The Iroquois

The Iroquois is the first race on the Kentucky Derby trail for 2019 — offering 10 points for the winner. A large field of 12 goes to the gate in this GIII event in which 2YO’s will navigate 2 turns and 8.5 furlongs. 2YO’s routing in a graded stake — that’s all you need to say in order to bring up the Derby antenna.  It is, of course, still very early, but serious contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile tend to emerge in these early races. In turn, the Juvenile is an important “prep” race for the Kentucky Derby.

Tight Ten (2-1) looks the overwhelming favorite on paper. Trained by Steve Asmussen, he has a Beyer Speed Figure of 80 last time out, finishing second in the Saratoga Special. His biggest question is whether he can get the route of ground — something that seems likely with Tapit as his sire. Distorted Humor — who I think of as producing more milers — is his damsire. To confirm that, his dam has produced more sprinters than routers and was a sprinter herself on the racetrack. If you’re going to take a shot that Tight Ten is a better sprinter than a router, you will likely get paid – the key is to find the right horse (or horses — if you put it in a multi-race exotic). Even with a sprinting propensity,  It’s also possible he’s still a better router than this group. He’s likely to be odds-on.

The rest of the field comes in as slower sprinters. Here are a few that could improve with distance. Tobacco Road (6-1), who is also trained by Steve Asmussen, broke his maiden at Ellis Park and followed it up with a win as the favorite in the Ellis Park Juvenile. He is bred for routing with Quality Road as his sire and Lomitas (GB) as his damsire. His dam has never produced a route winner, however. She has produced her share of 2YO winners — with 5 winners from 12 starts. He rates a chance. Manny Wah (8-1) is trained by Wayne Catalano and broke his maiden over artificial surface at Arlington Park. He then finished a close third in the Ellis Park Juvenile. His sire, Will Take Charge, should eventually produce routers. Proud Citizen on the bottom should help stamina as well. His trainer doesn’t excel at first-time routing — only 10% — which raises some red flags, even though he’s only adding 1.5 furlongs.

Everfast (12-1) is trained by Dale Romans who relatively excels at first time route. This horse won first time out at Ellis Park coming from off the pace — always a nice sign. His sire is Take Charge Indy and his dame sire Awesome Again, so distance shouldn’t be a problem. Pole Setter (6-1) has already shown an ability to get a route, although it has been over the turf. He finished 6th after a competitive run in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile. Trained by Brad Cox, he adds blinkers today after weakening late in his last race. His last workout is a bullet, so it’s likely that the blinkers help the focus.

Analysis: It’s too hard to take a low price on Tight Ten, even though odds-on in graded stakes, especially 2YOs, tend to be formful. I’m leaning towards the upside of Everfast, who at 12-1, could be a daymaker in the multi-race exotics if the odds stay high. Multi-race players can play several and I’d also include Pole Setter who has enough dirt in his pedigree to make an interesting run as well and stamina built-in from that Kentucky Downs run.

Good luck at the races!

The Travers Stakes

The Travers Stakes is a 10 furlong race for 3YOs on the dirt from Saratoga. It is the most prestigious non-Triple Crown race exclusively for 3YO’s; some may argue that it is more prestigious than the Preakness. It can be a landmark race for great horses. It is a GI and the key point on the summer calendar for 3YO.

[Horses are in order from most likely to least likely]

In this year’s edition, The 2-1 M/L favorite is Good Magic, the winner of the Haskell. No horse since Point Given — who was a great racehorse — has pulled off this feat. Point Given did it in 2001. That said, he’s the fastest horse in the race and is remarkably consistent. He was the Kentucky Derby runner-up, finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind Justify. He’s generally considered the best 3YO in training and is trained by Chad Brown. He may be fast enough to win here, but he’ll have to up his game when the divisions merge, particularly in the Classic. A triple-digit Beyer today would go a long way toward assuaging those fears.

But there are still some other horses which I expect to challenge Good Magic, especially because of the Haskell-Travers “curse.” Gronkowski shocked nearly everyone by running a close 2nd to Justify in the Belmont. Unkown whether he’d like traditional dirt going into the race, he turned out to be a more than capable dirt horse — running a 99 Beyer speed figure. He’s had even more time with Chad Brown since then. He certainly could find the winner’s circle. Todd Pletcher’s Vino Rosso looms a threat. He ran a 97 BSF in the Belmont (and Hofburg came back and ran well in the Curlin.) He ran a useful Jim Dandy. His only try at the distance was in the Derby, where he finished 9th, 10 1/2 lengths back. But he’s run 1 1/2 well, so we know the 9 furlongs are within his wheelhouse. On his best day, he could win this. Will we get the really good version of Vino Rosso or better?

