RACE 1: FOREVER DIXIE (#10)
Among those with experience, Xigera (#2) is clearly the horse to beat. She got a 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure for her debut, which would be good enough to win most maiden races at this meet. She just had the misfortune of running into a pretty talented debut winner. Nevertheless, she showed good tactical speed and ran a professional race. She’s bred to be a nice turf horse as a half-sister to stakes winner Forty Under, and Phil Bauer is in the midst of a fantastic meet. I’m not against her, but I was interested in another experienced runner who could fly under the radar. Forever Dixie (#10) began her career on dirt and didn’t run that badly. However, she did appear to take a step forward on grass last time despite achieving another fifth-place result. She had to steady off heels moving into the clubhouse turn and then proceeded to race 2 to 3-wide throughout over a course that was favoring rail runners. She still looked a little ungainly in upper stretch, but was hitting her best stride late once Leparoux finally set her down. Now Mark Casse adds blinkers to a filly who has been a little green and makes a rider switch to Tyler Gaffalione. Casse is 23 for 129 (18%, $2.45 ROI) with maiden third time starters in turf routes over 5 years. As for firsters, I would rather use Wand (#4) and Mademoisellejackie (#9), who have both worked well on grass, instead of the Chad Brown pair.
RACE 8: SERIFOS (#2)
Despite not possessing much obvious turf pedigree, Wit (#4) appeared to take to this surface quite well in the G2 Hall of Fame. Reserved off a moderate early pace, he closed best of all down the center of the track in the stretch. The race was dominated on the front end, so he deserves credit for making up so much ground. Now he finds himself in an easier restricted spot, and will likely benefit from some speed in this affair. I slightly prefer his main rival Napoleonic War (#7), who is simply getting needed class relief after proving no match for a tougher group in the G1 Belmont Derby, where he just couldn’t see out the distance. He had run well in his prior starts on turf and seems like one that will really benefit from this cutback to a flat mile. They’re both logical, but I wanted to get a little more creative with a horse who figures to get overlooked. Serifos (#2) comes into this stakes event showing three awful races on the turf from the early part of his career. Yet that was before his connections gelded him, which seemed to turn him into more of an athlete. He just feels like a horse that has improved by leaps and bounds in the overall sense since last winter. He was beating lesser competition, but he was a visually impressive winner last time at Delaware despite the fact that his jockey lost the irons in the stretch. He’s actually bred for turf, as he is a half-brother to Group 2 Prix Dollar winner Alignement as well as multiple stakes-winning turf horse Alda. I just think he’s an intriguing new face at a price, going out for the trainer who conditioned the race’s namesake.
RACE 9: LADY ROCKET (#4)
Ce Ce (#1) comes into this Grade 1 Ballerina as the reigning champion. However, that accolade was bestowed because she won the most important race, beating Gamine when it counted in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. While she’s run well since then, she isn’t exactly a dominant force among these female sprinters, entering this race with a set of performances that don’t exactly make her a standout. I think she’s vulnerable and want to take some shots against her. Obligatory (#2) has been in fantastic form this year. She got the right pace setup in the Derby City Distaff, but she produced a fantastic stretch run to rally past the entire field. I won’t hold her recent loss to Bella Sofia against her, since she was arguably best after racing behind a slow pace. I actually think she’s the horse to beat here, but I am a little concerned about a lack of pace. My top pick is Lady Rocket (#4). Some will view her as a one-hit wonder, as that 9-length romp in the Go For Wand stands out among her running lines. However, I think she’s run better than it appears in her three starts since then. That was particularly the case in the Madison when she got involved in a wicked pace that fell apart. She was dueling that day with Kimari, who since returned to beat Bella Sofia in the Honorable Miss with a career-best performance. I won’t hold Lady Rocket’s Ruffian against her, since that has proven to be a key race, with multiple horses improving their speed figures out of it. She beat a pair of nice mares at Churchill last time, and appears to be coming into this Grade 1 test in excellent form. Brad Cox is an amazing 25 for 58 (43%, $3.22 ROI) with last-out winners in Grade 1 dirt races over the past 5 years.