I have no argument against #5 Perceived being the horse to beat in this starter handicap. He was a decisive winner at this level last time, closing well from off the pace to win going a mile at Belmont. However, he was 19-1 that day and could go off favored this time. Horses like this are often poor bets, especially with older horses whose form can be somewhat unreliable. Perceived will beat this field if repeating his last effort, but he’s never raced around two turns on dirt before, and he’s being asked to stretch out to 1 1/8 miles here.
The horse he ran down last time, #4 No Burn, is back in this spot, but I have similar concerns about him getting the distance. He stopped going 9 furlongs at Aqueduct over the winter, though he was meeting a better field that day.
I’m going in a different direction with #6 PALACE COUP. It seemed like horses did best staying out of the kickback on the dirt last week, so I like that he’s a runner with tactical speed drawn outside. He’s run plenty of prior dirt routes that give him a big shot against this field, and even his recent form makes him a good fit. He put in a strong effort when elevated to victory two back, as unofficial winner Eastside Cool has been in great form and would be a short price in this spot. He regressed slightly off the layoff last time, but now he’s been claimed by Joe Sharp. Sharp is 17 for 53 (32%, $2.41 ROI) first off the claim in dirt routes over the past 5 years.
WIN: #6 Palace Coup, at 5-2 or greater