PIM 7 - Rollicking S. - It’s like the Wesley Ward Futurity. . . The 2-year-old specialist has half of the eight runners entered in this very early juvenile stakes race (maybe he’ll scratch one or two? I hope not.) One of the most important things I look for in these races is the length of time between now and the horse’s debut or most recent start. These very precocious babies are usually fully cranked to win first out, and the more time they have to recover after their debut, the better. Debt Ceiling, for example, the 5-1 winner of this event last year, debuted so early (Mar. 30) that he already had a lay-off line coming into this race. The two runners I like happen to be tied for most time off between starts, and are also both trained by Ward. Hootenanny assumed the role of the “other Ward” when he was let go at nearly 5-1 for his Apr. 17 Keeneland unveiling, only to best 2-1 stablemate and return runner-up Circle the World by an easy 4 1/4 lengths. I thought he did it the right way, and he looks like he can switch off and rate--something he’ll be well-served to do here. Hootenanny also had a very sparing worktab coming into his debut, so perhaps he’ll move forward off that effort. The other Ward horse I’m interested in--and the one I’ll be betting to win--is Bessie’s Boy. Shipped here for his debut Apr. 17, the 3-5 favorite chased the pace well out into the track and ultimately prevailed over the re-opposing pair of Pret Say Eye and Governmentshutdown. The latter returned to romp here May 3 with a field’s-best 82 Beyer, which flatters Bessie’s Boy, but makes me very dubious of Governmentshutdown’s likelihood of replicating his best while making his third start in a month. I also like that Bessie’s Boy received a relatively low 51 Beyer for his debut, as early juvenile figures reveal very little in terms of actual ability, and lower figures often mean more is left in the tank while inflating the odds (Beyers, of course, are not produced for Keeneland’s 4 1/2-furlong races because of the configuration used, but I’m pretty sure the Keeneland winners here would have earned higher than a 51 on the Beyer scale.) Play: Win on #5 Bessie’s Boy (10-1), exacta box with #6 Hootenanny (5-2).
|Joint Return Joe Labozzetta|
PIM 10 - GII Black-Eyed Susan S. - She may be too slow, both in terms of pace and final time, but I have to give Joint Return one more shot to handle tougher competition. The John Servis trainee first caught my eye with two wins at Parx in which she overcame very slow paces to blow by her competition with ease. Let go at 7-1 for Aqueduct’s Feb. 1 Busher S., the dark bay again mounted a head-turning bid, inhaling her competition in last-to-first fashion while covering plenty of ground (albeit against a pretty average group). I was sold on Joint Return as a legitimate Oaks contender at that point, but she never lifted a hoof when fifth in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks Mar. 29. I am willing to excuse that effort, however, as we’ve seen plenty of recent examples of closers simply not taking to the speed-friendly Gulfstream main track this year. Dropped in class for the Apr. 12 Calder Oaks, Joint Return was back to her old self, looking like she might be eased early before cruising by every one of her foes like they were standing still. While the first quarter of that race was very quick, the frontrunners really slowed it down after that and still ran second and third, so it seems Joint Return’s performance was reasonably legitimate (again, not the strongest competition). She earned a career-best 76 Beyer, which is by no means quick, but there really aren’t any fast fillies in this race (average Beyer top for the rest of the field is just 81.2), and as a deep closer, she’s never going to really run a fast number unless she gets a hot pace. I’m not expecting exceedingly quick early splits here, but Joint Return shouldn’t be at a disadvantage and she still has every right to be much better than she looks on paper. Play: Win on #1 Joint Return (15-1), also using #2 America (8-1), #8 Sloane Square (5-1) and #9 Fortune Pearl (12-1) in pick threes.
PIM 11 - Miss Preakness S. - Here I go right back to a slow-looking John Servis runner. Stormy Novel is basically Joint Return with the added positive of a cut-back in distance. She was very visually impressive taking a Parx allowance Feb. 2 at 1-9 odds, but faded to sixth after setting the pace in Turfway’s GIII Bourbonette Oaks over a mile of Polytrack. Being by Bernardini, one might think she should prefer going long, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that she’s back at a more suitable distance. Her speedy, but 0-for-2 dam is by Forestry, and also produced Stormy Novel’s full-sister Bridgehampton, who was second in the GIII Victory Ride S. last June and who has never been sent beyond six panels in five career tries. If the morning line on her holds, 8-1 shot Miss Behaviour will also be a significant overlay. Her dirt sprint form was extremely solid at two, and she would have beaten Miss Preakness entrant Tea Time in last October’s Sharp Cat S. if that filly hand’t been allowed to set a laughably glacial pace. Miss Behaviour’s two most recent races came going a mile and over turf, respectively, but this is her game and I look for her to run big. I’ll also toss in 2-for-2 Our Lesmis, whose win in the mud last time is a positive considering the very wet forecast for Friday. Chalkier horses Jojo Warrior and Tepin should also be respected, but I’ll only use them as back-ups. Play: Win on #1 Stormy Novel (15-1), exacta box with #4 Miss Behaviour (8-1) and #5 Our Lesmis (5-1). Using those three in pick threes as well as #8 Jojo Warrior (5-2) and #6 Tepin (9-2) as back-ups.
PIM 12 - GIII Pimlico Special H. - I don’t have any particularly strong opinions here, but it’s nice to see this once-prestigious race attract a competitive field. Morning-line choice Revolutionary feels like he should be pretty tough if he shows up with his best--he had that traffic trouble thanks to Will Take Charge in the GII Oaklawn H., and more ground plus a potentially wet track both play to his advantage. If there’s an upset, I think it’ll come from either Revolutionary’s stablemate Golden Lad or Prayer for Relief. Golden Lad was clearly already beaten when he was bumped in Arkansas, but he seemed washed out and maybe not on his game before that race. He was on an upward trajectory before that, and earned a career-best 102 Beyer two back over a wet/fast track in Oaklawn’s GIII Razorback H. Mar. 15. I’ve never been a big fan of Prayer for Relief, to be honest, but he does have some fast races that stack up well with these and I didn’t like the ride he got last time in his first start switching from Steve Asmussen to Dale Romans. He was left out unnecessarily wide early, dropped back like he was done on the turn, but re-rallied in the stretch to finish only 2 1/4 lengths behind Revolutionary. If Oaklawn had Trakus, I would think the ground loss adjustments would put Prayer for Relief ahead of Revolutionary. If he goes off at or above his 12-1 morning line, he’s probably worth a small win bet. Play: Odds-dependent win bet on #8 Prayer for Relief (12-1). Using him, #6 Revolutionary (5-2) and #4 Golden Lad (6-1) in pick threes.