BEST BET: RACE 5, AVERY MAEVE
COMMUNION MONEY one of many in the field with several chances already behind her, and it’s not exactly a positive that her nose loss at this level three starts back came at the hands of a rival making her 22nd career start, but she has speed, is second off the trainer change, and moving from turf-to-dirt for Handal who is 6 for 14 over the past year making that surface switch (43%), with a $4.58 ROI. SPECIAL RISK has disappointed so far while settling for 2nd in half of her starts, and she hasn’t improved at all on turf lately; back to dirt with all the best figures, but she has yet to bring much of a finish out there with her. Hard to see it as a positive that the well-bred RENEWAL makes her debut for Pletcher for $20k, but she is the kind of new face you really want in a race like this; Pletcher 5 for his last 46 (11%) with older first time starters in maiden claiming races, with a $0.84 ROI.
CALL PROVISION improved to a new top figure when stretched out to this distance to close out 2016 with a convincing win, and he has improved in his first two starts this year without winning; had a pace to run at last time, as did the perfectly ridden TASIT, but just missed to a horse who is just a bit better. TASIT missed a lot of time following his impressive win at Keeneland early on as a 3yo, and he has been racing his way back into form so far this year; tired after going too aggressively early two starts back, and he closed gamely without reaching CALL PROVISION last time. ROMAN APPROVAL has not run close to his best in his two starts since leaving the Maker barn, but he has plenty of back races to get to that would make him a handful here, and he has speed; new trainer doesn’t claim much but does good work overall.
CORE PORTFOLIO a bit dicey dropping again after tiring out readily vs. a much better field on opening day; best race too good for these if he can run it, and he should be on the lead from the get-go. DUNK A DIN has been holding good form all year for different trainers, and he shipped up here to defeat a field of three-life claimers over this distance last time; steps up for Gargan, who is 28% with a $2.65 ROI first off the claim with dirt routers. MOTOWN SOUND was given every chance by 7lb. bug rider and did his best before settling for 2nd behind a front-running winner at this level last time; contends with a similar effort, unless CORE PORTFOLIO can run one of his good ones.
FOREIGN AFFAIR 0-2 on turf, but she actually ran well both times, first in her debut where she was rated back off a pace that wasn’t fast and then coming wide, and most recently off the layoff two starts back where she went deceptively well after completely blowing the break; one more chance on the stretch out. SUBIC BAY third off the layoff and getting some class relief after facing much better fields in her first two starts of the year; went well enough to make herself tough here in first two starts of her career, and getting to go a bit shorter in this race can help. FURTIVE GLANCE also dropping a bit after showing more speed early and finishing close together with SUBIC BAY in her second start; didn’t run poorly at all in her debut.
AVERY MAEVE won first two turf sprints of her career, and she has picked up where she lef off since returning from the layoff; tough beat last time after dueling off two different challengers on the pace, only to get closed down on the wire by First Appeal, who is now 4 for 5 on turf in her career after winning again on Sunday. TARQUINIA
blew out maidens over a wet track with a strong figure in her second career start, but she also ran well in debut on turf to just miss 2nd behind a front-running winner; Maker strong overall with turf horses off the claim, but short sprints have not been a strong suit: between 5-and-6 furlongs over the past three years, 0-12 - though three in that sample have finished close in 2nd. HANNAH’S
SMILE did some running after a slow start in debut that was better than it looks, and she was much the best in her second start once coming clear in the stretch; closed gamely after a wide trip to be in the photo with AVERY MAEVE last time.
SEAM making 3yo debut off the layoff for Pletcher, and she will have to improve to win here, but she is eligible to do so and her debut wasn’t bad after simply getting out-paced to the lead by a quick rival over a wet track. WISE STRIKE had the lead and the rail in two-turn route last time, but she didn’t have enough to hold off a favored winner in the stretch; nice improvement from start #1 to start #2, and she turns back for this. TIZ THE LIGHT has made three starts so far, and has chased the pace to no avail in all three while earning a couple of competitive figures; rail draw does her no favors.
DURABLE GOODS impressed when leveling off late to come with a nice run to the wire in her debut, and she upped her game second time out to obtain a better position in the race, and then power that race down with another strong finish; steps up, but she appears to have a future. DOVECOTE has also shown the ability to go on for Chad, and she overcame a moderate pace last time under strong handling; forget short-priced defeat two back where she stumbled and then got an overlyconservative ride. PA LINO DIE just starting back off the layoff, but she was a stakes-winner in France prior to shipping over for the Grade 3 Long Island, where she finished up very well into a slow pace; big threat of ready to go.
MR. CROW finished gamely up the inside after a slow start in debut race that came back fast, and he took it to another level while blowing away maidens with a huge figure up her on opening weekend; interested to see how he backs that race up, but he is tough to go against with those races showing. PATTERNRECOGNITION has run well enough to win one of these races in each of his two attempts, but he has been a bit unlucky to bump into stakes-quality sprinters Coal Front and Takaful; may have gotten unlucky a third time. GRAY SKY turned back to this distance and rallied for 2nd behind Petrov in his Saratoga return; tough spot again in the face of the top two.
EVALUATOR a NY-bred stepping up, but hard not to be impressed with his debut win where he actually dwelt at the start to spot that field several lengths, and then powered around them with a wide run through the turn and stretch; this is tougher, but first showing suggests he can go with these horses. MACHTREE was given a perfect trip in his debut, but he was dead game to duel down a wellmeant Mott firster to the wire; figures tough right back for struggling barn. FORT WISE TREATY didn’t get much of a figure for his debut win at Ellis Park, where he also managed a nice inside trip, but liked the way he was striding out to the wire to hold a closing, odds-on favorite.
One more chance for well-bred ASILIVEANDBREATHE, who took some money first time out before breaking slowly, and then flattneing out readily after making a mild move on the turn; rail draw does her no favors, but she can improve quickly with needed first start out of the way. CLIMB THE LADDER didn’t run a fast race, but she did more running that it may appear after taking a shot at heavily-touted and heavily-backed firster Trouble for Skylar on the lead last time; settled for 2nd-best, but never stopped running in the stretch. UNDER SUSPICION contested the pace up the rail and settled for 3rd in her debut, where she wound up favored following an important late scratch; moves outside. Seven-eighths a tough distance for a 2yo to debut over, but both SALTY SMILE and BERNING ROSE have some pedigree for trainers who can first time out.