RACE 1: CERTIFIED LOVERBOY (#1)
$275k yearling purchase #2 Lost Ark is out of a dirt route stakes-winning dam who has produced 4 winners from 5 foals to race, topped by G1 Santa Anita Handicap winner Idol and G1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Nest. Both of those accomplished siblings are sired by Curlin, and this colt is 19% juvenile debut sire Violence. Todd Pletcher is 9 for 24 (38%, $1.45 ROI) with 2-year-old first time starters in 5F to 5.5F on dirt at Belmont over the past 5 years. It’s a little curious to see a horse with this damside pedigree make his debut sprinting in July, but he’s by a sire of precocity. That fast June 26 gate work signals that there’s ability here, and he’s the one to beat. I’m taking a shot against him with #1 Certified Loverboy. A $230k yearling purchase, he’s by Grade 1 BC Juvenile Turf winner and G1 Travers runner-up Mendelssohn, who is 0 for 7 with his first time starters in his first crop. The dam went 0 for 2 and her only foal to race is stakes-placed Juror Number Four. The dam is a half-sister to a couple of dirt stakes winners in Japan, including G3 Saudi Derby 3rd-place finisher Consigliere. Ray Handal is 6 for 23 (26%, $2.95 ROI) with first time starters in dirt sprints over the past 2 years. He sports some pretty quick workouts for the debut, and reportedly outworked talented 4-year-old Disco Pharoah in that June 13 drill.
RACE 2: REGINA (#2)
I don’t have a strong argument against #7 Quaria Thunder’s recent form. She ran has run well in each of her turf starts for Mike Maker, just getting nailed on the wire on both occasions. The horse who defeated her last time did work out a perfect trip to do so, but she did elevate the effort a bit when she came back to beat winners in her next start. Quaria thunder should play out as the controlling speed here, and that may be enough to put her in the winner’s circle against a lackluster field. I’m not particularly fond of anyone else with turf form. #1 Requestforproposal wasn’t very good in Chad Brown’s barn and had no excuse as the 3-5 favorite last time. I respect the job that David Duggan does, but I just don’t think this filly has much ability. I’m more interested in first time turfer #2 Regina. This filly returns from a layoff with some potential to improve. She’s obviously light on speed figures, but I think both of her prior efforts are stronger than they appear. She actually had some speed in her debut before abruptly dropping back at the half-mile pole in a race she probably needed. Then last time stretching out to a mile she was just beaten by a couple of superior horses. Winner Candy Light returned to finish second in a stakes with a 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Furthermore, the second and fourth-place finishers from that affair won their next starts with improved speed figures. Turf is obviously a question, but she’s by Empire Maker out of a Giant’s Causeway more who handled turf, so it’s conceivable that she’ll handle this surface. She’s certainly found a pretty soft spot to try grass.
RACE 5: WINFROMWITHIN (#7)
This optional claimer is the race of the day, as you can make a case for many runners in this wide open event. Arguably the most intriguing member of this field is #8 Ocala Dream, who came through with a breakout performance second of the layoff last time when beating a strong field in the Kingston. He traveled well every step of the way and produced a nice turn of foot in the stretch to slam the door on that field. A repeat of that 118 TimeformUS Speed Figure makes him dangerous here, but repeating that career-best effort may be easier said than done. #1 Floriform is a logical alternative as he drops out of graded stakes company. I like the slight turnback to a mile for him, and he ran respectably against some tough company earlier this year. I think his form is a little more exposed than some others, which should be reflected in his price, though he does project to work out a great trip from the rail. I’m interested in a couple of other 4-year-olds with upside. #6 Hombre has always had ability and showed some hints of talent for trainer Barclay Tagg. Yet he seemed to really take a step forward first time out for the Cherie DeVaux barn. He ranged up powerfully at the quarter pole and dominated that affair through the stretch. He’s stepping up to meet a tougher field here, but he appears to be moving in the right direction and has a running style that should allow him to adapt to any pace scenario here. My top pick is #7 Winfromwithin. This horse had shown turf ability early on in his career for Todd Pletcher before a series of trainer changes seemed to briefly derail him. Yet he ran well on the dirt when switched into the Jorge Delgado barn even though that’s not his preferred surface. He got back on grass last time in the Cliff Hanger and clearly ran the best race. He contested a very strong early pace – 174 and 145 TimeformUS Early Pace Ratings for those first two fractions – in that race and battled back gamely in a race that was dominated by closers. Some may not trust these connections coming to New York, but this jockey has a pretty simple job. He just has to get him to front end in a race where the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring that running style.