The scratch of likely favorite Alfie Solomons changes this race considerably. His primary pace rival was going to be Hoopla (#2), and now that rival could have the early lead to himself. He actually ran deceptively well first off the claim for Robert Falcone last time, surviving a very fast pace that ultimately fell apart. He’s won both of his prior starts for a tag, each of them dirt sprints, and he may just be dropping back down to an appropriate level. I was originally anticipating a pace collapse, but that seems less likely with Alfie Solomons withdrawing.
Horses like Dee Bo (#1) and Conformist (#6) could still press the issue early, but I don’t think the pace will be as fast as it originally figured to be.
My top pick is WHAT’S MY CATEGORY (#7). This Finger Lakes-based runner definitely has his flaws, and I admit that I was more enthusiastic about him given the original pace scenario. It took him 18 tries to break his maiden, but he finally did so earlier this fall, and it seems that he’s actually improved since then. That performance two back, in which he wore down heavy favorite Purple Hearted to earn a 94 TimeformUS Speed Figure, gives him a legitimate chance here. I’m not concerned about his return to Aqueduct last time, since he was placed too ambitiously against much tougher claiming foes. This is a more appropriate level, and I also don’t mind the turnback, since he’s been successful sprinting in the past. He’s been successful as a closer recently, but he’s pretty versatile and can adapt to whatever pace scenario develops.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 1,2,5