#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 during that time. 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.
WIN: #9 Buckortwo, at 4-1 or greater