This races quality has fallen off quite a bit over the years but I'm actually not so disappointed with a playable race as opposed to the all but walkovers horses like Skip Away and Mineshaft got. There are only two horses in this race with the potential to really be somebody, It's a Bird and Asiatic Boy. It's a Bird has already had a decent season and I see this race as a turning point. Either he wins and continues on his way to becoming one of the best older horses in the country or he loses and he's just like everyone else in this weak crop. I don't think I'd really consider playing against him were it not for the fact that this is a one turn race. I suspect that he's got a real preference for two turn races or maybe it's just the distance of two turn races that he likes. However slim it's a bit of something for contrarions to hold onto. Asiatic Boy is good enough to win and a must use in exotics but I don't trust him. Too often in his career he has declined to show up. The rest of this horses in the race should be equals at 10/1. They have outsiders chances, all of them. None are particularly great and none are that bad. If It's a Bird is going to falter I'd rather be riding on a price horse rather than someone like Dry Martini at 6/1. Stud Muffin fits my criteria for a price horse very well. He loves the track when it's dry and he has a very consistent record. He has even been borderline brilliant on occasion against state-breds. It's a step up in class but I don't think his best race is too much worse than anyone else's. His trainer is even sneaky good at some of these class step ups. A dry track makes him very live and lately he's been falling victim to loose speed but I don't think that's as much of a worry here.
Between Thorn Song, Mr. Sidney, Seaspeak and Tizdejavu there is a good deal of talent for a G-2 race. Don't be too shocked if a few of these horses end up looking like good bets in the BC Mile. Thorn Song is tough and lovable but in my opinion he's unplayable. Inca King and Tizdejavu both have good speed and have proven to be quite proficient on Churchill's sod. I think it's a good bet to assume that one of them will go with Thorn Song and that will spoil the chances of the 9/5 favorite. I'm going to play against the chalk with Seaspeak. I know his figures have been light but I think he might be classier than he looks. Cowboy Cal is no slouch on the grass and Seaspeak managed to finish ahead of him at Keeneland although he was DQ'ed in that effort I think the talent is there. Visually he was very impressive at Lone Star and I think he can use his quick burst of pace to good effect if he gets the stalking trip I suspect he will.
Tom Fool Handicap
I think this is the tasty match up of the weekend. Fabulous Strike against Munnings with Driven By Success as a flavor adding side dish. Three top class horses at the top of their game and Fabulous Strike has to give 11lbs to Munnings and 8lbs to Driven By Success. I almost never talk about the burdens of imposts but it may be a factor here given the great disparity between Fabulous Strike and his competition. I think the distance of this race is key. No one beats Fabulous Strike at 6f if he's on his game. He can take the impost, he can take early pressure and he can get to the line quicker than anyone else. 7f is a different story, he has never won a race beyond 6f and while he has run very good races at 7f I think he's a shade below his best. Driven By Success does his best work on the pace and I expect him to put Fabulous Strike under all kinds of pressure. Meanwhile Munnings should be sitting in behind them praying that they go as fast as possible. I see Fabulous Strike turning back Driven By Success but Munnings will have had the run of the race and should get to the favorite late. Munnings always hinted at superb ability. I think we get a taste of that here. He could not have been more impressive in the Woody Stephens. That race still blows me away. I think if he runs back to that form he can beat Fabulous Strike at 7f.
Triple Bend Handicap
It's a full weekend of juicy races and perhaps none are more juicy than the Triple Bend. You don't usually get 14 entrants in a Californian stakes race but I think the G-1 status is a major draw. Zensational is the hype horse and he will be the target. While I think he will definitely be the best horse to emerge from this group I think he's vulnerable on his first major step up at a distance that is probably too long for him. I've had a bit of a horse players crush on Noble Court. I thought he was a good bet in all his 4 starts last year and this year. I think he happens to be a great bet in this particular race. His form probably deserves favoritism but he's unlikely to be favorite and he might even be 5/1 because of the field size. He's a hard closing son of a gun that will likely only appear on the screen late but I think he should get a good enough pace to run at.
American Oaks Invitational Stakes
Like the Triple Bend I see this race as a good opportunity to back a very good horse that will likely be at much longer odds than she would normally be. I think Gozzip Girl is special. There are a ton of other horses I respect. Puttanesca, Apple Charlotte, Well Monied, Mrs Kipling and even Nan are all very good horses. But I'm probably just looking to use them in some way with Gozzip Girl. I have been hugely impressed with Albertrani's filly. She has looked good while winning but she has also displayed the class and maturity to adapt. She came from well back in her stakes at Gulfstream but then led them from pillar to post at Belmont. She's fine with firm or yielding ground, she even almost won a G-1 race on polytrack. I think she has the potential to be Wait A While type caliber. This race is her first big chance to prove that. If she wins here she'll be less than 2/1 from now until the Breeders' Cup. Last chance to get a decent price on a filly who probably shouldn't be a decent price.