RACE 4: PHANTOM SMOKE (#6)
I believe #6 Phantom Smoke is a very likely winner of this New York-bred N2X allowance affair. He had shown turf sprint ability as a 3-year-old and ran well when just missing over this course and distance last summer. That was his first start off a layoff and he subsequently improved in two more starts downstate. He returned from another lengthy layoff last time at Belmont and ran a much better race than his final position would indicate. That was one of the fastest paces that we’ve seen on turf in New York all year, especially for a 6-furlong turf sprint. Two horses set some wickedly fast fractions, and he wasn’t that far off stalking in third, well ahead of the eventual winner. He made the first move to reel in those two pacesetters, but proved vulnerable late after running so fast for the first 5 furlongs. I love this slight turnback for him, and he projects to work out a great trip stalking a more moderate pace this time. His main rival appears to be #1 King Angelo, who is also making his second start off a layoff. This horse won up here last summer when leading all the way, and I think he’s best using that front-running style. They tried to rate him off the pace in his return last time, and it proved to be the wrong move, as he lacked a late punch. I think he’ll get a better trip this time, but I still prefer his Christophe Clement trained rival. #7 Battle Station is the other interesting horse at a better price. He’s getting significant class relief while moving back into the barn of Rob Atras, for whom he’s had past success.
RACE 6: KALING (#4)
#2 Key of Life was the beaten 2-5 favorite in her debut at Churchill Downs when she was significantly compromised by a poor start, breaking lengths behind the field. That race was won by a talented rival in Summer Promise, and Key of Life did run on decently for third. She had trained well into that race and she clearly is still highly regarded by the barn. Her July 10 workout was in company with Grade 1 Acorn winner Matareya, and this 2-year-old held her own in company with that classy 3-year-old stablemate. I just question whether she can break cleanly this time, as that will be key to her success. There are also some very interesting first time starters in this race. #7 Rarify is a daughter of Triple Crown winner Justify and a half-sister to sprint champion Runhappy. Wesley Ward can obviously win with a 2-year-old, and showed some confidence nominating her to the Schuylerville on opening week. My top pick is #4 Kaling. Todd Pletcher has done well with his 2-year-old firsters over the past couple of summers. This filly is by 19% juvenile debut sire Practical Joke. The siblings haven’t been much, but she nevertheless appears to have some ability. She’s earned the fastest workout time from the gate at Belmont on July 8, which is usually telling for Pletcher runners. And on July 17 at Saratoga, she was going much easier than colt Bat Flip, who debuts in today’s first race. I think there’s talent here, and she may be a fair price given the strength of this field.
RACE 9: BLAZING STAR (#5)
#1 Osiria will be looking to win two in a row after breaking her maiden in her third attempt last time out. She clearly took a step forward in that second turf start, displaying improved speed to lead a field from gate to wire. She was flattered when runner-up Frosted Oats returned to win with a strong speed figure, and Christophe Clement has solid stats off maiden wins. I expect her to run well showing speed from the inside, but I didn’t want to take a short price on anyone in this competitive allowance. #4 Boxing Day could attract support as she drops out of stakes company. She only finished 1 1/2 lengths behind last year’s Breeders’ Cup winner Twilight Gleaming in the Mamzelle, but that was a race where many horses hit the wire together, and I’m not sure any of them ran that well. #2 A Little Faith merits respect off her runner-up finish at this level last time, since it was her first start in nearly two years. She showed good speed and just got tired in the last furlong. The slight cutback shouldn’t bother her since she’s been successful going 5 1/2 furlongs in the past. I considered putting her on top, but wanted to get a little more creative. #5 Blazing Star figures to get somewhat overlooked here off two nondescript efforts in the U.S. However, I don’t think either of those races at Churchill – one on dirt, the other a route – were ideal spots for her. She had shown some speed and ability sprinting in Europe last year, and I believe that’s what she wants to do. This daughter of sprint sire Dark Angel looked quick overseas, and I think she can take a real step forward switching into the barn of Mike Maker. She obviously has some questions to answer, but she’ll fly under the radar and is finally getting a chance to do what she wants.