RACE 2: NO DISTORTION (#5)
Hawaiian Noises was ambitiously spotted off the claim for Servis, so it’s no surprise he was unable to compete against the likes of Grade 1 winner Complexity or the consistently fast Mr. Dougie Fresh. Nevertheless, he stayed on well to be third and a mere repeat of that effort is going to make him awfully tough to beat in this spot. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is predicting that he should be on the lead here in a situation favoring the front-runner. He’s hard to look past given all of those positives, but he’s also going to be an extremely short price, due in large part to the fact that he’s going out for top connections in a race full of low-profile barns. He’s the horse to beat, but I want to take a shot against him with No Distortion, who figures to offer value as the second choice. This 7-year-old hasn’t been a serious factor in his last two starts while going off at big prices, but both of those races came against much tougher stakes foes. The last time he faced a claiming field, he won by over 6 lengths in November with a competitive 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He got a strong pace to close into that day but he nevertheless put in an excellent effort to win, and his subsequent figures back up that performance. If you start to parse his form and throw out the races in which he was overmatched or asked to route, this guy’s prospects look a lot more encouraging. His closing running style may not be ideal, but he’s otherwise a great fit for this spot at a much more palatable price.
RACE 4: FRANK’SGUNISLOADED (#3)
Jose Lezcano certainly had his pick of mounts in this race, having ridden four of the six entrants in their last starts, and winning on three of them. It’s no surprise that he lands on El Hermano, who has been rebirthed since getting back on the dirt last fall. Ever since he’s discovered this newfound early speed of his, he hasn’t let a rival get close to him in two dirt starts going this distance. While this assignment is tougher, there isn’t a ton of speed in this field and he should be able to make the lead over Singapore Trader and control up front once again. He’s going to be difficult to reel in, but I wouldn’t underestimate a horse like I Love Jaxson. He has also been registering some notable speed figures while progressing through his New York-bred conditions, and has certainly earned this move up in class. I’m using both of these state-breds prominently, but there’s a new face in this line-up who intrigues me. Frank’sgunisloaded makes his first start for Danny Gargan after showing some promise early in his 3-year-old season. He found himself in a loaded maiden race going 6 furlongs in his debut in late 2018, and he ran on decently after a slow start, making up good ground in the stretch. He then relished the added ground he got to work with second time out, as he looped the field and easily inhaled the leaders in the lane while racing very greenly. Among the also-rans that day was third place finisher By My Standards, who would go on to win the Louisiana Derby later in the meet. This promising runner was then transferred to a new barn and showed up at Laurel, where he put in a disappointing effort as the favorite, and he hasn’t been seen since. Yet it’s a good sign that Gargan has targeted an ambitious spot off the layoff, since he is 6 for 13 (46%, $4.69 ROI) off layoffs of 180 days or more and a trainer switch over the past 5 years.
RACE 5: FARRAGUT (#7)
I don’t have a major knock against the favorite Wild Banker. He’s steadily progressed in each start and has run well in two consecutive races going this one-mile distance. He really should have won last time when Kendrick Carmouche got him caught in behind some tiring leaders coming to the top of the stretch and was forced to ease back and alter course. All things considered, he did well to get within a length of the winner after losing momentum at that key juncture. One of his main rivals appears to be Pave it, who ran very well in his first route attempt last time. He showed good early speed that day, and hung on gamely in the lane to be second in a race that otherwise collapsed and was dominated by closers. A repeat of that performance will make him tough to beat, but you’re going to have to take a much shorter price on him after he was 50-1 last time. A longshot who intrigues me is second-time starter Farragut. This colt made his debut at the end of December and found himself dueling for the lead through fast fractions in a race that fell apart late. He stayed on fairly well to be fifth despite drifting down to the rail late over a track that seemed to favoring outside closers. He’s stretching out for the first time, but he’s by a Belmont Stakes winner out of dam sired by a Belmont Stakes winner. Furthermore, his route-winning dam is a half-sister to graded stakes-winning router Remembering Rita, so there’s plenty of pedigree for this guy to appreciate the added distance. He was a huge price first time out and he’s likely to be ignored on the tote board again for low-profile connections.