Stan the Man (#2) is a deserving favorite as he drops in class after finishing second to the accomplished Firenze Fire in the Grade 2 True North last time. Yet he does have some questions to answer. He looked like he was about to kick off a strong winter campaign when he won the Queens County last December, but his two subsequent performances at Aqueduct were disappointing. He did get back on track in the True North last time, but he benefited from a favorable pace scenario and only earned a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which hardly makes invincible in this field. I’m using him prominently, but he’s going to have to show up with a top effort going a distance that may be short of his best.
I do prefer him to the pair of horses exiting the John Morrissey. Both T Loves a Fight (#1) and My Boy Tate (#4) put in game efforts that day but they were no match for the vastly improved winner Funny Guy. They’re honest sorts who are capable of winning a race like this on their best day, but both had been off form prior to that last race, and I want to see them repeat that effort before backing them.
My top pick is the longshot in the field, READY TO ESCAPE (#3). The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead, and I think Ready to Escape is the most likely pacesetter as long as he breaks cleanly. I did not like the ride he got last time, as apprentice Luis Cardenas was intent on rating this gelding despite the fact that he broke sharply in a field lacking any pace. He’s always most effective when he can flaunt his speed, as he did on Feb. 29 at Aqueduct en route to a career-best 120 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He gets tested for class here, but I like the rider switch to Kendrick Carmouche and believe he’s going to outrun his odds.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,2,4,5
Trifecta: 2,3 with 2,3 with 1,4,5