Having a ballot for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is one of the great honors of my career. It’s something I cherish and respect every day of the year, but never more so than the day of the annual induction ceremony.
Two years’ worth of honorees will be enshrined Friday morning across the street from the track. Among others, the group includes trainers Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse, as well as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan. It’ll be great to see the sport’s human and equine legends take their rightful places among the best in the history of the game, and I look forward to stopping by the Hall of Fame when I’m in upstate New York later this year.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Both New York’s Finest and Mondeuse were in front turning for home, but they both got caught. I dropped $20.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: Today’s card is a great one, and I’ll focus on a few turf races. In the sixth, I’ll put $10 on #5 VALUE ENGINEERING to win and key him in $2 exactas above and below #2 SMILE BRYAN and #7 MO READY, who both hit me as live longshots. I’ll also put $10 to win on #10 LAZULI in the ninth (the Grade 3 Troy), and single that one in a cold $5 double that also includes #1 DIGITAL SOFTWARE in the nightcap.
TOTAL WAGERED: $33.
Best Bet: Answer In, Race 4
Longshot: Lazuli, Race 9
EV Racing entry
#1 NO MI CULPA: Tired in his debut, which came in an off-the-turf race back in May. He gets on what will likely be his preferred surface, adds blinkers for Rudy Rodriguez, and sports a sharp half-mile drill here on July 22nd that hints he’ll be ready to run; #8 BARONE CESCO: Has the bottom-side pedigree to suggest he’s well-meant in this spot. He’s out of a mare who won a stakes race on turf, and that mare has already thrown seven winners. His second dam, meanwhile, is a full sister to multiple stakes winner Annual Date; #3 EMMA’S WALTZ: Was a very cheap auction buy, fetching just $3,500, and that’s curious because he’s out of a mare that won a Grade 2 going long on the lawn. Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride for a small outfit, and that seems noteworthy.
#8 MALIBU PRO: Was claimed out of his most recent race by Linda Rice, who drops him in for half of the claiming price. It’s an aggressive move from an aggressive barn, so I don’t see it as a red flag, and anything close to his early-2021 form would make him tough to beat; #3 DUNPH: Has run third in four consecutive outings, including his first start for this barn last time out. If nothing else, the two-turn route of ground won’t get him beat, and he’d benefit from a pace meltdown; #7 ROAMING UNION: Hasn’t won in a while but attracts Joel Rosario for a barn that can heat up very, very quickly. Trainer Charlton Baker got off the duck Wednesday, and his wins sometimes come in bunches.
Rigney entry (MTO)
#4 SINGLE SOUL: Came back running when winning her 2021 debut after not having run since a pair of November outings. Offspring of Dubawi usually don’t have issues going very, very long, and I think she’ll take a step forward second off the bench; #2 LONGPANTS REQUIRED: Adds blinkers for an astute barn and has run well going long on turf in the past. Blinkers are often an indication that a horse will show more early zip, and with the lack of pace in this field, that could give her a tactical advantage; #5 COASTANA: Ran well when second last time out in her first start against winners. This barn has found the winner’s circle a few times at this stand, and regular rider Luis Saez will once again be aboard.
#4 ANSWER IN: Is a real handful when he’s right and exits what’s probably his career-best race. He earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and when Brad Cox gets horses on the right track, they tend to stay there; #5 WICKED TRICK: Drops in class after three tries against graded stakes company downstate. Most notably, he was second in the Grade 3 Westchester going a mile, and while he’s good enough to win, I just think he wants a bit longer; #1 JALEN JOURNEY: Ran well twice against similar downstate and was second at this distance last month. He’s got a nose for the wire, with six wins in 14 career starts, and his record looks far better if you draw a line through his failed expedition to Dubai for the Group 1 Golden Shaheen.
