Race 2: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at 8.5 furlongs on turf
In a race where I’m just not bowled over by the horses that have been running at this level, I want to find a relatively new face. RAPT (#1) might be that horse as he makes his first start for a tag on the turf. He has been badly overmatched in both of his starts over that surface at Belmont, running into Dream Doctor and Cloontia, two talented New York-breds that each went on to win their next races against tougher company. He was finally dropped in for a tag last time, but the race was rained off the grass. While I don’t think we can learn too much about his ability at this level from that performance, it was at least encouraging to see him show more early speed. If he can get a forward position from the rail today, I believe he can sneak through for the win.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,5,9,10
Race 3: Allowance at 5.5 furlongs on turf
I’m hoping that between the speedy types Firsthand Report and True Charm, enough pace materializes to set up the late run of WASHINGTON’S SONG (#1). After easily winning her debut, she actually ran much better than it appears in her second start. She was away towards the back of the pack that day, and then was steadied sharply while making a sudden move towards the leaders heading into the far turn. She was spun out wide from there, and actually did well to recover in time to nab second. She didn’t want any part of two turns in the Ginger Brew and now returns for new trainer Chad Brown, who gets a 98 trainer rating off layoffs of this type as well as with turf sprinters.
Firsthand Report (#3) and Lady of Victory (#4) both ran well in similar spots last time and must be included. I’ll also throw in Enchanteresse (#5), who may appreciate cutting back in distance for Tom Proctor, who is more than capable off layoffs of this type.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 3,4,5
Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at 7 furlongs
Other horses ran faster first time out, but the second-time starter that I believe is most likely to take a step forward today is HAMPTONS HOLIDAY (#5). This horse broke with the pack, but steadily dropped back through the opening furlong as others were ridden more aggressively. Irad Ortiz did a good job of schooling him in behind horses as he took kickback in his face around the turn. He didn’t actually find a clear path until they straightened away from the stretch drive, and he actually put in a strong rally to just miss getting up for second. Rudy Rodriguez gets a solid 85 trainer rating with second-time starters, and I believe we’ll see a better effort out of this one today.
Others with dirt experience that are worth including are Pat On the Back (#10), who comes out of a decent race for Ken McPeek, who does slightly better with second-time starters, and Tellmeafookystory (#11), who was no match for the talented Syndergaard last time. Of the firsters, Cespedes (#9) attracted the services of Javier Castellano, who does great work with Rudy Rodriguez (96 rating), and Callant (#8), who goes out for former Kiaran McLaughlin assistant Art Magnuson.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,8,9,10,11
Race 9: The Better Talk Now at 8 furlongs on turf
While there are a few proven turf runners in this race that have real ability, like Our Way (#7) and Hammers Vision (#6), I’m interested in a horse that is getting on this surface for the first time. CONQUEST BIG E (#5) has always shown potential but has had trouble putting it all together on dirt. His last race in the Gotham was actually a much better effort than it appears on the surface when you consider that he was wide against a gold rail and speed-favoring track that day. He’s run his best races over sloppy, sealed tracks, which are often handled by horses with turf ability. Furthermore, he’s by solid turf sire Tapit out of a dam that has produced a four-time turf winner. Mark Casse has decent numbers off layoffs of this type (82 trainer rating).
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 6,7
Race 10: Maiden Claiming $50,000 at 6 furlongs
I typically favor horses dropping out of maiden special weight races in these spots, and I think there’s an intriguing runner that fits that profile here. ALBERT CHARLES (#3) finished last in his debut, but that came against a much tougher crew of open maidens. One Liner was hyped before that win, and Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash came back to finish first and second in a maiden race later at the meet. Watching back all of the races from July 23, it appears that the rail may have not been the place to be on the main track, and Albert Charles darted to the rail soon after the start and was glued to it for the entire race. I believe that may have hindered his performance. Furthermore, Ian Wilkes, who gets a paltry 17 trainer rating with horses making their debuts, does much better with second-time starters (64 rating) and horses getting Lasix for the first time (74 rating).