RACE 1: CALIDAD (#6)
It was a little odd to see morning-line favorite Sharp Starr’s connections turn her back to 6 furlongs off the layoff, as she seems like the kind of filly that wants to route. She was outrun from the rail that day, threw her head about while maneuvering out of kickback, and flattened out in the late stages. Prior to the layoff back on Feb. 15, she made a strong late run to be second going 7 furlongs, finishing like a horse that should want every bit of this one-mile trip. She didn’t earn a particularly high speed figure for that effort, but she has a right to do better now with the added time to mature. All of her half-siblings have been routers, topped by the talented Papa Shot. Furthermore, her trainer Horacio DePaz is 4 for 8 (50%, $5.37 ROI) with maidens going from sprints to routes over the past 5 years. She’s the horse to beat, but I think she faces a serious rival in fellow stretch-out Calidad. This filly’s debut back in March was very encouraging, as she was off a bit slowly but launched a sustained rally around the turn, chasing home a runaway winner while drawing well clear of the rest. She just looked a little rusty in her return last time, as she again lagged behind early but couldn’t make up much ground once she was steered into the clear late. This daughter of Quality Road has some size to her, so the added ground shouldn’t be an issue. Plus her dam won routing on turf and the dam is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner West Hills Giant, who won over a variety of distances. Bruce Levine doesn’t have great stats in this situation, but this filly appears to have some ability. She’s my top pick, but I don’t want to discount the third major player La Kara Mia. She’s the wild card in this field as she makes her dirt debut after a failed attempt to sprint on turf first time out. She’s definitely bred for this surface being out of the champion dirt sprinter La Verdad, and Linda Rice has excellent statistics with this move. It just remains to be seen if this filly has any real talent, and it’s not like you’re going to get much of a price with Irad Ortiz climbing aboard.
RACE 3: BLACKJACK DAVEY (#1)
Four horses in this field exit the same June 7 race at this level, and the two who put forth the best efforts that day were Jade’s Dream and Microsecond. The former was sent off at 64-1 whereas Microsecond was bet down to 8-5 favoritism. Yet the Pletcher trainee disappointed as Jade’s Dream won their early duel before both were reeled in by Dancers for Token. Based solely on those performances, it would be difficult not to favor Jade’s Dream this time, though there is the possibility that the strong tote support and solid debut effort from Microsecond might lead some to believe that he is capable of better this time. I personally think Jade’s Dream is the horse to beat, and it should come as no major surprise that he improved last time given his excellent damside pedigree. He’s a half-brother to the versatile dirt route specialist Go Get the Basil, who also won over jumps, as well as allowance types Hot Splash, Regal Prince, and Ode to the Hunt. I’m using him prominently, but there’s an intriguing new face in this lineup that deserves respect. Blackjack Davey makes his second career start for Linda Rice, which is one of her specialties. Specifically, over the past 5 years, Rice is 12 for 31 (39%, $2.31 ROI) with second-time starting maidens going from sprints to routes on dirt. This horse just looked like your typically debut runner for this barn, as he was off slowly and green in the early stages before launching a mild late run. He’s certainly bred to do better than that as a full-brother to stakes winner Blindwillie McTell and allowance type Duquesne Whistle. His pedigree is geared more towards sprinting, but both of those aforementioned siblings handled route distances and Linda Rice usually places these horses where they truly belong second time out.
RACE 6: LIFE CHANGER (#2)
Creed figures to be a heavy favorite in this race as he attempts to follow up his impressive maiden triumph with another victory against winners. Unlike the other contenders coming off maiden wins, he’s already proven that he handles this distance, having drawn off impressively going this trip back on June 11, earning a formidable 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure. That type of speed figure is good enough to win most N1X allowance events, and none of his rivals have come close to achieving that kind of figure in their prior starts. The one caveat is that he achieved that victory over a sloppy track with a great trip, sitting off a quartet of embattled leaders before striking on the far turn. He may not get as much pace to close into this time, but there’s no denying that this promising son of Honor Code may possess real talent and have stakes in his future. I’m not against him, but I do think there’s a possibility that he could get overbet in this spot, and I’m somewhat intrigued by one of his rivals. Life Changer was a surprise winner of his debut at 12-1 odds back on June 6, showing early speed from his inside post position before gamely fending off the heavy favorite Dreams of Tomorrow in the last quarter mile. He will have to improve on his 102 TimeformUS Speed Figure to upset Creed, but I liked what I saw from this runner in that appearance. He showed plenty of professionalism and determination as he dug in to turn away that late challenge, never letting Dreams of Tomorrow past him even on the gallop-out. He shouldn’t have any major issues with the added distance given that he’s a son of Preakness winner Oxbow. Furthermore, the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that he should be all alone on the front end this time, as his Early Pace Rating is some 21 points higher than the next-best rating in the field. If Joel Rosario can nurse him along up front and get him to show that same grit in the stretch, I think he could prove to be a worthy rival for Creed.