Happy Saturday! Today’s 11-race card is highlighted by the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, the local prep for the Travers and this year a rematch between Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness champion Cloud Computing.
We will also be treated to the Grade 2 Amsterdam, the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt, and the Grade 2 Bowling Green. Without further ado, let’s dive right in:
Best Bet: #3 Kirby’s Penny, Race 3
Value Play of the Day: #10 Benefactor, Race 2 (12-1)
Race 1: 3-6-5-2
#3 BOURBON RESOLUTION is one of two in here with racing experience under his belt, when he finished second by half a length to Hollywood Star last month at Churchill. He sold for 36 times the sire’s stud fee and Brian Hernandez travels in to ride. #6 COUNTRY SQUIRE debuts for Pletcher. Sold for 16 times the sire’s fee last September. #5 MOJOVATION also goes first time out for Pletcher, and will likely be the post-time favorite. A number of bullet works on the tab say this one could run away with it. #2 LIONITE debuts for Asmussen and has put in a number of encouraging 5-furlong workouts for this.
Race 2: 10-8-3-2
#10 BENEFACTOR returns to the turf for the first time since his middling debut last fall. Goes first time off the trainer switch to Maker, who hits at 21% on the surface switch. Nice workout 2/99 last week in preparation for this. #8 HIEROGLYPHICS has already beaten a couple of those he’ll meet again today. Has improved along the Beyer scale every race and should work out a comfortable tracking trip today. #3 PAGLIACCI must find a way to turn the tables on Hieroglyphics, but has a chance to do so turning back to a mile today. #2 SURPRISE TWIST faces winners for the first time, but picks up Castellano and trainer Delacour gets repeat winners at a 29% clip.
Race 3: 3-6-2
#3 KIRBY’S PENNY is the only runner in the field to break an 80 Beyer, doing so in each of her last three races when moved to the dirt. Looms a heavy favorite. #6 KENTUCKY DANCER projects for a stalk & pounce trip, but this may be a bit shorter than her best distance. #2 MURRELL’S BELLE has encountered trouble at the start of both dirt runs. Eligible for improvement with a clean trip as she faces winners for the first time.
Race 4: 2-3-1-9
#2 ULTIMA D is a filly facing the boys, but she holds the experience edge over her competition. Hits the turf for the first time with a bullet work in tow and attracts Jose Ortiz for this local spin. #3 EL DULCE debuts for Pletcher with Johnny V aboard. Has been working in company with Country Squire from today’s first race. #1 BETA MAX debuts for Motion. Comes from the same dam as renowned turf sprinter Lady Shipman, so there’s a chance he can show the same prowess for sprinting on the green. #9 JOHNNY RAY debuts for Wesley Ward, who excels with his juvenile runners. Owns a number of strong workouts coming into this.
Race 5 (The Amsterdam – Grade 2): 2-4-6
#2 COAL FRONT has been impressive in winning both career starts thus far. Pletcher trainee has worked steadily for this stakes debut, but is sure to offer little to no value on the board. #4 AQUAMARINE turns back to a sprint after a disappointing fade in the Matt Winn last month at Churchill. Should fit in well with this bunch. #6 TOGA CHALLENGER should get a strong pace to rally into, with many of the inside runners projected to show speed. In the exacta all five career starts, look for him to get on the scene late.
Race 6: 5-7-4-10
#5 REVVED UP owns a strong late kick, but has often been too far back to take advantage. Reunites with Jose Ortiz, who was aboard for some of his better efforts throughout last year, and has been working well leading up to this. #7 CALL PROVISION should improve second time off the layoff for Chad Brown after matching a 91 Beyer posted in his 2016 finale. #4 TASIT showed a new game when up near the lead last time out. That effort could have him more fit today if returning to a closing style and is a threat to hit the board at a big price (20-1 morning line). #10 NESSY has been a different animal since the addition of lasix last fall. Should be able to work out a solid stalking trip from this outside position.
Race 7: 7-2-8-11
#7 MOM’S ON STRIKE took off when moved to the turf last time out. Posted a 93 Beyer for that effort, is stakes-tested, and has put in a couple of strong workouts ahead of this 2017 debut. #2 VAGABOND stretches back out to her preferred 1 1/16 mile trip and would love a return to her 2016 form. McGaughey could have her primed for that type of effort second time off the bench. #8 ACK NAUGHTY closed out 2016 with a breakout performance, and matched that effort in her 2017 debut back in May. Has hit the exacta 4 of 5 times at the Spa, but faces open company today. #11 AWESOME SONG is queen of the narrow margins. Since being switched to Brian Lynch’s barn in 2017, she has won by a neck and placed second by a nose, a nose, and a head. Should remain a factor again today, but hold your breath down the stretch.
Race 8 (The Alfred G. Vanderbilt – Grade 1): 4-5-8
#4 A.P INDIAN is this event’s reigning champion. Given some time off since coming up short on the Preakness undercard, he will be looking to regain some of that tremendous 2016 form. Could be poised to turn back the clock today. #5 BIRD SONG will try sprinting after having some graded stakes success at longer distances this year. Lighting it up on the training track, he could offer some value in this heat. #8 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL has been competitive with A.P. Indian in the past, and has been in great form thus far in 2017. Should be able to work out a tactical trip from this outside post.
Race 9 (The Bowling Green – Grade 2): 4-7-2-1
#4 SADLER’S JOY exits the Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day, where he couldn’t run down Ascend. Turns back a furlong for this event and reunites with Castellano. #7 ASCEND shocked most everyone when taking the Manhattan at 27-1 and will look to follow it up at much shorter odds today. Jose Ortiz sticks for this event. #2 FRANK CONVERSATION ships in for Doug O’Neill and could potentially get loose on the lead in this event, but tackles his longest distance test yet. #1 BIGGER PICTURE always fires a Beyer in the mid-90’s or above. Just hit a new top of 103 last time out, and while a repeat of that effort makes him the favorite here, a normal performance at least keeps him in the mix.
Race 10 (The Jim Dandy – Grade 2): 2-1-5
#2 CLOUD COMPUTING has been pointed to this event along the path toward the Travers since his thrilling Preakness victory. Excellent worktab coming in and should be able to work out a clean trip behind the front-runners. #1 ALWAYS DREAMING is the key to the race, as he can either sit back with Cloud Computing or challenge Pavel for the lead. I believe the Preakness winner tops the Derby champ in either scenario today, but that is still the question which will dictate the race. Should rebound nicely from the Preakness fade after being given plenty of time off. #5 GOOD SAMARITAN is an interesting case trying dirt for the first time against this level of competition. I always trust Bill Mott to know what’s best for his horses, so I expect Good Samaritan to take to the surface and offer value underneath the two favorites if nothing else.
Race 11: 2-8-3-4
#2 DURABLE GOODS posted an 80 Beyer first time out while starting 13th of 13 and closing from the back of the pack despite traffic. Now adds another half furlong while carrying the high weight of 124 pounds as the lone 4-year old facing a field of 3-year olds in this spot. #8 MAGICAL SKY should also appreciate today’s added ground, as she just missed by half a length at a mile in her debut. Trainer Casse is more than capable of improving runners second time out as well. #3 WAKE ISLAND returns to the turf for her 2017 debut. Was well behind Elate in the 2016 finale when trying dirt for the first time, but was also well clear of the third-place finisher that day. #4 FASHION WEEK tries turf and routing for the first time, but trainer McGaughey handles both moves with success. Must improve with the surface switch in order to factor here.