RACE 7: DANTE’S FIRE (#4)
There are many contenders to consider in this New York-bred allowance event. Graded On a Curve figures to attract support given the Chad Brown factor, but he has run a series of speed figures that make him the horse to beat, so he probably deserves to the favorite. The issue with him is that he’s been in some spots where he should have won before and he’s just been a little disappointing, struggling to break through at this level. I’m using him, but I think others offer better value. Jack the Cat has significantly improved over the winter at Tampa Bay Downs, doing so against some solid open company fields. It remains to be seen if he can transfer that form to New York for trainer Ray Handal, but he’ll be a major factor here if he does. In looking for alternatives to this pair, I’m most interested in the newly turned 3-year-olds. One horse who could take a step forward here is Giant Shoes getting on turf for the first time. Brad Cox has outstanding statistics with his first time turfers and this one does have turf pedigree on the dam’s side, though Giant Surprise isn’t much of an influence. My top selection is Dante’s Fire, another horse making his 3-year-old debut. This horse showed some promise as a 2-year-old, but progeny of Temple City tend to do better with maturity. He really appreciated the opportunity to stretch out in his final two starts of 2019, running a good third when closing into a very slow pace on Nov. 2 before breaking through in his final start of the year. He’s a little light on speed figures, but he should have taken a step forward during his time away from the races. Mike Maker is 12 for 53 (23%, $2.43 ROI) with horses coming off breaks of 150 to 300 days in turf routes over the past 5 years.
RACE 8: WON AND DONE (#2)
Likely favorite Mr. Dougie Fresh is the real enigma in this race. At his best, he would crush a field like this, but his top form was achieved for the Jason Servis barn, and you have to be at least a little skeptical about the runners exiting that stable. Rob Atras placed him in a tough spot off the claim back, and while he was never going to beat Mind Control, the speed figure regression does not inspire confidence. Perhaps the drop in class will wake him up, but it seems like the connections may just be acknowledging that they made a bad claim. He’s hard to completely dismiss, since even a subpar effort could win this field, but he’s still somewhat of a wild card; tough call. One of his main rivals appears to be Summer Bourbon. Consistency has been an issue for this guy throughout his career, but he has put forth some big efforts for Rudy Rodriguez in the past and it seems like this barn got him on the right track once again over the winter at Aqueduct. He was beating a weaker field two back but did it in fast time, and carried that form forward into a tougher optional claiming spot. A repeat of that last performance makes him a major player here, especially if some of his more volatile rivals don’t show up. Furthermore, he figures to work out a good stalking trip. I’m using both of these runners, but my top pick is the Pennsylvania shipper Won and Done. If not for that last outing, he might be the favorite in this spot based on his stellar form from the second half of 2019. He is a horse who typically performs best when he’s in the hunt right from the start, so the fact that he was bumped off stride and forced to the back of the pack in the early stages at Penn National last time seems like a legitimate excuse. It’s still fair to wonder if he’ll be as consistent for this current trainer after achieving most of his success for a high-percentage barn last year. That said, he has an aggressive rider on board and is quick enough to make the front here.
RACE 9: DELAWARE (#4)
The Chad Brown runner who figures to attract the most support in this 7-furlong First Defence is Flavius, who drops out of the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale, in which he finished behind yesterday’s Fort Marcy winner Instilled Regard. This horse did win his debut going 7 furlongs back in 2017, so it’s possible that he won’t mind this turnback in distance. However, he was one that was cut out to go longer distances in Europe so it’s a little curious that Chad Brown is taking this shot in a shorter race. I’m using him prominently, but I give some others the slight edge at better prices. Sombeyay certainly seems dangerous in a spot like this. Seven furlongs should be an ideal distance for a horse who has been competitive going shorter in the past. He couldn’t quite hang on when passed late by his stablemate Social Paranoia in the Appleton last time, but he arguably ran the best race that day after making the first move into a contested pace. Furthermore, there isn’t that much speed signed on for this race, especially after the expected scratch of Jakarta, so he should be sitting in a good position up close to the pace. I think he’s the horse to beat, but my top pick is actually the other Chad Brown runner, Delaware. This horse is making his first start in this country after getting very good in the latter half of 2019. He was visually impressive winning a pair of stakes in France over the summer before just coming up empty against a tougher field in a Group 1. Now he lands in Chad Brown’s barn, and this trainer has had success with other runners in this family, including his dam’s half-sister Proviso. This horse seems to have a nice turn of foot, so I actually like this turnback to 7 furlongs, and he appears to be training well for his U.S. debut.