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Win – 1
Horses to Use in Vertical Wagers – 1,8,11,7.4
Speed – Coup de Grace, Almost Famous
Stalkers – Best Plan Yet, Mr. Speaker, Cairo Prince
Closers – Finance Mogul, Our Caravan, Wicked Strong, Conquest Titan, Big Bazinga, Intense Holiday
#1 Coup de Grace (KY) – There is no hotter sire than Tapit right now, and in my opinion he’ll have yet another winner by the time Saturday ends. Coup de Grace has been tremendous in two lifetime starts. He looks to be a horse that is blossoming into something special, and his early speed will do him a lot of favors in a race like this. His speed rating is the highest of anyone in the field, plus he comes into this off a bullet work just a few days ago. Chad Brown has always been money on the turf, but Coup de Grace might prove that he can train a dirt horse as well.
#8 Wicked Strong (KY) – This is definitely one to take serious! Had to close last time out in the Remsen into an incredibly slow pace, but still managed to finish third only beaten a half-length against two very solid horses. He comes into this off of a bit of a layoff which is something I don’t like, but he did have a nice five furlong work on January 19th. Also very encouraging that Javier Castellano is hopping aboard…
#11 Intense Holiday (KY) – The Pletcher at Gulfstream factor may have me blinded with this horse, but I just think there is a little more to this one that we haven’t seen yet. With the endless supply of horses Pletcher could have sent out in this one, this is the one he chose which makes me think this horse is on the improve. He’s going to need a little pace to run into, which he should get, so I’m going to take a chance and say he hits the board here. He’s been competitive with the top horses in his class…just a little improvement is all that’s needed.
#7 Cairo Prince (KY) – In all actuality, he may have been the best two-year old in 2013. You may think that’s crazy, but I thought the ride he got last time out cost him the Remsen Stakes. If he wins that race he’s unbeaten, and would have a win over Honor Code. However, I’m a bit skeptical on his latest workouts. Perhaps he needs this race to get going, and is one to put on top in races down the road. He’s definitely in here with a shot, but not going crazy on him at a short price.
#4 Almost Famous (KY) – That last race at Churchill Downs was as impressive as it gets, but I’m still not fully sold on this horse. The question of “who has he beaten” looms in my mind, and I think without a doubt this will be the toughest field he’s faced by far. He might turn out to be a really nice horse, but I want to see him prove it against tougher horses before I take him at a short price.
#2 Financial Mogul (KY) – He’s shown he can compete with the top horses in the division so far, but he hasn’t actually been able to win against them yet. In fact his only victory came over a sloppy track that more than likely moved him up just a bit. Nice horse, but maybe getting into the trifecta is his limit.
#5 Our Caravan (KY) – Well my wild card picks went two for two last week…so here is my wild card for this week! Our Caravan was a winner at first asking going two turns on December 14th at Gulfstream, which is very impressive to me. What’s even more impressive is the fact he had to close from several lengths behind, which is something that is sometimes tricky to do over the Gulfstream surface. Could former Todd Pletcher assistant Michael Dilger be sitting on a big time horse?
#3 Best Plan Yet (FL) – This Florida bred has already ran seven times, and could be a Calder/state bred specialist. He was beaten by twenty lengths last time out at Gulfstream, which was his first start away from Calder. Will definitely need to improve.
#6 Mr Speaker (KY) – Winner of the Grade 3 Diana Beach last time out which was his second straight win. However, my ranking him this low is for one simple reason…all four of his starts have come on the turf. He’s just too big of a question mark to play here…but if he handles the surface he has the talent to compete.
#9 Conquest Titan (KY) – Really liked his last race as he won an allowance at Churchill, but this will prove to be a steep class jump today. Also he still has a little proving to do as to whether he is a true dirt horse. Yes, his last win was on the dirt, but the Churchill Downs dirt can sometimes be kind to turf/synthetic horses. He’s a “wait and see” for me.
#10 Big Bazinga (KY) – Wow…well I guess someone had to land in this spot. Don’t get me wrong, I think Big Bazinga is a pretty decent horse, but in this field I had to rank him last. His last race was the Delta Jackpot where he finished seventh, and the waters are much deeper for him in this loaded field. Probably just aiming a little too high.
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