La Prevoyante Handicap
Similar to my observation last week that Rutherienne was fast according to Beyer but slow according to the DRF Speed Ratings I think Communique is a horse to eye warily. Her numbers are decent all around but again the DRF Speed Ratings suggest that she might be slower than Beyer thinks. Because I already rated her as near equal with J'Ray, Herboriste and Palmilla it's enough for me to drop her in preference of those three. Palmilla is also somewhat shaky just because her head to head record with members of this field is 1:3. She didn't look as good as Communique or Herboriste at 12f but of course she is still a huge threat for the underneath spots. I think I prefer Herboriste as my primary because of her strong record at the distance. This is an out and out stayer and such stoutness could be a tipping point against a slighter filly like J'ray who has never actually won beyond 9f. J'Ray did seem to stay in her last race at 12f but she is 4-0-2-0 beyond her preferred distance of 9f. Herboriste on the other hand stays every yard and should be much fresher. I like all of the big 4 and would probably use them all in exotics. But if forced to make just one win bet I'd choose Herboriste.
W.L. McKnight Handicap
I honestly can't wait to see this race. There is nothing that thrills me more than seeing a good solid Canadian turf horse come to prominence and this could easily be the race where we get a proper glimpse. Sam-Son farms has had a decent history of top class success, horses like Dance Smartly, Smart Strike, Chief Bearhart and Soaring Free. They are generally pretty patient with their horses but Winward Islands was campaigned fairly aggressively as a three year old. By the fall of his three year old season he had already faced older horses three times in Graded Stakes company. This late running son of Cozzene looked very much like a good thing who just needed some seasoning. Unfortunately for him this year has been a bust. He didn't make it to the races until Keeneland's fall meet. He won impressively that day and was sent right back into the fray in the Sky Classic Stakes. Being a late runner in a five horse field on soft ground was not a recipe for success. The leaders basically led all the way around and he struggled to make up ground but among the competitors that day was Spice Route who won last weeks feature at Calder. Windward Islands likes a pace to run at and should flourish at the distance. He needs firm ground so I'd be wary of inclement weather. The main danger to him is Summer Patriot. Tagg's got a real runner in this horse and he also loves a stout distance. I suspect these two grays will be fighting it out at the finish. I do believe that both have the quality to be prime time Turf horses next year.
Just like the last contest I think this race comes down to a pair of grays. Laragh is the dominant speed and we know she has lots of class. Alpha Kitten is the talented upstart and we really don't know how good she'll be. We know she is pretty good already and will take some beating. I wasn't thrilled with the way Laragh gave it up in the Breeders' Cup. Although she has a lot more two turn experience than Alpha Kitten and better breeding I worry about her seeing out the trip on a tiring synthetic surface. My money is on Alpha Kitten to run her down. Both her races have been extremely fast, as long as she stays and is able to run approximately the same figure she'll win.