Unlike its filly counterpart, the Herecomesthebride, the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes drew no clear standouts in a full-size field of 14 runners. With some of the elite three-year-olds in this division absent from the race, this contest is seemingly wide open. In addition to those coming out of the stakes races at this meet, we are presented with a slew of recent maiden winners that will attempt to make the jump up in class.
There are an inordinately large number of horses that prefer to be placed on or near the lead in the early going, and the Pace Projector is indeed predicting a fast pace.
Let’s break down the main contenders, starting with those that have prior stakes experience:
#6, Urban Bourbon (4/1): This appears to be the horse to beat as he exits what was arguably the strongest three-year-old turf stakes run at this meet. After breaking his maiden over a couple of today’s rivals in December, he stepped up into the Dania Beach Stakes last time and ran a creditable race to be third after racing three- to four-wide around the turns. He’s shown versatility in his two-turn turf tries, so we believe he’ll be able to adapt to whatever pace scenario develops. The only knock against him is that he’s never raced beyond seven and a half furlongs and will have to get the extra panel today.
#7, Don’t Be So Salty (12/1): One of many speed types in the race, he comes off a game performance in the other prep for this race, the Kitten Joy Stakes run four weeks ago. He ran away from the field while dueling with a fellow competitor in the early going that day and actually did quite well to still be battling it out in the late stages. However, as he tired in deep stretch, he began wandering all over the track and impeded a couple of rivals, causing him to be disqualified. Now he’s likely to face even more early pressure than he did last time, and we still have some doubts about his ability to get this distance.
#13, J R’s Holiday (12/1): This was the surprise winner of the aforementioned Kitten’s Joy Stakes. As Don’t Be So Salty pushed the rest of the field out to the center of the course in midstretch, J R’s Holiday darted down to the rail and gained all the momentum he needed before the others had time to react. He’s obviously coming into this race in great form, having captured three of his last four starts, and his closing style should suit the dynamics of this race. Our one concern is that all three of his turf victories have come over courses labeled “good,” and he’s likely going to have to maintain that level of performance over firm ground this time.
#14, Azar (6/1): This was one of the runners impeded by Don’t Be So Salty in the late stages of the Kitten’s Joy. While he was briefly knocked off stride, he had gotten a great ground-saving trip up until that point and failed to show the necessary acceleration in the stretch. He may prefer getting back onto a firm course, which is the type of footing over which he ran his two best races last year, in the With Anticipation and Pilgrim Stakes. However, he was very unlucky at the draw, getting stuck out in post position 14. We believe he may have his work cut out for him from this slot, and there’s little room for error in such a competitive field.
#11, Converge (8/1): This New York-bred son of Sidney’s Candy has no early speed whatsoever. A deep closer, his chicklet doesn’t even register on the Pace Projector, since he’s forecasted to be so far back in the early going. In such a large field, that might not be a bad thing, especially if he can stay out of trouble. We know he possesses the turn of foot to launch himself into contention as he did in both his maiden win over a group of overmatched state-breds and when finishing second to Mountain Music Man in the Awad Stakes. However, we do have some questions about the quality of the field he ran against last time, since Mountain Music Man has returned to disappoint in a couple of south Florida starts since then. That being said, Chad Brown is always dangerous in these types of spots, and it’s possible that we haven’t yet seen the best of this horse.
A few runners coming out of maiden races also merit consideration:
#10, Giant Run (6/1): Having shown himself to be a need-the-lead type, he is projected to be the speed of the speeds early. He has used aggressive front-running tactics to great effect in both of his turf starts to date. He bottomed out a strong group of maidens in October, holding on to finish second in a race that otherwise collapsed. Then last time, he set a legitimate pace and had plenty left to gamely hang on for the win over the talented next-out winner Inspector Lynley. The 107 speed figure he earned for that effort is the highest in the race. While the projected race shape is predicted to be against him, his talent is undeniable, so we’re hesitant to toss him from consideration.
#9, Gimlet (6/1): One of three Todd Pletcher trainees in this race, he is coming out of the exact same maiden races as his stablemate Kismet’s Heels. Off slowly first time out, he raced greenly before making an extremely wide swooping move into contention coming off the far turn. It briefly appeared as if he might be on his way to victory, but he flattened out in the late stages. Last time, it was a different story, as he broke well and was much more professional. After working out a good stalking trip, he struck the front at midstretch and had enough left in the tank to hold off a few late charges. Though we’re not encouraged that Javier Castellano winds up elsewhere, we do believe that this regally bred son of Lemon Drop Kid has the potential to keep moving forward.
#5, Kismet’s Heels (9/2):
Still a maiden after two starts, he has traded decisions with his stablemate, Gimlet. After breaking behind the field in his debut, he and Gimlet moved in tandem around the far turn, bumping while getting spun wide into the stretch. Whereas Gimlet flattened out in the very late stages, Kismet’s Heels never stopped running and was striding out well to the wire in an attempt to catch the winner, Urban Bourbon, who went on to validate the strength of that maiden heat next time out. Whereas Gimlet was much more professional second time out, Kismet’s Heels once again displayed many of the same antics, breaking slowly and having to be hard-ridden throughout by John Velazquez to stay in the race. He appeared to be going nowhere on the turn, but, just as he did in his debut, he got on track in very deep stretch and was actually making up good ground on his stablemate as they crossed the wire. Today, Todd Pletcher has made the decision to add blinkers, and we believe that the new equipment may be just what the doctor ordered. This horse needs some additional focus in his races, but the talent is clearly there. His tendency to break slowly may not be such a hindrance today, with the pace projected to be fast.
We have faith in the maiden KISMET’S HEELS (#5) to take a step forward with the addition of blinkers. We think this one still has plenty of room for improvement and are just hoping to get better than his curiously low morning line price of 9/2. We can use him with Urban Bourbon (#6), his stablemate Gimlet (#9), the speedy Giant Run (#10), and fellow late-runner Converge (#11).
EXACTA Key Box: 5 with 6,9,10,11