Personal Ensign Stakes
It does not fit the traditional pattern of a great betting race. The field will be small and two favorites will dominate the betting. But luckily for us the two favorites should also dominate the race and I'm hoping the public really slams Ginger Punch. It's not that I think Ginger Punch will run poorly. On the contrary I think she'll do quite well but I think Unbridled Belle is a much stronger horse in this spot and probably should be odds on. Unbridled Belle is consistently inconsistent and she should be set for a good race. In fact I suspect this will be a career best effort. She has already proven that she can beat Ginger Punch and she is much better suited to 10f. Although Ginger Punch seems more invincible this year I actually think she is not as good as she was last fall and summer. Her form is dressed up somewhat Unbridled Belle on the other hand might be better than last year. It's hard to tell with only two races but I think her last race was way better than it looks on paper and the Obeah was a colossal race. I'm putting it all in Unbridled Belle in this one unless the track is less than fast. Off tracks suit Ginger Punch much better.
King's Bishop Stakes
I'm slightly at odds with myself over this race because after the Amsterdam I was so impressed with Desert Key I wanted to bet him next time out as long as it wasn't this race. Connections chose to bring him back here and I'm really tempted to waver on my earlier stance because I truly believe that this horse will prove to be the best of this bunch eventually. He is a monster in the making. However I have to do the honest thing and handicap this race as it is. Desert Key unfortunately has drawn the rail in a race where he will face significant early pace pressure from Nautical Storm and then mid race pressure from J Be K. 7f is not his best distance and he's coming back without any real rest off an extremely tough race. It's a bet against scenario. I think the distance of 7f will be a huge factor in this race because many horses like Lantana Mob, Desert Key, I'm So Lucky and Gentleman James are not 7f horses. J Be K, Silver Edition and Kodiak Kowboy are 7f horses and I'll be focusing my attention on them. As boring as it is the two favorites really are the horses to beat and I will use J Be K instead of Kodiak Kowboy. I think both can win and I have a soft spot for Kodiak but J Be K is a far more proven commodity in sprint races. No one has finished within 4 lengths of him in a dirt race under a mile. He has also been freshened for this while Kodiak Kowboy comes off a tough race which was his first off a layoff. I know Jones swears he won't bounce but even if he doesn't he might not be good enough to beat J Be K. An odd ball horse I'd use is Silver Edition. I know he is clearly worse than J Be K. But he loves the distance and I thought his last race was too bad to be true. He was rushed up a bit which is uncharacteristic for Leparoux, then he got stuck behind Eaton's Gift who was plummeting to the back. I think he gets ridden more patiently this time and will come with one run. J Be K has never dealt with a speed horse like Desert Key and it's quite possible that he'll get burnt. Silver Edition and maybe Lantana Mob might be the ones to make things interesting late. But because Lantana Mob is coupled with Kodiak Kowboy there is no real value there. Conversely no one is going to bet Silver Edition.
J Be K
A very deep and contentious race. You rarely see G-1 fields like this outside the Breeders' Cup and the Triple Crown. On my first pass I really only saw fit to toss Tizbig and Amped. I'm not going to bet 10 horses in this race. Looking through past runnings of the Travers it has been noteworthy that horses with a recent freshening have done the best. Ten Most Wanted was one of the few who achieved success without a recent layoff line. Harlem Rocker, Pyro, Mambo In Seattle, Tres Borrachos, Amped and Tizbig are all deep into their form cycles and it makes me suspect that they might not be sitting on career best races. Obviously in Harlem Rocker, Pyro and Mambo in Seattle you have the top three contenders and they'll take most of the money. Pyro to me is just a money burner. He is always well bet and beatable. I'd kick myself for using him at a short price here. Use him underneath only. Harlem Rocker and Mambo In Seattle are supposed to be the only two horses from this crop with a chance of challenging Big Brown. Harlem Rocker has never lost on dirt and Mambo in Seattle has only lost once on dirt and that came at the hands of an older horse. I'm going to take the view that Harlem Rocker simply isn't as good as people think. He looked great in the spring but not very good in the summer. Mambo in Seattle has a profile similar to Grasshoppers who ran a race good enough to win this renewal last year. But Grasshopper was a much fresher horse. Mambo In Seattle has to be used on you tickets but I'm going to oppose him for the win. Faint hearts never won big scores. I'm going to focus my plays on three horses. Macho Again ticks all the right boxes except for the fact that I've always thought he's better at a mile or less. He has been a tough horse for me to figure out and once again I don't know what to do with him so I'll just include him. Colonel John is a horse I believed greatly in going into the Derby and if you look closely at the race he was not that disappointing. I think he deserves another shot on the surface and he could hardly be training any better. The odd ball pick that I will use in all spots is Cool Coal Man. Most people think he's a bit of a fraud but he has silently been set up quite well for this race. Look at his dirt routes this year other than the derby. He is 4-3-0-1 with Beyers ranging from 92-98. Second off a layoff is a good angle for Zito and he's been working very sharply on the deep and taxing Oklahoma training surface. The pace should be hot thanks to Da'Tara and Tizbig and Cool Coal Man should get a nice stalking trip with Johnny V. Zito and Velasquez is a not often seen, but potent combo. if you're playing exotics feel free to go deep. I think the payouts will be quite nice even if a few of the logical horses hit the frame.
Cool Coal Man
Del Mar Mile Handicap
What do you do with Daytona here? I have no idea what his last race was about but I'm going to play against him here. He'll be very well bet but that last race has left too many doubts in my mind. Did Storm Military really run him into the ground? Will he do it again here? One Union also has early speed and horses coming off the bench are often a little keen early on. I think the pace falls apart here and we get a good old California blanket finish. Whatsthescript is the logical alternative. It seems like his trainer has chosen not to adhere to the suggestion to scale back on steroids. That coupled with his form makes him quite live. I like him cutting back in distance after the premature move in the Eddie Read. I don't think Monzante will get to him here. His quickness and the nice pace setup should see him win the day. There is also a bomb in here and he is the reason why I chose to highlight this race. What price do you think you could get on Global Hunter? I'm hoping something in the neighborhood of 30/1 because he has severely darkened form. Look at his 4 starts in North America. He's been manhandled pretty badly in all but his debut. But this was a turf horse in Argentina and he has yet to see the sod in North America. He was actually quite a decent miler in South America and it is surely those races that convinced his connections that he could be effective here. Why he's run in race like the Met Mile are beyond me. He's flashed enough talent in his losses to suggest that he is a runner he just hasn't been in the right kind of race. Global Hunter could really turn some heads here.