RACE 2: CHARGE AHEAD (#3)
This is a very confusing race featuring numerous contenders. Of those with proven turf sprint form, I give the slight edge to Just for One Day. This colt has only made one start on the turf, that coming two back at Gulfstream, and he put forth a solid effort to win. Some may be deterred by the fact that he only won by a neck as the 1-5 favorite, but that turned out to be a stronger maiden event than it appeared at the time, as runner-up Shared Legacy returned to break his maiden with a 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure. I’m using him prominently, but I’d also include logical runners like My Eclair, who should be flashing speed from the outside, and Bourbon Currency, who figures to appreciate the turnback in distance. I’m a little less enthusiastic about the chances of morning line favorite Standup, who got a great trip up the rail at Aqueduct last time and may be overbet off that speed figure. They’re the logical players, but my top pick is the first time turfer Charge Ahead. This horse has been awful in his last two starts, but they came on dirt and he may just not be a dirt horse. All of his prior starts on synthetic at Woodbine were solid, earning speed figures that put him squarely in the mix against this field. Now, it’s no guarantee that synthetic form will translate to turf, but he does have a turf pedigree as a son of 14% turf sire Will Take Charge out of a dam whose only win came on turf. Rudy Rodriguez doesn’t great statistics making this move, but I get the sense that he’s made a clever claim here and has pointed this horse to a good spot.
RACE 8: VIADERA (#1)
Chad Brown holds all the card here, as he sends out the top four choices on the morning line. Significant Form seems like the horse to beat as she attempts to win her second consecutive Intercontinental. She’s a versatile mare who is capable of winning shorter routes as well as elongated sprints, so this 7 furlongs is ideal. She was a little overmatched in the Matriarch last year, and I would expect her to get back into top form off the layoff here. The other Brown runner who figures to attract significant support is the enigmatic Newspaperofrecord. In terms of raw ability, she’s among the most appealing runners in this field. Yet you have to be concerned about her trip, since she’s a difficult horse to ride. The presence of Jakarta in this race could be an issue for her since it might force Irad Ortiz to rate her again, and Newspaperofrecord has not responded well to those tactics in the past. I’m using her because I respect her talent, but I can’t make her my top pick. I have no major knocks against Regal Glory, who should appreciate the turnback in distance, but the Chad Brown runner who intrigues me the most is his European shipper. Viadera comes over to this country with solid credentials at the handicap level. She had a bit of a trip last time when toting 136 pounds, and then she just didn’t want to go 1 1/8 miles two back. Prior to that, she was in solid form and she’s handled distances like this in the past, which should be no problem as a daughter of sprinter Bated Breath. She appears to be training very forwardly for her U.S. debut, and I like that Chad Brown reaches out to Joel Rosario.
RACE 9: PERFORMER (#2)
This Carter Handicap drew an awesome field, and you can make a valid case for each of the four main players. I’m a big fan of Performer, and I think this is a great spot for him to make his 4-year-old debut. This chestnut colt only started 4 times in 2019, but he won all of those races at a variety of distances, topped by an impressive score in the Grade 3 Discovery last November, earning a field-best 130 TimeformUS Speed Figure. This return to sprinting off the layoff makes plenty of sense, since he possesses plenty of natural speed. Shug McGaughey penciled in this race as the target a long time ago, so he should be more than ready to make his return to the races. Furthermore, he figures to work out a good forwardly-placed trip, since this race does not possess a ton of early speed. Given that lack of pace, I think you need to respect Firenze Fire. I know that many have legitimate concerns about whether he can maintain his form for the Kelly Breen barn after achieving all of his success for Jason Servis. Yet I think you have to evaluate these horses on a case-by-case basis, and it would be unwise to disregard this runner’s pace advantage. The Pace Projector shows him on a clear early lead in a situation favoring the front-runner, and he’s certainly capable of getting the 7-furlong distance when the pace works out. I don’t love him, but he’s one that I need to use. Vekoma makes plenty of sense in his second start off the layoff. I thought his return in the Sir Shackleton was encouraging, and I like that they’re sticking to sprint distances for the time being. Mind Control is a more difficult runner for me to assess. He’s been pegged as the highweight here due to his prior Grade 1 successes, and he’s just not quite as fast as his main contenders. Furthermore, he could be up against it from a pace standpoint if he uses the same running style as we saw last time. That said, he certainly knows how to find the wire.