Hirsch Jacobs Stakes
I feel like this is a race where a player can take a shot. The favorite Taqarub is a good horse but he's not brilliant and he certainly is not going to sit an easy trip on the lead like he did in all three of his wins. He should be in the mix but there is no reason to be scared of him. Horses like Despite the Odds and Everyday Heroes could be any kind but I'm not particularly enamored with either of them. I'm looking for a bit of a price with the speed of the speed, Yano. He ought to be a healthy price on the board but he's got the most gate speed. Some others have shown speed but it's been against poorer competition. I think he's the fastest and all the others will struggle to stay with him. He is also the only member of this field that has tested himself at workout speed over this racetrack. I'd love to find a way to play Ju Jitsu Jax but I've decided just to use him underneath along with Taqarub.
Maryland Sprint Handicap
It's a pretty wide open race that generally lacks quality. Ah Day is the class but he comes off two poor efforts where he really ought to have done better. I'm going to focus on Silver Edition in this one. The one thing I like about Wayne Lukas as a bettor is that he is so poor at campaigning his horses that you can get decent prices when his horses do show up in spots that fit. Silver Edition has always had great form at 6f and yet it seems like every time he has success at his niche distance he gets put in a longer race where he runs poorly. These are the conditions he wants against the quality he belongs with. I think Silver Edition takes this race over a tough Grand Traverse who certainly can run a big race on his day.
Toughest race on the card bar none. I like both halves of the entry (Proudinsky, Musketier) but I think that being coupled sucks the value right out. Proudinsky is a hard horse to figure out anyway. I recognize the danger he poses but I'm deciding against him. Strike A Deal will be my primary play in this race. He has performed consistently at a high level for two years without really breaking through and showing that he can win. His final race of 2008 was the breakout performance I was waiting for. He not only won, he demolished his competition. I'm hoping that can transition him from a horse that finds ways to lose to a horse that wins when he should. This is a deep field but it's a field he is good enough to handle. The scary horse is Parading. What on earth do you do with this horse? His win in the Ben Ali was colossal and I thought he'd be given a synthetic campaign, but he has been a turf horse primarily and his form has been getting consistently better. He even beat Strike A Deal at Belmont last May. If that big race was due to a complete upturn in form rather than just a marked preference for synthetics than he becomes the horse to beat. I'll likely just use Strike A Deal and hedge with Parading.
Strike A Deal
It's uncommon to find a race that is so dominated by short priced horses. There is certainly a temptation to simply pick Rachel Alexandra and be done with it. She ought to be the controlling speed, she is the fastest horse on paper and she has definitely had the most consistent and brilliant 3yo campaign in the bunch. I'm not sure that it's wise or necessary to try and spend a lot of money looking to get her beaten. She does have that outside post and the new dynamic of facing far tougher competition but I simply can't throw her out. She won't be the only horse I use though. I actually love the chances of Musket Man. This horse is Mr. Consistent and right after the Derby I thought he'd be the horse to beat next out. Especially if the track comes up dry. That lightning work at Monmouth shows that he's ready to roll. I'm buoyed by the quiet confidence of his connections as well. I don't think Musket Man is vastly superior to the rest of these I just think that on this day he can be better than all of them. I think the slots underneath are a total crap shot. Mine That Bird, Papa Clem and Friesan Fire are the horses like best in the second slot but all of them have serious holes. Terrain, Luv Gov and Pioneerof the Nile also have huge chances to hit the board. I really don't like Big Drama in here and it's a shame because as a fan I'd like to cheer for this guy. I just think it's all stacked against him and I don't like the equipment change off a huge performance. Mine That Bird is being derided in many circles but like Charismatic and War Emblem before him he might simply be a horse that suddenly had the lights turn on. I'm not sure that his best race automatically makes him a winner which is why I'd use him primarily underneath but I think he'll either run his best race or regress badly. I like Papa Clem underneath if it's dry and Friesan Fire if it's not. Pioneerof the Nile is a horse I have always struggled to support but he's got class and should be fighting it out at the business end of this contest. Terrain and Luv Gov are the value picks to juice up the exotics. I've always had some affection for Terrain and I think a dry track with a good pace suits him.