RACE 3: COLORMEPAZZI (#1)
Beaver Creek is the deserving favorite for Linda Rice on a day when she has the morning line favorite in half of the races on this card. This gelding is probably just getting the class relief that he needs after facing tougher fields at the starter allowance level. He brought his strong Kentucky form to New York in his first local start when he made a wild late run to get up for third on Dec. 13. However, that race featured a strong early pace that was falling apart at the end, which exaggerated his late run. This runner’s most recent effort on Jan. 9 was a little disappointing, but he was always well back behind a relatively slow pace. He should appreciate this slight stretch-out to 7 furlongs, but the class relief is what really figures to wake him up. I’m using him prominently, but I think there are some intriguing alternatives. Chris Englehart has entered a pair, including Coolboy, who gets another shot at this level after he was run off his feet by Montauk Daddy last time. He had some trouble against cheaper on Dec. 18, so his form may be slightly stronger than it appears. Yet I prefer Chris Englehart’s other entrant Colormepazzi. I’ve tried this horse in his two prior starts since returning from the layoff and I’m going to keep the faith for one more start. Those $40k conditioned claiming races may have just been a little too tough for him. He was no match for Perceived two back and last time was contesting an honest pace in a race that was ultimately dominated by late runners. His form on this circuit as a 3-year-old was strong enough to suggest he should be able to compete at this level with routine improvement. The turnback to 7 furlongs should also benefit him. Furthermore, I like the rider switch to Kendrick Carmouche, who has just been making all the right moves lately and may want to get this horse slightly off the pace this time.
RACE 6: LUCKY GIRL (#5)
La Kara Mia, the first foal out of champion sprinter La Verdad, still has a long way to go to live up to the expectations set by her dam. She was curiously spotted on turf first time out given her dirt oriented pedigree. She showed little talent that day, but she predictably woke up in her second start on dirt, as many Linda Rice trainees do. She was hardly disgraced losing to Sharp Starr that day, as that Grade 3-winning filly has since improved by leaps and bounds. She returns from a lengthy layoff here, and Linda Rice is a strong 11 for 31 (35%, $2.29 ROI) with maidens returning from layoffs of 180 days or more on dirt over 5 years. She’s one of many potentially live runners for this barn on the Friday card, but I’m reticent to take a short price on her under these circumstances. Bank Sting debuted in a $500k stakes as a juvenile in late 2019, and hasn’t been seen again until now, just past her 4-year-old birthday. While a fourth-place finish in that ambitious debut race may sound impressive, the quality of that field was out of step with the purse, as four of those who finished behind her were also maidens. That said, she stayed on well going 7 furlongs after a wide trip in an encouraging start to her career. She returns at that distance for John Terranova, who is a solid 6 for 21 (29%, $2.71 ROI) off layoffs of 180 days or more on dirt over 5 years. I’m using both of these, but my top pick is a filly who I perceive to be a more reliable option. Lucky Girl was one of the few Bond runners that wasn’t ready to fire her best shot during the Saratoga meet last year. Yet she returned a few months later at Belmont with an improved effort, getting up for second at this level, albeit well behind the heavily favored winner Wasp. While she earned that career-best placing in the slop, she validated the performance on fast going last time, improving her speed figure despite facing open company. She also didn’t get the most comfortable trip that day, as she was shuffled back behind a tiring rival at the quarter pole. She has a right to continue progressing and wouldn’t need to improve much to beat this crew.