Top Plays for Sunday February 26th
by TimeformUS Analyst David Aragona
RACE 2: TAHOE TIGRESS (#2)
The Pace Projector is predicting that Awesome News will be out winging it on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner. She can obviously win at a short price, but I don’t completely trust her in this spot. I thought that Champagne Ruby had the mildly tougher trip last time, waiting for room inside, and that she was more likely to step forward second of the layoff. I’ll use both of them, but the horse who I really want to bet is Tahoe Tigress. I just think that this mare is better than her competition in this spot. She ran very well the last two times she was dropped in against lower-level claiming company last summer, and she handles sprint distances. I know some will say that she hasn’t run quite as well for Mitch Friedman, but she’s had excuses in her two races for this barn. She hates a wet track, and she doesn’t really want to go two turns. I think we’ll see an improved effort this time.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,7
RACE 4: JEANJEANNIE (#6)
In a race where the only horse with proven dirt-sprint form is Forres Lily, I want to look elsewhere because she’s just not very good. The two fillies dropping out of maiden special weight company each deserve a look, but I have trouble latching onto either one. There’s little evidence that Bigkat and Camille will handle the dirt after running fairly well on turf, and Jeanne’s Spirit just did very little running in her debut, albeit against much better horses. I’ve instead landed on Jeanjeannie. I know it appears that she’s run her best races around two turns, but her last sprint race is not actually as bad as it seems. She was steadied at the start and then was hard ridden leaving the backstretch to make a five-wide premature move. Obviously, such tactics got her nowhere, and her rider basically was easing her by the quarter pole. She’s better than that, and it’s interesting that David Jacobson keeps her sprinting in this spot. Jacobson has been winning a bunch of races lately, and I think we’re going to see an improved performance out of this filly today.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 2,4,7
RACE 6: NOCTURNAL MISSION (#6)
The reliable runner with proven form is China Rider, but she’s starting to run out of chances. She got a great trip last time, saving ground before angling out, and just wasn’t good enough to catch the winner. Of those who have run, I’m more interested in Ouro Verde, who handled a sprint against cheaper foes in her debut before stretching out last time. Feb. 4 was a day that appeared to favor runners on the rail, and she was three wide throughout. She ran better than it appears and may appreciate the turnback. However, my top pick is a first-time starter. Nocturnal Mission just appears to be the kind of Bill Mott newcomer who wins. She worked an impressive 9 4/5 seconds at the 2-year-old sale and has recently recorded a couple of solid drills at Belmont. Mott is not typically known for winning with firsters, but he does very well with this subset of runners. According to DRF Formulator, over the past five years, Mott is 11 for 36 (31 percent) with an ROI of $3.64 when debuting 3-year- old fillies in dirt sprints.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,4,9
RACE 8: MACHO MIAH (#6)
The likely favorite is Blue Belt, who has run very well in both starts. He was contesting a fast pace (indicated by red color-coding in PPS) in his debut and did well to hang on for third in a race that was falling apart late. Then, last time, he easily drew off to a one-sided victory over a field of lesser quality. His speed figures suggest that he’s ready for this step up in class, but he will have to deal with the early speed of Tribecca, who has run very well in his last two starts. He benefitted from riding an inside speed bias two back, but he actually improved off that effort last time. If these two hook up early, I’m hoping that closer Macho Miah can pick up the pieces late. This Jeremiah Englehart trainee ended his 2-year- old season with a disappointing finish in the Damon Runyon, but he is probably a horse who wants no part of two turns. He also may not have cared for a wet track that was favoring runners with speed. He had previously run well against the top New York-bred sprinter Gold for the King and would be a major player if he gets back to those efforts.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,4,7
Trifecta: 6 with 4,7 with 1,3,4,7