Race 9: The Grade I, $300,000 Forego for 3&up at 7 furlongs.
1. Pyro: Made a nice return earlier in the meet when his patented late rally fell just short in a minor stakes. Eligible to be much tighter today as well and that means he’s someone you need to be aware of in the lane. Never thought he was a top, top 3-year-old, but just maybe they’ve found his niche in these elongated one-turn sprints. Besides, who’s better than Godolphin these days? In the mix.
2. Kodiak Kowboy: Got the perfect prep in the Vanderbilt and 7 furlongs has always been his best game to begin with, so you better believe he’s cranked for a big run today. Likes the track to boot, which goes a long way in this field because the majority of his rivals have yet to excel over it. He’s been knocking heads with the best sprinters on the East Coast for the better part of two years and clearly rates as the one to deny.
3. Ready’s Echo: Adds blinkers in an effort to conjure up a bit more speed out of this deep closer. He’s a useful horse but has never run a race that would win this kind of affair, so unless the hood improves him 6 or 8 lengths, it’s tough to envision him getting it done in this Grade I.
4. Peace Chant: Hasn’t really lived up to those regal bloodlines, but his three biggest runs have been on dirt; in fact, he’s 4-for-6 over it and 0-for-8 over everything else. The fact that O’Neill ships here is a bonus, as you have to think he’s not here for the water. If you’re looking to get a bit cute and find a price, this might be your guy.
5. Riley Tucker: Figures to add some fuel to the fire but the engine looks like it’s going to have a full car today. He has shown he can stalk and pounce in the past, but no doubt his best runs have come when he’s been allowed to control the splits early. That won’t be the case in here.
6. Gold Trippi: Just got the better of Pyro five weeks ago, but while that colt has some upside, this 5-year-old has pretty much shown us his ceiling. Honest sort just doesn’t stack up for win honors against this crew.
7. Driven By Success: He got lost a bit in Bribon’s Met Mile, but you could argue he ran the best race of the bunch that day. Simply went too fast to last in the Morrissey and that was at 6 ½ furlongs. He’s got to deal with 7 today, and there will be more than just a few decent NY-breds coming after him late. Siding against.
8. Multidude: Looked visually impressive running off from state-bred optional claimers earlier in the meet, but that’s not scaring anyone off in here. He’s versatile enough to sit right off the speed, but as talented as he is, this represents a major, major class hike. Maybe down the road, but not today.
9. Law Enforcement: Benefited from Driven By Success’ enterprising splits last month, so you know right away he’s a stretch threat. Desormeaux has done wonders with this colt, too, and he seems to be coming up to a career run. The Hennig barn has picked it up the past few days and if there’s a pace meltdown, just maybe this state-bred can get a big piece of the pie.
10. My Pal Charlie: Ran huge in the Met; blew the start, had to weave through horses turning for home, and then was in tight quarters in deep stretch. If you’re partial, you’re saying he might have won that day; if you’re not, then he was an OK fourth while never really threatening the winner. He’s been freshened for this assignment and this one-turn run suits him well. Has the tactical speed to get the jump on the closers to boot so I’m landing here one more time.
11. True Quality: He won the General George at this distance in February, but if they go 47 1/5 to the half today, then his connections should quit the business and go buy some lotto tickets. Poor colt has been bounced around a bit in the Paraneck fiasco and even on his best day, he’s probably not good enough to win a race like this.
12. Keep Laughing: Drew the far outside but he has the speed to sit a nice trip. Does he have the class to win a race like this? That’s highly debatable. If you’re a believer, you’re going to get Team McLaughlin at a big number, which is rare these days. Still thinking he’s not good enough.
Race 10: The Grade I, $750,000 Woodward Stakes for 3&up at 1 1/8 miles.
1. Da’Tara: Not quite sure what happened earlier in the meet but he was unmanageable going into the first turn and was essentially pulled up soon thereafter. The fact that entrymate Cool Coal Man is signed on says this Belmont winner might be in there to ensure an honest pace and keep the big girl company early.
2. Bullsbay: His Whitney run was a special performance and a true breakthrough. It looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the far turn and from there it was a formality. Sure, he benefited from an insane pace, but they won’t be walking out there Saturday either. He’s eligible to bounce from here to Fair Hill, but then again, just maybe he’s a horse that’s getting good at the right time over a track he loves. The fact that he’s got to give Rachel Alexandra eight pounds doesn’t bode well, but when you factor in that her presence means he’ll be twice the price he should be, it makes it worth having this guy on your ticket.
