Breeders’ Cup Saturday Picks and Analysis

4- FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, 7f, 2:05 CST

The smallest field in Breeders’ Cup history figures to be a two-horse race while the other three compete for underneath spots. Defending champion GAMINE has every right to repeat her championship from a year ago against these, and looms the likely shortest price on the card today. The Bob Baffert trainee owns the best last out Beyer figure at the distance (104) and has won all four starts this year in wire to wire fashion. However, she hasn’t been quite as dominating as last season from an overall speed figure standpoint, having run just the one aforementioned triple digit Beyer in her four 2021 starts. Another runner has posted two triple digit Beyers, owns the best last out Brisnet figure (111), and offers more upside at a better price. That’s BELLA SOFIA, an emerging three-year old who has shown ascending speed figures while winning her last three starts by a combined 14.5 lengths. Drawn just outside the favorite, these two figure to lock up early and turn this event into a virtual match race. If BELLA SOFIA can soften up the favorite while taking another step forward in figures, we expect her to pull the upset here with Luis Saez in the irons. This isn’t a blind shot either, as both have faced common foe Lake Avenue in their most recent starts; GAMINE finished 1.75 lengths ahead, while BELLA SOFIA finished 12.5 lengths ahead. With over half of bettors likely to single GAMINE, and another probable single later on in the sequence, this seems like a great spot to take a shot against the consensus, and receive great value in the multis by singling BELLA SOFIA instead in a low stakes Pick-4 or Double. The underneath spots don’t matter a ton as we don’t see much value in playing a trifecta here, but CE CE is easily the next most accomplished and figures to be the one to benefit in the unlikely event that the top two wear each other out and both fade. EDGEWAY won her last race over this track with a figure that equaled that of CE CE, and can also be in the discussion for third.

Picks:

  1. Bella Sofia 5-2
  2. Gamine 3-5
  3. Ce Ce 4-1
  4. Edgeway 12-1

5- TURF SPRINT, 5f, 2:40

The perennially wide-open event is no different this year, as the usual combination of cutback runners and Euro shippers add intrigue to this group of established turf sprinters. Aside from throwing darts, our angle in these races is always to look for a horse that has won at the exact distance of the race, as well as over the exact turf course. By this analysis, LIEUTENANT DAN merits a long look, having won twice at 5f over the course of three consecutive wins coming into this, and with both of those 5f wins coming at Del Mar. He figures to sit a great trip from the #4 post, owns competitive speed figures at the distance (100 Beyer, 101 Brisnet, 114 Racing Post) and has never missed the board on turf in 15 career starts; gelding has tactical speed and fits ON TOP very logically at a decent price. Euro shippers had never won this race before last year, and GLASS SLIPPERS returns to defend her title from the far inside post. However, the half furlong shorter distance of this year’s race won’t seem to help her cause any more than the post will, as she has finished 3rd in all three starts this season at the 5f distance while delivering subpar speed figures (98, 112 and 107 compared to the 117 she earned last year, per Racing Post). A more interesting overseas candidate is A CASE OF YOU, who has bested her in both of his last two, including a 5f win last out at Longchamp, where he earned a 121 Racing Post Rating, tied for the best in the field; mid-pack runner can be a win contender if he can handle the firmer ground. GEAR JOCKEY and FAST BOAT are drawn wide and have alternated the win and show spots in their last two meetings, with both charges posting competitive figures in their respective wins. We give the edge to FAST BOAT (104 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 118 Racing Post), who won in their 5.5f meeting, won earlier this year at that distance as well and had a tough trip when 4th last time out. The feeling is that 5f may be a bit on the sharp side for GEAR JOCKEY, who delivered his best race of the year at the 6f distance (105 Beyer, 101 Brisnet, 115 Racing Post) but meets a much faster pace with this bunch. FAST BOAT is also 7 for 16 lifetime at 5 and 5.5f distance, while GEAR JOCKEY shows just one win at 5.5f and will be trying this distance for the first time, having raced primarily as a miler. We will try to keep the favored GOLDEN PAL off the board altogether. Last year’s Juvenile Sprint winner has brilliant early speed but simply hasn’t run fast enough to be favored against these more experienced foes (96 Beyer, 93 Brisnet), and finished behind Euro shipper EMARAATY ANA when off the board in August in a 5f race at York. Three-year olds have not run well historically and he seems susceptible to a speed duel at a short price. EMARAATY ANA enters with competitive figures overseas (121 Racing Post Rating at 6f, 117 Racing Post Rating at 5f), but is not used to turns, having raced over straight courses in 17 of 19 lifetime races. Still, this one is in top form and enters off of two firsts and a second, including a group 1 upset at 6f last time out. KIMARI adds intrigue but is a total wildcard, having not run over a turf surface in over a year, and we’d like a higher price than her 6-1 morning line given the surface switch questions, while eight-year old EXTRAVAGANT KID draws widest of all after being easily beaten by the favorite last out. This will certainly be a race to spread in doubles and multi-race wagers using at least all of our top four, and a three horse exacta box looks to have potential to be juicy.

