RACE 4: FULL MOON FEVER (#1)
Rudy Rodriguez holds a strong hand in this starter allowance affair, sending out a pair of contenders. #4 Perceived could go off as the favorite after running a strong second at this level last time in his first start off the claim for Rudy. He got a pretty good trip that day and was just second best to the improved Rocco Strong, finishing ahead of today’s rival Group Hug. This horse owns plenty of prior speed figures that make him formidable against this group, but he’s going to be a much shorter price than the 9-1 he was last time. Rudy’s other horse #2 Midaswellrun is more interesting to me. He’s stepping way up in class after defeating $30k maiden claimers last time. However, I liked the way he took control of that race in the late stages, opening up on the field across the wire. He was flattered when the horse who defeated him two starts back, Rock Sugar, returned to win here impressively earlier in the week. I have him as a major player, but there are others to consider. Some may take a liking to #5 Purple Hearted off his blowout win last time, but he was riding a gold rail that day. The aforementioned #6 Group Hug is always a contender in races such as this, but he often settles for minor awards. I actually prefer a runner who finished behind Group Hug last time. #1 Full Moon Fever showed improvement off the claim for Mark Hennig two back, dominating a claiming affair in the slop. It appears that he regressed last time out when moved up to this level, but he had some subtle trouble in that spot. He attained forward position coming out of the chute, but got steadied between horses about two furlongs into the race, losing position down the backstretch. He never stopped trying after that, but the pace was very slow and the leaders failed to back up. I expect him to get a more aggressive ride from the inside post position this time and believe he’s a candidate to rebound at a square price.
RACE 6: RHUMJAR (#4)
There are many ways to go in this highly competitive maiden claiming affair. #3 Inspiration Point and #1 Baltasar appear to have the strongest credentials after checking in second and third behind a well meant first time starter at this level last time. Inspiration Point made a nice middle move to reach contention that day, but hung in the late stages. Baltasar probably ran the better race, considering that he got rank in the early stages and was forced to steady a couple of times leaving the backstretch. He actually did well to get back into contention after that, but had little left for the final furlong. They’re both contenders, but seem fairly obvious in a race that features a few intriguing 3-year-olds. There are a trio of first time starters, all of whom have some pedigree. I’m most afraid of the Todd Pletcher-trained #6 Wegottaguy, a son of Mohaymen who appears to be training decently for his debut. However, this isn’t a particularly weak race for the level so a firster really needs to show up to win. I want to go in a different direction with the more experienced 3-year-old #4 Rhumjar. This gelding returns to the Tim Hills barn after making one start for Bruce Brown last time. It appears that he put in a poor effort that day, but he may have been somewhat compromised by racing on the rail. The inside path might not have been the place to be on March 20, and he was down inside every step of the way. His form prior to that is a little spotty, but he did earn a competitive speed figure in the slop in late December. I think this horse has more to offer and he figures to be a square price even as he drops in for a tag for the first time in his career.
RACE 8: FROST POINT (#3)
It’s a little hard to build a case for longshot #1 Exotic West in this Top Flight, but the other 5 entrants are all solid contenders in this wide open affair. #5 Battle Bling is probably the horse to beat after just missing to the talented Bank Sting in the Heavenly Prize last time. She made a strong late charge at that rival but was somewhat compromised by the slow early pace. She’s probably better going slightly farther than that, which she displayed two back when she overcame a track bias to win the Ladies. I view her as the horse to beat but she’s probably going to be favored this time now that her improved form for Rob Atras is totally exposed. She defeated #2 Maiden Beauty in that last start despite that rival having a significant pace advantage. Maiden Beauty owns a set of competitive speed figures, but she benefited from a track bias when she won two back and may find these waters a little too deep. An intriguing new face is #4 Into Vanishing, who exits a second-place finish behind the champion Letruska in the Grade 3 Royal Delta last time out. While she earned a career-best speed figure that day, she was no match for the heavy favorite, just staying on to best the rest. That said, it was her first start back on dirt in a long time and she may have woken up returning to her preferred surface. My top pick is #3 Frost Point. This filly gets a major class test as she tries stakes company for the first time, but I like the way she’s been progressing for Bill Mott. She ran a couple of nice races in Kentucky last year before a brief freshening. She was a visually impressive winner at Laurel two back before trying tougher at this venue last time. I thought she was clearly best that day, but she just didn’t get an ideal trip, buried inside and behind horses for much of her journey. She had to alter course a couple of times in upper stretch before finally finding room when it was too late. She strikes me as one that should have no trouble with the 1 1/8 miles and she could fly under the radar given her lack of flashy speed figures.