Chad Brown holds a strong hand in this intriguing optional claimer. It looked like stakes could be on the horizon for his charge Sayyaaf (#1) following that impressive N1X victory over a mile in December. Yet that form didn’t translate as well into a tougher spot at this level last time. He got too rank heading into the first turn that day when unable to make the lead and was finished by mid-stretch. This cutback should suit him, but the presence of other speed in here complicates matters a bit. He appears to be best when he gets clear on the front end, and Explorationist (#3) and Fortune’s Fool (#5) could have something to say about that.
Brown’s other runner, Identity Politics (#11), is switching back to turf and this move is a little interesting. He actually began his career on the turf, and was hardly disgraced picking up checks against a pair of decent maiden fields. He’s improved on dirt since then, but his form has plateaued lately. He’s never quite gotten back to those two top efforts at the end of 2018 and has been struggling to break through at this level for a while. It makes sense to change something up, so why not go back to turf? He figures to work out a good trip and Irad taking the reins is a vote of confidence. I wouldn’t accept a short price on him, but he’s one to include.
Yet I’m landing on the logical choice CHEWING GUM (#2). Mott tried to cut him all the way back to 5 1/2 furlongs at Churchill last time, which is pretty drastic considering that he had been excelling in dirt routes prior to that. The move didn’t quite work out, but it wasn’t for lack of effort on the horse’s part. He got squeezed back out of the gate so he was too far back early, and then Rosario had trouble finding a clear path for his rally until they were into the stretch. All things considered, he made excellent late progress to get up for third. This slight stretch-out to 6 furlongs should suit him and the Pace Projector is predicting that he’ll get a fast pace to close into.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,3,9,11
Trifecta: 2 with 1,3,11 with 1,3,5,9,11