The return of the sensational filly Rachel Alexandra highlights a turf-laden Pk4 sequence. Though the Preakness winner essentially turns the sequence into a Pk3, the other three races are contentious enough that you might be able to get a few prices home. Let’s take a closer look. –by Brian Nadeau
Race 7. $44,00 state-bred allowance for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf.
1. Dear Cat: Turf try against open claimers at the Shore wasn’t that bad but he’ll still need to improve to contend with this group. Hartmann knows what she’s doing and it’s nice to see Garcia take the call, but this guy still has the look of an outsider.
2. Piazza Di Spagna: Ran well to be second here in May, which marked his first start since last September. That was on the Widener turf course and if you look a bit deeper, you’ll find his only run on the inner was his only lifetime win, a 4-length romp last June. Figures to move forward off the return and he’s a win candidate, but it’s tough getting too excited on a runner who hails from a 3-for-134 barn.
3. Elder Skatesman: It’s been a long, long time since he visited the winner’s circle, though his lone win was over the course. Still, at 1-for-23, he’s not exactly best friends with the cameraman, is he?
4. Striking Rizzi: His two runs this year haven’t been too hot, but note that he did get the job done last fall on a yielding course, so if the rains continue to soften things up, maybe he should be given some extra consideration. But on a whole, his 3-for-34 record just doesn’t entice on the win end.
5. Justin P: It’s been a while since this 5-year-old set foot on the green stuff and the thinking is that he’s in here more out of desperation than anything else. His best race on dirt doesn’t put him anywhere near the leaders, so it’s tough to envision him thriving on a surface that he hasn’t run over in a few years.
6. Pegasus Tommy D.: Finally someone who hasn’t gone out of his way to show that he doesn’t want to win, and that alone stamps this guy as a major contender. Of course his talent helps too, and judging by his two turf runs this year, he’s got plenty of it. Blinkers went on last time and while he didn’t break through, he did encounter a ton of trouble so it’s entirely possible that the big move forward comes today. Not a huge fan of 3-year-olds taking on their elders at this point of the year, but with a bunch of refusers signed on, he gets the call for the win.
7. Relatively Ready: I’ll go to war with Ramon any day of the week, but let’s just say the ride on May 25 won’t be on his highlight reel. Actually, both of this guy’s runs this year have come with a ton of trouble, so who knows how he’ll respond with a clean trip? The horse that beat him last out was just a month the best in the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup on Saturday (even though he was second by a neck), so this son of More Than Ready gets bonus points for that. He also gets bonus points for meeting a weak field, so let’s call him second-best and try and get home an all 3-year-old exacta.
8. Borrowing Limit: Makes his turf debut after 11 unassuming starts on the main. Dad Adcat could run a bit and he is out of a Turkoman mare, so maybe the surface switch will move him up. Not out of it if the career change agrees with him, and he could even have an upside, so you could do worse than adding his number at a nice price if you’re spreading deep in the opening leg.
9. System Restore: Know him early. Sprinter brings some speed to the party after running in several one-turn races on the main and with Rodriguez aboard, you’ve got to figure he’s your pacesetter. But at 1-for-21 and stretching out on the grass, he’s a pop and fade candidate and little else.
10. Coronation Day: Figures to sit a perfect stalking second behind System Restore and that could have him in an enviable position turning for home, as he’ll have first run on the closers. Not huge on playing maiden winners right back, but I think I’ve tried to be kind in saying there are no tigers signed on today. He’s got to improve, but with only eight lifetime starts, it’s entirely possible he’s getting good at the right time, so with a pace advantage, potential upside and a nice price, he can be included if you’re spreading.
11. Gamblin Fever: Was life and death to get up and break his maiden two starts back and then found the water a bit deep versus winners in his latest. That race was rained off the turf, so a return to the grass should do him well, but he’s going to have to run a lot faster to make an impact here.
12. Pegasian (MTO): His dirt form isn’t anything special, but if this one is rained off, he’ll be facing a bunch of turf runners who are playing his game, and that right there says he’s a player. Serpe off to a solid start so if this 4-year-old draws in, he’s the one they’ll have to beat.
Race 8. $46,000 N1X allowance for 3-year-olds and up at 1-mile on the Widener turf.
3. Parc Des Princes: Trainer Lobo was one of the more underrated horsemen in California and he’ll be a well-known name in New York before too long, so don’t dismiss this 5-year-old. His run here three weeks ago wasn’t too shabby and it did come over a yielding surface that he might encounter again in here. The 1-for-16 record is a concern but minimal improvement puts him in the mix in this contentious test.
4. Big Al: Another who enters at 1-for-16 but unlike his pal next door, it’s hard to imagine he’s going to run much better than he has already as all six 2009 runs have basically been identical. Trying to break through after five starts at this level, but I don’t see it.
