A lot of us are very quick to vilify stewards when it appears they get decisions wrong. I think it’s fair to point out when they get things right, especially on big stages.
This was the case in Saturday’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign, where Abel Tasman and Elate made contact in mid-stretch. Social media was split on the final ruling of “no change,” but I thought this was the right call. Abel Tasman did come out, but Elate also came in a bit, and it sure seemed (judging by the head-on) that the eventual winner got the worst of the contact. Either way, it was a fantastic race between two top-notch 4-year-olds, and they’re likely to face off again in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff later this year.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I wanted to get some value out of Way Early in the second race, and I did that. Despite that one prevailing at even money, the $6 exacta returned $150 (thanks to longshot Appealing Briefs running second), and we also got a few bucks out of a consolation double payoff when Silver Dust scratched at the gate. In total, the $32 post-scratch investment returned a tidy $159.75.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to take a stand against the likely favorite in the third race, as I can’t endorse #4 PARAUARI at short odds given his two duds downstate. I much prefer likely second choice #3 ZORZOR, and I’ll keep things simple with a $30 win bet on that one.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
Best Bet: Enliven, Race 5
Longshot: Iron Mast, Race 10
#5 CAN’TWEALLGETALONG: Rallied for third in his first start against winners and could benefit from the likely race shape in this spot. There’s a lot of early speed signed on, and this one’s usual race could leave him in position to capitalize on that; #8 ESPRESSO CALIENTE: Hasn’t won in a while, but drops significantly for this race and may sit a perfect stalking trip from his outside post. Both factors could be enough to wake him up; #2 FLATEXCEL: Went too fast early on last time out and faded badly late. He cuts back in distance and may be the fastest of this bunch out of the gate.
#12 BLACK DYNAMITE: Merits a long look if she draws in off the AE list. She’s by top turf sire More Than Ready and is a half to Grade 1 winner Killer Graces, who was very precocious; #4 SPEEDY SOLUTION: Ran like a filly that wants to go long in her debut, where she was beaten less than two lengths despite a rough trip. Ward’s numbers with horses stretching out aren’t great, but improvement is logical at second asking; #8 MISS ROMBAUER: Fetched $375,000 at auction earlier this year and looms large for powerhouse connections. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because it’s not easy to debut going two turns and there are no five-furlong works on the tab.
#3 ZORZOR: Drops way down in class for this event, and his best race would make him very tough to beat. He topped allowance foes two back at Churchill Downs, and his flexibility is a big plus; #4 PARAUARI: Is another dropping down in class, and he does so for aggressive connections after a pair of misfires downstate. He hasn’t done much running since coming to the U.S., though, and there won’t be much value to speak of; #1 ACOUSTIC: Hasn’t won in a while, but did take a step forward last time out in his first start for Jason Servis. He was beaten just a half-length that day at this level, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back.
#7 MAHO BAY: Was a good second in her local debut last time out and has worked well since then. That was a fast race, and a repeat performance would make her formidable (especially given the cushy outside draw); #3 CURIOUSNCURIOUSER: Missed the break in that race, but romped two back at Belmont in her first start for Chris Englehart. A cleaner break here would make her a contender; #1 NOCTURNAL MISSION: Hasn’t won since her debut in February of 2017, but her local debut wasn’t bad and Javier Castellano sees fit to ride back in this spot.
Vomba (2nd dam G1W Cash Run)
#8 ENLIVEN: Is out of the Grade 1-winning mare It’s Tricky, which makes her a half to multiple graded stakes-winner Enticed. She’s worked well, and Joe Bravo taking the call could signal that it’s go time; #4 VOMBA: Makes her debut for an outfit that’s very sharp with first-time starters. She’s by all-world sire Candy Ride, and her female family includes second dam Cash Run, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; #3 ANGELIA: Will almost certainly take money based on the Pletcher/Velazquez connections. Her works are OK, and she’s bred to be a runner, but it’s been a very quiet summer for this barn by its lofty standards.
#9 LUNAIRE: Hasn’t won in a while, but could get the benefit of a race with plenty of early speed drawn to his inside. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #3 DR. EDGAR: Has had his issues, given the layoff lines, but he hasn’t run a bad race in more than two years and comes in off a strong second in his first start for Barclay Tagg. He’s got speed, but can also rate a bit, which opens up the possibility of an ideal stalking trip; #1 HOLIDAY BONUS: Hasn’t found the winner’s circle of late, but cuts back after going much longer last time out. This seems more like the trip he wants, and he’s another that could be moving the right way late.
#7 MYHARTBLONGSTODADY: Missed by a nose at this level last time out, and she nearly got the job done after rallying from 10th in a 12-horse field. She’s drawn favorably here and would benefit from others showing early zip; #11 CHESTNUT STREET: Is the other Chad Brown runner, and she makes her first start against winners. She ran well earlier in the meet and could improve, but the post position is a red flag; #8 WAY SMART: Was third in the race my top pick exits after probably moving a bit too soon. Joe Bravo hops aboard, and he’s made the most of his mounts to this point in the meet.
#6 PROVEN RESERVES: Bounced back from a disappointing run two back with a daylight win earlier in the meet. If he can string two strong races together, he’ll strictly be the one to beat; #3 SOUPER TAPIT: Has run two sharp races in back-to-back off-the-turf events this season. He hasn’t won in more than a year, and this barn is cold, but the last race was strong enough that I can’t ignore him; #5 SECRET HOUSE: Was second as an odds-on favorite last time out and was claimed by Tom Amoss that day. His best race puts him in the mix, but it’s been a long summer for Amoss, who’s 0 for 12 at the meet as of this writing.
#8 MORTICIA: Was one of many that was likely compromised by the soft going in the Caress Stakes last time out. Her usual race is certainly good enough to win, and we may get a price given the large field; #12 EPPING FOREST: Has won three of her last four coming into this race and figures to be running well late. She may have been my top pick if not for the horrendous post position, and she could very well overcome that; #5 TILLIE’S LILY: Has won four races in a row and will likely go very fast out of the gate. She may not be alone up front, but there’s a chance she’s faster than her opposition and will have plenty left for the stretch run.
Joe’s Smokin Gun
#10 IRON MAST: Debuts in this spot for a sharp first-out trainer and is bred to be a solid turf horse. Given the lackluster field, that may be good enough to put him into the winner’s circle at a bit of a price; #8 JOE’S SMOKIN GUN: Is 0 for 12 lifetime and has run second three times in a row coming into this event. He’ll likely be forwardly placed, and that could help, but it’s tough to have too much confidence given the career record; #6 POWERSTROKE: Looks like the main early speed in this race, where he’ll come back to the turf course. I’m not sure how far he wants to go, but the inner turf does tend to move speed horses up a bit.