RACE 2: CHLOE ROSE (#2)
Stretching out to a mile proved to be the undoing of likely favorite #4 Bella Principessa last time, as she just wasn’t able to see out the distance at today’s level. She’s been most effective as a sprinter on dirt, and now is turning back to a more appropriate trip. The speed figures that she’s recorded this winter are simply faster than most of the recent numbers earned by her competitors. The one concern is that she lacks early speed and there isn’t an overwhelming amount of pace in this race. That may not matter in her current form, but I’d be wary of taking too short a price on this favorite. Among the alternatives are a couple of fillies drawn down towards the rail. #1 To a T has held her form pretty well since the trainer switch to Orlando Noda this winter. However, her speed figures have hit a plateau in recent starts and she was no match for Bella Principessa when they met in February. She bobbled a couple of strides away from the gate last time, which put her towards the back of the pack early. She be more forwardly placed, and it doesn’t hurt getting Jose Ortiz aboard. I prefer #2 Chloe Rose at what figures to be a better price. Her form has obviously fallen off since she won first off the claim for Gustavo Rodriguez last October. One could make the argument that she didn’t like wet tracks two and three starts back, but she failed to rebound on dry going last time. That said, she was meeting an unusually tough field for this level on Mar. 4, as Norman Queen and Tellaperfecttale are both in raging form right now. Chloe Rose has worked well since then and is returning to the site and distance of her last victory. I think she’s worth one more chance if the price is right.
RACE 3: VINTAGE HOLLYWOOD (#4)
This race figures to set up pretty well for the favorite #6 No Salt, who is clearly the horse to beat. This gelding has been in great form since moving into the barn of Mike Miceli last fall. He did lose all three of his prior attempts at this N2X level, but he was beaten by some pretty good horses in those races, including subsequent stakes winner Water’s Edge. He rebounded with an easy victory against starter foes last time and shouldn’t mind the stretch-out in distance. Furthermore, there’s plenty of pace signed on with three speeds drawn down towards the inside. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast early tempo, and that could work against his main rival #2 Daddy Knows. This horse is the only runner in the field to have achieved the kind of speed figures that rival those of the favorite. However, his recent form has been tailing off, and he’s again been showing that alarming tendency to drift out in his races. Drawn between two pace rivals, he may struggle to work out the right trip. I think the biggest threat to the favorite may come from #4 Vintage Hollywood. This 7-year-old’s form clearly leaves something to be desired. He’s finished off the board in 8 of his last 9 starts, the only placing being a runner-up finish in a $25k claimer. That said, he does have back class, having won the off-the-turf Kingston last year and achieved some competitive speed figures as recently as one year ago. He’s also making his first start off the claim for Gustavo Rodriguez, who is 6 for 16 (38%, $4.36 ROI) first off the claim over the past 5 years. He figures to get the right pace setup and should be a square price with No Salt certain to attract the bulk of support.
RACE 5: BUCKORTWO (#9)
#2 Yarrow could go favored for the third consecutive time despite losing as the public choice in his final two appearances of 2021. That said, he’s run pretty well in all of his races to date. He responded well to the gradual reduction in distance last year, so 6 furlongs is the right starting point off the layoff. He had some minor trouble when trying to close two back, but then simply lacked a late punch when nosed out for second at Aqueduct last time. Christophe Clement is 16 for 78 (21%, $1.40 ROI) off 120-240 day layoffs in turf sprints over 5 years. I’m not wildly against him, but I also wouldn’t want to take a short price on this runner. I slightly prefer main rival #3 Citizen K. This gelding got nosed out at the wire by Yarrow in each of his last two starts of 2021. His lack of early speed was a bit of a hindrance in those races, as he simply ran out of ground while finishing best of all each time. I think he’s more naturally suited to this distance than his main rival, but he needs more pace than he got in his most recent start on Nov. 27. It’s possible that he’ll get the right setup in here with such a large field signed on, but Jose Ortiz still must work out a trip. I want to go in a different direction with the 3-year-old #9 Buckortwo. This dark bay gelding is a little light on speed figures compared to the two main rivals drawn inside, but all of those numbers were achieved as a 2-year-old. He has a right to be capable of better returning as a more mature horse. Michelle Nevin is 3 for 16 (19%, $2.25 ROI) off 120-240 day layoffs in turf sprints over the past 5 years She’s also 22-for-105 (21%, $4.66 ROI) in turf sprints at Belmont. This runner adds Lasix for his return, and is getting a rider upgrade to Kendrick Carmouche. I like that he showed improved tactical speed in his juvenile finale, and he has the pedigree to improve, as a full-sibling to turf allowance winner Dancing Buck.