Thursday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Nuclear Option returns to turf for dangerous barn

Belmont | Race 7 | Post Time 6:15 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs | Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up 

Half of the runners entered for turf are coming in off extended layoffs, including morning line favorite #5 Maxwell Esquire. This horse’s best race would make him pretty tough for this field to handle. He’s already beaten this allowance condition, which is why he’s competing for the $62,500 tag. I would think he’s a candidate to get claimed for that amount given his strong form from last season. He didn’t get the right pace setup in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint last time, and prior that did well to finish in a dead heat with today’s rival #1 Fauci. Both of these make sense as they launch their 2022 campaigns, but I don’t need either at relatively short prices off layoffs. 

The most reliable option with recency is #2 Artemus Citylimits, but I can’t pick this horse on top. He’s gotten good trips in more than a few of his recent starts and just can’t seem to seal the deal. He’s always right there in the stretch of his races, but too often settles for a minor award. That attribute was on full display last time when he appeared to have that Keeneland race won and just refused to go by the eventual winner. All of the aforementioned runners make sense, but they’re the three favorites and I want to get a little more creative. 

#3 NUCLEAR OPTION hasn’t tried turf that much during his career, but he has run well over grass on occasion. Among his turf performances are a couple of allowance wins at Arlington, one of which earned a 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Yet what’s most interesting about him is this private purchase and trainer switch to Jamie Ness. He’s exiting a barn that was winning at a low percentage, and Ness has been having some newfound success outside the confines of Parx lately. Over the past 5 years, Ness is 8 for 30 (27%, $1.98 ROI) first off a trainer switch on turf, which is better than expected for a trainer known for his work with dirt horses. This gelding has tactical speed and figures to be a square price.

THE PLAY

WIN: #3 Nuclear Option, at 8-1 or greater

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