RACE 5: BANKERS DAUGHTER (#9)
There are some intriguing first-time starters to consider in this wide-open maiden special weight for New York-breds, including Makingcents, a daughter of stakes winner Mischief Maker for the powerful Jeremiah Englehart barn. However, I want to primarily focus on those with experience. The horse to beat is probably New York Supreme, who did everything but get her nose down on the wire in her initial start in November. She actually broke a step slowly in that 12-horse field but showed good speed thereafter to lead through swift opening fractions. She appeared to have opened up an insurmountable advantage past mid-stretch, but those early exertions took their toll in the final sixteenth. The slight cutback to six furlongs figures to suit her, but I wonder if last time was the right time for her, as she was apparently cranked up for her debut. I’m actually interested in a different horse out of that race. Bankers Daughter didn’t attract as much tote support as New York Supreme, but she actually ran fairly well to be fourth. Breaking from the outside post position, she advanced into contention on the turn and briefly loomed a threat before she got to lugging in through the lane. The addition of blinkers should help straighten her out for a barn that isn’t known for getting horses to win early. Though, Mike Miceli is having a fantastic season and I think this daughter of Central Banker can take a step forward. I would also use Dancing Kiki, who improved second time out when second to the promising Playtone. She gets a rider upgrade to Joel Rosario, though I wonder if that’s a product of Dylan Davis electing to ride Bankers Daughter instead. I prefer those runners to Aubrey Tate, who has had her chances at short prices and is stepping up to meet a tougher field here.
RACE 7: NEWLY MINTED (#4)
If Bridlewood Cat repeats that 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure she earned in her maiden victory, even main rival Newly Minted might have trouble beating her. Yet, while she was visually impressive in that score, she had a lot working in her favor, racing on the best part of the track while setting a slow pace against inferior competition. Furthermore, there’s some doubt about the legitimacy of that last speed figure. Runnerup Rapido Gatta returned to lose at 1-5 odds next time with a 28-point regression and the fourth-place finisher regressed by 17 points next time. There are obviously expectations here given the $750,000 purchase tag, but she gets a major class test. It’s also doubtful she’s going to work out the same soft trip with speeds Stonesintheroad and Fangirl signed on. I prefer her main rival Newly Minted, who took a scary fall after the wire of the Empire Distaff. However, she walked away unscathed, and has reeled off three quick workouts since. They tried routing with her twice now and she’s probably just a bit better going shorter trips. While this turn-back to six furlongs may seem pretty drastic, she showed a lot of speed as a younger horse and doesn’t necessarily need the lead to be successful, as she displayed in the Bouwerie. It wouldn’t be a major shock to see her finally take that next step forward and I believe she’s the horse to beat.
RACE 8: CONTROL GROUP (#2)
This race became even more complicated on the redraw, as original favorite Turbulence wasn’t entered back, and you have some intriguing new additions to the line-up. Doups Point should inherit the favorite’s role, but he’s starting to run out of chances for me. While he got the job done three back, he’s disappointed at short prices more often than not. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that added distance is really his friend, as he’s shown a more effective late kick going one turn. Some might consider the horses exiting the Nov. 8 race at this level, in which Singapore Trader ran well to be second. He also has some stamina questions to answer, but at least it appears that Todd Pletcher has gotten him back into top form. I’m most interested in a couple of horses we know can handle the distance. One of those is Calculated Risker, who returns from a layoff for Ray Handal. He has to get a little faster to beat this field, but he fits the conditions well. I’m using him in exotics, but he was done no favors by the post-position draw. My top pick is Control Group. Consistency has been a major issue for this runner lately, but I can’t ignore the claim by Jason Servis. I acknowledge that Control Group has been in some live barns recently and his poor effort last time is definitely a concern. That said, he’s bounced back before and I think he can rebound again under these circumstances. Two things have always been true about Control Group: he prefers two turns and he relishes a wet track. He’s definitely getting the first in his favor this time and he’s likely to get both. It’s a good sign Irad Ortiz is back aboard after easing him last time and it’s also a positive indicator that he’s returning just five weeks after that last effort. The good version of Control Group will beat this field and I think there’s a strong chance we’ll see that horse again on Sunday. I also would throw in new face Blugrascat’s Smile underneath, since he can handle this distance and might be rounding back into top form.