Friday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Starship Laoban capable of better on turf

Belmont | Race 8 | Post Time 4:40 p.m. (ET) | TimeformUS PPs are now available on Go to PPs

There’s no doubt that Whatlovelookslike (#3) is the horse to beat in this New York-bred allowance affair. However, she’s going to be a very short price off exposed form and some obvious trouble in her return race. Coming back off a 6-month layoff last time, she stumbled awkwardly away from the gate before chasing 3-wide around both turns. One could make an argument that she ran just as well as, if not better than, the winner Sanura. If she moves forward in this second start of her 4-year-old season, she’s going to be a handful. However, I don’t think she’s a cinch in a race where she figures to be the prohibitive favorite.

Among those who finished behind Whatlovelookslike last time, the only one who I would project to improve is Home for Christmas (#1), who ran like a mare who needed the race off a layoff. She’s raced herself into fitness in the past, and was always out of position last time after a slight bobble at the start. Sweet Franny Lu (#5) is another option, as she returns from a 10-month layoff. She ran a couple of races last year that would make her competitive against this field, including that July 20 runner-up effort where she didn’t get the best trip or ride. However, Tom Morley has poor numbers off layoffs of this type.

I want to go in a different direction for my top pick. Starship Laoban (#4) only just made her turf debut last month after 13 prior starts on dirt. She certainly appeared to take to the surface despite getting into some trouble. Breaking from the middle of the starting gate, she got sandwiched from both sides a few strides into the race as runners crossed over, causing her to get squeezed back to last. Closing from the back of the pack is not a familiar running style for this filly, but she nevertheless put in a game rally through the stretch to get up for third in a race that featured a tepid pace. I don’t mind the stretch-out at all given her physicality, and I suspect she can be part of the pace this time with a clean start.

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