RACE 6: MONTAUK TRAFFIC (#7)
Happy Farm could go favored here as he makes his return from the layoff while moving into the barn of Linda Rice. If he comes back in the same form that we saw from him during his time with Jason Servis he’ll beat this field. Yet that seems like a dubious proposition given the fact that this horse was one of Servis’s more remarkable miracles, and that he’s now in for the $62,500 tag. I understand using him defensively but he seems like a good horse to bet against. Cost Basis is probably going to attract plenty of support as the most appealing alternative. He’s the only horse in this 13-runner affair who is coming off a victory, having just won his N1X condition at Belmont in the slop. While he ran well that day to overhaul the speedy Foolish Ghost, he is taking a big step up in class here. He certainly has the potential to win again, but I’m not sure that I’d want to accept a relatively short price on him. I prefer another 3-year-old, Montauk Traffic. This grey colt showed promise over the winter last year, breaking his maiden impressively before closing from last-to-first to take down the Jimmy Winkfield. He also wasn’t disgraced when meeting tougher foes in the Gotham, making a solid run from far back to get up for fourth. His top TimeformUS Speed Figure of 108 is a little light for this field, but it’s higher than Cost Basis’s best number and at least this horse still has room for improvement now as a more mature 3-year-old. Deep closers like this are always at the mercy of pace, but there should be plenty of that in here with speedy runners like Chateau, Big Money Mike, and Inter Miami signed on. The other horse that I want to get into the mix underneath is Vici. His recent form on turf leaves something to be desired, but he’s actually just as talented on dirt. He ran some impressive dirt speed figures for David Donk when he initially appeared in his barn last year, and would be tough if he can get back to those races.
RACE 9: FOREWARNED (#6)
I have nothing against the likely favorites Backsideofthemoon and Musical Heart. They finished a neck apart in an optional claiming race at this distance last month and a repeat of either of those performances will make them dangerous here. They’re particularly formidable due to their versatile running styles. There’s not much speed signed on, and the Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead. That’s supposed to make Musical Heart particularly formidable, since he could control this on the front end, but Backsideofthemoon possesses the tactical speed to stay within range of his foe. I’m using both of them, and certainly prefer them to the other horses who could attract support in here. Mirinaque feels like the third choice in the wagering, but I’m skeptical that he can translate his dirt marathon form to this shorter race. I want to go in a different direction if trying to beat the favorites, so I’m taking a shot with Forewarned. The aforementioned pace scenario could be a problem for him, but his recent form actually stacks up quite well with the two favorites. He had little chance to close into a slow pace in the Pimlico Special three back, and he didn’t get the most clever ride last time when given too much ground to make up behind the talented Harpers First Ride. Prior to that he had run quite well in some tougher spots on the NYRA circuit, finishing fifth in last year’s Cigar Mile, and picking up third in this year’s G3 Westchester. He’s obviously good enough to win a race like this, and the possibility of another tiring, demanding track like the one we saw on Friday will suit him.
RACE 10: THE CARETAKER (#11)
Rudy Rodriguez and Linda Rice both have coupled entries that could attract support, but I don’t find any of the horses who comprise those pairings to be particularly appealing in this spot. I instead want to focus on The Caretaker, who returns at this level once again after getting beaten as the favorite in a similar spot in November. Some might be discouraged by that performance, but I thought he got the wrong trip that day. After breaking well Jose Lezcano allowed him to drop back off the pace slightly, as is this runner’s custom. However, he ended up getting shuffled back along the inside, winding up behind a pair of runners who were in the midst of backing up through the field. Due to that early decision, he ended up getting shuffled back out a stalking spot into nearly last-place by the time the field reached the quarter pole. All things considered, he did well to re-rally for fourth but he never had a chance to win from there. Now he’s been claimed back by Tom Morley and the same connections who previously had him when he was in good form during the first half of the year. There are some questions for him to answer, but I think his overall form is much stronger than it seems and he figures to get the right pace setup here with speeds like Almendro and Dark Money in the field.