Aqueduct: The Grade III, $400,000 Gotham at 1 1/16 miles
#1 My Adonis: Woke up in the slop in his seasonal debut in the GIII Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park when finishing behind fellow rival and 2yo champion Hansen going a one-turn mile, so it appears he’s returned in fine form as a 3yo. Still, a sloppy one-turn mile is a lot different from a two-turn run on a fast track, and it’s not like he was ever a threat to Algorithms. The talent appears to be there and it’s always nice to see a 3yo return and best his top 2yo efforts, but unless the track comes up wet again, we’ll make him prove it; trying to beat out of the exacta.
#2 Stealcase: Casse runner sure looked good breaking his maiden in his first two-turn attempt at GP in his last start, and while he has to move forward to factor, it’s not out of the realm of possibility as he’s run only three times. Son of Lawyer Ron is out of a Cat Thief mare, so he’s bred for this trip and then some, and it’s worth noting he beat a next-out winner in his MSW too, so the race stacks up well. Aside from Hansen, there’s really not much in here and that means this guy rates a long look; intriguing newcomer is worth following.
#3 Finnegans Wake: Turf runner tries the main track for the first time since a sloppy debut at Churchill Downs last November, and this is a trick Romans pulled off last weekend when his grassy News Pending was second behind Union Rags in the GII Fountain of Youth at GP. Not much dirt pedigree here, as he’s by Powerscourt out of a Silver Ghost mare, but is that really a big deal in this day and age of sprinter/milers and synthetic specialists winning dirt preps in abundance? Not at the top of the list, but it doesn’t seem impossible either.
#4 Pretension: NYB stakes winner has done little wrong in five career starts and now gets a real test against some graded stakes foes. He’ll have to pick it up in terms of speed figures, but these 3yo are known to improve open lengths overnight, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Stakes winner over the track should sit a nice trip off the champ and then try to win it off the far turn; price players probably have their hero.
#5 Maan: Enters undefeated in a pair of sprint starts for Kenneally and is bred for the stretchout, as he’s by Malibu Moon out of an Unbridled’s Song mare. Won his debut at CD in July and then returned winning an optional claimer in the slop at GP in February, which isn’t the easiest task in the world, so just maybe he’s up to this tough test as well. The talent appears to be there and you have to like the confidence Kenneally show, but dang, this is one big hill to climb; passing today.
#6 Dan And Sheila: Pletcher runner won his debut at Calder in December and then was a late-closing fourth in the GIII Lecomte at Fair Grounds, which is no small feat off just one lifetime start. Z Dager, second in the Lecomte, returned to run third in the GII Risen Star there last weekend, though race winner Mr. Bowling was last, so not sure just how good that GIII was. Broke slow at FG and that put him behind the eight ball, but he was tactical enough in his MSW win to suggest he’ll be much closer today, which puts him in an enviable spot off the far turn; ignore this barn at your own peril.
#7 Suns Out Guns Out: Yet to win after four starts, but he does own two 1 1/18-mile runs, so that gives him a few bonus points here. His last was about as fast as most have run, so he’s not completely outgunned, but when you’re a maiden taking on a 2yo champion and a few others in a pricey GIII, you’re not exactly getting the best of it; not seeing it.
#8 Raconteur: Pletcher runner hasn’t broken any land or speed records, but he is 2-for-3 over the local strip and came right back to beat winners after breaking his maiden, which is no easy task. Enters on the upswing and should sit a good trip just off the early leaders in a race that doesn’t shake out too fast on paper, so with a top local jock in the irons and a good price in the offing, you could do worse than take a flier on a son of A.P. Indy from the best barn on the planet; price chance.
#9 King And Crusader: Enters perfect in two local starts and could try to make the front and wire this group, as he did in a two-turn optional claimer here in January for Dutrow. Of course, the waters get a lot deeper today and he’ll need to run open lengths faster than he did in January to come remotely close to the top contenders. Talented runner should make his presence felt, but probably blinks when push comes to shove in the lane; siding against.
#10 Side Road: Darley homebred finally broke through when beating MSW foes here in January and steps right into the fire for McLaughlin, in an effort to see where he stands in the 3yo picture. Bred to be a runner as he’s by Street Cry out of a Pulpit mare, and the talent seems to be coming out by the day, but this is asking a lot from a tricky draw to boot; playing against.
#11 Done Talking: Impressed in the GII Remsen over the main track here to end his 2yo season and now this son of Broken Vow returns for the first time as a very intriguing and under the radar sophomore. Closed nicely in the Remsen after the early pace was a crawl, and while the splits won’t be overly heated today, they should be faster than 49 4/5 to the half-mile, so expect him to be rolling late. It’s likely this is just a stepping-off point to what Smith hopes is a big campaign, but the gut says this is a 3yo that bears very careful watching this spring; expecting a huge return.
#12 Hansen: Aforementioned 2yo champ had a rough 3yo debut when he caught slop and an unfamiliar one-turn mile; he got headstrong after breaking slow and was basically uncontrollable for Dominguez early on. Maker has regrouped a bit and now heads north, which is a bit odd after he started off in sunny South Florida, though we’ll let him call the shots and leave it at that. Blinkers now come off as well, which is another bit of a head scratcher, but his natural speed should still have him on or near the lead and rating as an imposing presence to whoever wants to run up close early. Up to this point there’s no one remotely close to this son of Tapit in terms of talent, so anything less than a solid win would be a huge disappointment; figures to get back on the beam today.
#13 Tiger Walk: Enters off a decent third in the local GIII Withers behind Alpha, who would be a solid second choice if he was here, so this son of Tale Of The Cat has a few things going for him. That was also his first start of the year and first two-turn run on the main track, so he’s got room for improvement too. The issue is this draw, as he figures to be extremely wide into the first turn or will have to drop back and give up several lengths, neither of which is an exciting proposition; respect his talent, but will try to beat him today.
#11 Tiger Walk