I don’t quite understand the public’s love affair with Gufo (#6), who is starting to resemble a younger version of Sadler’s Joy. They both possess electrifying late kicks, but they just rarely get the job done against top company. Gufo really had little excuse to lose the Man O’ War two back, when he had everything go his way from a pace standpoint and he just couldn’t get past a game Channel Cat in the late stages. I don’t think that was a particularly strong field despite the Grade 1 designation (after all, Shamrocket was fourth by just 1 1/2 lengths). Gufo did finish third in a much tougher spot last time when charging late in the Manhattan. Yet he once again left himself with way too much ground to make up. I don’t think it’s clear that he necessarily gets better with added ground, and he’s going to be a pretty short price.
I’m generally somewhat against the Man O’ War horses in here, and that includes Moon Over Miami (#5), who got a better trip than Gufo and just had no late punch.
Following the scratch of my original top pick, I’m happy to elevate the aforementioned SADLER’S JOY (#3). This 7-year-old could get somewhat overlooked this time even as he drops into a listed stakes. He’s developed a reputation as a bit of a hanger over the past few seasons, but he’s had some subtle trips in recent starts. Jose Ortiz made a badly timed move last time when rushing up into an honest pace on the backstretch. He ran better than Moon Over Miami that day, and his prior form is not nearly as disappointing as it might appear. He was given way too much ground to make up late in the Red Smith last year, and prior to that he was no match for the vastly improved Channel Maker. He figures to get a suitable turf course for his running style, and I don’t think he’s any less talented than the favorites.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,5,6
Trifecta: 3,6 with 3,6 with 1,5,9