Picks:

  1. Lieutenant Dan 6-1
  2. A Case Of You 8-1
  3. Fast Boat 12-1
  4. Emaraaty Ana 5-1

6- DIRT MILE, 8f, 3:19

In a fairly weak edition of this race, the freakish LIFE IS GOOD figures to romp. There simply does not appear to be any runner that can go with the son of Into Mischief who appears to be lone speed here as the only “E” designation per Brisnet. Since switching trainers to Todd Pletcher following some time off this spring, the three-year old has pushed all-world sprinter Jackie’s Warrior at 7f (106 Beyer, 106 Brisnet) and come back to win comfortably at 8f last out. Expect this to be his coming out party third off the lay with Irad Ortiz back aboard; this is our strongest single opinion on the card and possibly would have been our selection to win the Classic had the connections opted for that route, and the race is well-placed in between two wide open events to take advantage of that opportunity. If there is one colt to support behind him for straight exacta purposes, it would be GINOBILI, who has won two straight at Del Mar (104 Beyer, 104 Brisnet). Gelded son of Munnings has one victory at the distance and steps up in class here, but has enough early speed to stay in contact with the leader and ahead of the rest of the field. SILVER STATE has had a solid campaign including two Grade 1 victories, and must be respected for his consistency, coming off of four straight triple digit speed figures per Beyer and Brisnet (104, 105 best respectively). Closing type will likely find no horses coming back to him in this spot, although should manage to hang on for a minor award on class alone against these; he has never finished any worse than 2nd at a mile. EIGHT RINGS may be figuring it out finally and gets a slight cutback after winning at 8.5f over optional claimers last out in a wire job. These waters will be deeper, however, and GINOBILI had his number two back by 3.25 lengths over this track. LIFE IS GOOD will be a single for us in multi-race wagers, but considering the separation between the top three and the rest of the field in our eyes, a 3-horse trifecta box seems like a decent hedge play in case either of the other two can pull the upset.

Picks:

