Race 7: $22,000 claimer for 3&up at 6 furlongs on the inner turf (N2L).
1. Khan Of Khans: Toss that run in the slop in June and his form isn’t bad at all. The only problem is that this will be his first try against winners and he had to defeat cheap claimers to get his diploma. Still, it’s not like there are any win machines in here and he’s got room for improvement. Not out of it.
2. Winloc’s Saint Ray: His first try against winners wasn’t pretty, but that was at the Spa and he faced much tougher and blew the break to boot. Should like the drop and can use his tactical speed to stay in the mix early, but he needs to improve.
3. Burnished Copper: Give Bush credit for finally getting that elusive win, but he’s been drubbed in his last two and now takes a big plunge in class. If he reverts back to that old form he can be a stretch danger, but that seems like a mighty big “if” based on his last two.
4. Sinister Storm: Winless on the turf and just 1-for-22 overall so unless there’s a major form reversal in the cards, he’s in deep water with this group.
5. Rapid Mon: His lone turf try this spring at Gulfstream was solid; he was in third early and tired late in a two-turn affair. Not a bad run by any means and one that seems to say this shorter trip could be his game. Freshened since Saratoga and enters with a bullet in the holster as well. Could be the right price play in a race where the main contenders hardly inspire any confidence.
6. Rizty Aly: Based on his last three he seems to be heading in the wrong direction and even on his best day he might not be good enough to win this. The good news is that his lone win came over the course and distance, but he got loose on the lead that day and that doesn’t figure to happen in here.
7. Castle Harbour: You’ve got to dig a bit, but his lone turf run in July 2008 was a close third against open maidens here. Why it’s taken so long to get back on the green is odd, but nonetheless here he is against a field of questionable ability. Upset special.
8. Key Victory: Can’t even find a win on the page for this 1-for-23 runner, but it’s worth noting that he’s been facing much better. Prior to his last, an 11th at the Spa, he was at least competitive and running numbers that would put him in the mix in this spot. If that last didn’t throw him for a loop, you could do worse, but remember he’s 1-for-23 for a reason.
9. Golden Guska: Potential favorite has a win and a second in two starts over the course and just finished a close fourth against better upstate. His speed should ensure that he gets a nice trip and stays out of trouble, so don’t worry too much about the post. Galluscio is off to a flying start at the meet (3-for-6) and has a versatile runner that rates as a major player.
10. Pavlov’s Dog: The blinkers go on, but his form was pretty dismal in his starts with the hood. At 1-for-22, he’s one of the longer shots in the field.
11. Five Boroughs: Not much form to go on but it’s been a long time since he tried the sod. In fact, it was way back in his career debut sprinting at Saratoga in 2008 where he ran a close ninth that day with trouble while running wide. His form this year has been suspect, but he’s also yet to run over a fast track in his first four starts. Cut out to be a nice runner and he’s worth a long look at a big price.
12. Pure Pulpit: Takes a big drop in class and that alone makes you look twice. Add in Mott’s sterling 27-percent in the claiming ranks and he looks even better. Heck, you could even say toss his last over the bog. Point being, there are a lot of positives in this corner and very few negatives. He didn’t draw well at all, but is the one to deny nonetheless.
Race 8: $46,000 state-bred optional claimer for 3&up at 1 1/16 miles on the Widener turf.
1. Separatist: Looked great winning an off-the-turf affair at the Spa, but the turf version of this runner usually leaves his backers frustrated and with skimpy pockets. In fact, he’s yet to win over the green as he was put up here in June. Drew well and certainly figures, but unless you’re spreading deep, he’s worth trying to beat.
2. City Sneakers: Had a good thing going before he got beaten up in his latest, and on paper, it’s a bit tough to figure out why. If you can find a way around that distant eighth then he hits hard, but you’ve also got to wonder if he’s sinking, especially when you see that Cornelio abandoned ship.
3. Tobruk: The poster child for the “they all get there at some point” theme, as he scored his second win from 30 starts in a Spa marathon in his last. He shortens back up today and is 0-11 over the Belmont turf. You just have to let this kind beat you.
4. Solvent: Tough to gauge his ninth in the West Point. On the one hand, he ran his best race in a while and closed some serious ground late; on the other hand, he never threatened for even one stride and kind of just made up ground while passing no one. For what it’s worth, this is where the aforementioned Cornelio landed.
5. Zip To The City: You need to be creative, but his last two-turn run on a firm course was when he ran a huge second over the course and distance in May. Sure, that was four months ago and he’s gone the wrong way since, but when you look up at the board and see that he’s in the 12-1 range, you can be a bit forgiving. And don’t forget, his five wins are the most in the field. Interesting longshot.
6. Missinglisalewis: Potential favorite enters in fine form and will be hoping Tobruk’s anthem holds true here because as good as he looks on paper, he’s on 13 months and counting since his last win. At least Domino is off to a nice start (2-for-6) and you know this guy is in good standing, but he’s hardly one you can stand alone on.
7. Benlayla: Tries turf in an effort to turn things around after he soured in his last pair at the Spa. There’s a bit of pedigree in his corner, but he does meet a cast that’s been playing this game for some time. Passing.
8. Dirty Water Dog: Looks like Brown made a nice claim, though it took a start to figure this one out. He’s won half of his eight starts, so right away you know he means business. Steps up the ladder but he’s lightly raced, in expert hands and likes to win. Look out.
9. Prince Dubai: Shocked everyone when he won a Spa allowance at 27-1 but he’s probably got to do a bit better if he wants to double up. Respect this barn, and maybe this guy has been wanting this two-turn turf trip all along, but he’s got to prove it one more time.
10. Minnie Punt: Came unglued late in the Stallion behind a nice state-bred turfer, but at least he gets back to the course where he’s done his best work. Still, that last run is a real downer and the more you look, the more you might come to the conclusion that his big win here in May was more the exception than the rule. Willing to play against.
