RACE 2: TONAL VISION (#3)
Some others may have more upside than Halo City, but she’s probably the one to beat based on her last couple of performances. She put in a game effort when just run down by next-out winner Truth Hurts two back and then last time managed to handle the stretch-out to a mile, rallying up the rail in deep stretch. She has a slight speed figure edge over her two adjacent rivals and the slight turnback to 7 furlongs figures to suit her. The filly just to her outside, Common Courtesy, also figures to attract her fair share of support. She’s not coming out of the fastest maiden heat in the world, but that may have been a stronger heat than it seems. She showed good speed coming out of the gate and loomed as a real threat while traveling well to upper stretch before just getting a little tired late. The fourth- and fifth-place finishers from that race returned to win, improving their TimeformUS Speed Figures by 7 and 10 points, respectively. I’m using both of these runners, but my top pick is the Florida invader Tonal Vision. This daughter of Tonalist was slow into stride in her debut at Gulfstream in a race that featured an extremely fast pace up front. While she did benefit from those swift early fractions, there were still some things to like about the performance. She was fairly green in upper stretch while racing on her wrong lead, but she kicked well once she switched leads inside the eighth pole and galloped out strongly. She figures to do better with that experience under her belt. She’ll need to, since her debut speed figure isn’t fast enough to beat these, but I’m still confident she can move forward at the 7-furlong distance.
RACE 7: MORNING BREEZ (#3)
It will be interesting to see who ends up going off favored here. If it is indeed the entry, I would want to bet against them. Dark Money will attract the bulk of support between this duo, and I’m not thrilled with his chances in this spot. While he’s put forth some visually impressive performances for Rudy Rodriguez, he’s primarily done so against weaker competition, often with very favorable setups. That was certainly the case last time when he was allowed to set a pedestrian early pace and sprint for home against some overmatched New York-bred rivals. This time he’s going to find himself chasing the very fast Ready to Escape, and potentially others, and that could compromise his chances. I strongly prefer Blindwillie McTell among the short prices. This horse was running speed figures that would put him in the mix here as an early season 3-year-old, so it stands to reason that he should be able to do better now that he’s had additional time to mature. He didn’t want any part of two turns when last seen during the summer, so he should also appreciate the cutback. The only concern is that you have to accept a relatively short price on a horse returning from a lengthy layoff. I want to get a little more creative, so I’m taking a shot with Morning Breez. I understand that this 5-year-old isn’t known as a winning type, but he often runs well and is able to get the job done when he’s placed appropriately. Robert Klesaris campaigned him as a turf sprinter through last fall and he acquitted himself nicely, but he’s been just as effective on the dirt in the past. He’s content to stalk the pace, so he should work out a good trip.
RACE 8: MONTAUK TRAFFIC (#3)
A couple of recent maiden winners figure to attract plenty of support in this Jimmy Winkfield. Quixotic comes into this stakes debut with plenty of upside, having easily broken his maiden by over 4 lengths second time out after making a promising debut last December. However, he won in a driving snow storm last time which may have compromised some runners attempting to make up ground. Furthermore, he was allowed to set extremely slow fractions, which helped him finish off the race with such energy. I’ll use him since I do believe he has talent, but I prefer the other maiden winner Montauk Traffic. This Linda Rice trainee clearly wasn’t quite ready for his debut at Laurel as he totally blew the start and barely lifted a hoof during the actual race. Put back in the entries just 14 days later, he looked like a completely different animal as he quickly overcame a stutter step at the break, advancing into contention on the backstretch. He patiently waited for room on the far turn while clearly full of run and then exploded through an opening on the rail in the stretch. That trip is notable since few horses were running well on that inside path at Aqueduct on December 28. The speed figure didn’t come back that fast, but I get the sense that Montauk Traffic still has more to offer. He shouldn’t mind a little pace in this race, and horses like Secret Traffic and Johnny Ritt should ensure that they’re moving at an honest clip up front. The other horse that I’d want to use prominently is Old Chestnut in his dirt debut. This horse has been campaigned primarily on turf with mixed results, but his pedigree indicates that he should handle, if not prefer, the dirt. I find it interesting that Mark Casse has brought him here rather than Florida and he appears to be working well on the Belmont training track.