How you go about playing this race really hinges upon your opinion of Syndergaard (#3). There’s no denying that he has run the fastest race, earning a 110 speed figure for his triumph in the restricted Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga. He certainly earned that victory, running off to a 10-length win over another promising colt, Bobby on Fleek. However, that win came in the mud and was accomplished at six and a half furlongs. His style of setting fast paces at sprint distances is not going to help get a mile today, nor will his pedigree, which is primarily geared towards speed.
I suppose it’s possible that the others leave him alone up front and he wires the field, but I don’t think that’s a strong enough possibility for me to stomach a short price on him. Furthermore, there are plenty of other talented colts in this race.
Chad Brown holds a strong hand. Practical Joke (#1) is the only Grade 1 winner in the race, but that victory comes with an asterisk alongside it, since his main rival, Classic Empire, wheeled at the start and did not compete. While he did well to overcome a slow pace, it’s not as if he were running down two superstars—in fact the third-place finisher is still a maiden. His professionalism at such an early stage in his career is certainly admirable, and it seems like a mile could be within his scope, but I prefer his stablemate.
FAVORABLE OUTCOME (#5) was one of the most impressive two-year-old winners at the Saratoga meet.
It’s rare to see two-year-olds finish up through the stretch the way he did, drawing off to a six-length victory, while the runner-up put an additional 8+ lengths between himself and the rest of the field. That horse, Condo Prince, is pretty good in his own right and nearly won his next start, so it’s not as if Favorable Outcome was putting away bad horses. The fact that he ran his final eighth of a mile in 12 seconds flat suggests that he shouldn’t have much trouble with the added distance, and he’s my top pick.
That said, there are two others worth mentioning. One is obviously Big Gray Rocket (#6), who drew off to an impressive maiden score at Del Mar last time. It’s probably a good sign that Bob Baffert has shipped this colt east for such a prestigious race, so I have to include him on my tickets.
I’m seriously interested in THIRST FOR VICTORY (#2) as a potential upset candidate.
I know that his maiden win came up as a slow race in terms of the speed figure, but there are a few things to note about that. There was a torrential downpour during the races, which had forced post time delays, and the card was actually cancelled after this race was run. Therefore, it was nearly impossible to make an accurate speed figure for this particular race, since there was nothing to compare it to. I thought that Thirst for Victory drew off in commanding style in the late stages and showed real stamina to win in such conditions at seven furlongs. A number of horses have come out of that race to run significantly faster in their very next starts (an average of over 18 points faster), so it’s reasonable to assume that this was a much stronger race that the 82 speed figure suggests. There are reports that Pletcher liked this runner prior to his debut, and I like the confident placement off that maiden win. Don’t dismiss this horse if he’s going off at generous odds.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,3,5,6
Trifecta: 5 with 1,2,3,6 with 1,2,3,4,6