With the scratch of Stoney Bennett, Shiraz (#4) may go off as the favorite here. He earned an eye-catching speed figure in that return to dirt and the runner-up returned to win impressively yesterday. However, Shiraz benefitted from a strong rail bias and I’ll be surprised if he is able to win right back with a similar performance.
The aforementioned scratch has prompted me to upgrade Sudden Surprise (#7), who I didn’t originally deem to be a major contender. He may now play out as the controlling speed without Stoney Bennett in the race. He’s faster than Shiraz in the opening stages and he has been known to get brave on the front end when afforded an uncontested lead. I don’t love him, but I don’t want to leave him out of the mix.
I think this is a good spot to consider some horses that appear to have gone off form. One of those is Syndergaard (#1), who obviously didn’t run his best race when he returned for John Terranova’s barn in July. He lost that race at the start when he broke behind the field, something that he has done a few times recently. Another slow break from the rail could be very problematic. On the other hand, he does have talent and can certainly win if he works out a trip. At a big price, I would also throw Arthur’s Hope (#8) into my wagers, since he has earned a number of competitive speed figures and has run in the wrong spots more often than not.
I’m using both of these horses prominently, but my top pick is HEAVY MEDDLE (#2). I admit that I’ve never been this colt’s biggest fan, but I just think he’s finally landing in the right spot. He actually ran very well two back at Saratoga when he made a premature move into a fast pace that collapsed. He finished behind Stoney Bennett last time, but he got a very wide trip and was always out of position. I think he’s at his best over a fast track when he can work out a stalking trip, and that figures to be the case this time.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,7,8
Trifecta: 2 with 1,7,8 with 1,4,5,7,8