Top Plays for Friday, June 23
by TimeformUS Analyst David Aragona
RACE 2: COURNOYER (#6)
This is a pretty wide-open affair in which any of the seven runners can win. The likely favorites are Planet Trailblazer and Phat Man, who are both coming off runner-up finishes at this level. They're both worth using, but I'm going to try to beat them with Cournoyer, who figures to offer better value. This colt finished behind Planet Trailblazer last time, but I think he ran the better race. The pace of that race was fast (indicated by red color-coding in the PPs), and Cournoyer was the only horse who contested the early fractions and was still in the mix at the finish. The 109 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned definitely gives him a chance against this group. Cournoyer was impressive when winning his maiden against inferior competition two back, and Chris Englehart has confidently moved him up in class since then. This improving 3-year-old may be ready to take another step forward.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,2,4,5
RACE 4: NOW IN A DRIVE (#2)
I don't expect him to be a particularly generous price, but I just think that Now in a Drive is very likely to break out of the maiden ranks here. It's obvious that he's run competitive speed figures in his recent starts and is a top contender in this race. However, if you really dig into his form and consider each of his efforts in its proper context, it becomes apparent that this horse has run better than it seems on a number of occasions. For instance, he set a fast pace when losing as a 2-year-old last October, did all of the hard work when chasing down the leaders at Keeneland two back, and then just ran into a very talented horse in Cerise's Prince last time. Now in a Drive is due for a breakthrough.
Exacta: 2 with 5,8,9
Trifecta: 2 with 5,8,9 with 1,5,7,8,9
RACE 6: SILLY SISTER (#3)
Mizzen Max is probably the horse to beat, but new trainer Michelle Nevin gets just a 53 Trainer Rating with runners returning from layoffs. Furthermore, she's getting this horse from the capable barn of John Servis, so it may not be reasonable to expect her to greatly improve this runner. Her two main rivals are Satin Sheets and Silly Sister. Of the two, Silly Sister is likely to go off at a bigger price and is the one I prefer. The filly whom she dueled into defeat last time actually has some ability. There's also the possibility that Silly Sister could move forward off that effort. Over the past five years, Linda Rice is 22 for 74 (30 percent, $3.15 ROI) with runners in dirt sprints coming off maiden wins.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,2,6
RACE 8: SEIZE (#11)
This field features a number of horses who seem capable of winning at this level, but it is primarily composed of late runners. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation that favors horses on or near the lead, and I think that could really help the likely front-runner, Seize. I know that his form toward the end of 2016 leaves a lot to be desired, but he had run some competitive races earlier in the season. Furthermore, he seems to run well fresh, given that he almost won his debut and nearly got the job done off a similar layoff last summer. Christophe Clement is 11 for 34 (32 percent, $2.30 ROI) with runners coming off layoffs of 180 days or longer in turf sprints at NYRA.
Exacta Key Box: 11 with 4,5,7,9
RACE 9: REAL CREEL (#12)
While I'm generally not a fan of horses turning back in distance from turf routes to turf sprints, I think this move could work for Real Creel. That's because I think he's always been a turf sprinter, but his connections have tried to turn him into a horse who can handle two turns. His lone effort sprinting on grass in his debut last fall resulted in one of his best efforts, and if he can get back to that form, he'll be awfully tough to beat in this spot. His last effort is actually much stronger than it looks considering that he ran off in the early going. His TimeformUS Speed Figure of 109 suggests that he's in top form coming into this race.
Exacta Key Box: 12 with 2,7,9,10