Call me crazy but I'm absolutely in love with a maiden in this race. Armonk has so many positive signs going for her I can hardly resist the temptation to go heavy on her. The one negative I see is that others can read between the lines too and she might be a wise guy horse. She's already 5/2, but at any rate I think she's the most likely winner. She had just one race and she was third behind Syriana's Song, incidentally the favorite for this race. Syriana's Songs form looks very strong based on her second to Spinaway winner Irish Smoke before coming back to beat Armonk and earning a huge 96 BSF. But I really think that Armonk can turn the tables. She was bet down quite a bit in her debut but broke in a complete tangle. She spotted the field about 7 or 8 lengths then trailed them all the way down the backside. When her jockey asked her for an effort she passed the majority of the field in the blink of an eye. She never did get to the two leaders who were 1-2 all the way around but she put a good 5 lengths between herself and the rest of them. With a clean break she could have beaten them not to mention the fact that most horses improve with experience. Another real positive is her trainer. Kiaran McLaughlin is perhaps the best second time out trainer in the nation. If you're going to blindly bet one guy second time out this is the guy. He's also been red hot with Eibar Coa recently. I'm hoping Miss Red Delicious (who may offer great value underneath) will keep Syriana's Song honest and that Armonk will be much closer. Hopefully she stays around 5/2 or even drifts higher.
Noble Damsel Handicap
I like this race rather a lot as well. I think 2 key contenders will decide this race. Fantastic Shirl and Pommes Frites should decide this race between them. Fantastic Shirl is the favorite and a horse that will be tough to beat. She likes the distance, she should be decently fresh and her best race is definitely good enough. She has really come into her own this year but I might not use her primarily based on her performances over the track. She's 0 for 3 at Belmont and while two losses to Meribel aren't a disgrace she also managed to get beaten by Dance Away Capote without any excuse at all. I wonder if the configuration at Belmont doesn't play to her strengths. A mile is really only one turn there. One horse who doesn't have that worry at all is Pommes Frites. Only two horses have beaten her at Belmont, Karen's Caper and Gorella. Those two were easily the finest female milers in the nation last year and nobody in this race is in the same zip code. Pommes Frites will be a good price because of her declining speed figures but was her last race really her worst in her last 11 starts? I don't see a poor performance I see a 4th place finish in a race that we were all calling the toughest FM Turf race of the year. I know Bayou's Lassie will make life difficult with her speed but Pommes Frites can handle being off the pace. The outside post gives her pilot the perfect opportunity to see how things are shaping up. So we have a horse with back class and loves the course and distance coming into the race off a sneaky good performance. This is the kind of play I'd gladly lose money on.
I'm not particularly enamored with this race but I think it's straightforward enough to have a play. Kodiak Kowboy will win this race, he's the best horse right now and his trainer knows how to win this race. I don't like his chances much beyond this race but I do think it'll be the zenith of his career. He's solid, relentless and too experienced for this bunch. I do think that The Leopard will make him work for it though. The Leopard is better than The Roundhouse and once he figures out the game he'll likely be better than Ready's Image. But I think this is an outing where Pletcher just wants him to get some experience and start doing the fundamental things like changing leads. He'll have a breakout performance one of these days, I'm hoping it'll be in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Tale of Ekati seemed to suffer from the curse of the big maiden winners. A lot of horse who burn up the track first time out have a hard time repeating that level second time out. I don't really like the fact that he's back quickly after a shin problem. He was off a month then is being tossed in here off of 3 works in 2 weeks. I'd prefer to stick with a Kodiak Kowboy, The Leopard exacta.
This is not a race I'd play it's a race I'd watch and hope that Rags To Riches is back to her old self. If I was completely confident that she was at her best I might be tempted to take the $0.80 profit but with things as they are it's just a bad gamble. If all is right with the world then Rags To Riches will win this race and Lear's Princess will run second. If something goes wrong with Rags, Lear's Princess should have this field for lunch, no wait, as an appetizer. McLaughlin is running a ton of good horses this weekend (Armonk, Shakespeare, Fantastic Shirl etc) if he gets hot his charges will be dangerous. But I think for most fans this is about seeing Rags To Riches prove she's ready for the the Breeders Cup.