Custer the choice in Sir Howard Stakes

Observer staff reporter

Friday, February 22, 2019

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THE Hotline Stakes should also provide some fireworks with the return of the talented Casual Drink from the stables of the in-form Gary Subratie.

Casual Drink should not have an easy comeback as other runners in the race are quite capable of taking home the top prize here.

As usual, The Supreme Racing Guide takes a closer look at the seven runners and their chances of winning the Hotline Stakes.

1. LADY BLUE: (3-y-o, ch. f – Blue Pepsi Lodge – The Vibes Lady) – Has raced four times in her career but that was when she was a two-year-old. Her last run was in the Pick3 Super Challenge Trophy over seven furlongs on November 24 last year. Lady Blue led for a long way before she was passed by Corazon in deep stretch, losing by only 1 1/4 lengths. Based on that run, Lady Blue should be competitive here but she may need the outing to catch her feet first.

2. SI ME NOW: (3-y-o, ch.f – Forest Danger – Quiet Giant) – Released the maiden tag on last when winning over a mile (1,600m) on January 19. Si Me Now faces a tougher field here and will have to wait on easier opportinities to earn another win. Note the blinkers and tongue tie are on.

3. ENEDINA: (3-y-o, b f – Film Director – Yaella) – Won enterprisingly when at the races on last. Enedina won by 2 lengths over Cryptocurrency and Reggae Gone Grammy over 5 1/2 furlongs (1,100m) in a good time of 1:07.3 which is a clear indication that she is going places. However, repeating here will be difficult for her.

4. SPECIAL COUNSEL: (3-y-o, gr f – Silent Valor – Crucial Cat) – Came into her own on last when winning the Eight Thirty Sprint by 2 1/2 lengths down the five-furlong straight course on January 26. Special Counsel is capable enough but getting by these is no easy task for her.

5. PRINCESS ANNIE: (3-y-o, b f – Nothern Giant – Millenium Princess) – Was a winner last on October 15, 2018 when she romped home by 5 1/4 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs (1,300m) in a time of 1:20.4. Although Princess Annie would probaly want it a little bit longer, she is good enough to have a say in the outcome of this one.

6. CASUAL DRINK: (3-y-o, b f – Casual Trick – Zacapa) – Made a loud entry to her career on September 8 when she won a maiden special weight event over 5 1/2 furlongs in a brilliant 1:06.4 easy on the trot. Casual Drink then returned 21 days later to compete in the Cash Pot 'Only One For Me' Trophy over 6 furlongs and finished 2 lengths in second place behind Top Shelf. It was said that Casual Drink was not herself on the day and now with a 147-day rest and working quite well, the Gary Subratie trainee could return with a bang.

THE native-bred three-year-olds campaign leading up to the Classic series of races picks up pace with the running of the Sir Howard Stakes (colts and geldings) and the Hotline Stakes (fillies) over 6 furlongs (1,200m) at Caymanas Park tomorrow.

Both races, which are non-winners of two events, are considered as major preps for the Classics as they provide the opportunities for the various connection to assess the progress of their charges ahead of the prestigious races.

The Supreme Racing Guide takes a look at the Sir Howard Stakes where seven runners are down to compete for the $1.1-million purse money.

1. UNIVERSAL BOSS: (3-y-o, b g – Casual Trick – Electrifying) - Finished a good second behind stable companion Supreme Soul on last over 7 1/2 furlongs (1,500m). Universal Boss led up until the last 2 furlongs when the more advanced Supreme Soul took over. Prior to that, Universal Boss was third by 2 1/4 lengths behind Custer down the five straight course on January 30. Although showing speed throughout the race, Universal Boss couldn't match legs with Custer and faltered in the end. The distance of 6 furlongs is going to suit Universal Boss, but with the presence of Custer in the race, the Anthony Nunes trainee should once again play second fiddle.

2. DOCTOR GREY: (3-y-0, gr/rn g – American Dance – Doctor Bird) – Still a maiden after three starts and will remain a maiden after this as well.

3. BALTUSROL: (3-y-o, b g – Blue Pepsi Lodge – Star Flyer) – Since releasing the maiden on August 11, 2018, Baltusrol hasn't done anything in his next four starts to suggest that he can handle these runners. Baltusol is going to be left behind in this one.

4. CUSTER: (3-y-o, ch c – Blue Pepsi Lodge - Patty Girl) – Really ignited some sparks when romping home on last over the five furlong straight course on January 30. Custer made one move to win by 2 1/4 lengths ahead of stable companion Legality and Universal Boss in a smart time of 58.2. Trained by Philip Feanny, Custer continues to train well and with a trophy at stake, Custer can complete back-to-back wins here.

5. FATHER PATRICK: (3-y-0, b g – Nuclear Wayne – Late Appeal) – Good sort who was an impressive 4 3/4-length winner on debut on January 12 over 5 1/2 furlongs in a smart 1:06.2. However, with more experienced and well-estabished runners in the line-up, Father Patrick will have to improve a lot if he is to win this one. Look for a good run from Father Patrick nonetheless.

6. TOONA CILIATA: (3-y-o, ch g – Soul Warrior – Red Gold) – Highly rated sort who was a winner on last over 5 furlongs on the round course. Toona Ciliata won by 2 lengths in a time of 1:00.2 which suggested that he is on the improve. Working quite nicely in the mornings, Toona Ciliata can win again but it is not going to be easy.

7. DUKE: (3-y-o, r c – Casual Trick - Lady MacBeth) – Ran well to finish second behind Earn Your Stripes going a mile on last. The distance of this race, 6 furlongs, looks a bit too short for Duke, who will need more real estate to be fully effective but will run well.

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