RACE 3: WICKED HAPPY (#1)
Ms Bombastic is the horse to beat as she drops in for a tag for the first time. She has earned superior speed figures in her turf races and may just appreciate the class relief. However, I don’t view her as a horse who has to win this race. While she only lost by 1 1/2 lengths last time, she never really looked like she was in the mix for a top prize. Junior Alvarado gave her a good ride, saving ground on the turns before angling out, and she just couldn’t make up ground late even as a few of her rivals encountered traffic to her inside. I’m using her but I think others will offer better value. I could understand making cases for horses like Jazzy Lady or She Throws Heat, both of whom have a right to improve off their turf efforts as younger horses now that they’re returning from layoffs. However, I am against the second choice Baseline Drive. This filly made no impact when facing a weak field at Monmouth last time and just hasn’t done much running in any of her turf races. I want to go in a different direction so I’ve landed on Wicked Happy. I tried this filly last time and she just wasn’t quite good enough. While that was just a $40,000 maiden claimer, I thought it was just as tough a spot as this one, so it’s not like she’s moving up in class. She also may benefit from a more aggressive ride as she breaks from the rail going 1 1/8 miles, which is typically an advantage on the inner course. The Pace Projector indicates that she should make the lead here and I don’t anticipate her having any trouble with the distance given how well she ran against a tougher field going 11 furlongs two back.
RACE 6: STANFORD (#4)
La Hara is arguably the horse to beat as he makes his third attempt at this N1X level after finishing second in his last two starts. He was simply no match for a better horse in Colonel Liam two back, but I wasn’t thrilled with his most recent defeat as the 3-5 favorite. I thought he got a good trip stalking a moderate pace last time and had every chance to win when passed from behind by Winning Factor. He’s going to take money off that superior speed figure he earned two back, but I think he’s best judged off his last race, which just makes him one of the contenders in this field. I prefer Price Talk of the short prices. This gelding was disqualified out of his first victory in July, but he made amends last time when defeating a solid maiden special weight field in resounding fashion. He clearly has some quality to him, but he gets a major class test this time. I’m using him prominently, but there are some other horses in this field worth considering. Bray is not impossible after being compromised by a slow pace at this level last time. He was making up ground late after going wide on the far turn in a race dominated on the lead. I’d use him, but I was taken with another horse at a bigger price. Stanford makes his first start in this country for Wayne Catalano, who doesn’t get many horses like this. This 3-year-old was running in some lower level handicaps in England, only one of which came on turf. However, I really liked what I saw out of him in that lone turf start last time. He was well back with just two furlongs to go, but made a wild late run up the outer rail to get the victory. The second, third, and seventh place finishers from that race all returned to win their next starts, and I think this runner still has room to improve. I find it encouraging that a trainer like Catalano is shipping this horse to New York and giving a leg up to Jose Ortiz.
RACE 8: SPEAKER’S CORNER (#5)
There are some experienced runners in this field with faster speed figures, but I’m giving another shot to Speaker’s Corner. This colt was the buzz horse during the final week of the Saratoga meet, getting bet down to 3-5 for his debut – a ridiculous amount of support for a Bill Mott first time starter. His workouts leading up to that race were absolutely stellar, but for whatever reason he didn’t show that apparent talent in the afternoon. He did have some excuses, as he was off a little slowly and had to negotiate some traffic on the far turn. All things considered, it was an encouraging debut, notwithstanding his short price. Seven furlongs may be a more comfortable distance for him and he figures to be more professional this time. His last workout for this race was in company with Nova Rags, who won his debut impressively on Saturday. I think we’re going to see the true version of this horse this time. Yet I don’t want to discount the pair of horses exiting that September 5 maiden event. Caddo River and Greatest Honor simply ran faster than Speaker’s Corner and will be tough to beat if they run back to their respective debut efforts. I slightly prefer the Shug McGaughey colt, as he appears to have a pedigree that would suggest he’ll relish added ground, and he was finishing with good interest last time. These experienced runners appear to have the edge over the first time starters in this race, as I believe all of the aforementioned runners have some quality.