Potential favorite Payne (#2) has had trouble staying on the track, but has hinted at brilliance on occasion. He displayed an impressive turn of foot when rallying to victory in his maiden score last July, doing so against one of last summer’s strongest maiden fields. He required another lengthy break after that but returned in top form 4 weeks ago. He was working out a good trip that day until he got pushed into the rail when attempting to rally inside of Tap Master at the eighth pole, forcing him to steady. It is worth noting that the rail was the place to be on May 10, and Payne may have benefited from racing inside for the majority of his trip. On the other hand, he undoubtedly would have won with a clear trip, and he’s formidable if able to maintain that form despite the relatively quick turnaround.
His main rival may be Rowayton (#3), a precocious runner who is attempting to recapture his stellar 2-year-old form. He flashed dazzling speed in the early stages of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last summer before succumbing to champion Game Winner late. He was bet down to 3-5 in his Arkansas return, but never seemed to take hold of the sloppy going while drifting out on the turn. He probably deserves a pass for that performance, but it remains to be seen if still possesses the brilliance that we saw last year.
I’m trying to beat this pair with HERSH (#1), who may get somewhat overlooked as he returns from a layoff. This chestnut colt was well-bet in debut last summer and ran to the support, overcoming some traffic to finish second behind today’s rival Payne. He took a step forward in his second start, sweeping past a salty field with an impressive last-to-first flourish at Saratoga. That has been a live race, as a number of horses have returned to run well out of it in subsequent starts. Hersh drilled impressively prior to his unveiling last year and appears to be working well again for this return. His one-run closing style could put him at a disadvantage from a pace standpoint, but this colt was seriously gifted at one time and should be respected in his return from the layoff.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,3,4
Trifecta: 1 with 2,3 with 2,3,4,6