RACE 2: MAJESTIC VIEW (#6)
Unrelenting Force is likely to go favored in this spot as he returns from a layoff. This gelding made one start off the claim for Ray Handal over the winter at Aqueduct, finishing a good second in a maiden special weight event. That was a going a mile, but he’s run well sprinting in the past, so this cutback to 6 1/2 furlongs makes sense off the long break. The only knock against this favorite is that Ray Handal is 0 for 19 with horses returning off layoffs of 90 to 180 days on the dirt. I’m using him, but I’m more interested in an alternative at a better price. Majestic View switches back to dirt after a turf experiment failed earlier this month at Belmont. That’s not terribly surprising, since he really does have more of a dirt pedigree. This will be his first attempt over a fast track, but he did run quite well over a muddy dirt surface in his first start. The pace of that race was very fast and Majestic View was aggressively ridden chasing the early leader Midnight Whiskey before both faded in a race dominated by closers. Notably, Midnight Whiskey returned to win his next start against maiden special weight foes at Saratoga. There isn’t nearly as much pace signed on this time and Majestic View could find himself in front early. I think this horse has more ability than his past performance lines indicate, and this drop in class should benefit him.
RACE 5: OPT (#2)
Rinaldi is the horse to beat as he makes his second start off the layoff while returning to the site of last summer’s stakes victory. He lost as the 8-5 favorite in his comeback at Belmont, but he still ran fairly well for this level. He was up close stalking a slow pace that day and just couldn’t quite keep pace with the gate-to-wire winner Worth a Shot in the late stages. He has a right to move forward off that performance, but he’s now asked to go 1 1/16 miles again and I think it’s reasonable to question whether he wants to go this far. Based on that June 26 performance, I can’t justify taking him instead of Opt, who finished just behind him. Unlike Rinaldi, Opt took a significant step forward in his 4-year-old debut, overcoming that slow pace to rally from last into third. Neither horse was on the advantageous rail that day, but Opt was widest of all while closing through the stretch. It appears that this Robert Ribaudo trainee has turned a corner. The pace may be in Rinaldi’s favor again in this spot, but I don’t think Opt has to be quite as far back as he was last time. He also may just be the superior horse now that both have matured. He’s my top pick, as I prefer both of these runners to the other horse that is likely to attract support. Graded on a Curve could challenge Rinaldi for favoritism off the strength of his runaway victory against N1X company last month at Belmont. While he was visually impressive and earned a competitive speed figure, he was flattered by getting a fast pace to close into against a much weaker field. Furthermore, he twice lost to Opt at Saratoga last year, so why should we accept a shorter price on him this time?
RACE 9: AMUNDSON (#4)
It’s pretty easy to separate the runners in this John Morrissey field into two groups – those with strong recent form and those without. The former group is the smaller one, as only Funny Guy, Bankit, and Amundson come into this race off performances that would be good enough to win here. Many will gravitate towards those two classy runners exiting the Commentator. Funny Guy was the upset winner, benefitting from a perfect trip and ride by Joel Rosario. He got a strong pace to close into and saved ground all the way before the rail opened for him in upper stretch. That said, he still did well to come through and defeat a very good Mr. Buff, earning a career-best 121 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He’s arguably the horse to beat off that effort, but now he has to cut back in distance to 7 furlongs in a race that doesn’t feature nearly as much early speed. Bankit arguably ran just as well as Funny Guy last time, as he had to go wide on the far turn while launching his rally. However, Bankit often is content to settle for minor awards and the lack of pace in here could be an even greater problem for a deep closer like him. All of that points to Amundson being the right horse to take. He may challenge the aforementioned pair of favoritism, but I think he should. Unsurprisingly, the Pace Projector depicts him on a clear early lead in a scenario favoring the front-runner. Furthermore, while this horse doesn’t have the classy company lines of some others, he’s coming off a series of strong sprinting performances. He ran an excellent race to win the Hollie Hughes over the winter and he earned a career-best 121 TimeformUS Speed Figure over this distance last time, only losing to the promising Fortin Hill. Notably, the horse that he dueled with in that spot, Skyler’s Scramjet, returned to win here last Saturday, flattering Amundson’s effort. I think he’s going to lead them all the way.