I respect both of the favorites in this race. Collegeville Girl (#2) would be pretty tough for this field to handle if she runs back to her victory at Belmont on Oct. 25, but she was surprisingly dull when she returned at Aqueduct last time, so there are definitely some concerns about her reliability.
Prairie Fire (#1) figures to attract slightly more support after beating starter-allowance foes just last week. She won that race on relatively short rest, and now returns off a similarly short break to contest this race. Some may be concerned about that aggressive schedule, but Linda Rice has fantastic statistics in this situation. Over the past five years, Rice is 11 for 23 (48%, $3.15 ROI) with horses returning in one to nine days in dirt sprints, and she’s 5 for 9 when those runners are coming off wins. It’s reasonable to expect that Prairie Fire will maintain her form, but she will have to prove she can rally from farther back here, since this race contains more speed than she encountered last time. That was an issue two starts back when she found herself badly outrun in the early stages of that Dec. 28 race at this level.
She only finished a length ahead of fellow closer QUIETUDE (#6) that day, and I thought the Ribaudo trainee actually had the tougher trip. Quietude was guided all the way back to last in that 13-horse field, and was placed in a tight spot inside of Prairie Fire on the far turn. Coming to the quarter pole, both fillies weren’t in ideal spots to make up ground, but I thought Quietude had slightly more difficulty getting out from in behind tiring runners. All things considered, she did well to pass over half the field that day and I expect a better effort this time.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,2,3,8
Trifecta: 6 with 1,2 with 1,2,3,8,9,10