A repeat of the 109 TimeformUS Speed Figure that #6 Saint Selby earned last June will obviously make him awfully tough for this field to handle. However, this gelding has many questions to answer as he returns from a lengthy layoff. That flashy speed figure seems pretty legitimate as horses behind Saint Selby came back to validate the number. However, he did get a great trip, riding a strong rail most of the way. He can regress and still beat this group, but one has to wonder if he’ll return as the same horse. Rob Atras is 2 for 21 (10%, $0.51 ROI) off layoffs of 180 days or more on dirt over the past 5 years. Plus, there’s other speed for him to deal with this time.
A few horses exit a Feb. 13 race at this level, and I’m not particularly fond of any of them. #3 Storm Shooter was possibly too close to the rail when more aggressively ridden second off the layoff. However, he faded badly that day and has never been the easiest horse to trust. He also has a tendency to get overbet as a MyRacehorse runner.
#4 Big Brown Shoes is a little more appealing. Though he got a better trip last time, I thought he showed that he’s rounding back into form. He actually ran deceptively well in his prior race on this circuit back on Dec. 18, and he’s capable of coming from just off the pace. I see a ton of speed signed on here and few closers from which to choose. This feels like a race that could produce a wacky result, so I’m going to get a little creative.
My top pick is #2 TACO BEAN. This horse never gets any respect on the tote board, but he’s actually been earning speed figures that are on par with all of the contenders, save Saint Selby. He’s clearly in career form right now for Pat Kelly, and I’m encouraged that he’s adapted his running style to come from just off the pace in his last couple of starts. He didn’t finish that far behind a couple of runners who would be strong contenders in this spot when he last ran on Feb. 26. And he figures to be a generous price again with Mike Luzzi riding, despite the fact that he’s ridden this gelding well.
WIN: #2 Taco Bean, at 8-1 or greater