Santa Anita, Race 8, 7:07pm ET
The San Carlos, Grade 2, Four-Years-Old and Up, Seven Furlongs, Dirt
The San Carlos has attracted a robust field of eight. The favorite on the morning line, The Lumber Guy, finished second in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Sprint before running a disappointing race at odds-on in the Malibu. He is certain to attract a lot of attention again today, and, the Malibu notwithstanding, he has the best recent dirt speed figures in the field, but it might be best to look elsewhere in a search for more value.
The five-year-old gelding Comma to the Top is a committed frontrunner who found himself taking all the worst of it in his most recent race, the Grade 2 Palos Verdes. He got into a speed duel and ran very fast fractions while running on a rail that was not particularly lively that day. Given those trying circumstances, his fourth-place finish was no disgrace. The speed figures are adjusted for pace and his figure, a 116, is a respectable number. Comma to the Top may well be able to clear off from this field early, giving him an advantage at a distance that has been surprisingly friendly to early speed over the last month. At morning line odds Comma to the Top is the selection.
Midnight Transfer was a promising three-year-old who ended up sidelined. His four-year-old debut, in an optional claimer, was extremely impressive visually. He made a rousing, looping turn-run and earned a speed figure of 117, improving on his previous best. He has good rest into today’s race, and if he can take another step forward, as he has license to do, then he may very well stand the class rise today.
At big odds Justin Phillip, a previous winner at this level and G1-placed performer, might be worth consideration to go on the bottom of exotics.
Fair Grounds, Race 10, 5:57pm ET
The Risen Star, Grade 2, Three-Year-Olds, One and 1/16 Miles, Dirt
Weather forecasts indicate that the Risen Star Stakes will most likely be run on a sloppy track. The race was over-subscribed with 15 total entries, yet it seems to boil down to just three contenders.
Code West made his three-year-old debut off of a 97-day break last time out, when he finished a well-held second to Super Ninety Nine but ran a field-best 123 speed figure. That strikingly high figure was validated when Super Ninety Nine returned to win the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes by more than 11 lengths earlier in the week. It’s encouraging that Bob Baffert is ignoring the entry level allowance condition and putting this horse on the Kentucky Derby trail when more conservative options still exist. Baffert loves to train his horses hard and such aggressive and ambitious placement is generally an indication that the horse is training well. Code West is a rapidly improving horse and a major contender in the Risen Star.
Expected favorite Normandy Invasion is one of the leading Kentucky Derby contenders. He comes here from the Remsen Stakes, the fastest two-year-old race last year. By comparison, the Grade 1 Gazelle Stakes, won emphatically by Dance Card, was run in slower time, on the same day on the same course and distance. Normandy Invasion made up a considerable amount of ground in the Remsen and he has been training well for this race. The three-month layoff is the only concern.
The other exciting contender in the race is the rapidly-improving Mylute. He was sensational in victory last time out after overcoming a wide trip and slow pace. He put his opposition away with disdainful ease in the stretch and managed to win by more than 10 lengths, which was no small feat in such a slow-paced race. He has course experience and his locally-based trainer Tom Amoss is winning at a dazzling 38% this year.
For exotic wagering purposes, the best strategy looks to be simply boxing these three horses.