Malibu Pro (#4) seems like a deserving favorite as he drops out of a tougher N2X optional claimer 15 days ago. He actually ran pretty well within the context of that race, as it was dominated towards the front end on a day when speed seemed to have an advantage due to windy conditions. Malibu Pro rated at the back of the pack early but launched a wide rally on the far turn before flattening out in the stretch. If he runs back to that effort or any of his recent performances he’s going to be tough for this field to handle. And this drop in class is hardly of any concern, since this is the level at which he’s proven he belongs.
His main rival is probably Limonite (#2), who didn’t have much of a chance last time when racing wide against a rail bias on Dec. 20. However, I’m not thrilled with this horse’s prior form. He had won three races in a row in the Midwest, but he wasn’t beating very good fields in any of those starts. I think this is subtly tougher and he still has to prove that he can maintain that consistent dirt form for Mike Maker. I prefer a different horse out of that Dec. 20 affair.
KUMAR (#5) was also wide against the bias while chasing the pace early. He understandably faded late going a distance that is always a bit of a struggle for him. He turned back to a mile last time in the same race that Malibu Pro exits, and he didn’t run much worse than that rival. He was rallying in tandem with Malibu Pro on the turn before running into some traffic when that one kept him locked behind horses at the quarter pole. And prior to those performances he was much the best on Oct. 31, getting up to win after blowing the start. His overall recent form is stronger than it appears, and he could offer value in the face of the two favorites.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,3,4,7
Trifecta: 4,5 with 4,5 with 1,2,3,7