3. Rachel Alexandra: The aforementioned filly is on her way to immortal status, if she isn’t there already. Nice to see her take on this new challenge, as it’s clear she’s done all she can against her own age group. She’s a legit 1-5 in this race, but there are a few pitfalls if you’re looking for the upset. First, they might try and gang up on her a bit early, and with all due respect to Munnings and Summer Bird (who was taken out of his element in the Haskell), horses like Cool Coal Man and It’s a Bird might not give way as easily when she tries to blow this race open on the far turn. Second, she’s been to a lot of dances this year and while she’s given no reason to expect regression, you just have to wonder how many times they can go to the well and fill up the glass. No doubt this is her toughest task to date, as she’s going to have to put away some decent horses while bracing for a few stern challenges late, but even so, if you’re not one to try and beat heavy favorites, the most prudent plan of attack might be to sit back and watch a true superstar at work.
1a. Cool Coal Man: Sure looked good leaving a decent field in his wake over the course and distance earlier in the meet. Still, this is the Woodward we’re talking about, and he’s never shown himself to be the kind to win a race like this. With that being said, he does draw outside ‘Rachel and has the speed to keep her in his sights early. Doubt he’s a win candidate, but if you’re looking to beat the favorite, this guy’s ability to press her the entire way probably holds the key.
4. Macho Again: Made a bold late run at Bullsbay in the Whitney but that rival simply got the jump on him. A true grinder, but it’s nice to know he’s done his best work at this trip. Still, like the Whitney, the majority of the field will be in front of him when they turn for home. Unless there’s a pace meltdown, thinking a minor award is his ceiling.
5. It’s A Bird: Came into the Suburban poised to go to the head of the handicap division, but he couldn’t have been any worse. Wolfson regrouped and pointed here immediately, which tells you what he thinks of this 6-year-old. A lot like Cool Coal Man in that he’s got the speed to keep the big filly entertained early before testing her out on the far turn. The Wolfson runners have run big here this meet (think Icon Project), but thinking this guy blinks when the pretty lady looks him in the eye.
6. Asiatic Boy: Got sick prior to the Whitney so they passed and aimed here. Not the best way to come into the toughest race of your life, but he has worked well a few times since coming back to the track. The 2007/2008 version of this 6-year-old would be within shouting distance of ‘Rachel, but the plain truth is that he’s been a disappointment in both runs this year. So when you add that to the sketchy schedule, it’s tough to think he’s an upset candidate.
7. Past The Point: This outside draw might force his hand a bit in that he’s got to go early or risk being extremely wide entering the first turn. And if that’s the case, then he’s yet another horse that can be outside ‘Rachel early while owning the class and speed to keep her company for longer than she’s accustomed to. Don’t forget that his coming out party was in this very race last year when he gave Curlin a big tussle after setting a 46 1/5 half-mile. Doubt he can do that again and stick around at the finish, but thinking those involved early will know he was in here when it’s all said and done.
Race 11: $53,000 N1X for 3-year-olds and up a 1-mile on the inner turf.
2. Ground Frost: Don’t sell this jumper too short: he can run. Showed some talent on the grass last year when in the Frankel barn and if Voss sends him out, you should know he’s ready to roll. Expecting a big, big run.
3. Warn: Owns a solid late run but all too often it falls a bit short. Comforting to know his two career wins have come over the course and maybe the blinkers added will keep him a bit closer. Longshot chance.
4. North Country: The Duggan barn deserves a win before they close up shop here so maybe this will be the one. Enters off a close seventh to some tough state-breds and a repeat of that run would do well in here.
5. Perfect Easter: Know him early, that’s for sure. Exits some fast sprints where he was mixing it up early. Stretches out today but there’s enough speed signed on that will probably prevent the theft job.
6. Whitley: Arnold is another looking to get that elusive win before the van leaves town. He’s got a shot with this gelding, who has progressed nicely over his last two. Just chased Get Stormy, who wired a minor stakes last week. Look out.
7. Maria’s Charm: Tries the turf after disappointing on the main five weeks ago. Not sure if it’s a last ditch effort to turn this guy around or if it’s a spot they were looking at all along. Mixed signals.
