RACE 5: VINTAGE HOLLYWOOD (#6)
Latin Love Bug would be a little difficult to justify, but the other 5 entrants in this race all have legitimate claims to the top prize. I suppose Bears Mafia will go favored, since he’s coming off a 10-length triumph in relatively fast time and is now making his first start off the claim for Linda Rice and Drawing Away Stable. However, he was beating a pretty weak field last time and is stepping up in class and stretching out to a distance that may not be ideal for him. On the other hand, Linda Rice is 12 for 25 (48%, $2.70 ROI) first off the claim going from sprints to routes on dirt over the past 5 years. I’m using this runner prominently, but there are certainly others to consider. Walkoff is a difficult call, since he put in a dreadful performance first off the claim for Brad Cox last time. He had actually run deceptively well with some trouble in his return for Pletcher, so it’s possible that he just didn’t like the sloppy going on Feb. 6. Nevertheless, he’s difficult to trust. Later Cat ran surprisingly well at this level last time in what turned out to be a fast race, yet it’s fair to wonder whether he can repeat such an effort given his overall form. I’m going in a different direction. Vintage Hollywood seems like a good fit for this race as he makes his first start off the claim for Orlando Noda. While this barn hasn’t had a ton of success directly off the claim, they have improved horses in their care over time. Furthermore, Vintage Hollywood has already run fast enough to beat this field, having performed admirably in NY-bred allowance races this winter. Some will be deterred by his loss at 3-5 against cheaper last time, but he didn’t run that badly while barely beaten by the in-form Horoscope, who actually returned to improve next time out. I like the outside post position and this is his ideal distance.
RACE 6: BEAUTIFUL KAREN (#4)
Potential favorite Beautiful Karen got completely wiped out at the start of her debut, taking the worst of an ugly incident involving a few of today’s competitors. Jose Lezcano immediately wheeled her to the outside and she quickly ran past the entire field to establish the early lead in the opening furlongs. She then held on well until the late stages in a race where many were staggering to the finish. That 64 TimeformUS Speed Figure isn’t too impressive on its own, but she deserves a substantial bonus considering the adverse circumstances. Linda Rice does fantastic work with second time starters, so this filly figures to improve. I’m not trying to beat her, though I do respect her main rival Makingcents. That 78 TimeformUS Speed Figure she achieved first time out is the highest in this field, but it should be noted that there is some doubt about the quality of that Dec. 8 affair. That said, Makingcents arguably ran a better race when she returned last month, since she was hindered by a very slow pace and actually did well to get up for third after overcoming traffic issues. She’s bred to handle this distance, but I am a little worried that this barn has been underperforming throughout the meet.
RACE 8: WEGOTOLDYOUGOTSOLD (#3)
This is easily the most compelling race on the card. Parx shipper Won and Done may go favored as he seeks his fourth win in a row. It would be unwise to look down upon those Parx efforts merely because they were accomplished out of town. He’s beaten good horses and has done it stylishly. He seems to be at his best when he can contest the pace and he shouldn’t have much trouble attaining that position here. The stretch-out to 7 furlongs is a slight concern, but he showed no signs of stopping last time and he’s in better form now than when he last tried this distance. One of his main rivals may be the returning Hoffenheim, but it’s difficult to assess this classy gelding. Many of his speed figures tower over this field, but he’s now been away for the past 8 months, and it’s unclear if he can successfully reach the same level now as a 7-year-old. Furthermore, this barn has been on a cold streak in New York all winter. Rob Atras starts an entry, though only one will start with Manny Franco named on both. No Distortion would be interesting at a bigger price, but Supreme Aura is the more logical of the pair. I don’t think he’ll mind the slight cutback in distance and he’s in solid form right now. I’ll use all of these, but my top pick is Wegotoldyougotsold. There was a time when this guy would have been considered quite formidable in a race like this. However, he disappointed as the even-money choice last April and wasn’t seen again for 9 months following that performance. He returned for just $20,000 in January but was picked up by Jason Servis, who shows a ton of confidence in targeting this much tougher spot off the claim. Notably, Servis is 4 for 14 (29%, $2.15 ROI) first off the claim with horses moving up in claiming price by 50% or more over 5 years. Some may think it odd to see apprentice Romero Maragh named, but Servis won a few races with him in Florida last year, including with Maximum Security. Wegotoldyougotsold handles this distance and his tactical speed should play well here.