RACE 3: GOOD MEDICINE (#1)
Both Most Wanted Man (#2) and Tiz a Giant (#3) exit the same race at this level going 1 3/16 miles. The former arguably had the tougher trip since he had to go wider on the far turn. However, Most Wanted Man had his chance to get up for second in the lane and just didn’t really finish off the race. I don’t exactly get the vibe that more ground suits him as much as I do from Tiz a Giant. This Michael Trombetta trainee handled 11 furlongs when running a good second at this level two back. I like him stretching back out and won’t be surprised if he shows a bit more tactical speed this time. Todd Pletcher has the two other runners with considering. I thought Outperform (#4) ran fine in his turf debut, just hitting his best stride a little too late. However, I have some doubts about the quality of that affair and there’s no guarantee that added ground will suit him. My top pick is Pletcher’s other runner Good Medicine (#1). I thought he really improved with the stretch-out in distance in his two starts going longer at Belmont. He held on well for second behind the talented Balthus on May 20 and then made a nice run into the trifecta on June 18 despite breaking slowly and getting a wide trip. They did risk him for a tag last time, but I thought he again stayed on well that day, and it’s not as if this field came up much tougher than that one. Flavien Prat has ridden well for the Pletcher barn, and I thought this one would be a fair price.
RACE 8: MAXWELL ESQUIRE (#8)
Morning line favorite Voodoo Zip (#6) has never gone this short, but he did seem to appreciate the turnback to 6 furlongs at Belmont after spending much of his career going longer distances. He’s a contender, but I didn’t want to default to short prices in this Lucky Coin. The Critical Way (#2) figures to be the one they all have to catch if he regains the early speed he failed to use last time at Monmouth. His form has been a little inconsistent of late, but I can make excuses for some of his recent efforts. I thought he was most appealing of those who figure to take money. David Donk has entered a pair of competitors, both of whom have chances. I don’t fully trust Big Package (#1) to work out the right kind of trip from off the pace, but he has been in solid form lately. Thin White Duke (#5) would be awfully tough to beat if he repeated his Troy effort from 4 weeks ago, but it’s a little hard to trust him since he had never run quite that well before. I’m going in a different direction with Maxwell Esquire (#8). The connections scratched out of a softer spot last Saturday to instead run as a longshot in this stakes. Perhaps that’s a good sign for a horse who is looking to regain his best form after a few disappointing efforts. To be fair, he had little chance off the claim last time when going a distance that is too far for him. He also got a 3- to 4-wide trip around both turns. I thought he was running well in this race last year before encountering significant traffic in deep stretch. This is a tall order for him, but there are some things to like and he figures to be a generous price.
RACE 9: UNION LAKE (#10)
The expected scratch of Smash Ticket takes some of the speed out of this race, but they still figure to be moving up front. That makes the task of Hot Peppers (#2) a little more difficult, since she appears to be committed to setting the pace from her inside post. She’s one of the few runners from her barn to have success at this meet when she finished an excellent second in the Grade 1 Test. I thought she was game to fend off heavy favorite Matareya for second after setting a fast pace in a race that fell apart. There was some bumping in the stretch, but it didn’t appear to significantly affect the outcome. She’s awfully tough to pass when she makes the lead, and looks like the one to beat. Angitude (#6) could also take some money off her third-place finish in the Wilton Stakes. That was going a mile, but she’s been effective sprinting in the past and just seems to be an improving sort. She set the pace last time, but Joel Rosario will likely have to adapt to a stalking role this time. She’s a contender, though I preferred another. Union Lake (#10) showed promise as a 2-year-old, and has seemingly come back in strong form since returning from the layoff this year. She was game to sneak up the rail to break her maiden two back, and improved upon that performance when stepped up against winners last time. Third-place finisher Repealing returned to win out of that race, as did today’s rival Bank On Anna. She’s working well coming into this and should sit the right trip from her outside slot.