RACE 4: WHISTLER’S HONOR (#2)
This NY-bred maiden special weight event seems totally wide open. I don’t want to settle for the obvious horses who will take money like #4 Nikostratos and #7 Mr. Connecticut. The former ran fine last year as a 2-year-old, but he got pretty good trips and there’s no guarantee that he’ll necessarily build on that form in his return from a layoff. Mr. Connecticut comes in with the best set of speed figures, but he really should have broken his maiden by now, and is usually compromised by his lack of early speed. I actually think the horse to beat is #1 Biondi. There’s isn’t a ton of pace in this race, and he figures to work out a good trip from this advantageous inside draw. He set an honest pace at Aqueduct last time and still held off Mr. Connecticut for second. He’s also getting a massive rider upgrade to Luis Saez for his second start off the layoff. However, there are also a couple of second time starters who intrigue me. One of those is #6 Front Line Dancer, who ran better than his fifth-place result would indicate on debut. He was beaten by both Nikostratos and Biondi that day, but he was steadied in the early going and proceeded to race wide around both turns before finishing with good interest. He has a right to do better here as he returns with blinkers added. My top pick is #2 Whistler’s Honor. This colt debuted going 6 furlongs last fall, but ran like one that wants to travel much farther than that. He broke slowly and lagged at the back of the pack early before unleashing a strong rally through the lane. He only passed about half the field by the time they hit the wire, but he was moving quickest of all and quickly ran by the leaders on the gallop out. This son of Tonalist now gets to stretch out and should relish the added ground. Jorge Abreu doesn’t have the best stats off layoffs and the barn is a bit cold right now. Still, I think he’s interesting at a square price.
RACE 8: TIN PAN ALLEY (#4)
Morning line favorite #2 Best Idea looked pretty promising in his debut victory over the winter, so it was surprising when he regressed so dramatically in the Damon Runyon. He did get off to a slow start but just never appeared to be fully engaged that day. The good news is that he was back in the bridle on the stretch-out last time, as he stalked effectively and traveled well into the race. It’s not a great sign that the horse who beat him, Anejo, returned to lose at a short price on Sunday. That said, I don’t mind the turnback for Best Idea and he still has upside in just his fourth start. One of his main rivals appears to be #9 Who Hoo Thats Me. This colt’s best form obviously puts him right there. He howed that he was a capable sprinter when he broke his maiden here last September, and followed that up with the best performance of his career when third in the Sleepy Hollow behind a couple of talented rivals. I won’t fault him for failing to show up in the Remsen, as he probably doesn’t want to go that far He found the cutback to 6F to be a little sharp for him in the return last time, but he still made a strong late run to get up for second. Now he gets more ground to work with and should get some pace up front. My top pick is #4 Tin Pan Alley. This Chad Brown trainee doesn’t come in with the fastest speed figures, but he certainly has the potential to take another step forward. He was probably best in his career debut last summer, making a big middle move on the turn after breaking slowly, just unable to reel in today’s rival Rotknee. He was off for a long time after that, but showed no rust coming off the layoff. He displayed improved tactical speed and beat a decent field to break his maiden, going away at the end like an extra half-furlong will be no issue. He’s trained well since then, his last two workouts matching G3 Bay Shore runner-up Highly Respected (2-1-1-0, 90 Beyer). Chad Brown is also 6 for 19 (32%, $2.42 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in New York-bred dirt races over the past 5 years.
RACE 9: SANCTUARY CITY (#6)
#7 Somelikeithotbrown hasn’t run against New York-breds that often during his career, but he’s achieved stakes success the last two times that he’s ventured into state-bred company, taking the last two editions of the Mohawk in the fall. He’ll try to kick off his 6-year-old campaign here with a victory against similar company in this Kingston. However, the layoff is of some concern. He’s not a horse that has ever run particularly well coming off a break like this, and Mike Maker runners typically do better with a start or two under their belts. He should play out as the controlling speed, but I wasn’t inclined to just hand this race to him. Main rival #2 City Man looked to be in great form when he returned two back in the Danger’s Hour at Aqueduct, displaying an impressive turn of foot to draw clear of that field before getting geared down late. I won’t hold his Fort Marcy loss against him, as that race was contested over a course that should have been rated “heavy.” He’s likely to do better here and he has the tactical speed to not be overly compromised by a slow pace. Yet I want to go for a bigger priced upset with #6 Sanctuary City. This overachiever always puts in an honest effort and has subtly been in fantastic form over the past year or so. He just missed to Somelikeithotbrown at odds of 24-1 in the Mohawk last year despite not getting much help up front. He’s arguably improved out of that race, closing well behind City Man two back before holding his own against open company in a race that is likely too far for him. I love the cutback to 1 1/16 miles, and he’s reunited with Kendrick Carmouche, who was aboard for his three-race winning streak about a year ago.