The Grade I Man o’ War leads off Saturday’s tough Pk4 sequence. You better have your turf handicapping shoes on for this one. Enjoy and good luck! –Brian Nadeau
Please note horses are preceded by their betting number.
7th. The $500,000 Grade I Man O’ War for 3-year-olds and up. 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf.
1. Musketier: German-bred enters off his best U.S. race, a pace-pressing score in the Grade III Singspiel. The good news is that he finds another spot devoid of early foot; the bad news is that he’ll have to run considerably faster than ever before to have a shot at more than a minor award.
2. Grand Couturier: This guy gets little respect, but when it’s all said and done, he’s going to have a pretty big resume. Prepped beautifully for this in his seasonal debut at the Shore when he chased Presious Passion home, and you would have to believe he improves a bunch today. Worth noting his big win at Belmont came over the Widener course, which probably aided his late rally, and he might not get the splits to close into, but regardless he’s a formidable foe today.
3. Quijano: Enters in fine form and on the heels of a Group I win in Italy. Not sure of the quality in that spot but he did finish sixth in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March and owns a gaudy 6-for-6 career record at today’s distance, so you know he hits hard in here. Still, he’s shipping across the pond less than a month removed from what looks to be a career run, so he does have his work cut out for him.
4. Marsh Side: Grade I-winner looked home in the Manhattan until Gio Ponti was shot out of a cannon late, but that fine second stamps him as a major player in this spot. His fans will have the ‘ole bounce to worry about, but even so, it would be foolish to dismiss his chances.
5. Interpatation: The ideal horse to have in your stable, as he’s always cashing a check, but when the real running begins, he’s usually not in the mix. Hard to envision that scenario changing against this solid group.
6. Chinchon: Another European invader that brings some solid credentials, but this 4-year-old doesn’t quite stack up with the rest in here. His lone win outside the maiden ranks came in a small listed stakes at Longchamp in April 2008, so he needs to run the race of his life to contend.
7. Midships: Grade I-winner out west heads to NY with speed to spare, and that style should have him loose and in control for as long as he can take them. Well, that worked going 1 ¾ miles this winter, so no reason to think it can’t work in this spot. He’s a bit of an unknown out this way and with some other big names signed on, you might get a very square price on a runner that knows what to do when he’s left alone up front. Call for the minor upset.
8. Dancing Forever: Ran huge at times last year and his comeback says he’s heading the right way for this assignment. The issue is pace, or lack thereof. How is he going to run by most or all of the field when they’re setting dawdling fractions up front? Siding against for that reason.
9. Gio Ponti: Sure, he was a Grade I-winner out west, but the Manhattan was his real coming out party. He just flew home over the yielding ground in a truly remarkable performance. Back for more, but remember, he wasn’t supposed to excel at 10 furlongs and now he has to go one more in this spot. Not to mention the course figures to be on the firm side and he might be playing catch-up behind a sharp rival. The deserving favorite, but his win odds won’t quite be what the tote tells you they are.
8th. The $65,000 Lottsa Talc for NY-bred f/m 3-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs on the Widener turf.
1. Karakorum Fugitive: Makes her turf debut for a top barn that is just dreadful (0-for-24) with that move. Wondering if they hope this thing gets taken off the grass, as that seems her best chance for a score.
2. Them There Eyes: She’s done some darn good work over this course, including a monster win in the Mt. Vernon last year, but she’s been off since last August. Only two published works, albeit snappy ones, so her fitness is a question. Worth including if you think she’s ready to fire off the shelf.
3. Meriwether Jessica: The first of a trio from turf sprint queen Linda Rice ran a good third over the course last fall in the open Pebbles and should sit a perfect stalking trip. Ran big in her lone ’09 start and has trained forwardly so she seems to be a win candidate.
4. Mohegan Sky: Rice’s second entrant seems to be stretching the envelope at 7 furlongs, as she’s done all her best work at 5 or 6. Another that should get a good trip, but willing to side against in this spot.
5. Here Comes Rita: Turf ace Morrison starts this underrated 4-year-old, and if you look back to her turf form as a sophomore, it wasn’t too bad. She’s won at a mile, so you know the distance won’t be a problem. Upset chance at a nice price.
6. Weathered: Any time you win 9-of-16 you’re OK in my book, but we wipe the slate clean now, as this is her turf debut. And as talented as she is, she’s not bred for the green and meets a few classy girls who love this game. Siding against.
7. Canadian Ballet: The third from Rice will take them as far as she can on the lead and oddly enough, there isn’t a ton of speed signed on in here. Clearly this isn’t her best distance, but stranger things can happen when you let a classy filly set up shop on the front end. A theft job is a very real possibility.
8. Absoulute Heaven: Not sure if she’s good enough to win, but she might be quick enough to bother ‘Ballet early, especially with this outside draw. You’ve got to go back almost two years to find her last turf win, so I’ll let that be my guide.