Tenfold hasn’t run fast enough to win this race, even with his win in the Jim Dandy. Trained by Steve Asmussen, he broke through and got the Graded Stakes win. Tenfold has an impressive resume, even if he’s lost the biggest races in the Preakness and the Belmont. After clearing his first-level allowance, he has run exclusively in Graded Stakes. He didn’t move forward for the Arkansas Derby — granted it was in his 3rd start — and the question is whether he’ll move forward today. If you like him — and there are lots of reasons to — make sure you are getting paid for the risk.

Wonder Gadot makes a great story. She’s the first filly to start in the Travers since Davona Dale in 1979 and seeking the first win by a filly since Lady Rotha in 1915. She is trained by Mark Casse. Unfortunately, she’s probably not fast enough to win here and she’s been facing restricted company (Canadian-breds) in her most impressive triumphs. She can win if she possesses the ability to rise to the occasion against males, much like Beholder running a lifetime high in the Pacific Classic or several of Rachel Alexandra’s races. If she wins, expect the chants of “How good is Monomoy Girl?” to be loud.

Catholic Boy is another with a chance. His key is being as good on dirt and he is on turf. That’s hard to argue for when he’s 4 for 5 on the surface (the only loss is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) and his highest BSF’s (by far) are recently going long on the turf. He is trained by Jonathan Thomas. It’s hard to know what to make of Mendelssohn. He ran lights out in the UAE Derby, terrible in the Kentucky Derby, and okay, but not great, in the Dwyer. He is trained by Aiden O’Brien, who does much better on turf than dirt in America. It’s possible that Mendelssohn rounds back into form and dominates the field from the front. King Zachary — trained by Dale Romans — gets consideration because of his Matt Winn score. However, the Matt Winn was nowhere as deep as this race, and his failure to back it up in the Indiana Derby raises concerns.

Bravazo is proving to be a good second place horse. Granted he’s facing the best competition, he has a second in the Haskell and a second in the Preakness. His non-maidens wins are by a neck and a nose. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, he’d need to be on his best. Trigger Warning has been hitting the board throughout the midwest, and earned a 94 for his 2nd place in Indiana. He’ll be a pace factor for sure, but unlikely to be there at the end. He’s trained by Mike Rone. Meistermind — another Asmussen trainee — makes the jump from a fifth place in the 1st level allowance to a GI. He may have talent, but this is above-his-head right now.



The Belmont Stakes

12 furlongs on Belmont’s main track. Not your typical race for 3YO’s as they enter the summer. It’s an arcane distance, but one that also tests stamina, conditioning, and breeding. It’s a fitting conclusion to the Triple Crown and one that requires a uniquely special horse to win, especially after capturing the first two legs.

This is Justify’s race to lose. He’s the fastest runner in the field and is likely bred to handle the distance — a son of the late Scat Daddy. There is concern that he regressed a bit in the Preakness — running his first sub-100 Beyer — and further regression would bring him right into the middle of the field. He could be tired — he’s run 5 races in a row without a break. Or it could have been the Pimlico surface on Preakness day which slowed him down. There’s risk with Justify entering the Belmont, especially at a low price. I still expect him to win and rebound — and win the Triple Crown. He’s just too talented (although that hasn’t stopped many from completing the last leg.)

If Justify regresses or doesn’t handle the distance, there are a number of horses that can pass him for the win. Bravazo has run 3 of 4 90+ Beyers and finished only a 1/2 length back in the Preakness after a strong 6th in the Kentucky Derby. Hofburg, a son of Tapit, has flashed potential without winning. He finished 2nd to Audible in the Florida Derby and ran a good 7th in the Kentucky Derby. He skipped the Preakness and is fresh for the Belmont try. He’s likely to really appreciate the distance. He’s second choice on the morning line, despite still being eligible for an N1X. Tenfold is lightly raced but moved forward to be in the pack at the finish line in Preakness. A talented son of Curlin out of a Tapit mare, he should have the stamina for today’s race.

