RACE 4: KILLER DRESS (#7)
If this race remains on turf, Summer in the City could go favored. This 4-year-old filly returns from a lengthy layoff for Todd Pletcher after narrowly breaking her maiden last June at Gulfstream. While she achieved that victory at the maiden special weight level, it was a relatively weak race for that condition. Furthermore, in each of her last two starts, she’s benefited from very favorable trips stalking slow paces. Her top TimeformUS Speed Figure of 84 doesn’t make her any kind of standout in this field, and some of those turf events from last year haven’t aged well. Pletcher does do well off lengthy layoffs on turf, but this filly is going to attract plenty of support with Irad Ortiz named to ride. I prefer others if she’s a short price. In a race where the form of many short prices falls apart under scrutiny, Fair Grounds invader Killer Dress might actually be better than her running lines indicate. She showed some promise in her first couple of starts before getting rained off the grass in her 3-year-old debut. She got her first major class test on Feb. 5 when facing a solid allowance field, but her trip didn’t work out. She was launching what looked like it might be a winning move up the rail at the top of the stretch before getting completely sawed off by some drifting rivals. She received some class relief last time and rebounded nicely, deploying an impressive turn of foot to win a race where the pace mostly held together. She now catches a relatively weak group for this level and appears to be in top form. If this race gets rained off the turf, I wouldn’t try to beat the only Main Track Only entrant, Betsy Blue. This filly has been improving in recent starts, and Linda Rice is 15 for 30 (50%, $2.94 ROI) first off the claim with horses stretching out from sprints to dirt routes over 5 years.
RACE 6: FOREVER CHANGED (#1)
It’s hard to know how the public will approach this confusing New York-bred optional claimer given the mix of 3-year-olds and older runners. I suppose the favorite could be Singular Sensation as she returns from a layoff. She ran fairly well in her two races over this surface last fall when second at this level before finishing third in a 4-horse Bay Ridge. The problem is that she got a great trip on Dec. 3 and was supposed to win that day, and then set a glacial pace in the stakes. Now she’s returning at 7 furlongs, which is probably short of her ideal distance. She was also outworked by turf filly Kilkea in a recent drill at Gulfstream, suggesting that she may need a start off the break. Among the more lightly raced options, I’m most intrigued by Secret Love and Bank Sting. The former put in a terrible performance when last seen in the Maddie May, but it feels like she might have bled in that race as she abruptly stopped on the turn and now gets Lasix for the first time. She ran well to win a stakes in the mud two back, and could get another wet track here. Bank Sting also has upside despite being a 4-year-old. She tries to win her third consecutive start since returning from a layoff this winter. While she rode the gold rail early in that Feb. 26 affair, she finished well even when she swung wide for the drive. I’m using both of these, but my top pick is Forever Changed. This 5-year-old mare feels like one that could get lost in the shuffled in a very competitive race. At first glance it appears that her form has gone sour, but she had subtle excuses in her last two starts. She was too aggressively ridden last time before steadying back to last on the backstretch. And prior to that she was compromised by a slow pace in a race that was dominated by a front-runner. She’s getting needed class relief, and note that she won each of her last two starts at this N2X state-bred optional claiming level. I also like the rider switch to Junior Alvarado.
RACE 8: BLAME IT ON MARY (#4)
If this race stays on turf, Runaway Rumour could go favored here as she makes her first start for excellent debut trainer Jorge Abreu. However, this feels like one that could get overbet as bettors look to pile on the bandwagon after two winning Abreu firsters paid generous prices last week. While this homebred filly certainly has a turf pedigree, Flintshire has been a poor debut sire, winning with just 1 of 36 first time starters in his first crop. The dam has been a solid turf producer, throwing turf winners like Myhartblongstodady and Scuttlebuzz, both those runners were sired by superior turf sires Scat Daddy and The Factor. I’m using her, but others should offer better value. I’m also lukewarm on the likely second choice Phenomenal Woman. While she was facing better company in her debut at Gulfstream, she didn’t do much running in that race. She has a right to improve second time out for Christophe Clement, who does do fairly well with maiden turnbacks on turf. Yet I don’t find her much more convincing than some others who could be bigger prices. My top pick – on turf or dirt – is Blame It On Mary. This filly’s dirt credentials are fairly obvious, but I’d also be interested in her on the grass. Her dam Uncle Southern excelled on all surfaces but was a 4-time turf winner. Furthermore, her sire Blame wins with a strong 14% of his turf sprint starters. She seems like one who deserves a shot on this surface, and she could get somewhat overlooked on turf given that her recent dirt form has hit a plateau.