This rare, high-priced unconditioned claiming race drew a diverse group, making it especially challenging to compare the class of the participants. One horse that will take some money that I can easily dismiss is Hills Pond (#8). This horse was not considered a threat when overmatched against a much tougher N1X field last time, so the rest of the runners let him dawdle along on the front end. The race turned into a sprint to the wire, and he was badly outclassed from the quarter pole to the finish. However, as we often see in longer turf races, he still earned a pretty high speed figure because the rest of the field ran at Hills Pond’s pace for 75% of the race. That number is not indicative of his ability, and his prior form indicates that he’s overmatched here.
I believe that the horse to beat is Cullum Road (#3). He ran well to defeat a solid group at Keeneland last time and would be formidable if he were to repeat that performance here. Furthermore, his tactical speed should make him dangerous in a race that does not feature much early pace. Others to consider include On Patrol (#4), who did well to rally through traffic when facing older horses last time. Ride to the Sunset (#6) was visually impressive when rocketing past a weaker field last month. Even Factor This (#1) has to be considered a contender given his prior turf form, which is better than it appears.
I’ll use them all in some capacity, but the horse who interests me most at a square price is GIO DUDE (#5). This runner took a step forward when he got on turf this winter and has significantly improved even since his February debut on this surface. His April 7 performance is much better than it looks. He was facing tougher older horses while chasing an extremely fast pace three-wide. Charnley River, who set that pace, and Carbon Data, who was the other one chasing, both finished off the board yet would be favored in this field based on their surrounding efforts.
Gio Dude’s next start against straight 3-year-olds is worth watching, as his rider inexplicably dragged him out of the race immediately after the start. He had never been ridden as a deep closer before, yet his rider was intent on placing him last early. The pace was not fast, so Gio Dude actually ran exceptionally well to get as close as he did by the finish. The first two finishers were nice horses, and there’s an argument to be made that Gio Dude is now dropping into the easiest field of winners that he has yet faced. He also gets a massively positive rider switch to Irad Ortiz Jr.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,3,4,6
Trifecta: 3,5 with 3,5 with 1,4,6,8