BEST BET: RACE 5, S W BRIAR ROSE
FIFTEEN K shows a $4K purchase price and before this entry for $12.5K her previous tags were $35K & $25K, so the drop could tilt more toward realism than pessimism. Yes, maiden was in an off-turfer, but she beat 12 foes there. Failed to stay a true route two back but guessing she can get a one-turn mile. Not a bad run last time - probably just in too tough. JUST A WHIM did all her best work on turf last year, though first two dirt races came before blinkers went on. Maybe it was longer distances as much as grass that helped? Maybe not? Droops considerably following layoff but earnings already well over published purchase price. Light work pattern but it’s also the time of year when training can be compromised by weather. Tough call, really. CATERINA ONE can make an impact if she can cope with running back one week after her last start.
SANDY LANE did get a favorable setup last time and an even better one in his win two back, but solid form is not solely related to race flow. Cross out the turf race and he’s just a gelding that fits at or about this class. Always prefer horses that can make their own race and aren’t pace-dependent but he was fair-priced in last two and perhaps will be again. KOPPER WIRED generally has raced at higher class levels but with this horse does it much matter? Seems like he often runs to the level of competition - as reflected by 2-34 win mark. All that said he just needs to hold serve to contend. BROAD EXPANSE a slightly poorer man’s version of the top pick. Would be a little concerned about regression off a peak given the longer-term form arc.
LEAPT didn’t race for 10 months and upon December return was entered in a PA-bred N1X allowance. That wasn’t an absurd class ask but it was an ambitious spot and leads one to think this $8K N1Y claimer (or something of this ilk) was the main goal all along. LITTLE UNITED earned a $3K claiming-price rise after second straight win came in blowout fashion, but she seems as likely to take a step back as to repeat the performance and the price could be underlaid. TRUFFLESBERG some-
what quietly is back down to a level at which she might punch fairly hard.
Entirely possible EASTERN BAY never gets back to the form peak he hit about one year ago, but that did happen, and those races are good enough to win this. Didn’t hit stride during that period until fourth race into form cycle and here we are again - fourth start of form cycle. Fine draw for preferred stalkand-pounce trip at a short-sprint distance that suits. Assume the value will be there. COZY LOVER chased a strong pace and didn’t run badly at all last out returning from a seven-month layoff in race at this level. He has plenty of races showing good enough to contend, although none came at LRL and there’s a pace-duel risk in play here. GREATBULLSOFFIRE continues to be kept out of claiming ranks and clearly takes a step down in class after a decent sixth in a stakes race. Upside does seem limited, however.
S W BRIAR ROSE has crossed the line first or second in her last seven starts and was in front in five of those. Last-out win came at this $16K starter class at 5f trip slightly short of her best, and she’s just rock-solid with this type at the moment. Barring poor breaks and unexpected tactical changes there’ll be plenty of pace in front of her. She worked back a snappy 3f since last and ought to get another nice run into the fray, hopefully at fair (7-2ish?) price. MISS JAK just ran out of ground when a closing third behind the top pick in that 5f tilt last time. Race shape also could flatter her style but less confident she produces her A game than with Briar Rose. POLITE PEARL typically leads and though she was closing in from second last time that probably was more a case of being outrun by a fast horse than doing any real rating. Concern is she gets swept up into fast splits with BYE BYE BLUES seemingly committed to the front from rail draw.
Clearly the idea is to move on from TOP CZAR by dropping him down to this $12.5K claiming price, but win and get claimed is preferable to lose and get claimed, isn’t it? Any of his six career starts looks good enough to beat this bunch. GREAT NATION was facing strong competition in any case and then clipped heels during the running of his most recent race. Just two races ago he was second at this level. Outside draw seems suitable for committed front-runner POPLAR AVENUE, but regardless of the particulars he’s consistently been stopping at the eighth pole.
PAZ THE WINE’s little burst probably suits this 5.5-furlong trip better than the 6 she ran last time. Clearly fits the spot and even in a relatively short field there appears to be sufficient speed to keep this from turning into a parade. DOROTHY VAUGHAN dropped below December claiming price paid by this owner seeking a form turnaround. Might’ve gotten too much of the pace last out. SHANGHAI GLORY has faced higher-class foes throughout career and is favorably drawn outside the other speed, but still don’t trust her to see it out to the wire.
DANCINGWITHPAYNTER is going to be a lousy win price in a race lacking any other obvious options. Second while beaten a mile last time, but chalk that one up to two turns. Much more competitive showing two back at this one-turn mile while making her first start down with $5K N2L claimers like these. CONGRATS GRADUATE was in a race too short last time and actually finished in front of the top pick on Nov. 4. She has, of course, run back roughly 30 times since then, so . . . ARBUTUS might be forgiven the two-turn slop flop in Dec. 31 comeback from two-month break, but then you also have to explain away the previous fast-track, 7f dirt failure last fall. Squint hard enough and you might see an exacta partner, I guess.
Here are the horses entered today who have been scratched in the last 45 days and have not raced since the scratch. Definitions: Off the turf: Turf race switched to main track. Trainer: Any scratch made by a trainer, including ones for weather, medical issues, a decision not to run in a stakes race, a horse entered back the next racing day, or a conditional entry (i.e., main track only for a turf race). Vet: Injury or illness. Steward: Administrative issues like medication and eligibility.