Barbara Fritchie Handicap
It's highly likely that a new star will be born in this event. Kiaran McLaughlin's Seventh Street hasn't found her last three races very challenging and it's a trend that could easily continue here. She has been blowing her rivals right off their feet and although she has never faced horses of this class she looks up to the test. Thankfully the presence of some classy horses should keep her above even money. The race has a good deal of speed so she'll have to adjust to coming from off the pace but she was able to settle in her maiden victory and I think she'll be able to do that here as well. The horse to look out for at a price is Royale Michele. She has never lost a race on dirt and her speed figures put her right in the hunt. She is also versatile enough to come from a bit off the pace which will help in this stamina testing sprint. The weather is often poor at Laurel this time of year but off tracks are no problem for Seventh Street. She might even move up on them.
Sam Davis Stakes
A very tough and even race. My suspicion is that although many look somewhat even on paper once this race is run it will be clear that one or two are Derby trail caliber and the rest are not. I wish I had an interesting longshot but Atomic Rain, Musket Man and Free Country do look like the most likely winners. My figures suggest that General Quarters can also win but his speed is not the main question mark it's his ability to get two turns. I think he's unlikely to relish a stretch-out. I'm a bit leery of Musket Man as well. This distance might be beyond his best, although he's unbeaten so it's tough to put a cap on him just yet. I'll likely use him defensively but not as a primary pick. I think the winner will come from the Gulfstream allowance photo finish where Free Country denied Atomic Rain. On the whole I think those horses are equals and could take turns beating each other. The question is "Whose turn is it this time?" Atomic Rain should be a slightly better price and I think he's a slightly better play. The last McPeek runner to come out of an allowance, Danger To Society, failed badly and he looked better than Free Country. Atomic Rain has been working well since that loss and has even put in a spin over the track. I think he'll be ready to move up a level this time and gain some revenge over Free Country.
I was attracted to this race because of the presence of Ginger Brew. In the past I've been quite high on her. She handles every surface, she can go short or long and she gets consistent results. But she'll be a short price in this race and I think she can be beaten on right day. Ballymore Lady is being a touch overlooked in this race. She loves the track and distance and if you isolate her efforts on firm turf you'll see that she gets consistent results and puts up some good numbers as well. In the past stakes company has been just a bit too tough for her but this field is on the weak side and she is good enough to pull it off. Oddly enough for a late closer she doesn't rely on a fast pace. Just a nice even pace will do. The biggest issue for her will be getting a clean trip. Lezcano is a high percentage rider at Tampa and hopefully he can make that happen.
Hurricane Bertie Stakes
There aren't a ton of interesting things to say about this race. Game Face hasn't lost a sprint race since breaking her maiden. I think Any Limit has lost a step and the main challenge is likely to come from Lovely Isle but Game Face should outclass her rivals right off the track. I'm under no delusions about the fantastic price she could be. This horse will be odds on but it still looks to me like a good play because she lays over them.