Dark Money (#1) and Steam Engine (#6) may both attract support as they move up in class out of $25k state-bred claiming company. Steam Engine defeated Dark Money when they met on Jan. 21, taking advantage of his superior early speed in a race where both worked out good trips. Dark Money since registered a blowout win at the same level on Feb. 13, but he was beating a weak field and benefited from a strong rail bias. These horses are both contenders here and have back races to support their strong recent form. But they do have to deal with each other on the front end while facing some classier rivals.
I want to lean in a different direction. I could make a case for Seven Lillies (#5), who tries to win this condition again after drawing off by 4 lengths in a similar spot on Jan. 30. He rebounded from a poor effort in the mud, essentially validating his strong performance for Rob Atras back on Dec. 19. If he maintains his current form, he’s a major player. Yet he does require some pace to set up his late run.
I prefer class dropper BLINDWILLIE MCTELL (#4). Some will claim that he’s been badly off form, but the reality is that he’s run decent races but has just struggled with consistency against tougher company. He hasn’t faced New York-breds since the 2019 Albany, and he’s met some good horses at the open N1X allowance level, including stakes winners Yaupon and Our Last Buck. He wanted no part of a mile last time, and now he’s getting the class relief he needs and turning back to a more appropriate distance. If he’s going to rebound, this is the right spot.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,2,5,6
Trifecta: 4 with 5,6 with ALL