Vino Rosso has run 2 Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or better and finished in the top half of the Derby field. Because of this speed, he had a longshot chance in the Derby where he was wide. He’ll come off the pace and could loom a “Birdstone” type threat to Justify in the final furlong, especially if there is a contested pace. Noble Indy, who along with Vino Rosso, is trained by Todd Pletcher, could apply this pace pressure. He’s unlikely to possess the stamina to win the race, however.

Blended Citizen is an interesting entry. He came off the pace while wide and won the GIII Peter Pan over this track back in May. He’s likely too slow to find the top spot, but could complete exactas and trifectas. Gronkowski is a wildcard. He’s probably not fast enough to compete with these horses, but Chad Brown doesn’t run just to run, so he needs to be respected. Free Drop Billy is a son of 2012 Belmont winner Union Rags, but would need to improve — even if you throw out his 41-length loss in the Derby. Restoring Hope, the other entry from Bob Baffert (trainer of Justify), has only won 1 race — a restricted maiden at Santa Anita in February. A son of Giant’s Causeway out of a Tapit mare, the breeding is there for a good performance, but he’s yet to show the necessary speed on the track.

Analysis: I think Justify is simply too fast to lose this race and that the competition isn’t quite at his level. A speed meltdown could doom him (think American Pharoah in the Travers) and open the door for closers such as Vino Rosso. We very well could see another Triple Crown winner — just years after some deemed it an impossible task for the contemporary thoroughbred.

The Peter Pan

The Peter Pan Stakes, a GIII contest for 3YO from Belmont Park, is the focus this week. We step back from last week’s 10 furlongs in the Kentucky Derby to a more manageable 9 furlongs–the distance of the Derby final preps. A field of 7 will assemble at 6:18 Eastern Time — some with some very interesting and intriguing resumes on tap.

The race begins with Core Beliefs, who breaks from the inside, and will likely be the favorite. He finished third in the GI Santa Anita Derby, 9 1/2 lengths behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner, Justify.  The Santa Anita Derby is at the same distance as today’s race and his Beyer speed figure in that race is best in the field. Zing Zang was an also-ran in Blue Grass Stakes, Rebel, and Southwest. He should find the waters much less deep today, but he hasn’t yet shown the speed needed to win at this level. Just Whistle is a fast maiden winner trained by Michael Matz. This horse might have a bright future, but this may be too much too soon.

Blended Citizen was the last one out for the Kentucky Derby. He won the GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway and finished a decent 5th behind Good magic in the Blue Grass. With today’s race at the Blue Grass distance and the GIII win under his belt, he should be well-regarded. I expect the 6-1 price to drop. Diamond King adds Javier Castellano after winning the Federico Tesio from Laurel. He also ran well in the Swale, a Gulfstream sprint back in February. He’d need to improve, but the second start off the layoff should bring (at least some) improvement. UPDATE:  Diamond King will scratch and run in the PreaknessHigh North ran the second fastest Beyer Speed Figure in the field. He did so while winning the Northern Spur, run on the undercard of Arkansas Derby day. He wasn’t very good against the top of the division in the Rebel, but he’s likely to find his level today. Both Gotta Go and Transistor — new to the Rudy Rodriguez barn — are likely too slow to compete today. Gotta Go ran well in the Swale, but has been on a downward trend since then. Transistor’s best run was a second-place finish in a Florida-bred allowance at Gulfstream.

Analysis: Core Beliefs will likely be a short price, but both Blended Citizen and High North may offer a bit more value. I’d include the 3 of them as part of the excellent all-stakes Belmont late Pick-4 ticket.

‘Twas the Night Before the Derby

It’s the night before the Kentucky Derby, and I think I finally know what to do with Justify. I’m a firm believer in historical trends and the “Curse of Apollo” is one of the strongest in sports. Churchill Downs is a zoo on Derby Day and that energy permeates throughout the racetrack. A horse is exposed to new levels of activity and noise — something that conditioning as a 2YO obviously helps. It’s hard to say whether Justify has developed that experience in just 3 races — all which have come this year as a 3YO.

Ultimately, the horseplayer in me sees too much risk to take a low price on this equine wunderkind. Yes, he’s blazing fast, but I think it best to side with history. This leaves the question of who to bet. I’ve written about Audible before:

This is a horse that has done nothing wrong. You can excuse the sprinting effort on debut in September — even though he made up tremendous ground. And then all he’s done is win, starting with stretching out to a mile at Aqueduct. He blew away an allowance field, albeit there were only 4 horses running. At Gulfstream, he brought it to a new level, running Derby-level speed. He was dominant in both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby is trained by über-trainer Todd Pletcher. He has the experience that some of the field lacks. I think he stands a good chance come Derby day, and will likely be on most of my tickets.”

