Masked (#3) is clearly the horse to beat as he drops out of some tough stakes events into this optional claimer. While he is tackling older horses for the first time, it’s not as if this came up as a particularly strong event. The seven furlong distance of his last race may have been a bit too far for Masked, who set a quick pace before succumbing to some talented rivals. There aren’t too many trainer switches away from Bob Baffert that could be considered lateral moves, but this is one of them, as Brad Cox excels with his turf runners. While I’m not against this horse, he’s probably going to be a very short price, and I think there is one intriguing alternative to consider.
GET A VALENTINE (#11) has significantly improved since switching into Joe Sharp’s barn. All of his efforts at Fair Grounds last winter were strong, and he may have run his best race ever last time out at Keeneland. He earned a career-best 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure that day after chasing a ridiculously fast early pace. Three horses raced far ahead of the others in the early going. Two of them plummeted to the back of the pack in the stretch, as Get a Valentine was the only one who fought on in a race that totally fell apart. Sharp has outstanding numbers in every category with his turf sprinters and has even had plenty of success with these runners at NYRA tracks. This race looks wide open behind the favorite, and Get a Valentine could get dismissed at a fair price.
The other runners that I would include as prominent backups are Blessed Halo (#6) and Simon Bar Sinister (#7). The former may have come undone after breaking through the gate prior to the start last time, as his prior effort makes him a major threat. Simon Bar Sinister has run plenty of competitive races during his career, but the layoff is a concern.
Exacta Key Box: 11 with 3,6,7
Trifecta: 3,11 with 3,11 with 6,7,9,12