Royal Posse (#3) is clearly the horse to beat, having finished in the exacta in 15 straight races. He comes into this race riding a four-race winning streak as he tries to avenge his loss in last year’s Jazil. This gelding has been expertly managed by his connections and has put together an admirable résumé. However, his task will not be easy today. Royal Posse is a deserving favorite, but he does not figure to offer any value, so I’m inclined to look elsewhere.
The alternatives include the two likely speeds, Bay of Plenty (#4) and Doyouknowsomething (#6). The former was inexplicably empty last time, never able to summon his typical early speed before retreating just halfway through the race. It’s probably a good sign that he’s running back at the same level, but I can’t completely trust him. Doyouknowsomething beat a strong allowance field last time but did so under ideal circumstances and will face more pace pressure today.
While all three of the aforementioned runners will be somewhere in my play, I instead want to key on the 4-year-old SUNNY RIDGE (#2).
This horse has run well enough against top-level competition on a number of occasions. Some may argue that he went off form in the second half of 2016, but I’m not sure that the evidence really supports such a judgment. He was competitive in a couple of Kentucky Derby preps before picking up a Grade 1 placing with a strong third-place finish in the Haskell – quite an effort off a five-month layoff. I don’t know what happened in the Pennsylvania Derby, but his last two efforts of 2016 are both much better than they appear at first glance. He did not get an ideal trip in the Discovery two back, and then last time was badly compromised by racing wide against a pronounced rail bias. I think this horse can make a splash in the handicap division later this year, and this is the first step in that direction. Given a price of 7-2 or higher, I think he’s the right value play.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 3,4,6
Trifecta: 2 with 3,4,6 with ALL