Generally as I handicap I like to stay on the side of the speed figures. Whether they be Beyer or BRISnet figures I generally prefer to take horses who look competitive with the rest of the field. In this race however I'm going to deviate from that stance a little and go with a visual impression over what the sheets tell me. Anyone who read my take on the Hollywood Futurity knows that I think quite a bit of Eaton's Gift. His performance at Keeneland made a big impression on me and since then he's confirmed that he is indeed a very quick horse and that he isn't going to stretch out that effectively. The trouble is that his speed figures are not really up to scratch with those of Silver Edition and Wincat. Both of those horses look extremely good and I can only make two cases to see them beaten. A) They'll regress or B) Someone will step up and run a big race to deny them. I have no real evidence of A, they might regress but nothing on paper points to it necessarily unless you like to play against big figure maidens next out. Wincat would fit that profile but everything suggests that he is simply a good horse. I'm going to take a shot hoping that Eaton's Gift is a better one on the day. He is the fastest horse in the race and he has the inside. No secret here, straight to the front and hope his speed kills the rest of them off. St Joe also has speed but I think he'll end up chasing the freewheeling Eaton's Gift. I'd probably need at least 5/1 to consider this a good play.
It doesn't take a master handicapper to come up with Daaher in this race. He's not exactly a secret anymore, but I've been on the bandwagon since last June and I didn't want to pass up the chance to weigh in. I think Daaher is truly top class and if I'm on the mark he should beat this group a shade easily. Not to disparage these horses because many of them are solid but any horse who wishes to take on Curlin needs to be capable of beating this group. The pace is a bit of a question mark. Since adding blinkers the Pocket Rocket has been taking the bull by the horses and simply dominating his races on the front end. Prior to that though he would close from well back so the ability to rate seems to be there. There is a healthy amount of pace here so I would assume that we'll see Daaher get the classic "favorites ride". About a length and a half off the leaders 3 wide the whole way around and attacking the lead on the far turn. If they go too quick early on then horses like AP Arrow, Brass Hat and Wood Be Willing could find themselves in the money. The #1 danger to Daaher in my opinion is Spring At Last. Last year at this time he was a bit of an underrated horse and because of his sparse campaign he still may not be well backed. But he is very talented and should get a nice stalking trip in the pocket. His best distance is a shade shorter but he's still a tough horse at 9 panels and he should come on for his last run. An absolute bomb for a spot beneath Daaher is Wood Be Willing. He's been a turf horse most of his life but his form off the Turf has been decent without being spectacular. Jerkens is the Giant Killer and although Daaher is a travel sized champ Jerkens may still be working up some magic.
Thunder Road Handicap
I often find myself being sucked into playing 8f Turf Stakes races. I suppose most of us have our favorite conditions and this is mine, I find myself often doing decently in these types of races which is likely what draws me in. Now having said that this race will likely fall into the 70 odd percent that I lose this type of race. I truly hope Awesome Gem stays in, although I don't think it's likely. He would make the prices of everyone else very good and he would be quite beatable. There is a real lack of pace in this race Lang Field will surely lead it early and the question will be whether or not It's A Bird keeps him honest. Lang Field is a quality horse who for some reason never runs as well at a flat mile. I think the pace usually ends up being hotter in mile races and he's doesn't have the stuff to carry his speed. Art Sherman is also 0 for 15 at the meet without even having a horse hit the board. Despite his speed advantage I'm playing against Lang Field. My real reason for mentioning the pace was to ponder if a one run closer would have enough to beat the stalkers. Mr Napper Tandy is the best miler inthe race but he's often been guilty of too little too late. He's had 6 second place finishes in 9 races. But he's a quality horse and if the Mig gets him rolling in time he's the winner of this heat. I'm not really in love with anyone else's chances here. Night Chapter is good at the distance but my feeling is that he's simply too slow even at his best. Isipingo would be the alternate choice for me. He's a stalker with class and while it appears like his best race is further than a mile you can't ignore the fact the he once ran within 2 lengths of Crossing The Line at this distance. That kind of form should be good enough.
Mr Napper Tandy