Whichwaytomalibu (#4) chased home gate-to-wire winner Jerry the Nipper last time while never really a threat. He was perhaps carried along by the track, as Feb. 22 was a day that appeared to favor forwardly placed runners. He is bred to be more of a sprint type, but he handled a mile well enough last time. He may have an easier time of it on the front end here, since he’s one of the few major contenders that possesses any real speed. Others do have more upside, but he’s the one to beat and the one to catch.
Beg to Differ (#6) closed steadily from far back to get up for third last time, but did so with the help of a fast and contested early pace. Nevertheless, that was his first start in 3 months, so he has a right to improve second off the layoff. That 87 TimeformUS Speed Figure puts him right in line with the other major players and he arguably has more room for improvement in just his second dirt start. He just needs to show a bit more tactical speed since there doesn’t appear to be much pace signed on this time.
I’m interested in some of the second-time starters, the most intriguing of which may be FROZEN ACCOUNT (#3). This colt broke with the field last time and initially tried to show speed before getting steadied out of position. That caused him to become extremely green, as he lost contact with the field leaving the backstretch. He eventually regained his stride and put in a strong stretch run while never threatening the winner. Runner-up Jerry the Nipper returned to win next time out with a 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Frozen Account now goes out for Kelly Breen for the first time, and this barn does well off trainer switches.
I would also use Liquor (#2), who steadily made up ground while racing wide in his debut. He gets a rider upgrade for James Ferraro and is bred to relish added ground as a son of Tonalist. Signified (#7) also figures to improve out of that same race. He got a good education encountering traffic at a couple of points. Pletcher is also 41 for 125 (33%, $2.20 ROI) with maiden second-time starters going from sprints to routes on dirt over 5 years.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 2,4,6,7
Trifecta: 3 with 2,7 with 2,4,5,6,7