Saturday, August 2
Race 1: Allowance N1X at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf for NY-breds
2 – Hooked Forever
Leroy Jr. appears to be the horse to beat off his blowout maiden victory last fall. I know that his turf races are not great, but this horse is bred quite strongly for this surface and seems like it just took him a few starts to figure the game out. However, some question still remain. After all, he has not been seen for the past eight months. I do think he’s the most likely winner, but I’m not willing to take a very short price on him.
I’m taking a small shot against him with HOOKED FOREVER (#2). His 1-for-21 record might scare some people off, but the fact of the matter is that his turf races actually make him quite competitive in this race. He really came to hand late last fall at Belmont, but has been having some trouble finding his stride through three starts this year. However, I think a few of his disappointing performances this summer were due to the rides. Jose Lezcano experimented with placing him much closer to the pace on two occcasions, which seemed to dull his late kick. Then last time, Taylor Rice took him back intending to use his preferred closing tactics, but got shuffled back and stopped along the rail coming to the top of the stretch, which hindered his momentum. He was moving well late through traffic, but had been left with too much to do in a race that mostly held together up front. With a fair pace and a clean trip this afternoon, I think he might be able to get up for the victory at a fair price.
$10 Win 2
$5 Exacta 8-2
Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at seven furlongs for fillies and mares
2 – Snowbell
3 – Skidmore
I’m just not thrilled with the horses coming out of the second race on June 26th. I know that Predicate and even fourth place finisher Dragonberry came back to run fairly well, but I feel like they both took steps forward and I’m not sure that you can expect the same from Brilliant Jewel or Ridingwiththedevil. Brilliant Jewel has had her chances and figures to be a relatively short price once again while Ridingwiththedevil benefited from racing close up to a very slow pace last time and now has to negotiate an extra half-furlong today.
I believe that the most likely winner of this race is SNOWBELL (#2). Her debut last summer was a solid second place finish to the once-promising Our Amazing Rose, and her return at Gulfstream, a second place finish to West Coast Chick, was another very good effort. After that, she had an excuse in her subsequent Gulfstream dirt sprint when hung up extremely wide around the turn, and her only race since then has come going long on the turf. I feel that her dirt sprint efforts are some of the best in the race and that she is the one you want to bet at anything close to her morning line odds of 5-1.
I will also use SKIDMORE (#3), who broke slowly in her debut before moving up into midpack through some quick early fractions down the backstretch. I thought that she stayed on relatively well through the stretch as they staggered home late in a race that has proven to be a bit better in retrospect than the Beyer speed figure might suggest, likely due to the lopsided nature of the fractional splits. The winner that day, Resistivity, earned a 65 Beyer speed figure for that winning effort, but had earned an 84 Beyer in her prior start and a 73 Beyer immediately afterwards. Skidmore has been working very well for this return to the races and figures to show more speed today.
$15 Win 2 (Payout: $138.00)
$10 Win 3
$5 Exacta Box 2,3
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for two year-olds
6 – Pride of Stride
Obviously, it’s impossible to know ahead of time who is going to take money and which first time starters, if any, are going to be live. Still, I want to call attention to the debut of PRIDE OF STRIDE (#6). Whether he’s good enough to win this race is difficult to say with so many unknown factors at play, but his first start is better than it looks on paper. You wouldn’t know it from his past performance line, but Pride of Stride actually broke with the leaders and was in the first flight of horses through the first eighth of a mile. As the field gravitated towards the rail entering the far turn, he was squeezed back and steadied, losing a few lengths in the process. Most two year-olds might have thrown in the towel at that point, but he regathered himself and came with a strong late run down the outside in the stretch. I’m not sure exactly what he was facing that day, but I thought acquitted himself nicely given the circumstances.
$10 Win 6 (Payout: $76.00)
Race 7: The De La Rose at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
6 – Ready Signal
Chad Brown’s duo of Pianist (#7) and Dayatthespa (#8) figure to take the majority of the play in here. Both love to win races and have been very successful over this turf course, but neither has run in just over eight months, which has to be a minor concern. I’m sure that Chad Brown was not planning to miss half of the year with both of these mares, and it’s not as if they’ve landed in the easiest spot today. I expect Baffle Me to be sent to the front today as she stretches back out in distance with Pianist and Dayatthespa in pursuit early. I’m hoping that one or both are a little keen of the layoff and press the pace to the point that it’s honest, because I think READY SIGNAL (#6) has a chance to come upset.