#7 HOT ANNA: Passed a few rivals in her debut, which isn’t easy to do, and she made that start for Ken McPeek, whose charges often need a race or two to get going. A step forward seems logical, and I think she presents a strong alternative to an entry I don’t like at all; #3 VIOLENT VIXEN: Has shown some zip in the mornings ahead of her debut, and while Charlton Baker’s horses don’t win much first time out, I don’t think she’ll need to be much to play a role in the outcome. The gate drills hint that she’s got some talent, and I think she’ll outrun her odds; #2 AIRBORNE GAL: Is another first-time starter, and she exits a solid half-mile drill here last week. Her work tab indicates that move wasn’t a fluke, and she may have enough speed to work out a trip from her tricky inside post.
#5 VALUE ENGINEERING: Generally runs the same race every time out, and that sort of effort would give him a chance in this wide-open optional claimer. I’m not crazy about the number of close losses on his record, but he’s probably faced better horses in his past few outings than the ones he’ll line up against here; #11 CITY MAN: Found Grade 1 waters too deep in the Manhattan and comes back to the right level here. His second-place finish in the Grade 2 Fort Marcy was very good, and that sort of effort would put him right there; #2 SMILE BRYAN: Got his nose down earlier in the meet and has a shot if he’s able to draw into this event. His record looks fat better if you toss his dirt races, as he’s a turf horse through and through.
#2 PUBLIC SECTOR: Rated behind a pretty slow pace in the Manila at Belmont and came up just a head short of a loose-on-the-lead winner. The pace should be considerably faster here, and that should allow this one’s class to shine through beneath Flavien Prat, who flies in for just one mount; #1 ANNEX: Is looking to right the ship after three straight defeats by open lengths following three straight wins at Gulfstream that opened his career. If he’s ever going to get back on track, though, it figures to be in a race with this sort of race shape, one that figures to set up for his late kick; #8 WOLFIE’S DYNAGHOST: Tries the turf for the first time and is bred to love it. Like several others, he has plenty of early speed, but he showed in his debut that he doesn’t necessarily need the lead to run well, which could prove important.
#4 ART COLLECTOR: Was one of the top 3-year-olds in training in mid-2020 and has been transferred to the Bill Mott barn in an attempt to recapture that form. If he runs back to his efforts in races like the Grade 2 Blue Grass, he’ll be the one to beat in the Alydar; #7 JESUS’ TEAM: Is capable of big efforts, such as his second-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup earlier this season. He almost certainly needed his last-out effort after coming back from Dubai, and I’m expecting a step forward; #8 NIGHT OPS: Hasn’t won since last year’s Grade 3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, but he’s been competitive against horses like Silver State and Mighty Heart. His recent work here was very sharp, and this spot makes plenty of sense, but it’s not like he hasn’t had chances, and that’s a concern.
Bound for Nowhere
#10 LAZULI: Has been running up against some very, very fast horses overseas and comes to the U.S. for Charles Appleby, who means business when he ships across the Atlantic. We’ve seen this before with horses like Althiqa, and his best could absolutely win the Grade 3 Troy; #7 IMPRIMIS: Has run one poor race in the last year and a half, and that stretch includes last year’s Troy, where he crossed the wire first but was disqualified. He’d stand to benefit from a fast pace, which seems likely, and he’s very logical here for a variety of reasons; #11 BOUND FOR NOWHERE: Doesn’t draw a great post and has certainly had his issues, but when he’s right, he’s one of the top turf sprinters on the planet. He cuts back a sixteenth of a mile for this one, and he’ll loom large if Joel Rosario can work out a trip from the far outside.
Bold Victory (MTO)
The Big Grey
#1 DIGITAL SOFTWARE: Is a very logical, formidable favorite in the Friday finale. He’s yet to run a poor race, including in his 2021 return, when he probably moved a bit early yet still finished a good second. Any move forward from that effort would make him a handful for this bunch; #7 THE BIG GREY: Almost certainly needed his debut effort and drops in class for his second career outing. His two recent half-mile drills were very sharp, and seeing Jose Ortiz aboard this 12-1 shot raises a few eyebrows; #8 THE ANGRY MAN: Goes second off the bench and retains John Velazquez after sputtering badly in an off-the-turf race earlier in the meet. He was second against straight maidens twice over this turf course last summer, and he’s certainly better than he showed in his last start.