I still feel that way about Audible. He’s come back as a fast 3YO and NY-bred is no longer any sort of disadvantage — he cost $500K at auction and runs that way. I’m also intrigued by Mendelssohn, even though it’s hard to comparatively gauge the UAE Derby effort. He was impressive last fall winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, but this is a completely different beast. Ryan Moore is a major plus. I’ve never thought that Good Magic is fast enough to win this and it has been some time since Bolt D’Oro crossed the finish line first. Magnum Moon has the same Apollo issues that Justify has, without the same level of speed. Vino Rosso is a bit of a wildcard — he’s always been a morning horse and he showed up in the afternoon in the Wood. But he’s a bit too inconsistent for my tastes on Derby Day.

The rest all have small chances with improvement, although I’d be surprised if the winner did not come from the horses that are listed above. It’s going to be Audible for me in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. Good luck to everyone playing!

Santa Anita Derby

100 points for the Kentucky Derby are on the line, but there’s so much more at stake in the Santa Anita Derby. On paper, it’s a two-horse race. And those are two sensational horses this time of year. I’ll take a look at the two super-contenders and then also look to see if any horse has a decent chance at an upset.

Justify has zero points and needs them to qualify for the Derby. That shouldn’t be a problem, as second-place seems the floor for this lightly-raced Baffert trainee. He’s been lightning fast in his maiden and first-level allowance — triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure fast and untouched with wins of 6 1/2 and 9 1/2 furlongs (which honestly could have been more.) His main knock? He didn’t race at 2 and the “curse of Apollo” is in effect. No horse has won the Derby unraced at 2 since Apollo since 1882. We’ve seen a bunch of curses and “never-happens” fall in sports this decade, so perhaps it’s time for this one to go as well. But that’s not really an argument. The stronger argument is the blazing speed. I’d be more likely to see him make the Kentucky Derby and freak out there due to lack of experience, as opposed to having a bad day today in a field of 7 at his local track. Mike Smith retains the mount for the stakes debut.

Bolt D’oro still has the best name on the trail, but, of course, that’s meaningless. But it’s still a very cool name. He was put-up as the winner against a very good horse in McKinzie in the Grade II San Felipe. He came back just as good as he was last fall and ran his record to 4 wins from 5 starts, with the only loss in the BC Juvenile. He has an experience edge over Justify, having run in exclusively graded stakes (3 G1’s) since breaking his maiden. He’s fast, but Justify may be a bit faster. Javier Castellano retains the mount and he’s as good as a jockey as you can get.

The rest of the field is significantly slower, with maidens in Jimmy Chila and Orbit Rain. Core Beliefs just broke his maiden, but it was on the front end on a slow pace — the weakest type of maiden win. Pepe Tono is too slow to win, absent improvement from a win less than a month ago. The one experience exception is Instilled Regard, who while slower than the top two, won the Grade III Lecomte at the Fair Grounds. But then he finished fourth in the Grade II Risen Star and did not contest the Louisiana Derby. If there’s going to be an upset, it will be Instilled Regard, but he’d need to improve off the February win and have the top 2 not fire. 10-1 seems fair and it’s possible you might get that price with money pouring in on the top 2.

Analysis: It is Justify’s race to lose. He’s fastest and the lack of experience shouldn’t hurt him today and much as it would in Kentucky. There’s not much you can do with 4/5 (may be 2/5) except play it through a Pick 4. It should be a good race to watch as we see what Justify (or Bolt D’Oro) can do. Finally, Keep an eye on Instilled Regard’s price — 10-1 or better should represent some value in an otherwise valueless race.


Fountain of Youth

Today’s focus on the Derby Trail will be the Fountain of Youth from Gulfstream Park.Its a Kentucky Derby points race and a key race for Derby seeking 3YO’s. Post time is 6:09 ET and its race number 14, closing out of the day of a loaded Gulfstream card. It’s 8.5 furlongs, spelling trouble for horses on the far outside. Only 10 entrants today, so the bias won’t be so bad.

The race marks the return of Breeders” Cup Juvenile Champion Good Magic, which he won as a maiden.Trained by Chad Brown, he is the likely favorite and is more than capable of beating this field, especially with the scratch of Free Drop Billy. The risk, as always, is how he comes back from the layoff.

