Likely favorite Soldier Rising (#9) just missed in this race last year when he was a 3-year-old facing older rivals. He arguably got left with a bit too much ground to make up, as he came with a late rush for third despite being well behind with a quarter mile to go. Since returning this year, it took him a few starts to reach his peak at the start of the season, but he has run well twice in a row against Grade 1 company in recent starts. He closed well two back in the Sword Dancer, and then last time was unlucky in the Turf Classic, as he got buried in traffic in deep stretch. He finished just behind today’s rival Astronaut (#4), but Soldier Rising surely ran the better race, all things considered. He’s the horse to beat.
Chad Brown has entered a couple of runners. Highest Honors (#1) finished ahead of stablemate Balthus (#3) in the Sycamore last time at Keeneland, but I much prefer the latter runner. Highest Honors drew a wide post position last time, but he actually got a great trip, as Tyler Gaffalione guided him over to the rail and he just followed the winner. Balthus had a more difficult trip, as he was never inside and encountered traffic when set down for his best in deep stretch. He appeared to finish with something left in the tank and still has upside.
I’m going in a different direction with DYNADRIVE (#11) at what figures to be a better price. It looked like his career was heading down the wrong path earlier this year, but he completely turned things around off the trainer switch to Tom Morley this summer. He worked out great trips in his first two starts for the barn, but he also showed up with some of the best efforts of his career, culminating with a win in the Lure. He’s been off the board twice since then, but has had excuses. He didn’t like give in the ground two back in a race dominated by a front-running winner. Then last time he never had a chance, going wide against a rail bias while also compromised by a slow pace. He has to prove he can handle this marathon distance, but he figures to fly under the radar and fits here with his best effort.
WIN: #11 Dynadrive, at 7-1 or greater