RACE 5: BALI’S SHADE (#6)
I don’t have a major issue with either favorite in this conditioned claimer, but I also wasn’t thrilled with accepting a short price on either one. Catching Cupid (#3) could be the public choice as he drops back in for a tag. He just wasn’t good enough against a better starter allowance field last time, but had earned competitive speed figures in his two prior starts against maiden claiming company. His tactical speed makes him dangerous, but there are others who may offer some pace from the outside. Hang Tight (#2) has the opposite running style, as he closes from far back, which is often not an ideal style over this racetrack. He got the right setup when he finished second at this level last time, closing up the inside in a race that was coming apart after the winner ran everyone else off their feet. He has been steadily improving all year long, and now he’s first off the claim for Rob Atras. I just want to search for some better value with a runner who may get overlooked. Bali’s Shade (#6) hasn’t run nearly as fast as the two aforementioned runners in his prior dirt start, but I did think he ran slightly better than the result indicates. He finished over 8 lengths behind Hang Tight, but he was working harder early to chase that fast pace. I thought he actually stayed on reasonably well to just miss fourth. He figures to sit a good stalking trip here, and he showed some quality earlier this season when trying turf a few times. He’s now coming back as a gelding for Rudy Rodriguez’s barn, which has been in a slump for a few months now. Yet at least this one will be a square price.
RACE 6: SISTER ANNIE (#4)
There’s no shortage of early speed in this optional claimer, which figures to benefit Secret Love (#1). She’s not some deep closer, but she has shown the most willingness to pass horses in her prior races, and just appears to have more versatility than most others in this field. She’s also in solid form right now, as her recent third-place finish in the Iroquois would suggest. However, she did benefit from an aggressive ride that day over a track that was favoring forwardly-placed runners. She hasn’t been successful in her two prior attempts at this level, but perhaps she’s finding the right field this time. Among the likely speeds, Patty H (#5) seemingly has the best credentials off her narrow loss at this level last time. Yet she got to set a fairly moderate pace that day and probably won’t enjoy the same soft trip this time. She probably isn’t facing a rival as good as Mosienko, who beat her last time, and she is at least drawn towards the outside. I want to go in a different direction with longshot Sister Annie (#4). She could be the biggest price of anyone in this field and she’s far from impossible. She looks cheap on paper, after getting claimed for just $32k last time out. However, that was a stronger race than the speed figures indicate, and she ran well to hang onto second. She’s competed in similar optional claiming races before, on both dirt and turf, and performed admirably. I also liked that she showed the ability to sit off another horse last time, looking less headstrong in a race with a faster pace. Furthermore, Mertkan Kantarmaci is an impressive 15 for 60 (25%, $2.48 ROI) first off the claim with horses moving up in claiming price by 50% or more on dirt over the past 5 years.
RACE 9: JEMOGRAPHY (#10)
The finale is the most competitive race of the day, as you can make cases for many horses in this field. Gandy Dancing (#6) could vie for favoritism as he makes his first start off the claim for Rob Atras with Irad Ortiz taking over the reins. On the surface of things, this seems like a huge trainer upgrade. However, his prior barn had gotten him back into top form three back at Saratoga, so I’m skeptical how much he can improve now, especially since Atras’s barn hasn’t been winning at its usual rate. Quick Return (#3) could also take money as he drops back down in class after breaking poorly against tougher company last time. This is a more realistic spot for him, but I thought he was pretty fortunate when he put forth his best efforts against cheaper claimers recently. There isn’t an abundance of speed in this field, but he still could have to work harder on the front end than he did two back. If the paces comes apart, that should help Double Shot (#5), but he really needs things to heat up on the lead to have his best chance. He will appreciate the turnback from a mile, but the same could be true for Durkin’s Call (#11), who may be in slightly better form. I’ll use both of them, but my top pick is a different turnback. Jemography (#10) beat open company at this claiming level two back in a strong performance. He showed improved early speed off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez and never looked back. He then stepped up against a much tougher group at the $32k level last time and understandably tired going a mile after setting an honest pace. He’s getting needed class relief here as he drops and moves into New York-bred company, and he also figures to appreciate the turnback in distance. His newfound early speed should play well here, and I also like that he’s drawn outside of his main pace rivals.