RACE 3: BOURBON MISSION (#1)
Montauk Daddy is arguably the horse to beat as he drops in class out of a loss as the favorite last time. He’s earned speed figures that make him competitive at this level and he did run well within the context of that last race, setting an honest pace before settling for second. However, he has a tendency to get a little fainthearted late in his races, and I’m not sure that even the cutback to 5 1/2 furlongs will solve that. I prefer some of the runners drawn towards the inside. Kasim is pretty interesting as he returns from a brief layoff and makes his first start off the claim for Danny Gargan. He hasn’t run badly in any of his turf sprints, and put in a particularly strong effort in the Texas Glitter back in March when closing for second after a poor start. I’m just a little concerned that Danny Gargan is 0 for 8 first off the claim in turf sprints over the last 5 years. My top pick is Bourbon Mission, who figures to be a better price than both of the aforementioned runners. This horse has run well in turf sprints in the past, posting some competitive speed figures in two of his three starts during that brief 2020 summer campaign. He was off for a long time after that, but he got in a perfect prep on the dirt last time when Rudy Rodriguez left him in an off the turf event. He showed uncharacteristic early speed and held on well for third. That performance should have him fit, and Rudy has awesome numbers with this move. Over the past 5 years, he is 5 for 7 (71%, $12.30 ROI) second off a 90+ day layoff going from dirt to a turf sprint.
RACE 8: MUD PIE (#3)
I suppose Compliant and Box N Score will both attract support after finishing a head apart just behind the classy Shamrocket in a 10-furlong race at this level at Belmont. The former runner could go favored for Chad Brown, but I thought he was supposed to win last time. Jose Ortiz worked out a perfect trip for Compliant, and he just couldn’t quite seal the deal. Box N Score perhaps put in a better effort, but his lack of early speed always puts him at a disadvantage. I’m more interested in runners coming out of other races. Galawi put in an awesome stretch kick to get up after lagging behind a slow early pace in his U.S. debut for Graham Motion. That performance was stronger than the 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure would indicate, but he does need to step up again to beat this field. That said, Graham Motion is 5 for 20 (25%, $5.52 ROI) second off a layoff of 180+ days with last-out winners in turf routes over 5 years. I’m using him prominently, but my top pick at a bigger price is Mud Pie. This Kentucky shipper was a little too keen in his return from the layoff last time, as he was tough for Julien Leparoux to handle for much of the race. He was wide without cover while tugging at the bit all the way, and couldn’t make a late impact in a race dominated by the early leader. He was very impressive going a marathon distance when he broke his maiden last time, so I like him stretching out and the rider switch to Luis Saez doesn’t hurt.
RACE 9: HARVARD (#3)
First Captain is undoubtedly the horse to beat in this highly competitive edition of the Curlin, but he does have some questions to answer at a short price. This will be his first teset around two turns, and he needs to finally step up and run a faster TimeformUS Speed Figure than the 105 he earned for his workmanlike Dwyer victory. I believe can prove capable of conquering both challenges, but I’m not sure that I’m keen to take a short price finding out. If looking beyond the favorite, there are a variety of appealing options. I’ve become a big fan of Parx shipper Beren, who rides a three-race winning streak into the Curlin. He handled his first two-turn test last time, but I’m not sure that I believe he’s a true router. I’d personally prefer to see him in the Amsterdam this upcoming Sunday. Dynamic One is a difficult read as he drops in class for Todd Pletcher. He obviously ran a winning race in the Wood Memorial and is competitive here off that performance. However, his surrounding races aren’t nearly as encouraging. My top pick is Harvard, who makes his stakes debut after reeling off two consecutive victories in the Midwest. This full-brother to champion Classic Empire really delivered going this distance at Churchill Downs last time. He set an honest pace while racing well within himself early before kicking for home nicely, gamely fending off a pair of talented older runners. Dack Janiel’s and Claytonthelionheart returned from their defeats in that race to complete the exacta in a fast N1X heat at Saratoga on opening week. Furthermore, Rodolphe Brisset is 8 for 31 (26%, $4.45 ROI) with last-out winners in dirt routes over 5 years. I’m hoping Harvard can control the pace under an aggressive Luis Saez and outstay them late.