RACE 5: ROUGH TOUGH LOVE (#4)
Tap N Glo owns the field’s best speed figures, which she earned last summer at Saratoga. She put in a solid effort going today’s distance on July 25, but she wasn’t facing the toughest field that day. She regressed subsequently when meeting a tougher field and has now been off for 5 months. This filly returns for Linda Rice, whose barn has been a little cold lately. While she’s obviously a player, she’s not the kind of horse I’d want to bet as the possible favorite. Exxaltress could also take some money for Chad Brown. There was some buzz about this filly prior to her debut, as she had worked favorably ahead of that start. She showed excellent early speed, but came under pressure on the turn and had no answer late. Dec. 30 was a day that favored speed types, but perhaps she didn’t care for the sloppy track. Now she takes the blinkers off for her 2nd start, so perhaps she won’t be as aggressively handled. Cupids Girl was one that I liked quite a bit in her second start on Jan. 13, but she was competing on a day when the rail was a significant advantage. She actually was inside for the first part of the race, but angled off the rail at the quarter pole. I thought last time was a favorable spot because the field was weak, and there are more interesting alternatives here. My top pick is Rough Tough Love. This grey filly debuted in the same race as Cupids Girl, and took quite a bit of money as part of an entry. She showed early speed outside of eventual winner Send for Me, but couldn’t keep pace with that rival at the quarter pole and faded badly through the stretch. That was a pretty strong field for the level and now she comes back in what appears to be a softer spot. Rob Atras doesn’t have great stats in general with maidens, but this filly had worked well prior to her debut and deserves another chance, especially if she’s a square price.
RACE 7: AMERICAN RULE (#7)
Rob Atras has a couple of horses racing first off the claim for his barn, both of which seem pretty dangerous. The one that could go favored is Crypto Cash, who moves up in class after getting claimed for just $16k from Linda Rice earlier this month. He was against the speed and rail bias on Jan. 2 when attempting to close from off the pace against a weaker field. However, he has some prior form that puts him in the mix here and one would expect him to improve given Atras’s stellar statistics off the claim. That said, this is a pretty competitive race and I see plenty of other options at better prices. Some may place Atras’s other entrant Air Attack in that category, but I think this runner is better around two turns. Based on recent form, the horse with the best last-out effort may be Dark Storm. He’s moving up out of a $25k claimer that was wired on the front end by Blewitt on Dec. 31, a day that featured a strong speed bias. He actually did well to close for third and shouldn’t mind this turnback to a mile. I just wonder if he’ll get enough pace to close into, since there isn’t much speed signed on. The early leader could be Just Right, who should not be dismissed at a square price. This horse beat a softer field at this level last time, but he’s handled a mile in the past and Heman Harkie figures to be aggressive. My top pick is American Rule. This 7-year-old has races in him that make him very competitive against this field, but obviously his recent form is poor. Something went awry while he was in Jeremiah Englehart’s stable, but he had been doing well prior to that, winning decisively in October. Now he’s claimed by William Morey, who has been on a strong run in New York, and has won with 4 of his last 8 starters first off the claim with a healthy ROI. I won’t be surprised when he gets back into form for this barn, and apprentice Jose Gomez should have him forwardly placed.
RACE 8: BRONX BOMBER (#6)
Bustin Shout is the horse to beat off his solid runner-up finish at this level last time out. He was no match for winner More Graytful that day, but that rival is just in superior form right now. It was good to see him get back on track after an uncharacteristically poor effort at the tougher open N1X level two back. He looks like the main speed here, though he figures to face early pressure from Runningwscissors and Gongheifatchoy. I’m not against him, and his chances will be enhanced if the track is still playing to speed and the rail. However, there are some other options to consider. South Africa has a chance to rebound as he drops back into NY-bred company. He didn’t get the most comfortable trip last time when racing too far back in the early stages before getting shut off in upper stretch. He should be closer to the pace this time, but he’s unlikely to make the lead since others are just naturally faster than him. I’m going in a different direction with Bronx Bomber. This horse has obviously run poorly in two of his last three starts, but he just doesn’t handle a sloppy, sealed track at this point in his career. He proved that he can still run competitive races two back when he arguably might have won at this level if not for getting steadied in upper stretch. He got a great trip into a fast pace that day, but the same thing could happen here with so much other speed signed on. Trevor McCarthy figures to take back, ride the inside path for as long as possible, and launch one run.