#9 Alternation (KY) – There is not much I need to say here; anyone who reads this blog knows that this is our horse. The bottom line is this horse has been flawless in all three starts in 2012. He’s never even been close to tasting defeat, and he’s won the toughest Handicap race so far this year when he dominated the Oaklawn Handicap. Now the only question is whether he can take his incredible Oaklawn form with him when he runs at other tracks this year. Five of his seven career wins have come at Oaklawn, so that will be a legit concern until he proves it. Obviously we expect him to run well, and once again take another step up the older male rankings.
#7 Mission Impazible (KY) – This is one of the gamest race horses you’ll ever find. He’s ran in all the big handicaps, amassing over $1.2 million in earnings over his career. He’s only won three of seventeen lifetime starts, but has finished second SEVEN times. He’s also finished second in three straight races now, all of which were Grade 1’s or 2’s. There is little doubting that he’s the deserving morning line favorite, but can he break the streak and finally get into the winners circle? Hard to select on top considering the string of seconds, but would be no surprise to see him win. I’m expecting another tight finish for him.
#8 Yawanna Twist (NY) – You have to respect the way this guy has come back running! Since a five month layoff he’s come back to win an allowance and Grade 2 race, while finishing third in the Oaklawn Handicap last time out. I still don’t think he’s good enough to win, but you know you are going to get a solid effort out of him. Leaving him off your exotic tickets would be very dangerous.
#1 Toby’s Corner (FL) – He’s ran two pretty solid thirds in his comeback to the races, and might jump up and run his best yet as this will be his third start off the layoff. Two questions remain. Can he get back to his 2011 Wood Memorial form, and if he can, is that race good enough to beat this field? Those two questions are too much for me to put him in the likely winners category, but I do expect a good effort from him.
#4 Hymn Book (KY) – Hymn Book couldn’t reproduce his huge Donn effort in the Oaklawn Handicap, but he wasn’t embarrassed either as he finished fourth in what was a pretty tough field. So who is the real Hymn Book? Is it his Donn performance or his Oaklawn performance? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, so he’ll have to prove it to me again before I pick him to win a race of this caliber. I do think he’s a safe exotic play, and if you are playing a deep pick 3 or 4 ticket I wouldn’t leave him off.
#2 Endorsement (KY) – Was a very impressive winner in the Grade 3 Texas Mile last time out, and now will look to stretch out to a mile and three sixteenth which shouldn’t be a problem. He’s ran pretty well since coming back from injury, but this will be his biggest test so far. There is no question he’s fit and ready for it. Now the only question is whether he’s fast enough to beat a field of this caliber. If you can get him around 8-1 to 12-1 range he’s probably worth a shot.
#6 Nehro (KY) – His comeback race at Fair Grounds was excellent, but he was pretty weak in the Oaklawn Handicap next time out. I’m skeptical that he was 100% for that race, as he had a few issues leading up to the race. Since then he has worked pretty well so I think we’re going to see a big performance out of him Friday. This will be his third start back off the layoff, which is always a dangerous angle. Can’t ignore him in this one.
#3 Cease (KY) – The distance certainly won’t bother him, but the strength of this race likely will. Tough task ahead of him in here.
#5 Cherokee Artist (KY) – Has looked pretty good against weaker fields, but moves up quite a bit in class for this one. Will be involved with the early pace, but not much more.
#10 Eighttofasttocatch (MD) – He doesn’t have much chance of winning, but there is a chance he could play a role in determining the pace set up in this race. He’s shown good early speed in the past so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the lead in this one.