I suppose a discussion of this race should start with an assessment of morning-line favorite Discreet Mission (#3). Some might feel that this gelding will be formidable since he has run a series of competitive speed figures and was a runaway winner the last time he raced for a tag. However, I’m skeptical of this runner. John Kimmel does not have strong numbers with this allowance-to-claiming move (2 for 27, 7 percent, $0.78 ROI over the past five years), and this runner’s last race on Dec. 20 is of great concern to me. He was never involved, and David Cohen appeared to ride him very tentatively. His form has gradually been tailing off, so I wonder if the physical issues that kept him off the track for two years may be catching up to him.
In my opinion, the horse to beat is Rogue Nation (#2). He seems to be improving for Rudy Rodriguez, and he’s getting some logical class relief. While his form is completely exposed, I nevertheless think that he may be able to win this race if he merely repeats his last effort. Yet there are some intriguing entrants who figure to go off at much bigger prices, and one in particular may significantly outrun his odds.
FLATEXCEL (#4) looks overmatched at first glance but merits a closer look. This horse can barely stand up on a wet track, so I can excuse all of his performances on tracks rated less than fast. Considering the muddy going last time, he actually didn’t even run that poorly, as he was chasing two to three wide against a golden rail. He ran a competitive speed figure when he encountered a more favorable scenario two back. The main question for him is the stretch-out in distance, but he’s certainly bred to go long, and he’s handled route distances in the past. In fact, he won his maiden around two turns. Furthermore, I’m intrigued that he’s making his first start off the claim for new trainer Edmund Davis. This former Jimmy Jerkens assistant has gotten his limited number of starters to run above their prior form in the past month, and Flatexcel can win this race if he shows similar improvement.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,3,6,7