Race 1: Our pick in the opener is DR. KOY (#2), who makes his first start for 89-rated debut trainer Christophe Clement. While some may view it as a negative sign that this colt is starting without Lasix, Clement is one of the few trainers that actually excel with horses running without that medication (87 trainer rating). This colt's dam was proficient on any surface and earned almost $250,000 during her career. We prefer him to the other first-time starters that are likely to take money, namely Conquest Prankster (#5), who hails from the Mark Casse barn. Casse has far better numbers with second-time starters and this colt is bred strongly for turf. Jegos Fire (#1) did a smidgen of running in his debut and could sneak into the trifecta if the firsters fail to show up.
Selections: 2 – 4 – 5 – 1
Race 2: The horse to beat is obviously Rare Eagle (#7) as he drops in class once again. However, while his speed figures are still competitive with this group, he has been off form and Tom Albertrani gets a dismal 17 trainer rating with runners coming off this type of layoff. We'll take a small shot against him with SARATOGA SIGHT (#6), who needs to step up his game slightly, but appears to finally be moving in the right direction, having found a home against claiming company. Big East (#2) could be dangerous on the front end, but he must handle this rise in class.
Selections: 6 – 7 – 4 – 2
Race 3: Anydayismyday (#2) enters this race off a decent third-place finish in the Cicada last time out, but we question the overall quality of that race, despite the fact that she earned a competitive speed figure. Know It All Anna (#6) would be a top contender if she returns to the form that she displayed prior to the layoff. Linda Rice gets a decent 80 trainer rating off this type of layoff and the Pace Projector is predicting she'll be up front in a situation favoring horses on or near the lead. We'll use both of them, but our top pick is SKIPALUTE (#5). If you throw out all of this filly's Gulfstream Park efforts, her lifetime record actually looks much more encouraging. For whatever reason, she has just never run an effective race in south Florida. She's run well fresh in the past and we believe she'll be much closer to the pace than the Pace Projector is suggesting.
Selections: 5 – 6 – 2 – 4
Race 4: Pinnacle Mountain (#1) is obviously the horse to beat. He took a significant step forward when switched to turf, running a solid third in what appeared to be a strong New York-bred maiden race. That said, he was 20/1 that day and is likely to go favored this time. We'll use him, but are instead more interesting in a few of the many other interesting options this race presents us with. Our top selection is DREAM DOCTOR (#3). This five-year-old gelding got his career off to a late start last fall—literally—as he broke a couple of lengths slow in his sprint debut. Despite that poor break, he made up good ground in the stetch to be a fast-closing fourth. Stretched out to two turns next time, he was just never put into a position to win and was ridden into traffic approaching the stretch, which effectively ended his race. He drew a great post position for this return and he can contend for top honors if he takes a step forward off that debut effort. Christophe Clement has a couple of first-time starters in this field. The one that we prefer is Mr. Sam (#4), whose dam is a half-sister to a few accomplished turf runners, including the very fast Willard Straight. We could also use first-time turfer Casigordo (#5), who did not show much in his debut at Gulfsream, but is a half-brother to turf winner Dreaming as Always and conspicuously attracts the services of Javier Castellano.
Selections: 3 – 4 – 5 – 1 – 8
Race 5: Even-money morning line choice Protection (#4) is a deserving favorite, having turned into a successful turf sprinter this winter once Mike Maker took over the training. He's coming out of slightly tougher races and has run superior speed figures, but he does have to prove that he can find the winner's circle, having come out on top in just two of 28 lifetime starts. We will certainly use him, but we want to give SPEARHEAD (#2) another shot on turf. This horse ran the best race of his career when switched to grass last fall, earning a competitive 107 speed figure. He's since proven to be effective sprinting and the Pace Projector is predicting that he'll be on the lead in a situation favoring the frontrunner.
Selections: 2 – 4 – 7 – 5
Race 6: While we typically do not enjoy picking first-time starters in these types of situations, we just cannot latch onto any of those with experience. Of the two making their debuts, the one likely to attract the most support is Indulgent (#2), a half-sister to Wood Memorial winner Frosted, who goes out for Kiaran McLaughlin. McLaughlin gets a solid 84 trainer rating with first-time starters, but that's almost right on par with the number Christophe Clement receives, and we feel that his filly will go off at the more attractive price. While some may see it as a negative that TAURINE (#1) starts without Lasix, Clement is one of the few trainers that do well with runners not racing on Lasix (87 trainer rating). This filly is a half-sister to Grade 1 winning sprinter Capo Bastone, so she should be quick enough. Both of the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of runners enter this race off extended layoffs dating back to last summer at Saratoga. They also both last raced in turf contests. We slightly prefer Deedeezee (#3), who actually has enough dirt pedigree and showed some ability first time out. Pletcher gets an excellent 100 trainer rating off layoffs of this type, but we're skeptical because he decided to start this filly out on grass. Second-time starter Majestic Lassie (#4) actually faced a field of decent quality at Parx last time and might be worth including at a price.
Selections: 1 – 2 – 4 – 3
Race 7: There are many ways to go in this confusing race. We could use Elroi (#2), who comes off a perfect-trip runner-up finish at Aqueduct, Big Yum (#3), who kept good company at Gulfstream, and St. Louie (#5), who returned from the layoff with a solid outing at Laurel. While we generally want those horses with recency, we're going in a completely different direction for our top pick. SHKSPEARE SHALIYAH (#4) is not a winning type, having only hit the board five times in his 32-race career. That said, he's spent all of that time running against fields that are much tougher than the one he meets today. The race ratings of his recent starts are all well above 110, far higher than the 102 race rating assigned to this affair. Who knows if he has anything left in the tank at age seven, if he's ready to win off the layoff, or if he will get enough pace to set up his once-potent late run? Nevertheless, he's going to be an attractive price today and this could be the right time to have him on the needed drop in class.
Selections: 4 – 5 – 3 – 2
Race 8: The discussion has to start with the pace, since there is just not much of it. Of those predicted to be racing near the front, Storm Petrel seems like the most likely leader. While she did earn the highest last-out speed figure, we believe she's facing a deeper field here and don't trust her. Our top pick is another runner that should be forwardly placed early. WIDTH (#1) did not do much running in her return effort last time out at Laurel, but that seems as if it was an orchestrated prep, and could have her sharper for this stretch-out in distance. She has shown speed on occasion and Joel Rosario has been known to get aggressive in these situations. Her only turf race last fall is actually better than it looks considering that she spent the first quarter mile repeatedly steadying out of position. Chad Brown's latest import, Elysea's World (#6), won her debut against what appears to be a decent field. These connections just routinely succeed with these runners, so she has to be left in the mix. The other horse that we want to use prominently is Hold Harmless (#10), who had an absolutely impossible trip at Keeneland last time, going four- to five-wide around both turns.
Selections: 1 – 10 – 6 – 11 – 4
Race 9: We'll close out the late Pick-4 by focusing on WE DID (#11), who turns back in distance after a pair of one-mile attempts, and Croke Park (#2), who drops out of maiden special weight company and has attracted the services of Javier Castellano. If we were going to spread deeper, we could throw in the first-time starter Peculiar Sensation (#4), who should be a square price.
Selections: 11 – 2 – 4 – 9