Christophe Clement has done a tremendous job getting the once difficult-to-handle Gucci Factor (#8) to fulfill his potential this year. He comes into this race having won 6 of his last 7 starts on the turf, his only loss during that time coming in this very race last year. The plan was always to skip Saratoga with him, so he comes into this race fresh. I have the utmost respect for this talented horse, but I’m a little concerned about him stretching back out to the nine-furlong distance.
His main rival appears to be Offering Plan (#7), who has inherited the role of elder statesman of his New York-bred turf division. He gamely battled back to win the West Point last time, proving that he can still put forth a top effort. I had always thought he was better going shorter, but Gucci Factor bested him over a flat mile back in May, so it’s possible that he’s gained stamina with age. I’m using him prominently, but I think there’s a third major player in this field who may get somewhat overlooked.
It might be tempting to dismiss RED KNIGHT (#3) on the basis that he’s tailing off after a strong start to the year. However, you can make some excuses for his last few efforts. He got a curious trip in the Belmont Gold Cup, as Jose Ortiz launched a premature backstretch move which cost him in the late stages. While he finished last in the Bowling Green, he was never in a comfortable spot while going wide around every turn. Throw out the dirt effort last time, and you can go back to his Elkhorn when he put in a graded stakes-level performance. Perhaps 1 1/8 miles is a little short for him, but the talent is there and he was in career form not that long ago.
I’m primarily using my selection with the two aforementioned favorites, but I also want to throw in Voodoo Song (#5). He’s the controlling speed in this race, and the workout reports indicate that he finally seems to be back in form after two poor efforts. He’s hard to trust, but he figures to be enough of a price today that he’ll be worth including.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 4,5,7,8
Trifecta: 3 with 7,8 with 4,5,6,7,8