This Distaff Handicap drew a highly competitive field of fillies and mares, many of whom are in the best form of their careers. The probable favorite is Kathryn the Wise (#7), who attempts to register back-to-back stakes wins following her dazzling 10-length triumph in the La Verdad back in January. The 123 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned for that performance is the highest in this field, and she will win if she repeats that performance. However, she clearly relished the sloppy going that day and was beating a softer group. It’s unclear if she can reproduce that effort in graded stakes company over a dry track.
Her main rival is Come Dancing (#5), who exits a career-best effort in the Go For Wand last December. She nearly pulled off an upset over the classy Marley’s Freedom while earning a solid 118 TimeformUS Speed Figure. She focused on route races in the latter half of 2018, but this slight turnback to seven furlongs should not present a problem. She’s a serious threat from stalking range.
I’m using both of these mares prominently, but my top pick is DAWN THE DESTROYER (#9). I was thrilled with her comeback effort last November, as she ran right past Kathryn the Wise on her way to a decisive score. She validated that improved performance with a victory in the Interborough two months later and would be a major threat if she were to repeat either of those efforts in this spot. Some may be disappointed by her recent third-place finish as the 5-2 second choice in the Barbara Fritchie, but I thought she did not get an ideal trip that day. Dawn the Destroyer runs her best races when running outside and in the clear, like in that impressive November win. Yet she broke toward the inside in the Fritchie and was never able to get off the rail. This time, Junior Alvarado should be able to take advantage of her outside post position. If the leaders set an honest pace, look for her to be charging past them all in the lane.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 2,5,7
Trifecta: 9 with 2,5,7 with 2,4,5,6,7