One thing I've noticed about my handicapping is that I've really not done very well in Turf races aside from flat mile races on the grass. As a consequence I'm going to focus a bit more on main track races but before I do I just couldn't resist the temptation to weigh in on this tasty encounter. 6 of the 9 entrants have shown the form necessary to win this race so I suspect the betting public will be somewhat fragmented with their support. Grand Couturier is the horse with the most accomplishments but he is 0 for 2 on this course and prefers more distance. Presious Passion is in the form of his life but I suspect that he also prefers another furlong or so. Strike A Deal went down by a head in the United Nations over this course last year to Presious Passion but I suspect the shorter distance gives him an advantage. He let me down with his 6th place finish in the Dixie but he still ran a good race for a seasonal debut. The figures suggest that it was not far off his lifetime best in fact. Most horses these days are trained to improve in their second start off the bench. Improvement may just see Strike A Deal crush this field like he did to his Knickerbocker rivals. He also gets Lopez back in the saddle and while most people consider that a negative jockey switch from Velasquez, Lopez has actually conjured the two best career performances out of Strike A Deal.
Strike A Deal
Fleur de Lis Handicap
I see this race coming down to three horses: Santa Teresita, Miss Isella and Distinctive Dixie. All three of them have many positive attributes going in their favor. Distinctive Dixie is a new horse since becoming a dirt router. Only Euphony has managed to beat her. Dollase is a sharp spotter and his horses often surprise when stepping up in class. She has good tactical speed and will likely be pressing Swift Temper from the outset. I'm not sure how good she'll prove to be but I think she definitely merits some consideration if the crowd lets her price drift. Miss Isella has never been beaten in a two turn route on the dirt. She also has a sterling record at Churchill. My question with her has always been how good is she really. I know she beat One Caroline last time and that one looks like a serious filly but it was in the slop. That may have moved her up a bit. Having Borel in the saddle is a big advantage. She has never been worse than 4th in 9 starts with Borel and has never been better than 4th in 5 starts with all other jockey's. I suppose she's comfortable on the fence. I just don't know about her, although I respect her as a possible winner something about her just doesn't sit right. I think I'll settle for Santa Teresita. I successfully went against her in the Sixty Sails Handicap but I got a bit lucky that day and I think she'll like CD more than Hawthorne. While most fillies in this race have career best Beyer's of 96, a 96 is a bit of an under performance for Santa Teresita. This filly is far more brilliant than the rest of them. I don't know what the price will be but I hope it's around 5/2.
Stephen Foster Handicap
I suspect Einstein will be over bet as the hype horse in this race. He has every chance but he's no lock. I considered many different ways to go in this race but I eventually landed on Researcher. He has been running some big races since last fall and the only time he failed was the last time I picked him. I really don't know what happened in the Stymie but I think people who see his running lines will allow that race to scare them off a bit. The last time he was away from Charles Town he got crushed. But the start before his Stymie debacle he earned a very progressive looking win in the Queen's County. I don't think this horse is just a bush league maven. He's got great tactical speed and I think he'll need to put it to good use to get to Finallymadeit. Many people underestimate this horse. He's a very tough nut. Aside from the occasional blow up performance he's had some great form. I think they'll let him go on the front end. Alphabet Magic doesn't have the class to seriously push him and Borel on Researcher will likely be more concerned with Einstein and Asiatic Boy behind him. Like the Donn Handicap I see Finallymadeit nearly pulling off the trick here. Einstein is good enough to win but dirt has never been his best game. He is in the form of his life but I see him as poor value. Asiatic Boy could easily be as good as Einstein but he'll be 7/2 instead of even money. Asiatic Boy is a wild card, at one point I would have said he was a shoe in to be a star in America but that was in 2007. His past races have seen his star fall a bit even though he has managed two wins in his last 6 races. I don't think he's as good as he once was but Lasix may perk him up. Bullsbay is a solid course and conditions lover but I just feel he's a touch out of his class. He's a grinder who isn't as good at grinding as Einstein is. I see little cause to play him except for on the bottom of trifecta's. So it's Researcher for me but I'll keep a close eye on Finallymadeit as well.