8. Pressure Point: Adds blinkers and exits a quick main track sprint, so you know he’ll be mixing it up early. Adds fuel to the fire, but tough to think he lasts late in his turf debut.
9. Rodman: Another trying turf for the first time, but at least he brings the right stalking style to the fray. Enters having won two straight, so if you think he’s going to like the green, then swing away.
10. Extra Zip: Arguably the horse to beat, as he’s been sharp all year. Just ran third to the classy state-bred Banrock and that guy would be long gone in here. The path to the winner’s circle goes directly through this gelding.
11. Kinsella: His debut was solid back in March but the wheels came off when he tackled winners a month later. Pletcher freshened him since and he’s back and ready to roll now. Not crazy about the post, but he’s in with a chance.
12. Evolutionist (AE): If he draws in he’s a player, especially when you factor in his solid try in his first start versus winners at a much longer trip last month. Major player if he lines up.
13. Andiron (AE): Another who got going locally earlier in the meet and he sure looked good drawing off from a decent maiden field. Steps up if he draws in, but his talent might finally be coming out.
1. Good Prospect (AE): He’s been in good form and just missed against a similar crew over soft ground two weeks ago. Adds to the depth of the field if he’s in the gate.
14. Xodo (AE): He’s well down the list so it looks unlikely he makes the field. Even if he does, he would be an outsider.
15. Midnite Silver (AE): Tough to think he gets in, and he would be one of the longer shots on the board.
1a. Sigmundo (AE): He just won here six days ago and this would be a pretty tall order, so it’s probably best if he doesn’t get to play.
Race 12: $29,000 claimer for 3&up, f&m at 5 ½ furlongs on the Mellon turf.
3. Spring Elusion: Makes her first start on turf and has the tactical speed to get some good position. She’ll need to work out a good trip from the tricky rail draw, but she’s the upset special in here.
4. Belonged To Sy: Blasted open maidens on the main at Suffolk, but steps up and tries a new surface today. Siding against her going 2-for-2.
5. Little Miss Julie: Speedy miss has yet to win over the turf, but she does have a few decent runs to fall back on. Not at the top of the list, but if you’re spreading she can be used.
6. Judge’s Pride: She’s been going the wrong way of late and at 1-for-28, it’s a big stretch to see her greeting the cameraman.
7. Lady Wynne: Broke her maiden at first asking over claimers, but has struggled in four subsequent starts against winners. Tries turf today but thinking the trend continues.
1. Gentle Ride: Wired maiden claimers earlier in the meet for Linda Rice, who owns these turf sprints. The waters get deeper against winners and doubt she clears off like last time. Willing to side against the repeat.
2. Miss Redoubled: Looked good rallying from out of it for a top claiming outfit last month and that style should work well again today. Logical win candidate.
8. Imandra: Tries turf off a maiden claiming win here in August. Spots some experience to a decent group, so think she’s a pace casualty.
9. Ready Formycloseup: Cuts back to one-turn for the first time and should have plenty of bottom under her. Figures to stalk early and make a late run that I’m hoping carries her into the winner’s circle.
10. Stayawaystella: Hasn’t run poorly in her last few, but they also won’t be good enough to get it done here. Needs to step it up to get unsaddled.
11. Serve Too: Laurel invader looks a bit out of her element against a pretty salty group for this level.
12. Has Squoken: Returned from 15 months on the sidelines last month and now tries the turf for the first time, which isn’t a great move for the Contessa barn. Passing.
1a. Pals First Lady: Ran well in her first try against winners and she’s coupled with Gentle Ride, so if you’re a Rice fan, you get two for the price of one.
13. Sinister Deance (AE): Even if she draws in, her 1-for-24 record will have her looking up at several in here.
14. Private Battle (AE): Ran well against similar earlier in the meet and if she draws in, she’s going to be in with a chance, though the Levine barn has been ice cold for the better part of three months.
2b. Day Trippi (MTO): Probably the one to beat if this gets rained onto the main track, though with the gates closing on Monday, they’ll probably do their best to leave the turf races on.
Brian’s $60 Pk4 ticket: 1,2,4,9,10***3***2,4,6,9,10,11***39
Brian’s $20 backup Pk4 ticket: 1,2,4,9,10***2***2,4***3,9