Strike Power is the second choice, having won the Swale and his maiden impressively. Stretching out is a question for this son of Speightstown, who has made his trade as a sprint sire. That might depress the price and create a bit of value in this horse.

The rest of the field has a few interesting horses. Storm Runner won a first-level allowance at Gulfstream, never an easy feat. He’s been running with a win over the track. He’s run a ton over this distance, including twice this year, suggesting he’s in condition.  It’s his second time over this surface. I dought he’ll be 15-1, but anywhere around 8-1 is worth a shot. Peppered is making his seasonal debut about a terrible effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But before that, he finished second in the Grey. If he takes to the Gulfstream Dirt and improves off the layoff, he might offer some value at a small bet at 30-1.

Gotta Go finished second in the swale and has won at a mile (1 turn) at Churchill Downs. Anything past is a question, but he should be able to get today’s distance. A good performance makes him a contender for the win spot.

Analysis:  I left out horses with little chance, including the last out maiden winners entered straight in this stake.This is Good Magic’s race to lose. If he is on his game, he’ll win by open lengths. To try to beat him, both Strike Power and Storm Runner are decent options. I’ll be betting Storm Runner and hoping for a good price.



Pegasus World Cup

We’ll take a break from 3YO to look at the world’s richest race, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup. Held at Gulfstream, it uses a novel approach to entries, which has created a deep, layered field (with one standout favorite in Gun Runner.) I picked Gun Runner to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby, but that turned out to be a bit early on this horse, who has now won 5 Grade I races, including the top races in the division and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Today — win or lose — will be his last race as he’s set to retire to stud after the race. He’s the 4/5 favorite and well-deserving. The biggest knock on him is his outside post (10 of 12) — it’s viciously hard to win from the outside at the 9 furlong distance at Gulfstream. Only Big Brown has done it since the renovation of Gulfstream created the difficult conditions.

The rest of the field has some solid horses. Toast of New York reappears after a Classic try against Shared Belief, California Chrome, and eventual winner Bayern. But he only has one race since then — and there’s not a ton of stats on the second start after a 3-year layoff. Still, he showed class in his US races years back, and if he recaptures that form, he could find himself on the board, and maybe even the winner’s circle. Collected beat last year’s winner, Arrogate, in the Pacific Classic, and, when on his game, he can be fast enough to win — not an easy thing to say in this field. Sharp Azteca has been great at a mile and Jorge Navarro always finds a way to get the most out of his horses. Distance is a question, but he loves Gulfstream. Stellar Wind is a great mare, running for new connections in Chad Brown. This seems over her head, but you have to remember that’s plenty of money for finishing well (but much more for winning — $7 million). West Coast won the Travers and continued on to have a good rest of his campaign. He loves to win and is making his first 4YO start. Seems overmatched — surprising for the Travers winner — but he’d need a bit of improvement. The rest appear overmatched or likely to finish underneath, such as Gunnevera. 


I’m intrigued by Toast of New York, as I remember vividly his performance against Shared Belief. He might not be the same horse after the layoff, however, but he’s clearly worth a flyer. I’m also interested in Sharp Azteca, who will take the lead and not give it up. That final furlong may not matter — 8 to 9 furlongs can allow a bit of coasting home with the right pace. And, as much as I respect Gun Runner, who has to be on horizontal tickets, he’s a value-killer throughout the betting unless upsets occur elsewhere. He’s the most likely winner, but there’s value to be found elsewhere, starting with the two mentioned here.


The LeComte

Let’s venture down to New Orleans to the Fairgrounds for their Derby prep series, where they’ve produced some good horses the past few years (but no Kentucky Derby winners.) Today is the GIII LeComte, a 1 mile and 70 yards two-turn route for newly minted 3YO’s. It’s a deep field — before scratches, we have 14 entrants, with 1 in the wings on the AE list. As usual, I’m looking to beat most favorites, unless that favorite is absolutely solid and provides value — then he becomes a lock in P3, P4, and P5, if available. I tend to look for seasonal debuts, first-time routing, track-liking and other factors that suggest a change in performance in looking for mid-to-long shots.

