Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs
With this race taken off the turf and moved to the main track, it appears that None Like Nolan should go off as a short-priced favorite. He can certainly win since his debut was a solid effort in which he made up a ton of ground in the stretch after being slow into stride early. However, that race was run nearly a year ago and now he returns in a spot where he was originally entered for the turf off a series of slow workouts.
I’m inclined to take a shot against him and will do so with the other Pletcher runner, ROCK FALL (#5). He made his debut last month at Gulfstream and ran better than it appears on paper. He was off about two lengths slowly and was outrun through the final eighth of a mile as he dropped about eight lenghts off the pace set by the runaway leader. Elvis Trujillo asked him to pick it up exiting the backstretch and he actually made a little middle move to race up into fourth while going four-wide. He couldn’t sustain the run and faded through the stretch. He’s probably no superstar, but he could be a horse with a lot more speed than it appears if he breaks cleanly today. Rock Fall won’t have to run all that quickly to beat Ferlin Husky to the lead so I’ll take a shot with him in hopes that he can wire the field. Unlike None Like Nolan, who is actually bred for turf, Rock Fall is out of a dam who was a multiple stakes winner on dirt, so I’m actually encouraged by the fact that this race switched surfaces.
$15 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $90.00)
Race 4: Allowance N1X at one mile
I’m taking a shot with a horse that will be a big price, but my reasoning is pretty simple. CAP THE MOMENT (#4) is capable of running Beyer figures in the low 80s when he’s in form and his last race suggests that he might be racing into fitness. He’s a horse who has taken a few races to get going off layoffs in the past so I’m not too concerned about the dull effort he put forth off the layoff two back. The Beyer par for this race is in the mid-90s, but none of today’s rivals have approached such a figure so it’s conceivable that Cap the Moment’s best effort might just be good enough to get him a large chunk of the purse here. At what should be fairly large odds, I’ll take a shot with him on top.
I’m starting to suspect that King of Broadway may have just loved the inner track and I just can’t bring myself to bet him off his last race. Celebrator (#3) has shown promise in a couple of races at Gulfstream despite apparently dealing with some physical issues that have kept him away from the races on more than one occasion. He interests me more since his pedigree indicates that he should really appreciate the extra ground he gets to work with this afternoon. He’s a half-brother to Southdale, a stakes-winning router, and his second dam, Pinafore Park, was a turf marathoner who excelled at distances up to a mile and a half.
I’ll bet Cap the Moment to win since I think he’ll present the best value, but will also use him underneath Celebrator in the exacta.
$10 Win 4
$5 Exacta 3-4
Race 5: Allowance N1X at six furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares
While I don’t think this race will necessarily collapse late, I am most interested in some horses who will be making moves from mid-pack. There should be some pace developing up front with Daddy Loves Gold, Kiss Me Lola, and Runway Ready all vying for the lead down the backstretch. Ballerina Belle also flashed some serious speed in her maiden victory, but I’m not sure that I want to rely on her to duplicate that performance over a turf course with some give in it.
MAH JOHNG MADDNES (#11) looks like the one to beat off the form she displayed last fall. Six furlongs is a minor question mark since she hasn’t done it in quite a while, but this is a mare who has consistently run her best races around one turn at Belmont so I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the distance. She also seems to do best when she is posted outside and is in a position to circle the field and that is exactly the scenario that should play out today. I am a little worried that Jose Ortiz, who knows her best, has instead gone with Ballerina Belle. Taylor Rice likes to save ground in races, but that’s not the sort of trip that works for this horse so I hope she rides to instructions.
I also want to use CLAIMING VICTORY (#6), who ran very well two back at Gulfstream before never really being given a chance in the Safari Queen when she was forced to race four-wide for the entire run around the far turn. This filly improved a great deal when finally switched to turf and has continued to step forward for Joe Orseno. I’m not exactly sure how she stacks up with horses who have already tried this condition, but she’s going to be a big price and has shown me enough on grass to merit consideration in this spot. She’s also a fairly small filly who might be able to get over a turf course with some give in it.
I’ll bet each of those aforementioned horses to win and will box them in the exacta with Desert Bliss (#3), who doesn’t win very much, but was in very good form when last seen and figures to at least get a fair setup in front of her.
$15 Win 11 (WINNER; Payout: $151.50)
$10 Win 6
$2 Exacta Box 3,6,11
Race 8: The Ruffian (G2) at one mile for fillies and mares
I want to take a shot against both morning line choices, Grace Hall and Fiftyshadesofhay. Grace Hall was not in good form when last seen and now returns as a five year-old off more than a yearlong layoff. I suppose that it’s somewhat encouraging that she wasn’t just retired and bred this year, but I need to see her get back to her better races before I can take her at a short price. I also don’t want any part of Fiftyshadesofhay, whose last two races have been pretty poor.
I think the horse to beat is MY WANDY’S GIRL (#2), who can get a one-turn mile and is coming off perhaps the best race of her career when beating the excellent La Verdad in the Barbara Fritchie. Perhaps the good Grace Hall is a better horse than My Wandy’s Girl, but if the favorite isn’t up to the task, I’m pretty sure that this Mike Hushion trainee is the most likely winner. She also could be a threat to take them all the way on the front end after flashing such improved speed last time.
I also want to use TOASTING (#4) at a bit of a price since she didn’t really thrive at Gulfstream, but can be competitive here if she can get back to her last two efforts in New York. I’ll make a smaller win wager on her and will also use her in the exacta with My Wandy’s Girl.
$15 Win 2
$10 Win 4
$5 Exacta Box 2,4
Race 9: The Man O’ War (G1) at 1 3/8 miles on the turf
VERTIFORMER (#3) probably should have won the Pan American after getting shuffled back approaching the top of the stretch and having to squeeze through along the rail as the winner got a clear run down the outside. This horse has clearly improved for trainer Christophe Clement and is in the best form of his life now as a seven year-old. I know that this is a step up in class, but I feel like he could get a little lost in the wagering as the public focuses in on Imagining, Amira’s Prince, and Real Solution.
Of those three, I prefer Imagining (#2), who has learned to relax early in his races and is coming off two of the best performances of his life. Joel Rosario has some options in this race since he’s drawn inside of both Frac Daddy and Amira’s Prince and could seize control of this affair from the start. I don’t think this price will be large enough to warrant a win bet, but I will throw him in an exacta with my top selection.