RACE 4: TENDERFOOT (#7)
Breithorn figures to vie for favoritism with Macho Jack in this maiden claimer. The former is dropping in for a tag for the first time after trying turf in his first start off the layoff for Bill Mott. Mott now owns this former Juddmonte runner and has struggled to figure out what his best distance or surface might be. He obviously achieved his best result sprinting on dirt behind subsequent stakes winner Montauk Traffic, so now he’s trying that once again. He certainly fits here from a speed figure standpoint, but others appear to have more upside. Macho Jack makes his 4-year-old debut after finishing a strong second when last seen at Keeneland in October. He clearly can handle this distance, and should contend here if he’s ready off the layoff. Though it is worth noting that he’s starting for Rudy Rodriguez in name only, as he’s been training in Kentucky all summer. I’m using both of these, but my top pick is Tenderfoot at what I’m hoping is a slightly better price. This runner drops in for a tag for the first time while making his first start as a new gelding. He put in an even effort in his debut last November and then was laid up for a long time. He made his return at Churchill Downs in June, and ran deceptively well within the context of that race. He was reserved at the back of the pack early, and seemingly was full of run coming around the far turn. Yet Chris Landeros rode him into traffic at the quarter pole before he passed some tired runners late. This son of Graydar appears to have more ability than he’s shown in the afternoons, and I think he can take a step forward here with the drop in class.
RACE 6: SUMMER BOURBON (#8)
The veteran 9-year-old Eye Luv Lulu would obviously trounce this field if he were to show up with his best form, but that seems dubious based on this drop in class. He is one of many horses who achieved his best efforts for the Jason Servis barn, so one has to wonder if he can still produce similar performances for a new trainer. Rob Atras also wins at a high rate, but he’s not showing much confidence in this horse, and it’s worth noting that he was a vet scratch twice during the Belmont meet. It’s possible that he works out a god trip here given his early speed, but it’s just hard to know what we’re going to get from him. Just Right could also attract support, and he’s another runner who is not totally trustworthy. He showed some talent as a 3-year-old, especially once he was stretched out in distance. Yet now he’s been off for quite some time and is returning for just a $25,000 tag while cutting back to a sprint. Todd Pletcher has solid stats off layoffs and this runner is certainly quick enough to keep up with what should be a moderate early tempo. But wouldn’t they be aiming at a tougher spot if he was really doing well? I’m going to try to beat these two with Summer Bourbon. He ran like a horse that needed his first start back off the layoff at Belmont, but then he regressed when Rudy brought him back on 12 days’ rest. However, you can make some excuses for him. That last race featured a strong early pace and he was simply outrun early while racing extremely wide on the turn. He does his best work when he can stalk from close range, and he should work out that kind of trip given the lack of front-running speed in this affair. I think he’s going to rebound.
RACE 9: SHARP STARR (#3)
Of the three main players, the one who has experience at this distance is Singular Sensation. She almost upset the very talented Ratajkowski last summer, giving that rival all she could handle through the stretch of a 9-furlong contest. Yet she was off for a very long time after that. While she was soundly defeated in her return at Belmont, it appeared that there was a rail bias on June 25 and she stalked outside the entire way while the winner rode the inside path. I expect her to take a step forward second off the layoff, but it still remains to be seen if she can get back to the form that she displayed last August. Eloquent Speaker also figures to attract support as she stretches out off a maiden victory. She beat a pretty strong field in that June 12 heat, as a couple runners have already returned to win out of that race. This daughter of Flatter has some size to her so she should handle some extra ground, but this stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles will be a real test of stamina. I’m also concerned that she has more sprint breeding on her dam’s side, as her dam is a half-sister to stakes-winning sprinters Bridgehampton and Stormy Novel. I think she’s vulnerable on the stretch-out. My top pick is recent maiden winner Sharp Starr. She ran like a filly that wanted no part of sprinting early in her career, and she took a massive step forward when she was stretched out to a mile at Belmont last time. She looked a little uncomfortable early, but finished with power, drawing off by 5 lengths. I don’t think the 9 furlongs will be an issue given the stamina in her female family.