This race has more or less attracted the third tier of sophomore talent. The favorite is Terrain and he's winless in his last 6 starts. He might have the most class based on the horses he has been losing to but he's nothing to be scared of. In fact I wouldn't laugh off the chances of any horse in this race. I am naturally drawn to the Asmussen pair because they seem odd to me. Uno Mas is winless in 6 starts this year and gets the local rider Ocampo but he's 4/1. Soul Warrior gets the everyday stable #1 Bridgmohan who flies in to ride this 15/1 shot who is coming off a nice win at Churchill. I think I like Soul Warrior quite a bit in what promises to be a slow paced event. No one has dedicated speed but Soul Warrior looked like he found new life when he flashed some speed last time out. I don't think he was ready for Graded Stakes company when Asmussen rushed him into the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby but this is a class level he should be able to handle. Soul Warrior offers good value in this Derby. Another horse I really like is Conchacer. His connections obviously thought of him as more of a sprinter but in his first route he performed quite well. I think they sent a clear a bit too early and it left him exposed. Corbett rides him back and will surely have last race in his mind when he plots his move. I'm not really sure enough about this race to take a strong stand with one or two horses. In a multi-race wager I'd spread myself deeply but if I'm just looking for a horse in the win pool I'd like to put it on Soul Warrior and hope for a big race.
Iowa Sprint Handicap
I think the morning line odds maker is right when he makes Silver Edition, Native Ruler and Bold Start the top 3 choices. I know Semaphore Man and Sok Sok are close behind them on the odds board but I think the race will be decided among the top 3. No one is that great in this race but most of these horses are very consistent. I like Native Ruler more than the rest of the top trio. He's a winner. In fact he's only lost one of his last 9 dirt sprints. He's a consistent sprinting machine who has already shown an affinity for this racetrack. Connections seem to be trying not squeeze him dry with a hard early campaign. He should be fresh for this race and it could serve as a springboard into Graded Stakes company.
I've been waiting to play Victory Pete on a traditional dirt track ever since last spring when he made a brief but speedy flash on the triple crown trail. At the time I thought he looked like a dirt horse and this is the best chance to get a good price on him for the move. He has decent form on Turf and Synthetic, enough to show that he's still a runner. His early speed has been toned down a bit which is a good thing because a lot of horses in this race can run from the gate. I look for Victory Pete to get a nice stalking trip a few lengths back from a healthy pace. If he handles the dirt from there he should be good enough. I also think there is some value in using Stonehouse. take out the Turf and Synthetic races from his running lines and his record on dirt looks fabulous. 4 wins and 2 seconds in his last 7 dirt starts. He seems to go well on any track. The only reason he isn't my primary choice is because there is a lot of speed in the race and he is unlikely to back off from his inside berth. He pretty much needs to go after this one early, maybe the others will back off knowing he'll be sent but I can't have much confidence in him. Not because of his form but solely because of the pace.