RACE 3: BOINTHEBACK (#7)
Gimmedamoney could attract some support here as he drops in for a tag for the first time in his career. Though this isn’t as much of a drop as it might appear at first glance, since his current connections bought him for just $22k last month at Fasig-Tipton. He’s been beaten by large margins in each of his last couple of starts after running well in his career debut over the summer. However, he was facing much tougher rivals in those races and should fare better against this weaker group. He can obviously win, but I thought there were more intriguing options. I have similar thoughts about Silver Samurai, but I’m more afraid of him due to his early speed. He figure to clear this field early under an aggressive 10-pound bug rider and seems like a real threat to take them all the way up front. Yet he’s another who looks like a short price in a competitive field. My top pick is Bointheback. Some will write him off based on his poor effort here last Friday, but he never had a chance that day when facing a pretty tough field for the maiden special weight level. Progeny of Majestic City have pretty severe distance limitations, so a mile was always going to be a stretch for him. Now he’s turning back to a more appropriate distance while dropping back in for a tag. He put in a pretty game effort at this level two back and might get overlooked despite owning competitive speed figures. There was a time not too long ago when trainer Gregory DiPrima had excellent second off the claim statistics.
RACE 4: GOLANI BRIGADE (#4)
Dark Money may win this race as he makes his first start off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez, but I find him awfully hard to trust. He put in a strong effort to win against weaker company two back at Belmont, but all of his surrounding performances are pretty lackluster. He’s definitely better than this field when he’s at his best, but we’ve seen his top efforts more and more infrequently over the past year. Furthermore, over the past 5 years Rudy Rodriguez is 0 for 11 first off the claim with horses running back in 20 days or less and this horse is running back just 6 days later. I’m similarly skeptical of Durkin’s Call, who is dropping back down in class for Linda Rice. At least in his case I can make excuses for his last two efforts, as he was too close to the pace on Dec. 17 and then was compromised by a speed-favoring track last time. However, Linda Rice isn’t handling this horse with much intention, as she jams him right back into the entries less than a week later. I want some rivals who can be more forwardly placed, both of which are shipping in from Finger Lakes. Writer’s Regret interests me off his blowout victory last time, which earned a competitive speed figure. He’s going out for underrated trainer Ralph D’Alessandro for whom he ran some big races here last year. However, the track could come up wet on Friday and that wouldn’t suit him. My top pick is Golani Brigade. This runner’s recent form at Finger Lakes is solid. He particularly ran well last time when he survived a very fast early pace to hold off a couple of closers. That form was flattered when third-place finisher Fitzpatrick returned to run well at Aqueduct in a tougher spot a few weeks ago. Golani Brigade handles wet tracks and is drawn well outside of his main pace rival.
RACE 5: CUPIDS GIRL (#8)
Shock Leader took a big step forward with the switch to turf last time, which shouldn’t come as a major surprise given her pedigree. She’s a half-sister to multiple turf winners Sand Dancer ($311k) and Shock Leader ($220k), though some other siblings handled both surfaces. She met a pretty good rival in Radio Days in the dirt debut, and seemed more professional overall second time out, showing speed before getting caught at the wire. I just don’t see the value in taking this horse at a relatively short price off turf form. The one switching surfaces who I prefer is Champagne Poetry. She took some notable action on the tote board in her debut to get bet all the way down to 5-2. She was a step slow into stride and then raced in traffic heading into the far turn before getting spun very wide approaching the quarter pole. She finished well all things considered, and the switch to dirt shouldn’t bother her at all. Carpe Diem is a versatile sire, and it’s mostly dirt pedigree on the dam’s side, as the dam is a half-sister to G2 Peter Pan winner Madefromlucky. She makes plenty of sense, but my top pick is another second time starter. Cupids Girl put in an encouraging effort on debut here in late November. She broke very slowly but quickly got herself back into the race on the backstretch. She advanced willingly while following rivals on the far turn, and briefly had to wait for room in upper stretch before switching outside. This filly finished gamely once she got into the clear, displaying some ability despite losing by over 11 lengths. That was a strong field for the level, headed by impressive debut winner Send for Me. She probably isn’t facing a rival that talented this time, and she certainly has room for improvement.