Likely favorite Irish Front (#2) showed some promise in his debut up here last summer, but it took Todd Pletcher a long time to get him back to the races after that. He finally made his second start last month and it was worth the wait, as he impressively dominated a field of maidens in fast time. The third-place finisher Flatter Me lived up to his name by coming back to win his next start with a 102 TimeformUS Speed Figure. This colt won’t have to improve much to beat winners and his early speed makes him a gate-to-wire threat.
He’s the horse to beat, but I slightly prefer his main rival BLINDWILLIE MCTELL (#4). This New York-bred has run a number of races that make him a win candidate against a field like this, including his return from the layoff last time, in which he finished 3rd behind the promising Yaupon. I thought Jose Ortiz rode him like he may have needed the start, as he didn’t get particularly aggressive early and was still sitting chilly in upper stretch before asking him to run for the last furlong. Six furlongs may be on the short side for Blindwillie McTell these days, so he figures to appreciate the slight stretch-out in distance. He’s come from off the pace in recent starts, but he has the tactical speed to sit relatively close to Irish Front early in a race that doesn’t feature that much early pace. Linda Rice is in the midst of a strong Spa meet, and I expect improvement.
The other contender to consider is Wild Medagliad’oro (#6) as he transitions back to dirt. He did run well sprinting here as a 2-year-old, so perhaps the turnback in distance will work out for him. However, I wasn’t thrilled with this recent dirt starts down in Florida and believe he’s better on grass these days. I’ll use him underneath.
Exacta: 4 with 2
Trifecta: 4 with 2,6 with 1,2,5,6,7