Jahaafel (#1) is a deserving favorite, having run well in both of his starts, but has gotten absolutely perfect trips, so it’s not as if you can reasonably expect significant improvement. He also must handle this stretch-out to 10 furlongs. I’ll use him, but I think a couple of others may offer better value.
Shahroze (#2) is an intriguing new face in this group. It’s hard to gauge his quality off his Irish form, but Graham Motion has fine numbers with these types of runners. Over the past five years, he is 6 for 24 (25 percent, $2.37 ROI) with foreign shippers off layoffs of 120 to 240 days in turf routes. He’s a half-brother to a two-time Group 2 winner at 10 furlongs on turf, so he’s certainly bred to handle today’s conditions.
I’ll use both of the aforementioned pair, but my top pick is CULTURE CARRIER (#5).
I know it’s not a great sign that he was entered for a tag in his debut, but I like that his connections show confidence for his second start after finishing a deceptively strong fourth in that race. He appeared to be green in the early stages, but he really got on track late, finishing with great energy across the wire. I know it was only a $40,000 maiden claimer, but that was an awfully tough field for the level. Horses like Krampus and Brianbakescookies would not be out of their element in this spot. This runner is bred to handle more distance, and Chad Brown adds blinkers in hopes of getting him to focus.
The other runner likely to take a significant amount of play is Im the Captain Now (#8), who has run well in a series of races at this level. However, I generally feel that he’s had his chances and he could come up short again if any of his more lightly-raced rivals move forward. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that Captain Hardship (#7) didn’t run just as well last time after getting caught in traffic at the quarter pole, and he’s going to be a much higher price.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,2,7,8
Trifecta: 5 with 1,2,7,8 with 1,2,7,8