Empire of War (#8) is probably the one to beat. He certainly showed a preference for this surface when he made his turf debut three weeks ago, as he dominated a solid group of maidens on the front end. However, that race was run during a time when the rails were set to 0 feet on both turf courses, and horses that raced along the hedge – such as Empire of War – had a significant advantage. He can still win here, but I prefer others.
A Thread of Blue (#7) actually ran very well in his only turf start on Sept. 8. Current, the winner of that race, returned to win the Grade 3 Bourbon next time out at Keeneland. The entire field was pretty strung out behind him, and A Thread of Blue did well to make up some ground in the final furlong after having to alter course around a tiring rival at the top of the stretch. The turf course was on the softer side of “good” that day, so he clearly handles some give in the ground. I think he has more upside than Empire of War, but there’s another runner in this field that I find equally as intriguing at a better price.
LIFE MISSION (#2) has yet to actually win a race, but that typically doesn’t stop juveniles from winning minor stakes. This gelding showed some promise in Ireland when he finished third in a 25-horse field at the Curragh behind Ten Sovereigns, who has since gone on to Group 1 success and is considered one of the best 2-year-olds in Europe. He made his stateside debut in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, and he actually ran very well, closing from far back to be second in a race that featured a moderate early pace. Some may hold it against him that he lost as the favorite against maidens at Keeneland last time, but he actually ran deceptively well in that spot after getting shuffled back around the far turn in a race that was dominated up front. Ben Colebrook’s overall NYRA record is not as poor as it seems at first glance, and I think this horse can surprise at a square price.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 4,7,8
Trifecta: 2,7 with 2,7 with ALL