Vincento (#2) has to be considered the horse to beat after racing competitively against open N1X allowance foes in January. Yet when Rudy Rodriguez dropped him back down to the New York-bred $40,000 optional-claiming level off that encouraging performance, Vincento failed to attract the interest of the public at curiously inflated odds and finished an uninspiring third. This gelding was claimed out of that race by Linda Rice, who keeps him at the same level in his first start for the new barn. Rice has very good numbers off the claim in this situation so this horse obviously merits respect.
Main rival Blugrascat’s Smile (#5) actually finished ahead of Vincento when they met on Jan. 26, and there’s little doubt the Charlton Baker trainee ran the superior race after chasing wide throughout. Blugrascat’s Smile is in very good form right now, but he’s finished second in three consecutive starts and is beginning to pile up the minor awards. I’m using him prominently, but he’s not the most appealing win proposition.
I could say the same thing about Uncle Sigh (#7), who had been in very good form throughout 2018, but has never been the most reliable win candidate. While his form has not deteriorated as drastically as some might assume, he will have to run better than his recent performance in late February when he had no excuse to miss third.
I’m taking a shot against these horses with the likely speed CARTHON (#3). The Pace Projector is predicting that he will be clearly in front in the early stages in a situation that is forecast to favor horses on or near the lead. Carthon showed how dangerous he can be when given an aggressive ride on Dec. 20, as he chased an honest pace and drew off impressively going today’s distance. I wasn’t thrilled with his loss to the two aforementioned runners on Jan. 26, but I thought he came back with a deceptively strong effort last time at 1 1/8 miles. He set some taxing opening fractions, outdueling a rival who eventually finished last, before battling on gamely to be third. Eric Cancel has been riding him well and this gelding should be difficult to reel in if he flashes that same speed over the flat mile.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 2,5,7
Trifecta: 3 with 2,5,7 with 1,2,5,6,7