Race 2: Maiden Claiming $25,000 at 6 furlongs
Barbie Stones (#5) figures to be a strong favorite off her seemingly impressive late run last time out. However, that race featured a fast pace up front and she got an absolutely perfect trip coming up an unoccupied rail. Her main rival Show River (#8) also made that eye-catching late run to be fourth in a similar spot on August 22. However, I’m more interested in two fillies that finished behind her that day.
BROOKLYN GAL (#7) did all of the dirty work in that race, dueling for the lead through quick opening splits and putting away her pace rivals before succumbing to the closers in a race that fell apart late. That was just her second dirt start and her first with blinkers, so it’s reasonable to expect she could improve further given a more favorable pace scenario.
I’ll certainly use her, but my top pick by a slim margin is long shot GOLDIES LUCKYCHARM (#4). This filly did not do as much running in that August 22 race, but it was her first start off a long layoff. She was off a step slowly and raced wide around the turn before fading. However, she had shown some ability going back to last winter at Aqueduct when she overcame a slow pace and wide trip to be third on February 20. She gets a mildly positive rider switch to Eric Cancel and could make some noise at a price.
Exacta Key Box: 4,7 with 4,5,7,8,9
Race 7: Claiming $25,000 at 8 furlongs on turf
Sunset Knoll (#9) is the morning line favorite as she drops in class out of a tougher $35,000 claimer at Saratoga. She actually put in quite an effort that day, running off on the lead while setting an extremely fast pace for the distance. She was claimed by the sharp Danny Gargan and lands in a good spot from a class perspective. However, she will have to deal with the speedy Saratoga Smoke (#5) on the front end, which could soften her up for one of the closers.
I believe that late runner could be long shot HOLD ME DOWN (#1). She has faced tougher company in many of her turf starts and actually ran better than it appears when dropped in class last time. She was never able to cross over to the rail and ended up racing three- to four-wide around both turns. All things considered, she may have run one of the best races of all to be beaten just over two lengths. I love the rider switch to Luis Saez for low-profile but capable connections, and I believe she will offer value today.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 4,5,8,9
Race 8: Allowance at 6 furlongs on turf
While I’m generally reticent to take short prices on horses that we successfully cashed bets on at much larger prices in their prior races, I think there’s reason enough to take BARRIER TO ENTRY (#6) once again today. Those that remembered that this mare was once an effective turf sprinter before her career was derailed by poor management were rewarded when she finished second at 17/1 last time. That was her first start on turf in many months and she showed no signs of rust, running to a strong second-place finish behind Aussie Prayer, who came back to win her next start at this level. Now, not only is she getting another chance in a turf sprint, but she’s getting a positive trainer change to Linda Rice, who excels in these situations (94 trainer rating with horses making their first starts off a trainer switch).
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at 6 furlongs on turf
The two shortest prices on the morning line each have some questions to answer. Virga (#5) would be nearly unbeatable in this spot if he were to run back to his effort two back. However, he was disappointing last time at Saratoga and it’s fair to wonder about his current form as his connections immediately dangle him for a tag. Onlytheshadowknows (#10) has run plenty of races that are fast enough to be competitive here, but how short of a price do you want to take on a horse that has never tried this surface?
I want an alternative, and that’s BERMUDA TRIANGLE (#6). I love that this horse is finally getting a chance to sprint on turf, since that is what he is bred to do best as a half-brother to turf sprint stakes winner Take Cover. He’s not a horse that wants a route of ground and he didn’t get the right trip in his prior start at seven furlongs, when he was shuffled back early and out of position for the entire race. I love the speed he showed on dirt last time, which indicates that he’s in good form right now. Furthermore, new trainer Joe Sharp gets a 94 trainer rating first off the claim, and does especially well with turf sprinters in these situations.
As for the others, Tracking Stock (#1) probably should have won last time against a softer field but he has nevertheless run well enough. I’d also throw in Warm Springs (#11), who came with a furious late run in his debut despite racing greenly. He’s a bit of a wild card as he ships in from out of town, but could create some value in exotics.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,5,10,11