RACE 1: KICKIN KIRBY (#1)
Freedom Force is likely to go favored here as he moves back to the dirt after fading against a much tougher field on the turf in his return at Saratoga. This son of American Pharoah is getting significant class relief and may have just found the right field. However, it’s not as if his prior dirt speed figures make him some kind of standout in his spot. After all, this is a horse who lost as an odds-on favorite when meeting a weak field of Florida-breds two back. While many of the alternatives have had more chances there is one among them who I think merits consideration. Kickin’ Kirby has tried route distances in recent starts, but his form would suggest that he’s slightly better going shorter. He actually ran pretty well over that demanding 9-furlong distance two back, and he had a rip on July 22. That 6-furlong event featured a moderate pace and Kickin’ Kirby lost position at the quarter pole when his rider unwisely tried to sneak through an opening on the rail. He ultimately steadied and had to alter course. All of his prior dirt sprints had come against maiden special weight company and I think he deserves another shot at sprinting on the class drop.
RACE 4: MAJESTIC DUNHILL (#4)
Lenstar would be a bit of a shock in this race despite his apparent pace advantage, but the rest of the entrants are all major players. Soldado and Build to Suit each figure to attract significant support as they go out for the two top trainers on the circuit. The former is returning from an April layoff after losing a tough allowance race a this level as the favorite. He’s got the speed figures to compete against this stakes-quality field, but I’ve just never been thrilled with this runner’s form and want to see him replicate his best races outside of Gulfstream. Build to Suit arguably has more questions to answer as he makes his second start of the year after getting scratched when entered for a $40,000 tag on closing weekend at Saratoga. Was Chad Brown just trying to win the trainer’s title, or has this horse gone in the wrong direction? I’ll use both of them, but I prefer the logical Majestic Dunhill. This 5-year-old is a deep closer, which might be a liability in this race. However, I would imagine that Joel Rosario would have him much closer to the pace than usual in this short field. He finished ahead of Soldado when they met at Gulfstream and his dirt sprint form is generally quite strong. Furthermore, this is the softest field he’s met on the dirt since returning from a layoff earlier this year.
RACE 5: GIMME SOME MO (#1)
This appears to be a wide open field of maidens competing for the $75,000 tag on turf. Bay Street Money is a logical favorite as he drops out of maiden special weight events into this softer spot. He would be awfully tough for this field to handle if able to recapture the form that he displayed when second two back, but he was a little disappointing at Saratoga last time. This plodding son of Street Sense can be a little one-paced so the barn is adding blinkers. I’m using him, but I think his style could work against him in a race that doesn’t feature that much pace. Todd Pletcher has entered a pair of uncoupled stablemates. Gunman figures to attract support as he makes his second start off the layoff, but I wasn’t thrilled with the race he ran off the layoff. He loomed in mid-stretch and just flattened out when passed from the inside by today’s rival Break Beat. I prefer Pletcher’s other runner Gimme Some Mo. This colt started his career out on the dirt and ran some decent races on that surface, finishing second to the eventual graded stakes-placed Candy Tycoon in January. He got one chance over the turf when last seen in March and he ran better than it might appear. The pace of that race was very fast and completely fell apart in a race dominated by closers. Gimme Some Mo made an early move to challenge for the lead in upper stretch before flattening out. Now he’s had plenty of time to mature since then and his tactical speed should be an asset in this spot.