RACE 3: PRETTY MISS KEENS (#3)
I don’t have a major problem with Try It Again (#6) being the favorite in this spot. She makes plenty of sense as she drops down in class after facing a better field at the New York-bred N1X level last time. I didn’t think she got the savviest ride from Eric Cancel that day, as he rode her very tentatively to the quarter pole and then just seemed to give up. She was effective using more aggressive tactics in her prior start, and now she’s just dropping down to an appropriate level. I don’t expect her to offer much value as the fairly obvious horse to beat, but she does look legitimate. I just have to take a shot against her with Pretty Miss Keens (#3), who does figure to be a better price. She’s also getting class relief, dropping out of what was perhaps a tougher allowance race than the favorite exits. This will be her first time stepping out against older horses, but she faced a very good field of 3-year-olds in that recent start, as the top two finishers appear to be stakes quality. She set the pace before fading in the slop. While she did break her maiden over a wet track, I don’t think she’s a big fan of these wet, sealed surfaces. She often reacts badly to kickback when she doesn’t make the lead and actually ran one of the best races of her career over fast going in her debut. Now she’s dropping to an appropriate level and she should finally catch that harrowed track. I view her as the clear second most likely winner, and the race may not be bet along those lines. The only other horse that I think could offer some value here is Wicked Lady (#7). She certainly has some things to overcome and her form is a bit spotty, but she does have some prior races that put her in the mix, and her recent worktab suggests that she may be coming around. I could include her at double-digit odds.
RACE 6: REGGAE MUSIC MAN (#3)
I’ll be interested to see if both halves of this Winning Move entry actually run, since they both possess early speed. Cees Get Degrees (#1) earned a competitive speed figure two back, but it was a bias aided victory and his surrounding form isn’t quite up to that level. I prefer Amundson (#1A) from this pair. He was in great form when initially claimed by Linda Rice last fall. Since then he’s lost three times at a slightly higher level. However, he’s run well in all of his recent starts. Even his last effort isn’t as bad as it looks, since was racing wide the entire way over a course that was favoring the rail path. Yet his main rival Happy Farm (#6) was also wide against the track last time and defeated him. This hard-knocking 9-year-old continues to be a presence in these races despite a series of barn changes. He hasn’t won yet for Mike Miceli, but he’s held his form. He closed nicely against a tougher field at this level back in December, earning a speed figure that would make him tough on this field. He’s been pretty reliable, and lands in a spot that features plenty of pace to set up his late run. The only alternative that I would consider, if he is indeed a significantly higher price than the two favorites, is Reggae Music Man (#3). Perhaps he just didn’t love stretching out to a mile last time. Furthermore, trying to get the distance while coming from off the pace was probably the wrong strategy. Now he gets a rider change since that race so he figures to be more aggressively handled as the blinkers go back on. He’s been most effective as a sprinter and now he’s cutting back to the right distance. He did beat a softer field than this when he last won in November, but he’s been competitive with tougher company in the past and he appears to be working well for this turnback.
RACE 7: PAROS (#3)
This starter optional claiming even came up unusually tough for the level, as it features a pair of colts coming off very fast maiden victories. Mama’s Gold (#5) is perhaps the most intriguing runner in this field, as he exits a 21-length score in a $25k maiden claiming race. He earned a flashy 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, which is the kind of number that would have made him competitive in the Gotham. Yet his connections have chosen this slightly softer spot as he makes his first start off the claim for Chad Summers. He did set a slow pace while riding a rail bias in that victory, so I’m a little skeptical that he can back it up. I prefer the other favorite Toxic Gray (#6), who took some sneaky money to be 7-1 against a tough maiden special weight field last time. He had shown some potential in his debut against weaker and took a big step forward first time in the Mike Miceli barn off a private purchase last time. He was facing a highly touted first time starter for the Brad Cox barn and outdueled that foe to win in fast time. I like the versatility that he’s displayed and think he’s the horse to beat. Yet I also want to consider both runners entered by Adam Rice. Paros (#3) is my top pick. This horse has shown significant improvement since the trainer switch. He met a good field of maidens two back and didn’t run quite as poorly as it seems. Then last time he put it all together, beating an overmatched field of maiden claimers by nearly 14 lengths. His 94 TimeformUS Speed Figure is a bit lower than the favorites, but I like this gelding’s upward trajectory. He’s also shown the ability to rate off the pace. I also wouldn’t dismiss Valenzan Day (#8) if the price is fair. He didn’t run well in the Jerome first off the claim last time, but he has some prior form sprinting that gives him a chance here, and now he’s getting Lasix for the first time.