Race 8: $30,000 claimer for 3&up on the inner turf at 1-mile (claiming price $35,000).
1. Ninth Client: We saw on Thursday with Fast Draw that when Lukas drops them in for a tag, they usually run well. This guy has been running against some top competition and now makes his first start for a tag, so he must be left in the mix.
2. Stroll For Acure: Mott has quieted a bit after a hot start, but this homebred does own a pretty decent stretch run that should have him in the mix late.
3. On Joline: They ignored him at Belmont, but he ran well in his first New York start. The water gets a bit deeper here, but if he can improve a bit off that run, he can factor.
4. Good Question: Makes his first start on turf and hasn’t been seen since breaking slowly against allowance foes in June at CD. Not really bred for the grass so you might want to watch one first.
5. Cardiff Road: Brings a 1-for-17 record to the party for a 1-for-41 trainer (who is much, much better than that) so there are not a lot of positives in this corner. He does own a decent stretch run and perked up on the drop last out, but you’ve got to play the percentages.
6. New Yawker: That was a heavily favored foe he just missed catching at Belmont, and all three turf runs stamp him as a major contender. Versatile and in top form, and most importantly, he hasn’t shown an affinity for losing yet, like some of his rivals. The obvious horse to beat.
7. Smart Enuf: State-bred drops for a solid barn that does its best work on turf. He hasn’t proved fast enough at this point, but he’s also never been in this cheap. Not a bad price play if you’re looking for value.
8. Key Victory: His best run in quite some time came over yielding ground at Belmont and the course right now is basically a highway painted green. Add in a 1-for-21 lifetime mark and it’s obvious you need to keep looking.
9. Memorized: Just broke his maiden over 40k maiden-claimers, though he gets a few bonus points for the trouble he encountered that day. Only five lifetime runs so maybe there’s some upside, which he’ll need to find to factor.
10. Spartan King: His two turf runs have been very good and this is a barn that knows how to win races. He was awful here earlier in the meet on the main, so you have to wonder if that 29-length defeat threw him for a loop. If it didn’t, then he’s in with a big chance.
11. Brown’s Hill (MTO): If he gets to play, he’d be making his first start for Klesaris since he was claimed, and that’s a good angle. A major player if he’s in the starting gate.
Race 9: $67,000 optional claimer for 3&up at 1 3/16 miles on the Mellon turf.
1. Dubai Gold: Solid barn is just dreadful on turf, so you wonder if they’re hoping this gets washed off because this 6-year-old seems up against it on the grass.
2. Rocket Legs: He used to be a pretty classy runner in his day, but it looks like he’s lost a step or three in recent times. Coming up on two years since his last win and you’ve got to think the drought continues.
3. Lease Of Life: Frankel and Juddmonte have been potent over the years, but they can’t get arrested of late. No doubt this colt is talented and he might enjoy a NY course with a bit more give to it than the ones in Ca., but until this barn gets rolling you’ve got to pass.
4. Tap Dancing: Versatile colt has done a few decent things over the course of his career and it’s nice to know he won’t mind the distance. Definitely ranks behind a few of these but he’s an interesting play at a price.
5. Thabazimbi: Long-distance specialist enters as the class of the field and rates as a deserving favorite. Drops after facing Just As Well (recently second in the Gr. I Arlington Million) and Brass Hat (see Gr. I Sword Dancer preview later) in a pair of stakes, so you know he’s in good form. Might even make a lonely lead; the price seems to be his only knock.
6. Lemon Cream Pie: Another with a hint of early speed, but he’s just as comfortable right off the pace. Either way he’ll be in the mix up front but he’s never been past 9 furlongs, so the water could be a bit too deep for him in the lane.
7. Expansion: Money-burner has been the beaten favorite in four of his last five starts and with two wins and six seconds, you kind of get his m.o. He’s one of those horses that takes a ton of cash every time he runs and will get there someday, but good luck trying to nail the right day.
8. Independent George: Adds blinkers and drops in for a tag for the first time so there are a few angles going in this corner. Yet another that is always well received at the window, but just when you think he’s going to get there, Ramon the Pool Boy comes along and all of a sudden worlds are colliding and you’re in the wrong theater looking for your buddy while disrupting Chunnel on the big screen. Passing.
9. Hotstufanthensome: Back in the day this guy was a pretty salty campaigner in South Florida. It’s been a bit since then, but you’ve got to give him credit as he’s still plugging along at 9. Not sure about the distance, but you have to respect a horse that’s hit the exacta in 22 of his 43 career starts.
10. Don Misil: Group I winner on turf in his native Argentina has done little to distinguish himself in America. Seems up against it today.
11. Ea (MTO): Doesn’t look like he’ll get the rain he needs, but if he does, he’s the horse to beat.
12. Even Raise (MTO): Would be stepping up in class and out in distance so siding against if he’s in.
13. Mr. Unstoppable: Popular at the claim box, now in the hands of Dutrow, in the mix if in.
Race 10: The Grade I, $500,000 Sword Dancer for 3&up at 12 furlongs on the inner turf.
1. Grand Couturier: Love him or hate him, he’s here for the fourth straight year and looks for his third straight win; that’s heady stuff, folks. Probably entered in better form last year, but he seems to be coming along nicely and hasn’t ducked anyone this year. He’s a year longer in the tooth and maybe a step slower, but it’s not like the best of the division is here. As always, you’ve got to go through this guy to cash.
2. Gentleman Chester: Longshot did just run a huge second to subsequent Arlington Million runner-up Just As Well in the Grade III Arlington Handicap, so he’s going in the right direction. But he’s never won a graded stakes, so it’s tough to think he gets it in this Grade I.
