Filly Joel (#9) has to be considered the horse to beat despite the fact that she finished behind today’s rival Afleet Destiny (#3) in last fall’s Demoiselle going this distance. In my estimation, the difference in trips for these two fillies certainly eclipses the gap between them at the wire. The Demoiselle was run early in the day on the Cigar Mile card, and the paths down toward the rail were clearly a disadvantage for any horses that spent a significant amount of time racing on them. For whatever reason, Jose Lezcano sent Filly Joel over to the rail heading into the clubhouse turn and she was never able to get outside.
All things considered, I thought she ran an admirable race to be third, whereas Afleet Destiny just picked up pieces for second while racing wide for the last half of the race. This time, the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, but I believe Filly Joel is versatile enough to work out a decent trip from a stalking position. I’m using her prominently, but there are some others to consider.
The pair of fillies exiting the maiden race on Dec. 14 figure to attract some attention as they bookend this field. Always Shopping (#1) does project to get the better trip from her rail position, but she will be seeking her first lifetime victory in this Busanda.
MISS MARILYN (#11) has to overcome a wide post (though at least one entrant is expected to scratch), but I think she is the more likely of the two to relish this stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles. Miss Marilyn is built like an older horse, with a lengthy frame and an expansive stride, and her pedigree has a good mix of speed and stamina influences. Danny Gargan does very well with horses coming off maiden wins on the dirt, going 9 for 32 (28 percent, $4.88 ROI) over the past 5 years. While I don’t love the outside draw, she has the speed to get a forward position and at least she won’t get trapped inside at any point.
Exacta Key Box: 11 with 1,3,9
Trifecta: 9,11 with 9,11 with 1,3,7