RACE 3: EXOTIC WEST (#11)
Dreamful figures to attract support off the trainer switch to Brad Cox. Her form for the prior barn was solid enough, as she finished second at this level last time out at Keeneland with a good trip. Brad Cox is a solid 23 for 96 (24%, $2.02 ROI) first off a trainer switch in turf routes over the past 5 years. There also isn’t much pace signed on, and the TimeformUS Pace Projector depicts her in front in a situation favoring horses on or near the lead. If she gets that kind of trip I think she’ll be tough, but I wonder how aggressive Irad Ortiz will be from this outside draw. I actually prefer a different runner drawn in an outside slot. Exotic West has yet to win on the turf, but she’s run well in all three of her starts on this surface. She just missed in her turf debut at Saratoga in September, and then twice failed to get ideal trips at Belmont. She lost position at a critical point in the race two back before encountering more traffic in the stretch. And last time Mike Luzzi didn’t have too many better options, but this filly was still hung 3-wide all the way. I like this rider switch to Javier Castellano, who figures to be aggressive once again. She can be forwardly placed early in this race and I think that would be to her benefit. I believe she’s the most talented runner in this field, so she just needs to work out a trip. The one other horse that I want to highlight at a bigger price is Funwhileitlasted. She hasn’t run too well in her last couple of starts, but she showed some promise over the summer, just missing in a pair of stakes events. Now she makes her first start off a trainer switch to Brittany Russell and is another one who can attain forward early position.
RACE 5: TUSCAN QUEEN (#5)
O’Gotten Girl’s early speed probably makes her the one to beat in this 6-furlong allowance. She just missed at this level last time when run down by a superior rival but she nevertheless ran well in defeat. She carved out some honest fractions and did well to hold onto the place position. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring runners or near the lead and she figures be controlling the fractions up front. I don’t think she has as much upside as some others in here, but she still makes plenty of sense. Messidor is an intriguing entrant in this race. I know her connections had wanted to run her longer last week, but that allowance race got rained off the turf. So instead they’re going to get in this turf sprint run before the season ends in New York. She has been best in each of her last two starts going a mile at Belmont, as she was compromised by a slow pace two back and then encountered significant traffic last time. That said, I don’t love the turnback for her, and her lack of early speed could be a real problem in this paceless affair. I want to go in a different direction with Tuscan Queen. Jose Ortiz made a tactical error last time when he reined her in immediately out of the starting gate, basically deciding to ride her as a closer before even seeing out the pace developed. She lost valuable early position and then was forced to cover more ground than anyone when making a wide rally on the turn. She flattened out late, but she was just never in a position to win. Her prior form is obviously good enough to make her a player here. She was compromised by a wide trip against a bias two back, and she hung with some good fillies in the Galway at Saratoga prior to that. I think her best effort can beat O’Gotten Girl, and she has the tactical speed to stay closer – if they use it.
RACE 9: PERJURY TRAP (#3)
A couple of runners in this field exit the Grade 3 Knickerbocker last month at Belmont. L’Imperator was among the favorites that day, but he was extremely disappointing, regressing off his two efforts at Saratoga this summer. Manny Franco worked out a good trip for him, as he was ideally positioned to make a move in upper stretch last time. Yet he just failed to accelerate, fading in the late stages. Now the blinkers come off, but Chad Brown is also dropping him in for a tag, which seems like a red flag for a horse who was once considered graded stakes caliber. Temple ran the better race in the Knickerbocker last time, but he also had a great trip, saving ground much of the way. He’s gotten ideal trips in each of his last two starts, as he was also quite fortunate when he won two back at Belmont. That day he rode the rail all the way over a course that was favoring inside paths. He finished nearly 3 lengths ahead of today’s rival Perjury Trap, but that one was significantly compromised by the bias. Perjury Trap was 3-wide for much of his trip that day and unsurprisingly couldn’t pick up in the stretch. He’s clearly better than that, and we saw his stablemate Value Engineering come out of a similar trip in that race to win his next start with an improved performance. Perjury Trap was visually impressive when he returned from a layoff two back at Ellis Park, and I think he can now build on that effort. He’s my top pick, and I believe his main rival is Doswell. This gelding was disappointing in his return from the layoff last time, but he has a right to move forward off that performance. He obviously has the back class to beat this field, and his tactical speed makes him dangerous.