RACE 3: DREAM DOCTOR (#3)
This is a pretty strong field for the level, though one of the difficulties of this race is gauging which horses are heading in the right direction. Morocco may go off as the favorite as he drops in class and gets ridden by Irad Ortiz. At his best he’s clearly good enough to beat a field like this, but it’s hard to know what we’re going to get him from him after two poor efforts in Kentucky. I can excuse his Kentucky Downs performance when he was involved in a fast pace, but he was pretty dull last time as part of a favored entry. Abiding Star is a little more appealing to me as he takes a similar drop in class. However, at least he’s run this cheaply before, having won at this level with a 118 TimeformUS Speed Figure at Saratoga over the summer. He’s a little inconsistent at times, but he’s pretty tough to run down when he’s at his best and his speed could make him dangerous. Yet there are others to consider. Willing to Speed has a right to get back on track here as he goes from dirt to turf. He got no pace to close into going 10 furlongs in his lone turf start for Rob Atras, whose barn has begun to heat up recently. I’m using all of these, but my top pick is my old friend Dream Doctor. I was admittedly a big fan of this horse when he was competing on the New York circuit a few years ago, and he’s actually held his form pretty well while competing Maryland over the past couple of seasons. He’s now dropping in class while going out for Tom Morley, and I think he’s found a decent spot. Some may be deterred by his fourth-place finish at Laurel in that return last time, but that may have been a stronger race than it appears. A number of horses have returned out of that spot to improve their speed figures in subsequent starts, and he was hindered by being so far back in the early going. I expect a better effort this time.
RACE 6: PALAMOS (#5)
I generally want the lightly-raced fillies in this maiden field. Counterparty Risk seems like a deserving favorite after closing mildly for fourth in her debut at Belmont. That was only going 7 furlongs, and she’s bred to relish much farther distances than that as a daughter of Epsom Derby winner Australia, and hailing from a stamina-laden female family. While some might have been slightly disappointed in that performance at the time, given her 2-1 odds, the race was subsequently flattered by winner High Opinion, who returned to finish a strong second in the Winter Memories last weekend. I’m using her, but I give slight preference to the other second time starter Palamos. This filly also finished fourth in her debut, competing at Keeneland. While the fractions of that race may look honest, they were actually going pretty slow up front and the race played out in a manner that favored the leader. Palamos was a little eager in the early going and finished up with interest but just couldn’t make up any ground through the stretch. She gets an extra sixteenth to work with here, and she’s supposed to appreciate added ground as a full-sister to marathon stakes winner Mrs. Sippy. Other horses to include are first time starter Niceno, who has a nice pedigree for turf, and Star Command, who ran deceptively well chasing a fast pace last time at Keeneland.
RACE 9: FIERCE SCARLETT (#8)
Two of the major players, Windfall Profit and Eye of a Soldier, exit the same pair of races at Belmont. Windfall Profit arguably ran the better race two back on September 18 when she was rated behind a slow pace and forced to make a wide move into contention before flattening out. However, I would say that Eye of a Soldier may have run the superior race last time despite losing to her rival by a neck. There was no pace signed on in that October 25 affair and Eye of a Soldier just ran off on the lead, ultimately setting a faster pace than her connections intended. We’ll see if either one can work out the right trip this time, but both appear to have the ability to win at this level. I’m using them, but I prefer their older rival Fierce Scarlett. The layoff is obviously a concern, but few in this game are better than Chad Brown in these situations. Over the past 5 years, he is 23 for 66 (35%, $2.25 ROI) with 4-year-old and up horses returning from 120 to 240 day layoffs in turf routes at NYRA. A quick glance at this filly’s form may lead some to speculate that she never progressed from early in her 3-year-old season, but I think that would be a mistake. She ran much better than it appears in both starts at Belmont in the fall of 2019, as she was badly compromised by a slow pace three back and then got a poor ride two back on October 26. Her lone performance of 2020 wasn’t quite as encouraging, but she ran during a time this past spring when Chad Brown’s horses weren’t performing up to expectations at Churchill Downs. Now she’s reunited with Irad Ortiz and lands in a race that should feature a fair pace.