Stan the Man (#2) had been in great form since returning from a layoff last year, earning a slew of TimeformUS Speed Figures that would just make him really tough to beat against a field like this. The major concern is obviously the layoff, since he hasn’t been seen since early June. However, it is worth noting that he’s been ready to run for quite a while, since he first appeared in the entries all the way back on Thanksgiving week when he was intended to run in the postponed Fall Highweight. His connections have ultimately chosen this spot instead, and one could interpret that as a vote of confidence in his fitness. After all, it’s no small feat to handle 1 1/8 miles off a significant layoff. I believe he’s the horse to beat, but he’s the kind of runner that I’d want to take a shot with at a price, not necessarily as the favorite.
I suppose his main rival is Major Cabbie (#4), who drops out of a tougher spot in the Grade 1 Clark. He earned a competitive speed figure that day, but his prior victories at Keeneland were achieved with the benefit of slow paces, and he might not get free on the front end here with Stan the Man in the race. I’ll still use him, but I’d prefer to look for better value.
My top pick is BACKSIDEOFTHEMOON (#5). This 7-year-old appears to be back in top form now and I like that his new connections are striking while the iron is hot. He clearly improved for the Rudy Rodriguez barn, but it’s not like they did anything more than get him to run back to his best efforts for Leo O’Brien. He earned a competitive 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure when taking down that allowance field two back. Then last time he probably did better than it appears to win over No Dozing, since Backsideofthemoon has never shown a particular affinity for a sloppy, sealed track. Now he’s with Robert Klesaris, who did win off the claim with a longshot at Belmont a few months ago. The nine-furlong distance is no problem and he has the tactical speed to work out a decent trip.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,2,4
Trifecta: 2,5 with 2,5 with ALL