I have no major knocks against Meru (#8), who is a deserving favorite in the Nashua. He’s done everything asked of him in his first two starts, notably winning in stylish fashion at Monmouth last time while earning an impressive 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure – one of the highest numbers assigned to a 2-year-old all year. He has to stretch out to a mile this time, but he certainly has the pedigree to handle it as a son of Sky Mesa out of a dam who won going 1 1/8 miles. However, the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace and he could get caught up in an early duel, which might compromise his chances.
I also wouldn’t discount another other horse with stakes experience, Lebda (#6). This guy couldn’t quite get the two turns behind Dennis’ Moment last time, but he should be more at home at this one-turn configuration. He’s fast enough to contend here at what should be a square price. Yet the most intriguing contenders in this lineup are the recent maiden winners. I respect the pair coming in from Parx, and think Independence Hall (#5) is especially likely to move forward with added ground.
Yet my top pick is the local horse ASHAAR (#10), who impressively won his debut at Belmont last month. This colt had been working very well prior to that start, and he was professional in victory, rating kindly before taking over on the far turn with a decisive move. He was geared down in the late stages, but presents himself as a horse who should have no trouble with the mile distance. Furthermore, Kiaran McLaughlin is 9 for 23 (39%, $2.32 ROI) with last-out debut winners in their second starts on dirt over the past five years.
Exacta Key Box: 10 with 5,6,7,8
Trifecta: 10 with 6,8 with 1,5,6,7,8,9