Deep Field Makes For Great Betting in Saturday's Texas Mile at LSP

(April 28, 2006) - With the largest, deepest and most competitive field in race history assembling for the Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile, handicappers far and wide will want to make a note that Saturday's 10th race at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas is set for 5:47 p.m. CT. Two very good undercard stakes-the $75,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge for 3-year-olds and the $50,000 JEH Stallion Station Stakes for older Texas-bred female sprinters-add further intrigue to an 11-race program packed with wagering opportunities. First post is 1:35 p.m.

Eleven older horses, the most ever, entered Thursday for the Texas Mile, an event that has provided Lone Star Park with some of its greatest memories in nine previous runnings. The 5-2 morning line favorite is Yes He's a Pistol, winner of the $85,000 Santana Mile Handicap at Santa Anita Park last month for trainer Doug O'Neill. The next two choices represent the one-two finishers from Santa Anita's Grade III Tokyo City Handicap on April 1-Preachinatthebar, from Bob Baffert's barn, and Texcess, trained by Mike Mitchell.

The Texas Mile also attracted three horses based in South Florida: Halos Sailing Sain, second to Grade I winner Bandini in a Gulfstream Park allowance race two starts ago; Nakayama Kun, an Ellis Park stakes winner; and Dominguin, who won his first five starts in his native Peru by a combined 52 ¼ lengths before finishing fifth in the Grade II, $2 million UAE Derby.

Regionally based threats include defending Texas Mile champ High Strike Zone, Oaklawn Park allowance winner Stockholder, six-time stakes winner Charming Socialite, Sunland Park Handicap winner Mr. Trieste and Sam Houston allowance winner Play the Chime.

"I'd say this is one of the best betting Texas Miles we've had in some time," track handicapper and oddsmaker Rick Lee said. "Not only do we have a large field size, but I think 10 of the 11 could have a chance to win. I think the pace is going to be fast, which is going to give the horses with a little less ability a chance to rally and be very close, if not score an upset."

The trio of Southern California invaders that top the morning line are difficult to separate talent-wise. All three boast lifetime-best Beyer Speed Figures of either 101 or 102. Yes He's a Pistol probably comes off the best most-recent effort, earning his career-best 102, but he comes into the Texas Mile off a six-week layoff.

Preachinatthebar finished fourth in the Santana won by Yes He's a Pistol's, but was making his 2006 debut and should be sharper on Saturday in his third start of the year. Texcess, who would reach millionaire status with a second-place finish in the Texas Mile, still seeks his first win of the season but has a stalking style that could give him an advantage in a race loaded with speed.

The rapidity of the pace, which should be very fast judging by the past performances, will make or break the chances of several hopefuls. Play the Chime, Charming Socialite, Yes He's a Pistol and Halo's Sailing Sain all appear likely to contest the early lead, while Mr. Trieste, High Strike Zone, Dominguin, Stockholder and Preachinatthebar would all prefer to track close behind. Texcess has employed a variety of running styles without establishing a preferred method. Nakayama Kun, who came from last, 10 lengths back, to win the one-mile Governors Handicap at Ellis, is particularly dangerous as the field's only confirmed closer.

From the standpoint of trainers, so many in Saturday's race have had previous success in the Texas Mile and at Lone Star Park that no single horse can be said to hold an advantage. Baffert, the trainer of Preachinatthebar, won the inaugural running of this race with Isitingood and has 10 career stakes wins in Grand Prairie. Two years ago, Mitchell, trainer of Texcess, saddled his only Lone Star Park winner, Kela, in the 2004 Texas Mile. Last season O'Neill, trainer of Yes He's a Pistol, finished second in the Texas Mile with Supah Blitz, who came back to win the next month's Lone Star Park Handicap and earn Horse of the Meeting honors. Steve Asmussen, who trains Stockholder, is Lone Star Park's all-time leading conditioner and has won nearly everything on the local stakes schedule. Amos Laborde, of course, is looking to repeat in a race he won last year with High Strike Zone.

A piece of advice for bettors to keep in mind is not to dismiss the local and regional entrants. Unrullah Bull, a former claiming horse from trainer Cole Norman's Lone Star Park stable, upset the Texas Mile in 2002 at 6-1. Along with High Strike Zone and two-time winner Littlebitlively, horses based in the Southwest have won four of nine Texas Mile runnings while never being favored. In addition, exacta and trifecta slots have been filled out by such overlooked local bombers as Spiritbound (second in 1997 at 27-1), Lexington Park (second in 2000 at 96-1) and Five Straight (third in 2001 at 40-1).

This year, more than ever, the Texas Mile isn't just about who you like, but who you will bet. With so much talent spread out evenly amongst Saturday's field, handicappers are assured of getting a square price no matter whom they support. And if scoring on the winner isn't enough, consider the multitude of multi-race and exotic wagers available Saturday. The Texas Mile will be part of the Late Daily Double and two Pick Threes, as well as a 50-cent minimum Pick Four with the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge and two wide-open claiming events with large fields. The Texas Mile pools include Exacta, Quinella, Trifecta and 10-cent minimum Superfecta wagering.

Races 8-11 from Lone Star Park, which include the Texas Mile and Grand Prairie Turf Challenge, will be simulcast into California. Ladies and gentlemen, start your handicapping.

By Jim Mulvihill

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