The two major players here are Chestertown and Malibu Star. Both of these 4-year-olds were expensive auction purchases who just now appear to be reaching their full potential.
Chestertown (#8) could go slightly favored given his prior experience at this 1 1/8 miles distance. He won the Albany over this trip at Saratoga over the summer, beating the classy City Man. While he disappointed after that in the Empire Classic, he got back on track last time, defeating a solid New York-bred allowance field by over 3 lengths. If he continues progressing he’ll be tough for this field to handle, but I think he faces a serious rival.
MALIBU STAR (#6) began his career in Bob Baffert’s barn, but has come to hand since the trainer switch to Kelly Breen this year. He was a little unlucky to lose to stablemate Full Impact at Monmouth on Oct. 14 and rebounded with an impressive maiden victory at Aqueduct next time. He traveled like a winner every step of the way in that Dec. 10 affair, and easily put away his stablemate when set down in the last eighth of a mile. Interestingly, he was apparently private purchase out of that race, since he was previously owned by Gary and Mary West. Malibu Star has to negotiate added ground here, but he’s bred to stretch out as a son of Giant’s Causeway from the family of the great racemare Personal Ensign, his third dam. Furthermore, Kelly Breen is a remarkable 18 for 55 (33%, $3.03 ROI) with last-out maiden winners on dirt over the past 5 years. He appears to be working well since that race, and I expect him to sit a great trip stalking the speedy Obsessed.
The other horse that I would use underneath is Villainous (#2). This colt was compromised by a speed-favoring racetrack last time and should appreciate stretching back out two turns. I’m just not quite convinced that he’s good enough to beat both favorites if they show up.
Exacta: 6 with 2,5,8
Trifecta: 6 with 2,8 with 1,2,4,5,8