  1. Life Is Good 4-5
  2. Ginobili 4-1
  3. Silver State 7-2
  4. Eight Rings 10-1

7- FILLY AND MARE TURF, 11f, 3:59

With the distance of this championship race constantly changing, it is important to make note that it will be contested at the much longer distance of 11f instead of the 9.5f race of a year ago. That could be important in eliminating the defending champion AUDARYA from consideration for the trifecta, who will be a much shorter price this time around, probably doesn’t want to run quite this far especially from such a wide post, and hasn’t found the winner’s circle in 2021. She has also lost head to head to two of today’s foes. The first is LOVE, a five-time Group 1 winner in England and Ireland who tops the field in terms of back class, having won four races in a row in Group 1 company dating back to this spring before finding herself among even tougher company in the back half of the year. Daughter of Galileo has raced well on good turf surfaces, holds the highest lifetime Racing Post Rating in the field (122) as well as the highest 2021 number (120). LOVE likes to run closer to the pace than most of her Euro counterparts, which could be a huge advantage given the likely race shape here. The other is the emerging three-year old ROUGIR (117 Racing Post Rating), but that one presents more questions, as she has yet to race beyond 10f, has done her best running over soft turf surfaces, and may find this race shape a bit difficult to close into. The most intriguing shipper, however, comes not from Europe but from the far East, as Japan-based LOVES ONLY YOU enters off of an impressive 10f victory in Hong Kong two back (117 Racing Post Rating) in between on-the-board efforts in Japan and Dubai against top company, as the last five races have come against males. Using the mighty Mishriff as a measuring stick, it is notable that LOVES ONLY YOU ran just a half a length behind him three back at 12f, while Mishriff has beaten LOVE on two occasions, once by 1.75 lengths at 12f and again at 6.5 lengths at 10.5f over her last three races. We will give the slight edge for top honors to LOVES ONLY YOU off of that comparison, as well as the fact that a lighter campaign has her poised for a top effort as a mare that has been pointed to this spot since spring, whereas the very appearance of LOVE in this spot instead of against the boys represents a class drop that has to raise eyebrows a bit. Morning line favorite WAR LIKE GODDESS has dominated the American contingent and is a specialist winning from off the pace at longer distances, as all four consecutive victories have come at 11f or 12f and have produced figures that tower over her American foes (100 Beyer, 104 Brisnet, 114 RPR). She will have her work cut out for her however, as these Euro invaders present deeper waters on paper, but should be flying late for a piece. Of the rest, GOING TO VEGAS is an improving type coming off of three straight wins with ascending figures at shorter distances that would need to take another step forward to secure a minor award here on a big stretch out, but could take them a long way on the lead in a race that looks fairly devoid of pace (98 Beyer, 97 Brisnet, 111 Racing Post Rating). No other runner has a win at Del Mar, and she has two this year alone, but has never won beyond 10f. All in all, this will be a race where we bet our top two in a love heavy exacta box, and lean on those alone in multis.

Picks:

  1. Loves Only You 4-1
  2. Love 4-1
  3. War Like Goddess 7-2
  4. Rougir 6-1

8- SPRINT, 6f, 4:38

There is an old adage we have used in this race which has been successful more often than not. It almost sounds too obvious, but put simply: bet on the horse who has run the fastest. Morning line favorite JACKIE’S WARRIOR simply towers over this field from a speed figure standpoint, and will be the one that they all have to catch. The Steve Asmussen charge has posted triple digit Beyer and Brisnet figures while winning the last three, topping out after winning the Grade 2 Gallant Bob at 6f last out (110, 107). In fact, his two fastest 2021 figures are better than any other runner in the field, and the race two back in the Allen Jerkens was flattered when today’s foe FOLLOWING SEA (100 Beyer, 100 Brisnet) came back to win his next in the 6f Vosburgh. JACKIE’S WARRIOR walloped FOLLOWING SEA by 9 lengths that day. While FOLLOWING SEA has shown three straight improving efforts, he lands on the rail inside the speed and will have his work cut for him from that spot, although he did defeat older horses including today’s foe FIRENZE FIRE, who could also show speed, in the Vosburgh. There are several logical contenders to run well beneath the favorite. DR. SCHIVEL is 3 for 3 at Del Mar and specializes at today’s distance, but has been beating suspect company outside of today’s foe CZ ROCKET, whose best days appear to be behind him. He did take step forward in his last race, posting career high speed figures (103 Beyer, 104 Brisnet) when winning the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, and enters off of five straight wins, but the speed figures before that one are a cut below the competition here. An equally consistent and more battle tested option might be SPECIAL RESERVE, who has won three of his last four while posting triple digit figures in all of them after cutting back to 6f (101 Beyer, 105 Brisnet), and hasn’t finished out of the exacta in seven starts this year. Seven-year old gelding is in career form and figures to be forwardly placed in this spot from a post outside the speed, which is always a plus in a race that figures to play out in merry-go-round style. The one horse that beat him this year at this distance did so in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt. That was LEXITONIAN, who is likely to be completely overlooked at the windows as that effort was sandwiched between two absolute duds. This runner seems to stop completely if he doesn’t break well, but running back to that Vanderbilt effort (102 Beyer, 106 Brisnet) puts son of Speightstown right in the mix to spice up the exacta at a huge price, which is what we should be looking for while keying an even money favorite on top. ALOHA WEST will be flying late and fits on class, as he just missed to SPECIAL RESERVE by a neck last time out (100 Beyer, 101 Brisnet), so if we like that one at all then we must give this one a look as well. The feeling is that 7f might be a better spot for son of Hard Spun than 6f, as career-best figures came two back at that distance against optional claimers (102 Beyer, 107 Brisnet), and this will be the first Grade 1 group he has encountered, but this one owns the field high Brisnet Late Pace figure (104) and deserves a look underneath if bettors are playing for pace collapse. From a wagering strategy standpoint, we will single JACKIE’S WARRIOR in multi-race wagers, and key him on top of the other three in exactas.

