I’m not going to feed you marketing spin about how great this year’s Alabama is. From a quality standpoint, it’s a step down from previous years (especially the 2016 renewal, where Songbird won in a gallop). However, it is a spectacular betting race, and you’re likely to get a price on whatever horse you think will break through in the absence of divisional heavyweights like Abel Tasman. There are holes in the favorites and cases to make for bigger prices, and as a handicapper, that’s all you can ask for.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We had the right idea with Missimpazi, who ran a very strong race in her debut. Unfortunately for us, the 4-1 shot got reeled in late, and our $20 win bet fizzled. We did get $10 back from our cancelled double play after the sixth was rained off the turf.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: As if you couldn’t tell by my intro, my action will focus on the feature, which goes as the ninth race. If the morning line odds hold up on #7 ELATE, I’ll take them and run. She seems to be getting better with experience and added distance, and she gave Abel Tasman all she could handle in the Coaching Club American Oaks. I’ll start off with a $5 win/place bet, and I’ll also use her in $3 exactas above and below #2 HOLY HELENA, #4 LOCKDOWN, #5 UNCHAINED MELODY, and #6 SALTY. Finally, I’ll single her in $3 doubles that use #1 ASSERTIVE/#1A WAKE ISLAND and #5 TIME TO FLIRT in the finale.
TOTAL WAGERED: $40
Best Bet: La Coronel, Race 8
Longshot: Race Me Home, Race 6
TURBO STREET: Drops way down in class after four tries against much better horses. This barn has gotten off to a cold start to the meet, but this class relief is simply too much to ignore; SOUTHSIDE WARRIOR: Was third in a swiftly-run race earlier in the meet. Javier Castellano rides back, and given his history with other runners in this race, it’s safe to assume he had options; DOCS LEGACY: Prevailed at a big price earlier in the meet. He may want a bit longer than he gets here, but a repeat effort puts him right there.
CONGRUITY: Fetched $210k at auction and has been working very well ahead of his debut. These connections merit respect, and the turf breeding is there; ANOTHER: Is one to include if he draws in off the AE list. He was second in his debut earlier in the meet for a barn whose first-time starters don’t often win; HYNDFORD: Was a $200k auction purchase and has a pedigree that indicates he should take to turf. The works leave a bit to be desired, but these connections can’t be ignored.
HEXAMETER: Comes back to dirt after being beaten less than two lengths on turf earlier in the meet. Her dirt races earlier this year were all solid, and she could sit an ideal stalking trip; WILDCAT BELLE: Figures to be prominent early in her first start for this barn. She may not get an uncontested lead, but she figures to be the one they’ve got to run down late; PALUXY PRINCESS: Has taken a big step forward in two starts for Carlos Martin. She was second here earlier in the meet and merits a look underneath at a nice price.
Flashy Jewel (MTO)
Hello Don Julio
MANITOULIN: Was beaten less than two lengths in a Grade 3 last time out and won two in a row before that. He seems to be peaking this season, and it helps that there appears to be some early speed signed on; HELLO DON JULIO: Tried Grade 2 company earlier in the meet and drops back down into the optional claiming ranks here. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he’s 0-for-2 at Saratoga and that he may not get an easy lead; AQUAPHOBIA: Really hasn’t run a bad race this year. He cuts back in distance after finishing third in a minor stakes race, and he should be running well late. DIRT SELECTIONS: FLASHY JEWEL, DOCTOR MOUNTY, MARENGO ROAD.
VARIANT PERCEPTION: Appears extremely well-meant in his debut. He’s outworked his uncoupled stablemate on multiple occasions, and these connections are always tough; ALLURED: Is said stablemate, one who fetched $600k at auction earlier this year. Chad Brown could easily run 1-2 here; SUPER SERMON: Is a WinStar homebred that’s worked solidly for Todd Pletcher. The pedigree, though, suggests that this one may want longer than the six furlongs he gets here.
Race Me Home
CAVIAR CZAR: Has improved with every start to date, and his lone win came going a two-turn route of ground. Given the rail draw and his proven early zip, he should be prominent early; MEANTIME: Exits the Grade 1 Belmont, where he was rank early and had nothing left in the later stages of the marathon race. Before that, he was second in the Grade 3 Peter Pan, and a repeat of that effort would make him a major player; RACE ME HOME: Showed promise last yea when second in the Easy Goer. The last two races on turf are throw-outs, and a return to his 2016 form would make his 15-1 morning line a considerable overlay.
Mom’s On Strike
ELLERY LANE: Makes her North American debut for Chad Brown off a long layoff. She showed promise in a limited 2-year-old campaign, which featured a fourth-place finish in Group 3 company, and she gets Lasix for the first time; MOM’S ON STRIKE: Came off the bench running last time out when second behind a much-the-best winner. Improvement is logical second off the layoff; CASSE ENTRY: I prefer GIADA VEGAS, who has improved as a 4-year-old and would benefit from a fast early pace. DIRT SELECTIONS: KNARSDALE, MOM’S ON STRIKE, JUST GOT OUT.
LA CORONEL: Returns to the U.S. after competing in a Group 1 at Royal Ascot against some of the best fillies in Europe. The first and second-place finishers both won at next asking, and this one’s races before that journey were very sharp; PROCTOR’S LEDGE: Was impressive in winning the Grade 3 Lake George earlier in the meet. She appears to be improving with experience, and Castellano returning to ride her is a plus; UNI: Rallied well to finish third in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks behind two stablemates. She did get a pace to run at that day, though, and this pace scenario may not be nearly as favorable.
ELATE: Was beaten just a head by the divisional leader in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and has the look of a filly that will keep improving. This distance should not be a problem, and she could sit a great trip; UNCHAINED MELODY: Broke through with a wire-to-wire win in the Grade 2 Mother Goose. She earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure that day, but she may not have beaten much in that spot, and she’s never been two turns, let alone this 10-furlong distance; SALTY: Sat an unlucky trip in the Coaching Club, but gave Abel Tasman all she could handle two back in the Acorn. Her best effort would put her right there.
Time to Flirt
BASS ENTRY: I prefer ASSERTIVE, who took to turf last time out at Belmont. She was a close-up third that day, and she gets a big rider switch in the Saturday finale; TIME TO FLIRT: Has lost back-to-back photos downstate and sports a recent bullet workout since shipping here. She may be better around one turn, but it’s not inconceivable to think she could break through here; MISERICORDIA: Hasn’t run badly in two starts to date and switches to Jose Lezcano, a strong turf rider. She merits an underneath look, especially at her morning line price. DIRT SELECTIONS: TAPELLA, BASS ENTRY, AOIFE.