#5 Jester’s Song obviously has the best speed figures in this field, but it must be noted that he was riding a track bias when he finished second on debut. The rail was a significant advantage on Jan. 13, and he rode the inside path for much of his trip. However, this guy wasn’t disgraced last time against a tougher field, and horses have come back out of that race to run very well. Chad Brown has a pair of runners in this compact field.
The well-bred #2 Higher Quality figures to be the shorter price of the two. He began his career in the Juddmonte silks for Chad Brown last winter, and put in a solid effort on debut. He was no match for winner Promise Keeper, but that one would go on to prove his quality in stakes company, winning the G3 Peter Pan. Higher Quality was eventually sold for $95k at Keeneland November, but was purchased by owners who sent him right back to Brown. He’s dangerous off the layoff for a barn that typically has them ready.
#3 Digitize makes his debut in this spot, but I wonder what we’ll get from this gelding who is a close relative to the barn’s Grade 1 winner Complexity, being by the same sire out of a dam who is his half-sister. All of his recent workouts have been in company with New York-bred Aggregation, who races later.
My top pick is #1 Proven Hope. He only managed to finish 6th in his debut, but there was a lot to like about the effort. He broke well, but wasn’t quite quick enough to hold his position, causing him to get shuffled back multiple times on the backstretch. He entered the turn 11th of 12, but launched a wide move to pass half the field before flattening out. He got dismissed at 42-1 that day, so it’s not like there were high expectations. That came up a fast race, and we’ve already seen fifth-place finisher Emirates Road come back to win. Mark Hennig doesn’t have great second time out stats, but this one is surely a candidate to improve.
WIN: #1 Proven Hope, at 5-2 or greater