RACE 2: VICTORY BUILT (#8)
The horse to beat is probably Number One Dillon, who makes his second start off the claim for Rob Atras after finishing second at this level last time. While that effort did represent an improvement on his prior form, he was bet to favoritism that day and still couldn’t quite get the job done against a pretty weak field for this level. He’s entered for the same condition today, but he’s facing some stronger rivals this time, so he may have to improve again to beat this field. I’m certainly using him, but he’s not one that I’d recommend betting as the favorite. Main rival Cohiba Ghost returns for his second career dirt start after finishing second on this surface at this level in December. While he earned a speed figure that makes him a contender here, he got a fast pace to close into in that spot, and horses have not come back out of that race to run well. I’d downgrade his performance slightly, and that makes him a poor bet at a relatively short price. I want to go in a different direction with Victory Built. This horse’s form may be tailing off slightly, but I think he’s had excuses in his last two starts. Not only was he facing tougher fields in each of those races, but he found himself in the unenviable position of having to chase Montauk Daddy two back. And last time he lost all chance when we got away from the gate very slowly. I think he’ll work out a better trip from this outside draw, and he should appreciate the slight drop in class.
RACE 5: BETA (#1)
The other division of today’s second race has drawn a pretty wide open field with no clear standouts. The public figures to gravitate towards a couple of class droppers, but neither one is particularly trustworthy. The potential favorite could be Him She Kisses, who finished last in his return last month. Yet, despite that lackluster result, he nevertheless earned a speed figure that makes him a contender here. He’s also getting significant class relief for this race, and he has prior form that would make him tough. Bulwark is also dropping after checking in fourth at the tougher $25k level last time. He was unable to make the lead that day, and that’s always going to be a problem for this speedy horse. While he may wake up on the class drop, he does find himself in yet another race that features plenty of early speed. I want a horse that can come from slightly off the pace, and the option that intrigues me the most is Beta. This horse looks a little slow at first glance, but I think his recent form is better than it appears. He did not get the most comfortable trip two back at a tougher level when jammed in between horses on the turn before fading. Then last time he dropped to this level and made a bold middle move into a fast pace, hanging on until the late stages before tiring. A repeat of that performance puts him in the mix, and he may appreciate turning back to 6 furlongs. Notably, he also gets a rider upgrade to Manny Franco.
RACE 8: RISK TAKING (#5)
Capo Kane must prove that his local stakes victory last month was no fluke, as he stretches out in distance and faces additional pace pressure. He really had everything his own way on the front end in that Jerome score, setting a slow pace on a day when speed appeared to have an advantage. Now the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, as a stretching-out sprinter Mr. Doda and Donegal Bay also figure to vie for the lead. Capo Kane seems pretty talented, and his pedigree indicates that a little more ground isn’t supposed to hinder him. I’m just a little skeptical that he can repeat his last effort while overcoming adversity. Of those entering this Withers off maiden victories, I prefer the morning line favorite Risk Taking. This Chad Brown trainee finally woke up last time after mildly disappointing in his first couple of starts. He clearly wanted no part of sprinting in his Belmont debut, though he did gallop out strongly that day. A turf experiment failed, but stretching out on dirt and adding blinkers seemed to do the trick last time out. He was visibly more engaged right from the start with that equipment change and traveled well to the quarter pole before overhauling the leaders in the lane. He finished up like he relished this distance, and he wouldn’t have to improve much on that 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure to beat this field.