Timber Ghost (#5) is clearly the horse to beat as he attempts to win his third straight race since returning from a layoff this summer. He has earned impressive speed figures in both of those victories and may not need to improve at all to defeat this tougher group. However, he has also benefitted from very favorable circumstances in those recent wins. TimeformUS has the tracks color-coded red, indicating speed biases, for each of those starts. Aug. 19 at Saratoga was a day that strongly favored inside speed runners, and he rode that bias while coasting to victory. Then last time, not only did benefit from the track profile, but he was allowed to set a very slow pace. It’s unclear if he can put in a top effort without the early lead, and he’s unlikely to get it here with Still Krz in the race. I’m using him, but I think others will offer better value.
I’m most interested in the pair exiting the Sep. 29 race at this level. Both the winner and runner-up beat the bias that day, as that was yet another day at Belmont Park that was favoring horses racing on the rail. Life in Shambles (#2) ran well to win that race, and Jason Servis has clearly gotten him back to some of his better efforts since the claim this summer. That said, he’s always been a horse that has preferred Belmont Park and I wonder if he can continue to hold this form together as he switches venues.
PETE’S PLAY CALL (#1) has steadily been rounding back into form for Robertino Diodoro and I thought he ran just as well as Life in Shambles despite losing to that foe last time. At his best, Pete’s Play Call is one of the few horses in this field fast enough to beat Timber Ghost. Notably, he ran the best race of his career over this surface at this distance last November. That day, he was a game second by the talented Favorable Outcome after stalking the pace from close range. This tenacious son of Munnings seems to run his best races when he’s able to stay in contention throughout a race, and the predicted slow pace of this race should allow him to be forwardly placed in the early going.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,4,5
Trifecta: 1 with 2,5 with 2,4,5,6