The Chad Brown / Peter Brant entry of #2 Kuramata and #2B Flop Shot will be difficult to overcome, especially if the latter draws into the race from the also eligible list. I actually think Flop Shot is the horse to beat, despite his tendency to settle for second. He’s been beaten by some pretty good horses in his narrow losses in this country. That was even true last time when he went down to defeat as the even-money favorite, as winner Carpenters Call wheeled right back to finish a good third in the Grade 3 Appleton.
Entrymate Kuramata has more to prove, as he’s been a bit of a disappointment since winning here last April. A graded stakes experiment failed and his return from the layoff at Tampa was also disappointing. He did get pretty rank in the early going that day but he just lacked punch through the lane.
I was actually more impressed with the finishing kick of longshot #7 Kygo, who finished just behind him that day. Kygo didn’t care for a marathon distance last time, but he’s cutting back and isn’t totally without a chance at a big price.
Some may gravitate towards #10 Worth a Shot, who seeks his fifth win in a row. It’s rare to see a horse march right through his New York-bred allowance conditions and then proceed on through his open conditions straight away – and even rarer for it to happen with nearly a year between starts. He’s obviously a player if he returns in top form, but there’s other speed to contend with, and this is by far the toughest field he’s met.
I want to go for a different wild card, #5 HIGHLAND CHIEF. This 5-year-old also returns from a lengthy layoff as he makes his first start in this country. He kept very strong company in Europe, competing in a trio of prestigious Group 1 events over 1 1/2 miles while facing the likes Pyledriver, Mogul, and Japan. At his best he’s clearly good enough to handle this field, but distance and form are the main questions. I actually don’t mind the cutback for him, since he was successful going shorter early in his career. Graham Motion is 5 for 21 (24%, $2.31 ROI) off layoffs of 180+ days with foreign shippers getting Lasix in turf routes over the past 5 years. I’m hopeful he’ll be a square price if the Chad Brown runners take as much money as I expect.
WIN: #5 Highland Chief, at 7-2 or greater
UPGRADE: #7 Kygo, at 20-1 or greater