Picks:

  1. Jackie’s Warrior 6-5
  2. Lexitonian 20-1
  3. Special Reserve 6-1
  4. Aloha West 8-1

9- MILE, 8f, 5:20

In what is always one of the better races of the day, this year’s Mile is no exception, as it is again loaded with competitive runners that offer many value-laden betting opportunities. Who could forget Order of Australia winning this event last year as the 70-1 longest shot in the field to start the Late Pick 4? Fun times. That was proof that anything can and does happen in this race, but we will still attempt to apply logic. Americans tend to fare better here than they do in the longer Turf race later in the card, so we will turn there first. MO FORZA appears to be the obvious best chance for the home team. The five-year old son of Uncle Mo has won four straight dating back to last year and has three wins and two second place finishes in six starts over this turf course. Peter Miller wins with 23% of his entries third off the layoff, and MO FORZA boasts the best speed figures at the distance of the Americans (106 Beyer, 101 Brisnet). More than any of that, just watching his races, astute handicappers have to admire his will to win, and this is a horse that simply finds the wire first by any means necessary; the pick. SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT has been right there with MO FORZA out west in their last two, as pacesetter was caught both times by a half a length and a head respectively, and has never been worse than 2nd in 5 starts at Del Mar, but may lock horns a bit earlier up front here in a deeper field. If we like MO FORZA to win, then we have to like the son of Midnight Lute at least a little bit, and this is why playing a trifecta in this race is essentially a fool’s errand. Elsewhere among the Americans out east, IN LOVE is improving rapidly after winning the 8f Keeneland Turf Mile last out. The Beyer ascension is notable with this one, all coming at 8f (86, 99, 103), and the Racing Post Rating earned for the Keeneland race tops the local contenders (116). This is a huge class jump however, figures be damned, and there are major questions about the quality of the fields underneath those victories. GOT STORMY appeals more, and may be completely forgotten at the windows. Her connections concocted a bizarre sprinting experiment over the course of 2020 and intermittently this year, so it would be easy to forget that she was actually the runner-up in this race two years ago as a four-year old filly. Mark Casse put his mare back at her ideal distance two back in the Fourstardave, where she emerged victorious against the boys while posting the second highest Beyer this year at the 8f distance for this field (104). But let’s not forget about BLOWOUT, a need-the-lead type that has split decisions with GOT STORMY at the 8f distance and shows ascending Beyer figures over her last three, all at this distance (102 best). The feeling is that she needs to be on the lead to win and that SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT isn’t going to let that happen, and this race always ends up heavier on pace in reality than in looks on paper, but she can certainly hang around for a piece. IVAR draws a wide post and simply doesn’t look up to the challenge this year, RAGING BULL seems over the top in the second half of 2021 but figures to get an ideal trip here, while CASA CREED finds himself in a tough spot in between turf race distances that are too short and too long respectively relative to his sweet spot.

