Despite attracting just 6 entrants, this race is a fairly intriguing handicapping puzzle. The two runners who figure to attract the most attention are the pair of front-runners Devine Dental (#1) and Haul Anchor (#4). There are certainly some things to like about these runners individually. Devine Dental is capable of running some formidable speed figures and he’s now switching into the unstoppable Rob Atras barn, whereas Haul Anchor has been in ranging form since getting claimed by Rudy Rodriguez. However, it’s difficult envisioning a path to success for both of these runners given their need-the-lead running styles. I agree with the TimeformUS Pace Projector that Devine Dental is probably the faster of the two and he should be hard-sent to make the front under Manny Franco from his inside draw. Given the likelihood of an early duel, I think this race has the potential to come apart late, especially considering the fact that each of these runners is stretching out to the demanding distance of 1 1/8 miles.
The horse that should be sitting in the perfect spot just behind them is TURCO BRAVO (#2), and he is my top selection in this race. I’ve long been a fan of this 10-year-old gelding, who will be attempting to notch his 18th career win on Saturday, and he seems to have gotten back into respectable form in recent starts. He reeled off three straight victories for different barns through the fall and early winter before failing as the 6-5 favorite last time. Some may be put off that recent loss, but he had legitimate excuse that day. Jan. 27 was a day that was strong favoring horses that rode the rail, and Turco Bravo was forced to chase 2- to 3-wide every step of the way while the first and third place finisher spent the majority of their trips inside. I think that performance is a lot better than it seems, and I’m encouraged to see this trainer switch to Mertkan Kantarmaci. This barn is enjoying a strong meet and Kantarmaci has shown the ability to get these old warriors to maintain their form.
I’m primarily using him with Shadow Rider (#5), who would also appreciate a contested pace up front. He’s not quite as fast as the aforementioned runners, but he figures to sit the right trip and 9 furlongs is no issue for him.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,4,5,6
Trifecta: 2 with 1,5 with ALL