The Grade 1, $300,000 Gamely has a field of nine fillies and mares going a mile and 1/8 on the turf. The field is led by the Chad Brown shipper Wekeela, whose only US race resulted in a second-place finish to Tepin in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland.
According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the early leader will be Illuminant. She is followed by Fanticola and Keri Belle.
The fastest TimeformUS Late Pace rating in the field, a 125, belongs to Wekeela.
Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Nancy From Nairobi (5-2): As we approach deadline, it is unclear whether John Sadler will run this mare in the Gamely. If he does, she is an obvious contender. She has run speed figures of 120 or higher in three of her last five starts, and she is fresh off a victory in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine. A winner of three straight, she received a good ride in the Royal Heroine, saving ground early behind the fast pace, sliding out three-wide around the far turn, and then angling five-wide in the lane: leaving her a free run in a race with a congested field. We respect her chances if she goes, but we see her as a mild underlay at morning line odds.
Evo Campo (15-1): Took advantage of a friendly inside-out trip (a Bejarano specialty) to take a second-level allowance 25 days ago, beating Bert’s Melody—who returned to win a minor stake Saturday. Evo Campo earned a solid speed figure of 118 for that effort. But she is way up in class today: going from a race that received a Race Rating of 112 to a race that receives a preliminary Race Rating of 121. Still, it is encouraging that Bejarano sticks, and she figures for another soft trip from this post. We do not see her winning, but a finish in the lower part of the superfecta would not surprise us.
Dressed to a T (30-1): Too slow on our numbers, and is still eligible for a bottom-level allowance. We will pass.
Finished third in the Royal Heroine but ran a giant race. The pace was hot (the leader ran pace figures of 150 146 132). The race flow favored horses coming from off the pace. She raced four-wide into the first turn, three-wide around most of the first turn, and three-wide around the far turn, all while recording very fast pace figures herself. Combine her pace figures with her trip and the effect becomes punitive. Yet she remained game all the way to the line. Today she goes third off the layoff for ace trainer Phil D’Amato (who gets a 98 rating in this category). She came up only a neck shy in this race a year ago. If she can stay out of Illuminant’s way early, we believe she will run a big race at a hint of price.
Elektrum (6-1): Ran better than it looks in the Royal Heroine. The race had a 14-horse field, and, while she avoided highlight-film trouble, she did not get the cleanest run. Plus she was coming in off a layoff, and that is not John Sadler’s game. He is much better second off the layoff (45 rating off layoffs, 72 second off the layoff). An additional knock that we have on Elektrum (and on Nancy From Nairobi, for that matter) is that she has a running style that is similar to Wekeela’s, and we have a hard time seeing anyone beating Wekeela at her own game.
Wekeela (9-5): Won a Group 3 at Chantilly as a three-year-old. Later ran a strong fourth at Longchamp in a Group 1. Away from the races for six months, she found herself in the Chad Brown barn for her US debut, which came in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland. Going off at 9-1 against the magnificent Tepin, she broke a couple lengths behind the field, was slow into stride, raced two-wide around the first turn, eased out for a clear run, went about four-wide around the far turn, and tried (and failed, of course) to put a scare into Tepin. But all in all, it was a sparkling US debut by any measure. She earned a speed figure of 122 despite the less-than-ideal trip. She has all the Chad Brown stats in her corner. Brown has spoken highly of her. He has much bigger fish for her to fry in the fall. If she can marry her Jenny Wiley effort to a decent trip, she figures to be exceedingly hard to beat today. She is a legitimate favorite. But she doesn’t have to run her best in her second US start, off the ship-and-run in California, and she figures to be a short price. So we are going to try to beat her.
Keri Belle (15-1): Ran a lifetime-top of 123 two races back, when finishing third in a Grade 2. Her best victory was in the Grade 3 Megahertz in January, which she won with a desperate late rally. Most recently, in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine, she was placed just to the outside of Elektrum shortly after the start, and there she remained for the next seven furlongs—the two of them traveling around the track side by side, as if they were pacing each other. But Elektrum proved considerably stronger in the final furlong. What is more, we do not love the way the John Shirreffs barn has been going. His rating in stakes for horses 3up has now declined all the way to a 58. Still, Keri Belle should be able to take advantage of the long run to the first turn and gain good early position. We would not rule her out of lower exotics at a price.
Illuminant (5-1): That was a gritty effort in the Jenny Wiley. She left for the lead, was hounded early, relinquished the lead, found herself passed by Tepin, looked as if she was headed nowhere, and then gathered herself and tried to make another run. She earned a lifetime-top speed figure of 122 for the effort, building on the 119 she ran in her previous race. She has never won a graded stake, but if she stays healthy, we cannot imagine that remaining the case for long. Where does that leave her today? Pace Projector shows her on a clear early lead. We believe that her rider, Flavien Prat, is now as good as any rider in California. However, there are questions about whether this will be her best distance, and if Fanticola is sent from the gate, Illuminant might have to work a bit to make the lead. Strong contender.
Nashoba’s Gold (15-1): Won a Grade 2 as a three-year-old. Has improved considerably since then, but without winning, and she has been raced only sparingly. We did not care for her effort in the Grade 2 Santa Ana in March. She road the rail, lacked room in mid-stretch, and then failed to accelerate when clear. Her top speed figure, a 116, leaves her a little short vs. these. Figures to go wide around the far turn from this post. We do not like her today.
Win bet on Fanticola. Use Fanticola and Illuminant in multi-race exotics. Protect under Wekeela in exactas.