Turning to Europe, Charlie Appleby seems incredibly confident about his favorite SPACE BLUES in this spot. While this five-year old has done his best running at 7f, winning the Group 1 Prix de la Foret with a burst of late speed as well as the Group 2 City of York Stakes at that distance, posting Racing Post Ratings that tower over the Americans (123, 118). This is the type that would seem to be begging for extra ground, but many Euro favorites have exited that Group 1 race, been favored here, and lost, so this is far from a single. PEARLS GALORE ran behind the favorite last out but was never getting there with any added distance, quite the opposite in fact, but stands a chance to improve, and does have a head to head decision above today’s foe MOTHER EARTH two back when 2nd at this distance in Group 2 company. We would prefer to give a longer look to the “other” Appleby MASTER OF THE SEAS, who wheels back quickly three weeks after he didn’t enjoy the soft turf when 7th last out, but wasn’t off the board before that in four starts this year over firmer going all at 8f. The 119 Racing Post Rating he earned when 2nd in Group 1 company is the second highest in this field at the 8f distance; looms an enticing overlay 12-1 morning line odds and must be included on top. This is another race to spread in multis.

Picks:

  1. Mo Forza 5-1
  2. Space Blues 3-1
  3. Master Of The Seas 12-1
  4. Got Stormy 10-1

10- DISTAFF, 9f, 6:00

A stellar group of fillies and mares are led by the front-running morning line favorite LETRUSKA, a winner of five straight since upsetting the highly regarded Monomoy Girl back in April and hasn’t seen the back side of a horse since; the race runs through this consistent mare who would have a claim to Horse of the Year with a win here. The Timeform Pace Projector predicts a fast pace in this race, and the emerging Bob Baffert filly PRIVATE MISSION drawing the rail would only seem to add to this along with another “E” to her outside in HOROLOGIST. But LETRUSKA has fared well even with pace pressure, as demonstrated by a front-running win two back in the Personal Ensign (101 Beyer, 104 Brisnet). The fear here is that after a tough campaign and the toughest field that she has ever faced, that the Personal Ensign effort won’t be duplicated. For an 8-5 favorite, these speed figures simply don’t provide much separation from the rest of the field. Compare the 1 point Beyer advantage over this field to what Jackie’s Warrior is dealing with in the Sprint at close to the same price for example. It has been awhile since LETRUSKA has lost, but the filly who had her number back in April is here again, as SHEDARESTHEDEVIL enters off of win in four of her last five starts, all at 8.5f. But this is another that seems susceptible to being sucked into the pace war up front, and while she won the 9f Kentucky Oaks a year ago, the speed figures have been descending over her last three races, which is not a trend we want to see (95, 96, 97 Beyers). Those two will take a lot of money, so we will look elsewhere for the win spot. In a fast pace scenario, ROYAL FLAG appeals most. This Chad Brown mare has never missed the board in 12 career starts and enters of a career effort when winning the 9f Beldame last out with a sweeping five wide move (99 Beyer, 105 Brisnet) that earned an impressive Brisnet Late Pace figure (113). Daughter of Candy Ride was beaten a half length by LETRUSKA two back but was likely too far back early and suffered a wide trip; the feeling is that with the ability to save more ground near the rail and benefit from added pace pressure, this is the winner. The three-year old contingent merits respect as well but enters with their own set of question marks. Kentucky Oaks winner MALATHAAT enters off a 77-day layoff, which would be a new record for a Distaff winner. A last out winner in the 10f Alabama which produced the field’s best last race Brisnet figure (107), the anticipated pace meltdown would seem to suit the daughter of Curlin who is bred to run all day, and figures to get an ideal trip. The lack of triple digit Beyer figures is a concern (as is the layoff), but again there isn’t a ton of separation between the favorite and the rest of the field in terms of figures, and Brisnet views her races quite a bit more favorably, so pick your poison. MALATHAAT takes a class leap here but has won 6 of 7 starts and finished 2nd in the other, and gets the nod over another Curlin, CLARIERE, who she has beaten soundly in their head-to-head meetings, especially at this distance. CLARIERE is a bit light on figures (93 Beyer), but owns the best Brisnet Late Pace figure in the group (119), and could be flying late for a piece. Looking deeper at a longshot, DUNBAR ROAD isn’t without a chance in this spot. Another Chad Brown trainee, she finished a competitive 3rd in this race a year ago and while winless in 2021, has improved with every start, showing ascending speed figures over her last three races that aren’t that far from the favorite (100 Beyer, 102 Brisnet), and figures to be ten times the price. The outside post shouldn’t be an issue, as this is a one-run closer who can sit back and wait for a chance to capitalize on a pace meltdown. The key to this race will be attempting to keep Letruska off of the top line in multi-race wagers and the trifecta, while going deep beneath the two we like on top.

