RACE 4: CORE CONVICTION (#2)
I have some doubts about likely favorite Waxman. This Todd Pletcher trainee looked like a future stakes horse in his debut at Saratoga, in which he checked in second behind the very promising Pipeline. The winner returned to finish a very strong third in the Perryville at Keeneland, and third-place finisher Cody’s Wish has since reeled off two impressive victories. However, Waxman was a huge disappointment second time out at Keeneland. Perhaps he couldn’t handle the added ground, but he was sluggish right from the start, as John Velazquez had to get after him just to maintain contact with the field. I’m skeptical of him on the turnback. Fortunately, there are plenty of appealing alternatives. Khafre was supposed to be a talented sort when he made his debut here last January. He got bet down to 6-5 but faded after setting the pace going this distance. He’s been off for a long time, but he’s once again working well for his return to the races. One could even make a case for Rock Sugar getting back to dirt, though distance is a question for him. My top pick is Core Conviction. This gelding has obviously had some issues, making just his second career start at the end of his 4-year-old season. Yet he was supposedly working very well prior to his debut, especially on the dirt down at Palm Meadows – as indicated at the time in the DRF Clocker Report. Chad Brown ran him on turf despite the fact that he has more of a dirt pedigree. He didn’t run badly but lacked the acceleration of a turf horse. Now he’s returning from the layoff and may finally be getting on the right surface.
RACE 6: ADELIE (#8)
Between the two Wesley Ward runners, I prefer Nay Say to Vaccine of Hope. The former finished behind her stablemate when they met on Sep. 3, but I thought she ran the better race. Both were wide on the far turn, but Vaccine of Hope was stalking a slow pace whereas Nay Say found herself at the back of the pack early. Nay Say spun wide at the top of the stretch and was the only horse making up significant ground late in a race that featured a slow pace. Bubble Rock returned to validate both of their performances when she won the Matron. They’re obviously contenders, but I would also give a look to the turnback Gun Boat. This speedy filly set a pretty honest pace in her debut before tiring in the last furlong. She then got away with more moderate fractions last time but still got run down by a first time starter, albeit while finishing well clear of the rest. The winner of that race returned to disappoint at 6-5 in a stakes last weekend, so perhaps she didn’t run as well as it seemed. While this isn’t exactly a sprint pedigree, this filly gives off the vibe that she may prefer less ground. I’m going in a different direction with a first time starter, and there are plenty of interesting such runners in this race. The one that I want is Adelie. This Irish-bred filly was a $144k purchase at the Tattersalls Breeze-Up sale earlier this year. Her sire Ardad was best racing as a 2-year-old, winning the G2 Flying Childers over 5 furlongs on turf, and in his first crop he’s already produced multiple G1-winning juvenile Perfect Power. The dam never won but has produced Baron Samedi, winner of this year’s G2 Belmont Gold Cup over 2 miles. Yet that runner is the outlier in a family that is pretty speedy, as the dam is a full-sister to G3 Meydan Sprint (5F) winner Fityaan. Christophe Clement is 8 for 35 (23%, $3.26 ROI) with 2-year-old firsters in turf sprints over the past 5 years. She’s been breezed extensively on turf up at Saratoga. Her Oct. 15 work matches maiden winner Lia Marina, and her Oct. 29 work matches older stakes winner Sport Model, which seems like a good sign. It feels like this one might be a runner.
RACE 8: HOMBRE (#4)
This is a highly competitive allowance race in which I don’t want to settle for short prices like St. Joe Louis and Regal Speaker. The former has lost at short prices twice in a row and is getting a negative rider switch for this race. Regal Speaker ran well to beat New York-breds last time, but he’s stepping up in class and needs to work out a trip from off the pace. I’m more interested in some runners who can be forwardly placed. One of those is Ranger Fox. Stretching this horse out to 1 1/8 miles may seem counterintuitive at first glance since he faded going a mile in his lone two-turn attempt. However, that result may have been more a function of the rating tactics used, as he got too rank in the early going racing behind horses. I think he deserves another shot going longer, since he’s a lighter-framed leggy horse. There isn’t much speed signed on here, so Javier Castellano should be able to get out front and slow the pace down before turning it into a sprint to the wire. I’m using him prominently, but my top pick is Hombre. I wasn’t thrilled with the ride this horse got last time. He broke alertly and secured the early lead through moderate opening fractions. Yet his rider wrangled him off the pace, forcing him to come around the leaders to make his move. He was flat in the stretch, but that was just his first try against winners. He’s been given plenty of time since then, and appears to be working well for his return. I was impressed by this colt’s maiden victory and he think he will appreciate the slight stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles. He has the tactical speed to be forward and can take over at any time if Ranger Fox falters.