RACE 4: PLATINUM PAYNTER (#6)
Flower Point has sprinted for the majority of her career, but she had no trouble handling the stretch-out in distance last time in the Noble Damsel. She closed well to be third over that one-turn mile in a race that was dominated on the front end. Yet now she has to negotiate an extra sixteenth of a mile and try two turns. She’s in great form right now, which is more than can be said about a few others in here, and she owns the best speed figures in the field. She’s the one to beat, but I’m a little reluctant to take a favorite trying to succeed at something for the first time. A couple of other rivals who could take money don’t do that much for me. Giacosa ran very well to win the Yaddow at Saratoga two back. However, she wasn’t nearly as effective in the Ticonderoga last time, fading after stalking the pace. This is arguably a tougher field, so she has to rebound. Speaktomeofsummer appears to be in poor form at first glance, but she’s been against slow paces in each of her last two starts. She has a right to do better here, but I’m still not convinced she has as high a ceiling as the favorite. I’m going in a different direction with Platinum Paynter. There was a time when this mare would have been the horse to beat in a race like this. She ran very well behind the talented Regal Glory over this track back in April, and even attained a couple of graded stakes placings. However her form has steadily declined as of late. Her improved form for this barn was somewhat of a surprise considering she was claimed for just $12,500 last year, so perhaps the clock has struck midnight. On the other hand, this barn has sent out some live runners lately, and the rider switch to Davis could be a positive, since Lezcano never rode her to her best effect. She also gets back to Aqueduct, where she turned in two of her finest performances. She’s a real threat to win this if she can get back on track.
RACE 6: NOLI TEMERE (#6)
Tough Street comes in with the best form, having finished second in her only prior start on dirt at Saratoga over the summer. She had been working well into that debut, so it wasn’t a major surprise to see her flash early speed that day. She got tired at the end, but was flattered when winner November Rein returned to win her next start in a stakes. Tough Street is a contender here if she takes to turf, but that’s no guarantee. Speighster has won with 9 of 117 (7.7%) turf starters as a sire and there’s only a bit of grass pedigree on the dam’s side. I’m more interested in horses who seem to have stronger intentions for this surface. Noli Temere should take a big step forward getting on grass for the first time. This filly took some money in her debut into the face of a well-meant Ray Handal first time starter that drew in off the MTO list. She had been working well for her debut on the dirt, but her pedigree is all turf. Animal Kingdom is much more of a grass sire, and her stakes-winning dam Chestoria has produced 4 turf winners from as many to try it. Furthemore, Noli Temere actually showed some ability in that debut, making up ground despite racing right on top of a dead rail. She’ll be tough to beat if she runs to her pedigree this time. I’d also use Big Bean Christine out of that race. She actually finished just ahead of Noli Temere and is also bred to handle turf as a half-sister to 3 turf winners, including graded stakes winner Hangover Kid. There are also some first time starters in here, and the one that interests me most is Admire My Crown. She’s a half-sister to 5 turf winners and appears to be working well for Horacio DePaz.
RACE 9: SHALIMAR GARDENS (#3)
Army Wife is clearly the one to beat in this Comely as she drops out of a pair of Grade 1 events. She finished third in both the Alabama and the Cotillion, and that form makes her a deserving favorite in this spot. She’s just been in great form ever since last spring and possesses a versatile running style that makes her dangerous regardless of the pace scenario. I expect her to run well, but it’s not as if she has some significant speed figure edge over her main rivals. The difference is that Army Wife showed up in the races that count, whereas Crazy Beautiful and Played Hard both disappointed when they finished behind her in the Alabama at Saratoga. That said, those two fillies bounced back out of their losses to put on a good show in the Seneca in October at Churchill Downs. Played Hard had everything her own way on the front end, and Crazy Beautiful did well to run her down. I think both would need to take a slight step forward to beat Army Wife, so I want to go in a different direction in looking for an alternative. Shalimar Gardens is among the most lightly raced fillies in this field, but she possesses plenty of talent. She relished the opportunity to go a mile two back, breaking her maiden in stylish fashion with Jose Ortiz never moving a muscle. She got thrown into the deep end of the pool last time, tackling Grade 2 foes in the Raven Run. While she finished fourth, she actually gained in stature coming out of that race. She was never in a good tactical position that day, but she stayed on gamely through the stretch at 36-1. Now she stretches back out, and I like her going a bit longer. Horacio DePaz is 5 for 19 (26%, $4.64 ROI) with non-maidens going from sprints to dirt routes over the past 5 years. I think she’s the one with the upside to give the favorite a scare.