RACE 2: NOBLE CONQUEST (#12)
Voliero and Dreampoint have both been competitive at this level in recent starts and should be involved in the finish once again if they maintain their form. They finished just a half-length apart when they last met on June 10, reversing the decision from their prior encounter when Dreampoint finished 3 lengths ahead of his rival. While Voliero ran well to lose by just a nose last time, I thought he probably should have won given the trip he got. He had good forward position, backed off a bit when the pace quickened and took a decisive lead in mid-stretch. The horse that I prefer out of that race is Dreampoint, who had to push his way out in upper stretch and lost some ground before closing late. They both make a certain amount of sense, but there are others to consider. Some will go to the maiden special weight dropper Masked Marauder, but I was not thrilled with this horse’s turf performances last year. He got a great trip in that September maiden event and couldn’t hold off a first time starter in a pretty slow race. This horse fired a big effort in his debut last summer and he’s just steadily regressed with each start since then. I’m more interested in Noble Conquest at a better price. This colt ran one race back on April 23 that would make him competitive here, as he overcame some jostling in upper stretch to finish fifth in a solid maiden special weight event. He obviously disappointed in his next start before trying maiden claiming foes last time. Yet that most recent effort isn’t as bad as it seems. He was in traffic for much of the run around the far turn and then was barely persevered with when his rider finally found some room in the stretch. We’ve already seen a horse return out of that race to win, and I think Noble Conquest is capable of better.
RACE 6: SYNONYMOUS (#1A)
You can definitely make some excuses for likely favorite Evidence Based’s debut at Churchill Downs. She was facing a tougher field of maiden special weight rivals and found herself in a paceless race that totally held together on the front end. All of the pace figures for that race are color-coded blue in TimeformUS PPs, and she just lagged towards the back of the pack throughout. She still got a strong 97 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance despite her uncompetitive result, but that’s primarily due to the nature of turf racing. When the pace is slow, even inferior horses can get dragged along into a faster final number. So it remains to be seen how much ability this filly actually possesses. I won’t be surprised if she proves superior to this field, but she’s also not the kind of horse that I’m eager to bet at a short price. The problem with this race is that many of the alternatives are also flawed. I’m not particularly interested in Adele Kat, who placed second in a weak race in her debut, or Know How, who wasn’t bet and put in an awful effort last time. I’m instead giving the nod to Synonymous, who could get somewhat overlooked if she is indeed the half of the John Pregman entry to start here. She ran pretty well at this level in her career debut back in April, closing willingly through the late stages to earn a competitive speed figure. Following that, she was “thrown to the wolves” in maiden special weight company. She unsurprisingly found 1 1/4 miles to be too demanding in her second start, but she put in a better effort last time, making some mild late progress in a race dominated on the front end. She’s displayed that she’s good enough to win at this level and she figures to be a square price due to the low-profile trainer and out-of-town rider.
RACE 7: MUSICAL AMERICA (#3)
I don’t quite trust either of the two likely favorites in this intriguing $50k claimer for older horses. Happy Farm attempts to win his second consecutive race at this level after winning first off the trainer switch for Rob Atras last time. He showed a new dimension, winning from off the pace that day, but the waters do get a bit deeper this time. There are more runners with back class in this field, including a few who have run faster than Happy Farm in recent starts. What Happy Farm does have going for him is his tactical speed, as the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a scenario favoring the front-runner. Perhaps he’ll wire the field, but he’s not the kind of horse that interests me at a short price. I have even less confidence in the winning prospects of Town Classic, who has shown a clear aversion to crossing the wire in front. Since his last victory in early 2020, he’s gone 13-0-8-3, often getting in position to win at mid-stretch before deferring to rivals in the last furlong. I’m instead interested in some potential bigger prices. The logical other horse is Mi Tres Por Ciento, who arguably comes into this race with the best form. The problem is that he’s dropping slightly in class of a layoff for a barn that has been pretty cold at the meet. That said, Kantarmaci did finally get a win last Sunday, and this horse has raced for claiming tags before, so the drop isn’t that dramatic. If he shows up, he’ll be tough to beat. Yet my top pick at a better price is Musical America. At first glance it might seem like this horse is better going longer, but he’s been effective sprinting in the past. He ran an excellent race going 6 furlongs back at Keeneland in 2019, and since then he’s been most proficient in one-turn events. I think he found 1 1/16 miles to be a bit out of his reach last time after contesting the pace against a salty field. Now he cuts back for a dangerous trainer, and he has the tactical speed to work out the right trip.