RACE 5: COOLBOY (#6)
Seven Is Heaven goes out for the powerful Linda Rice barn and just missed when outrun in the late stages by fellow closer Vicar’s Legend in a similar spot last time. However, he got a pretty good trip that day in a race where the pace fell apart and he’s meeting a slightly tougher field this time. Bustin Hoffman would be tough if able to run back to his performance two back when he was racing first off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez. He crossed the wire first that day but was justifiably disqualified for deep stretch interference. He disappointed against open company last time, but he’s back at the right class level now and has the tactical speed to work out a decent trip. I’m using both, but this is a competitive field where I think we can get a bit more creative. My top pick is Coolboy, who might be in the best form of anyone right now. That 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned for his last start is clearly the best number in this race and he achieved it the hard way, carving out very fast fractions on a clear lead before getting cut down by the superior Big Engine late. I loved the way this colt battled back when passed last time and I think he’s going to be tough if he repeats that performance. Some may question where that race came from, but he had run deceptively well in his prior starts. Furthermore, while the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, no one is quick enough to go with Coolboy early and he could just run them off their feet.
RACE 7: ANCIENT BROWN (#6)
Fierce Lady figures to be a prohibitive favorite in this spot as she returns following a brief layoff. While she owns a set of speed figures that make her the horse to beat, she’s a filly who came out ready to fire early in her 2-year-old season and her form has subtly but steadily declined in each start since then. Her new off-the-pace running style has worked when she’s drawn outside post positions in each of her last two starts, but she could find it more difficult to close from behind breaking from the rail this time. I’m inclined to try and beat her, but all of the logical alternatives in this race come with flaws of their own. Big Q would be the biggest threat if able to run back to her impressive score in the Key Cents two back, but you have to wonder where that effort came from given her surrounding form. A Freud of Mama took to dirt last time, winning that $500,000 stakes as an overlay. While she may have appreciated the muddy, sealed track, she could get that kind of surface again with rain and snow in the forecast. I’m using all of them, but I want to take a shot with second time starter Ancient Brown. I just want a new face in this race since I’m not thrilled with those that we’ve seen at this level. Ancient Brown ran an objectively slow race first time out, but she did it the right way. One of the reasons that the final time was so slow was due to some slow early fractions set by a longshot. Ancient Brown broke slowly and found herself behind a wall of horses down the backstretch. Yet I liked the way she split horses and made a middle move on the turn before taking command in the stretch. She figures to show more speed this time and I think she’s capable of running much faster with that experience under her belt.
RACE 8: AMERICAN ANTHEM (#2)
The classy Mind Control was a Grade 1 winner at ages two and three and he seeks to regain his position at the top of the sprint division as he returns in this Grade 3 Toboggan. He has the speed figures to back up that impressive résumé, earning a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figures in winning the H. Allen Jerkens and a 122 when taking down the Bay Shore over this course and distance last April. He got a planned layoff following his Grade 1 triumph last summer, and he has apparently been training well for his return. The outside draw should suit him and his tactical speed should play very well in his largely paceless affair. He’s the horse to beat, but I’m always reticent to accept a short price on runners returning from layoffs like this, especially for a barn that hasn’t had much success with this move. His main rival is clearly American Anthem. It’s been a bumpy road for this horse since his successful 3-year-old season, which saw him win the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and place in a pair of Grade 1 events. He achieved modest success during an abbreviated 4-year-old campaign, but it’s been difficult for him to get back to that level since. Yet now makes his second consecutive start for a new trainer, this time going out for Danny Gargan. He disappointed when last seen at Keeneland, but he didn’t get an ideal trip that day, as he was shuffled back early and forced down inside for the stretch drive, which probably wasn’t the place to be. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead and he has the tactical speed to be in front of these early. I’m inclined to take an optimistic view despite some lingering questions about his form.