#9 BAYERN – I’ve flip-flopped at least a dozen times between my top two choices of Bayern and Beholder, but in the end I’ve given a VERY slight nod to Bayern. I want to make one thing very clear: If this race was not at a mile and one quarter Beholder would be my pick. However, at this distance its hard for me to go against Bayern who may finally get the trip he needs to win again. He must break sharply and get a nice early lead to himself to win this race, and I believe he will get that kind of set up in this spot. If he can get out there on a high cruising speed I believe we’ll see a repeat of the Breeders Cup Classic and the old Bayern will be back.
#3 BEHOLDER – Like I stated when discussing Bayern I believe Beholder at any other distance than a mile and one quarter beats this field. I still almost picked her to win, but her short price and distance question just has me a little bit worried. There is no doubt she is the best horse in the race, and she might also be better right now than she’s ever been. She has shown recently she doesn’t have to be on the lead to win and has relaxed pretty well in recent races which is something she’ll need to do to get today’s distance. If she gets the distance she’ll make history…but as the favorite her value just wasn’t quite good enough for me to pick her to win.
#4 HARD ACES – You would have to call him the “now horse” as last time out he closed from well out of it to win Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Anytime you have a horse like Hard Aces you have to hope for a decent pace because he’s very one dimensional as a deep closer. So basically that’s what to look for if you like him. I’m confident he’ll come running in the end, but he won’t be able to run down Bayern or Beholder if they’ve had an easy go of it on the front. However if they are softened up…Hard Aces could easily make it two in a row.
#7 CATCH A FLIGHT – He is probably the best male horse in the race as of right now, but the fact is he’s ran two races at this distance and has hit the wall in both of those races. Racing Dudes Jared called it perfectly last time out when he said Catch A Flight would be very tough in the San Diego at mile and one sixteenth, but anything farther might be a struggle. I tend to agree with that logic, and believe he’ll have trouble winning this one but is classy enough to stick around and hit the board.
#8 HOPPERTUNITY – To me he’s becoming the east coast version of Tonalist. Although I think Tonalist is a little better than Hoppertunity they each are running very similar races these days. Hoppertunity is probably the safest horse to play in this race as far as knowing he’ll fire, but it’s been awhile since we’ve seen him win so you can’t have a lot of confidence in him crossing the wire first. I expect another “just good enough to hit the board” type of race from him in this one.
#5 RED VINE – Was a winner of three straight races before stepping up to graded stakes company last time at Monmouth where he finished a solid second to a good horse in Bradester. It’s very interesting with all the New York options that are available that trainer Christophe Clement chose to send him here, and that confidence has me mildly interested in the horse. Perhaps they believe the distance will be beneficial to Red Vine…he’s never missed the board at a mile and a quarter. Can he handle the class jump?
#6 IMPERATIVE – Take out his two nice efforts at Charles Town in the Classic and this ones record looks very average. He did finish third in the Pacific Classic last year, but I don’ think he’ll have much luck in this running. We haven’t seen him since April.
#10 MIDNIGHT STORM – If this one was on the turf you’d have more confidence in him as his early speed on the turf is impressive, but unfortunately for him this one is on the DIRT. Could play into the pace factor, but has little chance to win.
#1 CLASS LEADER – Hasn’t had a win since May of last year and has been in some pretty soft spots as he’s only ran in two stakes races in his last eight races. Easiest of all the throw outs.
#2 BAILOUTBOBBY – Ran decently last time out in the Cougar II Handicap at a mile and one half, but before that had left a lot to be desired. Could be improving, but this spot is too tough.