Race 2: NY-bred maiden claiming $20,000 at 6 furlongs on turf
I’m taking a bit of a flyer in this race. Catalina Island looks to be a likely winner as she drops in class after a decent try in maiden special weight company back in January. She’s now been off for nearly three months and although trainer Jeremiah Englehart has good numbers with this type of layoff, I’m taking a shot against her. Joy Rising (#3) raced twice as a two-year-old, first versus males at Saratoga and then going long on turf later that meet. She showed speed and tired both times and was put away for the year. In her comeback just nine days ago, she was slowly away from the gate and then just ran around the track very wide without jockey Junior Alvarado ever really asking her for run. It looked like a prep and now she drops in class and gets back on dirt. She’s a guess, but she’ll also be a price. The bet:
$5 Win 3
Race 3: Allowance N1X at one mile for 3-year-olds and up
I cannot believe that This Hard Land (#3) is listed at 5-1 on the morning line. He’s just as fast as the 6-5 favorite on paper and figures to get a great pace setup sitting off the three speeds early. While this is his first allowance try outside of New York bred company, I’m not too concerned about the jump up in class because This Hard Land has just been in razor sharp form lately. Last time out, when there didn’t look to be much pace for him, Jose Lezcano sent him to the front and he continued to widen his margin throughout in an impressive performance. Now reverting to his preferred closing style, he should be tough to hold off in the lane:
$10 Win 3 (EDIT: There is no value left on This Hard Land after the scratch of favored Ender Knievel.)
Race 4: Maiden special weight at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds and up
Two “Horses to Watch” wind up in this race, with one likely to go off a heavy favorite. Desert Storm (#2, pictured above) ran an exceptional race in defeat last time on Wood Memorial day. He set fast fractions early and then, when it looked like he was done at the top of the stretch, found the will to re-rally along the inside to lose by just a half-length. If he repeats that performance he won’t get beat, but he may have company up front again today with the speedy Mulheb and Arkansas Joe also in the race.
I’m hoping the other “Horse to Watch” North Ocean (#3) can at least get into the exacta. He was completely eliminated at the start of his debut and actually made a nice late rally from the pack of the pace to just miss third place by 2 lengths. He should love the stretchout in distance being by Street Cry and out of champion mare and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Beautiful Pleasure. With a more alert break and more time to allow him to settle into stride, he could come running late. Here’s how I’m playing it:
$5 Exacta Box 2-3
$4 Win 3
Race 5: Maiden claiming $25,000 at six furlongs on turf
“Horse to Watch” Shy Humor (#8) looks like a logical winner in here as he gets back on dirt after rebounding nicely at this level in a turf sprint last time. Don’t be deceived by his two dirt debacles over the winter at Aqueduct as he had major excuses each time. First, he was off slowly and then wide on a golden rail January 28th and then next time he was inexplicably restrained off the pace when stretched out farther than he wants to go on February 25th. Today he finally finds a field that he should be able to beat.
$10 Win 8
Race 7: Claiming $20,000 N2L at 1 1/16 miles on turf
My Donna Jean (#7), 15-1 on the morning line, is in interesting longshot in this race. She ran two races last summer at Belmont against tougher that would make her very difficult to beat in this spot. After that, she was pace compromised in a race at Saratoga and was then put away for the rest of the year. She came back last month in an off-the-turf sprint in which she showed brief speed and faded. That can best be viewed as a prep for this and if she can get back to her races from last year she could be worth a bet.
$5 Win 7
Race 9: NY-bred Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on turf
This is a wide-open race, but I’m going to take a stand with Ampersand (#12) who was forced to rally into a very slow pace last time and actually ran much better than likely favorite Unbridled Command in doing so. Before that, when he did get a proper pace to run at, he was explosive breaking his maiden over impressive next out winner Mia Poppy at Aqueduct. If he can get back to that race, I think he wins today. I almost put this horse on the Horses to Watch list after his last, but instead I’ll just put a few dollars on him here now that I see he’s landed in the right spot:
$10 Win 12