Stay Fond (#5) figures to attract some support in this spot given that she’s coming off two consecutive victories in which she earned speed figures that are faster than those of her rivals. However, both of those wins were earned going a mile for prior trainer Linda Rice. Jeffrey Englehart wins at a decent percentage off the claim, but his ROI is quite low and the choice to turn this mare back to a sprint distance seems questionable. She’s never been one to show much speed and often requires plenty of encouragement to even stay engaged in races going route distances. If she’s among the favorites, I would look elsewhere.
I strongly prefer main rival KEEP YOUR DISTANCE (#6). Some may be deterred by this mare’s poor effort against $25,000 claimers first off the claim for Gary Gullo last time. Yet she actually ran fairly well within the context of that event, as she rushed up to challenge the speedy Malibu Mischief for the lead down the backstretch. She then put that rival away and only succumbed to late runs by closers in a race that fell apart in deep stretch. The winner got a surprisingly high speed figure, but she came back to validate by beating N1X allowance company in her subsequent start. Prior to that, Keep Your Distance had easily handled cheaper claimers and now she’s back in the right kind of spot here. Furthermore, Gullo is 9 for 30 (30%, $2.07 ROI) with horses dropping in claiming price by 50% or more over the past 5 years. Her rider was very aggressive last time, but this mare showed in prior starts that she’s just as comfortable rallying from off the pace.
I also wouldn’t completely discount the improved Zecha (#2), but I think she looked more formidable going a mile on last Friday’s canceled card. This turnback in distance may not suit her, though I still prefer her to Stay Fond at a better price.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 2,5,9
Trifecta: 6 with 2,5 with 1,2,5,8,9