RACE 2: TRUE MARTINI (#2)
Likely favorite Shinfull (#6) has finished second in her last three attempts against maidens on turf, and will be looking to break that pattern here. She got a good trip stalking the heavy favorite last time and could just never reel that one in while well clear of the third-place finisher. She’s obviously a contender, but the major drawback is that she figures to be a short price, especially with Irad Ortiz retaining the mount. Among the shorter prices, I’m actually more interested in Voleuse (#4). She’s been competing on dirt recently, but she made a decent run into a moderate pace in her turf debut before running a bit worse in her second start on that surface. However, she didn’t get the best trip on June 4, covered up while rank in behind horses before shaking free to late. Clement is bypassing seemingly softer dirt maiden races to try this. Family Band (#10) is a new face that I want to include. She took some money to be 6-1 on debut here nearly a year ago. She ran poorly on dirt that day, but she does have some pedigree for grass, by Constitution out of a turf-winning dam who produced 3-time turf winner Mr. Massena. Yet I want to go for a different price horse as my top pick. True Martini (#2)wasn’t a serious factor in her debut two months ago, but she had some excuses. This filly was off a step slowly, then got rank when attempting to move up in traffic on the backstretch. She ultimately didn’t have much finish, but the race was dominated on the front end by a heavy favorite who got to set a slow pace. The Mike Miceli barn has been in the midst of a cold streak, but they did get a much needed victory last week, so perhaps the momentum is shifting. She picks up Trevor McCarthy and adds blinkers, bringing plenty of upside into her second start.
RACE 6: MISS TAPIRADO (#4)
Breeze Easy (#6) is probably the horse to beat after just missing at this level last time when nosed out by the solid Mrs. Green. This filly has been a bit of a frustrating project for Christophe Clement, as it’s been difficult to find her ideal distance and trip. She seemed to settle better on the cutback to 6 furlongs last time, and unleashed the most potent late run that we’ve seen from her so far in the U.S. However, she still got run down after striking the lead in deep stretch. She’s a contender, but I thought others from that Oct. 15 race were a little more interesting. Fontanafredda (#8) had a disastrous start that day, as she got bumped and steadied out of position soon after the break, putting her far back early. She actually made a nice late run into a fourth, though she was somewhat aided by the race flow. She’s going to be a fair price again and has been improving all year. Another horse from that race, Miss Tapirado (#4), could get ignored after seemingly putting in a poor effort that day. However, her trip didn’t work for different reasons. She was too keen breaking her outside post position and found herself much closer to the pace than she had been in her prior start. She ultimately had to back out of position, and had little to offer after going 3-wide on the turn. I expect to see her revert to closing tactics this time, and that running style figures to work well in a race that is loaded with early speed. Perhaps some others are slightly more reliable, but this mare is going to be a much better price than she’s been in recent starts. The new face in this group is Madrilena (#12), but I’m a little concerned about her drawing the outside post position with so much other speed signed on. She ran a big race last time at Kentucky Downs, making an early move into a seemingly fast pace. That was also a pretty tough spot and now she’s dropping down one allowance level for a dangerous barn. I’m using her, but was concerned she’d take too much money.
RACE 8: FOOLISH GHOST (#3)
Though I’m not convinced he’ll be the favorite, I do think Unique Unions (#4) is the horse to beat. He put in a pretty encouraging effort last time in his first attempt at this level. The pace of that race was extremely fast, and he did well to chase down the leader before getting swallowed up by closers. This gelding has been steadily improving for months now, and appears to be coming into this in razor sharp form for a barn that has been having a bit of a renaissance as of late. He may not be quite as naturally fast as some others, but the apprentice figures to leave for early position. Sheriff Bianco (#7) could go favored off his 11-length victory on the switch to dirt last time. Linda Rice decided to keep him in that off the turf affair despite entering this horse for grass, and that decision proved revelatory. He wasn’t beating a field nearly as good as this one, but he ran an awfully fast race. He doesn’t need to be in front, as he displayed last time, and is drawn well outside. Yet I’m actually a little more interested in Linda Rice’s other runner. Foolish Ghost (#3) is most dangerous when he can shake loose on the front end. That didn’t happen in either of his last two starts, as he got outrun to the lead by some extremely fast foes both times. He actually ran pretty well against open company two back, but was seemingly discouraged last time, fading badly in the stretch He won at this level three back at Belmont when he was able to get the lead, and he might be able to get to the front here, since he’s faster than Unique Unions and doesn’t figure to get too much pressure from his stablemate. The wild card in this field is Advanced Strategy (#8), who finally returns to dirt for the first time since the winter of 2021. He actually ran quite well in his last couple of dirt starts, particularly on Feb. 13 when he overcame a rail bias. However, his recent turf form is somewhat inconsistent and the turnback to 6 furlongs might not be ideal.