Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:45 pm ET
The Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, Fillies and Mares, Three and Up, 1 and 3/8 Miles, Turf
Anyone who watched Hessonite’s seasonal debut three weeks ago had to come away extremely impressed. Making her return from a 196-day layoff, Hessonite was rank and bottled up behind a very slow pace at the top of the stretch. However, with just a furlong left to go, Junior Alvarado, looking for clear sailing, swung the five-year-old mare wide and she rocketed home with a sensational kick, running the final sixteenth of a mile in 5.79 seconds and sweeping right by the accomplished Dream Peace (Group 2 winner in France and four-time Grade 1-placed in North America) with alarming ease. The performance was not only visually exciting, it earned her a career-best speed figure of 120.
Make no mistake, Hessonite has an edge on speed figures, and, in plain English, she’s the best horse. However, bettors should oppose her today based on the significant step up in distance to 11 furlongs, a trip which is by no means certain to suit her.
The best value in the race could be Mystical Star, who is 5/1 on the morning line and may well go off at an even bigger price. She is the one most proven over the course and distance.
In the 2012 edition of this race, Mystical Star seemingly lost all chance with a disastrous start, as you can see in the following video:
However, miraculously, she still managed to finish third, running a respectable 107 speed figure. In her next start, she won the Grade 2 New York Handicap over this course at odds of 9/2 with a 112 speed figure.
Sharp improvement is expected today as she makes her third start off a layoff and stretches out to her ideal distance.
Julie’s Love, who beat two of today’s rivals at level weights last time and now receives a weight break of 4 lb from the top weight, might also offer some value. She has a favorable inside post position and should get a good trip. The weather forecast calls for rain, and even though Julie’s Love has run on nothing but firm ground here, she was a good second on yielding ground in Germany to a horse named Clinical, who captured three of her next four races, including a Group 3 win at Epsom.
Woodbine, Race 8, 4:25 pm ET
The Grade 2 Nassau, Fillies and Mares, Three and Up, One Mile, Turf
The Nassau has attracted a field of seven fillies and mares, and it would seem that the two most interesting runners are both trained by Mark Frostad.
Always enjoyable to watch, the champion Canadian filly Irish Mission is returning to Woodbine after racing in Florida during the winter. The Woodbine polytrack was the scene of her rousing second-place finish in the 2012 Queen’s Plate, but this time she’ll be racing on the turf, and she brings strong turf speed figures with her, including a formidable 108, which she earned at Gulfstream. The biggest question mark against Irish Mission is that she is dropping in distance from 12 furlongs to one mile. However, two front runners are signed up for this race, English Class and Dancing to Town, and the feeling is that Irish Mission will have ample opportunity to uncork what at its best is a very powerful run. Irish Mission is quite deservedly the 2-1 favorite on the morning line.
At her morning line odds of 20-1, Transgression looks like an intriguing exotics key. She didn’t produce her best effort in her most recent outing, but it was on polytrack, a surface that she has run poorly on in the past. Look beyond that race and one sees turf speed figures of 97 and 102, numbers that are not at all out of place in this field. With her stalking style, Transgression could well be in line for a nice trip today, which, if combined with one of her best efforts, could be enough to get her into the trifecta at big odds.