Update: Wonder Gadot has been scratched. This was to be a filly vs. boys matchup on the Derby Trail, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Instilled Regard — a million dollar purchase as a 2YO in training — looks to grow on his 3rd place in the Los Al Futurity. He ran fast in that race and seriously threatened to win against the top West Coast horses of McKinzie and the bumping Solomini. Javier Castellano — maybe the best jockey in the US — picks up the mount for Jerry Hollendorfer. If he runs back and likes the track, he’ll win. I don’t think you’ll get the 4/1 morning line — I expect him to be more around 8/5. So, there could be value in that spread if we end up with a 5/2 or 3/1 favorite.

Principe Guilherme: He’s making his graded stakes debut after two impressive wins, including an 11-length win over the Fair Grounds surface. He’s slower than Instilled Regard right now, even with the impressive showings. For me, though, he’s a bit of a wait and see. Big allowance winners aren’t a dime-a-dozen, but I need to see Graded Stakes experience to take a low price. He’s a pass for me — even up to 4-1. He’ll likely be a bit lower.

Prince Lucky: Trained by the Cowboy Larry Jones (I’ll never forget his wardrobe when we ran into each other at Delaware Park a few years back), he brings a PA-bred to the Derby Trail. He’s 3 for 3, with a win in open company at Laurel. He’s never routed, and Jones usually needs a race at the distance to get the best from the horse. But he is a wildcard in today’s race and adds Leparoux. A win would be surprising, but not shocking. For those looking for a solid 8-1 to 10-1, this might be your horse.

Kowboy Karma: He makes his seasonal debut after some decent showings in minor stakes and a 4th place finish in the Champagne. He’s another trained by the Cowboy. He’s been consistent, but he’ll need to have improved since November, something that’s not impossible, given his better-than-average workouts. He does have several failures as the favorite and is probably worth passing on the win slot based on that fact alone.

Lone Sailor: Loves the slop, but it looks like a fast track today. Has a nice finish in a GI, which shows some potential. He’ll need some pace today, and improvement coming off of the layoff. 15-1 is a tempting morning line — he might just blow up the tote board.

Analysis: There are a few other horses who seem too slow or inexperienced to handle this today. But, as with any 3YO race, improvement can happen fast. Hate to be boring, but Instilled Regard is a solid favorite, and he’ll win, as long as he doesn’t regress. Those looking for longshots should look to the Larry Jones pair and give a deeper look to Lone Sailor.

Good luck at the races!



Remsen Stakes (GII)

A 2YO battle at 9 furlongs on Aqueduct’s Outer Track leads the Kentucky Derby trail this week. It’s a great day of racing at the Big A, including the Cigar Mile, so be sure to check out the card. This especially includes the late Pick 4, which adds the Demoiselle, a 9-furlong battle for 2YO fillies and a turf maiden sprint for 2YO fillies. There should be some good action on the Pick 4 — let’s take a look at the Remsen, the featured event for aspiring 2YO’s.

This is a nice field with several horses we will hear from next year — whether turf or dirt. Triple Dog Dare has run well at a route and should appreciate the strechout. There is one catch — he’s still a maiden. Honestly, that doesn’t matter that much at this stage and it should raise his value as the public thinks differently. Avery Island won the G2 Nashua, but in a relatively slow time. I do need to say I think Joe Bravo is overated. He’s actually a minus factor for me in evaluating a horse. Joe Bravo rides Avery Island today.

Biblical cost $800K for the China Horse Club, who is a growing force in top-level American racing. So far, he’s not fast enough and he’s already run at the distance. I’d pass today, but he could develop into a monster in time. Catholic Boy is fascinating. Running 4th in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, he’s never run on dirt. He’s likely a bit better on turf than dirt, but everybody has to take their “run my good turf horse on dirt just to see if he’s a Derby horse.” While they sometimes win, I tend to pass on them.

Alkhaatam is another who is still a maiden. But he ran fast in his maiden race and should appreciate the extra distance. Vouch won huge in a maiden at Laurel. I’d pass — the class jump usually gets horses shipping from the mid-Atlantic (PARX, Delaware, Laurel/Pimlico). VIP Code — see above. Yes, he ran fell on turf in the Awad, but this dirt makes him 5 lengths slower.

A few horses I didn’t mention, but remember there still young and can develop quickly, so if you feel a longshot, especially in appearance this is a race to go for it.

I like Triple Dog Dare. He won’t be 6/1, but I don’t think he’ll be 9/5, either. Play him at 5/2, but look for value in other pools, both horizontal and vertical. It should be a solid P4, with 4 good races.

Good luck at the races today!