It’s been a few years since we’ve had a dominant older Grade 1 dirt sprinter in this country, which makes A. P. Indian a welcome presence. He is undoubtedly the leader of this division after sweeping both Grade 1 sprints for older horses at Saratoga, running his winning streak to five. If he shows up, he’s a likely winner of this race—but will he show up? His connections have cast doubt over whether they would run him over a sloppy track, and there is plenty of rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday. If he remains on the sidelines, this race really opens up.
Let’s go through the field:
#1, Weekend Hideaway (20/1): This horse has been plagued by inconsistency but seems to have gotten over those issues this year, as he’s put together four straight solid performances, including three wins against New York-breds. However, he was no match for X Y Jet at Gulfstream, or even Stallwalkin’ Dude in this race last year, so it would appear that he’s a cut below the best runners at this level. That said, he would be one worth moving up if the track comes up wet.
#2, Holy Boss (4/1): After reeling off four straight victories towards the first half of his three-year-old campaign, he’s been winless since last year’s Amsterdam at Saratoga. He’s hardly been disgraced in any of those races, and some might even argue that he’s improved as a four-year-old. However, the fact remains that he’s been in position to win in four straight races and just has not been able to seal the deal. Today his task is complicated by an inside draw in a race that features other speed and stalking types drawn to his outside. He resented getting stuck down inside in the True North two back, and he could be in for a similar trip here.
#3, Joking (8/1): After struggling to get through his allowance conditions for what seemed like an eternity, Joking has come on suddenly this year at the age of seven. Charlton Baker is having a fantastic year on the NYRA circuit and this runner’s success in the Grade 2 True North has to be considered his crowning achievement. That said, he missed some races over the summer and now must be set to top even his prior performance while returning from a layoff dating back to mid-June. The hurdles are significant, but he does love Belmont Park and ran a competitive speed figure when last seen. I’ll be using him underneath in exactas and trifectas.
#4, Green Gratto (30/1):
It’s hard to imagine that this admirable old warrior will be able to stick with X Y Jet early and still be around at the finish. He’s a pace presence (our Pace Projector has him pressing the early pace), but probably not much else.
#5, A. P. Indian (1/1):
There is little to criticize when analyzing this gelding’s recent form. He’s equally effective at distances ranging from six to seven furlongs; he can race on the lead or come from off the pace; and he’s run speed figures that are simply a few points higher than those of almost all of his competitors. In winning 10 of his 16 lifetime starts, he’s finished out of the money only twice. However, one of those subpar performances did come over a sloppy track in last year’s Phoenix at Keeneland. It’s possible that he needs a fast track to produce his very best effort, and he’s unlikely to get that on Saturday. However, if that is the case, his connections have indicated that he’d be unlikely to run. If the track is anything close to fast and he shows up, I’m not trying to beat him.
#6, X Y Jet (7/2): In many ways, this horse is the real wild card in the race. He is the only runner in this field to have consistently run speed figures that suggest he could give A. P. Indian a scare. However, he has not been seen since late March, and his connections picked an awfully ambitious spot in which to bring him back. Speed is the name of the game for this son of Kantharos, and he will try to take them as far as he can up front. However, he’s never encountered a horse that can finish up like A. P. Indian, and I wonder if an early tussle with Green Gratto could leave him somewhat vulnerable late. It’s also fair to wonder whether he can produce his best form in New York. Jorge Navarro’s runners have been effective at Monmouth and Gulfstream, but he gets only a 54 trainer rating on the NYRA circuit. Perhaps his Golden Shaheen effort is supposed to ease those concerns, but I still need to see it here to believe it.
#7, Stallwalkin’ Dude (8/1):
He nearly won this race last year after boldly forging to the lead past midstretch under Irad Ortiz. However, the game Rock Fall had just enough left in reserve to battle back for the victory. Things have not gone smoothly since then, as he’s had his ups and downs and seemed to completely tail off during the spring and early summer of this year. However, he got back on track at Saratoga and earned another Grade 1 placing in the Forego. He was never going to beat A. P. Indian that day, but he still ran a creditable race. Now he shortens up to arguably his best distance while in some of the best form of his career. I don’t anticipate that he’ll beat A. P. Indian, but he’d become a major player in the event that the favorite scratches.
#8, Dannie’s Deceiver (20/1):
If the surface does indeed come up sloppy, it figures to help this guy more than anyone else. In three runs over sealed tracks, he’s earned two wins and a second, which is better than he’s done in all of his fast track races. It would have seemed unlikely that he could compete against a field of this quality just a few months ago, but he’s made huge strides over his past few starts. He defeated a strong allowance field on Belmont Stakes day in June, and then made an eye-catching run from far back to nearly win in July. He was still dismissed at 40/1 in the Forego—his stakes debut—but he managed to pass more than half the field while rallying from last to be fourth. The fact that he was able to accomplish such a feat over a fast track speaks to the form that he’s in right now. I take it as a positive sign that Jose Ortiz climbs aboard, and the stiff 6-furlong workout that he put in a few days ago would appear to indicate that he’s feeling good coming into this race. If there’s one horse in this race that could surprise a lot of people and step up to hit the board—or even win, if A. P. Indian is absent—I believe it’s him.
If A. P. Indian (#5) runs, he’s my top pick, but I think there are a few runners that could be used underneath him in exactas and trifectas, including Stallwalkin’ Dude (#7) and Dannie’s Deceiver (#8). If the favorite is scratched, then Dannie’s Deceiver would inherit the role of my top selection.
With A. P. Indian:
Exacta: 5 with 7,8
Trifecta: 5 with 7,8 with 1,2,3,6,7,8
Trifecta: 5 with 1,2,3,6 with 7,8
Without A. P. Indian:
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 1,2,3,6,7
Trifecta: 7,8 with 2,3,7,8 with 1,2,3,6,7,8