Fog of War (#2) is clearly the horse to beat as he makes his greatly anticipated return for Chad Brown. He was unblemished in two starts as a juvenile, coming with a late rush to take down a salty maiden race at Saratoga before beating a good field in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. Fog of War is returning at the right distance, and Brown figures to have him fit off the layoff. It’s going to take a strong effort to beat him, and I’m not convinced that any of the runners with recent turf form are up to the challenge. Therefore, I want to focus on horses switching surfaces.
The horse going from dirt to turf who figures to take the most money is Mucho (#7). This colt is obviously talented enough to win a race like this if he transfers his form to grass, but I’m not quite convinced he will be able to do that. He certainly has turf pedigree as a son of the solid turf sire Blame out of a dam who has produced a couple of decent turf winners. However, this colt has not come back as the same runner as a 3-year-old, and this turf experiment is a bit of an afterthought. He’s going to take money, and I prefer others.
My top pick is POLE SETTER (#4). Unlike Mucho, this colt has run on the turf before, winning his debut over that surface before fading late in a tough stakes at Kentucky Downs. He’s run on dirt in all of his starts since then and notably improved last time out when turned back to sprint for the first time in his career. That 117 TimeformUS Speed Figure is easily the highest number in this field, and he would be a serious upset threat if he replicates that figure on turf. This gray colt has plenty of sprint pedigree on the bottom side of his pedigree and is also bred for turf as a half-brother to the good turf horse Ice Cutter. Brad Cox is 18 for 49 (37 percent, $2.88 ROI) with last-out winners switching from dirt to turf, and his runners have been running very well in recent weeks at NYRA. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is predicting he will be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner.
Since I’m not thrilled with Mucho’s chances, I’ll upgrade horses like Strike Silver (#1) and Uncapped (#8) in the exotics. The former is better than his return effort at Keeneland when he got a wide trip and the latter has dramatically improved since his connections focused on turf sprints.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,2,7,8
Trifecta: 2,4 with 2,4 with 1,5,7,8