RACE 3: MASABEEH (#3)
Khuluq figures to be tough to beat as the heavy favorite. This Shadwell homebred took a big step forward in her second start, showing improved early speed before settling for second behind the talented A Mo Reay. The 95 TimeformUS Speed Figure she earned is significantly higher than the best numbers achieved by any of her rivals. She’s also bred to be a good one, since her dam is a half-sister to Grade 3 Gotham winner Shagaf. She figures to show speed from this rail draw as she goes out for a capable trainer. I’m not against her, but there are some alternatives to consider. Oh Mrs. Maisel didn’t finish that far behind Khuluq on Nov. 7, but that rival obviously moved forward out of that race. Oh Mrs. Maisel has had a few chances already and has been somewhat of a disappointment. It’s also unclear if she’s really suited by the one-mile trip. Stretching back out should help Into Happiness, who ran well to be second on Oct. 22 before meeting a tougher field last time. I could use her, but I’m more intrigued by another alternative. Masabeeh, another Shadwell-bred filly, was given up for a tag in her debut. She was curiously entered on turf by Chad Brown that day despite the fact that her pedigree is strongly geared towards dirt. She’s by solid dirt route sire (and poor turf influence) Union Rags and her dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity winner Drill ($557k). She was claimed out of that race by Linda Rice, who is a remarkable 19 for 39 (49%, $2.67 ROI) first off the claim with maidens on dirt over the past 5 years. She as actually staying on well at the end of that turf debut despite not really getting over the surface, so distance should be no issue. I think she’s an intriguing upset possibility, though I acknowledge the favorite looks strong.
RACE 7: TWO THIRTY FIVE (#8)
Mexican Wonder Boy is obviously a major player in this spot off his victory at the $32k level last month. He ran well to win that day, surviving an honest pace to hang on through the stretch over a decent field for the level. However, while the fractions were quick that wasn’t a race that fell apart as one might expect. Rather, many of the horses who were up close early were still battling at the end. Furthermore, there is much more early speed for Mexican Wonder Boy to contend with on this occasion. Musical America, Pioneer Spirit, and Striking Speed all want to be forwardly placed as well, so the early pace figures to be quick. That may set up for Hammerin Aamer, who arguably ran just as well as Mexican Wonder Boy despite losing to that foe last time. He was extremely wide on the far turn and did well to close through the stretch in a race where there wasn’t a ton of that going on. He’s been in excellent form for Gustavo Rodriguez recently, so it will be interesting to see if he can maintain that level off the claim for Pat Reynolds. He fits the race well, but could be a short price off his recent efforts. I prefer Two Thirty Five at slightly longer odds. This horse ran competitive speed figures two and three back. I won’t fault him for finishing second to the talented Chris and Dave on Oct. 29, and he bounced back with a solid victory at Mahoning Valley after that. He failed to get involved in his return to New York last time, but he lost all chance at the start in a race where a few horses were unprepared for the gates opening. That was also a day that featured a strong speed bias, so he never had a fair chance. This time he’s dropping to an appropriate level and should get pace to close into.
RACE 9: PALS ALLY (#6)
There really isn’t anyone to fear in this wide open maiden claiming finale, so I want to shop for some prices. The Honorable Ruth and Endless Crusade can obviously win as the likely favorites, but neither one is all that formidable. The Honorable Ruth really didn’t run well at all on the class drop last time and now she’s moving down the class ladder again. Endless Crusade has more early speed and finished ahead of The Honorable Ruth when they met last time, but I thought that was the weaker division of two races at that level on Dec. 9. I prefer horses out of the other division won by first time starter Ofalltheginjoints. Lost Anchor ran fine to be third that day, but the horse that interests me most from that heat is Pals Ally. This filly lost all chance when she was bumped and steadied back soon after the start. From there she actually did some running, traveling well over that sloppy surfaces before coming through in traffic to get up for fourth. She lost by a dozen lengths, but did some sneaky running after the poor beginning. I like that she has decent form over a sloppy track since it’s likely to be wet on Friday. This half-sister to good allowance horse Saratoga Pal may be better than she looks for Chris Englehart. The other horse that I want to use prominently is Half Birthday. Her first couple of races weren’t that bad and she had no chance off the claim last time when pitted against stakes foes. She’s now dropping back down to the right level.