Picks:

  1. Royal Flag 8-1
  2. Malathaat 4-1
  3. Letruska 8-5
  4. Dunbar Road 15-1

11- TURF, 12f, 6:40

Defending champion TARNAWA returns as an imposing favorite attempting to follow in the footsteps of Conduit and High Chaparral as repeat winners of the Breeders’ Cup Turf. In three starts this year, she’s found the winner’s circle just once but hasn’t been worse than 2nd in Group 1 company; in fact, those two 2nd place finishes produced the two highest Racing Post Ratings in the field this year (122, 121). The Beyer figure earned while winning this race last year would rank second best in this field to date, and her speed figures have improved this season. On that basis it is a tempting opportunity to single, but while there isn’t as much separation as one would expect, we certainly prefer her on top to Letruska at the same price in the race before this one. This makes things trickier, as after the scratch of the best American hope, Domestic Spending, there are at least six or seven that look to be about on par with one another. Americans don’t historically fare well in this race, as Euros have won 10 of the last 13. The three “E” horses TRIBHUVAN, CHANNEL MAKER and ACCLIMATE figure to ensure a fairly honest pace but don’t exactly inspire as contenders, and it is difficult to separate GUFO, ROCKEMPEROR and JAPAN, who have seemingly traded narrow victories with one another while all also earning Racing Post Ratings in the 118-119 range, making things even more confusing. Of the three, GUFO gets the slight nod, having earned the highest Beyer at the distance (104) and having two wins at 12f before finishing third last out with some excuse after being bumped at the start and having received a bit of an overly eager ride from Joel Rosario, who retains the mount here.

On the Euro front, it is also a bit of a mess outside of the favorite. The three-year old filly TEONA figures to take the most money following a Group 1 win at this distance last out over turf labeled good (118 Racing Post Rating), but feels like an underlay at these morning line odds based on her accomplishments to date; those betting on her are making an upside play, and fair enough. The seven-pound weight break she receives here is notable, and she has already faced an beaten males when winning at 11.5f two back. YIBIR won at this distance last out in his stateside debut and can benefit from a fast place up front, but would seem to need a massive improvement in speed figures based on that race (97 Beyer, 94 Brisnet, 117 Racing Post Rating). BROOME has races in his back class that would be highly competitive here, having won at this distance among Group 1 company in France, and having duplicated 119 Racing Post Ratings. We wonder how he will take to the firm going, as all of his best efforts have been on soft turf, and he was 9 lengths behind the favorite when 11th in the Arc de Triomphe. Speaking of the Arc, the wild upset that was pulled by Torquador Tasso provides a bit of a measuring stick in this race, as the German shipper SISFAHAN finished just a length behind that one two back (117 Racing Post Rating), although that was also on soft turf. Three-year old also receives a weight break and might be here for a reason; the price will be right to find out. Probably most appealing is WALTON STREET, who blew way the field in the 12f Canadian International at Woodbine in his stateside debut, earning speed figures that loom large here (110 Beyer, 107 Brisnet, 119 Racing Post Rating) and finishing 5.75 lengths clear of Desert Encounter, who ran within 3.25 of TEONA two back. That was a career effort, but wasn’t a fluke by any means as seven-year old gelding has fired consistently at the 12f distance among classy company and over good to firm turf to boot, finishing just a length behind Torquador Tasso two back and a half length behind our choice in the Filly and Mare Turf, Loves Only You. All five races this year from WALTON STREET have delivered Racing Post Ratings at or above 115, and his Brisnet Late Pace figure of 104 doesn’t hurt either considering all of the pace up front. Trainer Charlie Appleby has been hot with shippers. In a race this messy, we will lean on form lines and welcome such consistency.

