RACE 1: TONIGHT WE LOVE (#3)
Candlestick Maker (#1) may have simply found a soft enough field as she makes her second attempt on dirt after just missing at this level in November. I do think she’s more of a turf horse, but she seemed to handle dirt well enough to be considered a win threat at this level. I just have trouble accepting a very short price on a one-placed plodder like this mare. The most logical alternative appears to be Frosty Invasion (#6), who could appreciate stretching back out in distance after a pair of sprint tries. She ran pretty well against a decent field of New York-bred maidens going 6 furlongs two back, but then didn’t fare as well in the mud last time. The addition of blinkers suggests that she could show improved early speed here, and she’s handled a mile in the past. I actually view her as the horse to beat at what figures to be a better price. Yet my top pick may offer even better value. Tonight We Love (#3) is another who has had limited opportunities to route on dirt, and I think she may also appreciate stretching back out in distance. She actually finished over 5 lengths ahead of Frosty Invasion when they met in that Dec. 8 affair, and then last time she didn’t appear to handle the sloppy track as well. She’s another who possesses the speed to be forwardly placed, and we’ve seen this 10-pound apprentice rider get aggressive at times. I know this 0-for-12 filly has had plenty of chances, but I think she’s finally in the right spot.
RACE 6: PREPOSTEROUS (#7)
I suppose Shinfull (#5) is the horse to beat off as she steps up against winners given the lack of depth in this field. It’s an unusually weak state-bred N1X allowance, as the field really didn’t come up that much tougher than the group of maidens she beat last time. That said, she is switching into a new barn after reaching top form for Rick Schosberg late last year. She also hasn’t run particularly fast despite finishing in the exacta in her last 5 starts. I don’t have a major issue with her, but I just didn’t need to endorse her at a short price. I actually prefer the mare just to her outside. Shadolamo (#6) at least has positive recent experience at this level – the only one in the field who can claim that. She probably should have won two back when her apprentice rider lost too much ground on the far turn. Then last time she ran well but couldn’t contain the late burst of winner Mia Bea Star, who herself would be a big favorite in a race like this. She fits on speed figures and has to be considered a major win threat. My top pick at what I would hope is a slightly better price is Preposterous (#7). She didn’t run well in her first start off the claim for Linda Rice, but something may have gone awry that day. She was in a bad position right from the start, shuffled back from her rail post, and just never got involved after that. It appears that she came out of the race with some kind of setback, as she didn’t return to the worktab until mid-December. I think she has a chance here if she can bounce back to the form we saw out of her at Saratoga over the summer when she finished second to Dame Cinco. She’s drawn well outside this time, and I think it’s a good sign that Linda Rice elects to move her up to this level rather than drop back in for a tag.
RACE 7: MIDNIGHT WORKER (#1)
I’m not sure who the public might make favored in this race, as it does appear to be pretty competitive. If they do bet Got the Gold (#4), I know that I would rather look in a different direction. He owns competitive speed figures, but he’s just been picking up pieces in his recent efforts. The drop in class may suit him, but he’s a one-run closer in a race that doesn’t feature that much early pace. I made Abundant Honor (#6) the lukewarm morning line favorite, and I do think he’s more appealing at a similar price. The turnback in distance is a major question mark, but he is bred to go shorter, as his dam was a sprinter and he’s a half-brother to graded stakes-winning sprinter Skyler’s Scramjet. He didn’t run well last time, but he was always out of position while getting a less than energetic ride from Carmouche. The claim by Tom Morley is generally a positive one, but it is worth noting that Morley is just 3 for 32 (9%, $1.08 ROI) first off the claim for this owner. Among the logical types, I much prefer Midnight Worker (#1). Some may be reluctant to play this barn, but Amira Chichackly has had some success in the past month or so. She got this horse to find his best form first off the claim two back when he finished gamely for second at this level. He arguably could have finished closer to the winner that day, but he got briefly stymied in traffic on the turn. I’m not holding his last race against him, since he was facing a much better field and 1 3/16 miles is simply too far. He did win his only prior start sprinting on dirt in his career debut, and he has the tactical speed to be forward from the rail. One other horse that I want to use somewhere, mostly underneath, is Ava K’s Boy (#3). He finished just a few noses out of fourth last time after getting a wide trip and may be capable of better second off the layoff.