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.
WIN: #2 Whistler’s Honor, at 6-1 or greater