#6 Hoppertunity – When you pick Hoppertunity you always know he’s going to give you a shot. This horse just brings it every single time, and while he does finish second and third a lot he still has some nice wins to his credit as well. Last time out he ran huge to finish third in the Dubai World Cup, and that race he ran will be good enough to win today. I love the possible pace set up for him in this one, and I know he’ll be ready to roll as Baffert would not enter him unless he was ready. Also…is the Dubai bounce really a thing anymore? It seems like more of a myth to me as Frosted certainly had no problem with it in the Met Mile a couple of weeks ago. He may break my heart…but I know he’ll be around in the end. He gets classier and classier with each race.
#7 Melatonin – There is no question that he is the “now” horse as he won the Santa Anita Handicap two races back and then finished a strong second to Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap last time out. Effinex did not come back to run well last weekend in the Stephen Foster, but I will not hold that against Melatonin today. My main concern for him will be the fact he should have some pace pressure up front in this one, which should set it up well for a horse like Hoppertunity or Hard Aces. If he can get away with an easy lead on the front end he’ll be hard to catch, but I’m thinking Lieutenant Colonel can soften him up just enough for the closers to catch him.
#3 Hard Aces – I’ve always said I really liked him at a mile and a quarter and not as much when going shorter so this race is definitely a green light for me to give him serious consideration, and lets not forget he won the Gold Cup last year by a nose over Hoppertunity. He hasn’t done much since is the major problem, and is also why he’ll have his fair share of doubters in this spot. Melatonin and Hoppertunity have ran recent races that are better than him, but he’s not one you should leave off your tickets.
#8 Imperative – He just keeps showing up in all the big ones…and he usually runs good enough to give himself a shot at hitting the board. However, that is the ceiling for him as he’s now an eye popping three for thirty-one lifetime. It’s amazing though that he’s won almost two million dollars, and a good showing in the Gold Cup will push him over that mark. He’s a horse you’d absolutely love to own, but he’s not one you love to bet on unless you are using him underneath.
#4 Lieutenant Colonel – This horse has proven to be a tough customer, but perhaps not a horse that’s overly talented. His presence and speed in the race could make things tough on Melatonin as Lieutenant Colonel is more than just cheap speed. He’s no match for the top few in this group, but I think he might be classy enough to hold on late and hit the board. Would play underneath especially in the third and fourth spot.
#2 Second Summer – This one has really come out of nowhere as he’s landed three straight wins after starting his career a very average one for ten. Last time out in the Californian he beat two of his main rivals in today’s race, but for whatever reason I can’t sell myself on this horse. He certainly belongs in this race and could end up winning, but I’m very unsure what to do with him. If the price is good enough maybe take a small swing, but I wouldn’t play him at low odds.
#1 Bal a Bali – Very interesting move here as he’ll try dirt for the first time today in a very tough spot. Even his turf efforts have not been all that good lately so I’m very skeptical of this experiment.
#5 Win the Space – Not all that bad of a horse, but is just up against it today in a big way. Will be tough to be much of a factor in this tough spot.