Handicapping Picks for 02/04/2012

Race #6 - Rating = 3
#3 Groovin' Solo - Fair odds 3/1
#2 Liaison - Fair odds 3/1
#1 Isn't He Clever - Fair odds 7/2
#6 Rousing Sermon - Fair odds 7/2

Exacta: Box 1,2,3,6

Groovin’ Solo was trying to do what his half-brother, Street Hero, did when going for his maiden win in the Cash Call Futurity in December, but in the case of Groovin’ Solo it was not to be as his rein broke and he did not finish. Street Hero accomplished the feat in 2008, winning the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes in his maiden victory while another half brother, Premier Pegasus, won the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes last March before going off the Derby trail with an injury. This family history is provided to establish that the dam of Groovin’ Solo, Squall Linda, produces stakes winners. Groovin’ Solo went back to maiden ranks following the Cash Call and earned a career best 98 Equibase Speed Figure when winning more easily than it appears on paper. Adding blinkers for the Robert B. Lewis, Groovin’ Solo sizzled over the track on January 27 in preparation for the race, earning the fastest time for five furlongs of 68 horses that day. Making his third start since returning from a four month layoff, Groovin’ Solo should continue to improve and based on his family history as well as that of his owner and trainer (who also conditioned his brothers), can post the upset win in the Robert B. Lewis.

Liaison finished third in his career debut in September and has been unbeaten since, with a three-race win streak including the Cash Call Futurity versus 12 opponents in December. Having run faster in each of his last three races since his debut, culminating with a career best 103 figure in the Cash Call, Liaison certainly appears to be the one to beat and deserves strong consideration to win this race.

Isn’t He Clever is another horse that deserves more respect than his high odds suggest. With three victories and one second in four career starts, Isn’t He Clever has done nothing wrong to date. Like Groovin’ Solo, Isn’t He Clever comes from a family of stakes winners, his half-brother Sharp Writer having won a stakes at the distance of one and three-eighth miles. Coming off an 11 ¾ length win in the Riley Allison Futurity with a career best 97 that stacks up nicely against the 98 figure Groovin’ Solo earned recently (and not far from the 103 figure Liaison earned winning the Cash Call), Isn’t He Clever has a chance to take full advantage of his rail post and run well in the Robert B. Lewis at high odds.

Rousing Sermon flew like he was shot out of a cannon in the late stages of the Cash Call, going from 10th at the top of the stretch to miss by a neck on the wire. Having improved his figures in his last three races, from 87 to 96 to 102 figures (the same pattern of improvement as Liaison), Rousing Sermon could be on the verge of a breakout performance and rounds out a quartet that deserve respect when considering who might win this race.

Note as to why I am not picking Sky Kingdom: He is certainly a fine horse, evidenced by victories in two of his last three efforts and with a very sharp workout in preparation for this race. However, his speed figures have declined from a high of 102 figure three races back, to 99 when fourth in the Cash Call, to 84 in his most recent win.

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You can get my selections and analysis for the entire Santa Anita card at www.equibase.com, www.trackmaster.com as well as at the Xpressbet, Twinspires, Keeneland Select and TVG handicapping stores.