This optional claimer features the anticipated return of Gotham winner Haikal (#2), who hasn’t raced since finishing third in the Wood Memorial last April. He had to be withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby due to a setback and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has given him plenty of time to get back to the races. He was earning some TimeformUS Speed Figures in the spring of his 3-year-old year that are superior to what many of his older rivals in this race are currently achieving, so he doesn’t need to improve at all to beat this field. However, this barn’s runners can sometimes need a start off layoffs. McLaughlin is 4 for 29 (14%, $0.73 ROI) off layoffs of 180 days or more in dirt routes.
I’m trying to beat the favorite with VORTICITY (#5). This 7-year-old horse has had an interesting career, with many stop and starts along the way. He’s come full circle and is now back in the stable of Chuck Lawrence, for whom he ran some of his best races as a youngster. They’ve tried a variety of distances with this horse over the past several years, and I think it’s somewhat curious that they’ve totally avoided dirt routes along the way considering that he was second in both the Jerome and Withers back in 2016. His only other dirt route performance since then came in the Westchester when he was just no match for the supremely talented Connect. He enters this race off a pair of six-furlong tries out of town and I don’t think he was disgraced in either of them. Now he’s stretching out to a one-turn mile, which should be within his wheelhouse, and the Pace Projector is predicting that he will be alone on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner.
The other horse that I want to use prominently is Multiplier (#3), who comes in with a strong set of recent speed figures. While those numbers have primarily been earned on the turf, he has shown plenty of dirt ability in the past and probably hasn’t been given enough opportunities on this surface. The other problem with him is that he rarely wins, so I’ll mostly use him underneath.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,2,3
Trifecta: 5 with 2,3 with ALL