Race 1: Allowance N1X at one mile on the turf
While IDLE AMERICAN (#3) has failed to cross the wire in front since the fall of 2012, you can make a strong argument that he is coming into this race in the best form of his life. He has shown repeatedly in past seasons that he is not as good on dirt as he is on turf, but the dirt races he ran over this past winter at Aqueduct were some of the best races of his career on any surface. Particularly, his effort three back, when he was sent up to chase a very fast pace that collapsed, and his race two back, when he made a four-wide move on the turn into a moderate pace, were especially good efforts. If he takes his usual step forward moving back to grass, he’ll be very tough to beat. Furthermore, the probability of a contested pace developing only enhances this closer’s chances.
I feel confident that Idle American is the most likely winner of this race, but I’m also going to place another win bet on my second choice, SPARTIATIS (#7), since he should be an overlay. I know that it appears that Spartiatis was not very good on turf and simply improved when switched to dirt, but I’m not sure that’s an accurate assessment of the way this horse is coming into this race. Spartiatis may not have run very well in his first few races, but that may simply have been due to inexperience. There is no doubt in my mind that he has vastly improved since even his dirt debut back in November. His race on February 28th was much better than it looks since he was cooked while forcing a fast pace and then his maiden-breaking score last time was simply awesome. March 16th was a day when you needed to be on the rail to have success and Spartiatis was the only horse on the card to beat that bias. He raced two- to three-wide on the turn before powering clear in the stretch in a performance that is much better than the 80 Beyer figure that it was assigned would attest. I know that getting back to turf is a question mark, but it is the surface he’s bred for being by Scat Daddy out of a dam that produced graded stakes-placed turfer Brother Nick.
I’m mildly against both Front and Prohibition, who figure to garner plenty of attention at the windows. Front goes out for Jimmy Jerkens, who is just 1-for-21 over the past five years with horses returning from 91-180 day layoffs. Prohibition switches back to turf for a trainer who is just 4-for-91 over the past 5 years with all turf runners. I’ll let them beat me.
Idle American is my top pick, but I’ll be betting both of these selections to win and will also box them in the exacta.
$15 Win 3
$10 Win 7
$4 Exacta Box 3/7
Race 4: Claiming $25,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
The two most likely winners are probably Exporter, who should greatly appreciate getting back on the grass, and Madris, whose recent turf races have come against much stronger company. I can’t argue with anyone who thinks they’re the horses to beat, but I want to take a small shot against them with a horse that I believe can outrun his odds.
WAYWARD SAILOR (#4) is a slightly better on turf than dirt, but is coming into this race off a couple of poor trips on the inner track that make it appear that he’s in worse form than he actually is. On the gold rail day of January 25th, he was three wide around both turns, which eliminated any chance he might have had. Then last time, he was a little sluggish after the start from his wide post position and found himself caught very wide entering the first turn. Chris Decarlo had no choice but to take him back to last and make one run, which is not Wayward Sailor’s preferred running style. With the exception of Exporter and perhaps Rincon Sur, there is not a great deal of speed in this race, so Wayward Sailor should be able to get the trip he wants pressing the pace. He’s proven at this level and is as good as any horse in here when he works out the right trip. I think he’s worth using at a price.
$10 Win 4
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at seven furlongs
I don’t think MISCHIEVIOUSLY (#3) is that much more likely of a winner than Divine Energy, but he’ll probably go off at a larger price and I don’t believe he should. This horse ran pretty well in his debut and then actually improved to put in a very solid effort on September 14th when finishing behind today’s favorite. He broke with the pack that day, but was a little slow to get into stride and found himself back in last place exiting the backstretch. This was a race that was dominated by horses that were up close and nearest to the rail and Mischieviously was the only runner to launch a serious bid from the back while doing so on the worst part of the racetrack in the stretch. He improved again next time to finish just behind recent Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong in a maiden race before being put away for the winter. He returns here off a string of strong works at Gulfstream Park and gets Lasix for the first time. Both he and Divine Energy have a right to improve with added maturity, but I believe Mischieviously ran the better races as a two year-old and is more likely to build on that foundation today.
$20 Win 3
Race 7: Allowance N1X at one mile on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
MOONLIT SONNET (#6) is clearly the horse to beat. Her maiden win on May 4th was powerful and she followed it up with the best race of her career when finishing second on June 1st after a disastrous start took her out of position early. I felt that she was a bit of a disappointment at Saratoga when twice losing as the favorite, but she did have an excuse on August 4th since that was a race that featured an extremely fast pace that collapsed. Lisa Lewis has decent numbers bringing horses back from long layoffs and if Moonlit Sonnet is ready to run anything close to her top performance, the rest of this field is running for second.
Beyond her, I feel that most will gravitate towards White Crane and Selenite as the best alternatives, but I’m more interested in another horse. MILKYYOURWAY (#5) is a mare that I’m not usually very fond of because she’s always racing on the wrong surface. It’s astounding to me that her connections have not looked at her past performances and realized that two of the best races of her career have come on the grass. I know that she doesn’t appear to have much turf pedigree, but her form doesn’t lie. Going all the way back to the fall of 2012 in her turf debut, she was an unlucky loser after having to alter course late in the stretch as one of the only horses to make a serious late run into a slow-paced race. (Watch the replay.) She was returned to the turf in April of last year and again put in a very solid performance to rally into a pace that held together up front. Her only poor effort on turf came next time over a rain-soaked Belmont course that many runners failed to handle.
Milkyyourway may simply not be good enough to beat Moonlit Sonnet at her best, but I believe she’s the second best turf router in the field and the odds are unlikely to reflect that. I’ll bet Milkyyourway to win just in case Moonlit Sonnet doesn’t show up off the layoff, but will use her in equal strength underneath the favorite in the exacta.
$10 Win 5
$10 Exacta 6-5
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $25,000 for NY-bred fillies and mares
I know that MARY’S IN UTOPIA (#6) looks a bit slower than some of the other contenders in this race, but she did start to show some improvement in her final two starts at Belmont last year, ending with a wide trip against a gold rail on October 19th. Mary’s in Utopia was away slowly and forced to launch a three- to four-wide run on the turn before being fanned extremely wide into the stretch. We have seen quite a few horses who sustained wide trips in that very race come back to run vastly improved races over the past few months, including:
- Cryptic Comet, who broke her maiden with a number 23 Beyer points higher than the figure she earned on October 19th
- Lemme Rock, who routinely has run figures 20 to 30 points higher since her seventh place finish that day
- House Red, who returned to run 25 and 34 points higher in her subsequent starts after a four- to five-wide trip on October 19th.
Clearly Mary’s in Utopia ran much better than her paltry 16 Beyer speed figure would suggest. Additionally, she returns to the races dropping in class off a string of relatively fast workouts for horses racing at this level. I know she hails from very low-profile connections, but I think she has a big chance to win at what should be double-digit odds.