1. Sawtooth Mountain: He’s got a long way to go to make back his $1 million price tag, but maybe the switch to the U.S. and first-time Lasix will wake him up. Makes his first start of the year after facing some nice Euros as a 2-year-old, but the fact that Velazquez opts with the other Pletcher runner says this well-bred colt might be a race away from his best.
5. Get Stormy: Sure looked good here in May at this level when he got to run over firm ground, and if he runs back to that second-place finish, he’s got a big shot. Faded badly last time on a yielding course so make sure you monitor the ground before heading to the windows. Major player on a dry course, mixed signals if the ground has some give in it.
1a. Forest Bell: Here’s the guy Velazquez seemingly chose and you can see why as his fifth-place finish in his turf debut here in May behind Get Stormy was solid. Tons of trouble that day as well and with only three lifetime starts under his belt, there’s a ton of upside in this corner. The fact that it’s a Pletcher entry kills any value but it would be foolish to leave this number off your ticket.
6. Nemo Landing: Finished on even terms with Forest Bell but while that runner was rallying, this colt was tiring while retreating. Still, to be beaten 2 ½ lengths in your turf debut (and third lifetime start) isn’t too shabby and now the hood goes on to get some more focus early and late. Several in here want to be close but not too many want to be on the engine, so this guy could get mighty brave if they forget about him up front. Interesting.
7. Big Top: Another exiting the Get Stormy race and this son of Giant’s Causeway was fourth that day. Pricey sales purchase seems to be coming into his own and figures to be close up early, so he could get the jump on the closers. The issue lies with Zito’s 0-for-23 record on the lawn, which makes taking this colt on top a tough proposition.
8. Prime Delivery: His first stateside run was impressive as he rallied from well off a moderate pace to finish third behind two of the better 3-year-old turfers this season. After a brief freshening, he returned to run seventh behind Get Stormy after breaking slow and being mired in traffic. Samyn climbs aboard today and he knows a thing or two about rallying late, so I’ll step out and call this guy the top selection in an absolutely wide open affair.
2. Retriever: First part of the Badgett entry will make his turf debut and while he looks completely outmatched, he does have some early foot to get involved early. With this outside draw, Coa figures to send him hard and hope for the best; whether he makes the front or sits just off Nemo Landing, he doesn’t figure to be around at the end.
9. North Country: State-bred makes his first start of the year and first start in Duggan’s barn, but he brings some solid credentials to the party. Scored over the inner last year but seems adaptable enough to take to the Widener as well. Duggan is 0-for-12 with runners returning from over 180 days on the bench, but he is 22% with new acquisitions so while there’s mixed signals on that end, the price should be worth including him in your exotics.
10. So It Goes: Deep closer will be hoping they get a bit hot and bothered up front so he can try and run them down late. Traffic has been the issue in his last two, and with this crowded field, it again looms a potential snafu. If he can negotiate a clean trip, he should be in the mix, but from this outside post behind moderate splits, it might be best to leave him off the top of your smaller tickets.
11. Pure Pulpit: Lightly raced 5-year-old took the worst of it at the draw and that alone spells trouble for a horse who has yet to run fast enough to win a race like this. Respect the connections but a win seems out of reach for Big Stein’s homebred.
12. Alexandros (AE): Only three turf runs in this corner and the last came at the Spa, so this seems like an ambitious spot. If he draws in, he could be involved early but thinking he needs a return to the main to flash his best stuff.
2b. Holly Holly (AE): New Jersey-bred has no recent form to suggest he’s capable of this tough assignment, so viewing him as a distant outsider should he get into the lineup.
13. Big Jerome (AE): His one-turn runs on the lawn have been solid; in fact, he owns a 3-for-5 record over the Belmont grass, so you know he belongs should he get the chance. But he’s got to have more than one defection to draw in and you get the nagging feeling that this run is just a furlong too far for him anyway.
14. Repenthouse (MTO): Arroyo is pretty crafty with his claims, so if this one gets rained off, this guy warrants respect, but even then it’s not like he’s head and shoulders ahead of even the ones brave enough to try the main. In with a chance if he starts, but far from a cinch.
Race 9. The Grade I, $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.
1. Hopeful Image: Enters off a win in a muddy optional claimer here just 15 days ago, but that was in a five-horse field that was taken off the grass. While she meets only four others in here, her form just doesn’t stack up with any of them. Well-bred miss seems intent on getting a Grade I-placing but even that might be asking too much.
2. Don’t Forget Gil: If you’re willing to say this New York-bred just didn’t handle Old Hilltop, then she might have found a nice spot to get a big part of this purse based on the race flow. While Malibu Prayer and Flashing may be trying to win the race, this gal can sit back, let Rachel Alexandra burn those two rivals into the ground, and then pick up the pieces and rally for second. Let’s face it, no one is beating the big girl, but her presence could spell doom for anyone close up early, which leaves this talented miss sitting in the perfect spot turning for home. It’s quite possible you could turn 1-20 into 7-2 if she runs second.
