RACE 1: ONE WHIRLWIND RIDE (#4)
Likely favorite B C Glory Days showed promise in his debut, gamely clinging to the lead until the final strides when passed by a pair of seasoned rivals. He was entered back in the same kind of spot last time and the result was nearly identical. However, the impression left by that last performance was considerably different, as he was beaten by a seemingly inferior rival as the 3-5 favorite. He will likely encounter a fast track for the first time on Saturday, and also will be asked to cut back a furlong. I’m not sure less distance is the answer given his route-oriented pedigree, especially on the bottom side. He’s a contender, to be sure, but there are reasons to be wary of him at another short price. I prefer his main rival One Whirlwind Ride. This gelding has had an eventful career thus far. He took money in his debut but was very green in the slop. He was subsequently dropped in for a tag, and looked well on his way to a clear victory when he veered in and dropped his rider. Claimed by his current connections out of that race, it nearly came together for him on Jan. 21 as he just missed at 28-1 with a strong 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Last time he was understandably bet down to favoritism off that performance, but was unable to duplicate that prior effort. The sloppy track seemed to undo him again as he reacted very badly to the kickback. The key for him could be getting back on a fast track Saturday, as there’s clearly ability here. The wild card in this field might be first time starter Saint Selby. Rob Atras isn’t known for his prowess with debut runners, but this gelding is by 15% debut sire Kantharos out of a dam who is a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Nonios.
RACE 5: BATTERBATTERSWING (#7)
The two horses likely to vie for favoritism in this spot are Shamrocked and Fox Red, who have similar running styles and similar form profiles. Both are coming off strong performances in which they showed speed. Yet each of them achieved those strong last-out efforts with the aid of the rail bias on the Valentine’s Day weekend. Shamrocked won in gate-to-wire fashion on Feb. 13 after riding the rail into the stretch, and Fox Red just missed against a tougher $20k group on Feb. 14 after riding the rail most of the way. Not only are these horses candidates to regress moving over to a fair surface, but theirs similar running styles could compromise each other. I prefer a different horse out of the tougher spot that Fox Red exits. Batterbatterswing finished nearly two lengths behind Fox Red in that Feb. 14 affair, but he was wide against the bias every step of the way, chasing 3-wide on the far turn before drifting wider in the stretch. The three horses who finished ahead of him all spent a significant amount of their trips on the rail. Batterbatterswing also ran deceptively well in his prior start on Feb. 8 when he was again wide against a mild rail bias. Some may balk at endorsing a horse from this low-percentage barn, but this gelding is in much stronger form than it seems, and he should work out a decent trip stalking the two aforementioned speeds.
RACE 8: BIG ENGINE (#2)
Secret Rules is clearly the horse to beat in his current form for Bill Mott. He’s run well in all three starts since returning from a layoff this winter, but has had to settle for minor awards each time while catching some talented rivals. He was hardly disgraced losing to subsequent stakes winners Pete’s Play Call and Chateau two and three back, the latter of which earned a huge 127 TimeformUS Speed Figure winning the Tom Fool last weekend. Secret Rules was a little disappointing when last seen on Feb. 13, regressing slightly back to a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure. While he was in the two-path for almost the entirety of his trip on a day that featured a rail bias, the entire field – except for today’s rival Celtic Chaos – was off the rail in that race, so the effect was mitigated. Secret Rules figures to get a good trip on or near the lead in a race that lacks much pace. However, I prefer his main rival Big Engine. This 6-year-old competed on that same Valentine’s Day weekend that featured the strong rail bias, and he got the worst trip in a 4-horse Hollie Hughes field, chasing wide throughout. All things considered, he stayed on fairly well to be second to the classy My Boy Tate. Some might perceive that his recent form is inconsistent, but this horse was compromised by a slow pace two back at Laurel and prior to that was in great form through the summer and fall. Secret Rules has the better running style for this race, but Big Engine possesses more tactical speed than he’s shown in some recent starts, so I’m hoping Eric Cancel can get him into a forward stalking position along the rail.