RACE 1: OUTRAGEOUS BET (#9)
A number of these horses coming out of a similar race a this level on September 24. Duncastle got the victory that day after setting a tepid pace for the distance (though that posted opening quarter of 23 1/5 is likely about half a second slower than reality). He clearly has the ability to repeat, but he may have trouble working out the same trip with New York’s Finest in this race. At his best, New York’s Finest is a superior horse to Duncastle, but he’s a need-the-lead type who probably wants to go a bit shorter than this. I expect them both to create a more honest pace, which should help some stalkers and closers. Ian Glass may benefit from that situation, but there’s another horse in here that could really be helped by some pace at a much bigger price. Outrageous Bet has subtly improved in recent starts, even running competitively on dirt twice in his last three starts. Yet turf is clearly his preferred surface. He finished seventh in that common September 24 event, but was beaten by less than 3 lengths while trying to close into the slow pace. He’s now getting a rider upgrade to Chris DeCarlo, and I think he can bridge the gap between himself and the favorites if given a fair race flow. Furthermore, he handles some give in the ground, so he won’t be hindered by a yielding course. Another runner who I’d throw into the mix is The Queens Jules. This Wayne Potts trainee hasn’t sprinted on turf much during his career, but he’s handled those opportunities well and may be coming into this race in the best form of his career.
RACE 8: MORE GRAYTFUL (#6)
The East Coast-campaigned Baffert-trained Tale of the Union is undoubtedly the horse to beat as he makes his third attempt to break through this level after a pair of second place finishes in recent starts. He’s as consistent as they come from a speed figure standpoint and may not need to improve at all to get over the hump this time. The outside post position seems perfect for a horse with his running style. The one minor concern is the start, as he’s broken slowly in a few of his races and doesn’t have that much margin for error at this level. Main rivals Bears Mafia has been on quite a roll for this barn, winning 6 consecutive races since mid-summer with improving speed figures. While most of those victories were accomplished out of town, he did bring that form to Belmont last time, running away from a decent N1X field by over 4 lengths. A repeat of those last two TimeformUS Speed Figures makes him a major player despite the class hike here. Yet, now he’s drawn the rail whereas last time he could stalk outside. I wanted to go in a different direction with More Graytful. This 3-year-old has quietly been improving all year. He needed an off-the-turf event to win his N1X allowance condition over the summer, but he nevertheless ran well within the context of that race. He followed it up with a solid effort going a demanding 1 1/8 miles in the Albany. He cut back to a more appropriate distance last time and rewarded his connections with his best effort to date, finishing just behind Tale of the Union. He did the dirty work early, trying to soften up eventual winner Foolish Ghost, and paid the price late while never really quiting. Now gets a rider switch to Rosario and should be able to revert to stalking tactics that have worked in the past.
RACE 9: VIGILANTES WAY (#3)
Speaktomeofsummer is probably the horse to beat as she drops in class of the Grade 2 Lake Placid where she finished a well-beaten second to impressive European import Tamahere. Some may be tempted to upgrade her performance due to the fact that she encountered some traffic in upper stretch, but I don’t think she was ever going to be a serious threat to the winner that day. Her overall form is strong and stretching back out o the two-turn 1 1/16 miles should suit her. My only knock against her is the likelihood of a slow early pace given the lack of speed in this field. And that pace is expected to be set by Duopology, who is getting a little class relief coming out of the Grade 3 Valley View. She was bet down to tepid favoritism that day, but her trip didn’t quite work out. They went quickly up front and she just got swallowed up by a slew of closers in the stretch. This time she figures to get a trip that will very similar to the one she enjoyed en route to victory at Saratoga two back. If she can repeat that performance she’ll be tough. Yet I prefer a new face. Vigilantes Way steps up in class, but I think this well-bred Phipps filly has run well in both career starts on turf. She was very impressive winning her turf debut at Colonial Downs over the summer, defeating subsequent stakes winner Luck Money by over 5 lengths. She got rained off the turf once thereafter, but returned to this surface with a strong runner-up finish in a salty edition of the Hilltop. That race was run over a yielding course, and she figures to catch similar turf conditions on Sunday at Aqueduct. Furthermore, she has the tactical speed to get first run on Duopoly.