Not many brilliant 2-year-olds win Grade 1 races as 5-year-olds. Lady Eli has done that, all after overcoming laminitis. She headlines a renewal of the Grade 1 Diana that’s short on quantity, but not on quality. It’s also drawn fellow Grade 1 winners Antonoe and Dickinson, among others, and if Lady Eli continues conquering such fields this summer and fall, it may be time to start discussing her Hall of Fame credentials.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Victory to Victory faded and Dream Dancing never fired, so our doubles fizzled out and we dropped $20.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ve got much more confidence in the early part of today’s card than in the later races, so I’ll play a 50-cent early Pick Four (contingent on turf races staying there). I’ll use #1 DADDY’S HOME and #9 MINISTER’S STRIKE in the second, single #5 UNTAMED DOMAIN in the third, press the “ALL” button in the fourth, and finish with #3 TAP DADDY, #4 SPORTING CHANCE, and #8 MACHISMO in the fifth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $21
Best Bet: Untamed Domain, Race #3
Longshot: End Play, Race #7
MARSHALL PLAN: Has run two sharp races behind stakes-quality 3-year-olds and may have found a softer spot here. The horse to his inside has potential, but based on his body of work, this one’s the one to beat; MR. CROW: Was a close-up second in his debut, where he outran his 11-1 odds and was credited with a solid 89 Beyer Speed Figure. The July 8th bullet seems to indicate he’s continued to develop since that performance; ADULATION: Has been away since November but ran against several stakes-quality horses as a 2-year-old. He may need a race, but he fits based on last season’s form.
Sheep Pond entry
DADDY’S HOME: Was an impressive debut winner two back, but misfired against much better last month downstate. A return to two turns should help him, and these waters aren’t nearly as deep; MINISTER’S STRIKE: Has spent his entire season to date in stakes company and takes a much-needed class drop here. Both of his wins have come going two turns on turf; PRIZE FIGHT: Lost all chance last out and was in too deep two back in the Grade 2 Penn Mile. His form from earlier this season in Florida would be good enough for a piece of this. DIRT SELECTIONS: CURTIS, ESCAPE VELOCITY, HONOR THY FATHER.
UNTAMED DOMAIN: Is bred up and down to go long on turf, and he had plenty of traffic trouble in his debut. He came flying late that day, and the addition of Lasix is a major plus; PETE MARWICK: Has three starts of experience and tries turf for the first time. His pedigree says he could take to it, and he nearly graduated two back downstate; ANOTHER: May need a race, but has the pedigree to be a good one. His dam is a half-sister of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, and the July 4th work on the Oklahoma track was very sharp. DIRT SELECTIONS: PETE MARWICK, PLETCHER ENTRY, HONORABLE TREASURE.
Alex the Terror
VOLUNTARIO: Was outclassed two back in the Grade 3 General George and likely needed his last race, which came off a substantial layoff. He drops in for a tag and seems well-meant in a race that, to this writer, was a mess to handicap; SHUFFLE UP: Won two in a row by daylight at Aqueduct before misfiring last out at Belmont. He’s got plenty of early zip and could be tough to catch if left alone early on; ALEX THE TERROR: Disappointed first off the claim, but ran a strong race at seven furlongs three back against much better. This is another who may be helped by the drop in class he gets in this spot.
MACHISMO: Fetched $500k at auction last year and has been working like a very good horse ahead of his debut. This isn’t an easy spot, but if this one runs to his potential, he could be a buzz horse moving forward; TAP DADDY: Hails from a barn that doesn’t usually work horses quickly, which makes several of his drills very interesting. He’s bred to go much longer than this, but all indications are that there’s plenty of talent here; SPORTING CHANCE: Did very little wrong when second in his debut last month at Churchill Downs. He was well clear of the third-place finisher, but that field may have been weaker than what he faces here.
Born for a Storm
BORN FOR A STORM: Comes off a nine-month layoff, but ran two very strong races here last year. He’s been working well here ahead of his 4-year-old debut, and Brown and Castellano have won plenty of races together; GUCCI FACTOR: Ran off the screen in his seasonal debut last month at Belmont, winning by 16 lengths and appearing to have more in reserve. This is a much tougher spot, but he may have figured things out in a big way; FLEET IRISH: Hasn’t won since his debut last November, but this distance hits him between the eyes, and he’d benefit from an early speed duel, which could happen given the huge field signed on.
Still Krz (MTO)
END PLAY: Comes in off a win downstate and is ridden back by Luis Saez, who’s been aboard for all three of his career victories. He ran well here twice a season ago, and 8-1 is a square price for a horse that appears to be in peak form; PARTLY MOCHA: Has been running against some of the top turf sprinters in the country and should certainly appreciate the shallower waters this race provides. The post position isn’t ideal, but he should be running well late; EVACUATION: Was thought of highly enough by his previous connections that they tried Group 1 company down under last year. He makes his North American debut for Wesley Ward and has attracted jockey John Velazquez. DIRT SELECTIONS: STILL KRZ, BOLITA BOYZ, LUNA DE LOCO.
Annie Rocks (MTO)
GIOIA STELLA: Assuredly needed her 2017 debut after the layoff and wasn’t helped by that race being moved off the turf. Her two-turn turf efforts are among the best races of her career, and she gets such a route here; PRICEDTOPERFECTION: Makes her first start for a new barn and will be seen in the afternoon for the first time since September. Her back class is considerable, and she’ll be a major player if she’s ready to run; STELLA ROSE: Was third in a high-level allowance in her 2017 bow and won here a season ago. She’s run up against some high-quality horses, and this is a logical spot. DIRT SELECTIONS: ANNIE ROCKS, JOSEPHINE’S MOMENT, BROWSE.
DIRECT DIAL: Did the dirty work in the Tremont, setting very fast fractions. He still hung on for second money that day, and he figures to be the main speed in a renewal of the historic Sanford; ADMIRAL JIMMY: Was nosed by my top selection in the Tremont and showed an ability to rate off the pace in that performance. He’d benefit from a fast pace, which could materialize; BAFFIN: Was never threatened in a sharp debut victory at Churchill Downs. It’s curious that Steve Asmussen (Direct Dial’s trainer) also enters this one here when there are ample 2-year-old races around the country.
LADY ELI: Won a scorching renewal of the Grade 1 Gamely at Santa Anita in May and appears to be as sharp as ever. She’s aided here by what appears to be a lack of early speed, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she led early on; ANTONOE: Flew home to capture the Grade 1 Just A Game and improve to 2-for-2 in North America. This race shape may not set up as well for her, but she’s certainly talented enough to continue her winning ways; DICKINSON: Was herded in the Just A Game, but likely wasn’t beating Antonoe that day. She did, however, top Lady Eli on the square two back, and she’s another who could be forwardly-placed.
SOUPERFAST: Was impressive downstate in his last appearance and was claimed out of that race by David Jacobson. Many in this field may prefer one turns to this two-turn route, but he’s shown to be equally effective at either configuration; BLARP: Had a world of trouble when last seen and returns to a turf course he’s won on in the past. He has ample back class and should improve with a better trip; MILLS: Was third behind my top pick in his last outing and has since joined the Rudy Rodriguez barn. He’s one of the best on the circuit with new acquisitions, so improvement wouldn’t be a surprise. DIRT SELECTIONS: DOYOUKNOWSOMETHING, CARVE, MILLS.