RACE 6: EUCHARIST (#5)
Low-level claimers don’t get much more consistent than #3 Mr. Pete. This horse has finished in the money in his last 8 starts, and even more remarkably has earned a set of speed figures that are all within about a 5-point range. He’s making his first start off the claim for John Toscano here, but he hasn’t been phased by switching stables recently. I’m just concerned that there are horses in here with a higher ceiling than him, even if they may be less trustworthy. #1 Musical America is a wild card as he drops in class again and switches into the Rob Atras barn. This clearly wasn’t a good claim by Michael Dubb, as this 8-year-old’s form has completely fallen apart since getting picked up for $32k. However, his last race wasn’t as bad as it might seem, since he found himself chasing a runoff leader through unreasonable early fractions. The slight cutback shouldn’t bother him and he may be the speed from the rail. I’d use him, but I prefer #5 Eucharist. This horse made his first start off the claim for Ray Handal last time and showed subtle improvement despite finishing fourth, beaten by double-digit lengths. He was contesting an honest pace that day and was simply no match for three superior runners who crossed the wire ahead of him. Winner Crypto Cash and third-place finisher American Rule both came back to win out of that spot with strong efforts. I like the slight turnback for Eucharist and this is certainly a drop in class.
RACE 7: TACO BEAN (#8)
The connections did not shy away from trying #3 Who Hoo That’s Me in some tough spots last year. After breaking his maiden going today’s distance, he gave a very nice account of himself in the Sleepy Hollow, checking in third behind the talented Shipsational. I won’t be too hard on him for the Remsen regression, given the step up in company and trip. Jorge Abreu does not have strong numbers off layoffs, and is just 2 for 20 (10%, $1.10 ROI) off 90-180 day layoffs on dirt over 5 years. Yet this horse is coming back in a logical spot and obviously will be a handful if he merely holds his form from last year. Some of his main rivals are also 3-year-olds. However, I’m not quite as enamored with #1 Hot Rod Rumble or #2 Bourbon’s Hope. The former took many tries to break his maiden and finally did so with a lucky headbob last time. He may be the speed from the inside, but the track wasn’t as favorable to inside paths on Saturday’s card. Bourbon’s Hope was beaten by a pretty good rival last time, but this is a deeper field from top to bottom. A couple of runners exit the April 1 race at this level won by Masked Marauder. That heat came up unusually fast, I think this is a softer spot. #4 Lookin for Trouble set the pace before fading, but he was glued to the rail, which might not have been the place to be. He can bounce back, though isn’t the most appealing win candidate. My top pick at a bigger price is #8 Taco Bean, who finished just ahead of Lookin for Trouble in that April 1 affair with a similar forwardly placed trip. I’m not sure what changed for this gelding towards the end of last year, but he’s grown up into a decent racehorse after a dismal start to his career. He’s now put forth three straight respectable efforts at this level. He also showed a new dimension when closing from off the pace to get up for third two back. He rarely gets much respect due to the low-profile connections, but he’s far from impossible here if the favorite isn’t quite ready off the layoff.
RACE 9: BARREL OF QUESTS (#12)
I’m not wildly against either favorite in this state-bred maiden special weight event that closes out the card, but I also don’t want to default to either at a short price. #10 Highgate Road is probably the horse to beat as he drops out of a solid try against open company in his career debut at Tampa Bay Downs. He faced a solid field that day and earned a respectable 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the performance. The problem is that he’s going to be a short price getting a rider upgrade to Jose Ortiz, and these runners don’t always translate their form coming to New York. Catherine Day-Phillips is also 0 for 13 with maiden second time starters on turf over the past 5 years, with just one hitting the board. #1 Mr. Connecticut appears to be his main rival as the other short price in this affair. He ran well in all of his starts last year. He looked like he needed a race when fourth in a solid maiden event on debut, and then just missed second time out. He finished off the board as the favorite in his 2021 finale, but he was essentially blocked for the entire stretch drive. He’s better than that, but Christophe Clement doesn’t have particularly strong statistics off layoffs. I don’t see that much speed in this race, so I want to lean in another direction towards a runner who should be forwardly placed. #12 Barrel Quests is a horse that I’ve been waiting to see back on turf. This colt made just one start on turf last year in his career debut, and he didn’t run nearly as poorly as it may seem. He got a little rank heading into the first turn and then raced 3-wide without cover before fading late. He got some time off after that and has returned with some improved efforts on dirt. He actually made a nice middle move going a mile in his return, and then last time showed improved early speed in the slop before settling for second. I think he’s getting back on the right surface as a son of turf winner Barrel of Joy, who has already produced 2 multiple turf winners. He also could play out as the controlling speed if ridden as aggressively as last time.