If Duress (#1) repeats either of his last two efforts, he’s probably going to beat this field. You can’t fault him for failing to reel in the supremely talented Fiya two back when closing for second in a very fast race. Then last time he made what seemed like a winning move in upper stretch but just got tired in the last furlong over a boggy course. Now he finds himself in against a relatively soft N1X allowance field in a race that features some pace for him to close into. I’m hardly against him, but I do see one viable alternative who could get dismissed at a price.
LAST OPPORTUNITY (#6) makes his first start off a trainer switch to Todd Pletcher and cuts back in distance. While the barn change certainly doesn’t hurt, especially considering Pletcher’s strong start to this meet, it’s the turnback that encourages me. This horse just doesn’t strike me was one that wants route distances. In most of his turf races in this country, he’s raced keenly early, sometimes makes a middle move, and has been unable to finish. Those are hallmarks of horses that need to be cut back to sprints, and his European form would also suggest that. He debuted going 6 furlongs at Leopardstown as a 2-year-old and won impressively, closing from the back of the pack with an impressive burst of speed. Plus, he’s bred to sprint, as sire Dandy Man was a 5-furlong specialist. He, too, figures to benefit from some pace in this race, and I have to imagine that he’ll be a square price even with Irad Ortiz taking the mount.
I’m just not a fan of the other alternatives, particularly Ahead of Plan (#5), who benefited from a very soft trip last time and has other speed to contend with here.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,7,8
Trifecta: 1,6 with 1,6 with 2,5,7,8