Our usual Friday appeal for those of you who have not yet tried TimeformUS past performances to get into the weekend action with our three-day trial offer; unlimited access to all the races for $2.99. And that includes our best-in-class PPs for World Cup day at Meydan in Dubai. Simply the best PPs around for foreign races. We have harmonized global speed figures for races in the past performance lines from Japan to South Africa and most everywhere in between.
We have previews of the two big Derby preps – the Florida and Louisiana Derbies – as well as for the Gulfstream and Fair Grounds Oaks, and the Pan American at Gulfstream, up over at Bloodhorse.com now.
With much of the attention sure to be directed at the 3yo’s, we have a fascinating matchup in the handicap division at Fair Grounds on Saturday. In the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, Palace Malice (#8, 8-5), fresh off his gritty comeback win (in multiple senses of the word – his first start at four, and coming on again to win after being passed) in the Gulfstream Park Handicap earlier this month. That seemingly grueling effort came off a layoff of 126 days, and he returns here after just 21 days and a single half-mile breeze last Saturday. But Pletcher, who has won this race five out of the last seven years, says he’s bounced back well.
As you can see, he has a TFUS speed figure of 114 for the GP Handicap. You might recall that we wrote after that race that he’d earned a career-best 115. But he shows up here carrying two additional pounds, and we adjust the figures on race day based on that. If you don’t agree with that approach, please ask somebody else to explain. Because neither do I. Regardless, while some may feel he’s subject to a bounce here, I get more of a feeling that he’s ready to explode. If not in this race, then shortly down the road. What are his futures odds for the Classic, I wonder?
Normandy Invasion (7-2) caused quite a stir when he made his first start since last year’s Kentucky Derby on Fountain of Youth day last month. One might have thought he’d won more than one race prior to that from all the excitement about his return. Facing the big speed bias on that day, Chad Brown’s colt took matters into his own hands and swept to the lead on the turn – a similar move to the one he made in the Derby before fading – and earned a figure of 113. I noted with some snark and skepticism after his return race that he still hasn’t won around two turns, though that may be a stretch considering his fine rallies for second in the Remsen and in last year’s slow-paced Wood Memorial. He’ll have a chance to remedy that here getting six pounds from the favorite, but I don’t think that Normandy Invasion fans will see that morning line price.
Here’s the Pace Projector for the race:
The #1 horse is Bradester (5-1), who is on a nice little roll.
He’s a bit slower than the top two though, and I think that Palace Malice will be closer to the front than indicated above. As we’ve mentioned before, tracking seems to have become the natural style of Palace Malice. His recent early pace figures, from which Pace Projector is produced, are compromised by his poor starts in the Travers and Classic. Without further tribulations at the start of this race and those to come, I believe his running style designation will come to fit his preferred style before too long.
Let’s also mention Prayer for Relief (#4, 6-1) and Fordubai (#7, 8-1). Both of these horses, fairly well-placed on Pace Projector, earned speed figures of 114, equal to that of Palace Malice (today, anyway) two races back before regressing behind Bradester in the Mineshaft. Prayer for Relief goes first time out for Dale Romans; this Ahmed Zayat-owned horse was previously trained by Steve Asmussen. Hmm, something must have happened there….
One more horse of interest is Golden Soul (20-1). Here are his running lines since he rallied up the rail for second in the lightning fast-paced Derby.
Not very pretty. And unless somebody slips past security and slaps blinkers on Palace Malice, he doesn’t figure to get too much of a pace to close into here. Still, his trainer, Dallas Stewart, is supremely confident. “I couldn’t have him more ready, and I think he’ll hit the board at the very least,” he told Marty McGee of the Form. Then again, I seem to remember him sounding confident before the Travers too. And the Haskell. And the Belmont as well. So you can take that for what it’s worth. I know I’ll be tearing up tickets (proverbially, anyway) should he hit the board.
– We have Horses in Focus from Aqueduct and Gulfstream up now (check for updates later), as well as our top play from the Big A, with Santa Anita to follow.