9th. $43,000 NY-bred maiden-special-weight for 3-year-olds and up at 6 furlongs on the inner turf.
1. Onzain: Lone turf try last fall was huge, and a repeat would win this for fun. Makes his first start since February but Donk excels with this type of move (27%). Can’t help but think there are going to be a lot of people honking this guy’s way.
2. Livin Large: Solid form on the main, so it’s a bit odd that he now tries a surface he’s not really bred for. But sometimes in these turf sprints grass form and/or breeding doesn’t really matter, so viewing him as a contender.
3. Rock And Rune: Shows up with bullets in the holster from his Fair Hill base, both on the Tapeta and the main. Looks well-meant and figures to show speed off those quick drills, so if you’re spreading, you might want to include him.
4. Lightning Dreams: No form to speak of, so tough to get excited about a runner that’s beaten one horse in his four-race career.
5. Jacob’s Dream: His debut seemed to hint at a bit of talent, but it went south in a hurry in his two starts to close out 2008. Back for the first time as a sophomore but it’s best to watch one before taking the plunge.
6. Fort McCoy: Putting it together in his last two for Rice and now he makes the move to her specialty. That alone puts him in with a chance, though he might ultimately need cheaper to get his picture taken.
7. Goodandacceptable: He’s certainly had an odd career, alternating spots between open maidens and state-breds. Now he hits the turf and his speed makes him an interesting commodity. Adds to the intrigue of a real head-scratcher.
8. One Turn Eddie: The fact that Morrison reaches out for Coa says he means business, and we saw upstate last year that he knows how to win with first-time starters. Shows up with a few solid breezes from back home, so I’m thinking there’s ample talent here. Call for the win in a race that could be the key to the late Pk4.
9. Roma Di Notte: No form to speak of that suggests he’s in with a chance today and the real question is if Gary Sciacca can really beat me twice in three weeks? I’m playing the Lotto if he does.
10th. $22,000 claimer for 3-years-olds and up at 7 furlongs on the Widener turf.
2. Skyebay: His form has quickly deteriorated since leaving Florida and unless he wakes up in a hurry, it’s tough to see him as a factor in this spot.
3. Kick Up Your Heels: His record tells the story; 1-for-23 lifetime and 0-for-15 on Belmont’s turf courses.
4. Show Me The Cash: Keeps dropping down the ladder but even with that in mind, it’s tough to get too excited about a runner that was just beaten 32 lengths at Monmouth. Castellano has done great work when he teams with Brown and this guy has some back class over the inner, but he’s still a stretch.
5. Wayoutsidethebox: He’s aptly named because that’s how you need think to put him in the mix. Focus on his run here in May 2008 and he’s in with a chance, but when you’re talking about $25,000 claimers, that’s kind of like me saying I’m as athletic as I was in high school.
1. Suite Ernie B: The probable favorite could cap off a big day for Rice. He’s been knocking at the door at this level in his last pair and now shortens up a bit in an effort to break through. Small tickets could do worse than singling him on the end.
6. Bartletts: Contessa has caught fire in recent weeks and this guy enters with an abundance of early speed. The problem lies with his late speed and the fact that the term “abundance” often runs out after 4 furlongs.
7. Masterofthehouse: Solid run two back to break his maiden, but that was in his 24th career start. His late run could pick up some pieces but can’t see him winning 2-of-3 after starting his career in such a long drought.
8. Wild Way: One of the few logical threats to ‘Ernie B has run well in his only two turfs starts. Still looking for that first win, but either of his runs would put him right on the wire. Top contender for all the slots.
9. Bordeaux Bandit: Nick Zito and turf wins aren’t exactly going to the prom together these days and the 0-for-26 sample says they won’t be heading to the after-party either. Pricey yearling purchase has some decent turf figures, but it’s tough to get by the 0-fer.
1a. City Sneakers: Coupled with ‘Ernie B and he figures to try and mix it up early for his stablemate’s late rally.
10. Intercoastal: Should take a ton of money after being claimed by Wesley Ward from Bill Mott this April at Keeneland. All four of his races make him scary but you’re going to have to take a short price on a runner that should have started by now, right? Mixed signals, especially when you see he’s dropping below the price he was claimed at.
11. Mackinaw: Seinfeld fans might lean this way but this guy’s ripe two weeks came back in May 2008 and he’s been nowhere since. Thinking he spent too much time in Jerry’s apartment while it was being fumigated.
12. Sir Mott (MTO): Any time they go first off the claim for Dutrow you have to take notice. And if he starts, he’ll get a bunch of turf horses playing his game. The obvious horse to beat should this get rained off.
13. Timber Cruise (MTO): Finally got the job done after teasing his backers for far too long. If he gets to play he can make an impact, but still don’t see him threatening Sir Mott.
Brian’s $48 ticket: 7,9—3,5,7—1,2,7,8—1,8