Saturday, March 7
Race 1: Claiming $12,500 at 1 1/16 miles
4 – Summit County
SUMMIT COUNTY (#4) feels like the main speed and figures to improve off the significant barn upgrade. In my estimation, that should be enough to put him in the winner’s circle at what should be a fair price. Of the others, I’m most afraid of Springcourt (#7), whose best races can beat this field. He’ll be the backup. I don’t want Poliziano, who got a perfect ride from Junior Alvarado last time and usually finds a way to lose.
$15 Win 4 (Payout: $99.00)
$5 Exacta Box 4,7
Race 6: Optional Claiming $40,000/C at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
7 – Here’s Zealicious
Perhaps HERE’S ZEALICIOUS (#7) is not the most likely winner of this race, but I believe she’ll offer the best value of the main contenders. I realize that she doesn’t have the upside of some others in here, but the fact of the matter is that her recent form is good and she certainly knows how to win races. Two back, she was very wide on a day when it seemed like staying on the rail was an advantage. Then last time, though she never threatened the top two, I thought she fought back gamely between horses through the stretch after appearing to be done past the eighth pole. In today’s race, there is other speed signed on to keep main rival Verismilitude company up front, and Here’s Zealicious should be sitting in a perfect stalking position a few lenghts behind the contested pace. She’s historically done some of her best running over the inner track and she appears to be rounding back into form after tailing off last summer.
Anything over 6/1 feels like a bargain on Here’s Zealicious and I’m pretty sure we’ll get at least that much.
$15 Win 7
$4 Exacta Key Box 7 with 2,4,5,6
Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred three year-olds
7 – Memory Keeper
I’m not totally convinced that MEMORY KEEPER (#7) is good enough to win this race, especially if either of the also-eligible runners draw in, but I want to give him another shot after he encountered some minor trouble in his debut. He ran up into a position at the back of the main body of the field leaving the backstretch, but Irad was forced to steady him coming around the far turn as tiring runners backed up in front of him. He had been running right alongside eventual runner-up Shore to Party, but lost all his momentum by the top of the stretch. Memory Keeper didn’t finish up strongly, but he was green and Irad was not really persevering with him by the time they got to the wire. All things considered, I think he deserves a second chance.
$15 Win 7
$2 Exacta Key Box 7 with 2,5,6
Race 9: The Gotham (G3) at 1 1/16 miles for three year-olds
2 – Combat Diver
I spent a long time deliberating over my selection in this Gotham. Given the likelihood of a contested pace, I ultimately decided that I wanted to focus on the closers, and the one that I believe will offer the best value is COMBAT DIVER (#2). I know he looks a bit slow on paper, but I think this horse is moving in the right direction and is finally landing in a race that should feature a favorable pace scenario.
Combat Diver proved his quality in just his second start when beating the talented Gold Shield. Then in the Remsen, he never was given a chance after being taken too far back early and getting forced into a wide run around the far turn. He returned going a one-turn mile in the Miracle Wood last time, and while I concede that he was with the grain of the track that day racing far off the rail, he still had to contend with a very slow pace up front. He appeared to have the race won and may have hung a little late, but I still thought it was a step in the right direction. Sheldon Russell knows to just take back and make one run and if the pace materializes as it appears on paper, Combat Diver can have a major say in the outcome of this race.
Of the others, I’m most afraid of the trio of runners from the Gotham. El Kabeir may be the most naturally talented of the bunch, but I think a mile and a sixteenth is stretching him to his limit, especially in a race that should feature an honest pace. I have similar distance concerns about Classy Class. Tencendur would hardly be a surprising winner, and I’ll be using him in multi-race wagers.
I’m less enamored with the recent maiden-breakers. Lieutenant Colonel was very impressive in his debut, but this hurried move into graded stakes company is highly unusual for Chad Brown, who usually takes his time with his lightly-raced dirt runners. I wonder if he’ll be up to the task. Pletcher’s trio is certain to take money, and while Dontbetwithbruno is actually a contender, the other parts of the entry will drag down his price too much.
$20 Win 2
$5 Exacta Key Box 2 with 3,4,8
$2 Exacta Key Box 2 with 1,5