Whether you liked him or not, this race becomes even more confusing with the scratch of likely favorite Eighty Three.
Between the Lines (#3) probably inherits the favorite’s role. While he is now stepping up into the toughest spot of his career, this consistent six-year-old always seems to show up with a solid effort. However, we’re concerned that his last race may not be quite as good as it looks, since he was racing down towards the inside on December 19, a day that we observed a strong rail bias.
On the other hand, Nubin Ridge (#1) merits consideration off an against-the-bias trip last time. December 26 was a day when horses with outside paths seemed to have a clear advantage and Nubin Ridge was basically glued to the rail after getting steadied on the backstretch. Previously, Nubin Ridge had dropped too far back when attempting to rally on a sloppy track on December 2, but all of his prior efforts for Chris Englehart make him a serious contender here.
While we could certainly bet him at the right price, our top pick is CLASSIC SALSA (#7).
This runner has posted some of the fastest speed figures going back to last fall, topped by a 119 at Belmont when finishing second to the classy Loki’s Vengeance. A repeat of that race would absolutely crush this field. His last two efforts look disappointing, but we believe he’s better than that. Last time he didn’t make the lead from an inside post and was forced to take dirt in his face, which is not the kind of trip he needs. He’s drawn well outside of the other speeds this time and we feel that he may be able to lead this group from start to finish.
EXACTA Key Box: #7 with 1,3