This opening day feature is a very competitive affair. With confirmed frontrunners like Little Popsie and Bond Vigilante projected to head out towards the front, the early pace should be honest. With that in mind, we prefer a few runners that figure to be looking to rally from just off the pace.
Loki’s Vengeance (#5) will definitely be on our tickets as he makes his second start off the layoff for Mike Hushion. This defending champion in the Affirmed Success was always out of position last time, racing wide while chasing a fast pace (color-coded in red), when making his return against a very salty field. He’s run fast enough on many occasions to beat this field and gets the services of Aqueduct’s leading rider, Jose Ortiz.
Eye Luv Lulu (#8) comes off a field-best 119 speed figure effort. If he can replicate that performance over drier footing, the rest may be running for second, but we’re dubious. He’s a horse that routinely moves up on wet tracks, and he may have been aided by what appeared to be a speed-favoring surface last time.
Drama King (#1) may have been hindered by the speed-favoring track last time when he was soundly defeated by Eye Luv Lulu. That said, he was also the beneficiary of a very favorable race flow when he won his prior start. He should be running late, but we don’t want to take a short price on this one.
Our top pick is OSTROLENKA (#3).
All of this horse’s four wins have come in one-turn races at Belmont Park. He has been much more tractable since Todd Pletcher removed the blinkers three starts back, and he’s run competitive speed figures on a number of occasions. Ostrolenka successfully relaxed behind horses and rallied from off the pace last time going two turns. That new dimension should serve him well here as he returns to his favorite venue. A price at or above 5/1 would be fair.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,5,8