County Court (#4) may go off as the slight favorite in this conditioned claiming race as he drops in class for Shug McGaughey. This gelding ran well to win the last time he raced for a tag last fall at Belmont, but he benefited from favorable circumstances that day. County Court has always been best over turf courses with some give to them, and he has needed at least nine furlongs to put forth a top effort. I’m somewhat skeptical that he can repeat that effort going this distance, especially in a race that does not feature an abundance of early speed.
His main rival may be Herecomesyourman (#3), who returns on relatively short rest after winning an N2L race just 13 days ago. This horse has always had some ability but always had trouble finding the winner’s circle. If he’s gotten over that issue, he’s a serious threat to win right back, but the lack of pace could hinder him as well.
Rudy Rodriguez entered a pair of runners for turf. Where’s Rudy (#1A) is a bit of an enigma as he tries this surface for the first time. While he is a son of Gio Ponti, his dam’s family is really more dirt-oriented.
I strongly prefer Rudy’s other horse, BOOTLEGGER (#6). This ridgling performed admirably over the winter even though dirt probably isn’t his preferred surface. I think he’s going to appreciate getting back on grass for this race, and I love the rider switch to Irad Ortiz. This horse’s prior turf starts for Rudy are not nearly as bad as they seem. He was facing a strong field for this level back on Oct. 26, and then he ran off on the lead on Dec. 1. He is fast enough to make the front here, and I’m confident that Ortiz will be able to ration out his speed this time. In his current form, I believe he is the horse to beat.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 2,3,4
Trifecta: 6 with 3,4 with 1,2,3,4