Can The Pizza Man Reverse Form in Arlington Million?
Can The Pizza Man Reverse Form in Arlington Million? by Reinier Macatangay: Racehorses capable of stirring emotion in fans are important to the sport, and last year, Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man was one of those horses who grabbed headlines and created discussion. Everyone just seemed happy whenever he won, and his only off-the-board finish in six starts came in the tough Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI).
The situation has changed for The Pizza Man, who attempts to claim a second Arlington Million (GI) under Mike Smith on Saturday, as the now 7-year-old gelding searches to regain the form that carried him at Arlington Park before.
The Roger Brueggemann-trained runner currently owns a three-race losing streak, and although form can reverse for better or worse, at his age one must wonder if he is capable at this level anymore.
To be fair, The Pizza Man only lost by neck in the local Stars and Stripes Stakes (GIII) in his most recent start. Yet, he began the first quarter in roughly a similar spot as eventual winner Greengrassofyoming, and in the stretch run, The Pizza Man had dead aim on the leaders from the preferable outside rallying position. No visible excuses.
Two starts ago, in the Wise Dan Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs, even though The Pizza Man went wide on the final turn, no momentum was lost during his late move. The classy runner could only fourth place against a modest field, and three lengths behind the winner. In turf racing, three lengths can be worth a lot more than on dirt.
Three starts back, in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (GI), The Pizza Man ran as the even money favorite and failed to make a dent in the stretch run, also finishing about three lengths back in fifth place.
If a form reversal is coming, it would once again create the emotion and excitement in fans that The Pizza Man was known for generating last year, and who knows, maybe at his age he needed three races to completely warm up.
But, it is difficult to imagine The Pizza Man prevailing again if there is not a step forward.
Bettors willing to accept alternatives will want to consider the Europeans, starting with Tryster from post 12.
Yes, Tryster finished fifth of six horses in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (GI), but he also faced My Dream Boat, Found and Western Hymn, all of whom would compete for favoritism in this spot. Owned by Godolphin Racing, the Charles Appleby-trained runner will not surprise anyone with a win under trusted pilot William Buick.
Next to him in post 13 (the quality Europeans are stuck out wide), Deauville makes his second North American start after taking the Belmont Derby (GI) last month. Aidan O’Brien is reliable in getting his horses to acclimate in a new environment, plus the ceiling is high for Deauville as a young 3-year-old colt.
For a more value-orientated Euro selection, try Mondialiste from the ninth post. Fans remember him for taking the Woodbine Mile (GI) last year and placing second to Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI), but he owns decent efforts at longer races too and should handle the 1 1/4-mile distance of this race just fine.
As for longshot options, closer to the rail the 4-year-old colt Dubai Sky is somewhat interesting with only six career races. He won the Spiral Stakes (GIII) last year and became a Kentucky Derby (GI) contender, but an injury put him on the shelf. The Bill Mott-trained runner must run better than his comeback effort where he lost by a nose.
Going down the list, Kasaqui begins next to The Pizza Man in post six, and comes off a win in the local Arlington Handicap (GII). The victory was visually appealing, as he did not need too much encouragement in the stretch run. In Kasaqui’s race before the Arlington Handicap, he was part of the “modest field” The Pizza Man ran against in the Wise Dan, and he set the pace before finishing a respectable second to Pleuven.
Give Take the Stand, Wake Forest and World Approval looks as well. The latter two would not offer value at 5-1 and 4-1 respectively, but if their odds drift upwards, it would be more reasonable to use them.
Boxing the Europeans feels like the “boring” bet in turf races, because the majority of the public already believes overseas turf runners are superior to Americans. In this instance, the strategy might work. The Pizza Man looks to be having trouble delivering this year, and subsequently this race appears likely to be stolen by a foreigner.
Arlington Million 2016 Post Positions & Odds
Race 9 5:09 p.m.
1 Danish Dynaformer 30-1 Husbands/Attfield
2 Dubai Sky 30-1 Lezcano/Mott
3 Greengrassofyoming 30-1 Bridgmohan/Maker
4 Pumpkin Rumble 30-1 Murrill/Scherer
5 The Pizza Man 10-1 Smith/Brueggemann
6 Kasaqui 20-1 Albarado/Correas, IV
7 Take the Stand 15-1 Prado/Mott
8 Decorated Knight 10-1 Valdivia, Jr./Charlton
9 Mondialiste 8-1 Tudhope/O’Meara
10 Wake Forest 5-1 Prat/Brown
11 World Approval 4-1 Geroux/Casse
12 Tryster 7-2 Buick/Appleby
13 Deauville 6-1 Heffernan/O’Brien