RACE 1: SADIE LADY (#5)
Into Chocolate is probably the horse to beat as she drops back into optional claiming company after finishing second to the very fast Lady’s Island in the Minaret Stakes at Tampa. While she was cutting into Lady’s Island’s margin in the late stages last time, that was primarily a function of how fast that winner went on the front end in the early going. Into Chocolate faced some decent fillies in California prior to coming into Bill Mott’s barn, but it’s not as if she was earning speed figures that give her some kind of massive edge over this field. Furthermore, unlike her main rivals in this spot, she’s coming in off a layoff for Bill Mott. I think both of Rob Atras’s runners in this race are dangerous alternatives. Some may gravitate towards Fair Regis, who just always seems to show up with a solid effort no matter the conditions. She made a solid return from the layoff last time, but I didn’t like the way she flattened out late after gaining the lead in midstretch. She’s a contender, but I actually prefer her stablemate Sadie Lady. She took plenty of money off the layoff last time, but she ran like a filly that may have needed a start. While she was predicted to control things up front, they actually pushed her a bit in the early stages and she was forced to set an honest pace of the distance. The race was dominated by closers as she got swallowed up in the last furlong. Now she’s turning back slightly to her preferred 6-furlong distance and this is arguably a softer field than she met last time. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is once again predicting that she will be on the early lead by herself in a situation favoring the front-runner.
RACE 5: CAVARADOSSI (#10)
I’m a little skeptical of the likely short prices in this race. I think Tenure might get overbet here as he returns from the layoff with Irad Ortiz named to ride. He showed good speed in a number of starts last season, but he really seemed to relish the 5 1/2 furlong distance and he faded against tougher company when last seen over this trip at Belmont in October. This time the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace with Tenure likely to receive early pressure from Onthewaytoneverland and Elenzee. Wesley Ward has entered a couple of runners, including the aforementioned Onthewaytoneverland. He’ll be dropping in for a tag for the first time after facing tougher rivals in most of his 2019 starts. I think this distance suits him and he certainly fits from a speed figure standpoint. However, he does his best running on the lead and there is other speed in this field. Le General might be a viable alternative to the favorites. While he’s never won on the turf, he ran well over this surface last year, picking up checks in a few New York-bred optional claiming events. It’s not a great sign that he was dropped in for just a $20,000 tag off the layoff last time, but now he’s making his first start off the claim for Linda Rice, who moves him right over to turf. I’m using him, but my top pick is one of the late runners. Cavaradossi has only made one start on turf, and I think he ran deceptively well that day. This horse was no match for winner What’s to Blame in that lone turf start at Aqueduct, but I liked the way he finished up through the lane once he finally extricated himself from traffic at the quarter pole. He’s certainly bred to be a decent turf horse, and I think he’s subtly improved since the last time he tried this surface. He’s going to be a generous price here given his dirt form and Chris Englehart’s negative turf statistics, but he figures to get pace to close into and I believe he can outrun his odds.
RACE 8: DYNA PASSER (#1)
This is a wide open edition of the River Memories, primarily due to the fact that most of the horses in this field are unproven over the 1 1/2 miles distance. Christophe Clement holds a strong hand as he sends out the two shortest prices on the morning line. Yet neither of his runners are proven over this marathon distance. Olympic Games may be the slight public choice due to the presence of Irad Ortiz, but I believe she has a lot to prove in this race. She ran fairly well in her U.S. debut at Gulfstream last time, but she got a pretty good trip that day and just couldn’t quite get up for the victory going 9 furlongs. I don’t see much in her European form that suggests she’s supposed to get better at this elongated distance, and her pedigree doesn’t exactly lean in that direction either. After all, her sire Olympic Glory was more of a sprinter/miler type. I prefer Clement’s other runner Wegetsdamunnys. She returned in great form as a 5-year-old last time, getting up to win despite not getting much pace to close into on June 12. She tried these marathon distances a couple of times late last year, but I thought her late kick was dulled going that far, so I’m a little skeptical that we’ll see her best effort over 1 1/2 miles. I’m interested in a couple of horses who are proven at this distance. One of those is Lemon Zip, who really turned into a 12-furlong specialist in 2019. Her lone start this year resulted in a last-place finish in the G3 The Very One at Gulfstream, but the very firm going that day may not have been to her liking. Her greatest asset is her stamina, and that should come into play, especially in light of the rain that fell earlier this week. My top pick is Dyna Passer for similar reasons. She beat a much weaker field going this distance back in March at Gulfstream, but she had shown strong form against tougher fields last year as a 3-year-old filly. This half-sister to Sadler’s Joy appears to get better with added ground and I think she’s going to work out a nice trip here from her inside draw. She has the tactical speed to stay within range of the leaders in a spot where the only true front-runner, Tass, is going to scratch after competing on Saturday at Delaware.