PICKS:

  1. Tarnawa 9-5
  2. Walton Street 8-1
  3. Sisfahan 12-1
  4. Teona 6-1

12- CLASSIC, 10f, 7:40

Morning line favorite KNICKS GO will attempt to go full-Ghostzapper mode and lock up Horse of the Year honors as he attempts the 10f distance for the first time. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner has been a force in 2021, winning his last three 9f races while posting speed figures that tower over the field (113 Beyer, 111 Brisnet). The old adage that pace makes the race will hold especially true in this one, and the key to one’s opinion here is to ascertain whether KNICKS GO can get away with an easy lead. That puzzle is a bit of a prisoner’s dilemma, as any runner that attempts to confront him on the lead risks being burned out way before the finish line due to his elite clearing speed, but if none press him and KNICKS GO is allowed to set easy fractions, he is almost certain to win. The Timeform pace projector sees this as a fast pace, with other “E” types like Kentucky Derby winner MEDINA SPIRIT and longshot STILETTO BOY pressing the pace, with tactical types like HOT ROD CHARLIE (who adds blinkers) and ART COLLECTOR in the mix as well. This space concludes that the combination of likely pace pressure and the added distance will be too much to overcome for the favorite. We will use KNICKS GO defensively in multi-race wagers in case the pace war fails to develop, but see value in leaving the favorite off of trifecta tickets entirely. Of the runners that have won at this distance, ESSENTIAL QUALITY appeals most. This gray son of Tapit has won 8 of 9 career races, with a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby after a rough trip the lone career blemish. Brad Cox has his charge in top form following an impressive stretch running win last out in the Travers, earning speed figures that top the field at this distance (107 Beyer, 108 Brisnet). The 119 Brisnet Late Pace figure earned there is incredibly impressive considering how close he was to the lead that day, and bodes well for our pace scenario expectation. MAX PLAYER is the only runner who has won twice at 10f and has come into his own as a four-year old. We fancied him as an overlay in last fall’s Kentucky Derby, and a change in running style closer to pace has led to back to back wins at the distance while posting triple digit Beyers in each (102, 101). Son of Honor Code meets tougher foes here but enters in career form for Steve Asmussen, and will certainly be in the mix late. HOT ROD CHARLIE is as gritty and consistent as they come and will be involved early as trainer Doug O’Neil adds blinkers back on. This three-year old continues to outrun his pedigree but has yet to win beyond 9f so the slight nod goes to ESSENTIAL QUALITY for the win. However, after four consecutive double-digit speed figures at distances between 9-12f and new career highs when winning the 9f Pennsylvania Derby in his last (111 Beyer, 110 Brisnet), it would be incredibly foolish to play tickets without him in the 2nd and 3rd spots. It’s also very impressive that son of Oxbow was earned three consecutive triple digit Brisnet Late Pace figures while running close to the pace.

ART COLLECTOR has a similar profile and enters off of three straight victories at 9f after making a barn switch to Bill Mott, and has also posted triple digit speed figures in each of those wins in ascending fashion, culminating in career bests last time out when winning the 9f Woodward (107 Beyer, 110 Brisnet). Like HOT ROD CHARLIE, ART COLLECTOR has also posted triple digit Brisnet Late Pace figures in each of the three races, and figures to be just fine stretching out here. The main nagging feeling remains the no-show race he ran as our choice in last year’s Dirt Mile, and this spot represents as class leap as well. There are two other runners here that have won at the distance, and one that has won over this track. That is Pacific Classic winner TRIPOLI (104 Beyer, 108 Brisnet), a son of Kitten’s Joy who made the switch to dirt earlier this year and has two wins to show for it in four starts over the surface. Bettors could do worse than including this horse-for-the-course underneath if they can find room. He was easily beaten last out at 9f by the other 10f winner in the field, our Derby-winning nemesis MEDINA SPIRIT, who will attempt to duplicate Authentic’s Derby-Classic wire job double from a year ago. We will take a hard stand against this need-the-lead type in this spot. EXPRESS TRAIN is simply not suited to this distance, and is an easy toss along with STILETTO BOY.

Picks:

  1. Essential Quality 3-1
  2. Max Player 8-1
  3. Hot Rod Charlie 4-1
  4. Art Collector 8-1
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