RACE 7: CHRISTOPHER (#11)
Montauk Daddy is clearly the horse to beat as he looks to lead this field every step of the way from his rail post position. He’s probably the quickest early in this race, but he does figure to race serious pace pressure from the likes of Our Destiny, and perhaps even Wild William or Convection. Montauk Daddy’s best effort will probably beat this field, but he is a horse who has been known to cough up mid-stretch leads at short prices, so I’m reluctant to endorse him as the favorite. The temptation here is to find a runner who can come from off the pace and the most logical option is perhaps Determined Fury. He won his only turf start last time, but he got a great setup that day, closing into a quick early pace. Perhaps he will ultimately prove best on turf, but I think it remains to be seen if this is actually his preferred surface. I want to go in a different direction with Christopher. This horse has never won on turf, but he has run reasonably well on the surface a few times. He closed strongly to be second going 1 1/16 miles on grass last summer at Monmouth before stepping up to face some tougher fields. It appears that he’s returned as an improved racehorse as a 5-year-old this year, displaying a potent late kick sprinting on dirt twice at Monmouth. He was defeated at Saratoga last time, but that was an extremely fast race for the level and the pace didn’t set up for him. I think he may appreciate sprinting on turf for a barn that is often dismissed at generous prices.
RACE 8: CASUAL (#4)
The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that Aunt Kat will be in front of her Shine Again rivals in the early stages in a scenario that favors the leader. She’s been unstoppable over her last three starts, two of which have come over sprint distances. However, she’s gotten great setups in all of those races, with paces and track biases in her favor at different times. This is by far the toughest field that Aunt Kat has ever encountered, so she has to prove that she can maintain her advantage against some legitimate stakes foes. At a short price, I want to veer in a different direction. However, I also have some questions about her main rival Bayernness. She has run very well in her last few starts, but all of them have come over wet, sealed racetracks. Considering that she also ran well on wet ground as a 2-year-old, beating Swiss Skydiver over a sloppy track, it’s fair to wonder if she’s a horse who needs moisture in the surface to perform at her best. My top pick is Casual, who figures to be the third choice. She started off her 2021 campaign in impressive fashion with an allowance victory at Oaklawn, yet she’s lost three stakes since then. That said, I think she’s had subtle excuses in all of those races. She was way too far back behind a slow pace in the Spring Fever and then she again found herself in paceless affairs going 6 furlongs in both the Carousel and Skipat. On all three occasions, she closed well to secure minor awards. I think she’s going to appreciate the slight stretch-out to 7 furlongs, which should allow her to sit a bit closer to the pace than she has in recent starts. As long as she can stay in contact with the field, I think she has a big chance to pull off the minor upset.
RACE 9: BURNING BRIGHT (#5)
The lightly raced En Wye Cee returns from another lengthy layoff and appears to be the one to beat in this turf allowance. While he’s done most of his running on the dirt, he’s run quite well in both prior turf starts. He was arguably best in that Aug. 1 allowance race when he closed from last into a moderate pace, and then wasn’t disgraced in the Knickerbocker. Todd Pletcher is 20 for 91 (22%, $2.54 ROI) with horses returning from 180+ day layoffs in turf routes over the past 5 years. He held his own in company with Grade 1 winner Colonel Liam in that Jul. 24 drill, so he appears to be doing well. He also has the tactical speed to work out the right trip in a race without a clear pace scenario. I’d certainly use him, but there are some others to consider at better prices. Ever Dangerous, Bodecream, and Argonne all have the turf credentials to win this, but I’m most interested in a new face. Burning Bright showed absolutely nothing in his lone prior attempt over turf, but he seems like a different horse these days. He’s certainly bred to turf, being out of Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Forever Together. He registered an impressive gate-to-wire victory in the slop at Belmont, suggesting that he’s coming into this race in career-best form. Notably, Jonathan Thomas entered this guy in the Grand Couturier late in the Belmont meet before scratching, so there are high hopes for him right now. The turnback is of slight concern as he looks like one that want to run all day, but he possesses dangerous tactical speed in a potentially paceless race.