RACE 4: FOREVER CHANGED (#3)
Miss Mi Mi is a deserving favorite as she moves up in class out of an easy victory as the even-money choice in late April. She ran a competitive speed figure that day, but she also owns prior form against tougher competition that puts her squarely in the mix at this level. George Weaver is not known as a prolific claiming trainer, but he is 3 for 4 first off the claim with horses for this owner since the start of the year. As long as she holds her form for the new barn, she figures to have a say in the outcome. I would also use Saratoga Beauty, who is moving up in class as well. She’s exiting the strong Rob Atras barn, and got a little overbet first off the claim for that stable last time. That said, she was probably best that day after getting shuffled back on the turn and caught in traffic late. She’s clearly improved this year, Antonio Arriaga does a good job, and she won’t be such a short price in this spot. Yet I’m most interested in one of the class droppers. Forever Changed’s first race off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez was a strange one. First of all, she finished sixth, not seventh, so that needs to be corrected in the charts. But looking beyond that error by the placing judges, the ride she got was fairly perplexing. She was restrained soon after the start, as she keenly tried to run up into a stalking position. That was not too surprising as she’s a mare who can get a little eager in her races. However, her rider continued to restrain her into the turn, wrangling her back out of position. He eventually dropped his hands at the top of the stretch, at which point she had been taken back to last, yet he made no effort to motivate her at all through the lane. It was all very strange, and I suppose it’s not surprising to see her now dropped in for a lower claiming tag following that “performance.” She obviously has prior form that would crush this field, and I’m going to be somewhat optimistic that her situation isn’t as dire as the last result would indicate.
RACE 5: HILLIARD (#10)
The two likely favorites in this spot both have significant questions to answer. The Angry Man would have been a prohibitive choice in this race at one point in time, but his recent form leaves something to be desired. He was performing well in maiden special weight company until early this year, but he regressed when dropped in for a tag in January, and now hasn’t been seen since. This is not the toughest spot, so he has a license to bounce back, but I can’t fully trust him to do so for a barn that has been fairly quiet recently. Bold Victory is arguably one of the most talented horses in this race, but it’s hard to be confident in him as he tries turf for the first time as a 4-year-old. Mark Casse made no attempt to get him on turf for all the time that he trained him, and he doesn’t have that much turf pedigree, as he’s primarily related to synthetic specialists. I’ll use both of the, but neither one is all that appealing at relatively short prices. I want to focus on some 3-year-olds with upside. One of those is Fingal, who didn’t run that badly when in the Bill Mott barn earlier this year. He wasn’t particularly competitive in any of those races, but he was meeting tougher competition. His recent dirt effort for Carlos Martin might indicate that he’s heading in the right direction. Yet my top pick at an even bigger price is Hilliard. This horse intrigued me last time as he dropped in for a tag for the first time after facing significantly better competition as a 2-year-old. He was traveling well into the race coming around the far turn and appeared to be mounting a rally in upper stretch, at which point he reacted badly to getting put in tight quarters and bounced off the rail. He was never winning that race, but he would have finished much closer if not for that incident. I expect an improved effort this time, and the rider switch doesn’t hurt.
RACE 7: DR B (#2)
Jersey Girl favorite Miss Brazil is likely to choose this spot instead of Saturday’s Acorn, and she would be the horse to beat against this Sunday field going her preferred 6-furlong distance. However, this race is no walk in the park, as she meets a small but select group of challengers. Miss Brazil does have a class and experience edge over her rivals, having proven her ability against the likes of Acorn favorite Search Results, and even having beaten older horses last time out. Tony Dutrow has managed her well, and she’s delivered a strong effort in each of her dirt starts. However, she does her best running when she can control the pace, and there is plenty of other speed in here. I’m not quite convinced that Miss Brazil is quick enough to outrun Dr B to the front end, and if that Parx shipper is able to shake loose as the “speed of the speeds,” I believe she’s dangerous. Dr B wasn’t quite fully cooked when she made her debut late last year, but she returned this spring with a pair of excellent performances. She broke like a rocket in both of those blowout victories at Parx, setting comfortable paces before pulling away late. The waters obviously get much deeper here, but she ran some legitimate numbers out of town and goes out for a trainer who sends live runners to New York. I prefer these two contenders to some others who could take money. The Louisiana-bred Australasia has compiled an admirable record, winning all five of her starts. However, she also gets a significant class test this time. She got a great trip to win that allowance race at Churchill Downs and will have to do better to beat this field. Bella Sofia is the wild card in this spot as she tackles stakes company following a dazzling debut victory. She got a speed figure that suggests she can step right up and be competitive here, but I want to see her prove it given that she met a pretty lackluster group of rivals last time.