RACE 3: SMOKIN HOT KISS (#6)
Firster Honey Money figures to attract plenty of support. This filly brought an impressive $240,000 as a two-year-old last April after working a furlong in 10 1/5 at the OBS sale. She has a pedigree to go along with that fast breeze, since she’s a full-sister to multiple stakes-winning dirt sprinter Sassy Agnes. There are some uncharacteristically fast recent workouts showing for this barn, but you still have to be a little concerned that she’s not going to be fully cranked in a race where she figures to be a pretty short price. The trip horse that many will want to bet back is New York Supreme. However, this filly is a need-the-lead type of runner who completely falls apart when she’s unable to secure the front. She was ready to fire first time out, but her second start was a disaster as she stumbled badly at the start. A similar scenario played out last time as she veered out leaving the gate and was forced to rate before steadying at the quarter pole. Contessa adds blinkers to intensify her ample speed, but the break will be critical since she even broke slowly in her debut. And beyond that, she got away cleanly two back but put forth an effort that would get her nothing here, so it’s possible that she’s just gone the wrong way. I think this is a race where we can get a bit more creative, so I’m taking a shot with Smokin Hot Kiss. I’ll admit that she’s done very little running in her two starts, but those came last summer at Saratoga when she was facing significantly tougher fields. She’s been given plenty of time since then and some of her recent works are fairly encouraging. It’s not as if she’d have to improve that much to overhaul some of her experienced rivals here and she’s going to be a generous price.
RACE 6: FARRAGUT (#2)
Jerry the Nipper may go favored after finishing second in his debut here in late January. This $310,000 weanling purchase is bred to stretch out in distance as a son of Liam’s Map out of a dam who was a stakes-placed router. He’s also a half-brother to recent one-mile starter allowance winner Freedom Prince, so the pedigree is certainly there to excel going this distance. However, I didn’t love the effort he put forth first time out as he was never a serious threat to winner Impetuous, who returned to disappoint badly in a race here on Thursday. I prefer some of those who already have experience going this trip. Aintitfunkynow makes plenty of sense after transitioning his solid turf form to the main track last time. He did get an honest pace to close into, but he stayed on well in the stretch while just unable to contain the late surge from Wild Banker. He has the versatility to work out another good trip here, but I prefer a different runner out of that Jan. 24 affair. Farragut was the one setting that quick early pace, doing so while being challenged all the way. He turned back the other speeds at the quarter pole and gamely responded to the closers’ challenges in the stretch before ultimately settling for fourth. It was an encouraging step forward for a horse who had also run deceptively well overcoming a difficult pace scenario in his debut. He’s always been bred to keep getting better as the distances get longer since both his sire and damsire are Belmont Stakes winners. Furthermore, there isn’t nearly as much early speed in this affair as he encountered in his first two starts, so he should control the early tempo. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s getting a significant rider upgrade to Eric Cancel.
RACE 7: CARTHON (#3)
Joe’s Smokin Gun is probably the horse to beat since he’s run reasonably well against tougher fields at this level in each of his last two starts. On the other hand, he hasn’t improved at all since the claim by Linda Rice – you could argue the opposite is true. Some may like the fact that Rice’s go-to rider Lezcano is climbing aboard today, but it’s unclear if this horse will win if he merely repeats his last two efforts. I wouldn’t leave him out but I feel there’s better value to be found. Main rival Playwright finally broke through the N1X level last time and now tries tougher company. Even though he’s moving up in class, he’s been earning speed figures that are comparable to many of those who have been running at this level. The problem with him is that he was beating a fairly weak field last time and doesn’t quite stack up against these from a class standpoint, which is a concern given that he’s going to be among the shorter prices. Though, I’d be unwise to put anything past this barn. I prefer Carthon at what figures to be a slightly better price. He couldn’t quite get the 9-furlong distance last time in a race where the pace came apart, but stayed on well enough to be third. He should appreciate the turnback, since most of his best speed figures have come going a mile. Some may be tempted to say that he hasn’t stepped forward for Rudy Rodriguez, but he was no match for the vastly improved I Love Jaxson two back and his last effort was deceptively strong. He should work out a good stalking trip here behind likely speeds Horoscope and Big Mountain.