French Reef (#4) is a bit of an enigma as he returns from a layoff for his 4-year-old debut. This gelding came into his Aqueduct debut with some hype based on a series of headstrong drills. Yet, to his detriment, that aggressive tendency that he displayed in his morning workouts also showed up in the afternoon. He was uncontrollable through the early stages of that race as he attempted to run off under Javier Castellano. He eventually settled down around the far turn, but he had already exerted too much energy and was swallowed up by late runners in the stretch. Given those character flaws, Chad Brown is probably making a wise decision to turn him all the way back to 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. However, this is not a typical move for the barn. Only one horse in the past 5 years has gone from a route to a sprint in its second start for Chad Brown, and while that horse won, it was a 7-furlong sprint at Belmont. I expect French Reef to run well, but I’m not interested in betting him at a short price.
Its a Wrap (#9) makes plenty of sense as an alternative after running well in his turf debut. He got a pretty good trip from off the pace and just wasn’t quite good enough, but he makes sense in a spot like this. I’ll use both of these, but my top pick is a first time turfer.
ETHOS (#8) returns from a layoff after making one start on dirt last year. He took some money to get bet down to 5-1, and showed brief speed before fading. Jimmy Jerkens doesn’t have the best numbers off layoffs, but this horse is clearly bred to improve with this surface switch. He’s a half-brother to turf winner Four Knights, and his second dam is the excellent broodmare Meghan’s Joy, who has foaled top turf runners Ironicus and On Leave, among others.
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 1,3,4,9
Trifecta: 4,8 with 4,8 with 1,3,9