RACE 1: KREESIE (#5)
Giacosa returns from a layoff as she makes her 4-year-old debut. She showed no ill effects from a graded stakes attempt last fall when she rebounded with a solid second place finish in her only start at this N2X state-bred level. While those two efforts arguably make her the horse to beat here, it is worth noting that she got a perfect trip en route to that runner-up result last time, riding a rail bias for most of her journey. H. James Bond is a mediocre 6-for-39 (15%, $1.39 ROI) off layoffs of 120 to 240 days on turf over the past 5 years. She does have upside, but requires some pace to close into, so I wouldn’t want to take too short a price on her. Timeless Journey ended her 2020 campaign on a positive note with a surprising victory on dirt. She was somewhat curiously entered to race on that surface after a series of turf starts, and put forth the best performance of her career to beat odds-on choice Wasp, who is also in this race. Perhaps Timeless Journey’s last-out success is a signal that she’s put it all together. Or is she actually better on the main track? She now switches back to turf for her 4-year-old debut, and there are excuses to be made for her last two starts on this surface, as she caught a boggy course on Nov. 1 and then was against a slow pace on Nov. 22. I’m using her but I prefer a different alternative. Kreesie is the most accomplished turf horse in this field with four wins and $325k earned on that surface in her career. The question is whether or not she’s lost a step after failing to hit the board in 6 starts last season. In fairness to her, most of her races last year came against much tougher company. She appeared to get the class relief she needed in her 2020 finale on Nov. 6, but finished last of 8 behind two of today’s rivals. Yet it’s important to note that she was 3- to 4-wide on both turns on a day that featured a significant rail bias. Now makes her first start off the claim for Rob Atras and picks up Irad Ortiz.
RACE 5: LITTLE MS SCARLET (#3)
Among those with experience, Cazilda Fortytales clearly has the best résumé, but she’s achieved all of her notable results on the dirt. She has a bit of turf pedigree, but not necessarily breeding that suggests she’s supposed to improve on this surface. She’s by 12% turf sprint sire Forty Tales and there is some grass pedigree in the second generation, but her dam is by negative influence Bernardini. I prefer others, and two of the logical alternatives are first time starters. The problem is that neither of them sport particularly convincing turf pedigrees either. Porper Grammar is by Laoban, who still has some things to prove as a grass sire, but there isn’t much turf pedigree on the female side. Decreed does have one sibling that handled turf, but Jimmy Creed is a mediocre 8% turf sprint sire. I would use both of them defensively, but I want to get a little more creative with my top pick. Little Ms Scarlet didn’t show much in her debut at Aqueduct, but I think she’s a candidate to move up on this surface. She’s by decent turf sire Girolamo from a very young immediate female family that hasn’t produced much. However, her second dam is out of the good NY-bred turf produced Plinking, so there is some evidence deep on the dam’s side. Furthermore, in her debut she displayed a high-striding action that can sometimes be indicative of turf inclination. She was also green in that spot, so the addition of blinkers should help her run a more professional race.
RACE 9: ESOTICA (#10)
Quantitativbreezin is clearly the horse to beat as she returns from a layoff and drops back down in class to face $40k maiden claimers. She displayed a nice late kick in her career debut last year, closing willingly from off the pace to get up for second. The winner of that heat went on to do some nice things later in the year, but there wasn’t much of quality behind her. She was understandably no match for tougher maiden special weight rivals at Saratoga before she was forced to miss the rest of the turf season. Now she makes her 4-year-old debut in a realistic spot, but she’s going to be a very short price and there are some questions hanging over her head. The great thing about this race is that there are plenty of appealing alternatives at better prices. There are two in particular that interest me. One of those is Quiet Type, who is probably getting back on the right surface but may be going the wrong distance. I’ve always wanted to see this filly get back on grass after she hit her best stride too late in her turf debut last November. She improved a bit over the winter racing on dirt, but I think she’ll appreciate this switch to grass as a daughter of sneaky turf influence Commissioner. The problem is that she probably wants more ground than 6 furlongs. My top pick is first time turfer Esotica. I made a note when this filly ran her debut that she might take to turf eventually based on the way she was striding through the stretch, with that bouncy action often seen from turf horses. Laoban has yet to establish himself as a turf sire, but her dam did run her best speed figures on grass and there is some turf pedigree going back generations in her female family. I don’t love that she could take some Irad Ortiz money, but I do think she’ll still be a square price due to the imposing presence of the favorite.