RACE 5: PRAIRIE FIRE (#3)
Timely Tradition has to be considered the horse to beat as she turns back to her preferred sprint distance. That route experiment just didn’t work out last time as she was dull every step of the way, unable to muster a rally in a race that held together on the front end. Prior to that she was in very strong form. I can’t fault her for losing to the streaking Letmetakethiscall two back, and she didn’t get the best trip in that stakes at Laurel last November. She loves this distance and isn’t catching the strongest field for this level. She’s a deserving favorite, but she will have to contend with the early speed of the undefeated Chub Wagon. The new face in this field ships in from Parx with a perfect career record. She showed speed and promise in her two starts last year, but took her game to the next level in that most recent victory. She blasted away from the gate and never was in danger as she just cruised away from that field under minimal urging. Chub Wagon was 1-5 for a reason as those who finished behind her were badly overmatched. That said, she now she finds herself in a field where she should be the controlling speed. The one major downside is her trainer’s poor record (0-for-20 over 5 years) at NYRA. I want to go in a different direction with Prairie Fire. One of two Linda Rice trainees in this field, she’ll be looking to get back on track following a couple of disappointing efforts against stakes company. She may not have appreciated the aggressive tactics used in the La Verdad two back as she’s typically best from off the pace. And last time in the Correction she was always in a bad position racing wide against a rail bias. She’s likely in better form that that, and her prior efforts from late 2020 give her a strong chance here. She finished ahead of today’s favorite Timely Tradition when they met in the Iroquois last year, albeit with a favorable pace setup. Furthermore, she retains Eric Cancel, who has been on a roll over this strip.
RACE 6: DREAMS OF TOMORROW (#5)
This Peter Brant/Chad Brown pair are likely to be prohibitive favorites as part of a coupled entry in this turf allowance. However, I’m not thrilled with either runner. La Hara comes off a disappointing 2020 campaign in which he was bet down to short prices in three starts at this level and was unable to win. Let’s not fault him for losing to Colonel Liam last July, but his last two losses as the odds-on favorite are more difficult to forgive. He just hasn’t ever moved forward from his visually impressive debut two seasons ago, and I’m concerned he might even have tailed off. Kuramata is not as familiar and may be the half of the entry that attracts even more attention as he’s ridden by Irad Ortiz. While he got the job done in his U.S. debut, it was hardly the most visually impressive performance. He was off slowly but got a little rank after that as he rushed up into contention. He had to be strongly roused in upper stretch to take over and hung on his wrong lead late while one-paced to the wire. He has to do better than that if he’s to beat this field, and I’m not inclined to take a short price on him despite his apparent potential. I’m instead going with the obvious alternative. I don’t love Dreams of Tomorrow, but he feels like the right horse in this spot. He ran well to break his maiden over this course last December, spurting clear in upper stretch going 9 furlongs. He made just one start over the winter at Gulfstream and lost at a relatively short price. Yet he was beaten by a solid runner who came out of that race to improve his TimeformUS Speed Figure by 7 points. I also feel that the mile may have been a bit sharp for him last time, and he should appreciate stretching back out here. He should get a perfect trip stalking the likely speed Singapore Trader, and I’m hoping he can hold off the Chad Brown duo late.
RACE 7: HONOR WAY (#1)
The two classiest runners in this Grade 3 Distaff are obviously Paris Lights and Lady Kate. The former is a Grade 1 winner and the latter was second to the almighty Monomoy Girl in a Grade 1 event last year. However, both are returning from layoffs and turning back in distance. I’m more concerned about the cutback in trip for Paris Lights, who just doesn’t feel like a natural fit for this race. She improved going two turns last year, racing up close to moderate paces. She’s likely to get outrun in the early stages this time and it’s unclear if she possesses the quickness to outkick some of the natural sprinters in the lineup. I’m more optimistic about Lady Kate turning back. I actually don’t mind her going 7 furlongs at all and think that’s a better distance for her than the 1 1/8 miles she tried in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last time. She didn’t run well against top-level company in her two final starts of 2020, but she had shown quality prior to that and is clearly good enough to beat this field. She’s also swift enough in the early stages to get the right kind of trip, potentially even setting the pace. Yet I still have some concerns about readiness off the layoff. Therefore, I’ve landed on the more reliable Honor Way. This filly doesn’t have the back class of the other two favorites, but she was in career form at the age of 6 in 2020. Following a smashing optional claiming win at Saratoga, she’s now finished in the exacta in 5 consecutive starts, and is seeking her third stakes win in a row. She was flattered when Pacific Gale, who she twice defeated in the fall, went on to win a pair of graded stakes at Gulfstream over the winter. This mare, now 7-years-old, loves the 7-furlong distance and usually performs her best for Jose Ortiz, who has ridden her in 5 of her last 7 victories.