RACE 3: KING JAMES (#1)
If Mr Annoying competes in this race, he would be a major contender, but he seems likely to scratch from this spot as he’s still entered to run on Saturday at Churchill Downs as of this writing. With him out of the race, King of Miami could inherit favoritism. This gelding was highly touted prior to his debut at Belmont last year, and was still bet strongly when that race was rained off the turf. He disappointed that day, and was subsequently stretched out for his next start, which came on turf. He made a brief bid in the stretch before fading late. Unsurprisingly, he now returns in a sprint on grass, which is where Ward wanted to start him all along. He’s bred to excel at this, since he’s out of a half-sister to Ward’s turf sprinting star Bound for Nowhere. He also gets a total makeover for this race as he returns as a new gelding with blinkers and Lasix. I won’t be surprised if he run well, but I wanted to go in a different direction. King James makes his turf debut and looks meant for this surface. He’s a son of 15% turf sire Nyquist makes his first start on this surface following a decent effort in his debut. He showed brief speed before fading in the stretch behind gate-to-wire winner Latin Casino. Yet this surface switch should agree with the colt. His dam (22-8-3-1, $439k, 94 Beyer) was an accomplished turf sprinter, winning multiple stakes. She’s produced one turf winner from two to try it, and this colt seems like one who should handle it. Jimmy Jerkens is 4 for 20 (20%, $6.46 ROI) with maidens trying turf for the first time. The other horse to consider is Deregulation, who is out of a powerful European female family. His workouts look decent, but Chad Brown does a little better with firsters in turf routes than sprints.
RACE 6: FUTURE VICTORY (#7)
I made him the co-second choice on the morning line, but the horse to beat in this starter allowance might be last-out maiden winner Blue Lou Boyle. He’s been in excellent form since returning from a layoff for Mark Casse earlier this year. He showed promise as a younger horse facing maiden special weight company, but he responded well to the recent drop in class to maiden claimers in his last two starts. He was narrowly beaten by the talented Eagerly two back, and last time he dug in gamely to fend off stretch challenges in breaking his maiden. The 102 and 101 TimeformUS Speed Figures that he earned for those efforts put him right on par with the main contenders in this race, but he will have to deal with other speed drawn to his inside. Todd Pletcher has entered a pair of runners in here, the more accomplished of which is Gimme Some Mo. This colt was visually impressive breaking his maiden on turf back in January at the $50k maiden claiming level. Yet he’s been a little disappointing since then, losing at a short price against winners at Gulfstream before fading on the main track last time at Aqueduct. He’s clearly capable of beating this field on his best day, but he’s not the easiest horse to trust at a short price. I prefer Pletcher’s other runner Future Victory. He was no match for uncoupled stablemate Mandate at this level last time at Aqueduct, but I thought he showed some potential in that race. He was dominant when he broke his maiden two back at Gulfstream, making a wide run from far back to win while closing into a slow pace. And last time he was always a little too far back, but was running on willingly in the late stages before galloping out best of all past the wire. He figures to get a more favorable pace setup this time, and the rider switch to Irad Ortiz is clearly a positive.
RACE 8: WATER WHITE (#2)
I don’t have any major knocks against the favorites in this Ruffian, other than the fact that they’re going to be short prices in a race that I think is fairly competitive. Our Super Freak is arguably the horse to beat as she turns back to a one-turn mile after placing in a couple stakes at Oaklawn. She’s obviously going to attract plenty of attention this time due to her runner-up finish to Monomoy Girl last time, and that might be evidence that she’s rounding back into top form after some disappointing efforts at the end of last year. She’s clearly capable of winning this race on her best day, but she’s not the most reliable horse at a short price. Lake Avenue looks like a serious rival based on her two performance as a 4-year-old. However, she is stepping up in class to face the toughest field she’s met during this current campaign. That Heavenly Prize got a lot easier when her main rival Thankful – who was dead on the board – failed to show up with a competitive performance. She may ultimately turn out to be the most talented horse in this race, but she’s going to be a short price based on her perceived potential. I’m going in a different direction with an up-and-comer. Water White showed promise as a 3-year-old, winning the Busher before finishing third to the freakish Gamine in the G1 Acorn. She made her return last time at Aqueduct in a softer optional claimer and won with ease. That race only earned a 72 Beyer on a day when it was very difficult to make figures. However, one horse has come back out of that race to run significantly (over 40 points) faster, and I believe that was a much stronger race than that number indicates. TimeformUS Speed Figuremaker Craig Milkowski gave Water White a 114 for that victory, believing the track changed for the race. That number puts her in the mix here, and I thinks he’s going to outrun her odds on the class hike for her confident trainer Rudy Rodriguez.