RACE 3: ABRAXAN (#6)
Solitary Gem may go favored in this spot given her two recent speed figures and general consistency in a race lacking much of that. However, she’s just 1-for-22 lifetime with plenty of second- and third-place finishes, and it’s not going to take a sensational effort to beat her. While she nearly got the job done at this level last time, I actually thought a couple of the runners who finished behind her actually ran better races. Lem Me Have It arguably would have won that day had her rider kept her off the inside in the stretch. The rail was not the place to be on November 21 and Lem Me Have It was unwisely sent down inside when attempting to rally past tiring rivals late. Though she, like Solitary Gem, would have benefitted from an honest pace had she been successful. My top pick is Abraxan, the filly who was setting that pace on Nov. 21. Not only did she contest fast early fractions, but she was racing on the rail for the first 5 furlongs of that event before drifting slightly off the inside in the stretch. All things considered, I though Abraxan did well to only lose by 3 lengths and I don’t mind the slight stretch-out in distance to a mile. She broke her maiden over this course and distance last January with a performance that would probably make her tough here if she could repeat it. The other horse I want to consider is Nasty Affair. She’s tough to trust given her propensity to break slowly. However, she wasn’t persevered with last time from the quarter pole home so that’s not a true indicator of her current form. Perhaps the blinkers can help her to focus early.
RACE 5: MISS JILL (#7)
The likely favorite Deja Raconte will take money due to her connections. She is really cut out to be a turf horse, but she transferred her form to the main track last time, hanging on for fourth after chasing the pace. However, she got a pretty good trip and had every chance in the lane but just couldn’t sustain her run. Many will view this move to Rudy Rodriguez as a positive, but he’s just 4-for-25 (16%, $0.54 ROI) first off a trainer switch in maiden claiming dirt races over the past 5 years. On the other hand she figures to show more speed with blinkers and could be tough to catch if she gets in front of this field. Nevertheless, I prefer her main rival Funderella. She’s not the fastest filly in the world but she’s consistent and is able to race competitively in these bottom-level maiden claimers on dirt. These state-bred races are sometimes tougher than their open company counterparts, but that doesn’t appear to be the case this time. She has the tactical speed to work out a good trip and should be right there at the end. Yet, given the shaky ground on which these two fillies are standing, I think we can get a bit more creative with a longshot. My top pick is second time starter Miss Jill. This filly wasn’t totally disgraced in defeat last time, finishing eighth of 14 runners after racing wide in an unusually competitive spot at the level. The second and fifth place finishers have returned to win out of that race with TimeformUS Speed Figures of 85 and 81, validating the number that Miss Jill was assigned. She obviously needs to do better this time, but she may not have to improve as much as some others who will be shorter prices. There’s upside here and she’s far from impossible at a huge price.
RACE 6: CADEAU DE PAIX (#10)
Possible favorite Wisconsin Night returned from a lengthy layoff last time for Linda Rice, taking advantage of the claiming price waiver rule to compete without the risk of being taken for $25,000. The quality of that last race is a little questionable, since the first and third place finishers returned to regress. Yet this filly has every right to step forward now and it’s a good sign that she’s bumped up to the $40,000 level in her second start back. Some may perceive her main rival to be Teletype, but I’m a little skeptical of this filly. Typically, you’re supposed to bet against horses like this, since she is going to take money due to her connections and the fact that she’s earned some of the top speed figures in the field. However, all of those were achieved on turf. She has clearly improved in the Rudy Rodriguez barn this year, but her dirt debut at a two-year-old actually wasn’t that bad, as she showed speed before fading behind the talented Lyrical Lady. She might not be a one-dimensional turfer, but it’s still hard to take a short price on her. My top pick is Cadeau de Paix. This filly hasn’t seen much action over the past several months, requiring a pair of layoffs after breaking her maiden last spring. While she ran poorly in her two subsequent starts, she was facing significantly tougher rivals in both of those races. Her Saratoga performance was actually pretty good, and a repeat of that effort would make her pretty tough to beat here. It’s the last effort that is of concern, but at least she’s coming back in just 4 weeks at a more realistic level. She also may get the right pace setup this time.