RACE 1: I AM THE LAW (#1)
The expectations were high for expensive yearling purchase Flying With Angels as he was bet down to 6-5 in his Tampa debut. While he was beaten less than a length, it wasn’t the most visually impressive performance, as he was ridden hard over the last half-mile. That’s probably why the blinkers go on for his second start. However, my bigger problem with that debut race is the fact that it just hasn’t come back that strong. Four horses from that race have returned to run on dirt and they all were off the board with mediocre speed figures. Christophe Clement is 8 for 28 (29%, $2.44 ROI) with blinker additions on dirt over the past 5 years. This colt is bred to be a runner, as a half-brother to stakes winner Long Weekend, out of a dam who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Dads Caps and Paulassilverlining. However, all of those were sprinters so the stretch-out to a mile is a question. Given the questions I have about the favorite, I prefer an alternative. I Am the Law also makes his second career start and figures to be a slightly better price. His debut was pretty encouraging, as that race featured a pretty quick pace for the distance and was dominated by horses who closed from far back, like today’s rival Sono Grato. This chestnut colt chased in mid-pack before making a premature wide move into the stretch. I can’t fault him for getting a little tired late considering the circumstances. He cost a decent amount at auction, and is out of a daughter of 19 for 19 New Mexico-bred phenomenon Peppers Pride. John Terranova is a solid 9 for 40 (23%, $2.16 ROI) with maiden second time starters on dirt over 5 years, so I expect him to step forward. Though, there are other contenders in this spot. I would also use Rudy Rod, who showed nothing in his debut but took a nice step forward last time when finishing fourth chasing wide against a gold rail. The stretch-out in distance may work in his favor.
RACE 3: FULL MOON FEVER (#2)
Impressive debut winner Schokolade will attempt to make it two in a row as he stretches out in distance. He took some money in that unveiling to get bet down to 5-2 and was professional during the race. He broke sharply, established the early lead, and never looked back en route to a commanding score. That 88 TimeformUS Speed Figure compares favorably to others in this field, so the real question is the stretch-out in distance. Bayern is a versatile sire, and his dam was proficient over a variety of distances and surfaces. Yet Bill Mott is just 2 for 25 (8%, $0.64 ROI) with debut winners making their second starts on dirt. He also may have to endure pace pressure from Lobsta and Writer’s Regret. There are some reasons to be skeptical at a short price. I prefer some rivals who are already proven over this distance. Bingo John makes sense as he meets winners for the first time. He was heavily bet in his second start and delivered a solid performance to break his maiden over this distance. He has to step forward again to beat this field but is a contender. My top pick is actually a horse who finished behind Bingo John on Feb. 4. It took Full Moon Fiver five starts to break his maiden, but he had shown potential dating all the way back to his debut. He ran a strong race over this distance on Dec. 18, losing only to undefeated stakes winner Nicky the Vest with a field-best 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure. While he didn’t perform up to that standard in two subsequent losses to today’s rivals, he did finally register a smashing maiden win last time, beating an overmatched group by nearly 18 lengths. The cutback in distance shouldn’t bother him too much. One does have to wonder which version of this horse we’re going to get, but Tony Dutrow has been enjoying a very strong meet, and that has to be taken into account.
RACE 7: MY BOY TATE (#3)
Bankit is a deserved heavy favorite in this Haynesfield as he attempts to win three races in a row. That’s not something you would have expected to say about Bankit until very recently, as he had developed a reputation as a bridesmaid, often picking up minor awards without winning. Yet he was a decisive winner of the Alex M. Robb over the venerable Mr. Buff two back and he followed that up with a game win in the John. B. Campbell at Laurel. Both of those victories were earned around two turns, but Bankit is just as proficient going a one-turn mile as he is longer races, so the turnback shouldn’t hinder him. He has a lot going for him here, but there are two potential vulnerabilities. One is pace, since there isn’t much speed signed on and he’s a closer. The other is the prospect of a wet track on Sunday, since he’s generally underperformed over sloppy and muddy surfaces in the past. I’m not against him, but I do prefer his main rival My Boy Tate at what should be a more generous price. My Boy Tate has some stamina questions to answer as he seeks his first career victory beyond 7 furlongs. However, I can throw out his most recent attempt at a mile, since it came off a layoff before he had regained top form. He’s coming off a strong effort in the Hollie Hughes, suggesting that he’s back in top form after a couple of disappointments to kick off the new year. Furthermore, I could envision a scenario where he works out the perfect trip. This field figures to go pretty slowly up front, and this horse can get the jump on Bankit as they sprint for the wire, similar to what happened in the Stallion Series race from last November.