I'm a little late getting to this today and it's already Friday afternoon, so let's get right into a few of the major weekend stakes.
As I said of That Handicapping Show, the handicap division has been much-maligned this year with good reason, but the lack of a discernable standout makes this an especially good betting race. I don't think morning-line choice Flat Out will go off as the favorite, nor do I think my choice, Morning Line, will be anywhere near 10-1. From what I've seen there are a lot of people that like Tizway and because of the Pletcher/Castellano factor Mission Impazible will be bet hard, so they could wind up as the favorites.
I like Morning Line for a few reasons. He hasn't run nine furlongs this year but distance should not be an issue, as he has won at the distance twice and was second two other times. One of the wins was last year at Saratoga when he trounced older horses by 11 lengths. He has also run second at Saratoga, so we know he likes the track. Morning Line should be forwardly placed under John Velazquez and therefore should receive a good trip in a race that has a few horses that like to run up front but aren't necessarily speed burners. He is fresh and has been working well for Nick Zito, who has won this race twice with Commentator.
I would be surprised if Mission Impazible didn't run well too. If you toss the Alysheba, he has been very consistent this year and is a head and neck short of three graded stakes, which, had he won either would make him the heavy choice in here. He is 2-1-0 from three starts at the distance, will also be up on the pace, and has the leading jockey/trainer in his corner. I'll take that.
I'll also use Apart, who seems to always be good for a piece, Rail Trip, who makes his third start for Rick Dutrow and could be the controlling speed, and my hunch play is Headache, a winner at Saratoga and with two wins at the distance.
West Virginia Derby
You would have to think Prayer for Relief will go off as the heavy choice, maybe even as low as even money. Baffert won this race last year and at the moment, it seems like he wins everything he enters in. Prayer for Relief beat a good Iowa Derby field handily and has won three of his last four overall. He will be right on the pace under Rafael Bejarano and should be right in the thick of things the whole way. The only question mark is the distance, but I don't see how I can leave him out of the mix altogether.
I also like the two horses coming out of the Barbaro Stakes July 9---Awesome Bet and Rush Now. Awesome Bet came from the clouds to run down J W Blue by a neck, which was his third in this year. His Bris Speed figure from that race is the best of anyone in the current field in their last start. Steve Asmussen has won this race three of the last six years.
My trifecta will be completed by Rush Now, who was fourth in the Barbaro, which is his only time off the board since February. He romped in the Spend a Buck Stakes at Monmouth two starts back when going wire-to-wire and could get the lead in here. His breeding suggests that he should have no problem going longer.
Vanderbilt: Noble's Promise, Apriority, Trappe Shot
Honorable Miss: Beat the Blues
Breeders' Stakes: Seawatch