3. Rachel Alexandra: Superstar filly sure did find a cozy spot to come back to the races after her game and determined Preakness win. Though it’s not like the best sophomore fillies in the country were lined up, they would give her a test. At least mentioning both sides of the equation says she does cut back to one-turn for the first time since last fall and comes in off an excruciating run in the Preakness, so regression is quite possible. However, both those points seem like pure fodder when you look at her speed and class. Fast enough to make the point, but it’s more likely that she sits just off of Flashing and/or Malibu Prayer before hitting the front turning for home. As long as her gate opens, Borel can name the score.
4. Malibu Prayer: Dominant in her last two, but now she gets tested for class and stamina, and with other speed signed on, she could be in for a long day at the office. The one-turn should help, but she seems to be in a tough spot in trying to race with Flashing early and then the Preakness winner late, so I’ll try to beat her in the second slot.
5. Flashing: The probable pacesetter should be able to clear early and then take the field as far as she can, and it’s at least nice to know she’s in form and likes the track. But again, winning this race on or near the lead seems a daunting task, and it can’t help but leave her extremely spent and vulnerable late. Factor in that the Godolphin boys are in here to win this, meaning she’s going to go out guns blazing and it only adds to thought that she’ll be leg weary late. Worth trying to get her out of the exacta.
Race 10: $41,000 state-bred MSW for 3-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs over the Widener turf.
2. Grand Prince: Soundly beaten in three starts on the main but turf doesn’t look like his bag either. Needs softer to make an impact.
3. Silveroo: Firster isn’t bred for the grass and goes out for low-percentage connections, so it’s best to watch one first and reevaluate down the road.
4. Separatist: Probable favorite is keeping everyone warm by burning a ton of cash in his last two. Finds another spot where it looks like he simply can’t lose, but that’s what we all said when he was 2-5 and 4-5, right? It’s also a bit concerning that his speed figures have gotten slower in each of his four lifetime starts. Tagg adds the hood today and cuts him back to a one-turn sprint, but that might be more out of desperation than anything else. Clearly the horse to beat and most likely winner, but that’s not a statement you haven’t heard before.
5. Elsie’s Warrior: His turf debut here last month wasn’t bad and now he gets one more furlong to try and negotiate. His speed should have him involved early and he could be the one they have to catch turning for home. Not a bad alternative if you’re tired of the favorite.
6. Extra Billy: No threat in either of his career starts and now he tries the turf. First-Lasix user seems outclassed in here.
7. Saratoga Steve: Winless in eight starts, but at least you know he can turf a bit. Still, none of his runs over the grass have been good enough and he meets a decent bunch here, so not expecting this to be graduation day.
8. Western Connection: Never wise to ignore a turf runner from the Morrison barn as the man knows what he’s doing. Note too that this guy is 4 and meets a bunch of 3-year-olds, which is not a bad angle this time of year. Got the perfect tightener for the money run last time on the main, which was his first start since a big debut on this course last October. Expecting a big performance.
9. Dancin’ Deacon: It’s pretty interesting that he was 8-1 in his debut at Gulfstream over a field of open maidens. That race had 12 that day too, so to be 8-1 says he took a ton of money. And at 5 furlongs after a slow start, he ran big to finish fifth. Now Serpe reaches out for Prado, drops him in with his friends and stretches him out to 7 furlongs. Choice for the win seems primed for a breakout.
10. Really Somebody: Jerkens firster seems like he might want a bit more ground based on his pedigree, and winning first-out on turf isn’t exactly the barn’s calling card. But you also don’t get a plaque in the Hall of Fame because you can’t do it, so if this colt takes some money on the board, he’s worth following.
11. Peterdidit: Makes his first start for Donk, who grabs his old buddy Velazquez to ride, so thinking this one is live. Toss the debut last fall on the main at Laurel and note Donk’s 25-percent clip with returnees, and this gelding rates a look in all the slots.
12. Wiseacre: Yet another who is in with a chance as he’s improved every time out. Tough post to work from, but if Castellano can negotiate a trip, he could make some noise.
13. Tudor King: Took no money in his debut and now Hushion immediately sends him to the lawn. That could have been the plan all along but even so, this colt looks in a bit too deep.
1. Montana Music (AE): His two turf runs have been by far the best of his career, but a repeat of either would still leave him well behind the main contenders in here. Longshot chance if he’s in.
14. Winloc’s Saint Ray (AE): No doubt this 4-year-old has run some credible races on the turf, but if he draws in, he’ll have a terrible post and will be meeting several that have a bigger upside, so it’s best to play against.
1a. Titletown Tiger (MTO): Yet to win after 13 lifetime starts, so even if this one gets washed off, you’d be hard-pressed to make a case for a runner who has made his name lying down in the lane.
15. Monastir (MTO): If he runs back to his last here on June 6, he’ll probably win this for fun as he’ll be facing a bunch of turf runners who could spin their wheels on the main. Clearly the one to beat should he get to play.
Brian’s $48 ticket: 6,7—1,3,5,6,7,8,9,10—3—4,8,9