RACE 5: RUNABOUT (#7)
Its All Relevant figures to be a prohibitive favorite in this race as he moves back up in class just slightly after finishing second in a strong $12.5k claimer on Feb. 21. While he earned a respectable speed figure that day, he had everything go his way from a trip standpoint. He was allowed to dawdle along on a slow early pace while riding the rail the entire way on a day when horses in the inside path appeared to have a distinct advantage. It would probably be wiser to judge him on his race two back when he was third at this level, and that performance certainly makes him a contender here. However, I fear that he may be overbet on the perception that he’s improved. He also has to deal with a pace rival in Big Mountain, who would be tough for this field to handle if he were at his best. However, his recent form leaves something to be desired. That said he’s retained much of his early speed, so he figures to pose a problem for the favorite and could lead these a long way on the class drop. I’m using both of these front-runners, but I want to go in a different direction for my top pick. Runabout only finished a half-length behind Its All Relevant when they met at this level on Jan. 23, and this gelding surely had the tougher trip trying to close into a slow pace. He was never really in the mix last time in his first start off the claim for Amira Chichakly, but he was in over his head at the $32k claiming level. He made a brief bid in upper stretch before flattening out, but still earned a decent 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure for his effort, suggesting that he’s held his form. If he can run as well as he did two back dropping down in class, I think he’s a threat to upset.
RACE 6: INSTINCTIVE RHYTHM (#3)
The TimeformUS Pace Projector depicts Foolish Ghost on a clear early lead in a situation favoring the front-runner, and that might be enough to get this 6-time winner home. However, he’s tried this level a few times recently and has blown clear stretch leads in three of those four starts. He has faced more taxing pace scenarios that he’s likely to encounter this time, but he’s still not the kind of horse that I want to lean on at a short price. Instinctive Rhythm was the 6-5 favorite in that Feb. 4 race that Foolish Ghost exits, but he lost all chance when he hopped up at the start and spotted the field a couple of lengths. He didn’t do any meaningful running thereafter, but I’m willing to give him a pass for that performance. Prior to that Instinctive Rhythm had been earning a series of speed figures that put him squarely in the mix against this field, and he ran very well in his only prior start at this level on Jan. 2. He figures to get a great trip stalking the pace and I think he’ll be the one to prove the biggest threat to the favorite if Foolish Ghost gets leg weary in the late stages. Some may also consider a horse like Sneakiness, who has a race two back that makes him competitive here. However, I wasn’t thrilled with his effort against claimers last time when he lacked early speed and was passed from behind in the stretch. He is making his first start off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez, but I prefer the proven class of Instinctive Rhythm at what could be a better price.
RACE 7: CRITICAL VALUE (#5)
Lucky Move is the horse to beat as she moves back into New York-bred company for this Biogio’s Rose. She’s earned a series of speed figures that are simply superior to those of her rivals, but she has primarily done so in races going slightly farther than today’s one-mile distance. Some may also be deterred by her regression out of the triple-digit TimeformUS Speed Figures last time, but note that she got the wrong trip in that Nellie Morse. She was a little rank early as the pace slowed down and made a premature move while racing wide. She had been in excellent form prior to that, and she did handle a one-turn configuration when she won the Empire Distaff at Belmont in October. The bigger issue for this mare could be the lack of pace in this race. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring the early leaders, with Lucky Move lagging well behind in the early stages. She’s overcome slow paces before, but I’m not thrilled at the prospect of taking a short price on her to do so. Her main rival is probably Espresso Shot, but I prefer this 5-year-old mare going a bit shorter than today’s one-mile distance. She does have the tactical speed to work out a better trip than the favorite, but she’s unlikely to offer much value either. I want to get a little more creative with Critical Value. This filly was no match for Lucky Move when they faced off in the Empire Distaff last year, and it’s fair to argue that she’s simply been off form since then. However, I thought she had a legitimate excuse against a tough field two back. Then last time she was in good position on the backstretch but was steadily shuffled back on the far turn before having to alter course in traffic through the stretch. All things considered, she did very well to get up for third, putting forth her best effort in a while. I think this filly could benefit from the addition of blinkers given the lack of focus she displays at times. She also does possess the tactical speed to stay closer to the pace than she has been lately.