Though Ready Signal has been soundly beaten in two recent tries against graded stakes company, I feel that both of those efforts are slightly better than they appear. She had to wait for room briefly coming to the top of the stretch in the Distaff Mile at Churchill, allowing some others to get the jump on her. Then last time in the Just a Game, Edgar Prado tried to take advantage of her position on the rail moving forward, but may have made his move too soon as that race was dominated by horses that were ridden more patiently and made the last moves on the outside. Ready Signal has apparently been working in spectacular fashion for this De La Rose and I think she has a chance to run them down late at a decent price.
$15 Win 6
$5 Exacta 7,8 with 6
Race 8: The Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) at six furlongs
7 – Vyjack
I cannot resist VYJACK (#7) on the turnback here. His sprint races have been very good, but for whatever reason his connections have insisted on running him at distances that are too far for him. He’s continuing to work well for this race and should still get some pace ahead of him with Falling Sky and Happy My Way in here. Vyjack should be a fair enough price so I’ll bet him to win and will use him underneath the very logical Palace (#1) in the exacta.
$15 Win 7
$5 Exacta 1-7
Race 9: The Test (G1) at seven furlongs for three year-old fillies
7 – Sweet Reason
I know that a couple of the speeds scratched out of this race, but there should still be some pace up front with Fiftyshadesofgold, Sweet Whiskey, Southern Honey, and Miss Behavior all looking to be forwardly placed on the long run down the backstretch. I also don’t think that my selection SWEET REASON (#7) needs a hot pace ahead of her to run her best race. She’s just a fast horse who will place herself wherever she’s comfortable early. In the Acorn, she came from the back of the pack, but in last year’s Spinaway she sat in midpack and made an early move to the front before drawing away. I think that this is Sweet Reason’s best distance and she has reportedly been working like she’s sitting on another huge effort.
I’ll be betting Sweet Reason to win and think she’ll be a fair price at odds of 5-2 or greater. I will also use Sweet Reason over Fiftyshadesofgold (#2), who should also like turning back to a sprint, and Miss Behavior (#12), who moved into a very hot pace in the Victory Ride last time and was probably best that day. I’m mildly against Southern Honey, who ran fast when beating older horses in the Winning Colors, but that feels like a race where a few of the main players failed to show up and I wonder if she’s quite as good as she looks.
$25 Win 7 (Payout: $77.50)
$5 Exacta 7 with 2,12 (Payout: $181.25)
Race 10: The Whitney (G1) at 1 1/8 miles
1 – Will Take Charge
5 – Palace Malice
4 – Itsmyluckyday
Palace Malice (#5) is clearly the horse to beat as he shoots to complete a historic triple of prestigious New York races after having won the Belmont (G1) and Met Mile (G1). He figures to sit another great trip just off the speed of Moreno and Itsmyluckyday and is without a doubt the most likely winner of this race.
I am taking a small shot against him because, while he should be favored, I think he could be an underlay at odds of 7-5 or lower. This is a high-quality field, and almost certainly a sterner test than he faced in the Met Mile last time.
WILL TAKE CHARGE (#1) is my selection in this race for a couple of key reasons. People all too quickly forget just how good this horse was earlier in the year. I don’t think we’ve seen any horse in this country run better than he did in his runner-up finishes in the Donn (G1) and Santa Anita Handicap (G1). I was not that concerned about his subpar effort at Oaklawn, since he’s a horse that only does what he needs to in order to win a race, but his two subsequent efforts at Churchill Downs have undoubtedly been supbar.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that those Churchill races came without Luis Saez aboard. Gary Stevens does many things very well, but Will Take Charge needs a physical rider to get him rolling and Gary Stevens just was not able to ride him as vigorously as Saez usually does. He should get pace to run into, he’s run well over this track, and I think he can pull off the upset at a fair price.
Itsmyluckyday (#4) is a horse that scares me. His three year-old resume was very solid, but it’s difficult to determine whether or not he’s taken a step forward as a four year-old given how gingerly his connections have handled him. I know that he has talent and I believe that he’ll be a fair price so I’ll throw him into exactas and trifectas with my top two selections.
It should be an awesome race.
$20 Win 1
$10 Exacta Box 1,4,5
$5 Trifecta 1,5 with 1,4,5 with 1,4,5