11. Theartofcompromise (MTO): If the rains hit he’ll look pretty salty in here, especially since he’ll be back doing the one-turn thing. Looks to be a toss up between him and the rail should he get to play.
Race 9: The Grade II, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap for filly/mares 3&up at 6 ½ furlongs.
1. American Queen: Enters off a nice optional claiming win at Philly Park, but that’s not scaring anyone in this tough spot. Give them credit for making the trip, but a minor award seems to be her ceiling–and even that looks unlikely on paper.
2. Indian Blessing: Two-time champ just hasn’t had the same starch in the stretch this year as she did at 2 and 3. Not that she’s run poorly, and there are viable excuses: a straight 6 furlongs against males in Dubai, the fake stuff at HP, and slop at the Spa, but the simple fact is that she’s lost all three this year after being a win machine in her first two years of racing. But hey, even the best ones tail off over time and it’s not like she isn’t one of the ones in here. But the tote will imply her gaudy reputation is still intact when in fact it might be thinking of impending retirement after the Breeders’ Cup in five weeks.
3. Sara Louise: If you hit up the Godolphin boys before Travers Day, it was this miss–not Music Note or Vineyard Haven–that was the first horse out of their mouths. And she showed why in the Victory Ride, with a speedy win that marked her first start since last November. She’s also the answer to your next dinner party thumper, as this is the last horse to defeat the mighty Rachel Alexandra. Should only improve off that comeback run and the feeling here is that she’ll be in the passing lane ready to take the baton from Indian Blessing. Choice.
4. Sky Haven: Didn’t run poorly in the Victory Ride, but then again she was nowhere near Sara Louise, either. Did get shuffled back a bit farther than usual yet still came running, so that’s a positive, but regardless, she figures to be in line for third money at best.
5. Any Limit: On her day she can win a race like this, but those days have become few and far between of late. The good news is she likes it here (4-for-9) and even though she’s a bit inconsistent, the speed is still there. Figures to make the point and take them as far as she can, but a win looks out of reach.
6. Thunders Dove: Gets the acid test after reeling off five straight wins over the past year and a half. Look for her to be right off the flank of Any Limit early and then try and kick on turning for home. That’s a nice strategy and all, but it also means she’ll have to put away a classy mare and then brace the challenge of a dual-champion and an up-and-comer that’s beaten a Hall of Famer–all this while making her graded stakes debut. Good luck.
7. P.S.U. Grad: Her two Spa starts were decent, but they kind of reinforced the opinion that she’s just not this kind of runner. Hard-knocking miss would benefit if the speed gets in a hurry early, but even Joe Pa’s best game plan probably wouldn’t be enough to get this filly a win photo.
Race 10: $43,000 state-bred allowance for filly/mares at 6 furlongs on the inner turf.
1. Adastraperaspera: Any time Donk wins with a firster you should take notice, as he likes to give them a few trial runs. However, when he gets one with this intermediate layoff, he’s a sparkling 29-percent. She probably wants a bit more ground, but if the pace gets too hot early, she’ll be rolling late.
2. Meese Rocks: Two nice runs at the Spa and it’s always a good sign to see a runner fire big in her first start versus winners. Projects as the speed of the speed and she’s shown she can handle a little heat in the kitchen and still run her race. Don’t be surprised if she forgets to stop.
3. Kaz Dear: Got the job done here in July, but that wasn’t the swiftest maiden race you’ll ever see. Off since, which isn’t a great sign either, so you’re allowed to wonder if she’ll need a run.
4. Runfromthestorm: Weaver seems to have something here; miss ran big twice against open maidens at GP and then ran off with ease at the Spa. Takes the jump to winners but she gives every indication that this is just a temporary stop up the ladder to stakes engagements.
5. Fiona Freud: Far too many nibbles (12) than wins (2), and the 1-for-12 local record has nine slices as well. She does always run her race, but usually a few more are a bit better.
6. A Girl Named Maria: Broke her maiden at first asking, but that was last year over the inner dirt at Aqueduct. Not bred for the turf and seems up against it.
7. Fast Footnote: Lone turf try was in a tough Calder stakes last year, and while she didn’t run too poorly, a repeat of that run would still leave her well behind.
8. Hookin The Goods: Just 1-for-17 and her lone turf try was a poor one. Rates as the longest shot on the board.
9. More Oats Please: Just missed when third at the Spa behind next door rival Hold The Cruiser, and that run was her first on the grass, so you’re allowed to think there’s more improvement forthcoming. If that’s the case then she’s in with a chance, but this does seem to be a solid group for this level.
10. Hold The Cruiser: The aforementioned runner was unlucky not to get to the wire first two-back and the same could be said in her Spa finale as well. Trainer Duggan is going through a rough patch and he deserves a win more than anyone and this could be the filly to give it to him. Main rival.
11. Punt’s Kitty: Tried the turf a few times here last fall and didn’t run poorly. Note the money she took that day as well. Finally gets back on the sod after testing several different conditions in the interim. Not the worst price play in the world.
12. Miss Dolan’s Rose: She was busy upstate, running three times, and comes in off a good fourth in Hold The Cruiser’s run in August. Her lone win came over the course and distance last October, a run that was far and away the best she’s ever thrown on the track, so she’s not without hope.
13. Way To Karakorum (MTO): Winless in six tries here on the main and five tries on an off-track, so even if she’s in the gate, it’s best to look elsewhere.
14. Mercy’s Delight: Ran a big one in her last, which was her first sign of life in a few starts, so the bounce is a worry, as is her 1-for-30 lifetime record. Passing.
Brian’s $36 Pk4: 1,5,7,9,11,12***5,6,8***3***4,10