Rudy Rodriguez holds a very strong hand here, training three of the five runners in this race. The most respected runner in that trio is Royal Posse (#4), who has not finished out of the exacta since being claimed by these connections last summer. He’s consistently recorded some of the fastest speed figures in the field and owns a solid record at Belmont Park. The only drawback is his inexplicably dull last race, in which he barely could manage second as the 4/5 favorite. One wouldn’t imagine that the muddy track would be his excuse, since he’s done exceptionally well over wet tracks in the past. Perhaps he’s losing a step after such a great run of top performances, so I don’t want to take another short price on him.
I have similar concerns about his stablemate, Good Luck Gus (#5), who was supposed to win as the 1/5 favorite at Pimlico last time. I can excuse his effort two back, since he broke through the gate prior to that race, but I still have doubts that he can get back to the form he displayed over the inner track when beating Royal Posse and earning a career-best 115 speed figure. He also seems better suited to two turns.
Sioux (#2) is a danger on the front end, but he is likely to face some pressure from Wake Up in Malibu (#3), who has some distance limitations but could still prove to be a nuisance. Unlike his two barnmates, Sioux does not like a wet track, so I want to be somewhat forgiving of his last two races. When he’s right and gets an aggressive ride he’s shown real talent, but consistency has been rather elusive.
At what should be one of the longest prices in this race, the horse that interests me most is PAX IN TERRA (#1).
I know that race dynamics may work against him (our Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead), but you could say the same thing about Royal Posse or Good Luck Gus. Pax in Terra is actually a pretty talented New York-bred that just has never had a fair chance to really shine. When he returned to the races in the spring of 2015, he was twice hindered by slow-to-moderate paces in races that did not set up for him. He came back this year with a strong second-place finish behind the in-form Send It In, despite losing plenty of ground around the far turn. Even his last race is better than it looks after he had to wait for room on the turn and found clear sailing too late.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,4,5