Coal Front (#1) is an enigma. It’s possible that he may just be faster than this field as he returns from a 13-month layoff. However, this is not a typical move for the Todd Pletcher barn. Over the past five years, Pletcher is just 2 for 14 ($0.87 ROI) with horses coming off layoffs of 180 days or more in graded stakes on dirt. Furthermore, when you really dig into this runner’s form from last year, there are issues. He rode a golden rail to victory in the Amsterdam, and he benefited from a slow early pace when he took down the Gallant Bob. Those are his two fastest speed figures, so I’m not totally convinced that he’s quite as talented as he seems at first glance. I’ll use him defensively, but I prefer those with recency.
No Dozing (#3) makes plenty of sense as an alternative, but he doesn’t really excite. He ran pretty well in the Forego, as he got spun wide off the far turn and had to rally down the center of the track. Then last time, he rushed up to chase the pace two wide over a strip that may have been favoring rail runners. However, he broke slowly in those last two starts, and it would be detrimental to his chances if he did so again here.
I want to bet TRUE TIMBER (#2). I’ve never been this runner’s biggest supporter, but I cannot deny that Kiaran McLaughlin has him in the best form of his career. He ran a legitimately fast race to defeat Patternrecognition two back at Saratoga, and that one returned to win the Kelso over No Dozing. While True Timber was not as visually impressive last time, he was hindered by having to race two or three wide over a very rail-biased surface. Seven furlongs is his best distance, and I think he’s most likely to capitalize if Coal Front fails to show up.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,3
Trifecta: 2 with 1,3 with 1,3,4,6