Steve Asmussen’s New York stable has been on fire in recent weeks, and that was certainly apparent when No Hayne No Gayne (#3) outran her 33-1 odds to finish second in the Bay Ridge Stakes at the end of December. Consistency has always been this mare’s biggest issue, but she has steadily been putting solid performances together at a higher rate since the summer. While she negotiated the two-turn 9 furlongs last time, the cutback to this one-mile distance should suit her. I think she’s the horse to beat, but she’s going to be one of the favorites this time and she’s still not the most reliable winning prospect.
Her main rival is Out of Orbit (#2), who has really increased her performance level since stretching out to the one-mile distance. She actually finished just ahead of No Hayne No Gayne last time after setting an honest early pace. I’m using both of these fillies prominently, but I think this is a pretty wide-open affair in which we can look beyond the shorter prices.
My top pick is TIMELY TRADITION (#5), who stretches out in distance for the first time since she won her first start off the claim for this barn last August. Despite the fact that she was clearly proficient going a route of ground, Ralph D’Alessandro turned her back in distance to focus on sprinting ever since then, and she’s actually improved during that time. She made a nice late run to be second in the Arctic Queen Stakes last fall and I thought she performed admirably in her recent return to the NYRA circuit. While she couldn’t quite reel in Flat Calm in that Jan. 1 optional claiming race, she put forth a strong closing kick into a moderate pace, running her final quarter mile in under 25 seconds over a track that was playing very slowly all day. I think it’s a positive sign that she is not in for a tag this time after getting offered for $40,000 in her last start. I’m not at all concerned about the stretch-out in distance given her prior form going this far, and I believe she can grind past the favorites, many of whom aren’t the strongest finishers, in deep stretch.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,3,4,6