My primary objective in this race is to try to beat the likely favorite, Harlan Punch (#1). While he’s run plenty of speed figures that make him fast enough to take down this field, I think he’s heading in the wrong direction after a tough series of races late in 2017. Furthermore, this horse is a one-turn specialist who has not run as well in his two-turn starts and probably wants no part of 10 furlongs. I think there will be value in beating him.
The logical alternative is Turco Bravo (#3), who finished ahead of the favorite in last month’s Jazil Stakes. While that performance would almost surely beat this field, it remains to be seen if he can repeat it. This venerable 9-year-old gelding has not been the most consistent sort over the past couple of seasons, but he is a three-time winner at this distance, whereas others are largely unproven racing this far. I think he’s the horse to beat, but I’m not enamored with the idea of betting him at a very short price. Moreover, there is a longshot who merits consideration.
At first glance, Testosterstone’s recent form looks pretty dull. He’s been well beaten in a series of races since the summer while running slower speed figures than most in this field. Yet I think there are indicators that he’s starting to turn things around. His most recent effort in the Alex M. Robb Stakes was a better performance than it seems. The early pace was quite slow (indicated by blue color-coding in TimeformUS PPs), which favored wire-to-wire winner Control Group.
TESTOSTERSTONE (#5) was the only horse who was reserved far off that early pace, essentially giving him no chance to challenge for a top placing. Despite such a disadvantage, he was really running on through the stretch. He was chasing down the third-place finisher at the wire and galloped out strongly just after the finish. In recent years, stamina has been this gelding’s greatest weapon, and I think he’s going to relish this stretch-out in distance. If Emmanuel Esquivel can keep him closer to the early pace this time, I expect him to be charging at the wire.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,3,4
Trifecta: 3,5 with 2,3,5 with ALL