…because seven of the nine races today will be run over that trip now that races 1, 4, and 6 have been moved to the main track. I have opinions in four of those races today and I’m hoping the fields stay together since I’m writing this before seeing the scratches.
Race 1: NY-bred Maiden Special Weight at one mile on the main track (off the turf) for 2 year-olds
This race probably won’t be decimated by scratches since there are plenty of appealing “Main Track Only” options. Horses like Ten Ed, Here Comes Tommy, and Double Clap all make a lot of sense and they will probably take most of the play. I was actually hoping this race would come off the turf, though, because I like a horse in the main body of the field who I think should stay in the race and might be overlooked in the wagering. Charity Reins (#8) made his career debut two weeks ago when making a strong move at the top of the stretch in a 1 1/16-mile turf race before flattening out late. He earned a 57 Beyer that day, which makes him competitive with all of the aforementioned dirt horses. Yet what’s striking about Charity Reins is that, despite the fact that he ran well over turf, he doesn’t have a stitch of grass pedigree. On the contrary, he comes from an established family of dirt routers. His dam has produced horses such as Jaramar Rain, who was a stakes winner over 9 furlongs on dirt, and Harbor Mist, who has been stakes placed on dirt over the same distance. I have to think Charity Reins gets even more dirt influence form his sire, War Pass, so what’s to say that he won’t run even better today on what is probably his preferred surface?
$10 Win 8
Race 2: Claiming $30,000-$25,000 at one mile
I love a horse in here. Minescape (#7) was placed on my Horses to Watch list after his most recent start in which he was badly pace compromised when bottled up behind a slow early pace. He was still just behind the leaders entering the stretch, but had nowhere to go and waited until about the three-sixteenths pole before finding some daylight to run to. But in such a slowly run affair, the leaders, Talented Whiz and Photon, were already sprinting towards the line and Minescape couldn’t make up any ground–it’s never easy to be a closer when the leaders run the final furlong in roughly 24 seconds. Minescape was claimed out of that race by Bruce Levine, who is one of the few trainers who can actually still improve horses taken from super-trainers like Rudy Rodriguez and David Jacobson. But I don’t think Minescape even needs to improve that much. His last figure was lower than it should have been due to the pace and the time before that he was again compromised when Shankopotamus was allowed to take the lead on a speed favoring muddy track at Belmont. The real MInescape is the one we saw three back when he deftly altered course to run down Political Justice, who he meets again today. He earned an 81 Beyer that day and, based on his recent bad luck, I’m not so sure he he hasn’t improved further since then. Between Sumo, Political Justice, and Nebikon, the pace should be honest and I like Minescape to run them down late.
$20 Win 7
Race 5: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at one mile for fillies and mares
Most of you probably think this is a three-horse race between Queen Concerto, Shesabronxbomber, and Fiftyfour Forever, but not me. I’m picking Hey Babe (#2). I know, you’re thinking, “well I guess this is today’s crazy long shot,” but hear me out: I think Hey Babe’s connections have wasted too much time running her on just one surface. Let’s take a trip back in time to 2010. Hey Babe began her career on dirt at Gulfstream Park and proved early on that she can handle it just fine when placed in the right spots. After finishing second and third in her first two starts, both six furlong dirt sprints, she broke through with a one-length win going a mile. That day, she beat future graded stakes winner Hit It Rich and recorded a 78 Beyer speed figure, the highest of her career–and the second highest number at the distance in today’s race behind only Queen Concerto’s aberrationally fast last race. Hey Babe didn’t perform so well in her next two dirt races so they tried sprinting her on the turf and that’s where she’s been ever since. She’s had some success on grass, but lately has tailed off a bit.
Her pedigree suggests that dirt should be her preferred surface so I’m going to give her a chance. I don’t by any stretch of the imagination view her as the most likely winner of this race, but she is going to be a big, big price and I’m not so sure she should be.
$10 Win 2
Race 7: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at one mile
This is the male version of the fifth race and it drew an interesting mix of horses. You have three who have been competing at this level, two moving up in class, and one dropping way down. I prefer the latter, and that horse is Guyana Star Dweej (#2).
He’s just been badly over-matched in his last three races and now finally is being placed in a realistic spot at the right distance. He is also making his second start off a layoff and I think that may work out well for him since he needed a race to get going at the beginning of his career as well. The races he ran here in the spring are fast enough to win and, best of all, he should be bettable odds. I just don’t see where else I can go. I know Sokitumi Samurai might be the lone speed, but didn’t he beat absolutely nothing last time? Washington’s Rules and Bomber Boy each have a fair chance, but do you really love them at short prices? I’ll take my chances with the beautifully-colored, oddly-named chestnut colt breaking from post two.
$10 Win 2
[2:20 p.m. update] – It’s been a frustrating day so far. First Minescape just got run down late in the second race after being coaxed along by Javier Castellano to chase a very fast pace early. Charlie’s Quest, the winner, got the trip that Minescape should have gotten and my pick lost as the best horse.
Then, just now, Hey Babe, despite receiving an indecisive ride from apprentice Keiber Coa, dueled with Fiftyfour Forever all the way around the turn before her rider dropped his whip near the top of the stretch. Hey Babe continued to fight on, but tired under a hand ride in the final furlong to finish second at 23-1. I unfortunately did not use her under the winner in the exacta. It’s tough to be right and not get anything for it.