Travers weekend is here. With any luck Hurricane Irene will hold off until late Saturday night in upstate New York. Whenever it invades your area, here's hoping you and your family stay safe.
Assuming the track stays dry and everyone breaks well, I expect Shackleford to go to the front and Coil to chase him. Stay Thirsty should be among those tracking them from the next group. Shackleford is going to say catch me if you can turning for home and even though he gives it his all every time, I'm betting once again that 1 1/4 miles is beyond what he wants to go.
Coil and Stay Thirsty are just too sharp to ignore right now. Coil's only loss since November came by a head, he is the most explosive runner in this group, his sire won the race, and he has trained very well over the track. The way he ran down Shackleford in the Haskell was brilliant and it proved he can now win from anywhere on the track. The eye scratch he was dealing with last week is behind him. I say Coil wins and establishes himself as the 3-year-old leader, as I predicted in June.
I would be surprised if Stay Thirsty didn't run well. Obviously, he is proven over the track, seems to be in the best form of his life, and his sire also won this race. He is a logical pick; I can't argue with anyone who picks him and he will be included in all exotics.
My price horses are Rattlesnake Bridge and Bowman's Causeway. Rattlesnake Bridge is probably eager to go longer and has the looks of a progressive horse. He steps way up in class and the numbers say he doesn't belong, but he could be coming at the end for a piece. Bowman's Causeway has only a maiden win to show for nine starts. There is no logical reason to think he can handle these, but he seems to be a lot better under Chad Brown, who is as hot as any trainer in the country. And he seems to appreciate distance. Just a hunch.
I know a lot of people are on Ruler On Ice, and there isn't much not to like. He's been as consistent as anyone since the start of the year. But you can't play everyone.
It's all about Uncle Mo's return. All indications are that he's ready to run big in his comeback and I hope he does. It's one of those races where I won't bet heavily because I have too much of a bias, but from a purely handicapping standpoint it's probably worth taking a shot against him for the top spot. He will be 9-5 or less against a very good field while coming off a four-month layoff and has several other speed horses to deal with. Logically, he's a bet against, even though on sheer talent alone he cannot be dismissed altogether.
I'm going with (some would say chasing) Flashpoint. This brilliantly fast horse is back at a distance that suits him perfectly and is as sharp as he's ever been for Wesley Ward. He comes off a dominating effort in the grade III Jersey Shore and ran the best race of his life in the grade II Hutcheson at seven furlongs. Breaking from the rail, he will have the edge on the other speed and he should be in position to win turning for home. Rain would only help him.
There is so much electrifying speed in here (Mo, Runflatout, Poseidon's Warrior, Dominus) that it's difficult to figure out who can keep up and who will be left is the dust. One horse that may sit just off the leaders and pounce is Justin Phillip, who likes this distance and would move up even more if it's raining. Off-the-pace horses like Caleb's Posse and Cool Blue Red Hot make sense in a race like this, but I say speed kills and Flashpoint and Mo will battle it out to the wire.
Out at Del Mar, the race for the top older horse in California is on the line and once again Twirling Candy will be favored at a distance he has not proven he wants. Will Sunday be any different? I say that this is the day he puts it all together, partly because he seems to prefer Del Mar, but mainly because other than Game On Dude, I don't see many other viable options to beat him.
Ten furlongs is probably not ideal for Twirling Candy, but he did run very well in the Hollywood Gold Cup and was only beaten a neck. He has come back to work very well since then, including a sharp one-mile breeze on Sunday. He is still the most talented horse in this group.
There is really no to think Game On Dude won't run well either. Those two could battle to the wire, just as they did in early July. Acclamation is the wild card I think. He is obviously a top-caliber turf horse and is proven at the distance, but it's a whole different race on synthetics and I'm inclined to pass.
Setsuko, though he never wins, is usually around the money and is probably a good horse to use in exotics.
Ballston Spa: Aviate to rebound if the turf is firm
Victory Ride: Maple Forest wire-to-wire
Ballerina: Hilda's Passion
Personal Ensign: Protesting in an upset over Super Espresso
Pat O'Brien: Smiling Tiger