Potential favorite Graded On a Curve (#5) makes his 3-year-old debut after hitting the board in both outings as a juvenile for Chad Brown. He closed willingly to be third in his Saratoga unveiling and then was somewhat disappointing when only able to finish in a dead heat for second as the even-money favorite in September. He needs to step forward to beat this field, but Chad Brown does excellent work with maidens coming off layoffs of this type.
Alphalfa (#6) is a more difficult horse for me to assess. He nearly won his debut, but did so against an inferior group of maiden claiming foes going 7 furlongs. Linda Rice has a reputation for doing very well with her second time starters in general, but she has not carried that success over to turf. Over the past 5 years, she is just 2 for 22 (9 percent, $0.68 ROI) with second-time-starting maidens in turf routes. I’ll use him defensively, but I prefer others.
My top pick is WACKY PAL (#1). This horse showed some promise in his debut against open company at Gulfstream in December. While he didn’t have any serious trouble that day, he was pinned down on the rail behind tiring runners coming around the far turn and had to weave his way through traffic while trying to mount a rally in the stretch. He was facing much tougher company that day and was hardly disgraced despite finishing 7th. He returned against New York-breds last time at Belmont and a number of things went wrong. Forced to run over a demanding course – not firm as labeled – in a driving rainstorm, he was pinned down on the rail for much of the race. Saez searched for some running room in the stretch, but Wacky Pal encountered significant traffic trouble and got steadied badly twice in the span of just one furlong. He’s clearly better than that and should give a much better account of himself in his second start off the layoff.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,5,6,9
Trifecta: 1 with 5,9 with 2,3,5,6,9