Between Bill Mott’s pair of runners, I’m most intrigued by Hardison (#3). This grey son of Tapit obviously has ability, but tries a new surface for the firs time. That second start has proven to be a strong race as winner Hard Love returned to finish a strong second in a stakes next time. At first glance this switch to dirt might look like a move of desperation after he disappointed as a short price last time. However, Mott and the connections have probably always had dirt in mind for this colt but had no reason to switch surfaces immediately after his surprisingly strong debut. He’s bred for dirt through and through, as his dam Octave was a multiple Grade 1-winning dirt router, and all of her foals have excelled routing on dirt, including Belmont Stakes fourth-place finisher Incognito.
Todd Pletcher had originally entered two runners, but he’ll just go with UNBRIDLED HONOR (#6).
Over the past 5 years, Pletcher is 5 for 6 (83%, $5.55 ROI) with maiden second time starters in 9-furlong dirt races at Aqueduct. I preferred Unbridled Honor to stablemate Constitutional Law originally, and he’ll be my top pick in this race. This homebred son of Honor Code just looked very green first time out, as he dropped back midway through the race while seeming to lose focus. He appeared to reengage in the stretch and was finishing up best of all late. Added distance isn’t supposed to be a problem as his dam is a half-sister to Haskell winner Roman Ruler and Cigar Mile winner El Corredor. He actually broke sharply last time, so I expect him to show more tactical speed on the stretch-out and potentially get the jump on some others who appear to have plodding styles.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 2,3,5,7
Trifecta: 3,6 with 3,6 with 2,5,7,8