3. Lauro: Gets a ton of credit for chasing down Presious Passion and just missing in the Grade I UN in his last. You kind of need to toss that race, though, as you won’t encounter too many spots where someone opens up 20 and holds on easily. He does bring some tactical speed to be in the mix, but just have a nagging feeling he’s not this good.
4. Better Talk Now: If you can’t root for this guy, then you need to find another sport to follow. Still seems to be going strong at 10 and his run in the Grade I Manhattan was his best since a big run in this very race last summer. Got nicked up a bit after that so there’s a chance he could need a run, but like always, he’s a threat in the lane.
5. Rising Moon: Interesting that he shows up here because he could have made noise in a weak renewal of the Whitney last weekend for sure. Not much turf form to go on, but it’s the right time to take a shot as there are not too many tigers in here. Not at the top of the list, but he’s an interesting price play.
6. Americain: European invader makes his first start in America and now calls the Pletcher barn home. Seemed to have a hint of tactical speed in his races across the pond, so he might be near the predicted tepid pace early. I don’t think he was trading paint with the best France has to offer, but he does get Lasix for the first time and has the look of a contender.
7. Telling: Longshot seems up against it from several different handicapping angles and would be a major shocker. Rallying from way out of it and finishing in the superfecta seems about his ceiling.
8. Quijano: Sure looked good in the Man O’ War when he had to wait on the turn and still finished only 2 ¼ lengths behind Gio Ponti. You’ve got to worry about the dreaded Euro-bounce, but 14 wins from 28 starts speaks for itself. Has the speed to keep the leaders within his sights and then get the jump on the closers. Looks like one of the ones.
9. Brass Hat: Another veteran that you just have to admire and he did win the 12-furlong Louisville two-back, which shows he’s still got some gas in the tank. That was his first win on the turf and he meets much stronger opposition here, but he’s not out of the question if you’re spreading deep.
10. Musketier: Drew the outside post which might force his hand, but I’m viewing that as a good thing because there’s little speed signed on here and if Jones coaxes this horse early, they might find themselves loose on the lead. There’s some serious talent here and his last two races–when they’ve put him in the game early–have been by far his best. With Grand Couturier going for the three-peat, this guy might even be a reasonable 6-1 and that would make him the top play.
Race 11: $45,000 maiden-special-weight for NYB’s 3&up on the Mellon turf course at 1 1/16 miles.
2. Don’t You Linger: Added Lasix in his last and ran for a half-mile before throwing in the towel, which is somewhat surprising considering he was coming off a decent run. Figures to flash some early foot again before retreating.
3. Cops Fever: Winless from 10 runs but does usually make his presence felt and now goes out for the solid barn of Will Phipps. Another who wants to be involved early and the front looks busy in here, so I’ve got to make him beat me.
4. Urbano: Never got going when he made his debut sprinting on the grass so maybe this longer trip will wake him up.
5. Military Star: Tagg firster comes with bullets in tow and several sparkling works, so you know he’s talented and will take money. But a deeper look says the barn is 2-for-39 with runners making their debut past a mile and just 7-for-95 overall with their firsters. So while you must respect this colt’s chances in a weak field, there’s nothing wrong with shopping around for more value.
6. Whirlwind Poppy: Ran big in his debut at 6F’s on the lawn and now stretches out, a move that the barn has already pulled off once this meet. Bred to enjoy the trip as well and it’s nice to see he took some money (7-1) in his debut. Thinking he’s the one to deny.
7. Brazen Cat: Duggan tore it up at the Spa last summer and though he’s been slow to get started this meet, he looks live here with a runner that just missed at this trip down at Belmont. Freshened a bit since that bug run and he could be the speed of the speed in here. With the potential for fast splits, I’ll tab him as a second-choice while noting he’s a must use.
8. John Wyatt: His two turf runs have been solid and it looks like he might be coming up to a big one. Found himself on the lead in his last but he’s probably better stalking, which should be the trip he pulls today. Adds to the depth of a solid finale.
1. Spa City Fever: Ran OK sprinting in his debut on the grass at Belmont and should like the stretch, but while it’s easy to root for the Kelly barn, playing their horses with your hard-earned cash is a different story.
9. Myrlanski: Been away for almost 10 months off a 58-1 debut on the main, so unless the mob puts the fix in, it’s hard to imagine he’s a threat.
10. J L Bernstein: Another that might be coming up to a big run; he’s gotten a bit better in all three starts and now the blinkers come off. He’s not as good as some of the aforementioned foes, but he’ll be a far better price and if you think the removal of the hood might get him over the hump, he sure would be a nice anchor to your exotic plays.
11. Nugget Of Wisdom (AE): Little form to go on, so even if he does draw in, he’ll be a huge longshot.
12. Goldwyn (AE): Not a bad debut when he put in a minor middle move to reach contention. Fringe player if he draws in.
13. Bullstar (AE): Just-missed here on the 30th going 1-mile, so if he draws in, he must be respected. But there would be issues; he’s got speed and a terrible post, so you would think he could be caught wide and involved in a hot pace. If he starts, I’m willing to side against.
14. Silveroo: No speed to speak of and he hails from a winless barn. Longshot.
1a. Ryan And Jack: Turf debut was solid, and much better than his main track run. Adds blinkers and he could be one to remember down the road.
15. Mr. Hooker: Tested open foes twice at CNL and ran well in finishing second and third. Those foes would be comparative to what he meets here, but he’s buried on the AE list.
Brian’s $48 Pk4 play: 1,2,6—5—5,6,8,10—5,6,7,10