Secret Rules (#8) 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 (#2). 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.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,7,8
Trifecta: 2 with 1,8 with 1,3,7,8