RACE 7: STAN THE MAN (#1)
Wicked Trick has been a revelation since switching to dirt, reeling off 6 consecutive victories. He was supposed to get a class test last time, but he laughed it off, embarrassing a strong field while earning a career-best 122 TimeformUS Speed Figure. I won’t be shocked if he steps right up and beats stakes company. The one caveat is that he’s only running here after missing the General George due to a brief bout of colic. Yet he’s reportedly recovered well, and it’s a good sign that Rice has put him right back in the entries. His main rival appears to be Diamond King. If this horse runs his best race, it’s pretty clear that he’s going to be tough for even Wicked Trick to beat. The question is what we’re going to get from him following a 4-month layoff. He ended last season with 6 consecutive losses, but he ran very well in defeat on a number of occasions. He’s probably at his best going this flat mile and he could play out as the controlling speed. I’m using both of these, but my top pick is Stan the Man. This 6-year-old returned from the 6-month layoff in excellent form when he took the Queens County. Give him some extra credit for that effort, since he made the first move into a fast pace and held off the vastly improved closer Adventist. Some will be deterred by his poor performance in the Jazil, but I believe he deserves a pass, since he found himself chasing the juggernaut that is Mr. Buff. Furthermore, 9 furlongs has always been stretching him to his limit, and this cutback to a one-turn mile should suit him perfectly. It’s nice to see that he’s bounced back with a series of improved works, and I’m fully expecting him to rebound.
RACE 8: BON RAISON (#6)
You have to admire Mind Control. This 4-year-old just loves to win races and seems to step up to the plate when it matters most. Yet he’s been most effective going 7 furlongs and now he has to turn back to the shortest distance he’s attempted since his broke his maiden as a 2-year-old. I don’t doubt that he has the speed to handle it, but I do wonder what kind of trip he’s going to work out. It can’t be as advantageous as the one he got last time when he was tracking a slow pace and held off the closers. I still prefer him to the other short price Happy Farm. This gelding has improved for Jason Servis, but he had all the best of it setting a slow pace last time. While he did give his talented stablemate Firenze Fire all that he could handle, I think this is a more difficult situation for him. I want to look elsewhere for my top selection and I think we can get some value with Bon Raison. This horse has to be the most active runner on the NYRA circuit, coming off a season in which he made 21 starts. His critics will say that he’s inconsistent, but he has run races in the past that would make him a major player here. Now he’s making his first start off the claim for the hot Michael Tannuzzo barn and they’re immediately stepping up into an ambitious spot. They also gave him 36 days off since his last race. The last time that he had that much time between starts he ran a 125 TimeformUS Speed Figure. I think he’s best as a closing sprinter and he figures to get an honest pace to close into.
RACE 10: MONTAUK TRAFFIC (#8)
Mischevious Alex is obviously the horse to beat off his dominant score in the Grade 3 Swale last time. He had to be hard-used to maintain his rail position early that day, yet still punched through into the lead at the top of the stretch and drew off with authority. That 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure is among the highest in this field and it’s not the first time that he’s posted an impressive number like that. The only major question for him is one of stamina, since he has shown a great deal of speed and his damside pedigree is more sprint-oriented. That said, he appears to have the talent to get the one-turn mile. I’m not as enamored with the other horses coming up from Florida. Untitled’s connections are asking a lot of him as he makes his third start in a 5-week span. He was no match for the promising Gouverneur Morris last time, but he may not have gotten the two turns that day. I like him turning back here, but he still needs to show that he can reproduce that talent that he displayed in his debut against top company. There are a few recent maiden winners in this field, the most intriguing of which may be Sixto. He earned a respectable speed figure in his debut and he’s bred to appreciate all of the added ground he gets. I’ll use all of these prominently, but my top pick is the Jimmy Winkfield winner Montauk Traffic. It’s always noteworthy when Linda Rice takes a shot at a graded stakes, and this horse appears to be rounding into top form. I liked the way he closed determinedly through kickback last time, and he finished like a horse who shouldn’t mind an extra furlong. His pedigree supports that notion, since his dam and siblings had plenty of stamina. If the pace is hot, I believe he’ll be the beneficiary.