on the main track over a wet/fast surface. Off at 9/2 in a field of seven, he sat just off the leaders down the back side, just two lengths off the pace. He tried to find a seam at the top of the lane, but the hole quickly closed and he checked badly losing his momentum. Contreras took him to the outside, but the damage was done. He re-rallied and finished strong but was beaten 3/4 at the wire. The stewards should have put up the inquiry sign and at least looked at it, as the winner was the one that came over on him at the top of the stretch, but they didn’t. Lily was best in this race but settled for second. This one is lightly raced and he should be posing for pictures in the very near future. A good one to follow.

THE PARTY FACTOR (February 11): Three year old colt for Jaime Gomez tried a “salty” bunch of maiden special weights on Saturday at five and a half on the main track. Off at 8/1 in a field of 9, he broke running under Bednar and went head and head with the odds on favorite through quick splits of 21.61 and 44.75. He took all the worst of it from the inside, but was dead game down the lane and the favorite only beat him a length at the wire, and it was 3 back to the third horse. He should be able to find a field he can beat as his good speed always keeps him in the race and with these connections, he will still maintain good wagering value. Tab and follow.

HOLLYWOOD STRIKE (February 12): Four year old colt for John Shirreffs had shown little speed in five career trips to the post, but today Espinoza “sent” him from the break and he took the lead through fractions of 23.06 and 47.10 in this mile maiden special weight event on the main track. Two others confronted him at the quarter pole, but he dug in and put them both away in the lane, then just failed to last, losing by a head to a perfect tripper from off the pace. This son of the good sire Smart Strike, out of a Grade 1 winning dam, is sitting on a victory for the ultra conservative Shirreffs.