Race 6: The horse to beat is More Zen Tea (#2), who successfully turned back to this seven-furlong distance last time and now attempts a repeat of that triumph at the same class level. Despite the presence of 12 other horses in the race, this is not a substantially tougher field than the one he beat last time. We have no major knocks against a horse that just always seems to show up with an honest effort and rarely finishes off the board. He will once against have to catch Uncharted Course (#8), who could not quite get the seven furlongs two back and then never was able to make the lead over a wet track last time. He’s earned some of the fastest speed figures among this group, but we still think this distance may be his undoing. So Noted (#6) successfully returned to the races last month, beating Uncharted Course at six furlongs. Like More Zen Tea, he figures to get a fair pace to close into, and he has every right to take a step forward in his second start back from the layoff. However, we’re going in a different direction for our top pick, and are hoping that the turnback angle works for DAMAGE CONTROL (#13). While such a wide draw is not usually a positive, perhaps it will allow him to settle out in the clear instead of taking dirt in his face early. This horse possesses plenty of natural speed and prefers to be in the hunt early. He can get two turns when he’s in a position to control his races, but he’s typically been much more effective around one turn at Aqueduct and Belmont. His last effort is not as bad as it seems, and we’re confident that he’s talented enough to win this race.
Selections: 13 – 2 – 6 – 8
Race 7: It’s become incredibly rare to encounter such a deep field of two-year-olds for a stakes in early June, especially one that includes eight maiden winners. These fillies appear to be very evenly matched, so trips will be of utmost importance. The vast majority of these runners accomplished their maiden victories in wire-to-wire fashion, with only OLIVE BRANCH (#1) successfully rating behind horses before rallying past the leaders. That’s essentially why she is our top pick. We certainly don’t anticipate that she’ll be last in the early going, but her ability to comfortably rate behind horses does give her an edge, especially breaking from the rail. Furthermore, Olive Branch earned the highest TimeformUS Speed Figure in her debut and defeated one of the strongest two-year-old maiden fields of either sex at NYRA this spring. We could also use China Grove (#5) and Lightning Dove (#7), who both flashed high speed in their respective debuts at Keeneland, as well as the only maiden in the race, Golden Mischief (#8), who showed a lot of grit in her debut.
Selections: 1 – 5 – 7 – 8
Race 8: Another competitive field highlights the featured Intercontinental. Zindaya (#8) has to start off the discussion, as she will attempt to come away with a repeat victory in this race. Last year she was the recipient of a very favorable trip, racing right up on a slow pace in a situation where many closers were compromised. The scenario may look fairly similar this time, as there is not a ton of early speed in this race either. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead, and that early leader should be La Berma (#9), who flashed plenty of speed in her U.S. debut at Santa Anita. That race was dominated by closers and she understandably tired in the stretch after setting a fast pace (color-coded in red). La Berma, however, does own superior form overseas while racing against some of the best milers in Europe, and would be awfully formidable if she could replicate that form here. Our top selection is MISS ELLA (#4), who we believe will go off at the most generous price of the major contenders. She’s yet to win a race on turf, but she ran very well against Lady Shipman at Saratoga last summer, and got a terrible trip last time at Keeneland. Making an early move, she was forced to race four- to five-wide all the way around the far turn, which seriously compromised her chances. She’s run well at seven furlongs on dirt and possesses the tactical speed to not be compromised by a slow pace.
Selections: 4 – 9 – 8 – 10
Race 9: Billy’s Kitten (#3) is listed as the favorite on the morning line. As a lightly-raced three-year-old, he does deserve credit for successfully stretching out to a mile and a half in just his third career start, impressively drawing off to win by nearly five lengths. However, we’re not quite convinced that he was beating a field of any quality that day, which is confirmed by the low 97 race rating. Of the three-year-olds, we actually prefer VULCAN’S FORGE (#8), who we have always thought was crying out for added ground. This long-striding son of Giant’s Causeway is not your typical plodder, since he does have a potent late kick. It just takes him a while to get rolling. This mile and three-eighths distance should be perfect and a price of 4/1 or greater would be more than fair.
Selections: 8 – 6 – 3 – 4