Clench (#4) may go favored here as he drops significantly in class after running against much tougher fields in his two prior starts for Rudy Rodriguez. He was never going to be competitive against a stakes-quality rival like Town Classic two back, but he was somewhat disappointing against a slightly softer field last time. That said, he’s dropping back down to a level at which he should be formidable. It’s not a great sign that Rudy Rodriguez claimed him for $40k and is willing to part with him for half that price, but we do tend to see some aggressive dropdowns at this meet, and they aren’t necessarily negative. He’s the one to beat, but there are other contenders to consider.
Strolling (#5) comes off a victory, but I think he’s stepping into a slightly tougher spot despite racing for a lower claiming tag. Storm Advisory (#3) has back races that would make him a serious player, but I’m skeptical that he can recapture the form he displayed for Rob Atras.
My top pick is EAGLE PASS (#1). This gelding had been a fairly reliable horse at other circuits before coming to New York this spring. He reeled off two victories for Ray Handal, including a visually impressive score on May 13, before racing at this level for Wayne Potts last time. He finished fifth as the favorite in that most recent start, but he was badly compromised at the start. He broke with the field but was bumped and squeezed back soon after the break, putting him a couple of lengths behind the field. From there, he made a premature move into contention on the far turn before flattening out. I think he’s better than that and now he makes his first start off the claim for John Toscano. This barn has been quiet lately, but Toscano is 7 for 26 (27%, $2.32 ROI) first off the claim on dirt over the past two years.
Exacta: 1 with 3,4,5
Trifecta: 1 with 4 with 2,3,5,6