RACE 1: GROWL TIGER (#5)
Instinctive Rhythm is probably the horse to beat after finishing a strong second to the promising The Sound most recently a Belmont. However, this horse has definitely had his chances, losing his first three starts as the favorite, including a couple of losses at short prices against weaker fields at Monmouth. He just seems like the type that runs to the level of his competition. Determined Fury and Clemenza both showed talent in their respective debut efforts. However, the former got a great trip and just couldn’t seal the deal for a barn that is capable with first time starters. And Clemenza was curiously entered on turf last time off that encouraging unveiling at Monmouth. They both can win if they progress at all off those dirt sprint performances, but they also figure to attract support here. I want to go in a different direction, so I’m taking a shot with first time starter Growl Tiger. Arnaud Delacour is better known for his work with turf horses, but he is actually 12 for 43 (28%, $2.13 ROI) with 3YO+ first time starters on the dirt over the past 5 years. This colt is a son of excellent debut sire Speightstown out of an unraced dam whose only foal to race is Mungojerrie, a 16-length dirt maiden winner with an 87 Beyer. There is also quality in the second generation of this family, as his second dam is Grade 1-winning turf horse Precious Kitten. The workouts at Fair Hill look solid and it seems like a good sign that this barn is shipping to New York for this colt’s debut.
RACE 3: COWTOWN (#7)
Compliant is probably the horse to beat as he faces winners for the first time after breaking his maiden going this distance at Belmont. He worked out a pretty good trip that day, as he sat in mid-pack early in a race where all of the TimeformUS Pace Figures are color-coded red, indicating a fast pace. Jose Ortiz had to wait briefly in upper stretch but angled him out in time to get up for the victory. I don’t think he was beating the strongest field that day, but he may not have to run much faster to beat this somewhat subpar N1X allowance field. I’m using him, but I also am not thrilled with the prospect of taking a very short price on him. Bluegrass Parkway appears to be the stronger of two Jonathan Thomas runners, and he is meeting a weaker N1X field than the group he faced on Aug. 2 at Saratoga. That said, he’s had plenty of chances to break through at this level and just doesn’t seem to possess that will to win. I’m using both of these horses, but I think this is a spot where we can get a little more creative. My top pick is Cowtown. This colt obviously has to improve to beat the aforementioned runners, but I have been waiting for him to stretch out to a marathon distance. This leggy son of Tonalist did improve when he got on turf earlier this year, closing determinedly to win a high-priced maiden claiming race at Gulfstream. He then lost his first start against winners on May 30, but he ran well in the context of that race, flying through the stretch before galloping out past the leaders after the wire. His last two performances since returning from a layoff look disappointing, but one of those was on dirt and last time he had no chance in a race where the pace failed to develop. I like this 1 3/8 miles distance for him and I think he deserves a chance against this mediocre group.
RACE 10: GRANDMAS FAVORITE (#4)
Propensity figures to go favored as he drops in class after hitting the board in a couple of starts against starter allowance company. His last effort was especially encouraging, as he finished a close third behind Ahead of Plan and Bourbon Currency, two runners would be heavy favorites in a spot like this. That was going 7 furlongs, but I have no problem with him cutting back in distance given how well he ran going shorter at Saratoga this summer. He makes plenty of sense, but it’s really just his last speed figure that makes him a standout, and he’s still 1-for-11 lifetime. One of his main rivals appears to be Unprecedented, who finished just three-quarters of a length behind Propensity when they met at Saratoga two back. His overall form is strong, and he figures to work out a decent stalking trip. I’ll use both of these horses, but I think some new faces are more interesting. Montauk Daddy is hard to trust, but he’s certainly capable on his best day. This horse has legitimate excuses for his recent losses and should offer value. I’ll use him as well, but my top pick is Grandmas Favorite. This 5-year-old is pretty lightly-raced for a horse of that age, but he appears to be back in top form since returning from a layoff for Wesley Ward. He didn’t have the smoothest trip at Kentucky Downs two back in what was a stronger race than it initially appeared. He was one of five horses to return out of that spot to win next time, and he earned a strong 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that victory at Belmont. He appears to handle a little give in the ground and he figures to go off at a decent price here with last-out rider Jose Ortiz abandoning him in favor or Unprecedented.